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Fighting Fire With Fire

September 17, 2011 in Child Protective Services, corruption, due process, family court, family rights

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For years I have been telling people that the best way to fight the system is to make it more expensive for them to fight you than to give in to your demands. Those wonderful folks “protecting children” at the Department of Health and Human Services think they are above the law — and many operate their agencies like they are living in the Wild Wild West. Anything goes.

While you might feel helpless, you actually have much more power than you realize. I always begin my fight with prayer, asking God to guide me, give me wisdom, understanding and any other specifics on my current circumstance. God won’t fight our fight for us, but God sure makes a tremendous ally.

Then it’s time to lay out a battle plan. Questions you should be asking and documenting:

  • Who are the players? — You must know your opponent if you are defeat him or her. Create a list. What do you know about the judge, the caseworker, and the other people involved in your case.
  • What laws have been broken? — List the statute(s), specific instances, times, dates, etc. Gather as much evidence as possible.
  • Put together a support team. — These are people you can trust. This list should include people who can help you with your case, read reports, assist with research and help to keep your spirits up. Stop answering the calls of those who are negative or bring you down. You must stay focused.
  • Put together an attack plan. — Passive parents rarely see their children returned home. You must stop playing defense and go on the offensive and stay on the offensive. Hit them with what I like to call a shit storm. One complaint after another — preferably coming from different directions.

 

Once you have read the Child Welfare Policy Manual, both state and federal (most are well indexed so finding the laws that pertain to your own case is pretty simple, or just ask for help), you can file an official complaint with your local child welfare agency.

In order to file a complaint, you must request the proper forms from that agency. After filing an official complain with CPS/DHS/etc., call your U.S. House Representative, ask to speak with the aid who handles Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) complaints. Briefly explain what laws were broken. You must sign a request for an investigation before the legislative aid can begin an investigation.

Your local agency will be notified that they are under investigation by the federal government. They will not be happy about it — your case could well be closed faster than you can say “Kashisti”. It has happened in the past. Most often, if they have broken the law, they will be advised to close the case as quickly as possible.

Regardless, of what they do. The more eyes you have on your case, the better it will be for you and your children. Don’t stop there. Continue the offensive by bringing your cause to the people who make policy. The Federal Interagency Work Group on Child Abuse & Neglect are involved with many federal agencies. Be sure to contact specific members of this group. Make it personal.

 

Federal Interagency Work Group on Child Abuse & Neglect

About the Work Group

The amendments to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 1988 created a Federal Inter-Agency Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. The Task Force consisted of approximately 30 member agencies drawn from the eight Cabinet Departments and the Office of Personnel Management. The Director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) was the statutory chairperson of the Task Force.

When the 1996 CAPTA amendments created an Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, replacing the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN), it also eliminated the requirement for a Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.

However, the existing Task Force members agreed that it was important to maintain the connections and to continue their work. The name was changed to Federal Interagency Work Group on Child Abuse and Neglect as Task Forces have specific meanings and requirements under Federal law.

Current Activities

Since 1996, the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect has continued to lead and coordinate the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Child Abuse and Neglect (FEDIAWG). Over 40 Federal agencies are represented. The FEDIAWG meets in-person on a quarterly basis and various Subcommittees meet on a more regular basis via conference calls. The overall goals of the FEDIAWG are:

  • To provide a forum through which staff from relevant Federal agencies can communicate and exchange ideas concerning child maltreatment related programs and activities;
  • To collect information about Federal child maltreatment activities; and
  • To provide a basis for collective action through which funding and resources can be maximized.

There are three Subcommittees and related workgroups:

Domestic Violence Subcommittee
Prevention Subcommittee
Research Subcommittee: NIH Child Abuse and Neglect Working Group

[Find contact information and details. Be sure to scroll down.]

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Mississippi Therapist Requires Assistance

May 20, 2011 in Adoption, Child Protective Services, corruption, DFCS, Mississippi

I have been working with the C. family, a lovely young couple who are risk of losing their only son. These parents are in imminent danger of the loss of their parental rights.  As always, I suppose, the story is complicated but also very unusual and compelling.  They have had to fire their lawyer this week due to multiple failures to adequately represent their interests.  I have promised to do what I could to help them locate another lawyer.

