Trouble in Colville, WA: Child Protective Services In The Crosshairs
BY AUSTIN JENKINS
Colville, WA May 14, 2009 6 a.m.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, something is rotten in the remote northeast corner of Washington State. It’s the child welfare system.
A new Ombudsman report finds a “serious crisis of confidence” that’s putting children and families at risk.
The report seems to confirm what community leaders have been saying for months. Correspondent Austin Jenkins recently visited Colville, WA and filed this story.
It’s a spring evening in Colville. Leigh Roubideaux’s daughters – ages 7 and 4 – are playing on their swing set in their front yard.
Leigh Roubideaux’s daughters were taken by CPS in 2008
It was a very different picture last August. That’s when Roubideaux’s kids strayed into the busy street in front of their house.
Someone called the police and soon Child Protective Services was knocking at the door. Roubideaux – who has developmental disabilities – remembers that day well.
Leigh Roubideaux: “I was petrified. I was in tears.”
CPS took the kids away. It took three weeks and the support of friends and neighbors – like local businesswoman Lisa Shinn – for Roubideaux to get her daughters back. Shinn thinks CPS discriminated against Roubideaux because of her disability and the fact she’s Native American.
Lisa Shinn: “We would all have our children taken away if someone saw them playing in the street everyone would have their children taken by CPS if that is the criteria.”
This is just one example of a litany of complaints against Children and Family Services in Northeast Washington.
Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen sits in an easy chair in his living room with two accordion files at his feet. In those files are the stories of people who feel they’ve been wronged by state child welfare officials.
Tim Rasmussen: “There’s a lot of human tragedy here. There’s a lot of tragic, tragic situations.”
For the past many months — at the request of a state lawmaker — Rasmussen has collected accounts of what he calls a “pattern of misconduct” by the Colville, Washington office of Children and Family Services.
In one of the more high profile cases, five children were removed from the home of a well-known foster family. A judge later called it a “slap in the face” and an “overreaction” that resulted in “tremendous upheaval” for the children.
Some of them were siblings who were separated from each other. Rasmussen’s theory is that caseworkers overreacted because of something horrible that happened in Colville back in 2005.
A 7-year-old boy named Tyler DeLeon was starved to death by his foster mother.
Tim Rasmussen: “What’s happening now is just a different chapter in the book if you would. Tyler DeLeon is one chapter and they missed the mark in one direction and in some of the current cases they appear to have missed the mark in another direction.”
Prosecutor Rasmussen recently wrote a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire that says he believes there’s a “culture of deceit and deception” within the Colville child welfare office.
He’s even considering criminal charges against a CPS worker for violating a court order.
Rasmussen isn’t the only one critical of Children and Family Services. Patty Markel runs the CASA program in Stevens County. These are the Court Appointed Special Advocates who represent the children in child dependency cases. She alleges that CPS caseworkers act in a “willy-nilly” fashion that’s personality driven and motivated by a fear of lawsuits.
Patty Markel: “What I see now is more liability-driven decision making. And that’s concerning because that’s not necessarily – this whole system is supposed to be about the best interests of children”
You hear a similar theme from Barry Bacon – a family physician in Colville. He says CPS workers often ignore the advice of local doctors like him. Instead, from what he’s seen, they take kids to Spokane – 70 miles away – to see the doctor.
Dr. Barry Bacon: “They would rather continue with their opinion and destroy a child rather than admit that they’ve made a mistake. It’s unbelievable. I mean it’s like the Wild West. They are a law unto themselves which is one of the biggest issues we have with them.”
The Department of Social and Health Services has reviewed the cases flagged by Prosecutor Rasmussen and in a recent report finds no wrongdoing by caseworkers. But in a separate investigation by state Ombudsman Mary Meinig, a disturbing portrait of the Colville office emerges.
Over the past two years, the Ombudsman’s office has received 62 complaints regarding child welfare practices in the Northeast corner of Washington. So far in 16 of those cases, the Ombudsman found – in her words – “violations of law, policy, procedure; clearly unreasonable actions; or simply poor social work practice.”
Beyond that Meinig says her investigation revealed a “culture of pervasive distrust” between CPS workers and other professionals in the community. But rather than pinning all the blame on CPS, Meinig says everyone involved needs to do a better job of working together.
Mary Meinig: “Our report says the kids are at-risk and families are at-risk because of the lack of trust, cooperation, collaboration and communication that’s going on within the community.”
