Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Worst thing that ever happened"

Baby taken by child welfare agency at birth alleging mom had drugs in system at birth, and the agency refuses to return the child even after learning Mom's positive drug test result was in error. Oh, let's not forget, the baby had no drugs in her system at birth, either. How do you spell O-V-E-R-Z-E-A-L-O-U-S?

Taking a newborn baby (or any child) without conducting an investigation, without providing--or even considering--services designed to keep the child safely in the home pursuant to statutory reasonable efforts mandates, based solely on an unsupported hot-line call by a rabid child-saver collaborator is simply business as usual in our society. I call it "where there's smoke, there's fire knee-jerk syndrome." Except that often what the reporter sees isn't even smoke, it's only steam from a boiling pot of water, or dust stirred up from shaking a throw rug.

Mandated reporters have become expert at interpreting the most benign and innocuous events into life-and-death situations in order to have children seized and warehoused in stranger foster care.

Do you doubt these facts? Read the Complaint for yourself. It is a recitation of error after error committed by the agency in its rush to snatch a marketable baby to feed the voracious baby mill under the righteous guise of protecting children. Oh. . .and let's assume Mom refused to consent to drug testing. It's mandatory to consent, she refuses, they refuse to admit her for her childbirth. They then report her for medical neglect for leaving the hospital to have her baby. What a set-up.

One problem I see is that the child is not named as a plaintiff. She has the greatest claim to violations of her fundamental rights to family association. She has the right to the same protections as her parents, including a competent and ethical investigation, and the presumption that her parents are fit. She had the right to bond with her parents from birth--the most critical bonding time, which was stolen from her. She has the right to competent representation from her attorney, who won't rubber stamp agency actions at her expense. Her right were violated to a far greater degree than her parents's rights were.

The parents and attorneys are seeking some reform,

"I'm hoping that they'll either change their policies so it doesn't happen to another family, or they'll investigate it better before they take babies from their homes," said Ms. Mort, 21, joined by lawyers, her fiance Alex Rodriguez, 23, and 6-month-old Isabella Rodriguez at the American Civil Liberties Union's Oakland office. Read more:
Changing policies won't prevent this from happening again to anyone else, or to this family in the future. Even if they win, these parents will lose. Nothing will change. Past lawsuits haven't prevented this from happening to this family.

YAWN. . .This story is nothing all that outrageous, or unusual. I've seen this same scenario over and over, thousands upon thousands of times since 1991. You'd think, after nearly twenty years, the so-called experts would get it right.

Since they haven't gotten it right yet, one can only conclude they aren't intended to "get it right." Certainly, the courts aren't enforcing the law, or the rights of the children and parents. Attorneys representing parents and attorneys aren't even demanding the agency get it right. So, is it any wonder the child welfare agencies are more rabid, more overzealous, more wrong than they were twenty years ago?

Getting it wrong has been institutionalized. Lots of luck with the lawsuit. . .the statutory immunity enjoyed by the agency, the workers and the hospital will make this an uphill battle. As for this suit being a catalyst for changes in policy or practice. . .dream on.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Exclusive: Florida DCF approved daycare raided by police

This story has not even been picked up by news organizations yet. 

A daycare center approved by DCF and used by parents accused of child abuse/neglect has been exposed as the source of abuse and neglect of children. The only reason parents weren't accused was because one of the parents was a client of Family Rights Advocacy Institute, whose advocacy exposed this abusive daycare facility.

Reports of child abuse reported against a parent (whose identity is protected for confidentiality) reveals that the abuse suffered by the children was perpetrated by Mrs. Beasleys's Daycare in Lakeland, Florida. Their own website declares:
We are a fully licensed and accredited day care center providing a safe and nurturing environment where children thrive and flourish.
False advertising:
    Reports from children in that daycare indicate that they are not fed, and that they arrive at home in the evening filthy. According to one parent who move their children to another daycare, "My son's socks were white in the morning when he was delivered, and white in the evening when I picked him up.