The child’s father is deploying to the Middle East on Thursday of next week (May 26th, 2011).  The parents thought that there would be no legal action taken in the case until his return in February of 2012, but we have learned that the DFCS caseworkers are pressing for a quick hearing.  They are terrified to be without adequate counsel at this time.

I have just read Nancy Schaefer’s letter on your website.  We need information about whether the dollars available to the states through the Adoption and the Safe Families Act are currently available to this DFCS.  The youth court and DFCS county in which the parents reside has the worst reputation in Mississippi. 

We are working with an investigative reporter with a national reputation who is interested in doing the story.  We need documentary evidence or even good stories about loss of parental rights for cash from mississippi.  There is a new youth court judge who is a huge adoption advocate. We need the names of helpful contacts.  Would sure appreciate your help.  I have attached a letter to the judge which summarizes the case and explains my involvement briefly.

(Note: This letter has been edited to protect the families identity.)

This letter was received from an Occupational Therapist, who writes in part.

Dear Judge, 

I have written to you this morning regarding the case of the C. family whose case you were going to hear today.  I am an early intervention therapist helping children age 0-3 with developmental problems.  Last summer, while in the course of my duties, I stumbled into a situation that has struck me as so blatantly unjust that I could not dismiss it as being out of the scope of my professional practice and as such not my concern. 

I met toddler C. (now 27 months old) and his parents in mid August while responding to a request for an oral motor and sensory processing skills assessment.  This request was made by toddler C.’s Service Coordinator for the First Steps Early Intervention Program, a service of the MS State Department of Health. I met briefly with them in their home to observe the child’s play and feeding skills which were significantly delayed.  During the course of my initial interview I learned that he had been in foster care and was being supervised by a case manager with the Department of Human Services.

The following week Mrs. C., called to cancel our appointment saying that his doctor had admitted him directly from his clinic appointment to the hospital.   Mom then called to tell me that the child would miss his second appointment because a hearing had been called to determine if he was unsafe in their custody and needed to be removed from their home for his safety.  She was clearly distraught, had recently moved into the area, and had no local family support besides that of her husband.  I felt a moral obligation knowing the circumstances to respond to her request for my presence at the hearing.

What occurred at the hearing in the Harrison County Youth Courtroom both shocked me and offended my sense of justice.  The conduct of the guardian ad litem struck me as deeply inappropriate and insensitive in relationship to the removal of a child from his parents.

Many accusations were leveled at the parents with no attempt to support them with any evidence. I heard that the same attitude and hearsay was displayed by the DHS supervisor at the follow up hearing a few days later.  

At this hearing neither the parents nor their lawyer were permitted to say anything in their defense.   Their lawyer unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a report completed by a pediatric gastroenterologist who had diagnosed the child with digestive problems. This report challenged the opinion of the physician that had admitted him into the hospital and had pressed for protective custody in the belief that his weight loss was due to his parents’ failure to feed him adequately.  

It is my understanding that this physician denied the parents a referral to a gastroenterologist and in fact the parents were accused in the courtroom of “doctor shopping” for seeking any other medical advice regarding their son’s condition. According to the boy’s mother, threats were made by DHS caseworkers and supervisors that if they sought alternative medical advice this would decrease their chances that they would be given custody of their son.

The reasons for the refusal of the pediatrician to pursue gastroenterological evaluation are unknown.  To our knowledge she has not yet provided a detailed rationale for this either verbally or through medical documentation. 

Other troubling aspects of this case which I know only through the parents, include advising the parents to plead no contest prior to the first hearing, conflicting messages and inadequate information from case managers and their supervisors, the repeated removal of case managers who indicated their support for the reunification of the family, and the lack of information and advocacy with the goal of family preservation. 

I did witness a statement made by a case manager supervisor following the August hearing in which, while refusing to answer the parent’s questions, she stated, “I am glad that you have a good lawyer” and “this is bull-it”.  Multiple efforts to engage high level staff at DHS through phone calls and e mails have either not been returned or not followed up. 

The parents have completed a detailed chronology of the events that have led to each of their losses of custody.  This includes an exhaustive body of data in support of their contention that the child’s removal from their custody is based on unwarranted assumptions, hearsay, misinterpretation, and a failure to investigate the reasons for his weight loss.  There is a lot of detail in their chronology about weight loss incidents that has been correlated with the physicians’ documentation.  

