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Disabled Parenting Discrimination in Family Courts

July 9, 2014 in due process, family court, family rights

I am a disabled parent who had five beautiful children. I was born at only 24 weeks gestation and had brain damage that caused cerebral palsy. I grew up enjoying a normal childhood in farming country, building dens, playing in hay stacks and having a free run of our village.

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service.

I married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 18, gave birth to a son. After five months, I took an evening job as a receptionist to support us as my husband went through university. A few years later and after giving birth to four more children and helping out in my husband’s electrical store, he dropped a bombshell, he didn’t want to be married anymore, he’d tied himself down too young by being with me. I thought at the time that was the worst day of my life but it was nothing compared to the custody nightmare that was about to follow. After obtaining a residency order in my favor, he locked me in our home and left with all our children, including my three week old newborn baby. I was absolutely frantic and called the police.

Police Discrimination

I showed them my court order but they informed me that as I had married the father of my children, all they were prepared to do was do a ‘safe and well’ check, despite the fact that my newborn was totally breastfed and dependent. After leaving, telling me rather curtly that ‘There’s more than one way to feed a baby’, I was forced to beg my ex-husband on the telephone for the return of our children. 24 hours later, he returned only my two year old and newborn, keeping my older children at an unknown location.

CPS Interrogation

From the moment the police had been called, CPS got involved and that was the start of a two year harassment campaign from them, most of it centred around my disability. They asserted incorrectly that I was not able to bath my babies because I had refused to answer what I viewed as discriminatory questioning about my parenting skills and I was told I had to consent to a social worker coming in to bath my children every day and if I didn’t, they’d be removed from me.

On one occasion they broke down my front door when I had gone out. People would turn up unannounced to ‘spot check’ me and they kept this up for a two year duration. I was court ordered to attend a parenting class but I refused to comply, saying that I had successfully cared for my children for years while my husband was working and didn’t need any classes. I asked why my able bodied husband was not asked to attend a class and I was told he didn’t need one as he didn’t have my disabilities.

On meeting me for the first time, the first words from the guardian ad litem’s mouth were “Oh goodness, how do you cope?” Not hello, or nice to meet you . I knew from that point that I was in for a rough ride.

Court Bias

When the case went to court, I discovered that the police had failed to honor my court order because ‘there were disability issues’. I was shocked and appalled that in the 21st century, people could still be deemed unfit to be a parent because they are disabled.

By the time all the interviews had been conducted, more than seven months had passed so when it finally went to court, the judge said the older children had been with their father for months and it would be cruel to move them so he awarded him custody – a delay that only happened because of the fact that I had to prove myself fit to parent and as a disabled woman I had higher standards to meet than your average able parent.

Fast forward a whole decade and my ex-husband was still pursuing me through the courts for custody. After being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2010, my health deteriorated. I had to have major surgery. This was brought up in court and it was asserted I was not ‘fit’ enough to be a mother, despite having hired help. I was also accused of abusing prescription drugs because I had to take medications. It was inferred by the Guardian ad litem that my children may be acting as ‘carers’ for me, in spite of my assistant’s employment with me. Shockingly, the court allowed all these accusations to be levelled against me. I was informed I had to answer questions about my disability because my health was the reason my ability to parent was under scrutiny.

I was allowed to keep my two youngest children but I shouldn’t have had more than a decade of my life trying to defend my right to be a parent just because I was born disabled.

No Disabled Parents Rights

I found out that there is no law to protect the relationship between a disabled parent and their children. The American’s with Disabilities Act doesn’t have a section on parenting and two thirds of dependency statutes allow a court to determine that a parent is ‘unfit’ on the basis that they are disabled.

Disabled parents frequently struggle to retain custody and are the only group of people where it is legal to discriminate against them. Up to 80% of parents with an intellectual disability will have their children removed. For physical disabilities the rate is 40% or higher and for those with physical disabilities going through custody disputes, 13% will be treated unfairly on the basis of disability. Parents who have psychological disabilities such as bipolar disorder or anorexia will very often have their children removed if they come under the radar of the authorities. In addition – sometimes a disabled parent will be denied the right to any visitation because of court judgements that are stereotypical and the court assumption that children will be forced into ‘caring’ roles with their parent, a view that doesn’t support what researchers have found.

After my experiences I have launched an official complaint with the government and I hope to create amendments to disability discrimination laws so that child custody cannot be decided on the basis of disability. I also hope to outlaw interrogation about disability so that in the absence of any real child protection concerns, disabled parents shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ they can be parents.

Sources:

Kidjacked, accessed July 6, 2014, http://kidjacked.com/

Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S Department of Education, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq9805.html

Parents with Learning Difficulties, Child Protection and the Courts, accessed July 6, 2014, http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Booth-parents-with-lea-diff.pdf

Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/

The Family Law System: Custody and Visitation, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/Ch7

Determining the Best Interests of the Child, Child Welfare Information Gateway, accessed July 6, 2014, https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/best_interest.pdf

Find the Best Anorexic Treatment Programs and Dual Diagnosis Rehabs, Bulimia.com, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.bulimia.com/topics/anorexia/

When a Parent has an Eating Disorder, The New York Times, accessed July 6, 2014, http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/adult-children-of-eating-disordered-parents/

Nevada: Wealthy Grandparents

December 22, 2013 in CPS, family court, Nevada

My grandson was Kidjacked!

The paternal grandparents are super wealthy and are most likely paying people off to get this baby to stay with them. Devastating to my daughter and myself maternal grandmother. He didn’t need CPS, but somehow it went from family court to me as safety for one week, then CPS and next thing they have him in their home.

