CPS worker attempts cover up of sexual abuse of 6 yr. old girl – Parents of victim face retribution (harrassment) by CPS
Sat, 2009-05-30 12:07 – Bizzi
Please pass this on to all your contacts – we need to expose the lies, injustice and brutality of CPS:
http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou090529_mp_sexual-assualt-cove… (copy and paste the website link to view the video – this message only has the text of the article)
Parents accuse CPS employee of covering up sexual assault
12:06 AM CDT on Saturday, May 30, 2009
By Rucks Russell / 11 News
PEARLAND, Texas — Parents coping with the sexual assault of their 6-year-old daughter are blaming a Child Protective Services employee for compounding their pain by trying to cover-up the assault.
CPS employee accused of covering up child’s sexual assault
May 29, 2009
I cant understand how someone in a position of trust could do something like this, said the victims mother. Its devastated our family and turned my world upside down.
The suspect is a 12-year-old boy and the alleged assault took place a year ago at the couples Pearland home.
The couple says neighborhood parents and children had been invited over for a graduation party. The boys mother, a CPS Supervisor, left her son unattended at the party even though she allegedly knew her son had a history of assaulting little girls.
According to the victims father, there was a scream upstairs and he found the boy molesting his daughter.
It makes me feel less of a father. It makes me feel I didnt do my job as a father, the victims father said.
Both parents say the suspects mother urged them not to call the police, because involving the authorities was not a good idea.
They say when police did become involved, CPS workers began showing up at their house without explaining why.
They were coming by without having any documentation to support that they should be coming by, the victims father said.
The 12-year-old boy will face a judge next week on charges of taking indecent liberties with a minor. The victims parents have filed a lawsuit alleging the suspects mother used her position at CPS to try to cover-up the crime.
We have material to support this claim and intend to prove it in court, said Fernando Valdes, the attorney representing the victims parents.
The suspects mother refused to comment, but CPS officials said they found no evidence she did anything wrong.
We conducted an investigation with her supervisor and found no wrong-doing on the employees part, CPS Spokesperson Gwen Carter said.
The victims parents fear their daughter has been irreparably harmed.
Shes changed and may never be the same little girl again, her father said.
Sacramento, CA – A married couple held a press conference today in front of the Sacramento County Juvenile Court building in order to make public the unnecessary and continued harassment inflicted upon their family by CPS. The Sacramento family was accused of having caused their daughters infection at a local hospital even though: 1) there was no evidence of any action by the parents which could have caused the infection; 2) three social workers assigned to the case gave favorable reports; 3) there were no reports that their daughter had ever been abused or harmed before or after her hospital stay; 4) A registered nurse, the girls principal and teachers, and every mental health professional involved with the family, except the one utilized by the court, has commended the family for its closeness and caring attitude; 5) the case was only based on the presence of a serious infection during hospitalization.
“This has resulted in months of trial, the expenditure of countless hours by social workers and of, presumably, significant County funds,” said Steve Burlingham, PJI affiliate attorney for the parents. “Perhaps instead of throwing more money at the problem of abuse, the County needs to better manage its cases and the Law should be strengthened to prevent intervention in unwarranted cases.”
“This is a classic example of how the CPS system has gone awry,” said attorney Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute. “In view of the clear, insurmountable evidence supporting this family, there is no justification for CPS continued harassment and traumatizing of these parents and their seven-year-old daughter.”
Pacific Justice Institute is an organization dedicated to the defense of religious freedom, parents rights and other basic constitutional civil liberties.
.Taken From http://www.pacificjustice.org/content/parents-make-public-cps-abuse-resources
In Alaska, foster parents testified that the worst of the abuses endured by foster children is not the abuse and neglect allegedly suffered before the state takes them from their natural parents. Rather, the real abuse comes from the actions of the state itself. The foster parents sat with trembling hands as they told legislators of the treatment they and their young wards endured at the hands of child protective services. Fear of retaliation was reportedly a common theme throughout the meeting (Demer, 1997). To make matters worse, just as state officials were beginning ambitious efforts to deal with the severe failures in the state’s child protection system, a two-year-old in the care of Anchorage foster parents died (Campbell, 1997).
