Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: "Damaged" by Cathy Glass

It didn't take long before the author's long-suffering patience and selfless goodness on behalf of yet another abused child pegged the needle on my should-be-nominated-for-sainthood-NOT meter. Come one. The author writes under a pseudonym. I wouldn't put my real name on this delusional piece of self-stroking egotism, either.

However, the book is not a total loss. To the critical, inquiring mind, it is a treasure brimming with her blissfully-ignorant, unintended expose's of the inside working of child welfare agency practices, the malpractice, the malfeasance, the non-feasance and the just plain dopery, mopery and idiocracy.

I cite as one example: Foster carers taking child's statements about sexual abuse? Without proper training? Without documenting it? Without insuring that the interview techniques are proper? (They weren't). Inappropriate to say the least. Shocking to the astute observer. Damaging in the extreme.

This is not to discount the child's reported experiences, but rather, to expose the admitted failures of the system to protect, and effectively treat the child. It is safe to presume that while this child was being studiously ignored by the agency in her abusive home, they were too busy to rescue her because of all the non-abused children being swept into their nets. This child will never be a functioning, normal adult, if the author is to be believed. That is a tragedy that the author indicates was avoidable, if the system was doing its job. This is a powerful indictment against the wholesale removal of children without proof of serious harm.

The heartless cruelty of this system is well documented. As a foster carer, she boldly exposes her attempts to make the child hate her parents, ignorant of the harm that causes the child's ability to form attachments, and love herself. She sees no wrong in making a child doubt her own identity, her origins, her feelings for her parents (which cannot be denied no matter how sick the parents were), because it is more expedient for the agency to emotionally alienate the child from her parents rather than teach the child to recognize and refuse the sin, without having to hate herself because the sinners were her parents.

It shows the practitioner's systemic denials of the harms caused to the innocent victims by the child saver's well-intentioned <ahem> services, non-services, wrong-services, delayed services, inappropriate services and outright failures to provide services, yet they can pat themselves on the back and walk away bureaucratically secure in a job well done, as the human toll mounts.

I am glad she wrote the book. She had no clue the hero she tried to convince the world she is was more accurately exposed as one of the villains perpetuating the abuse of children under the guise of protecting them.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aging Out of Foster Care

I aged out of foster care. The day I graduated from high school--with honors--I was booted out onto the street without a dime. I didn't have a driver's license or a car. I didn't have a job.

I went straight back to my father's home. That was June. By November, I had a job, a car and an apartment. I couldn't have done it without the support of my father, and the upbringing of my parents. Before I ever went into foster care they had taught me how to run a household, budget and shop, and take care of myself. I could delay gratification, exercise good judgment, make and achieve goals and I had a good work ethic. I was lucky to have been raised by my parents long enough for them to teach me what I needed to know for life.

My foster care givers taught me nothing, but were happy to exploit my housekeeping and child care skills to their advantage. Imagine this, they got paid to have me live in their home, cook their meals, babysit their children and clean their house. I must point out, this was a good foster home. I could have been placed in worse.

The Children's Advocacy Institute has released a report called The Fleecing of Foster Children which discusses children aging out of foster care.

I take exception to the popular myth that children suffer untold damage caused by abuse at the hands of their parents, a myth which is perpetrated by this publication. I was exposed to abuse in my family home, at least what is considered abuse by today's standards. Having been there and done that, I can firmly assert that the bond of love between me and my parents went extremely far to mitigate any long-term damage that might have occurred by virtue of purported abusive parenting practices. I suffer more trauma decades later from the emotional abuses I endured for the year I spent in my good foster home than from the more severe purported abuses at the hands of my parents during my entire childhood.  

Getting past that myth, the findings about the exploitation of children in foster care by their protectors is extremely enlightening. The lengths to which the child welfare professionals will go to line their own pockets at the expense of the children they protect is astonishing to the uninitiated and makes this report a valuable resource to the child welfare practitioner. 

This report focuses heavily on social security issues, but it also provides tidbits about other ways that children are exploited before being discarded.

And they are discarded. In Wichita, Kansas, children who age out of foster care are routinely driven by the caseworker to the local homeless shelter and dropped off without a dime. If they are lucky, they haven't been fingered for crimes committed by others in the foster home, as happened to K.C.  in Pennsylvania.

After being removed from the family home on false accusations, and being set up for termination of parental rights, then being vindictively removed from an excellent foster home where the foster parent actually advocated for him and worked with the parents, K.C. was placed in a group home and put on chemical restraints. When he aged out he was charged with sexually assaulting another foster child. He was summarily dumped into jail upon aging out of foster care. He had been told his parents didn't want him, despite the fact that they were begging the agency to tell them where he was once he turned eighteen. His father had died shortly before his mother found him. His trauma from this brand of child protection is incalculable, and permanent.