The situation is so serious, Meinig believes, that the lives of vulnerable children are on the line.
Mary Meinig: “Well if it doesn’t improve I would say it would be a matter of time before we have an even more serious incidents – possible child fatality or near fatality.”
Like others, Meinig believes past tragedies – like the starvation death of Tyler DeLeon – are influencing the decisions made by CPS workers and have led to a climate of distrust.
In haunting language, she writes the “ghosts of children past…sit in the collective conscience as reminders of where the system failed.” But Meinig’s report is not devoid of hope. She recommends several steps to start rebuilding trust.
This includes bringing in an outside professional mediator and creating a diverse community advisory board. How does Children and Family Services respond to all this?
Marty Butkovich, DSHS Regional Administrator: “Obviously relationships need to be improved.”
Marty Butkovich is the Administrator who oversees the Colville CPS office. He acknowledges there’s been a breakdown in communication. But he calls his staff “exceptional.” And he says he’s seen nothing to suggest his employees need to be disciplined or fired.
Marty Butkovich: “We’re not the bad guy. This is very difficult work, very emotional work and some very difficult decisions are being made as it relates to kids and people have strong feelings about some of those decisions and not always in agreement.”
As for whether a fear of lawsuits is driving decisions to take children away, Butkovich admits that does weigh on caseworkers’ minds.
Marty Butkovich: “Liability is something that is very obvious and tort and being sued and deaths – all the real bad things that are out there – can be in a social workers mind and if they’re stressed and tired and so ya it can be there.”
Department of Social and Health Services officials say they believe relations in Northeast Washington have improved over the past year – but there’s still work to be done. The agency plans to put a corrective action plan into place. The problems in Colville have even reached Governor Chris Gregoire. She said in response to the Ombudsman report she wants the agency to – quote – “refocus on what’s important” – the children they’re charged with protecting.
This happened in 2007- From all of my research the alleged defendant tried to have this covered up. Now I ask each one of you who read this, how does this incident differ from any of the other alledged incidents that CPS accuses thousands of parents of each year? She claimed she was innocent. She had an inside channel in that she worked of Georgia DFCS. She felt that she shouldn’t have been charged. How familiar does this sound. The shoe never wears well when it is on the other foot. It is time to put Georgia DFCS on notice. IT is time – past time to return children to their parents. IT is time to stop the buying and selling of our children.
Yvonne Mason, Author
Georgia DCFS Administrator Arrested For Child Cruelty
According to news reports. The accused woman, Cylenthia Clark, 38, is an assistant director for Fulton County DFCS. On March 13, 2007 News4Jax.Com published this articleFCS Official Accused Of Spanking Daughter With Belt. According to this news report the accusation came after school officials reported that the accused woman’s eight-year-old daughter had marks on her back and legs. The mother apparently has confessed that she forced her daughter to strip down to underwear, then spanked her with a belt. She claims this isn’t child abuse and that it was done because the girl misbehaved at school. The eight year old girl and her three sisters, ages 6, 5, and 3, have all been placed in protective custody.Because of this accusation Cylenthia Clark is having second thoughts about how child abuse cases are handled. She is quoted as saying, “It makes me very empathetic; it makes me look at some of the cases that we handle. It’s something that down the line that it’s something that we are really following through and getting all the questions answered before we assume that person is guilty.”And that’s a good point. Is she guilty? In America we are supposed to be considered innocent before proven guilty, however for thirty years parents have complained that in child abuse cases they are considered guilty first, then forced to prove their innocence. It can be very difficult to prove that something didn’t happen when government-paid experts are saying it could have. What seems strange to me is that the arrest warrant states that the beating took place on February 7 but the school personnel didn’t see the welts until February 28. That’s 21 days later, and welts were still visible? If that’s correct, the injuries must have been severe.
How the State Can Remove Custody
What the Law Says About Separating A Mother From Her Baby
Applicable State Law
HOW THE STATE CAN REMOVE CUSTODY
Statute: §§20-7-1572; 20-7-763(c)(F)1
Grounds: Abandonment or extreme parental disinterest, abuse/neglect, mental illness or deficiency,
alcohol or drug induced incapacity, felony conviction/incarceration, failure of reasonable efforts,
abuse/neglect or loss of rights of another child, failure to maintain contact, failure to provide support,
childʼs best interest, child in care 15 of 22 months (or less), felony assault of child or sibling,
murder/manslaughter of sibling child, presumptive father not the biological father, aggravated
circumstances, conviction for domestic violence.
