Friday, May 27, 2011

Child Welfare Case Analysis #1-Newborn born at home.

This is the first of our regular columns analyzing an actual child welfare case. We will present the background and development of the case in this blog. The analyses of the case will be conducted on two web sites. The first analysis will be from the perspective of the legal professionals representing the parents and children and the judge on our Legal Resources Web site. The other analysis will be from the perspective of the parent on the American Family Advocacy Center web site.

Case Background:
County child welfare agency (CPS) receives a hotline call from a mandated reporter that Mr. & Mrs. Smith have a newborn who is severely dehydrated and has not gained any weight since being born a week ago. The reporter states the child was born at home and this is the mother's first birth.

CPS sends an intake caseworker 36 hours after the report is received. The parents permit the caseworker entry into the family home after the caseworker threatens to get a court order. The caseworker's report observes that the home is in disarray. The caseworker reports the mother (aged 19) appears tired and overwhelmed and that the child is listless and unhealthy looking. Mother says she is breastfeeding, but she has a difficult time getting the baby to nurse very long. Mother reports the baby was born at home, but the child was taken to the pediatrician within hours of the home birth, and was seen again by the pediatrician yesterday. She admits the baby has lost some weight but she is working on getting the baby to nurse better. Caseworker determines that the child is in immediate danger and takes physical custody of the child. She leaves the parents a notice of hearing in five days. The child is placed in foster care. The caseworker makes no arrangements for the mother to provide breast milk for the infant.

In court, five days later, the parents are each appointed an attorney at the preliminary placement hearing. The parents have not seen their baby since it was seized. Their attorneys meet with them for the first time a few minutes in the hall before returning to the hearing. The parents each receive a copy of the petition which states the child is suffering from failure to thrive and was near death when the caseworker took custody. CPS cites the home birth as being medical neglect, and fails to report that the parents took the infant to see the pediatrician immediately after the birth and a week later. Each attorney advises each parent just to agree with keeping the child in foster care pending the adjudication.

The parents advise their attorneys that they have called the father's mother, who has come from out-of-state to their home. They want the attorney to ask the agency to return the child and offer the grandmother in the home as a supervisor until this can be resolved. The mother expresses concerns about breastfeeding the baby and her absence from the infant during this critical bonding period.

Mother's attorney agrees to present this option to the court. Father's attorney doesn't show much enthusiasm for this as it deviates from the normal procedure, saying "That's not the way it is done."

When the case is called, the caseworker paints a dire picture, mom is depressed and unable to care for the child, and states that the child is thriving in foster care. That the parents have medically neglected the child by having a home birth. She offers one hour a week supervised visitations upon the condition that the parents sign releases and have psychological evaluations.

The Guardian ad litem concurs. (He's never spoken to the parents and never seen the infant, or the infant's medical records. He has only seen the caseworker's report).

Mom's attorney objects and offers the alternative that grandmother stays in the home and the child can be returned home. Father's attorney concurs, but only under pressure from his client.

Magistrate Judge interrogates grandma about her role and insists she agree on certain conditions before the child can be returned to the parents. She can never have the infant out of her site, not even when she has to use the bathroom or shower. She must never leave the infant alone with mom or dad. She must immediately call the caseworker if the mother or father do anything that presents a risk to the child. Caseworker must be allowed entry into the family home upon demand, and a home health nurse will weigh the child weekly. If there is any weight loss, so much as an ounce, the baby will be placed back in foster care. The court reluctantly orders the child home with these conditions in place over the objection of the caseworker and the GAL.

The court also finds that it was contrary to the welfare of the child to remain in the family home at the time of the removal and that reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal. The county attorney representing the agency presented no evidence supporting the caseworker's statement that she had made reasonable efforts or in support of the contrary to the welfare finding. The GAL, and respondent parents attorneys did not object to those findings nor the lack of evidence supporting them.

After the hearing, the respondent parent attorneys advise the parents to admit to the petition, under the no-fault provision in the state statutes. The treatment plan is ordered and includes parenting classes, infant massage classes, psychological evaluations for both parents, and grandma must live in the small apartment with the parents (never letting the child out of sight) until the case is closed. It takes nine months for this case to close.

The baby was returned to the home the day of the first hearing, still weighing less than when he was born. Mother was never able to successfully resume nursing the baby. Parents report that the infant was fussy and resistant for months after being returned from foster care and he suffered ongoing digestive problems from the formula, resulting in continued problems gaining weight. They expressed frustration at the level of scrutiny to which they were subjected as being invasive and demeaning. Dad's job was jeopardized due to the services he was force to comply with which were always scheduled during his work hours.

The agency's reports indicated that they had successfully rehabilitated the parents and they counted the outcome from this case as positive.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Another Abusive Adoptive Parent

Jeremiah Lovato gets 119.5 years

I have written quite a bit about El Paso County, Colorado Department of Human Services over the years, in part because their practices are so abysmally horrible, and in part because I live there.

So it comes as no surprise that they approved an adoption by the man pictured here. He adopted a teen boy. Nobody saw anything wrong with that. Then he proceeded to abuse and torture the boy.

For over two years.


Protected from scrutiny by DHS. Until the boy took matters into his own hands and ran away to avoid another beating. Way to go, El Paso County. Way to go Colorado. How many children sacrificed on the alter of saving children will it take before you get it through your thick heads that there is a better way to protect children than redistributing them to strangers?  Your tests, your inspections, your background checks are failing the children.

How about this. . .The real test would be if those strangers would adopt the kiddies without the adoption subsidy they get. If they don't want the kiddies sans the buck$$$, it should be a big clue. Oh, silly me, I'm not an "expert" on child welfare like you all are.

This man, Jeremiah Lovato, was just sentenced to 119 1/2 years for beating his adoptive son with implements like a meat tenderizer, and for stomping on his testicles, and more. This DHS-approved, artificially created father is pissed that his sentence is so harsh. What a shame he didn't feel any sympathy for the child that was redistributed by DHS and the court into his care as if the child were a puppy. The boy, his adopted son, gets life. . .a life sentence to live with the abuse this man inflicted upon him, and that DHS inflicted upon him, and the the Dependency Court judge inflicted upon him.

The real criminal is the caseworker who approved this monster as being a fit father, and the judge who granted the adoption. And most of all the attorney who was appointed to represent the best interests of this child, the bobble-headed Guardian ad litem who rubber stamped every recommendation the caseworker made instead of conducting his own investigation. Who are they? Why aren't they being held responsible? Oh, right, they have immunity from liability for their bad decisions, their bad practices and their bad judgement. Welcome to the twilight zone.

You can read the stories here, and here, and here.