He is a throw-away person, primarily because the people who would have loved him enough to protect him were legally removed from his life. Not having that connection makes these children extremely vulnerable to the worst kinds of exploitation. These are the ones who are, for example, patsies, taking the fall for someone else's crime--often a foster care provider or friend who did the dirty deed--and they don't even know they can defend themselves, much less how to defend themselves. The justice system doesn't care who did it, they just want a conviction--the easiest conviction they can obtain. These children have absolutely no support network, no skills, poor education, and nobody who even cares what happens to them. They are alienated and isolated and targeted, and completely unable to protect themselves from any kind of exploitation that befalls them.

Attempts by foster children who age out to reunite with their real parents are thwarted by the agencies. They tell them the parents died, or don't want them, or anything else to deny these children any method to learn the other side of the story about what happened or reconnect with the parents they love and restore their support network.

Why? Why is it so important that so many facts about these cases remains secret? That these discarded children are denied the information they need to reconnect with their real parents? Think about it. Decide for yourself what purpose this kind of secrecy serves.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Perspective From a Foster Child

I want to provide a perspective on foster care that many readers aren't aware of. That of a foster child.

So many people claim to speak for these children, and to act in the best interests of these children, but they don't have a clue what the child would say, or what would be best for that individual child.

Most of the child welfare professionals don't make their recommendations or take their actions based on what is best for each individual child. They are acting based on what is generically best for children. I know this because I ask every single one I encounter, "Do you make your recommendations and conduct your practice based on  each individual child's needs or based on what's best for children in general?" They respond, "It is too complicated to know what each child needs, I base my recommendations and practice on what's best for children in general." Reading their reports and recommendations, that was obvious to me, but I wanted them to admit it. And they do, unaware of the indictment that this admission implies.

This is significant because children are not automatons, or cut from the same cloth. They are individuals, each with their own needs and dreams and desires. To treat them with a cookie cutter approach does violence to the child, the rights of the child and the family, and destroys the statutory mandates governing child welfare.

I was a foster child. Based on my experience, and my discussions with other foster children, I have concluded that the child in foster care is not the real child. All anyone sees is a role the child is playing. It is too dangerous for a foster child to be himself in a stranger's home. A foster child must adapt to the stranger's home, and suppress important parts of himself in order to protect himself. He will say and do whatever pleases the authority figures who have control over his life to stay safe. He'll even deny abuse in the foster home if he thinks disclosing it is too dangerous. Interestingly, he will tell his parents during visits, expecting them to protect him. Instead, the visits will be cut off, because the caseworker will claim the parents are discussing in appropriate topics with the child.

Child welfare professionals are in denial about this chameleon foster child. They take the chameleon as the real child, which results in disaster for the child.

He cannot discern when they are lying to him, he just wants to make them happy so he can go home. That's what they promised him. He doesn't realize saying and doing what they want is most likely to prevent his reunification. Even if he acts out, he will acquiesce to the reasons his court-appointed therapist or caseworker suggests, grasping at any straw to win his way home.

But a child cannot maintain this masquerade forever. Once in a forever home, his misery at losing his parents must emerge. He feels abandoned by his parents, yet he still needs them and wants them. His new forever parents contribute to his agony, by badmouthing his parents and punishing him for loving them, needing them, wanting them. They try to control his feelings and this thoughts, based on the delusion that this is supposed to be a fairy tale. This child should be grateful to them for rescuing him and making him part of their family. But he's not, and that is intolerable. He gets hateful, and they don't know why. I know why.

I hated every attempt by my foster care givers to make me be someone I wasn't. I hated their constant badmouthing my father, and making me feel inferior because I continued to love him and need him. I hated their demands that were strange and uncomfortable. I hated the complete, forced isolation from my family. I had to endure their attempts to control me in silence. It's no wonder some children respond with passive aggressive tendencies and refusals to bond. Who wants to be forced to bond with someone who doesn't even understand your needs and cares more about their hurt adult feelings than your broken child's heart?

The experts' professional belief that you can control anyone's emotions and feelings, or use force to change some else's emotions and feelings, especially a child's, is insane. Yet, the entire child welfare industry is based on this premise, and applies it punitively to anyone who resists being controlled in this manner or forced to feel what the experts think is best. This practice results in an insulting and degrading violation of personal boundaries, involving coercion, emotional manipulation, denial of individuality and self-determination, and the wholesale use of controlling techniques far more abusive than most parents are alleged to have perpetrated upon their children which the state cited as warranting their removal from the family home. It is a graphic illustration as to how pervasively erroneous the practices perpetrated by experts in the name of protecting children really are.

