Monday, April 28, 2008

Texas, CPS, FLDS and $$$$$

Are you aware that by taking 437 (436 - revised number) children from the FLDS compound, that CPS seized almost 2/3 of the children residing in Shleicher county?

What will the impact of that astonishing seizure be on the local (county) economy?

First and foremost - every single parent will be "required" to pay child support for the entire time their children are in foster care. An attorney who doesn't know better won't know how to effectively fight this. Since the parent's attorneys will not contest this, (yes, it can be successfully contested) The child support enforcement division for the Schleicher County CPS will require more employees.

Meanwhile, the families will be required to keep and maintain a home suitable for the children to be returned to; prove their financial ability to support the children while their income is being drained by child support. Many of the stay-at-home moms will probably be required to get jobs, and keep them. This could be problematic because there aren't many jobs in this rural county. Again, this is the "way things are done" but it is inconsistent with the law governing child welfare, and if the attorneys don't understand how it's supposed to work, they won't be able to use the law to make sure their clients' - children and parents - legal interests are adequately protected.

As for finding jobs, I suggest the mothers apply to the local child support enforcement division of CPS for their jobs.

There will be a huge influx of Title IV-E monies into the state, and dispersed disproportionately to Shcleicher county's administration of the cases involving the 437 children. Every cent of that (conservatively estimated) $1 million per month is fraudulently obtained by virtue of one check mark by Her Honor. A check mark that is so simple to erase, reverse and unravel that it is shocking that nobody is doing it.

The state is mandated to make "reasonable efforts" to prevent the removal of the child from the home. This means to offer and provide services which will keep the child safely in the home as an alternative to out of home placement. The fact that such services are inconvenient for the agency, or expensive, or burdensome have no bearing on whether or not the services should be offered. Only if those services fail to keep the children safe, can CPS remove the children.

The Federal law mandates that the court make a judicial determination whether or not reasonable efforts to prevent removal have been made. This must be done on a case by case basis, child by child. Her Honor didn't do that. It must be supported by evidence in the record i.e. what services were offered and provided, and how they failed. It isn't. Res ipsa loquitur - Medicaid and Social Security fraud. Attorneys for parents and children should know this. If they don't, it's malpractice. Remember, I provide accredited Continuing Legal Education training in this arena.

In this case, as in every case, the state has a mandate to remove the danger before removing the child. The purported danger was sexual abuse of teenage girls. The purported offenders were unidentified adult men.

The First Course of action under reasonable efforts mandates: Remove the perps. Since you can't identify them, remove all the men. Make the men move out, leave the kiddies with their mommies.

CPS: Oh, but we can't. The men will sneak back in.

Solution: Install some counselors, caseworkers, foster parents to live on the ranch and supervise.

And doing them one better: The FLDS community trust could charge CPS for their lodging and other services for the supervisors who stay there. YFZ Ranch could not be expected to house the CPS supervisors without compensation, therefore here is their opportunity to grab a chunk of the federal funding pie.

Result: The agency would have made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of the children. The investigation could continue while the children remained in the homes. Since CPS didn't do this, and especially since the parents offered it, CPS did not make reasonable efforts to prevent the removal.

FACT: They removed the kids instead of removing the danger, therefore the parents' and children's attorneys should have contested a finding that reasonable efforts were made. They still can. . .they can demand - and the court is mandated to grant - a contested hearing into whether or not the existing records support a reasonable efforts finding and make the court find that no reasonable efforts were made. When that happens, the federal funds dry up for the child's entire state in foster care.

Do you have any idea how quickly family homes become safe enough for the children to return to when the court finds reasonable efforts were not made? I do. It happens within HOURS.

CPS will be offering pre-adjudication case plans to the parents. These are fishing expeditions - it's how they complete their investigation. Federal law mandates a case plan be put into place within 60 days. It also mandates that the case plan cannot be involuntarily imposed until and unless the child is adjudicated dependent. (I'll get more into case plans in another blog). Lawyers who don't know better often fail to protect the parents from this pre-adjudication fishing expedition and it costs their clients their children.

The boilerplate services include: psychological evaluations for parents and kids, domestic violence evaluations, substance abuse evaluations (Yes, even when people don't abuse substances), supervised visitations, therapy for the children, chemical restraints (drugs) for the more resistant kiddies, medical care for the kiddies, foster care payments (the bulk of which goes for the administration of the case, not the upkeep of the kid). Often, each child's family will have over 20 service providers who derive their livelihood from that child's removal.

The mental health and ancillary professions in Texas will fare very well this year. Unless the attorneys representing the parents and children use the powerful mandates in existing law to prevent Texas from defrauding the taxpayers out of millions of dollars of Federal funds and destroying these families.

This is just a brief overview of reasonable efforts. The tip of the iceberg. It is a powerful due process protection, intended to keep kids in the family home and prevent the disruption of families. It has never been changed since its inception in 1980. But it's rarely been used properly, either.

Disclaimer: This is only the most superficial tip of the iceberg. If you need more in depth information, contact the author.

Texas Statistics Schleicher County compared to Texas State (www.fedstats.gov)
Population, 2006 estimate 2,77623,507,783
Persons under 5 years old, 2006 1911,925,197
Persons under 18 years old, 2006 6876,493,965
Average earnings per job, 2005 $18,827$47,254
Personal income per capita, 2005 $20,854$32,460
Federal spending, 2004 ($1000) 15,467141,858,480
Federal spending per capita, 2004 $5,566$6,308

Texas State Plan Title IV-E of the Social Security Act

Promoting Safe and Stable Families
To fund family preservation that serve families at risk or in crisis, including the following services: reunification and adoption services, preplacement/preventive services, follow-up services after return of a child from foster care, respite care, services designed to improve parenting skills; and infant safe haven programs; to fund community-based family support services that promote the safety and well-being of children and families, to afford children a safe, stable and supportive family environment, to strengthen parental relationships and promote healthy marriages, and otherwise to enhance child development; to fund time-limited family reunification services to facilitate the reunification of the child safely and appropriately within a timely fashion; and to fund adoption promotion and support services designed to encourage more adoptions out of the foster care system, when adoption, promotes the best interests of the child.
Child Welfare Services, State Grants
To establish, extend, and strengthen child welfare services provided by State and local, and Indian Tribal public welfare agencies to enable children to remain in their own homes, or, where that is not possible, to provide alternate permanent homes for them.
Child Abuse and Neglect State Grants
To assist States in the support and improvement of their child protective services systems.
Child Abuse and Neglect Discretionary Grants
To improve the national, State, community and family activities for the prevention, assessment, identification, and treatment of child abuse and neglect through research, demonstration, service improvement, evaluation of best practices, dissemination of information, and technical assistance.

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