Speaking out against the system can have its price, state representative Marie Parente, chairwoman of the Massachusetts House Foster Care Committee told Boston Globe reporters. Foster parents are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals-the ultimate threat being that DSS will take away their foster children. After Lynn Sanborn-a long-term foster mother with a flawless record-rendered testimony critical of the department’s removal of a foster child from her home before the House Foster Care Committee, she suddenly found herself the subject of two child abuse reports. “After 14 years of being a foster parent and three months ago I was an exemplary home, I get two complaints in a week,” Sanborn said. “Doesn’t that sound odd to you?” So, too, did another foster mother who testified during the hearings find herself the subject of an allegedly anonymous report, sparking charges from both women that the agency was retaliating against them for speaking out against the department. The anonymous charges were filed against them within days of their testimony. “I feel hurt and I feel sad,” said Sanborn. “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody” (Delgado, 1992).
Similar narratives are everywhere to be found, as parents, foster parents and others who would advocate on behalf of the children in their care report the fear of retaliation from child welfare agencies seeking to silence them. The price to be paid for speaking out against the system can be particularly high for parents. Elizabeth Sayers-by her own admission in need of support services-said in an on-air radio interview that she was not being offered the help she required from the Massachusetts department to keep her children. Ninety minutes after she complained on the air to a radio talk show host about the lack of services, her children were taken away and placed in foster homes in an “emergency removal” (Matchan, 1992). Prior to a 1994 hearing held in Illinois, several parents were told by Department of Children and Family Services caseworkers “if you ever want to see your children again, don’t go to the hearing,” according to Champaign County Board member Robert Naiman (1995).
Turning once again to the matter of the treatment of foster parents by child protection agencies, ACLU attorney Benjamin Wolf asserts:
Foster parents are mistreated. They are told they’ll be reimbursed for expenses. They aren’t. They ask for respite, a break, a vacation. They don’t get help. Those not trained to deal with troubled children need support, skills training. It doesn’t happen. Emergency foster care families are treated as a bed for the night. They are given virtually no information about the child’s health needs, etc. They are lost without info, back-up services (Golden, 1997).
As a result of all this, many of the most dedicated of foster parents-those who would dare to vigorously advocate on behalf of the children in their care-are pushed out of the system, hence the abuse of children in state care continues to mount as the overall quality of the foster care pool diminishes – even as the number of children in state care continues ever to increase.
The number of conventional foster homes in the public sector has dropped from 125,000 in 1988 to 100,000 as of 1991 – and the “exodus continues,” says Gordon Evans, information director for the National Foster Parent Association in Houston. Evans explains that the average number of children per home is 3.7 – up from about 1.4 in 1983-and he estimates that “tens of thousands” care for six, seven, and eight youngsters at a time (Cohen, 1991).
The results are tragic, as even a cursory review of recent press accounts reveals. In Peoria, Illinois, the state’s child welfare agency “rescues” Donte May from a neglectful and possibly abusive mother, only to place him in a foster home where he dies suspiciously from bleeding in the brain (Associated Press, 1997c); a Pennsylvania foster mother is charged with fatally beating a six-year-old girl in her care (O’Dowd & Frisby, 1998); New Jersey officials announce they are awaiting autopsy results on an infant who suffered rib fractures and a broken leg in foster care (Van Doren & May, 1998); Oklahoma prosecutors file murder charges against a foster father who allegedly beat to death his five-year-old ward (Smith, 1998); a Wisconsin man is charged with injuring a foster child in his care so severely that doctors have to use bone grafts to repair his damaged skull (Ostrander, 1998); a two-year-old Brooklyn boy is beaten to death by his foster mother, who viciously battered the child with her fists – then took him to an all-night card game. He had been beaten with such force that his heart split, one of his lungs was punctured, his liver ripped and his ribs cracked (Cauvin, McQuillan & Hutchinson, 1998).