Exceptions: State may elect not to file petition if: 1) when court finds that initiation of TPR is not in best
interest of child after applying statutory criteria for selection of a permanent plan for child and that this
finding and the permanent plan constitute a compelling reason for not filing for TPR; 2) when court finds
that agency has not afforded services to parents required by the service plan or that court hearings have
been delayed so as to interfere with services, but only if: a) parent did not delay hearings without cause
or delay or refuse services; b) successful completion of services may allow child to return home within
the extension period, and c) court has not made a “no reasonable efforts” determination.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS ABOUT SEPARATING A MOTHER FROM HER BABY
It appears the minor parent in foster care has parental rights over her newborn to the extent that Code
1976 § 20-7-300 sets forth that a minor parent may consent to health services for the child: ”Any minor
who has been married or has borne a child may consent to health services for the child.” Attorneys and
judges can help to ensure that teen parents are not forced to sign a voluntary placement agreement. The
agreement can have dire consequences for a young mom in care who wishes to keep custody of herbaby after emancipation 2 Some foster teen moms may need a chance to “catch their breath” after their
babyʼs birth. The alternative of temporary foster care is available through the state and services that
have the foster teen sign a voluntary agreement to hand over custody for a limited time only. When the
separation is over and the foster teen is ready to resume responsibility for child care, the infant is
returned to her pursuant to the terms of the temporary foster care contract she signed. The foster teen
should obtain legal counsel to assist and advise as to the temporary foster care alternative.
If young parents are to assume daily responsibility for the care of their children after discharge, they must
be allowed to practice that responsibility while in foster care.3 Ensuring that the young mother and her
child are placed together is a primary responsibility of the ward’s attorney. Reports and anecdotal
evidence suggest that local child welfare systems do not have enough mother/child placements to meet
the population’s needs.4 The separation of mother and infant is damaging to both. The baby is left alone
in the hospital for the entire night and portions of the day, precluding breast feeding and crucial bonding
with the mother. The state, in turn, pays an enormous price to keep a healthy child in the hospital. Such
separations are counterproductive and inhumane. They are also illegal. Attorneys for parenting wards
can address this problem from several angles. First, in some cases, steps may be taken while the ward
is pregnant to ensure that the relevant agency is making appropriate plans for the client’s post-pregnancy
placement. Next, when a client is illegally separated from her child, attorneys have several options. In
most states, the parent may file a writ of habeas corpus against the child welfare or foster care agency,
demanding that the child be returned to the mother. In some circumstances, an attorney’s threat to
initiate such action will be sufficient to motivate the agency to reunite mother and child in an appropriate
placement. Another option is to seek relief from a court with jurisdiction over the teen’s foster care
placement. The attorney should avail herself of state policies, such as those discussed above, to argue
that the ward has a right to placement with her child.5 Finally, in negotiating with state or local
bureaucrats, advocates should point out that as long as the parenting ward retains legal custody of the
infant, failure to place the mother and child together will compromise the state’s ability to receive federal
reimbursement for the infant’s care.
APPLICABLE STATE LAW
Before parental rights can be forever terminated, the alleged grounds for the termination must be proven
by clear and convincing evidence. Charleston County Dept. of Social Services v. Jackson 368 S.C. 87
(S.C.App. 2006) Natural parents are entitled to fundamentally fair procedures when the State seeks to
sever the relationship they have with their child. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14. When reviewing a family
court’s decision to terminate parental rights, the Supreme Court may make its own conclusion as to
whether DSS proved by clear and convincing evidence that parental rights should be terminated. South
Carolina Dept. of Social Services v. Cochran 356 S.C. 413 (S.C., 2003) Party seeking to terminate
parental rights must show conditions warranting such action by clear and convincing evidence. Code
1976, § 20-7-1572. Shake v. Darlington County Dept. of Social Services 306 S.C. 216 (S.C. 1991)
(Evidence did not clearly and convincingly establish that mother’s emotional instability and possible
personality disorder made it unlikely she could provide minimally acceptable care for child, and therefore
trial court properly refused to terminate mother’s parental rights; no expert testified about mother’s
emotional condition. Code 1976, § 20-7-1572(6).) A finding of willful failure to support a child will not be
predicated upon parental conduct that can be reasonably explained. Hardy v. Gunter 353 S.C. 128
(S.C.App. 2003) If the order terminating the foster teen’s parental rights is reversed and her attorney
successfully gets the case remanded to Family Court, the issue of termination may be reconsidered de
novo. South Carolina Dept. of Social Services v. Smith 311 S.C. 426 (S.C. 1993)
Department of Social Services
P.O. Box 1520 Columbia, SC 29202
South Carolina Legal Services
701 South Main Street, Greenville, SC 29601
South Carolina Centers For Equal Justice
701 South Main Street Greenville, SC 29601
General Phone: 864-679-3232
Web Site: http://www.sccej.org
Teen Parents and the Law (TPAL) program is based on a national teen court curriculum and serves to
teach teen parents life skills through the prism of civic education. The intensive program takes place over
a number of weeks and covers topics such as landlord-tenant law, consumer protection, child custody,
child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, voter registration, and state mandatory education
requirements. The program is designed to teach teen parents the skills to be effective parents and selfadvocates.
