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Another Legal Kidnapping

December 20, 2009 in foster care

My name is Tammy. I am writing about an emotional horror story that is happening to my family at this very moment. Since this story begins over a year ago, I will try to edit and keep it as short as possible but I will need to add detail so this case can be understood and investigated with some intimate knowledge.

My family has been victimized by an agency in Wood County Texas that we were led to believe was in place to help us. I am not using these words for dramatic effect, if you knew me you would know how much I detest drama and I am very happy living a life with no spotlight on me what-so-ever.

Drug Addiction

My sister is Terri. She is sadly a drug addict, more specifically, a crack addict. My sister had two babies, 9 months apart beginning 5 years ago. She was a good mother at first. My mother and I were proud that she had done so well. Terri had a very volatile relationship with the father of her two children, but my mother was there to support her emotionally and financially while the children, Kaden, Kaitlyn and Mitchell were infants.

Another Legal Kidnapping

My sister met a new man, Michael, and they began living together, since neither had jobs; they mainly lived off the system. In the meantime my mother kept the babies with her. They were safe and very happy. Terri and Michael began to run out of resources and relied on my mother for assistance more and more. My mother even moved from her small apartment into a very nice, roomy house in Quitman, Texas so that the whole family could be accommodated.

It was not long after that that my sister started to show signs of drug use. My mother was the first to suspect. Terri became emotionally unstable, threw fits, and even became enraged towards my mother and step father. My mother was at her mercy at this time because if my mother asked Terri to leave, my sister would threaten to take the children with her. My mother knew that this would be a bad situation to place two toddlers in.

My mother tried to ignore the situation but it kept escalating. My mother believed my sister and her boyfriend were now taking Kaden and Kaitlyn along with them to buy drugs. It was only a suspicion but every day heightened my mother’s fear.

My mother finally became so terrified for the safety of Kaden and Kaitlyn she turned to the only agency she felt could offer help. My mother reluctantly called Wood County CPS. CPS workers acted quickly and drug tested my sister. The children were removed from my sister immediately. This is where my family became the victims of a legalized kidnapping.

Another Legal Kidnapping

First Choice, Foster Care

My niece and nephew were placed with a foster family. My mother begged and pleaded for these children to be returned to her until my sister received help. My mother was turned away every time. My sister and her boyfriend had become quite adept at manipulating the social services system to get by and make a living and they used those skills to manipulate CPS investigators and tell calculated and believable lies about my mother. My mother hired a lawyer, which further infuriated the social workers in charge of my niece and nephew’s case.

The lawyer did little for my mother except quickly empty her savings account. The lawyer did however; get my mother a home study that had been denied many times by CPS. The home study investigator spoke to my mother and step father and decided my mother had anger problems, and my 71 year old step father had dementia because he has a speech problem.

I have asked to see the home study investigator’s medical license to see if she is able to diagnose psychological or medical problems but my requests have been ignored. My mother has raised three children and never raised a hand or even her voice at any of us. What anger problems could she possibly have?

Family History

I am the first of three children, I hold a B.S. in Education from Stephen F Austin. My sister is the second child she raised. Terri was a good girl when she was younger but craved attention from men who often ended up abusing her. The third child my mother raised is Kasi. Terri had Kasi at the age of 15. My sister gave her to my mother to raise and Kasi is now a Junior at UT of Austin majoring in Anthropology.

My mother should be able to have the chance to raise Kaden and Kaitlyn also, but CPS, Patricia Skelton (Supervisor) in particular, has developed an unprofessional dislike for my mother because she will not quietly let her grand children fade into the lost children of the Texas Foster Care System.

Small Children Separated

My niece and nephew were placed into two different foster homes within a couple of months. Can you imagine how this could traumatize a four and five year old? My sister finally convinced the Social Worker Lynn Vinson, to allow the children to move to Fort Worth with her boyfriend’s sister Missy Anderson. Ms. Anderson was never drug tested.