One of the most tragic aspects of many of these cases is that the children suffer needlessly, for in their zeal to protect them against the perceived shortcomings of their natural parents, child protective services caseworkers placed them into dangerous homes that inflicted upon them precisely the injury they had hoped to prevent. In the District of Columbia, social workers removed four of Debra Hampton’s children from her home placing them in foster care. According to the testimony of a social worker, the children were removed because Mrs. Hampton had left them alone and was not properly supervising them, and her home was “generally uninhabitable.” Three months later, the foster mother left two-year-old Mykeeda Hampton at home for over ten hours. While she was out running errands, Mykeeda was beaten to death by the foster mother’s 12-year-old son. An autopsy later established that the two-year-old died of “blunt force injuries to the head, abdomen, and back, with internal hemorrhaging.” As of September 1995, several years after the incident, the case was still under litigation (District of Columbia v. Debra Ali Hampton).
In August of 1995, San Francisco officials took custody of Selena Hill a few days after her birth because of concerns that her parents, Stacey and Claudia Hill, had physically abused each other and didn’t seem capable of caring for their newborn. In September, seven-week-old Selena Hill was rushed to Children’s Hospital in Oakland with a fractured skull and other injuries that almost killed her. In their efforts to protect her from her actual parents, child welfare workers placed Selena into a foster home with a history of domestic violence. In the nine months before the infant was injured, Berkeley police had visited the residence three times after receiving reports about violent disturbances in the foster home (Ferriss, 1995).
The state of Georgia placed Clayton and Kelly Miracle in foster care with Betty and Joe Wilkins in June of 1993. Two months later paramedics would arrive at the foster home in response to a 911 call, finding Clayton barely breathing, with two large knots on his head, one in the front and one in back. Clayton died as a result of blunt force trauma to his head. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that Clayton’s fatal injuries could not have been caused by an accidental fall and that injuries and bruising found all over Clayton’s body were consistent with battered child syndrome. Doctors also examined his sister Kelly and found the same pattern of bruising (Wilkins v State).
Making Matters Worse
The reporting crusade wrought other unintended consequences as well, among them an increase in the abuse and neglect of children by the very system designed to protect them. Stein and Rzepnicki (1983) explain that the possibility state action could have negative consequences for youngsters and their families was not seriously entertained, nor had the effects of state action been systematically monitored during earlier years. While courts and child-caring agencies have historically been considered as benevolent, and acting to protect children and further their best interests: “Evidence gathered in recent years has shown that intervention by child welfare agencies may exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, family difficulties” (p. 284). This growing body of evidence, they argue, “forces a reconsideration of the previously unquestioned assumption that actions taken by state agencies are ipso facto beneficial.”
As Lindsey (1994) explains, with the shifting emphasis placed on child abuse investigation, “the [caseworker] was unmistakably cast in the role of inquisitor prying into and judging the affairs of the family, with predictably adverse effects on the family” (p. 98). Dysfunctional families “may experience considerable stress with the occurrence of seemingly minor events,” notes the Reference Manual for the Pennsylvania Model of Risk Assessment (Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, undated). “The mere presence of the social worker can trigger a family crisis.”
If the mere presence of a social worker can trigger a family crisis, imagine what a full-blown child abuse investigation may do. Besharov (1985) explains that even the determination that a report is unfounded can only be made after an unavoidably traumatic investigation that is, inherently, a breach of parental and family privacy. Dana Mack (1997) notes that caseworkers will typically enter a home for the first time at an odd hour, with no previous announcement, giving no information about the nature of the charge held against the family, nor who has made it. The homes of accused families are always checked, with refrigerators opened and the bathrooms inspected. Neighbors and school personnel are questioned about the family, particularly about the reputation, behavior and habits of the parents. Nor is it unusual in some jurisdictions for child welfare workers to enter homes in the middle of the night, stripping children naked and probing their genitals for evidence of abuse. Investigations may involve repeated and relentless interrogations of children, and a battery of psychological testing for both the parents and their children. These tests are often conducted by a parade of court-appointed psychologists and therapists.
