Thursday, May 29, 2008

Texas, CPS, FLDS and the Pseudo-Adversarial Process

Q. What do you call a lawyer with an IQ of 60? A. Your Honor.

It took a very embarrassing public spanking from the appeals court to get Her Honor to do her job, if she is doing her job. She will insist upon a full blown adversarial hearing. . .says Her Honor of the cases being heard this past week.

Yet, during this hearing, the origin of the shocking photos of Warren Jeffs kissing a child bride which were admitted into evidence was not divulged. CPS refused to say who took the photos, who possessed the photos, or in any other way treat them according to the rules of evidence.

They had nothing to do with the parents whose hearing they were introduced into. They had absolutely no probative value for the case being heard. They were intended solely for prejudicial value. This is a typical CPS cheap shot when they have no case. The less intelligent of our society are swayed by such tactics, including certain judges. Critical thinkers are put off when government agencies have to play fast and loose with the law, with the court rules and with the rights of children.

The photos were not authenticated. . .which is required by the rules of evidence. Somehow, that does not jive with the judge's statement. It looks like she is still just posturing. Not only that, but she's allowing CPS to violate a child's confidentiality by releasing the photos while refusing to submit proof that the photos are valid. Form over substance. Doesn't this judge know better? She's been to law school, to judge school. What the heck is going on in her courtroom? In any of the five courtrooms?

Besides, Jeffs has been tried and convicted. Is Texas CPS seeking to punish the entire congregation for Jeffs's crimes by taking the kiddies? If the photos are what CPS says they are, then try Jeffs for those crimes, don't steal the babies from the arms of their mothers.

The fact is, CPS doesn't have the proof it needs to sustain the cases against the parents at the YFZ ranch. But that doesn't matter, they have these dirty pictures of another guy who doesn't live there any more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reasonable Efforts: A Check and Balance or Check the Box?

Reasonable Efforts: A Check and Balance or Check the Box?

What does reasonable efforts really mean in a child welfare case? Is it really an "... important safeguard against inappropriate agency action..." or has this critical element become nothingmore than "... a mere pro forma exercise in paper shuffling to obtain Federal funding..." (S.Rept. No. 336, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 16 (1980)).

In order to arrive at an accurate analysis of this element, let’s examine the requirements surrounding a judicial determination that reasonable efforts were made prior to the removal of the child from the home. We must also include the other half of this requirement, the requirement mandating a judicial determination that maintaining the child in the family home would be contrary to the welfare of the child. Both of these judicial determinations are required in order for the agency to qualify for federal funding under title IV-E of the social security act. Failure to fulfill either one of these safeguards renders the child ineligible for title IV-E funds for foster care. That represents a powerful incentive for child welfare agencies to operate within strict compliance with reasonable efforts and contrary to the welfare provisions. Footnote

The law and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Children and Families (ACF) is clear as to the application of these two requirements. First, that the first court order authorizing the removal of the child must include a judicial finding of contrary to the welfare of the child. If the initial removal order is issued prior to the child’s actual removal, the contrary to the welfare of the child judicial finding must be included at that time. The failure to make this finding at the original removal order cannot be retroactively corrected by nunc pro tunc orders, or issued after the initial order authorizing the removal of the child. Furthermore, this judicial determination must be supported by the evidence in the record.

Additionally, the agency must actively make reasonable efforts to keep the child safely in the home before seeking a removal order or before removing the child without a removal order. Reasonable efforts consists of services provided to the family which are intended to prevent the child’s removal from the family home, and to insure his safety while he remains in the home. Such services can include: supervisory day care, respite care, daily caseworker visits to the family home, a reasonable safety plan, one-time housecleaning, grant monies for utilities or rent or to repair unsafe condition in the home, a trip to the food bank or grocery voucher, in-home counseling and education, another family member moving into the home to supervise, removing the offending parent from the home, etc. If these services failed, the agency must prove that the services were appropriate and prove how they failed. If they didn’t offer services, they must prove that those services would not have prevented removal or prove why they weren’t required to provide services. The court is mandated to make a judicial determination concerning reasonable efforts within 60 days. Footnote

If it is not made within this time frame, like the contrary to the welfare requirement, reasonable efforts omissions cannot be corrected.

The assessment of what qualifies as ‘contrary to the welfare’ is subjective. Each party to the case has the legal right to submit their arguments in support of or against this finding. The court has the obligation to hear these challenges. Why? Because contrary to the welfare is not merely a box to be checked based on the unsubstantiated claim of a caseworker. It actually performs the function of satisfying due process protections associated with depriving parents and children of their liberty interests to family association. As such, to treat this as a mere formality and ignore the substance of this powerful requirement is to deny the children and parents due process. This finding can be overturned on appeal if the evidence in the record at the time of the judicial determination does not support a finding of contrary to the welfare. If contrary to the welfare determination is overturned on appeal, it raises the very real possibility that any subsequent adjudication, treatment plan and termination of parental rights ruling can also be invalidated. This would be based on the premise that the child was presumably safe and the parents were presumed fit and the agency acted without legal justification in removing the child in the first place.

Reasonable efforts is less subjective, but no less critical as a due process requirement. Footnote

Because these two requirement are so vital to pre- or post- deprivation due process for both the parents and the children, the court does not have the discretion to issue a judicial finding in favor of contrary to the welfare or reasonable efforts without first examining the evidence supporting that finding.Footnote

Even if the parties are willing to stipulate to those findings, the law mandates that these findings be supported by evidence in the record. Naturally, the parents and children have the right to subject the supporting evidence to adversarial testing, to rebut the evidence and to appeal these critical due process findings. But the scope of the power of reasonable efforts exceeds just the initial removal of the child. Reasonable efforts also applies to reunification of the child with the parents, and to achieving permanency for the child.