Termination of parental rights (TPR) is not proving to be compassionate nor a worthy solution for the best interests of children, neither is expedited permanency. Since children's attachment are demonstrably not as malleable as the experts want us to believe, TPR should be reserved for the most egregious cases of abuse, never for neglect. When TPR and adoption must be employed, there should still be a mechanism for the child to validly own his feelings and needs for his real parents, and see them under safe conditions throughout his life. This is the only way to protect the child's emotional health into adulthood. That would be in the best interests of children in general, and individual children.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here we go again. . .Wisconsin and Texas Contribute to Abuse of Children

Florida's child welfare agency, DCF, is not unique in losing children or placing the legal orphans they created in abusive "forever families."

In this case, two states are involved, Wisconsin, who removed the children from their parents and placed them with these state-approved parents, and Texas, where the parents lived.

Yes, Virginia, once a child is a legal orphan, they can be sent anywhere, even overseas, at the discretion of the child welfare agency. The beauty of this arrangement--for the agency at any rate--is the fact that there is nobody left who has standing or even knowledge to question where these children have been redistributed or if they are being mistreated. . .or killed. If they die, their real families never even get notified, can never attend the funeral, or visit their grave, assuming they even get a grave.

Most of these parents eagerly await the day their children turn eighteen and seek them out. Some never move, some have made the kiddie's bedrooms into shrines. Virtually all maintain a presence on the Internet, seeking and searching, and often finding their children featured on some adoption web site. Often, once their parental rights have been terminated, it turns out their children are not adoptable, and are then marketed by the child welfare agency like puppies in the pet store window. When they read about their children, they learn how damaged the children have become since being taken from their home, and many agonize over their impotence to help their own children.

Yet another set of state-approved adoptive parents have been arrested for viciously mistreating these children who were placed with them for protection.

I have extensive experience in Wisconsin. They have a history of removing children too quickly, and refusing to return them without justifiable cause, often to satisfy vindictive motives. I have documented on video, their propensity to tamper with photographic evidence and suborn perjury in their efforts to protect children. 

Texas is no model of best practices, either. It was several years ago that the state auditor revealed a shocking report on the placement of Texas foster children in a camp setting, without adequate toilet facilities or shelter from the weather. Where older children preyed and perpetrated on younger children, and where the staff was indifferent at best and abusive at worst. Texas is a hotbed of horror stories.

Both states rank in the top ten worst states for child welfare practices.

Few of these accounts reach the public. Most are covered up by the agency and the courts, often citing confidentiality to protect their malpractice from public scrutiny. Contrary to the prevailing propaganda, this type of conduct is not the exception. Spend a day searching for foster parent and adoptive parent groups online and you will see graphic discussion of the situations these children are forced to endure at the hands of these state-approved care givers.

These children resist bonding with strangers, and refuse to stop loving or needing their real parents. This is actually a very healthy emotional state for a child. . .unless you have made him a legal orphan. Often, the process of making the child a legal orphan requires a therapist to diagnose the child as not having a bond with their parents, a finding that is often consistent with what the caseworker demanded, but inconsistent with the actual emotional attachment maintained by the child. When this child is placed for adoption, this healthy attachment to his real parents must be purged, regardless of the harm to the child.

Most state-approved forever families cannot tolerate such emotional defiance as the child's attachment to his parents. The children MUST bond with these strangers and the real parents must be eliminated from the child's heart and mind.

In response to this malpractice by the experts, other experts have a developed complete pseudo-science on how to break the child's bonds with his real parents and purportedly transfer that bond to the state-approved adoptive parents known as attachment therapy. These techniques are universally harmful, even fatal. . .remember the deadly rebirthing therapy that killed ten-year-old Candace Newmaker in Evergreen, Colorado in 2000? They are based on the false premise that the child's attachment issues stem from the abuse he suffered in his home.

The experts are in complete denial that children have a bond with their own parents, need theirown  parents, no matter if the parents have abused or neglected them (which abuse or neglect is so subjective that often something claimed to be abuse, isn't). Regardless, the child inately loves and needs his mommy and daddy. The fact that they are imperfect isn't going to change that need, and removing them from the child's world, then attempting to use control and force to compel the child to no longer love or need his mommy and daddy is a recipe to destroy that child forever.