They stayed with Ms. Anderson for several months until Ms. Anderson began complaining to Terri that the children were burdens. My sister finally softened towards me and asked CPS to let them live with me. The children came to me right before Christmas 2008. My mother and I were overjoyed. I live in Fort Worth and my mother had recently moved to Paris, Texas. We were so excited the first month that we traveled back and forth many times to enjoy the children together.

Social Worker Recommendation

The social worker Lynn Vinson called to tell me that Terri had passed all her last drug tests and complied with the courts in every way, going to N/A classes, parenting classes and had even moved into a very nice apartment in Fort Worth. Ms. Vinson told me that Terri was a co-conservator with me, and if I felt comfortable, I could allow the children to go and spend time there unsupervised.

Advice from a CPS professional like Ms. Vinson was all I had to rely on. I am not a drug user so I had no way to judge whether my sister was still taking drugs or not. Ms. Vinson said she had passed previous drug test and I was glad this broken family was finally being put back together.

The children wanted to be with my mother badly. They love me as their aunt but think of their grandmother as their mother. They asked daily about returning to grandma, "When can we go home?" I let them go to my mother to live for the sake of their happiness. My mother had them calm and happy and even enrolled them in a private Christian School in Paris that they excelled in. Finally, our family could be happy again.

I brought my niece and nephew to stay a week with me at the end of February. My sister came by to visit and told me she was moving back to Quitman. Terri seemed fine that night, except she was a little stressed due to the moving process. Terri asked if she could take Kaden and Kaitlyn with her so they could choose the toys they wanted to take. Terri said after they chose their toys she would drop them back off in Paris at my mother’s house so they could return to school. I agreed to this trip. I relive that night over and over in my dreams; it was a horrible mistake on my part.

The Nightmare Continues

My sister was arrested in Quitman, Texas that night with Kaden and Kaitlyn in the car. I hear that Kaden actually told the police officer that a pipe was in his mother’s purse.

From this day forth my mother and I have lived a nightmare. We were torn to shreds by the Wood County CPS. My mother picked the children up from Quitman the night my sister was arrested. My mother was allowed to keep the children one month. During this month a CPS worker from Paris came and took hair samples from Kaden and Kaitlyn, one or both of the children tested positive for cocaine.

We have not been allowed to see the drug test so we are not sure if the drugs had been ingested from my sister or the foster home of Ms. Anderson that CPS sent the children to. My mother, my sister, and I went to court on April 14, 2009. My family and I were shredded in court.

I was called to testify and was told I should have known my sister was a drug addict. I tried to make the court understand that I was told by a professional social worker that she felt my sister was doing well and recovered, but I was cut off every time I tried to speak. My mother was next to testify in court. She was asked why she had walked out of a psychological testing session.

My mother was too ashamed to tell them that she had a fifth grade education and can barely read or write. She told them she felt she was being tested unfairly but the CPS lawyer told her that my mother had wasted the state’s money by walking out. I lost my conservatorship and the children were taken into CPS custody even before we made it back to Paris. A nice officer brought the children by my mother’s house so she could say goodbye; A kindness that I will never forget. My mother and I have not seen or heard from my niece and nephew since that day. We have been told that we cannot see them and this is torture.

Wood County Case Review Needed

I am asking for a review of this case and for my mother to be reconsidered as the children’s caregiver. The supervisor’s of Wood County CPS are not returning our calls or my emails. We need help before these children are traumatized further.

At the family planning meeting held on Friday May 8, 2009, my mother and sister attended and were told my niece and nephew are now on a strong antidepressant so they will sleep at night. I researched this medication and it has been found unsafe for children. I fear for the safety of these children.

Supervisor Patricia Skelton told my unstable sister that if both parents are deceased (by the way the children’s natural father is deceased) and if Terri becomes deceased the children will automatically go to family members. My sister may take this as a recommendation or a way to save her children and not just a statement. So now I worry daily that my sister may think of suicide as a way to get her children home.