A very young child reports having lunch set in front of him in the new daycare, and when he was encouraged to eat, he remarked, "You mean this food is for me?" In Mrs. Beasleys's daycare, he was not permitted to eat his lunch and he arrived at home in the evening starving.

This is notable because Mr. Beasleys daycare was licensed by Florida DCF as an approved daycare. Many parents placing their children in this daycare did so as a part of their case plans under DCF child welfare cases. DCF vouched for this daycare.

On Friday, law enforcement and DCF workers was observed raiding Mrs. Beasley's and shut it down. Reports include allegations of unsafe driving causing injury to children in the Mrs. Beasley's vehicle and reported sexual assault of children by other children.

Here we go again. . .DCF demonstrates the inability to judge who is qualified to care for children. . .and permits children to be place with inappropriate and abusive caregivers upon pain of termination of parental rights.

Way to go, Lakeland, Florida.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Couple charged with beating, starving 30-pound 6-year-old

"JEFFERSON COUNTY (Colorado) - A couple accused of beating and starving a 6-year-old adoptive son was formally charged on Thursday morning." See article.

This child was adopted through Jefferson County Social Services when he was two. At that time, the article describes he was of above average height and weight. Four years later, he had lost weight, suffered bruising all over his body and his brain was bloody and swelling.
Arnolds took custody of the boy on a foster-to-adopt program when he was two and a half years old. That adoption was completed in 2006, . . .
I have seen Jefferson County Social Services in action. In my experience, their decisions are not based on the best interests of the child. They are petty, abusive and incompetent. They take children from imperfect homes and give them to dangerous homes. Nice work, JeffCo.  They trained, supervised and licensed these superior parents. They approved of them. They preferred them over the child's real mommy and daddy. It seems their judgement was somewhat impaired. 

Nobody will be held accountable for this dreadful outcome. No caseworker will be investigated or sanctioned for her deplorable misuse of her discretion. The agency will not come under any scrutiny. As one caseworker stated the typical attitude with a shrug of her shoulders, "These things happen." Gee, it's a real shame some of us can't be so blase' about this kind of outcome.

The child's biological parents will never know what happened to the child that Jefferson County found or manufactured some reason not to reunify with his parents. Perhaps their case plan wasn't really designed to correct the issues that brought this family under their scrutiny. Perhaps they didn't provide the proper services, or timely services. Perhaps the parents never had a chance. Who knows? It's all water under the bridge. But what if we could know? What if Jefferson County was just too eager to remove this marketable child rather than provide appropriate, compassionate in-home services to keep him with his mommy and daddy? Wouldn't that make this tragedy more deplorable?

We'll never know what happened to cause this child to be declared a legal orphan and redistributed to better parents by the infallible state. All we do know is that this child abuse statistic will be reported as physical abuse by a parent. Not adoptive parent. Parent. The state will not distinguish abuse committed by biological parents as opposed to artificial parents-for-pay. It's all one and the same to the government. If the child dies, his biological parents will never be told where his grave is. 

We'll never know if adoptive homes are safer for children than imperfect biological homes as long as the reports do not distinguish between biological parents and adoptive parents. The only indication we have are these news articles that keep popping up in every community, showing that too many children are abused or killed by these state-approved parents.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poverty Construed as Neglect. . .HUD Steps up to do the Job CPS Refused to Do

Hud has stepped up to the plate that CPS walked away from. It's providing homes for the indigent to prevent the removal of children in to foster care.

But. . .but. . .that's CPS's job, isn't it? If a family needs a home, Reasonable Efforts mandates that CPS provide a roof for the family before it removes the children. Yet, they don't do their job. This has got to be embarrassing for the professionals who administer child welfare. Another agency got wind they just couldn't get 'er done, and did it better. 

An article in describes HUD's reasons for providing rental assistance to families,
“The foster care system is an important safety net for children when there’s no alternative, but not having the means to obtain affordable housing is hardly a good reason for families to be divided,” said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Thankfully these vouchers will keep thousands of families together under one roof.”
The true test will be whether or not CPS can finagle an end-run around this solution. They have a knack for creating more obstacles preventing solutions to simple problems, just because they can. After all, holding the child hostage to their demands tends to give them an inordinate degree of power.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Guaranteeing Reunification Failure

The generally accepted practice when a child is at risk of abuse or neglect is to swoop in and remove the child, rather than remove the danger from the child's environment.