Thomas Sowell (1995) observes that, by the time an investigation has run its course, children have been strip-searched, interrogated by a stream of social workers, police officers, and prosecutors, psychologically tested, and sometimes placed in foster care. Such actions usually occur without search warrants, parental consent, court hearings, or official charges-and often solely on the basis of the anonymous telephone call. Even in the event that a report is ultimately unfounded, a family has been subjected to enormous stress factors. As Elizabeth Hutchinson (1990) explains:
Investigation of a report of child maltreatment is not an innocuous intrusion into family life. By the time an investigation is complete, the family has had to cope with anxieties in both their formal and informal support systems alerted to state suspicion of their parenting. Even if the report is expunged from the central registry due to lack of substantiation, it is seldom expunged from the mind of the family-or from the memories of persons in the support system.
Child development experts Goldstein, Solnit, Goldstein, and Freud (1996) note that, “by its intervention, the state may make a bad situation worse: indeed it may even turn a tolerable situation or even a good situation into a bad one” (Besharov, 1987; see also Goldstein et al., 1996, p. 92).
The clientele primarily “serviced” by child protection agencies may be particularly vulnerable to having a bad situation worsen. Empirical research corroborates the association between social class and the physical abuse and neglect of children (Hagedorn, 1995; Lindsey, 1994; Pelton, 1978). Child abuse has always been concentrated in areas of greatest poverty, where stress is more common. Family income is among the best predictors for both investigation and child removal (Fein & Maluccio, 1992; Lindsey, 1994). The families which become known to public child welfare agencies through the reporting of child abuse and neglect are largely the poorest of the poor, and the children in foster care come predominantly from such families (Horowitz & Wolock, 1981; Pelton, 1992; Testa & Goerge, 1988). The reasons for this are clear, as Van Hooris and Gilbert (1998) explain: “The frustration and stresses that accompany unemployment, poverty, inadequate housing, and continual insecurities of lower-socio-economic status contribute to a volatile environment in which children are at risk of abuse and neglect.”
Add to this already volatile mix a child abuse or neglect investigation with the possibility of child removal looming as imminent and the results are predictable. The mere presence of a social worker or other authority may exacerbate an already dysfunctional or stressful family situation, tipping the marginalized parent toward an act of physical violence which may not have otherwise occurred absent the anger, fear or frustration imposed by the investigation itself. Yale Professor Edward Zigler, testifying before Congress during the 1970s, addressed this issue, saying that he was “beginning to see some people who we are driving to the brink of psychosis because of these [reporting] laws.” Zigler found these early trends to be both troubling and potentially counterproductive, for even during this early period we were already reaching a phenomenon of the sort in which: “Somebody reports a parent; then the parent abuses the child again for getting her in trouble.” Zigler explained that this was “clinically occurring everywhere” at the time (Committee on Education and Labor, 1977).
Research into this area is problematic. After all, who would believe the word of an accused child abuser claiming to have been pushed toward such action by the stresses imposed by an investigation? The situation poses something of a classic chicken or the egg dilemma for the researcher, as an act of violence, or worse, a child fatality following an investigation seemingly provides the “proof” that the family was being properly investigated to begin with, and that the caseworker “missed something.”