Which is why it becomes so important to keep the children in the family home with appropriate services if necessary. I seriously doubt these kids were abused or neglected by their biological parents to the extent they were abused by their state-approved, adoptive "forever family." This tragedy could have been prevented, if Wisconsin had complied with their statutory mandates.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kansas Attorney General Confirms Anatomy of Child Welfare Ill Will

I promised it in this post, when I asked, "Are these professionals [child welfare caseworkers] really that petty and vindictive?", and here it is. . . Kansas Attorney General's findings on a case involving the death of a child after multiple reports of child abuse. This kind of government admission is a rare circumstance, and very welcome since it supports my contentions about child welfare workers putting their own agenda over and above the best interests of the child.

I have interviewed many caseworkers in the past twenty years. They have been very forthcoming about certain issues that I find relevant to their practice. One is that they almost all profess to having been abused themselves as children. When I ask for details of their abuse, it seems that some were abused, and some have interpreted parental discipline or other parental prerogatives as being abuse. . .in other words, they didn't like having their parents holding them accountable for their wrongdoing or for forestalling their childhood rebellion. In either event, they cite this abuse as their reason for saving other children from the abuse they endured.

State child welfare workers are represented by a disproportionately large percentage of self-professed damaged people on a mission to protect children whether they need it or not. Human nature being what it is, their perspective is going to be skewed toward viewing parents as perpetrators.

I've also observed that many of them are arrogant, to the point of professing that they don't make mistakes. I believe the fact that they are statutorily immune for their conduct contributes to this delusion of infallibility.

Finally, these damaged, grandiose bureaucrats are given an inordinate degree of power over people. They have learned that no matter what lies they tell, what strings they pull, what abuses they perpetrate, what they say is gospel truth to judges.

This dynamic tends to go to their heads. This case investigated by Kansas AG illustrates exactly how caseworkers do act vindictively and unprofessionally when challenged by a mere layman. (Aside - do you ever wonder why respondent parent attorneys always advise their clients not to piss off the caseworker? This is why.)

The caseworker who was the subject of this investigation is Linda Gillen. She is described with glowing credential and years of experience. So she can't plead incompetence for her failure to protect a child from death given the fact she had been notified multiple times by mandated reporters who had concerns for this child's welfare.

Ms. Gillen didn't like the grandparents of the child, who were pushing for her to protect the child from the father's live-in, drug addicted girlfriend. She had known the drug-addicted girlfriend since she supervised her in foster care.

Multiple mandated reporters made reports that this little girl was being abused. Ms. Gillen refused to investigate, because she didn't like the grandparents. It's all in the report, but I was kept abreast of the events as they happened. The report is an accurate portrayal of Gillen's professional conduct.

This is not a unique case. It happens all the time, all over the country. A caseworker takes sides because she dislikes someone, or someone pissed her off, or she simply hates all men/women/grandparents, etc. She makes her recommendations, conducts her investigations and reports to the court based on her bias, with the intent to use her nearly unlimited power to show them who's boss. She is a control freak. She manipulates the case so that the parents look bad. Invariably, she will push the right button and the parent will pull a nutty, which was what she wanted, "See, your Honor, I told you so." Sometimes, though, she can't manipulate them, which causes her to escalate.

Then when something goes wrong, as in this case where the child died at the hands of an known abuser, she pleads immunity from civil liability.

We all know the saying, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." To this I add, "Absolute immunity is absolute power." The practices I have observed over two decades graphically illustrate the effects of absolute power upon petty and vindictive mortals whose moral compass was not necessarily pointed at true north to begin with. We really should be putting our best and most compassionate into these positions, yet we are stuck with the bottom of the rotten apple barrel. Is it any wonder they run amok?

Child welfare agencies are enamored of psychological evaluations for parents and children, they rely on them heavily to make the case they need made. See my previous post on this subject. Why shouldn't caseworkers be required to have an annual psychological evaluation to determine their fitness to wield such power over parents, often using the children as pawns to control the parents upon pain of losing their children forever?

If these agencies and the courts trust in these evaluations so much, they shouldn't object to being required to prove their own fitness, don't you think? And these evaluations should be made available to the parents whose cases they are administering. What's good for the parent is good for the caseworker. . .and would tend to weed out those whose petty vindictiveness is more important to them than the best interests of the child.
Kansas Attorney General Report in case no. 6:10-cv-01017-MLB-KGG                                                                                                   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Missing Adopted Boys in Colorado

Edward Bryant, 58, and Linda Bryant, 54, adopted nine children out of foster care. The concern of officials is that these parents fraudulently obtained adoption subsidies for two of these children who went missing in 2003 at ages seven and under. They are looking for these boys, but it seems to be too little, too late. 

El Paso County, Colorado, is the agency who licensed and approved these parents. This is the same agency that spearheaded the efforts to shut down the American Family Advocacy Center in Colorado because I was publicly critical of this agency's administration of child welfare cases, and of the judges who heard these cases.

