In April of 2010, a call came in to the WFLA TV newsroom about a woman living in a single motel room, with a number of children. A concerned employee at the motel called to say she was worried about the well-being of the children and asked if someone could do something to help.
That night a crew from WFLA went to the motel and found Angel Adams living in a single room with twelve of her 15 children. It's what Adams said to the reporter that ignited a firestorm of controversy.
Adams angrily said, "Somebody needs to pay for all my children." She went on to say, "Somebody needs to be held accountable and they need to pay."
Adams had been evicted from her previous home. The homeowner would later claim that he had no idea Adams was living on his property with twelve children. The homeowner told WFLA, "We tried to help them and I think several other agencies, with paying her rent and the paying of her utilities, they did more than their part"
After the eviction Adams checked into the motel. The conditions for the children were not good. They had no food, they had only brought the clothes they were wearing from the home and they were unsure about what to do next.
An angry Angel Adams blamed the child welfare system for her problems. Adams claimed her life started to fall apart when social service workers began asking questions concerning her children. Adams says authorities arrested her Fiance, Gary Brown Sr., then the landlord evicted her family. Adams says Brown is the father of ten of her fifteen children. Three of the children were no longer living with her when we first met her, because they were above the age of 18 and no longer eligible for government benefits.
Nick Cox, the regional director of the State Department of Children and Families decided to personally become involved in Adams case. He explained to WFLA that the first choice of DCF is to keep families together and if the children had been taken from Adams, it would cost the state and federal government more in foster care payments than it would if he could keep them together. Cox immediately made arrangements to move Adams and her children into temporary care at "A Kids Place".
Later in a status hearing in court about Adams case, Cox explained to the judge that helping Adams was not easy. Cox said, "The mother has been less than gracious in accepting any of the help."
Judge Tracy Sheehan was very familiar with the case, saying she had been through two trials and twenty eight hearings with Adams in a period of twenty one months. Adams, her children and her problems were taking up a tremendous amount of state resources and child welfare workers' time. Cox told WFLA, "We're not here to start giving her handouts. We're not here to provide for her. We're not here to provide her a house that she wants or anything like that. We're here to help and support and take care of the children."
Still, Adams' attitude outraged viewers. Online comments were highly critical of Adams' statements about responsibility. One viewer wrote, "This story is offensive to the hard working people of your viewing area. This woman should be held accountable for her choices, not rewarded." Another commented, "Her statements blaming the state for her conditions and also her attitude of entitlement are what is fundamentally wrong with people. " While another viewer wrote in an online comment, "What happened to personal responsibility for our bodies and our choices?"
After the online comments were posted, Adams became defensive in a later interview saying "Well, I tell those people, I do pay for them, I have been paying for them and that's why I'm where I'm at today." Adams claimed she and Gary Brown Sr. were working to pay for the children's care until Brown was arrested. Adams told WFLA, "I worked at numerous jobs. I worked at National Linen Company and I worked at daycares and I worked at different places so I work just like anybody else."
Over the next several months the Florida Department of Children and Families worked to find Adams and her children a home. Two years after she first made the news, Adams called WFLA reporter Jeff Patterson to say she needed help again. Adams claimed police kicked in the door of her home to arrest one of her sons, and used a taser on her during the confrontation. Adams was upset because she was pregnant again and she was worried about her unborn child.
Adams brought WFLA into her home to talk about her confrontation with police. She explained, "The officers were like yelling and cursing." Inside the multi-room home, every bedroom was filled with furniture and bunk beds. Some of Adams' small children were asleep in the beds. Adams explained how officers confronted one of her sons, accusing him of throwing rocks at a home in the neighborhood. Adams showed WFLA a broken door on the front of her home and said that officers had kicked it in. "He kicked this one, pushed this one open, the lady behind him and then he pushed me out the way over here like this." Adams claimed a male and female police officer forced their way into her home, threw her onto her bed face down and then used a taser when she could not put her hands behind her back.
Tampa Police told a much different story. A police spokesperson explained that when officers went to the Adams home, she reacted violently and that Adams and at least one of her adult children jumped on an officer and fought them violently. The police spokesperson says Adams then closed and locked her door, trapping one officer on the inside of her home and shutting the other officer outside.
Adams and a daughter were charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, but later avoided jail by agreeing to enter a pre-trial intervention program.
Two years after the stories first aired, they took on a new life as the result of social media. Several of WFLA's stories were posted on YouTube where they received more than two and a half million views. After the YouTube video was posted, several national conservative talk show hosts expressed outrage over Adams, her children and her attitude, adding to the exposure of the story. A Facebook posting of another story by WFLA was shared more than 27-thousand times and received thousands of comments from people outraged over Adams and what they perceive to be her abuse of the welfare system.
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