In the context of reunification, as soon as the parents can demonstrate that the family home is safe and appropriate for the child, the child must be returned. If there are services which the family can utilize while the child is in the home which will insure the safety of the child, reunification must occur. If it doesn’t, once again, the parents and children can challenge the judicial determination that reasonable efforts to reunify the family were made. They should demand an evidentiary hearing and once again subject the evidence supporting this reasonable efforts determination to adversarial testing. If there is insufficient evidence to support reasonable efforts, the court has the discretion to order the child returned home and the child will be ineligible for title IV-E funds for his entire stay in foster care.

In most jurisdictions, the judicial determination that reasonable efforts were made is a required element in order to terminate parental rights. If reasonable efforts to reunify have not been made, termination of parents rights cannot, as a matter of law, be granted. This makes it critical to challenge every reasonable efforts determination so that it can be raised as an appealable issue if parental rights are terminated.

It is in this manner, that reasonable efforts and contrary to the welfare, act as two powerful checks and balances against unnecessary removal of children from their homes and to insure the speedy reunification of the family. It also proves how utterly critical it is for parent attorneys to demand evidentiary hearings at the initial shelter hearings. This will be their singular opportunity to challenge any pro-forma judicial determinations in favor of contrary to the welfare.

Since the court must make reasonable efforts to reunify determinations at each subsequent hearing, the parents and children have ample opportunity to make the state bear the burden of proving that reasonable efforts were made. Once again, the court cannot responsibly make this judicial determination if the evidence does not support that finding.

As powerful as these two elements are in protecting the liberty interests of both children and parents, it must be noted that most professionals who practice in this area of law have no clue of the significance of these two, simple determinations. ACF has confirmed this in their child welfare manual, “We concluded, based on our review of States' documentation of judicial determinations over the past years, that, in many instances, these important safeguards had become precisely what Congress was concerned that they not become. . .a mere pro forma exercise in paper shuffling to obtain Federal funding. . .” (S. Rept. No. 336, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 16 (1980)).

Regardless of how carefully the legislature crafts the checks and balances that they determine must be employed in the laws they pass, unless the responsible actors employ those mechanisms, the system of checks and balances will utterly fail to perform their designated functions. For this reason, we are experiencing wholesale failures of the child welfare system.

The first protector of these two checks and balances is the court. Judges have abdicated their solemn duty to be impartial finders of fact and to enforce the law as it has been written and to insure full due process has been afforded to respondent parties and children. They rubber stamp these two judicial determinations as a matter of procedure in every court in our land, without ever reviewing any evidence or even asking for any evidence to support those findings. A judge must anticipate, even expect that any party in any court case will attempt to take procedural or legal shortcuts in their efforts to resolve the dispute in their favor. To validate a due process shortcut in any single case is a profound injustice to the opposing party. To institutionalize those shortcuts on a wholesale basis is abhorrent to the fair and impartial administration of justice. Is it any wonder that the public has lost complete faith in the juvenile court system?

But the judges are not solely to blame for this failure. Respondent parent attorneys and children's attorney are also charged with invoking all available legal remedies and protections on behalf of their clients. Instead, the accepted practice is to appear in court and acquiesce to all child welfare agency demands from the very first hearing, regardless of the parent’s wishes. They will not challenge contrary to the welfare determinations, nor demand that the state bear the burden of proof that keeping the child in the home was contrary to the welfare of the child. Even in the most obvious cases, where the child exhibited no identifiable harm as a result of the parents’ action or inaction, they will refuse to invoke this critical due process tool that has the potential to get over 80% of children returned to their parents at the very first hearing.

Respondent parent and children's attorneys will refuse to utilize reasonable efforts in a similar manner. This is especially detrimental to their clients because the legal ability of the court to terminate parental rights hinges so much on this determination.

The generally accepted legal requirement to remove a child is when a parent fails to provide the minimum amount of care, safety, food, shelter, supervision and education that a child requires. This translates into a parent with a grade of F. The agencies are removing children who are clearly receiving the minimum level of care but, alas, the parents are not perfect. Therefore, the child is at risk of future abuse. When? Who knows? What specific abuse? Not necessary to identify. These parents are probably C- parents.

In universal practice, the child is removed and not returned until the parents can demonstrate to the subjective satisfaction of the caseworker that they have become at least B parents. This translates into a failure to make reasonable efforts. Reasonable efforts to reunify arguably means that if the parents achieve a D- proficiency with regard to providing the minimum level of care, that reunification should occur. The agency can still provide continuing services reasonably designed to increase the proficiency of the parents while the child is in the home.

These parents’ attorneys should be arguing against any reasonable efforts determinations which endorse the threshold for reunification higher than the legally mandated minimum level of care. This is the only way to force the child welfare agencies to comply with reasonable efforts.

At the same time, the agency is declaring they have made reasonable efforts and that maintaining the child in the home was contrary to the welfare of the child. They checked the reasonable efforts box and invoked the words contrary to the welfare of the child, therefore they believe they have fulfilled their statutory mandate.

If one were to examine any juvenile court record, one would be hard pressed to find anything more than that bare form submitted by the agency to substantiate these determinations. The explicit reasons why maintaining the child in the home would be contrary to his welfare are rarely included in their submission to the court. The evidence to support their contrary to the welfare conclusion is also conspicuous by its absence. The reasonable efforts box is checked. Maybe the caseworker offered a safety plan which the parents disagreed with. Maybe she didn’t even do that. Our caseworker has been trained that checking the box satisfies reasonable efforts

Our Judge has been trained that this formality satisfies statutory mandates. He rubber stamps the caseworker recommendations and utters the requisite contrary to the welfare and reasonable efforts incantation. He makes no individualized determination on either of the elements. He has seen no evidence to support the determination. No such evidence has been entered into the record. Procedurally, the form has been satisfied and the agency will seek and obtain federal funding for that child. Substantively. . .who needs substance? They’re protecting a child from his parents!

Mom and dad’s and children's attorneys don’t object. The ritual is complete.

The final factor which contributes to this process devoid of substance, is the character of the judicial proceedings itself. It is not geared toward protecting the rights of children and parents. It is geared toward the hasty disposition of cases, with heavy utilization of prehearing negotiations and deals, and the slashing of expenses. Hearings are conducted informally in order to facilitate these objectives. Consequently, any effort to slow the wheels of justice with examination and deliberation of the merits of any judicial determination is strongly discouraged.

