Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social Worker Charged with Faking Records

It is rare we see a criminal prosecution of any child welfare professional for any reason. Kentucky, as every state, has laws against tampering with public records, but no matter how many complaints are made, there is almost never a prosecution. In El Paso County, Colorado, several years ago, we held a press conference and presented the DA with proof of the crimes. She declined to prosecute, referring us to the impotent Citizen's Review Panel.

That's not to say caseworkers conduct themselves with the utmost integrity, because, for whatever reason, they often don't.

The most common complaint by parents who are involved with child welfare agencies is that case workers falsify reports to the court, that the child welfare files are full of false information.

My investigation into the accuracy of child welfare records is consistent with the complaints by parents. The records, for whatever reason, are inaccurate in varying degrees. Okay, fine, the caseworkers are overworked, and they get things wrong. I've seen them mix up facts between cases, surely an honest mistake. I've seen case records from one case misfiled in the record of another case. I've seen case files "disappear" and get lost.

And, as this story so clearly describes, they deliberately falsify records and reports to the court. It is very easy to falsify subjective evidence, like visitation reports or interviews with parents, children and collateral witnesse or in their conversations with service providers. In this kind of "he said, she said" situation, the judges always believe the caseworker.

But I've also seen caseworkers deliberately tamper with objective evidence, including the results of drug tests.

In this instance, as often happens with unscrupulous child welfare caseworkers, they misrepresent the visits they made to the family, or to the child, or discussion they had with service providers, or making referrals.

This is egregiously harmful to parents and children, because these records follow the parents AND THE CHILDREN for the rest of their lives, wherever they go. Any child welfare agency in any state has access to these records. And because there is absolutely no provision under any state law whereby errors in these records can be corrected. In fact, in many states, the parents suffer retribution when they try to have the errors corrected, up to and including termination of parental rights.

 But there is more involved with falsifying records. When caseworkers falsify that the child was in danger in the home, fraud against the federal government comes into play under Title IV E of the Social Security Act. This is presented to the court, which is perjury. This is much bigger than tampering with public records.

Hats off to Kentucky. I've seen plenty of bad child welfare practices in Kentucky, hopefully they won't back out of this prosecution. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of reigning in these abuses.

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