This young but resourceful family has experienced such isolation throughout this period, now over a year long.  Great psychological harm has been done to them.  The parents have received thorough and ongoing psychological evaluation and they are found to be normal for people under great stress.  There are indications that the boy has experienced psychological harm, but this has not been investigated by a credentialed mental health professional. 

This crisis has served to reunite and strengthen the parent’s relationship with one another. They have benefitted from the parent education experiences in which they have participated. They live for the weekly visitations with their child, which have on several occasions, been denied.  Their perception is that no one in the Department of Human Services supports their goal of  reunification.

It is my opinion that the relationship between the department and the family has been characterized by ignorance, withholding of information, and use of manipulation through threats of the permanent loss of custody.  These parents are two loving and competent parents that are at this time beside themselves over this last postponement, only one of many.  I ask that you do what you can to end the victimization of this child and his parents at the hands of the Department of Human Services.

Sincerely, 
Mississippi Occupational Therapist

Valentine’s Day Protest

February 6, 2011 in corruption, family court, Visitation, Washington D.C.

On Valentine’s Day, Monday February 14, 2011 at 11:00 a.m., Mothers of Lost Children will hold a press conference in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave SW, Washington DC.

They are protesting the enormous expenditure of tax dollars to help ex-prisoners and known abusers connect with their children, and the heartbreak for mothers and children when this funding is misused and misapplied. A vigil and speakout by mothers and child victims will be held at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW on Sunday February 13 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

During the past two decades, mothers have been losing custody of their children (even nursing infants) in increasing numbers to fathers who are convicted or identified batterers, child molesters, drug addicts, gang-bangers and felons. Family courts force children into the custody of abusive fathers at alarming rates, allowing these men to continue controlling and abusing their victims. 

Research shows that 70% of batterers who ask for custody get it. Safe mothers who left the abusers in order to protect their children are frequently labeled “unfriendly” and are inappropriately ordered to supervised visitation or denied all contact with their children.

“The reason, in part,” says Karen Anderson, Executive Director of California Protective Parents Association, “lies in a misguided and dangerous objective of the Fatherhood Initiative to give fathers access to their children regardless of the risk they pose.”  ‘The goal is to have former prisoners paying child support and reconnecting with their children as soon as possible,’ (Washington Post June 21, 2010.) 

“It’s crazy to believe that allowing violent men to care for children is a good idea.  Vulnerable children should not be used as guinea pigs to try to rehabilitate criminals,” says Anderson.     

The National Fatherhood Initiative website states in 15 years it has “ensured that two million more children are living with their fathers”.  The Leadership Council research indicates 58,000 children are placed with abusers every year. These statistics may be connected.  

“Thousands of former prisoners and identified abusers have also discovered that if they get custody, they can receive child support instead of paying it.” says Ms. Anderson. “It’s a batterers’ and molesters’ paradise. Federally-funded supervised visitation centers are meant to protect children during visits with potentially dangerous fathers.

Instead, family courts order safe mothers to see their children under supervision, which means the children aren’t able to tell their mothers about abuse by their fathers. That way the Fatherhood Initiative goals are met to access even more federal funds.”    

During this time of deep fiscal crisis, when children are hungry and parents are penniless, $500,000,000.00 dollars designated to increase marriage and promote ex-prisoners to reconnect with and often harm children is doubly offensive. 

Mothers of Lost Children call for a Congressional investigation into the failure of family courts to protect children and potential fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Another Shattered Family!

December 26, 2010 in Child Protective Services, DHS, Tennessee, Visitation

Hi, I’m not sure how much information I can give without getting myself in trouble or jeopardizing my case to get my son back but, I need some people to reach out and help me and give me advice so here it goes:

I have been a foster mom in the state of Tennessee for almost 2 years, I have helped many children and I am still in touch with the ones that were old enough to keep in touch with me. Most of them still call me momma, which warms my heart.

Well, one of my foster daughters (age 17) stole my vehicle to run away in (mind you there, is no information on the records they gave me about her run away charges) . She led the police on a 105 mph car chase, which ended with my vehicle being totaled, after she took out 75 foot of guardrail and a 2010 Sheriff’s car. Thank God, no one was hurt.

I filed a claim with the State of Tennessee, requesting payment for the damages, I did not even ask for the amount that it would take to replace the vehicle and pay for the guardrail. They denied my claim, stating I need to prove DHS negligent.

