Children Victimized By System Secrecy

Children Victimized By System Secrecy
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

By Wendy McElroy

E-Mail Respond Print Share:

Denise Moore is the Indiana caseworker who recommended taking 4-year-old Anthony Bars away from a loving foster mother and placed him, instead, with a couple who starved and beat him to death over a 10-month period.

Had Moore bothered with the required background check, she would have known that the new “home” had a long record of abuse within the child protective services and that the new “father” had a felony battery conviction for savagely beating his own daughter with an extension cord.

Last week, D. Sue Roberson, director of the Indiana Personnel Department, announced that no disciplinary action would be taken against Moore. Why? Citing confidentiality laws, Roberson added, “I am not at liberty to discuss the findings.”

Days later, Cheryl Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, stated that disciplinary action is still possible. But she affirmed confidentiality and painted her agency as the true victim.

Sullivan’s statements came in the wake of a four-month investigation by TV-station WTHR. It came after a court case that convicted Anthony’s killers, after criticism from Rep. Phil Hinkle and Gov. Joe Kernan, and heart-breaking questions from Florence Hurst, the foster mom who spent 15 months caring for Anthon. She wanted to adopt Anthony and his sister before Moore recommended their removal.

RelatedColumn Archive
China Can No Longer Hide AIDS CrisisCulture Connection: Your New Muslim NeighborsContinuing to Defame the ‘Duke 3’ as RapistsOverzealous Porn Prosecution Tramples Accused’s RightsIn Retirement, Kofi Annan Should Leave World Peace to OthersFull-page ifeminists Archive
Why? Again that word.

Race may have been a factor. Hurst was white. Anthony was black.

The circumstances surrounding Anthony’s death become more wrenching with examination. But dwelling on them misses the larger point: the children abused by CPS are not merely the fault of “bad” caseworkers. They are not restricted to Indiana. The bodies of dead children demand we ask: is CPS harming – not helping — children?

I say “bodies” because Anthony is not an isolated incident. Almost one year to the day after Anthony’s death, 7-year-old Mark Adrian Norris II’s was found starved and covered with bedsores in an Indiana house, which was set on fire to disguise his death-through-neglect.

Mark’s caseworker, Michael Warrum neglected his required monthly visits to the home and did not follow up on complaints that Mark was being starved. For his complicity in Mark’s death, Warrum lost his civil service job. And, presumably, his pension.

The problem is not exclusive to Indiana. The carelessness with which the Florida CPS “loses” children became a national scandal last year. In California, even the state’s Department of Social Services admits families are being aggressively torn apart and children unnecessarily placed in foster care. The problem is federal and systemic.

A column that questions the fundamental value of the current CPS will elicit outraged feedback from social workers who protest that they sincerely care for children. I believe them without question. For one thing, I have a sister-in-law working within that system.

The problem is not the intentions of individuals but the structure and rules of the CPS, such as confidentiality. As long as those rules remain, the institution will harm children.

Consider an analogy: a factory with machinery and procedures designed to build airplanes. A worker on the factory floor loudly protests that he is there to build motor boats. But, as long as he uses the factory’s machines and follows its rules, he will produce airplanes whatever his intentions. The structure of the institution defines the product, not the worker’s intentions.

What is necessary to protect other Anthonys within the system?

First and foremost: transparency. Both Roberson and Sullivan drew a shroud of silence across Anthony’s body. Confidentiality was never meant to hinder the investigation into dead children. A threatened bureaucracy is using silence to immunize itself. As Rep. Hinkle has said, “You cannot hide behind confidentiality when there’s been an obvious wrongdoing.”

But the actions of the Indiana CPS amount to more than this. They are attempting to shift the blame for dead children away from their own policies onto the shoulders of society.

Sullivan, before the Indiana Commission on Abused and Neglected Children and Their Families, asked, “Does it make more sense for the child protective service workers to be sitting outside a juvenile justice courtroom or located with the police?” She suggested that caseworkers should be protected from “illegal drug labs” and other threats by being further removed from public access by being housed in police stations or courthouses. Who protects Anthony from them?

The CPS does not need more confidentiality, more difficult access and less accountability. There is no overriding reason for silence: the deaths of Mark and Anthony do not threaten national security or compromise the witness protection program. They raise questions that threaten the structure of an institution that may be complicit in killing the very children it was constructed to protect.

Short of deconstructing CPS, the solution is more — not less — accessibility and the imposition of criminal liability for the gross misconduct of caseworkers and superiors.

I’ve been staring at a photograph of Anthony for the last half-hour. His death is a microcosm of the brutal indifference of bureaucracy, a brutal indifference that I sometimes feel creeping into my own heart. Perhaps the only way to push back the darkness is to care about the details, about the individuals. Because, ultimately, if our system and its rules doesn’t serve the individual, then it doesn’t serve anyone.

Wendy McElroy is the editor of and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, “Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century” (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.

Respond to the Writer

About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
This entry was posted in Abuse by CPS and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s