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.