A gift drive further causes tension between a city and a mother. Photo credit: Chris Benson on Unsplash

East Orange’s ‘good will gesture’ is a slap in the face for mother Jamie Moore

The New Jersey city says it is bringing holiday cheer to a recently found teen and her brother, but the mother questions their motives.

Several weeks after officials located missing East Orange teen JaShyah Moore in New York City, the New Jersey municipality launched a holiday gift collection on her behalf. Efforts also included providing Christmas toys and clothes for her 3-year-old brother, Jaidyn– both of whom are now in the care of the Department of Children and Permanency (DCP&P).

“The community was really captivated. Everyone was vested in this case,” said the Public Information Officer for the City of East Orange Connie Jackson to Ark Republic. She furthered, “[JaShyah] endured enough for being in the spotlight.”

JaShyah was reported to have disappeared by her mother, Jamie Moore, on October 14, 2021. After a 28-day search fueled by Moore, her family and community members, local authorities reported the teen was identified by a Good Samaritan in NYC. 

On the contrary, local law enforcement, including Jackson, claimed their diligent footwork resulted in the recovery of JaShyah. “We worked really hard to make sure that JaShyah was found safely,” she emphasized.

On the same day Essex County Prosecutor’s held a press conference announcing JaShyah was found safe, authorities arrested and charged Moore with two counts of child endangerment and neglect. Subsequently, DCP&P took Ms. Moore’s son too.

| Watch: Jamie Moore, New Jersey mother who fiercely searched for daughter speaks out after arrest

Jackson explained the drive washer idea after numerous requests from “a lot of folks [who] were asking [the City] online” about how they could help with a case that generated national attention. She planned the special event to parallel the City’s annual toy drive and holiday festivities. 

As well, Jackson told the Ark that she “got the green light” from East Orange Police Department (EOPD) and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. However, she admitted to not securing approval from DCP&P, nor Ms. Moore, the mother. 

“As the sole provider and parent to Jaidyn and JaShyah, no one bothered to ask me if it was okay to start a clothing or toy drive for my children… they have always had everything they needed,” wrote Ms. Moore to Ark Republic.

Ms. Moore is awaiting trial for her charges. Currently, there is a no-contact order with JaShyah, though she has been “granted only one visit” with her toddler before the holiday season. 

Ms. Moore insisted to Ark Republic that the abuse claims are false, but is happy her daughter was found alive. “In spite of the circumstances, I am grateful every day,” she expressed when speaking about her ordeal.

Losing a child during the Christmas season is difficult, but a study by Adrienne Whitt-Woosley, Ginny Sprang and Jessica Eslinger on foster care during the COVID-19 pandemic states it is also a disruptive experience. For Jackson, her and the city’s actions are a “goodwill gesture” for JaShyah and her brother who “went through a lot,” over the past months.

Ms. Moore counters the drive. “Honestly, I think it’s demeaning. Christmas has always been a big deal in our household and we never received [or needed] any collections to celebrate Christmas.”

| Read: 20 Hot drink recipes for holiday nights and early mornings

While Ms. Moore says she has Christmas presents and new clothes saved for months that cannot be gifted to her children, Jackson told the Ark , she has been working with the children’s resource mother to deliver the largesse. 

According to the public information office, the donations are from private citizens and law enforcement agencies who helped in the search. They will be given in a discrete exchange.

“It’s not going to be an optics [opportunity],” insisted Jackson when asked if there would be pictures. However, the charitable drive was prominently displayed on East Orange’s website. In addition, pictures of donors are intended to be taken. 

The family questions the full intentions behind the drive after the City and local police were criticized for their handling of JaShyah’s disappearance. During the search, they expressed concern that the EOPD only moved with a “sense of urgency” following their complaints and reports to the FBI as well as the City’s Mayor Ted Green. To which they maintain they were the first to do so, not EOPD. 

Ms. Moore says that at this time she is “complying” with her stay-at-home orders and DCP&P mandates. “This is the first Christmas without my children,” laments the mother of two, who is currently in treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer. “But I am happy that JaShyah is here. Some parents cannot say that about their child that went missing.”

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