In April 2005, the Administrative Office of the Courts held a ‘train the trainers’ program on the
TPAL curriculum for Family Court staff members. Ten Family Courts were supplied curriculum materials
and are either implementing the program or are in the planning stages of implementation.6
Transitional or Independent Living Programs
South Carolina Department of Social Services
P.O. Box 1520 1535 Confederate Avenue Columbia, SC 29202-1520
Phone: (803) 898-7159
Fax: (803) 898-7792
Greenville County of School District – Teen Parent Program
205 Anderson Street, Greenville, SC 29601
Phone: (864) 241-3303
Collins Home and Family Ministries
P.O. Box 745, Seneca, SC 29672
Phone: (864) 882-0893
Fax: (864) 882-0452
Web Site: http://www.collinschildrenshome.org
The Collins Home is a nondenominational ministry dedicated to rescuing children from painful, and
sometimes dangerous, family situations and providing them with a safe, loving, nurturing environment
where they can grow and thrive as part of an extended family in a community that cares for and supports
them. The children learn to live and work with others as a mutually supportive family unit. At the same
time, the staff works with parents and children to teach important life skills, self-sufficiency, Judeo-
Christian values, and a strong work ethic.
Mother-baby Residential Facilities
Butterfly House Maternity Home
P.O. Box 13 Blackville, SC 29817
Phone: (803) 284-5042
Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina
19 Saint Margaret St. Charleston, SC 29403
Phone: (843) 577-0770
Substance Abuse Health & Treatment Resources
Partnership for Youth Transition (PYT)
PYT is an initiative of SAMHSA (the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration) focusing on developing transition service systems for youth with behavioral or emotional
Southeastern Network of Youth and Family Services
Phone: (239) 949-4414
A private, non-profit membership organization of youth service agencies in the states of Alabama,Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Greenville Family Partnership
200 Mills Ave. Greenville, SC 29605
Phone: (864) 467-4099
FAAP (District 4)
1905 Rolling Pines Dr. Columbia, SC 29206-1469
Phone: (803) 434-7020
Fax: (803) 434-3855
The liaison between the National American Academy of Pediatrics and all State Early Education and
Child Care activities.
310 Barnwell Ave NE, Aiken, SC 29801
Phone: (803) 641-4144
Fax: (803) 641-4147
A child and family development center that serves at-risk children ages 6 to 13 years of age. Many of the
children are court placed because of abuse. The Center implemented a new after school program called,
“Gotcha” in 1997, a collaborative effort with Aiken County Public Schools. This program helps at-risk
students “catch up” with their classmates. Foster Grandparents mentored/tutored 47 students with their
homework, reading assignments, and additional practice work assigned by their school teacher. Reading
and math skills improved and failure rates subsided. Success was measured in reading levels and grade
improvements by teacher and parent surveys.
Foundation info: http://www.childrensplacefoundation.org/History.html
TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) Funds
South Carolinaʼs TANF is known as the Family Independence Program
Division of Family Assistance
South Carolina Department of Social Services
PO Box 1520
Columbia, SC 29202
Phone: (803) 898-7474
FAX: (803) 898-7793
TANF/AFS (Adult and Family Services) or other
TANF is time-limited public assistance payments made to poor families, based on Title IV-A of the Social
Security Act. The program provides parents with job preparation, work, and support services to help them
TANF legislation includes two rules specific to minor parents (parents under age 18). One rule requires
that minor parents live in an approved arrangement, usually with their parents. The other rule requires
that minor parents typically participate in education leading to a high school diploma or GED.