Consider the case of an Iraqi family who became refugees in 1991 after their home was bombed during the Persian Gulf War. They reportedly lived in tents in Saudi Arabia for more than three years before the United Nations brought them to Nebraska in 1994. A year later, the family moved to Detroit, drawn by the area’s large Arab-American and Muslim communities. A teacher from Nebraska had kept in touch with one of the daughters, a former student, and called Detroit authorities to report suspicions that the parents might be abusing some of their children. Detroit police went to the home to interview the children and the parents. Finding nothing wrong, the police left. The Detroit Free Press (Krodel, 1998) describes what happened next:
After they were gone, the father — angry, frightened and insulted by the visit — said he wanted to know who said what to the teacher in Nebraska. An argument erupted. Two of the teenage daughters started pointing fingers at each other, and eventually the 16-year-old tried to leave the house, the family’s attorney said. Her parents and an older brother tried to stop her.
Neighbors heard screams and saw the girl in the street with her clothes torn and called police.
Police then took four daughters — ages 3, 12, 14 and 16 — into protective custody. Ten days later, three more children-sons ages 5, 8 and 10-were taken into custody. The four children over age 18 remained in the home. The situation has been especially difficult because neither parent speaks English.
In this instance, the vague concerns of a former teacher many miles distant first brought the family to the attention of Detroit authorities. While it may be argued that the case raises some valid concerns about the family’s functioning, it may also be argued that it was the mere presence of the authorities in the home which exacerbated the family’s functioning to the extent that further intervention became a consideration. Moreover, once removal of the children became a consideration, the authorities may have been negligent by virtue of having failed to adequately weigh the consequences of removal against the alternative of leaving the family intact in terms of which option provided the least detrimental alternative for the children.
Consider the results of this intervention: The children were spread out over four foster homes. While in foster care, a 3-year-old girl was burned with an iron, her depressed 16-year-old sister mutilated her own arm, and their 12-year-old sister was seen with a 16-year-old boy who had his pants down, prompting concerns that the girl had been raped. To make matters worse, a non-Muslim foster parent gave the older girls crosses, which was interpreted by the Muslim and Arab communities — which had over time become involved in the case — as a sign that the children were being deprived of their Muslim faith.
Compounding the difficulties of research into this area of inquiry is the industry’s continued reliance on what Hagedorn (1995, p. 63) euphemistically refers to as “medical model gimmicks” drawn as a consequence of its continued reliance on Freudian models of psychopathology (Billingsley & Giovannoni, 1972; Johnson, 1991). The relation between social work and popular psychotherapy “is the most significant issue facing the profession today.” Social services, both public and private, are organized to make individualized psychotherapeutic forms of helping the most significant service they have to offer, hence: “Whether we are dealing with child abuse and neglect, addictions, loneliness, anxiety, economic dependency, or other physical and mental disabilities, it is psychotherapeutically oriented work with individuals that is considered to be the key” (Specht, 1990).
The philosophical underpinning of psychotherapeutic intervention in the field of social work, however, may itself be a significant part of the equation. Epstien (1997), in commenting on recent tinkering with family preservation services, notes:
Family preservation services, intrusive and possibly irritating, may actually exacerbate bad situations, producing harmful effects. Although the deterioration of subjects as a result of care may appear to be theoretically remote, it remains a live possibility of psychotherapy, and therefore cannot be summarily dismissed in any service involving counseling.
The psychotherapeutic orientation of social work aside, Epstien observes that the “intrusiveness” of one family preservation effort under review “may have exacerbated family tensions in a number of cases.” Matters can only be worse in the event that a child is actually removed from the home. As Besharov (1987) explains:
Long-term foster care can leave lasting psychological scars. For the parents, removing a child is psychologically devastating, and can do irreparable damage to their bond of affection and commitment. In addition, many forms of maltreatment stem from how the parent and child relate to each other. Separation obviously cannot aid in the resolution of such problems. The period of separation may so completely tear the already weak family fabric that the parents have no chance of coping with the children when they are returned.