The most absurd snatch and grabs occur in hospitals, shortly after the child is born. Right when the most critical bonding between the mother and the child is supposed to occur. According to an article in The Scientific American,
"It’s fairly easy to wrap our heads around the notion of the mother-child bond. The two are intimately connected during the nine months of pregnancy. Hormones, such as oxytocin, that course through a mother’s body biologically link her to the baby. Their heartbeats can even synchronize. Following birth, a mother provides a natural food source for the newborn."

Child welfare professionals insist that this bonding is not critical, at least not as critical as insuring the safety of the child by placing the child in foster care--where studies have proven children are 10 to 35 times more likely to be abused. It is, after all, better for the child to deny him his bond with his mother, his mother's milk, and the comfort of the heartbeat he has heard for the past nine months.

But it gets worse. Science has now proven that dads bond with babies, too. And like the mother, this bonding requires close proximity to the baby, because touch and smell play an important part in this bonding process. According to the article, It seems that this bonding involves hard-wiring the brain, the baby's brain and the father's brain.
"We are now learning that in the first few days after birth, changes occur in the brains of both the dad and the baby, depending on whether the father is around or not."
Child welfare professionals cite "the best interests of the child" as justifying the removal of newborn children from their parents. This argument is only valid if these professionals discount the child's biological and psychological needs for the very two people they have excluded from this child's world.
". . .it seems a child. . . may be born with a brain that expects this bond to form in the first place. "
And the absence of the father from the child's world has proven to cause problems for the child as he grows up.

So. . .let me get this right. . .rather than go through the bother of conducting a valid investigation and providing appropriate in-home services to the parents, it is best for the child to inhibit this bond with his parents by excluding them from his world. Shuffle the child from stranger's home to stranger's home. Expose him to abuse, neglect and abandonment. Put him on drugs when he acts out, dump him on the street when he turns eighteen without a dime, without a job, without the safety net a family affords, and take the babies he makes to repeat the cycle because he's a product of the system and presumed unfit to be a parent.

Yeah, right.

Given the overwhelming recommendations to terminate parental rights based on the lack of the child's bond with the parent, because the "professionals" felt one hour a week was sufficient time to facilitate that bond, removing the child instead of providing in-home services looks remarkably like a set up to fail. After all, these "professionals" are presumed to know what a child needs, and they can't possibly argue they didn't know removing a newborn from his parents would insure the child would not bond with them, could they?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When CPS Claim Parents are "Enmeshed" With Their Children. . .and it's Bad

. . .they are wrong.

I know, it sounds strange. . .CPS tells the court mom is "enmeshed" with her child. She dotes on him, pays too much attention to him, praises him, smothers him. They express concerns that the child is not permitted to be his own person. This is unhealthy, they say. The child must be protected from this sick parent. They ask the court to limit the parents's contact with this poor, unfortunate child so that the close bonds between the parent and child may be weakened, or broken. It is, after all, in the best interests of the child to disrupt this relationship.

According to a recent article, it is not bad for mothers to be affectionate or attentive to the kiddies. It seems there was a study done, following children from eight months to thirty years old. Researchers observed the mothers interacting with the kiddies and followed the effects of the various parenting style into adulthood. According to the article,
The psychologists rated the mother's affection and attention level on a five-point scale ranging from "negative" to "extravagant." The vast majority of the interactions (85 percent) were considered "warm," or normal.
In what is sure to be an ugly shocker to those know-it-all, micromanaging caseworkers--and the pompous judges who rely on them--researchers found that children whose mother's affection and attention were "extravagant" turned out to be the most well-adjusted adults:
The adults whose mothers had displayed "extravagant" or "caressing" affection (the two top ratings) were much less likely than their less-doted-on peers to be anxious. They were also less likely to report hostility, distressing social interactions, and psychosomatic symptoms.
Evidently, it is NEVER in the best interests of the child to interfere with the parent-child relationship simply because they are enmeshed. It seems a degree of enmeshment is healthy and beneficial for a child, and creates "a more stable mental health picture, a more stable individual."