Juvenile court Judges get ugly when contested hearings are demanded. Child welfare agencies characterize parents who demand due process as ‘uncooperative’ and ‘focusing on the wrong issues’ (e.g. their rights) and punitively obstruct reunification in retaliation. Respondent parent attorneys petition to withdraw if instructed by their clients to invoke the legal tools available to them. The entire system is designed to impose obstacles to any attempt to make the state bear the burden of proof as mandated under law before breaking up a family.

Reasonable efforts and contrary to the welfare do not represent a right in and of themselves. You can’t sue if they are improperly applied or ignored. They are carefully crafted safeguards to protect due process. They have the power to deprive the agency of funding and to reunify families, if the judicial determinations are properly challenged in the juvenile court. They constitute appealable issues which address the appropriateness of child welfare agency actions. But as such, they must be challenged when the judicial determinations are issued.

The failure of respondent parent attorneys and children's to demand the legal standards that attach to these determinations are adhered to is nothing less than legal malpractice. The failure of family court judges to insure this process does more than satisfy form over substance is malfeasance.

The agencies who have masterminded this scheme are committing fraud and depriving parents and children of their rights. Nobody loses, except the child who is being protected and his parents.

This article is copyright 2004 Suzanne Shell. You may obtain a copy at

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Texas, FLDS, CPS and Carolyn Jessop. . .AGAIN.

Well, well, WELL. Carolyn Jessop is fueling CPS hysteria about the YFZ ranch FLDS children. I hear she's never even been to that ranch, yet she is CPS's consultant about that community.

No wonder the CPS testimony and petition sounded so much like her book. No wonder CPS found no evidence to support the kind of child abuse Ms. Jessop described in her book.

I wonder how much she is being paid for that 'consultation.' Or maybe the seizure of all those innocent children from all those innocent parents is it's own reward. After all, she has pulled of the boldest, baddest vindictive ex-wife custody coup of all time.

CNN, MSNBC and Glaringly Ignorant Commentary by Experts

CNN Legal Expert Commentary way off the mark. How bad is that when just a mom knows more about child welfare law and exposes media endorsed experts flunking the entrance exam? These commentators don't know jack about child welfare law, and to be publicly spouting their windy opinions makes one wonder what orifice the noxious content is being expelled from.

This refers to the ignorant legal expert commentary on the MSNBC broadcast yesterday when CPS was preparing to file it's Petition in the Texas Supreme Court. This forgettable expert, whoever he was, couldn't answer the anchor's questions because he clearly did not understand the relevant law. It was embarrassing. But CNN didn't do much better on the air, or online.

Sunny Hostin is a legal analyst on CNN's "American Morning." She asks

Isn't this a polygamist ranch we are talking about? Under Texas law, it's illegal to be married to more than one person. Weren't all of these children living on a ranch purchased in 2003 and built by Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the group, who was convicted last year in Utah of being an accomplice to rape?

So? Show me the law that gives the state the authority to remove a child because there has been a crime committed in the community. It doesn't exist, Sunny. Child welfare laws have been designed to protect the integrity of the family from state intrusion, and intrusion is only permitted when a child's life or limb has been harmed or at immediate, identifiable risk of serious harm. THAT's what reasonable efforts is all about.

Weren't there 20 girls living at the ranch who had become pregnant between the ages of 13 and 17 and "spiritually married" to old men picked for them by Jeffs or his followers? Yes there were.

No, there weren't. At least not according to the unfolding testimony by the caseworkers. Not according to the statements made by the residents of that community. Not according to any evidence collected by the state. Not at YFZ ranch, at least. In fact, there are only 5 mothers under 18. Show me the law that says the state can remove all the children from a community because a girl gets pregnant under 18. As for polygamy, come on, Sunny. That is a legal term of art and nobody has produced marriage licenses proving polygamy. As for what kind of bed hopping goes on in the privacy of one's home, who cares, except the participants and gossiping voyeurs? If pre-marital, extra-marital, intra-marital or plural-marital sex is occurring, it's none of anybody's business as long as the children are not participating or watching. And CPS has not proved their claims of forced sex on children or by children.

And if you live on this ranch, don't you believe in polygamy, arranged marriages between young girls and old men, and that Jeffs is a prophet? I would think so.

Again, so what? Beliefs are not actionable in this country (especially under the freedom of religion clause). That's why they can't arrest many NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) members. Only actions are actionable. Since the emerging evidence shows that many of the victims of this raid and many of the members of this community don't practice plural marriage, didn't get married under 18, don't marry off their daughters under 18, it seems that CPS's broad brush actually doesn't cover many of the residents of that community. Bottom line, a lot of baseless accusations have taken root in your analysis, and you haven't the demonstrated wit to verify the accuracy of any of them.

And if you are a young girl that lives on this ranch, isn't it true you will also be "spiritually married" to an old man chosen for you? Yes to that too. And isn't this dangerous for the children? What do you think?

I think I'd like to see the supporting evidence for inevitable marriage of a nubile girl to an old man. And, assuming arguendo, that does happen, I'd like to see the evidence of harm to any existing child from another family. I'll wait while you prove these Olympic sized leaps to your conclusions. Frankly, I think you took a shortcut, catapulting past logic and reason on your way to your emotionally charged conclusions.

There are some fundamental problems with the court's opinion. The court states that because not all FLDS families are polygamous or allow their female children to marry as minors, the entire ranch community does not subscribe to polygamy. Wrong.

Wrong? Fair enough. Where does the evidence refuting this erroneous judgment exist? Where is the evidence to support CPS claims? Certainly not in the court record transmitted to the appellate court for appeal. I'm sure the appellate court looked for it, because they state they didn't find it. CPS gathered this evidence and created this record. Where is it? Do YOU have it? Or are we just supposed to believe it because CPS said so?

The court even reasoned that under Texas law, "it is not sexual assault to have consensual intercourse with a minor spouse to whom one is legally married" and that Texas law "allows minor to marry -- as young as age 16 with parental consent and younger than 16 if pursuant to court order." Wrong again. The polygamists are not "legally married" to anyone since it is illegal to marry more than one person. They are "spiritually married" and abusing young girls.