I have all of the proof I need to prove them negligent but, I haven’t been able to work on my appeal because they came and took my 2 foster sons on Friday, the 10th of December.

My daughter was in a car wreck, a school bus ran her off the road. We were in an ambulance, on our way to the hospital around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon. I got a call from my mother, who was caring for my son, while I was at the hospital, with my daughter. She told me I needed to get to her house immediately that CPS and a police officer were there about my son.

Thank God, my daughter was okay and we were leaving the hospital when she called. I talked to my mom several times while we were on our way to her house. We were told that if my husband came to my parent’s house he would be arrested (he is on the sex offender registry) and that he was not allowed around my son.

I got there and spoke with them; I told them that by law my husband is allowed to be around my son. The officer said well, “If he comes in here, I will arrest him.”

CPS didn’t take my son that night and I did sign a hand written safety plan stating that I would not let my son be around my husband unsupervised. We went to the local Sheriff’s office and one of their investigators said that was not grounds for removal from our home. She looked up the laws from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations stating that my husband could be around my son all day and night but could not sleep in the same house. (My husband filed a no lo contender plea in 1993 three years after the alleged crime)

We are in the process of having his name taken off the registry, since it was not suppose to be there in the first place.

Well, I called the CPS office and gave them the investigators name and number so that she could get the information regarding the law for herself. A CPS worker asked if my son, my husband and I could meet her at the DCS office to talk, I said sure. We went there and talked to her, she told me to make certain that when they were together that the visit was supervised.

We thought everything was fine and going great, when on December 16th, I got a call from the CPS worker asking if Aiden and I could come to the office the next day to sign a safety plan. My mom and daughter were invited to come along as well, if they wanted to.

I didn’t have a problem with this, since I had already signed a hand written safety plan.

When arrived there the next day, I discovered that I had been lied to! They did not want me to sign a Safety Plan — they took my son!!!!

I had done everything they asked me to do; we followed every law. I told them again, what I told them on the 10th of December, that I am willing do whatever it takes to keep my son at home (which is suppose to be their main goal). If necessary, I would divorce my husband whom I love with all my heart and I would make him leave the property. (We have a garage apartment where he sleeps at night.)

The Supervisor of CPS told me that my son was being taken because of my bad choice of my son’s father and my bad choice of marrying a sex offender, who does not have a record, other than that charge 20 years ago. 

We went to court. The judge said she knew my husband and that he was a good guy, but she lets DCS/CPS make these kinds of decisions. She supported their opinions.

I was unable to spend Christmas with my little boy. He did not get to wake up to Santa. This is tearing my family apart. I am allowed only one visit a week for 4-hours.

My mom is a licensed foster parent as well, so she has my son, but they still have to tear him off me, when it is time for me to leave. Not only have they taken me away from my son, they have taken my away from the support of my family.

I was told the only way to get my son back is to divorce my husband. Why should I have to do that? It is not against the law — but that is what I am doing after writing this letter. The divorce papers will be filed tomorrow. On what grounds I am not sure. I don’t know maybe the grounds will be the State of Tennessee is making me get a divorce, so my son can come home and I can have the rest of my family back together.

We go to court in a week and a half. If I am not granted my son back into my custody, things are going to get very bad in this county and in the State of Tennessee. You will be seeing this story on the news and in the paper, even on CNN. I will do what ever it takes to get my son home — he is my life.

Please if you know of anything or anyone that can help me, in this short amount of time, please let me know.

A.J. in Tennessee

Virginia Parent Seeks Advice!

October 19, 2010 in child abuse, Child Protective Services, false accusation, Virginia

Could any of you help me? I have a 16 year old in foster care. Up until 10 months ago I would have won an award for my parenting. My kids were well mannered and good and loving until my 16 year old got involved with a young girl. We were planning on moving and when it came to the fact he would be leaving his girlfriend he began to act out and long story short he allowed people to believe I created a bruise on his face (which I did not).

In jumps department of social services and my son was taken into the system. I was found not guilty of abuse and the charges against me were dismissed but they will not release my child. Are there any attorneys I can contact? Is there any parental support groups.

When ever I talk to social services they just treat me like a criminal they are rude and dismisive. We went to court and they had the story incorrect and when I went to point this out the judge siilenced me. This is so scary and I feel so powerless. Please help me.

Mary Lou,
Norfolk, VA

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