The true extent of the problem is potentially far more significant than one might care to imagine. Roughly 45% of child abuse related fatalities have already come to the attention of child protective services agencies (Wiese & Daro, 1994) with some estimates ranging as high as 55% (Besharov, 1987). While the precise number of such cases actually accepted into the system and passed on for investigation is unknown, conventional wisdom would dictate that had the screening operator or investigating caseworker conducted a more competent or thorough inquiry, or had a reliable risk assessment device — one more capable of better “predicting” the course of events — been made available, nearly half of all child fatalities could have been prevented and these children could have been “rescued” from their tragic fates.
For example, Barth (1994) claims that unwarranted intrusions are not as deleterious to families as is often assumed while others, such as Finkelhor (1990, 1993) and Gelles (1996), argue in support of casting a more expansive net, positing that the problem of unsubstantiated reports is not serious enough to warrant any changes to or restrictions on current reporting trends. Gelles maintains not only that child abuse and neglect are underreported, but that the solution to the problems attributed to overreporting “is a better and more accurate means of risk assessment for reported cases” (p. 47). Reduced to its essence, they, along with many other advocates, argue for what Pelton (1997) describes as “more of the same” so that more children may be “rescued” from their homes.
But will casting a wider net, i.e., significant increases in financial resources expended on child welfare agencies, coupled with a marked increase in the number of available caseworkers truly have an impact on child fatalities? Apparently not, if recent developments in Sacramento, California, are to be taken as an indication. After several high-profile deaths of young children who had reportedly “fallen through the cracks of the county’s notoriously porous Child Protective Services,” Sacramento beefed up its child protective services programs and budgets. The county hired 116 additional social workers, and began removing children from “dangerous homes” more quickly, particularly those homes where drug abuse was present (Sacramento Bee, 1998). As previously noted, the removals of children from their homes increased from a rate of approximately 200 per month to 400 per month, with police assisting child protection workers in conducting unannounced late-night home visits. The results are in, as the Sacramento Bee explains:
Sadly, increased vigilance did not have an appreciable impact. The number of children who died of abuse and neglect last year in the county was among the highest ever, 14 such child deaths in 1998, compared to nine in 1996. At the same time, the number of children in foster homes has soared, up 1,400 from last year, a 45% increase.
While the increase in fatalities may well be attributable in part to some yet-to-be-described outside factors, one may well have imagined that even such a “notoriously porous” safety net would have fared better in protecting children from harm with the addition of 116 caseworkers to its ranks. The best argument that could be raised is that increases in budgets and staffing for child protection agencies are largely ineffective at reducing child abuse- and neglect-related fatalities. An alternative explanation is that such increases in staffing and budgets are somehow responsible for an increase in child fatalities.
Further compounding the difficulties of research in this arena is the fact that there has been little research on the possibility that child welfare services reduce child mortality (Barth & Blackwell, 1998). Pelton (1990) and Lindsey (1991, 1994) argue that there is no empirical evidence to support frequent claims by professionals that child protection services have impacted positively in terms of reducing child fatalities. Indeed, Lindsey (1994, pp. 100-118) devotes considerable attention to an argument which asserts that the tremendous increases in reporting and investigations of the recent decades have failed to produce anticipated reductions in child abuse- and neglect-related fatalities.
While it is not suggested that broad conclusions should necessarily be drawn from the anecdotal accounts recounted herein, further inquiry is essential if we are to devise a meaningful solution to the problem of child abuse while minimizing the possibility of exacerbating it in the very process of investigating whether or not it has occurred. Research in this area of inquiry is scant, at best, and I would find myself gratified if credible research efforts were to be undertaken as a result of my having outlined my hypothesis in these pages.
Termination of Parental Rights
In Kentucky, an “explosion” in the number of children removed from their homes by court order has resulted in more children in need of care-yet the number of people willing to step forward as foster parents has failed to keep pace. “And its going to get worse,” says Rudi Megowan, Northern Kentucky family services supervisor for the state Department for Social Services. “They just passed legislation that will make it easier to terminate parental rights, which means more and more kids will be coming into care” (Vance, 1998).