So, if the child welfare agencies are really concerned about outcomes, leave the unharmed kiddies with their loving parents, even if you find that kind of attachment too disgusting. You should be more concerned about the disastrous outcomes associated with placing children in foster care.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review-presentation offered by Judicial Council of California

In this final review, I discuss the video game component of this presentation.

There are two games offered, one for attorneys representing parents in dependency cases, and one for attorneys representing children - Guardians ad litem (GAL). Each completed game is worth 2 California Minimum Continuing Legal Education credits.

The game takes you through a typical day in your dependency practice, including three areas of your practice; interviews with the client, court proceedings, and work performed in your office. The introduction to the games states, "The purpose of this game is to orient you to the kinds of situations you will encounter, give you an idea of the demands you would be facing in daily practice, and instill a set of professional values that will optimize your professional practice."

The case scenarios and the parties are similar for each game. You are presented with a case, in which a series of events is described. You are required to select actions to perform from a list of choices for three areas of your practice. One action is optimal, the others are varying degrees below that. Each choice carries a particular reward of consequence. No matter what you choose to do, the game explains how your choice rated and why. You can earn promotions and extra points depending on your responses.

You earn overall points for the quality of your response. You also learn credibility coins depending on the quality of your response in the context of the situation--and can be promoted and get a raise. You are also working on a burnout meter, and if your burnout level reaches 100%--again based on the stress any particular response causes, you will quit your job and the game ends.

I played both games. I found that politics was a contributing factor in the points awarded for certain responses. The game was clever in its application of a variety of factors that come into play during an attorney's representation in these cases. However, because it was limited to multiple choice answers, there was no room for creativity in representing your clients during these informal proceedings.

It is a competent basic orientation tool for a lawyer whose practice includes dependency cases. The game provides useful perspectives on dealing with adult and child clients, rewarding the player for tactful handling of their clients. It also seems to be reinforce some of the best practice models that many attorneys and agencies tend to avoid in the interests of expediency. This game stays more focused on the best interests of the child than real live practicing attorneys seem to. However, it is quite weak in the esoteric critical issues unique to child welfare cases. It is much stronger in management of your practice than in actual child welfare law. It is a fair start to a complex and unique area of practice.

Oh. It doesn't matter what your score is, you get the MCLE credits simply for completing the game. I can report that I got promoted and a raise, never got anywhere near burnout, and my final score was 1468 points. The game generates a California MCLE certificate with your points included.

You can obtain this disk from Center for Families, Children & the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102-3668. (415)865-7739.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review-presentation offered by Judicial Council of California

In the second presentation for dependency lawyers, the Hon. Pat Bresee hosts What Juvenile Dependency Attorneys Need to Know about Basic Child Development. This program was presented in a game show format, where four hypothetical situations taken from actual case files are described, two contestants play, and a panel of four experts discuss the hypothetical situation. 

This format facilitated the presentation of multiple viewpoints and analyses which might explain each situation. While much more balanced than the prior presentation, there was still a slight leaning toward the prevailing child saver mentality, which is predisposed against an accused parent.

There were some sterling examples of best practices presented by the panel that should apply to the administration of these cases, but the presentation was deficient in recognizing the full range of effects associated with removing a child from his parents.

The analyses tended to overlook legitimate causes for the problems a child was exhibiting that could have been attributed to certain detrimental exposures outside the family home. For example: During play therapy, a four year-old child infers inappropriate sexual situations five months after being placed in foster care. The discussion never even considers the idea that this development may be the result of sexual abuse while in the foster home rather than in the family home. This failure to objectively examine all potential origins of this development places the child at serious risk of chronic abuse in foster care.