The agency is not returning calls to the media about this case.They cite confidentiality, but it strikes me as quite convenient that this confidentiality protects them from public scrutiny and accountability for a very public exposure of their chronic failures to act in the best interests of the children they puportedly protect.

This incident will undoubtedly surface among the family rights whackadoodles as it being all about the money, and as usual, they miss the point. If you follow the money, you will find how the federal funding drives the redistribution of children, but that is not the be-all and end-all of the issue. For many of the whackadoodles, the money is just a convenient excuse that distracts from the fact that they needed intervention for abusing or neglecting their own children.

The adoption subsidy/follow the money problem could be easily solved with two simple solutions:

1. Provide this subsidy to the child's family as part of their case plan before terminating parental rights, especially if neglect (often due to poverty) is an issue that brought the child under the jurisdiction of the court. This will dramatically improve reunification rates. This would be short term subsidies, not intende to last until the child turns eighteen.
2. Eliminate all adoption subsidies for children adopted out of foster care. This would effectively eliminate all adoptive parents whose motives are not centered on loving the legal orphans.
After all, why should adoptive parents get paid to raise the children their own parents couldn't afford to raise in the manner the state demanded? Dosen't it make more sense to help the parents get adequate housing, medical, and food for their kiddies in the family home rather than susidizing it in a stranger's home?

More on this story is at the Denver Post.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Florida DCF - Task Force Report into Death of Adopted Twin

The final report on Nubia Barahona's death at the hands of her adopted parents in Florida has been released.

This report was authored by experts, professionals in the field of child welfare. I have consistently bemoaned the fact that "professionals" dominate the issue when it comes to investigations, or recommendations, and that parents, who are the only true experts regarding their own children, are excluded from participation in every aspect of child welfare case administration and legislation.

It seems my concerns are justified. While this report was authored by professionals--experts--it reveals to the astute reader that professionals contributed to the practices that caused the death of this child, and the attempted murder of her brother.

I have linked the report for the reader's reference, but I can only address one issue at a time. Today, it will be item (1) of the Findings on page 6, which states:
The court-ordered psychological evaluation of Nubia and Victor performed on Feb. 12, 2008 by Dr. Vanessa Archer recommending adoption of Nubia and Victor by the Barahonas to be “clearly in their best interest” and “to proceed with no further delay” --- failed to consider critical information presented by the children’s principal and school professionals about potential signs of abuse and neglect by the Barahonas. That omission made Dr. Archer’s report, at best, incomplete, and should have brought into serious question the reliability of her recommendation of adoption. Several professionals, including the Our Kids’ case manager, the GAL, and the Children’s Legal Services attorney, as well as the judge, were, or should have been, aware of that significant omission, and yet apparently failed to take any steps to rectify that critical flaw in her report.
The psychologist's recommendation was found to be unreliable. Yet the court gave it great weight in arriving at it's determination that these children be adopted by the Barahonas.

How does this happen? I'm so glad you asked.

In practice, nationwide, these court-appointed professionals are under contract to the child welfare agency. They perform their evaluations and therapies at a discounted rate, deeply discounted. They obtain the large majority of--if not all--their referrals from the child welfare agency.

They have a vested, monetary interest in maintaining their flow of referrals. These referrals will dry up if the provider does not produce the recommendations and diagnoses the agency desires.

I have interviewed dozens of mental health professionals who have worked in some capacity on child welfare cases. Every one of them has disclosed that when the caseworker calls with the referral, she will invariably advise the service provider of the history of the client family, and state what diagnosis and recommendations she wants. She rigs the case, and the mental health professional goes along with it. Not surprisingly, those who maintained their professional ethics and conducted a competent evaluation consistent with the standards of their practice often returned diagnoses and recommendations that were refused by the caseworker, who then shopped for a more compliant professional to treat the family.

My investigations have revealed that the family history is often wrong, at the very least exaggerated and at the worst, completely false. Yet, the providers who rely on CPS referrals will accept this history as valid, and provide recommendations and treatments based on the false history, that conform to what the caseworker wants. Attempts by the parent to correct this erroneous history often results in the provider stating the parent is in denial, or out of touch with reality, and cite it as a contributing factor in their recommendation to keep the children out of the family home. The family members receive treatment for issues that do not exist, and these treatments invariably fail to remedy the issues. duh.

It appears this was a compliant mental health professional, who did exactly what the caseworker wanted. There is no way the caseworker, even knowing of the reports of abuse that raised concerns, was going to dispute the finding she had elicited. The GAL, being a typical GAL, rubber-stamped what the caseworker wanted. The judge did what judges do, accept agency recommendations without demanding evidence to support their recommendations.