Long story. Would love to share.

Makes no sense to me that they don’t have time for the kids that need intervention, while they are busy working this case and coming up with false accusations. I was the grandmother that watched him all the time on weekends, while my daughter worked and now I don’t get to see him for months.

The wealthy grandparents had no interest in him until their son lost temporary custody in family court. He has two other boys he can’t visit w/o supervision and doesn’t bother, but judge Porter gave him temporary custody until he got a DUI. He even failed drug test, same judges courtroom in 2012.

Meanwhile my daughter was on rx and marijuana card for migraines. Now she’s not getting visits and says ” she’s lost her soul.”  I can’t have him because of accusations of myself and daughter “dynamics.”  Nobody had even been around us but guardian ad litem.

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More Facts about CPS Buying and Selling Our Children

May 10, 2013 in Child Protective Services, corruption, family court, foster care, grandparents rights

“American taxpayers fund a racket that wrenches the stomach. That is CPS. Some of those involved claim their are just following orders, others just pocket the bounty on children wrenched from their parent’s arms. Nuremberg answered the question of orders; profiting from human trafficking should be a capital offense.”

Happy Children Playing Kids

Don’t be another statistic!  Get Informed!

 

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
(libertarian)
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Under 5 years, blond, blue-eyed – $6,000.00. a top of the line product

We are going to take you behind the lies into the ugly truth that is destroying families for profit every day, in every community across America. You won’t want to believe it but when you see their faces, hear their voices, you will understand why this is happening and what it means to your own life, even if you don’t have children.

The same system that views children as commodities to be sold also has plans for you. There is a solution and we will get to that.

Costa Rica children

The CPS steals children using the system paid for by citizens who believe it is being used to protect those in need. That is a fraud; the system actually pumps money into the personal accounts of all those involved in the system, converting children into cash while destroying them and their families. The number of children who emerge from the system, able to function normally, are near zero. Some are never seen again.

The system used includes three stages. The first phase is to shock and intimidate the parents into consenting to let their children be processed into the system. The second phase is to force parents, terrified for their children, to begin a process of ‘case management.’ That process is a template that is designed to push the parents into emotional meltdown and bankruptcy. The third phase is to sever the parental rights entirely and sell the children.

In the wake of this trauma families are atomized, destroyed. Parents and grandparents never again see the children who connect them to the future. Children lose their past and the anchoring each of us needs to develop into a healthy human being… [Continue Reading…]

More Facts about CPS Buying and Selling Our Children

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Kinship care vs Fostering

October 15, 2011 in California, DCF, DCFS, DHS, family rights, foster parents, grandparents rights, Idaho, Michigan

I’ve had several people in the past few weeks tell me that they wish to care for their own family members – as opposed to having them placed in foster care, with strangers. These grandparents, aunts, uncles and other close relatives are being told they must become certified foster parents.

Advocating for Children in Foster and Kinship Care: A Guide to Getting the Best out of the System for Caregivers and Practitioners Federal law requires that state social workers attempt to find suitable placement for “at risk” children, who are removed from their home. In many cases the state is merely paying lip-service and doesn’t actually follow the law.

This is a violation of federal law and the state can lose their federal funding. You should always report such violations of federal law to your U.S. House Representation. Call and request an investigation. You will need to provide them with a legal release form, along with the facts and any supporting documents.

Just today the Idaho Press-Tribune ran an interesting article:

In Idaho, more grandparents still in parental role

Many grandparents who take in grandchildren qualify for a $300 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant. The amount is the same regardless of the number of children in a family.

Grandparents also can become certified as foster parents, and take in their own grandchildren through the state system. That means more financial support. Monthly foster payments per child in Idaho range from $274 to $431 based on age; payments increase if children have special needs. Foster children get Medicaid cards and other benefits.

But many families don’t want to do that, Perry said. Some bristle at the idea of giving the state that much control over their families, even temporarily.

“They feel taking care of their own family is their responsibility,” he said.

Tracee Crawford, one of the leaders of the Grandparents as Parents of the Treasure Valley, a Southwest Idaho support group, said grandparents sometimes hesitate to ask for help of any kind, afraid that if they make trouble, their children will take the grandchildren away.

Becoming a legal guardian, another option, comes with its own complications, including steep legal costs, said Crawford.

She became part of a kin-care family when her daughter had cancer. Crawford cared for her and her grandson until her daughter died. She’s been in long legal battles with her former son-in-law over visitation rights with her grandson.

“To become a legal guardian, you have to prove a parent — your child — is unfit,” she said. “That’s really hard to do” — factually and emotionally.

Each state is different, which makes it difficult to know exactly what the law is your own state.

In my own case, I was shocked to find that while I was getting monthly kinship care checks from the State of California of ($357 – back in 2002), at the same time, another relative had a sibling to my grandson. The only difference was that they lived in Michigan; her checks from the State of Michigan – $123.  I felt bad for her because this child has autism and even in Michigan $123. doesn’t go far.

Be sure you check into your own states law, make a few phone calls, talk to an attorney and check out a few state websites before you sign anything. The choice you make could make a big difference in just how much help you are entitled to.

On that note, let me just remind you that if you accept money from the state, you accept all the strings that go along with that money, but it’s better than starving — maybe. We didn’t like giving up so much of our privacy, so we stopped received state funds many years ago – as soon as we could stand on our own two feet.

Knowledge is Power! Exercise your brain.

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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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