I have written to the state office of DFPS and asked for an Administrative Review Hearing. These children have been legally kidnapped. The Wood County CPS office should make it a priority to find these children a home with family members. They are beginning to nitpick on any family member we suggest because they have developed a personal dislike for this family. I cannot stress enough the emotional toll this is having on all of us.

I feel that Wood County CPS has over stepped its bounds and even ignored Judge Virginia Schnarr’s orders. The Judge said that my mother’s brother Ricky Couch should receive a home study and if this was unfeasible then, my mother may be considered for a new home study, if that did not pan out then I would be reconsidered if I took classes on how to deal with a family member addicted to drugs.

CPS Ignores Court Order

However, when I contact CPS to discuss any of these mandates from the judge they act as if they do not apply. CPS has said my Aunt’s home study will not work because she does not understand the abuse the children endured. They are refusing to give my mother another home study even though the first one was conducted by an investigator that thought she was a psychologist or a medical doctor.

They are refusing me as caregiver because I listened to their Case Worker Lynn Vinson when she told me my sister was doing well and passing drug test. Patricia Skelton has said that I put the children in harm’s way but refused to discuss her office telling me that the children being with Terri was fine.

I am a regular person. I do not know how to maneuver through this complicated system. I cannot afford a lawyer. All I can do is write letters and spend many sleepless nights trying to think of the next authority I can contact that will look at this case with an unbiased eye and return Kaden and Kaitlyn to my mother’s arms.

I will never give up and I will keep telling this story until one person can see that this family has been victimized by a system that is very similar to the T.V. show from the seventies "The Duke’s of Hazzard" where Ms. Patricia Skelton is playing the role of Boss Hogg and ignoring rules and regulations from all authorities. I hope you pass this along to someone that can help but if you can’t, I understand. I will not give up until we can hold our babies again. These are not "throw away children". They belong at home with their family.

Thank you for your time,

903-669-3482 (Dorothy Matheny Home)

School Drug Testing Policy?

May 23, 2009 in Nevada

I was contacted by a father in Nevada, who’s son was taken from school for a court ordered drug test, without a hearing or proper trial. Perhaps you can help provide some answers for this father? I am at a loss to understand how this treatment of a child is legal.

Just found your site and was wondering if you might know the answer to this question?

My son was in school two days ago and refused to take a drug test for suspicion so they sent him home. Today there was a court order for “seizure” that forced him to take the “requested” drug test.

My son was handcuffed at school and was taken under duress, to be drug tested. He is not on probation. So, I’m curious how they can get away with this?

We live in Nevada.

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Ben in Nevada

CPS Worker Brings Lawsuit

May 9, 2008 in CPS, due process, foster care, West Virginia

Ex West Virginia caseworker calls for system reform.

Hello, My name is Elise Stewart I use to be a CPS worker and then Supervisor in West Virginia. Since leaving the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources (WVDHHR) several years ago, I have had a couple experiences with them that I am currently suing them over.

My point of this e-mail concerns the circumstances concerning my adult son and his on again, off again, girlfriend and their child who will soon be one-year-old. The baby was born with drugs in her system. The mom and maternal grandmother hid this information from my son. During the initial investigation by CPS, they failed to contact my son even though they knew who he was. The mom continued to do drugs while living with her mother (an active alcoholic) and this was the reason for the unstable relationship with my son, as he does not use drugs nor did he condone her use of drugs.

WV CPS Worker Brings Lawsuit

In November, after the girlfriend was admitted to the hospital for her drug use, her mother involved CPS. When the girlfriend was released from the hospital, her mother would not let her back into the house or near the baby. Against my better judgment and without knowing all the details, I let her and my son stay here.

Over the next two-weeks I babysat the baby while the girlfriend and her sister (also a heroin addict) attended NA/AA meetings. On the weekend in question, I was informed that the maternal grandmother had left town and left the baby with the heroin addict sister and her boyfriend who she met in rehab.

