New Jersey family's foster care fight goes viral, sparks #DuanesLifeMatters

ROSELLE PARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A local family's fight over a foster child has gone viral with the hashtag #DuanesLifeMatters.

The boy is now 14, and for the past decade, his one-time foster family has been trying to reunite with him. He was taken away when he was 3, and since then, he has been in and out of various homes.

Hilda Ramos' mother became Duane's foster mom in the Bronx when he was just five days old. She passed away when he was 3 and wanted Duane to be cared for by Hilda at her home in Roselle, New Jersey.

"It's really about giving a child a chance in life," Ramos said. "Any child."

But because duane was a ward of New York and not New Jersey, Duane found himself back in foster care and eventually back in the hands of his biological father in the Bronx.

"Duane has been removed from his father numerous times, which is absolutely public record, for neglect, abuse," Ramos said.

The Ramos family, who continued to take care of Duane off and on for years, say that turbulence with his father led Duane to want to be with them instead. And that has set off a years-long battle with the city's Administration for Child Services.

"They have not taken into account the love and the bond that is between that child and the family," Ramos said. "You don't have to give birth to a child to be his mother."

Just days ago, Hilda's daughter Deirdre posted about their ordeal on Facebook, and the story went viral. Support pouring in for Duane to be placed back with the Ramos', who say family is defined by much more than blood.

"Some of the most touching messages that I receive are actually from people who were formerly in foster care and who've been through Duane's situation," Deirdre said.

Duane's father denied any charges of harassment or neglect to Eyewitness News and said he is being harassed and that the Ramos family has no right to his child.

ACS is actively investigating the case and released a statement, saying, "We take allegation of abuse or neglect very seriously and strive to ensure the safety of all children that we come into contact with. The family court is responsible for reviewing all removal decisions."

Because of social media, the Ramos' have found a lawyer who is taking their case for free. Hilda is now fighting for official guardianship, and a court hearing has been set for next month.
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