This legislation, sweeping the states as of this writing, is the Adoption and Safe Families Act. It was the disparity between the number of children in foster care who need homes and the number who were adopted that spurred President Clinton in 1996 to ask for new legislation aimed at doubling the number of public adoptions by 2002 and giving foster children “what should be their fundamental right-a chance at a decent, safe home.” In response, Congress passed the Act in November of 1997 (Spake, 1998).
Before children may be adopted, their ties to their natural parents must first be permanently severed. Permanent termination of parental rights has been described as “the family law equivalent of the death penalty in a criminal case” (In re Smith). The power to terminate parental rights is an “awesome power” (Champagne v. Welfare). “It is tantamount to a civil death penalty” (Drury v. Lang).
In Michigan, terminations of parental rights increased by 55% in 1996 when referenced against the previous year (Kresnak, 1996). This was before the Adoption and Safe Families Act was even on the drawing board. From Wisconsin: “Petitions to terminate parental rights are on the rise in Waukesha County, fueled by changes in state law that cut the time parents have to shape up.” Over the past four years, the number of petitions filed by the county had increased sevenfold (Sink, 1998).
It apparently has become a cruel fashion of our times to systematically target primarily poor families for permanent severance of their family ties. To this end, the state of Arizona established a “Severance Project,” while Kentucky has established a “Termination of Parental Rights Project.” To implement the Kentucky initiative successfully, program officials believed that it was necessary to have the long-term and active involvement of “key officials at all levels, including the governor, legislators, and agency officials as well as caseworkers, service providers, attorneys, and judges.” This participation was deemed “essential to define the problem and reach consensus,” and accomplishing this end “required considerable coordination [of] efforts and an extended commitment of resources” (General Accounting Office, 1997).
Such a relentless onslaught against the family was bound to engender resistance. In Nevada, there is mounting anger and demand for change reportedly coming from parents whose rights have been terminated. They, too, say losing a child to protective custody is akin to a civil “death penalty” (Kanigher, 1997). Indeed, Chief Justice Charles Springer of the Nevada Supreme Court has observed that there is a “recent epidemic of terminations of parental rights of poor and handicapped parents” (Kanigher, 1997b). “As I have indicated in my dissents to other termination cases, the state seems to be running amok, spouting pop psychology and terminating parental rights in cases where it is clearly not necessary to do, particularly in cases of poor and otherwise handicapped parents,” Springer wrote in another dissent, while in another still, he explained:
The state’s modus operandi appears to be to go into the homes of handicapped, powerless and usually very poor parents, remove their children (almost always without the parents having counsel) and put the children into the home of substitute parents who are more affluent than the natural parents and more pleasing to social service agents than the natural parents.
After the children are taken out of the home of their natural parents, the state imposes upon the natural parents a “reunification plan” that is frequently beyond the capacity of the parents to deal with.
Springer has written of what he describes as the “state’s child-devouring juggernaut” to take children away from their parents only because they are poor. When child-rearing problems arise, Springer notes the problem of poverty is “rarely addressed,” rather the state seeks to assign blame to the parents thus “permanently depriving the children of their natural parents” (Ryan, 1998).
In a California case of recent vintage, a mother had her parental rights terminated on the basis of the testimony of a therapist who opined that she had a “narcissistic” personality. Her troubles began when social workers visited her home, removing the children because they found the home to be in generally “an unsanitary condition.” Orange County Counsel Laurence H. Watson and Deputy County Counsel Mark R. Howe argued the case on behalf of the Department of Social Services (Orange County Social Services Agency v Doris F.). In yet another California case, parental rights were terminated on the basis of a psychologist’s opinion that the parent had failed to “internalize” general parenting skills. Once again, Watson and Howe argued the case in the appellate court on behalf of the Department (Blanca P. v Superior Court). Dana Mack points to a case in which San Diego prosecutor E. Jane Via, whom she describes as a radical feminist, had sought to arrange for the adoption of an infant girl on grounds no more substantial than her Mormon father’s “patriarchal” religious beliefs might someday inspire him toward abusive behavior.