In another situation about an older child who has been in foster care and group homes for a while, the scenario describes the child who begins acting out. The analysis ignores the effects of what the caregivers and administrators have told the child, including his parents are deficient, or don't want him or love him. It ignores the effects of the delayed reunification and minimal contact permitted under existing visitation schemes.This is a common occurrence reported by many foster children. Being children, they lack the confidence to trust their own instincts about their parents, and are severely traumatized by this kind of revelation. This posture often is a result of concurrent planning, which is intended to prepare a child for termination of parental rights.

Administrators, service providers and care givers blithely expect the child to respond to this perceived abandonment or rejection by his parents as if it isn't the most horrifying sense of loss a child could ever face. There is no discussion of preserving the protecting the parent-child bonds by forbidding anyone to disparage the parents to the child or undermine the child's relationship with the parent, nor any recognition that the the lack of meaningful and sufficient contact with his parents is a factor in a child's tendency to act out in foster or institutional care.

Despite the systemic blindness to certain realities of child welfare out-of-home placements, there are some redeeming elements in this presentation. I would hope that the credible discussions of what should be done are more than theory, and that attorneys utilizing this tool would actually dare to apply them in their representation of parents and children in child welfare cases.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Credible Child Welfare Reform Efforts Not Newsworthy?

The family rights grassroots movement is mourning the loss of former Georgia state Senator Nancy Schaefer. I did not work with her personally due to conflicts with those who were in contact with her, however I did follow her work to expose and correct the abuses in Georgia's child welfare administration. She was quite pro-active in the arena of child welfare reform. But to read the news articles, one would never know that.

Elected officials who advocate for reform or accountability in child welfare are frequently engaged in political suicide. I have seen the political careers of statesmen abruptly cut off for their pro-active attempts to reform child welfare in their legislative capacity. The stakeholders in the child welfare industry finance an opponent who invariably defeats the annoying incumbent in the next election. The boldness of their stand in support of families deserves some recognition.

In a search of articles reporting on this tragedy I found one  mainstream news article that mentioned this aspect of her career, but only in the context of a speech in Europe. Evidently the powers-that-be don't want this aspect of her work to be legitimized in the public eye.

On the other side of the coin, I have observed that the news media jumps at the opportunity to spotlight the highly vocal wackadoodles* in the family rights movement, affording them the public forum to spout their woe-is-me nonsense about their own cases and their rabid, kooky tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories, making all of us look like nothing more than disgruntled parents who deserved to have their children removed. Even now, the radicals are spouting theories of a child welfare agency conspiracy to murder her in an effort to capitalize on the headlines of her death.

Conspicuously absent from the public debate are discussions with credible representatives advocating balanced child welfare reform. Mainstream media's refusals to even acknowledge attempts by legislators to legislate reform contribute to that deafening silence and serve only to eliminate any reasonable solutions from public consideration. The public is left with only two extreme alternatives, leave children in dangerous homes or remove children who don't need to be removed and place them in foster care.

There is a third alternative, but nobody hears about moderate and sensible solutions to the problems alleged by both extremes in the child welfare debate because mainstream media panders to sensationalism in favor of solutions to controversial issues.

Based on what I have observed of former Senator Schaefer, I believe she considered her efforts to reform child welfare practices to be noteworthy among her accomplishments. I think the mainstream media has done a great disservice, both to her and to the public, by ignoring this important component of her work in their articles about her.

*Wackadoodles are those family members who have truly abused or neglected the children in their care and who are attempting to use the family rights movement to achieve public vindication for that abuse or neglect. The designation also includes batterers, con artists, control freaks and the mentally unstable. The family rights movement has more than their fair share of these unstable elements who seek leadership positions and undermine the efficacy and credibility of this movement. To be fair, the cadres of child welfare workers also demonstrate a disproportionately high percentage of wackadoodles, including a disproportionately high percentage of providers who were or believe they were abused as children. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review-presentation offered by Judicial Council of California

This is the first in a three part series reviewing Continuing Legal Education information provided to attorneys who represent children and parents in dependency cases in California. I requested and was graciously provided with a copy of the presentation for the purposes of this review. The DVD includes two discussions and a video game. Today's topic is a review of the first presentation, Substance Abuse: The Web of Addiction.