Seeking Temporary Custody

After lengthy discussion, my son and his girlfriend signed a paper granting me temporary custody of the baby. We went to the house to get the baby. The police were called, who in turn called the prosecuting attorney. I spoke on the phone to the prosecutor whom I had worked with for years. He said that I could take the baby.

CPS workers freaked out and told the police they had filed a petition on the Friday, it was awaiting the signature of a judge. They stated that I could not be near the baby as they had at one time opened a case against me. We were ordered to take the baby to the sheriff’s office and wait for the maternal grandmother who was on her way home.

Note on previous case: (The case they referred to took place when I was in England and they opened the case without my knowledge. The person my almost 18-year-old son was living with, kicked him out. Instead of then going to the place I setup for him, he went to stay with his older brother which CPS didn’t like…another issue altogether. Although I might add here that the person who kicked him out on the street was my best friend and the director of our local CASA)

We waited hours for the maternal grandmother to come staggering in completely intoxicated. She was given a breathalyzer and told she could not take the child due to her being drunk. She then became belligerent to the officers and left.

The girlfriend was told she could take the baby to her great grandmother’s house but due to the age of her great grandmother, the girlfriend had to stay with her.

Foster Care Placement

The next evening, CPS appeared with a custody order and took the baby in to custody, placing her with a foster family. My son was not considered for placement because they said there was no proof he was the father. None of us were allowed to see the baby until after the initial hearing — more than two weeks later.

Since that hearing, they first gave physical custody to the maternal, drunken grandmother while the state kept legal custody. The girlfriend was not allowed to be alone with the baby. My son was permitted one-hour of supervised visitation at the local DHHR each week, and I was told I would have to petition for grandparents rights.

Inadequate Representation

Subsequent hearings led to my son becoming very frustrated with his public defender who would not return his calls and thought proper council was seeing him for five minutes prior to the hearing. The DHHR wanted my son to have a DNA test and would not accept a paternity affidavit from him. They also wanted him to submit to drug testing and other such strictures, normally placed on parents alleged of abuse in these situations.

They alleged he “knowingly allowed” the baby to be abused by not stopping the mother’s drug use. The age old catch all CPS likes to use when they have nothing else to charge the absent father with.

My son had to reschedule the first DNA test. He went to the second one which proved him to be the father. He missed a court hearing due to his ride canceling at the last minute. He left voice mails for both his attorney and the social worker. Then he missed the next hearing as he received no notice from the court or his attorney. He has continued to see the baby at the girlfriend’s house rather than at the DHHR (against my advice).

After finally tracking down his lawyer last week, he received in today’s mail a proposed court order from the prosecutor charging him with abandonment. The hearing is scheduled for June.

Would you consider this ‘good practice’?

  • Not conducting a thorough investigation with collateral contacts (ie father);
  • Removing a child for ‘imminent danger’ that did not exist;
  • Being permitted to place a child in foster care when relative placement is available and more than adequate given kinship placement guidelines;
  • Being granted continued custody in foster care without testimony or an evidentiary hearing in court.

The court process is not due process. The guidelines and rules of procedure are not followed. CPS policy is not followed. My son has yet to receive notice of any MDT meetings or the reports that those meetings are meant to generate.

After years working inside this system I would highly recommend never speaking to a CPS worker without an attorney present and a tape recorder running. I have worked with the do gooders who see a cute little baby that deserves a ‘nice’ family, and the power trippers who take custody for their own warped sense of ego feeding….the list goes on.

Someone needs to revamp this system. The damage done to the family is not reversible and even the youngest of children experiencing the foster care system can act out on this ‘memory’ in years to come.

I realize this is a rather lengthy and tangential ramble. My apologies. It just send my mind racing with outrage at a system that is supposed to keep children safe and consider the well being of the child first and foremost.

~Suzie
West Virginia

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