This is one reason, a big reason, why the system failed Nubia. Why it fails all the children. I've stated this for years, and now, finally, some experts agree. It's about time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Florida DCF-Nobody's Asking the Important Questions

In all the sensationalism of the murder of one adopted child in Florida and the torture of her twin brother, nobody is asking the important questions. . .

How on earth did the "evil" Barahonas qualify to be foster and adoptive parents?

There were multiple complaints against these licensed, state-approved parents. Why does DCF give such latitude to state-approved, licensed foster and adoptive parents when they are accused of abuse or neglect, and is so harsh against real parents for equal or lesser accusations?

Was this permanency plan for these children considered a positive outcome by the agency?

What steps is Florida DCF taking to improve their discernment regarding which people to license as foster or adoptive parents? 

My prediction, these questions are too hard, and DCF will continue on with business as usual. Isn't it interesting when DCF makes a mistake this horrible, it's "too bad, so sad." But when parents make a much lesser mistake, DCF comes down on them with righteous terror.

Foster care should be superior care, at least superior to the child's family home. Evidently DCF disagrees.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Numerous Checks Fail

One of the amici in Greene v. Camreta included this observation in their amicus brief:
Children's Advocacy Institute
". . .the system in place includes numerous checks to protect the rights of suspected parental abusers, including required “reasonable efforts” not to remove a child; a detention hearing before a neutral court with the burden on the State to show child danger; appointment of counsel for all involved parents;mandated “reasonable efforts” to reunify; jurisdiction hearing; disposition hearing (pendente lite); review hearings; and permanent placement hearings – all before the judiciary, and including liberal rights of appellate review."
CAI is absolutely correct. Congress has provided these checks in order to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their family homes and to protect family integrity and privacy.

Do they work? In theory, yes, they do. In practice, rarely. Why? I'm so glad you asked. . .what you will read here is the result of twenty years of observation and analysis of this cases in courtrooms around the country. Yes, even in states with closed courts, I get in.

First, permit me comment on the grammar, ". . . protect the rights of suspected parental abusers. . ." They are accused of child abuse, not parental abuse. Suspicion of child abuse when one is only accused indicates a predisposition to presume guilt, a principle at odds with our judicial traditions. But the entire child welfare system is administered in a manner that initiates find shocking to our time-honored notions of justice.