I covered this one in my Marriage Conundrum blog.

Finally, the court also states there "was no evidence that .... the female children who had not reached puberty, were victims of sexual or other physical abuse or in danger of being victims if sexual or other physical abuse."

What IS your problem with the appeals court requiring EVIDENCE to sustain CPS agency action, Sunny? The law, both state and federal, and the rules of court, mandates credible EVIDENCE, not hearsay speculations emotionally recited under oath. Otherwise we may as well be in Nazi Germany. The Nazi's removed children of entire communities* in occupied countries under Hitler's edict in exactly the same manner as Texas CPS has done, and redistributed the seized children to approved Nazi homes to be raised based on the assumption that their parents were racially inferior and therefore unfit.

Oh, I get it. The Department should wait until the kids are actually abused before doing anything. It's almost as if the Department can't win: If they act, they are overzealous; if they don't act, they are not doing the job entrusted to them -- protecting our children.

If this epiphany weren't so sarcastic, I'd say there was hope for you, Sunny. The fact is, YES, wait until the children are abused. Why? Because nobody can predict abuse or neglect with any degree of accuracy. I may have missed new findings about prognostication, but I don't think so. Because the statistics indicate children are more likely to NOT be abused than to be abused. Because foster care is not safer than the family home. Statistically, children are more likely to be harmed in foster care than in their own home. Because children and parents share a fundamental human right to family association, due process and equal protection under the law. The fact is, Sunny that while CPS's mandate is to protect children, their demonstrable agenda is to maximize federal funding and to keep all of those 25+ service providers who derive their livelihood from the removal of a single into foster care safely employed.

Child protection isn't about imposing your beliefs on other parents. If it were, you'd be a really scary busybody. As it is, you're just one of the well-intentioned but ignorant masses who are easily duped by CPS hysteria and propaganda and the salesmanship of a few sensational authors. Disengage the emotional hysteria for a moment, engage your brain, Sunny, and show me the law, show me the proof.

The entire Nazi & CPS article may be viewed on AFAC membership pages (annual membership fee $5.00) or purchased from the AFAC public document pages.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Texas, FLDS, CPS and the Appeal Being Appealed

Less than one day after the Texas Third Court of Appeals said that CPS had no evidence to support the removal of the 463 children from the YFZ Ranch, and that CPS did not make "reasonable efforts" (I told you so) CPS announces it will appeal that ruling.

Big surprise.

CPS is actually governed by precise laws which insure that children will not be removed from their families unnecessarily. CPS just doesn't abide by the laws as a matter of regular practice. Who will make them abide by the laws if a trial judge can be so swayed by the non-evidence presented during the shelter hearings last month? Why, the appeals court. That's how the system works in this country.

In a normal case, with court appointed lawyers, nobody will make them abide by the laws. Court appointed lawyers don't get paid enough to mount any kind of defense on behalf of their clients. (National average less than $900 for a two year case, up to but not including TPR (Termination of Parental Rights)).

Even with lawyers for 464 children and their respective parents, only the lawyers of 38 moms (NOT dads) figured out how to make CPS abide by the law. Is the state of the practice of law so dismal in Texas that only the lawyer of this minuscule percentage of parent's and children's lawyers got it? Or is CPS so out of control and unaccountable that nobody CAN make them abide by the law?

Back to the CPS appeal. CPS never admits it was wrong. Even when a child dies in foster care. Even when the facts overwhelmingly prove they were wrong. In this case, CPS is upset that someone called them on their fast and loose administration of the rules. That never happens. How dare Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid properly represent their clients! And where were the attorneys ad litem on this? They are, after all, the voice of these children. Why are they so silent in the face of this abusive practice by CPS?

Because CPS is never wrong, they MUST appeal this ruling. They simply cannot concieve that the existing egg on their collective faces will be compunded by the Texas Supreme Court. They must seek and obtain vindication for their violations of law and the rights of the parents and children. And they accomplish it by lying and spin doctoring the facts. Read the petition.

Texas, CPS, FLDS and case plans

According to the following AP Texas News article, the case plans for the FLDS families do not outline a specific allegation of abuse involving a particular child but only repeats broad accusations made previously of the entire sect.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker says the Child Protective Services plans listing what the parents must do to get their children returned are identical except for the case number.

"CPS is still trying to treat them as a group," said Parker. "They really aren't focused on the individual needs."

CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner acknowledged the state is using a "template" for the plans but insists they'll be individualized in coming weeks.

"The issues in these plans are very similar which is why we were able to use a template as a starting point," she said.

In a sample provided to The Associated Press, the plan does not outline a specific allegation of abuse involving a particular child and only repeats broad accusations made previously of the entire sect.

The template calls for parents to do things like "establish safe living arrangements" and "follow the recommendations of professionals who will be working with you to develop the skills necessary to work with your child."

This Salt Lake Tribune article reveals:

The plans lay out a year-long process for being reunited with their children, identifying dozens of issues the parents must address. The plans warn that failure to cooperate could result in their children being placed in permanent state custody or put up for adoption.

Well, I have obtained a copy of the 'plan' and have conducted an analysis on it based on the existing law governing case plans. The basic plan with pop- up window comments can be downloaded here
and another variation with indexed comments (a printable version) can be downloaded here.

After looking at the plan, it was shocking to see what wholesale violations were being perpetrated upon the parent and children, and that the lawyers for both the parents and the children had no clue --NO CLUE -- how to fight these lazy, incompetent excuse for services offered by CPS.

They were arguing that the plans were vague. How stupid is that? If you don't understand an element, call the caseworker and get more detail. sheesh. An explanation of some appropriate challenges to a case plan are included in my analysis of the case plans. Come on- you legal professionals. . .make the proper arguments in court to preserve the rights of your clients and to make the record for appeal.