The living arrangement requirement to receive TANF says that a state is prohibited from spending federal
TANF funds on assistance to an unmarried, minor, custodial parent unless she lives with a parent, legal
guardian or other adult relative or is approved for an exception. The law recognizes limited exceptions to
this rule including situations in which a parent, legal guardian, or other adult relative is not available or
when such a placement could result in harm to the minor parent and/or her child. When residing with a
parent, legal guardian or other adult relative is inappropriate, the state must “provide, or assist the
individual in locating, a second chance home, maternity home, or other appropriate adult-supervised
setting.” Alternatively, the state may determine that a teen parentʼs independent living arrangement is
appropriate and that it is in the “best interest” of her child to make an exception to the general rule. 7
See also SC Code 1976 § 43-5-1220 (Minor mother must live with minor’s parents to receive welfare;
Chalk Up Another One For CPS
How many more children have to die before we fix the problem?
As a general rule, Children’s Service agencies simply do not work. I’m sure people can point to one or two states who have sterling agencies with no children in the state who have been further victimized while under the “protection” of the agency, however, I’ll wager those are the exception, not the rule. I haven’t done the math, but I can personally name a good three dozen in the last two years who have wound up dead due to abuse while under the supervision and protection of Children’s Service agencies.
I don’t fault the individual caseworkers (although some of them have shown criminal levels of negligence and surely deserve blame), I’m faulting the entire system. It’s not working, for a multitude of reasons. The failures are widespread enough that I believe it’s safe to say it’s a “nationwide” problem, not a “specific state” problem. It’s not one agency, it’s many of them.
Here’s one of the latest CPS failures:
In 2004, three young siblings were removed from the care of their parents because the father of the children had abused one of them. The children first lived with their mother, but when she refused to sever contact with the father, who was by that time in prison for the abuse, the children were removed from her care as well.
The children then went to live with their father’s brother, Robert Ford, Jr., who had three children of his own. He and his wife intended to keep the children, but the folks at CPS felt that the children needed a more financially stable home. So, after seven months, the couple reluctantly placed their niece and nephews into a foster home and began saving money to adopt them.
Then, in January of 2005, while the Fords were still working to meet CPS requirements for a six child household, a prospective adoptive family began visiting with the children. After one of their visits with the family, the foster family reported that the youngest child, (then) 3-year old Sean Ford, had come home with a bruise on his bottom. The adoptive family explained that the boy had fallen from a bunk bed, but the foster mother felt the bruising was too severe. When the children reported that Sean had also been forbidden to have lunch as well, the foster mom called the authorities. A caseworker was sent to the home to evaluate the situation, met with the family and their four children and ultimately decided that there was no need for concern.
When the boy returned from a subsequent visit with welts on his bottom and thighs, Robert Ford made the next call. Once again, a caseworker investigated and decided there was no cause for concern.
On July 22, 2005, six weeks after they’d made application through a private agency to adopt the three children, the court issued a decree of adoption to Johnny and Lynn Paddock — despite the reports to CPS and despite their biological uncle’s family still working to meet the state’s requirements to adopt them. He and his wife put together a family scrapbook for the children. Robert Ford said that the children begged him to keep them that day, the last time that they were permitted to see them. Everything happened so fast, “all I could do was hold them and cry.”
The family lost touch with the children after the adoption; state law prevented them from knowing the adoptive parents.
Robert and his wife heard nothing more about the children until February 26 when they learned of Sean’s death on television. Lynn Paddock had beaten Sean with a length of PVC pipe, and when she went to awaken him in the morning, the boy was dead.
Lynn is charged with Sean’s death, no charges have been filed against the adoptive father. Lynn is being held pending trial, her bail has been set at $1 million. The boy’s surviving 8- and 9-year old siblings and the youngest two of the Paddock’s four children have been removed from the home. One child was injured so badly he was limping, according to the district attorney. The children told deputies that their mother stashed PVC pipes throughout the home.
Sean’s siblings have been placed back into the foster care system. Robert Ford and his wife again hope to adopt them. They also hope that they’ll be allowed to bury Sean.
They’ll make sure that Paddock, his adopted name, is nowhere on the tombstone.
Would Accountability Solve the System’s Abuses?
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
By Robin Wallace
E-Mail Respond Print Share:
A Tennessee federal judge in November ordered the arrest of all the employees at the Franklin County Department of Children�s Services for refusing to implement his ruling on a custody case involving a two-year-old child.