So, let's move on to the checks, point by point.
  1. " including required “reasonable efforts” not to remove a child" (tsk tsk tsk. . .the grammar again-a lawyer wrote this? Don't they have to have a certain degree of competence in language skills?) Congress has mandated the state make reasonable efforts to prevent removal. This means providing services intended to eliminate the risk of abuse and keep the child safely in the home. This can be as simple as removing the offinding parent from the family home. Yet this fails as a matter of usual practice, or even under the auspices of "best practice."  
    1.  It fails because the caseworker did not/refused/neglected to offer any services to the parent that would keep the child safely in the home. Futhermore, the caseworker will refuse to accept any alternatives offered by the parents. But the caseworker will recite the proper incantation in her court documents, "reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal" without detailing what those efforts were and why they failed, as Congress has mandated.
    2. It fails because the judge--who has the duty to require the agency to provide proof of reasonable efforts, doesn't require it, as Congress has mandated.The judge has the authority to require this sua sponte, but let's suppose this judge is particularily lazy/busy/biased. If the judge fails, there are two or three other participants whose job it is to give the judge a reason to find that reasonable efforts were not made.
    3. It fails because the Guardian ad litem (GAL) refuses to demand the caseworker--the maker of the report--be placed under oath and testify to the services she offered and why they failed to prevent removal, as Congress has mandated. Futhermore, the GAL refuses to object to the court's finding that reasonable efforts were made without a shred of evidence in the record to support that finding. 
    4. It fails because the respondent parent attorneys refuse to demand the caseworker --the maker of the report--be placed under oath and testify to the services she offered and why they failed, as Congress has mandated. Futhermore, the respondent parent attorneys refuse to object to the court's finding that reasonable efforts were made without a shred of evidence in the record to support that finding. 
    5. Conclusion, is has been rendered impotent as a check on agency conduct with the express consent of all participants. 
  2. "a detention hearing before a neutral court with the burden on the State to show child danger" This is correct. Yet this fails as a matter of usual practice, or even under the auspices of "best practice."  
    1. The agency makes the allegations of the danger unopposed and without being under oath.
    2. The judge wants these hearings over with quickly. He gets testy when a parent demands an evidentiary hearing. Even if he grants the evidentiary hearing, the parents are only permitted a brief amount of time to contest the danger. They are often denied the right to call witnesses and present evidence. In practice, it is a sham proceeding.
    3. The GAL does not demand the caseworker be placed under oath to cross-examine her report. The GAL has the right and the duty in his capacity as acting in the best interets of the child to challenge everything the agency does and recommends. In practice, GALs appear as bobble heads to rubber stamp all agency findings and recommendations. GALs endorse the sham proceeding.
    4. Respondent parent attorneys (especially court appointed) prepare for a hearing!? Hello! They advise their clients not to contest the removal of the child nor demand a contested detention hearing. "Just cooperate and you'll get your kids back." Besides, they have a number of other hearings today and are too busy running from one courtroom to the next for their five minute hearing. They claim they don't get paid enough to represent their clients at contested hearings. And if they are court appointed, they don't get paid enough, but they did sign up for the ~$700 flat fee so they lose all right to complain about their pay. If the parents dare to show up with evidence and witnesses, their attorney threatens to withdraw. They facilitate the sham proceeding.
    5. Conclusion: A sham proceeding is devoid of any power as a check and balance to the state agency's acts.
  3. "appointment of counsel for all involved parents"  True, again. But what good is appointed counsel if counsel refuses to provide competent representation?
    1. For example, appointed counsel always tell parents, "cooperate with the agency." If a criminal attorney told a defendant,"cooperate with the DA," he could be sued for malpractice. 
    2. For example, if the parents refuse to comply with his recommendations to waive all the shelter hearing, admit to the petition and do whatever the agency demands, the attorney moves the court to withdraw. The court grants him motion to withdraw, and refuses to appoint counsel to replace him. In fact, if the parents demand the degree of self-determination mandated in the statutes, complain about abuse in foster care, demand more frequent and meaningful visits and speedy reunification, the lawyer withdraws. 
    3. The GAL is appointed for the child, and only serves to rubber stamp the agency findings and recommendations. Talk about stacking the deck in favor of the agency. . .
    4. Conclusions: Counsel that acts a court-appointed facilitator to agency demands is devoid as a check and balance to state agency conduct.
  4. "mandated “reasonable efforts” to reunify; See #1 above.  
    1. What good is a check that has been reduced to a check box and incantation? It is devoid of any power to check agency conduct with the express participation of all participants.
  5. "jurisdiction hearing" which is another name for the adjudicatory hearing, where the court finds the children are dependent and neglected and brings them under the jurisdiction of the court so the agency can provide services.
    1. Does anyone remember me telling you the attorneys recommend the parents to admit to the petition or they will withdraw?
    2. There are almost never adjudicatory hearings. In Colorado, out of over three thousand petitions filed a year, there are less than ten jury trials for this hearing and there are a few more to the court. If parents are coerced to waive these hearings by their attorneys, or threats of retaliation by the agency, what good is having the option? 
    3. Before you get snotty and say the parent should just resist, just stop and think how strong your resolve would be if your kids were in a hostile stranger's home and visitation was being withheld for your admission to the petition?
    4. If the parents are strong in their resolve, the attorney withdraws, and the court may or may not appoint a replacement and the hearing is delayed by as long a year, all this while the child remains in foster care; or, the attorney does not effectively represent the parent and the parent loses which results in another sham proceeding.
    5. The GAL also has the right to demand a contested hearing on behalf of the child, but I've never heard of this happening.
    6. If through coercion and threat, the parents waive this right, or if the hearing is reduced to a sham proceeding, it fails as a check and balance to state agency acts. 
  6. "disposition hearing (pendente lite)" This is where the case plan is ordered by the court. Services are:
    1. Uniformly inappropriate services based on a one-size-fits-all boilerplate plan,
    2. proffered by incompetent, cut-rate providers, which do not conform to the standards of the profession or which encompass untested or questionable theories, and
    3. not intended to address the legitimate issues that brought the children under the jurisdiction of the court. 
    4. Parent and child attorneys refuse to contest the agency recommendations, or to demand a contested hearing, or to even challenge the fact that the parents were not permitted to participate in the formation of the case plan as the law mandates. 
    5. Conclusion, if the hearing is reduced to yet another sham proceeding, it fails as a check and balance to the agency conduct. Once again, this could be resolved IF counsel or GAL were to demand a contested hearing instead of coercing the parents not to piss off the caseworker by challenging any service she recommends. 
  7. "review hearings" Yes. . .every six months, AFTER the adjudication which the soonest that can occur is sixty days after removal. 
    1. These cases go to permanency at twelve months. Pretty meaningless in the scheme of these cases. It usually means one review hearing before the permanency hearing. . .which brings us to. . .
    2. Once again, these hearings are merely a pro forma exercise at paper shuffling, sham proceedings which do nothing as a check and balance to agency conduct. 
  8. "and permanent placement hearings" – at twelve months after removal. Most kids don't get home before this hearing. Half of them never make it home. 
    1. The agency presents their report and recommendations whether to return the child or terminate parental rights. Often, this information in this report is based on subjective information, and offers nothing measurable or objective to support the recommendations. 
    2. GAL and parent attorneys do not want contested hearings, do not want to submit evidence or cross examine service providers or case workers. They act as rubber stamps for what the agency wants.
    3. Conclusion: even if this weren't a sham proceeding, the damage has already been done with the faciliation of the court and attorneys for parents and children. It often cannot be undone, and the parents face termination of parental rights over fifty percent of the time.
  9. "all before the judiciary," yes. . .but,
    1. Judges get really testy if you contest anything the agency says, wants, recommends or demands. 
    2. Who abhor contested hearings and parents being in denial, after all, any parent who wouldn't do anything the agency demands--regardless of the mertis of the demands--to get their child back must be a bad parent. 
    3. who believe everything the agency says and believes all parents are liars and abusers. 
    4. Who retaliate against attorneys who present a too-vigorous defense of the parents, by ruling against their other clients. 
    5. Conclusion, if the judiciary are not fair and impartial, it renders this check and balance impotent.
  10. "and including liberal rights of appellate review"  Form over substance. . .
    1. You can only appeal issues that were raised on the record.
    2. GALs and attorneys don't object, or preserve appealable issues. Remember, they advise the parents to waive all hearings, to admit, to comply. There is nothing on the record to preserve for an appeal. 
    3. Conclusion: This is a meaningless option if the attorneys don't preserve the issues during the pendency of the case. 
 The checks and balances built into the child welfare process have been reduced to mere formalities that lack any substance. By the time of the hearing to terminate parental rights, the record reflects exactly what the agency wants it to reflect. . .without a hint that the entire process was a sham.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oral Arguments Camreta v. Greene