Case planning requires training, creativity, a clear definition of the issues to be corrected, and an understanding of the family for whom the plan is created. There are a plethora of resources which give guidance on how to prepare an appropriate case plan. Why is it critical to be appropriate? Because,while the state can Terminate Parental Rights if the parents fail to comply with the plan, the state cannot Terminate Parental Rights if the case plan inappropriate. Naturally, it falls to the parent and child's attorney to prove the case plan was inappropriate, because CPS is never going to admit they created an inappropriate case plan. That challenge must be done on the record at the time of the dispositional hearing when the case plan is presented to the court or immediately when anything in the case plan becomes inappropriate or proves to be ineffective . Based on what I've seen across the country, most case plans are inappropriate and can be effectively challenged.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Texas, CPS,. FLDS and I told you so

I told you so. . .here

Costs for raid on polygamist sect in the millions and mounting

Star-Telegram staff writer

Providing foster care for the 460-plus children seized at a polygamist ranch six weeks ago could cost taxpayers as much as $1.5 million a month, and that does not take into account the millions the state is on the hook for dispatching countless caseworkers and law officers to West Texas in the days after the raid.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Texas, CPS, FLDS and Business as Usual

At the end of this blog, I have included links to letters written by staff members from Hill Country Community Mental Health who observed CPS and the FLDS mothers during their incarceration immediately after the children were seized from YFZ ranch. These are mental health professionals, presumably objective expert observers.

The conduct of CPS reported in these letter does not surprise me. I have seen this same abuse committed by CPS caseworkers in every state and every county of this country since I began my advocacy for family rights in 1991. And I have seen state governors stand behind these abuses the same as Texas Governor Rick Perry does.

I have spoken and written about the way CPS handles cases for years, only to have my outcry fall on deaf public ears. "You must be exaggerating," people say. "They can't do that in America," people pontificate. "CPS workers are professionals, the parents deserve it," the more arrogance and pious justify. "They never take kids who aren't abused," is the mantra.

Because the public was in such abject denial about CPS abuses, the child abuse industry has become a monster which nobody can control. CPS has institutionalized the dehumanization process to a fine art. Let us not forget that each time a child is removed from his parents, the psychological effects suffered by the affected family members is identical to a kidnapping. It doesn't matter that it is our benevolent government doing the kidnapping. All that matters is that for all intents and purposes, it is a cruel and inhuman kidnapping. CPS exploits that terror quite effectively to control the parents and the children. Yes, the children are held hostage to CPS ransom demands.

CPS workers are the worst batterers I have ever seen. Texas CPS claims the FLDS men are too controlling and abusive, yet CPS employees exactly the same tactics they condemn so loudly against their clients. They use force of law and threats of the most appalling terror to a parent--the loss of a child. If the parents question anything, they are threatened with termination of parental rights, negative reports to the court and impossible case plans. The are belittled, their rights to control their children's education, medical care, religious training and more are stripped from them because they are unfit. Only if they admit they are unfit does CPS reward them with the return of their children. I've been battered by men, and by CPS, and CPS is the more brutal in my experience. There is no provision that CPS ever makes a mistake.

Dehumanizing conduct starts with a lack of basic respect, ". . .the women and children were being treated discourteously and disrespectfully at best, with some observations of verbal abuse and emotional threats." Clients are accused of lying. Their parenting is judged and condemned based on false assumptions and lies. They make parents wait for them, and punish the parents if they are five minutes late for a visitation. They allow fosters to expose their children to foods, music, anything that violates the culture or family practices. The parents are marginalized and the children treated as case folders with no interest in their individual needs or strengths.

Dignity is callously stripped from the "clients" of CPS, "It was frightening to watch women and children being herded and separated like cattle with no regard for human rights or the needs of the group or individuals." They are treated as objects and subjected to restrictions which are not intended to recognize their right to self-determination or dignity, but to serve the convenience of CPS and designed to elicit as much information about the clients as possible. This information is taken out of context and compiled with a bias against the family and parents. Parents are denied the right to document interactions with their children, yet CPS has unlimited access to taint the child's statements. They have no say in their case planning, and can be accused of failing any element at any CPS worker whim.

Parents and children are isolated from their support networks, families, advocates. They are punished if they trust anyone except CPS or if they question CPS. They are punished if they insist they did nothing wrong, if they fail to kiss the CPS ass correctly and gratefully.

The degradation continues with callous invasions into the privacy and dignity of the client, such as not allowing FLDS mothers privacy for sleeping, or changing clothing or taking showers. This is to be expected in prison environment, not in a child protection case. CPS spin doctored this by calling the mothers "guests," subject to eviction for any pretended violation. Men were allowed to watch the mothers, day and night. Their sleep was rudely interrupted by workers with flashlights.

Invasion of privacy is part of the assessment process by CPS, where they pry into the private family practices, whether or not they have anything to do with child rearing practices. Failure to comply brings out threats and emotional abuse, intended to coerce cooperation that they cannot achieve by less insulting methods. They cannot gain the client's trust because--duh--they lie about the client and to the client.