This presentation represents that addiction is a factor in majority of dependency cases. However, based on government statistics, neglect is the major factor. Anecdotal reports indicate that poverty is the root of most neglect cases. It seems to be lazy reasoning to conclude that because substance abuse is more prevalent in poorer areas, that substance abuse is directly responsible for child abuse. 

I do not dispute that substance abuse is a major factor in some child welfare cases, however, many jurisdictions have ruled that substance abuse is not in an of itself, a legitimate reason to remove children from the family home. If the use of substances affects the welfare of the children, i.e. the children's minimum basic needs are not being met by the caregiver, only then can the state justify intervention into the family unit. But even then, as the judge in this presentation noted, if the parent's or the child's attorney can demonstrate to the court that the child can be safely kept in the home, the state is not permitted to remove the children from the family home, or obstruct speedy reunification. Just how to accomplish that outcome was never discussed. 

During the presentation of the discussion on the biology of addiction, the spokesperson lawyer comments," We're talking about the abuse and neglect of little children, here." This is a graphic illustration of the effectiveness of the child saver's pervasive fear-mongering campaign which equates substance abuse with child abuse. 

An examination of the facts reveals that these are two distinct states which may have a cause and effect relationship, but which are equally likely not to have a cause and effect relationship. This video as much as admitted that there are functional addicts in every walk of life, including sitting on the benches of our courts. He asks where to draw the line between use of drugs and a presumed effect it is having on the children, ignoring the legal fact that the state bears the burden of proof that there is a legally sufficient reason to intervene into the family based solely on the parent's use of substances, including tobacco or alcohol. 

Attorneys on the panel recommend using the child as a way to leverage the parent's participation in agency recommended treatment as an effective tactic. The brutality of this practice, especially the effect of the prolonged removal and isolation from their parents upon the children, is a shocking illustration about how casually participants in these cases view the forced separation of children from their parents. They promote holding the children hostage  as part of the coercive methods employed in the imposition of inappropriate case plans which are in reality not designed to effect the purported rehabilitation of the parent. 

The presentations states that parents need support and services to overcome their addiction, But, the panel's suggestions for support do not include the services offered by trained and certified family advocates. This type of community based service has proven an effective model in other jurisdictions to insure parent's compliance with appropriate case plans, speeding up reunification, and providing non-abusive motivations for the parent's compliance coupled with forcing the agencies to fulfill their statutory mandates in child welfare cases. 

But while this presentation stresses the importance of parents seeking help with rehabilitation, we have received many report of parents seeking help in overcoming their addiction have had their children removed. This video seems to support the agency posture that any use of substances, even moderate use of legal substances, is grounds for state intervention and the removal of children. This obstacle to rehabilitation was never even addressed. 

This presentation is better directed toward addicts. It is an effective reinforcement for the child saver line that substance use is automatically a threat to the child, a premise that is unproven by the facts and unsupported by law. 

As a tool to train attorneys who represent parents and children in child welfare cases, it is a complete bust. It gives excuses for  the agency not to provide appropriate services to address alleged addiction, including lack of resources. 

The administrators and judges expect the parents to make change without requiring the agency to provide appropriate and effective services which will give the parent effective tools to overcome the substance abuse. It does not even enlighten attorneys as to what constitutes appropriate treatment plans and services in cases involving substance abuse, much less teach the attorneys how to vigorously represent the rights of the parents and the children during this kind of case. 

It was even advocated that the agencies heap extensive case plan requirements on the parents, totally oblivious to the fact that placing this kind of burden upon addicted parents who are already in a critically traumatic situations is a fail-safe recipe for failure.  All of this appears to forward the premise that parents must be nearly perfect as a condition of exercising the right to family association, rather than the legal reality that parents are only required under the law to provide the minimum of care, supervision, education, medical to maintain the integrity of the family unit. 

This presentation does have the redeeming feature of illustrating exactly what is wrong with the court-appointed representation that parents and children in child welfare cases must endure. They don't even properly present the applicable law with respect to representing parents and children in child welfare cases involving alleged substance abuse. 