Tennessee’s child protective services office has been embroiled in scandal. Among other problems, caseworkers have been accused of falsify records and the state legislature has threatened to dismantle thestate’s foster care system unless the DCS reforms. In the case of the Franklin County arrests, the judge ruled that the child should be turned over to one of the parties in the custody case. DCS did not agree with judge’s ruling; they refused to turn the child over while they tried to stay the ruling.
And the Tennessee case may not be an isolated one. Some recent court decisions suggest that judges may be growing as frustrated with the child protective system as the families caught in it.
In May, a federal jury decided that a caseworker with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services failed to protect three foster children who were brutally abused while in state custody. The jury found the caseworker knew of the abuse and ignored it, and violated the children’s civil rights by failing to protect them. The children were awarded $3.3 million.
In Maine, a committee of the state legislature studying the state�s child protective services system came to some scathing conclusions. The report, released in November, found that the state relied too much on foster care and needed to make greater efforts to keep families together.
In April, in a class action suit filed by child-care workers and foster parents wrongfully accused of abuse, a federal judge ruled that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services needed to meet a higher standard of proof before reporting the workers as abusers to their employers.
Evidence presented in the Illinois case found that three-fourths of child care workers found to have abused or neglected a child were exonerated after appealing those finding, though sometimes not until years later. In the meantime, care workers and foster parents were being entered into a registry of abusers based on being accused and suffering the consequences of that listing long before their cases were decided once and for all.
Parents, however, don’t have the power judges do and it is still a rare case that makes it to a civil trial. That ‘s why activists are calling for reforms that will increase caseworkers accountability and impose penalties on those who act arbitrarily or vindictively.
The notion that a social worker would act purely out of vindictiveness sounds like parent propoganda, but California saw the need to pass a law specifically addressing that possibility. It allows for the prosecution of social workers who have been proven to have acted with intentional malice. Activists say it is almost impossible to prove a caseworker acted maliciously, but some accountability is better than none. Consider this Massachusetts case:
Postal worker David Luisi lost custody of his three children to his ex-wife for refusing to enroll in a program for “angry men”�because the only person he was angry at was the caseworker.
The couple separated in 1994 and Luisi was eventually awarded custody of the children after their mother gave them up, saying she couldn’t cope with the pressures of raising them. But in 1997, the mother filed a false abuse charge against Luisi. Based on that accusation, the Department of Social Services gave the children to the mother.
It took almost two years for Luisi to get a hearing, clear his name and then wait for DSS to correct their records. The children remained with the mother throughout the ordeal, during which time a doctor diagnosed Luisi’s young daughter as suffering from malnutrition and the mother’s boyfriend was charged with assaulting one of his sons.
Luisi informed DSS that he planned to seek custody of his children and pestered the social worker on the case to investigate his wife�s fitness. Concerned that the children appeared to be malnourished and neglected in their mother’s care and that her boyfriend was a danger, Luisi and his relatives complained to police, to the DSS and to the media that the children were being neglected.
In 1999, the social worker on the case sought an emergency order to terminate the Luisi�s visitation rights, claiming that his phone calls and anxiety over the fate of his children indicated he had problems with anger management. Visitation could only be resumed if he agreed to attend a program for men with anger issues that required participants to admit they were abusive. The alleged anger and abuse the social worker claimed required this treatment was not aimed at his own children. She was demanding he enroll in the program because she didn�t like the way he was treating her.
Luisi, who had been unequivocally cleared of the false abuse charge, feared that attending the program would brand him an abuser and hurt his chances of regaining custody when the case came to trial. He decided not to seek visitation with his children if it meant having to attend the classes.
But the case did not come to trial for another year. When it did come to trial in July, 2001, the judge gave full custody to the mother, ruling against the father because he had waited a full year to seek visitation. The judge also granted the mother permission to move to Niagra Falls, New York with the children. The judge said Luisi put his own selfish needs above the needs of his children. Yet it was the system that forced him to wait a year to seek visitation by demanding he enroll in a program for abusers because he was making too many phone calls to the social worker handling the case.
This need for greater accountability is the root of many problems with child services, activists maintain.
In the case of activist Nev Moore, her daughter was removed from their home, she said, as a strategy to force Moore to admit to being abused by her husband. Because she wouldn’t, the state kept her daughter. In other cases documented by activist organizations, social workers have defined abuse or neglect as parenting or family lifestyle choices they disagree with.
“If we had an accountability statue put in place these social workers would be a little more reluctant to go after these � frivolous cases that are blocking up our court system,” said attorney Janet Frederick Wilson.