Yes, Virginia, they can and DO do that in America, to 3 million families a year. And they--CPS--do it in the most demeaning, degrading, dehumanizing manner they know how. Some of the more common complaints reported by the mental health professionals during their brief exposure to business a usual are listed along with my discussion on the facts of CPS intervention nationwide.
  1. CPS lies. CPS lied to these professionals about the mother's and children's demeanors, beliefs, level of threat or danger presented by the parents, and more. "By day three, it became obvious that both the mothers and the mental health workers were being lied to and/or ignored." In my CLE classes I teach, "He who controls the flow of information controls the outcome of the case." By lying, CPS controls the flow of information, covers up their own wrongdoing, or puts their thumb on the scale of justice for the grand altruistic goal--to WIN the case. FACT: They lie
    1. To the parents: The news is full of accounts where the mothers were promised they would not be separated from their children. CPS lied to the parents to get their involuntary cooperation for their fishing expeditions against the parents. They lied about what they were permitted to do to the parents and children. Consequently they did not earn the trust of the parents and children, or the public. "The most difficult aspect of the entire experience was the apparent lies being told to the mothers. I myself felt the inconsistency in information when we had been told that Special Needs children were to be allowed to stay with their mothers and, yet, by that afternoon, that was no longer the case."
    2. About the parents. CPS falsley claimed that the parents allegedly abused children, or allowed abuse. This claim was not demonstrated in the shelter nor observed by any witness who made statements like, "The mothers were patient, attentive, and sweet with their children, working within the crowded and difficult environments to keep some control over the behavior or their children." AND "The children were-sweet and well mannered . . . They obeyed their mothers and appeared to be healthy and well nourished." Here's a nasty lie: "At one point I headed toward the public restroom and was immediately grabbed by the arm by a CPS worker who told me to use the port·a·potties outside the rock wall, "'because we don't know what )kind of diseases these people might have and we don't want to catch anything from them". I was later told that it had been determined that STDs were rampant among the women because of their promiscuous lifestyle."
  2. CPS commits child abuse and neglect in the name of protecting children. For example: The YFZ children were taken because CPS claimed the mothers "fail to protect" them from abuse. But, in these letters we see ample evidence of the mothers attempting to protect the children from CPS sponsored neglect and abuse. I will cite the kinds of abuse/neglect claims used by CPS to seize children around the country:
    1. Medical neglect: "At one time a mother told me she wished she had some peppermint or chamomile tea to give to her toddler daughter- for her runny nose. I approached the shelter supervisor with the request. Later his supervisor came to me and told me that herbal teas were medication and could only bc approved by a physician. The request was denied."
    2. Improper and unhealthy diet (and medical neglect): The mothers complained about the food and snacks provided for them. "One mother told me that her children were accustomed to nuts and fruits for snacks, not commercial fried pies. Chicken was served almost every meal with little or no seasoning and no flavor. Vegetables were scarce and everything was highly processed - very different from the women and children's typical diet of homegrown organic and unprocessed foods. Very quickly, many of the children developed diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems."
    3. Improper/inadequate Housing (and medical neglect): "The cots were close, allowing infections to spread rapidly. Quickly many children became sick with upper respiratory illnesses." AND . . .Showers were few in number," and the mothers couldn't shower unless supervised. AND "The boys and women and girls had to share a bathroom and there were no showers available for several days."
    4. Improper beds, no bedding, no clean clothes (No kidding, folks, they take kids if mom is washing their sheets on the day they invade the house): "I was told that on one night the laundry failed to return the washed sheets and blankets to one of the barracks, and the group had to sleep on bare cots on a very cool evening." AND ." . .dirty laundry was a constant problem, and again the facilities were meager."
    5. Dirty house: "One broom. one mop, and one bucket were finally provided and were shared by neighboring shelters", when the mothers requested cleaning supplies.
    6. Emotional abuse of the children: "On the last day at the coliseum (April 24), the mothers had been removed with the exception of those who were minors or suspected of being minors. The children had cried bitterly on the removal of the mothers, and they were now with strangers. The noise level went up several decibels as crying and running and screaming took over. Children were grabbing toys from others and using the toys as play weapons against each other and their "captors." In my estimation they were acting out their fear and anger. One
      little boy of about four was frantically running from the CPS workers, avoiding capture in every way he could. Once caught, I held him firmly in my arms while he wept that he didn't want them to take his mother." AND "I also know the research on long term cooscquences of removing children from loving
      parents. I do believe that the emotional abuse of all460+ children must be weighed in the equation."
      AND "Crying, begging children were ripped away from their devastated mothers and the mothers were put on buses to either return to the ranch or to go to shelters."
    7. Indadequate supervision and care: "A baby was left in a stroller without food and water for 24 hours and ended up in the hospital. A 4 year old boy was so terrified that he snuck away and hid and was only found after the coliseum had been emptied the next day."
I can't go on any more. I can only say I have seen this scenario acted out all over the country for years. I knew this would happen and I know how to respond to it. It breaks my heart to see these parents and children manipulated, abused and controlled by CPS in the name of child protection. All because America believed the CPS propaganda machine about child abuse.

Here are links to letters written by staff members from the Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center, which provided assistance to FLDS women and children in San Angelo shelters in April. They are critical of conditions in the shelters and how child welfare workers treated the women and children.
  • "This was a travesty."
  • "This situation was a tragedy."
  • "It was heartwrenching."
  • "Our roles bacame... confidant and a broker."
  • "That is a very good question."
  • "Ashamed of being a Texan."
  • "I often felt helpless."
  • "Vast amounts of hypocrisy."
  • "Even to be an observer was difficult."
  • "This incident... is not what America or Texas stands for."
  • "Even the simplest request was discounted."
  • Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Texas, CPS, FLDS and Carolyn Jessop, still

    Another excerpt of the sensational and provocative Carolyn Jessop bestseller raised some questions for me.

    Ms. Jessop claims she witnessed child abuse while she lived in the FLDS community in Arizona. Abuse of children. Why didn't she report it?

    Ok. Ok. . .she was brainwashed. She was controlled. She couldn't. Hmm.....

    But. . .she went to college. She had an outside job. Access to phones and non-FLDS people. She didn't report the child abuse. Why?

    When she escaped her conditioning and her home, she still didn't report the child abuse. Why not?

    Perhaps she didn't make a timely report because she needed to hoard the sensationalism for her book, or

    Perhaps the child abuse wasn't as bad as she wrote about in her book and she exercised a bit too much literary license in dramatizing her story.

    Gee, either excuse looks really self-serving. One excuse exploits the children, the other sacrifices the children.

    Now that worldwide attention is focused on the FLDS raid, Ms. Jessop stands outside the FLDS ranch in front of cameras and condemns the women of this community for doing exactly what she did. How hypocritical is that?

    She says they need psychological evaluations. Wrong. Even if they had psych evals, there is no way that any reputable psychiatrist will diagnose any of their religious beliefs as being abnormal or delusional. That would open the door for any religious belief to be classified as abnormal, including bread and wine turning into the body and blood of Christ, or the Virgin Birth of Jesus, miracles, healing, speaking in tongues, praying, believing in angels or Satan, or reincarnation, or worshiping cows, idols, trees. . . .