Oral arguments were this morning. The transcript has been published.

What can I say? I am underwhelmed at the arguments presented on behalf of the respondent Greene, by Carolyn A. Kubitschek, Esq. She faced a court that appeared to be in support of the respondents, and hemmed and hawed apologetically for even daring to suggest that case workers do not have the right or authority to seize children without a court order, exigent circumstances or parental consent. It was almost as if she hadn't even read the amicus briefs in support of her client.

She was all over the issue, "yes we want the ruling vacated," "oops that's not what I meant, we don't want the ruling vacated."

"It's a seizure," "oops, the length of time determines if it's a seizure," "oops, it depends on if there are exigent circumstances."

The strongest statement she could muster was a wishy-washy ". . .that would be to -- to tell the officials who investigate child abuse that in the name of protecting children, they do not have free rein to do anything and everything that they think is appropriate, because what they do harms children, including the very children they claim to be trying to protect." Child welfare practices do much more than harm the children, and besides, child advocates claim that the harm the child suffers is minimal and justifiable.

The Justices gave her all the clues she needed to make effective and compelling arguments, and she missed them. Counsel was obviously a person who did not understand the practices in these kinds of cases, and she was clueless about the legal history surrounding this issue. She did not even appear to be convinced that caseworkers--government agents-- needed to obey the constitution in administering these cases.

Interviewing a child in school, without exigent circumstances, without a court order supported by evidence and affidavit, or without parental consent, starts a chain of events that becomes an juggernaut,virtually  impossible to turn aside or stop. It is the cornerstone violation of every subsequent violation of rights, privacy dignity and self-determination more often resulting in the destruction of the child's family, security, and assets  than resulting in any beneficial outcome for the child.

But counsel didn't appear to understand that simple and well-established principle, which pretty much makes her as dumb as the rest of the population who think the ends justify the means when protecting children.

She actually sounds like a respondent parent attorney before a hostile dependency judge, like Oliver Twist begging for more food, "Please, Your Honor, I'm sorry, my client insists on a contested hearing against my advice. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here."

No wonder the cause of family rights is so stifled. The people who set themselves up to speak for family rights are inarticulate and clueless.

Update March 2, 2011: Here's what other news organization said about her performance

See this editorial discussing Ms. Kubitschek's performance before SCOTUS.

CNN said in this article, "Arguing for the family, lawyer Carolyn Kubitschek offered seemingly conflicting answers on when it is proper for officials to question children without parents present. She suggested the one-hour-plus interrogation of S.G. was inappropriate but a shorter interview might have been all right."