This provides nothing substantive to attorneys who desire to vigorously represent parents and children in child welfare cases. 

Next: What Juvenile Dependency Attorneys Need to Know About Basic Child Development presentation.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Failure to File Paperwork Constitutes Child Endangerment reports "Richard Cressy, 47, and Margie Cressy, 41, were charged with four misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. . ."

And what was their alleged crime? How did they endanger their children? " The couple is accused of violating a state law that requires parents who are home schooling their children to register their curriculum with the local school district." Endanger in the welfare of a child is described in section 260.10 as

1. He knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his life or health. 

So, now we want to take kiddies and jail parents who don't file paperwork with the bureaucracy? How does that help protect kids? New York ACS or the local sheriff don't have jurisdiction over homeshool issues. The board of education does. This is ACS's way of assuming jurisdiction where none legally exists.

It is quite a reach to allege that not filing paperwork constitutes endangering the welfare of a child. Can you spell R-E-T-A-L-I-A-T-I-O-N? This is the exact kind of reach child savers like to make in their efforts to control parental prerogatives when it comes to making child-rearing decisions, especially if mommy and daddy don't dot every i and cross every t. After all, parents are expected to be perfect as a condition of keeping their kiddies. 

Home School Legal Defense Association has agreed to take this case. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Improper Child Interviews Exposed in Greene v. Camreta

Last time I discussed the ruling in Greene v. Camreta. This time I want to point out another typical tactic practiced during child abuse investigations. Improper interviews of children.

Camreta and Alford seek to justify the length of the seizure by pointing out that as the interview progressed, S.G. began disclosing sexual abuse by her father. S.G. maintains that for "over an hour" she repeatedly told Camreta that her father had never touched her in a bad way until she finally "just started saying yes to whatever he said." It is far from clear that it was reasonable for Camreta and Alford to continue to detain S.G. for an entire hour during which she continually denied such abuse even if it was reasonable to continue the interview once she started to say otherwise. Still, there is some case law applying the T.L.O. standard sanctioning a detention longer than an hour, and none refuting the justification Camreta and Alford offer for prolonging the detention beyond that - namely, that S.G. was just becoming - in their view - responsive.

Children are highly suggestible, and take their cues from the authority figure questioning them. In the case above, the caseworker, Camreta, broke the rules by asking the same questions over and over until the child wearily acquiesced and gave the response Camreta was seeking. Children will say whatever they think the authority figure wants to hear. We have conditioned them to "give the right answers." Their cue that they have given a wrong answer is when the question is repeated over and over. Even if Camreta stressed the importance that S.G. tell the truth, his refusal to accept that truth cued the child that she was giving a "wrong" answer.

A child cannot take much pressure before relenting and giving the "right" answer, which then become the facts of the case. The record on this case indicates Camreta was conducting a validation of his pre-concieved notions, not investigating to determine the truth. Can't blame Camreta, this is how it is done all the time.

I have a library of video-taped child interviews by "experts"  which parents have sent me over the years. Having been trained in the proper interviewing of children, I am asked to conduct an analysis of the interviews for attorneys. I also interview children about their interviews with child welfare agencies to uncover what motivated the child's responses.

I have advocated that all interviews with children should be video taped with all participants visible and face front to the camera, with a working clock in view. Proper practice dictates that the child should never be questioned prior to the taped interview. They should not be repeatedly interviewed, because repeated interviews taints the truth. And there is a right way and wrong way to question a child.

I had one case where the interviewer's back was to the camera. An examination of the video showed minimal improper questions, yet the girl changed her denials into accusations. When I interviewed her, she disclosed that she had changed her "story" because the authority figure's facial expressions indicated she was giving the "wrong" answer to his questions.

In another, a highly contested child sex abuse criminal case, a Denver, Colorado Children's Advocacy Center  interviewer blatantly violated every prohibition during their interview with the alleged child victim. She gave the child the answers she was seeking within the questions she asked. She asked leading questions. She repeatedly asked the same questions over and over until she got the answer she was seeking. She did not allow the child to tell the story in the narrative. She tainted that interview horribly, and an innocent man has had to stand trial three times on the same charges and still faces a fourth trial.