    Don't get me wrong, I think believing in any one man as spiritually infallible, or as a prophet is absurd. But when you have a religion based on dogma created by a man--especially when the man can change the dogma at his own whim--the potential for abuse of that kind of power is historically well documented. Yet, we do have freedom of religion in this country, don't we? I don't think so, at least not in Texas.

    As for the alleged child abuse, even taking Ms. Jessop's allegations at face value, this doesn't appear to be an institutionalized part of the FLDS doctrine. It appears that, like any other community in this country, there are some abusers intermingled with non-abusers.

    Which is why it is so shocking that the innocent parents are presumed guilty just because it is in the best interests of the children. . .naw, it's in the best interests of the $tate.

    I'm still waiting to see Texas CPS swoop in on all parents whose children dress up in funny school uniforms to attend a Catholic school, especially any church or school where any priest was accused of molesting the children. The law grants that authority because the parents placed their children in danger and failed to protect them from the church's abuse of their children. Well?

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    Texas, CPS, FLDS and Misguided Masses

    Give the System Time to Work by Jim Shields, Justice for Children is a sterling example of experts who get it wrong.

    These kids don't have time to wait for the system to work. It hasn't worked already, a point which I have made in previous posts. These kids only have twelve months before this case - or is it these cases? - go to permanency. By the time of the dispositional hearing, where the case plan is ordered, the parent will only have six to nine months to get it done. Time is off the essence. If CPS can't get it right from the start of the case, it is safe to assume they won't get it right further on in the case. The irreversible damage is already being done.

    Shields spouting tired old platitudes like the following insane quote proves it.

    Removing a child from her home is always traumatic and should never be done without careful consideration.

    The flip side of that argument is that if errors are going to be made, it is better to err on the side of safety for the child. We will be watching as this process goes forward and all of us want to do the right thing. I believe that we will.

    First of all, removing a child is a guarantee of trauma. I've been a foster child, I know. Besides my first-hand anecdotal experiences, the extent and nature of this trauma has been clearly detailed by Dr. Ken Magid in his book High Risk: Children Without a Conscience. He addresses the extensive harm caused by removing a child from his parents which affects not only relationships throughout his life, but also affects development, learning and social skills.

    It is clearly evident that that best buffer against traumatic effects of abuse is the child's close proximity to his primary emotional attachments, even if some of the abuse comes from the person to whom the child is attached. It's a strange relationship, but one which should be protected to mitigate permanent harm to the child. This is why the law is clear that children should only be removed from their parents when they are at imminent, identifiable danger to life or limb. The best alternative for the child is to leave him in the family home, put services into place, and supervise. The most profitable choice which requires the least amount of work for the caseworker is to place the child in foster care. After all, she only has to visit him once a month.

    But the most absurd argument forwarded by this misguided expert is the commonly held proposition that they state can err on the side of the child or as he prevaricated, 'err on the side of safety for the child.'

    Excuse me. . . I've looked and looked and neither Texas nor the Federal mandates include any identifiable provision giving permission to "err" much less to err in a manner completely contradictory to the statutory mandates and legislative intent to keep children with parents.

    But I'll play along. Let's assume arguendo the law says, "If you're not sure, if the evidence is shaky, remove the child to a safer placement and hash it out later."

    Statistically, foster care isn't that safer placement.

    Some studies reveal that children are 11 times more likely to be abused in state care than they are in their own homes, and 7 times more likely to die as a result of abuse in the foster care system. John Walsh Show 4-16-2003.

    A 1986 survey conducted by the National Foster Care Education Project -Timothy W. Maier, "Suffer the Children," Insight on the News, (November 24, 1997). p. 11 estimates ten percent of children in foster care are abused. A follow- up study in 1990 by the same group produced similar results.

    The American Civil Liberties Union's Children's Rights Project similarly estimates that a child in the care of the state is ten times more likely to be abused than one in the care of his parents - Seth Farber, "The Real Abuse," National Review, (April 12, 1993).

    In Missouri, a 1981 study found that 57 percent of the sample children were placed in foster care settings that put them "at the very least at a high risk of abuse or neglect. David Kaplovitz and Louis Genevie, Foster Children in Jackson County, Missouri: A Statistical Analysis of Files Maintained by the Division of Family Services, (1981).

    In Louisiana, a study conducted in conjunction with a civil suit found that 21 percent of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes, Del A. v. Edwin Edwards, (1988).

    And not too long ago in Texas, Carold Keeton Strayhone, former Comptroller for Texas exposed the appalling conditions of children in foster care. Texas admits
    44 children in DPRS conservatorship died in fiscal 2002. Abuse and death at the hands of foster care givers is grossly underreported. The state gets to investigate itself, and has a vested interest in determining that the injury or death is not attributable to abuse. Think about it, if the FLDS parents were permitted to investigate themselves, would the outcome have been different?

    In all, the Texas foster care system received poor marks. Seventy-six percent of respondents indicated that they do not think that Texas’ foster care system works well; 57 percent said the same about the residential treatment system. When asked how they would rate the service provided by DPRS, 49 percent responded “bad” and an additional 30 percent rated them as fair. How can this be safer for the children, especially for the 95% or more who did not even require medical treatment for abuse injuries when they were removed?

    Come-on, do you experts think we are so stupid as to buy your lame platitudes? Caseworkers insist they are professionals. If they are, they have a job to do and duty to do it accurately. "Erring" is unprofessional, lazy, incompetent and abusive.

    But, as long the kids are commodities for Title IV-E money, you can cook the books any way you want.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    Texas, CPS, FLDS and Send in the Clowns

    Many of you may not know this, but there are a plethora of parent's rights groups online, addressing issues of divorce/custody and CPS intervention. Well, duh. The Internet is perfect for meeting up with like minded individuals and spreading the news, whatever it is.

    I have been a sometime participant and full-time observer of this dynamic since my initiation into the CPS world in 1991. Granted, in 1991, there were no web sites as we know them today, but there were a few groups on Compuserve and Prodigy where we could link up with others across the country. Even in 1996, when I launched my own web site, there were literally only a few (count them on one hand) web sites addressing the issues surrounding CPS and parental rights.