Perhaps more typical of national trends is a North Carolina case in which the Court of Appeals upheld termination of parental rights based on Moore County District Court Judge Michael E. Beale having found “clear, cogent and convincing evidence” that neglect had occurred based on a friend of the defendant testifying to having “observed a roach on the child’s face on one occasion,” and having seen “roaches on the car seat, diaper bag, and dirty clothes.” Dirty dishes were said to be accumulating, and dirty clothes were said to have been piled up around the apartment. This “evidence” of unfitness was not uncontroverted. A family therapist employed by the court to conduct a home study stated in his report that the house was neat and clean, and that the mother had “shown a good aesthetic sense in arranging flowers and art work to create a warm ambiance.” He also testified about the mother’s apparent willingness to become a better parent. The primary witness against the mother, Alvina Street, had legal custody of the child at the time she testified against the mother (In re Eric Young).
When in modern times it became fashionable for the courts of appeal to uphold the termination of parental rights for reasons of poverty is difficult to determine with precision. In Texas, however, the date was February of 1987, and the venue was the Court Of Appeals, Fifth District Of Texas. In his dissent in In the interest of S.H.A., a child, Justice Devany observed:
[W]hen we are faced with an economic depression and parents cannot provide adequate food for their children, under the majority holding, termination will be justified. The majority has enacted law that in a time of poverty parental rights will be terminated. The majority will have the state become a “big brother” form of government of such supremacy that it can destroy the very base of freedom and democracy in this country by destroying the family.
A more comprehensive review of appellate cases involving termination of parental rights is beyond the scope of this text. Suffice it to say that to the extent a very few children find themselves fortunate enough to wind their way out of the labyrinth of foster care toward the promise of permanence offered by adoption, a majority of these children appear to have had their rights to their parents terminated for largely the same reasons they entered foster care to begin with. In a majority of cases the reason is related to their poverty status. Among the majority of the remainder of these cases factors such as cultural bias or insensitivity, decision making and other skill deficits at all levels of administration, an all-pervasive anti-family bias, and corruption motivated either by financial gain or personal aggrandizement frequently manifest themselves. Allegations involving instances of life-threatening child abuse or neglect appear to be raised among the minority of TPR cases based on my personal review of something approaching some several hundred such cases.
And now, along comes the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Already the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a Program Announcement detailing how the legislation is to work once implemented on the state level. States are affirmatively required to proceed with the termination of parental rights when a child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months. There are only three exceptions to the rule: 1) the child is placed with a relative (at the option of the State); 2) the State documents a compelling reason not to file a petition for TPR; 3) the State has not provided the services, identified in the case plan, necessary to make the home safe for the child’s return within the time frame specified in the case plan. The Act is “to be treated as a Title IV-E State plan requirement” and failure to obtain the necessary State legislation required to implement these new procedures during the first legislative session following the enactment of the Act “will result in a State plan compliance issue” (Administration for Children, Youth and Families, 1998).
Former New Hampshire State Senator and Chairman of the Human Services Committee David Wheeler argues that the Adoption and Safe Families Act will allow juvenile court judges to proceed with terminations of parental rights based solely on a child’s length of stay in foster care absent so much as an adjudication of abuse or neglect. The law comes with new funding streams, including incentives to maintain a child in state care until such time as termination of parental rights triggers financial incentives to child protection agencies. To my knowledge, his was the only state to reject the bill when it was first introduced in the House. A subsequent effort to attach it to another bill was discovered and derailed. The former Senator explains that as of this writing, efforts are still under way “to slip it under the door” (personal communication). While on its face, the legislation offers the promise of quicker exit from a system historically known for maintaining children in care for countless years of time, the Congress failed to ask one crucial question when it passed the legislation: Why are so many children in the foster care system to begin with?