Camreta was just conducting over-zealous caseworker business as usual. This happens all the time, all over the country. It's no big deal. Children are removed, parental rights terminated, innocent people convicted and imprisoned, based solely on these tainted interviews. Just thought you should know.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Panic in the Child Welfare Agencies

Business as usual by Oregon child welfare has been nipped by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a case  where a family sued a child welfare agency for unconstitutional search and seizure arising out of their interview with a child at school and subsequent removal from home.

Exhibiting their typical knee-jerk overreaction to anything that appears to protect anyone accused of child abuse or neglect, the child protection industry is burning with child-saver horror speculation and doomsday scenarios that more children will be abused because the constitution shockingly protects a child's right to family association. Child abusers win one. . . I have always maintained that the child savers gave too little consideration to the negative effects of their  assistance to families they, in their infinite wisdom, determine need their help. 

The mother, Sarah Greene, and her children sued the state agency for various constitutional claims associated with the agencies handling of a child welfare investigation and case. The U.S. District court dismissed the case. Mother and children appealed. The appeals court overturned the District Court. The findings were as follows:

1) "In short, applying the traditional Fourth Amendment requirements, the decision to seize and interrogate S.G. in the absence of a warrant, a court order, exigent circumstances, or parental consent was unconstitutional."  In this case, the court distinguished searches and seizures of students by school officials from situations where a police officer or social worker, not connected with the school, conducts an interview. School officials who acquiesce to an interview demand by child welfare agencies may now be open to liability. Especially if there is a 4th amendment letter  (on my web site, the password to open the letter is "I agree") in the child's school file as I have recommended for years. The court ruled that, because this precedent was not established prior, the defendants had immunity. However, if anyone does it again, they will not be immune from civil liability as this case clearly establishes the law in that regard.

2)"Because Camreta's alleged misrepresentation in support of his request for a protective custody order . . . violated the Greenes' clearly established rights, he is not entitled to qualified immunity." Exaggerating, misrepresenting, outright lying on affidavits and requests for court orders has been a long-standing tradition in child welfare cases. The problem has been in proving the lies, which is why I recommended as early as 1996 that parents record all interactions with state agencies and their providers. Deceitful case workers have responded by refusing to be recorded and retaliating when parents insist. I am on the record stating they, as public servants, cannot refuse to be recorded. It just keeps things honest. . .and provides evidence for future lawsuits like this. 

3) "Camreta's decision to exclude Sarah not just from the examination but from the entire facility where her daughter was being examined violated the Greenes' clearly established rights." The practice of preventing the parents from attending the child during medical examinations has already been condemned in another 9th Circuit case so the caseworker has no immunity for violating the child's constitutional rights.  Caseworkers routinely isolate the child from the parents, limit contact to infrequent supervised situations and refuse access to the child's medical, school and other records. It's long past time these capricious, heavy-handed control-reak practices by case workers bite the dust.

These are among the issues I have included in my accredited Continuing Legal Education training designed for attorneys representing parents and children in child welfare cases, and I am gratified to see that I, a mere mortal, have been vindicated by being right in my analysis and education of these particular issues. Too bad not enough lawyers "get it."

The court actually discussed family association and family rights in this case. 

  • [P]arents have a right arising from the liberty interest in family association to be with their children while they are receiving medical attention 
  • Finally, we hold that Camreta's decision to exclude Sarah from her daughters' medical examinations at the KIDS Center violated the Greenes' clearly established familial rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • The interest in family association is particularly compelling at such times, in part because of the possibility that a need to make medical decisions will arise, and in part because of the family's right to be together during such difficult and often traumatic events.
  • . . .Wallis establishes two points central here: first, parents and children maintain clearly established familial rights to be with each other during potentially traumatic medical examinations. . .

If the U.S. Constitution can prove to be so powerful to protect the fundamental human right to family association, think of the double whammy a family rights amendment to the state constitution could provide in your state.