    For the record, I am not a proponent of parental rights, I am a proponent of the Fundamental Human Right to Family Association, which rights are equally shared by parents and children. Suffice it to say, I am constantly in touch with what is going on. People see fit to send me information all the time.

    And as is usual, whenever there is a huge media firestorm surrounding anything CPS, these groups become quite active. If a kiddie dies in foster care, or kiddies are rounded up into foster care, or a lawsuit is filed or won, you will find the most unstable and wackadoodle of these groups and members responding like ambulance chasing lawyers in an effort to link themselves with the family who is the current star of the media spotlight.

    Did I say ambulance chasing? These groups literally contact the starring family and offer their dubious services and radical advice. The trusting victims, eager to grab at a silver bullet, do not even Google the person, much less ask for credible references, are then conned, and often lose their children permanently.

    These groups contact the media, the judges, the agency, the lawyers, and make blathering comments on all public forums. They are passionate about this issue, but annoying ignorant. Some are offensively radical. They are tragic, damaged clowns.

    One such group, CPS Watch, has an ongoing discussion whereby one member who lives in Florida, Desere' multiple-hyphenated-Howard claims to be in contact with the FLDS families and is offering services. Desere' is reportedly a fosterer who adopted someone else's baby over the parent's objection. Problem is, she doesn't know what she's doing when it comes to helping bio parents. How do I know? In the course of purported advising the FLDS parents she's asked the head of CPS Watch Cheryl Barnes for advice on some of the most basic issues. This is one blind clown leading another blind clown.

    It is important for the reader to know that Ms. Barnes is currently facing first degree felony charges in her home state of Missouri for Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Police reports indicate she used a cord-like object to strike her four year old, leaving red marks and bruises on his face, chest and back. Her trial is scheduled for June 19, 2008. She has had any number of her own fourteen children seized and held by CPS several times since 1997 in at least two states. Ten of her children were seized two years ago when she was charged for the felony. I believe she has a child or children in CPS custody now, or until recently. Naturally, she has been very closed about her current status with CPS. After all, this isn't the kind of reference which is beneficial to publish on one's curriculum vitae.

    Here's the question Desere' multiple-hyphenated-Howard posed on CPSWatch:
    How do we defend any of the parents whose children are spiritually married under the age of 16. Especially if they are pregnant and/or already have children? Isnt this the crux of the case?

    Cheryl Barnes responded:

    The same way the public schools do. My 13 year old son was given condom at school, by teachers. Is that not "indoctrinating" him into having sex with a 13 year old girl? And couldn't she bcome pregnant? But her responsible mother is expected to put her on birth control - and this IS ACCEPTABLE.

    They can't use the "sexual from birth" teaching when it benefits them and ignore it now. I mean honestly, next we'll be required to have all our teens on birth control.

    Huh? Is that the best she can come up with? What possesses her think this lame correlation will fly with CPS or the court? It's apples and oranges. Kids having sex with kids, and adults having sex with kids are two different things. But, this is representative of the abysmal quality of services and advice offered by many parents who have started Internet groups and claim "leadership."

    The problem is that most of these group members and leadership have the retarded notion that they are experts on how to manage a CPS case, and they convince others of their expertise. It's like a person claiming he's qualified to box the heavyweight champion simply because he got punched in the face by Mohammad Ali.

    Many of these people have lost their own children permanently. Many are damaged from the trauma of their individual cases. Some of them are just plain scary-psycho. And some are bona fide batterers and abusers.

    Which is my segue into American Family Rights Association (AFRA)*. This organization was the brain-child of a rabid father's rights supporter, Leonard Henderson. The principle was pretty good to start, but it was destroyed by the application of extreme radicalism and misogyny. It is now populated with many father's rights proponents who are fixated on attacking, harassing and waging economic war against their ex-wives, their children and anyone who outs them for what they do. Their techniques of bullying, threatening and punishing their critics are so typical of batters that one can only conclude they are batterers.

    But AFRA is not comprised only of deadbeat dads. Like CPSWatch, it's leadership has been consistently populated with abusive parents who are in denial about their own abusive conduct. A similar phenomenon happened to VOCAL (Victims of Child Abuse Laws) in the 1980's. In that instance, VOCAL was infiltrated by child molesters seeking refuge. VOCAL didn't realize it until too late, and it cost the national organization it's credibility. In AFRA's case, this protection for child abusers is institutionalized, because the leadership consists of batters and abusers who are seeking their own vindication in the court of public opinion, and using the truly falsely accused to front their image.

    To cite one example of the effectiveness of AFRA's dubious advice and assistance in a high profile case, Brian and Ruth Christine reportedly relied on AFRA advice during their case, and ended up in jail after "rescuing" their children from foster care at gunpoint. Their parental rights were terminated. This was a typical batterer use of force solution, which I'm sure the Christine's didn't realize at the time. They trusted AFRA.

    In contrast, FRAI (Family Rights Advocacy Institute) was contacted on a high-profile Court TV case, and we provided consulting services to the attorney who was the liaison for the criminal and civil cases. This family is reunited. FRAI also assisted with arguments on the Jack and Casey He case, which resulted in the reunification of the family. But these lawyers came to us, we didn't look for them.

    My point is, when the spotlight shines, the circus is sure to follow. The wackadoodles and clowns swarm all over to exploit the opportunity. And they usually screw it up, ala the Christines. There are many reliable resources on the Internet. Many online family rights/parent's rights groups and organization are not counted among them in my book.

    As always, the consumer must beware that the person on the other side of the computer network who claims to be an expert in this may really be a narcissistic sociopath with delusions of grandeur who never got her own kids back and whose only agenda is to make sure the spotlight shines on her and her tragic story. Google them. Get credible references and call them. Make them disclose their track record and the high-profile cases they've handled.

    *AFRA does not refer to AFRA Missouri, who has disavowed AFRA due to it's unethical and abusive practices.