Imagine you as an unsuspecting parent (biological/foster or adoptive) answers a knock at your front door to find an agent of the government who wants to obtain answers to allegations (which may not be shared with the “suspect”) made by a shadowy, anonymous source, without even so much as a “Miranda warning” being offered.
The unexpected and uninvited government visitor may wander throughout the home — without any presentation of a search warrant! — officiously opening cupboard and refrigerator doors or may demand that any children present be stripped naked so they might be “examined for possible injury.” (The agent may even intend to take photographs of any alleged “injuries.”)
Throughout this Kafkaesque ordeal there is the implicit (or perhaps explicit!) threat that any refusal to “cooperate” may result in the sudden removal of any and all of the children into the care and custody of Big Brother.
The above is a reality not a myth of today’s CPS (Child Protective Services) system.
The definitions of “abuse and neglect” have become so broadly defined that almost anybody could have such a charge made against them. Quite honestly, ANY FAMILY may suddenly be subjected to an encounter like the one described above.
I’m not at all sure that “the system” or society recognizes just how traumatic a CPS investigation may be for a family.
The U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families collects data each year from the states. There is usually a 2 year lapse in this data collection; thus this data is from FY 2005…the last fiscal year that data is fully available.
In FY2005 there were 3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect
There does NOT have to be any actual abuse or neglect, only a “supposedly credible allegation” (as deemed by often arcane bureaucratic standards) that such problems MAY exist. “Grudge referrals” — false allegations which are intentionally made for various malicious purposes, such as to hurt one parent during a custody dispute — do occur.
For sake of comparison, how many “suspected terrorists” or other “suspicious individuals” might be locked up if the forces of Homeland Security were allowed to play by the same rules? Quite a few, I suspect!
At first CPS contact, a parent enters a distorted mirror image of what our legal system is supposed to be. Everything is backwards. There are no Miranda warnings, yet everything one says will be used against them, and perhaps even some that one hasn’t. The accused have little or no rights where people charged with crimes are given the full spectrum of rights under our legal system. The parent is presumed guilty and must prove innocence.
At times even proving innocence is not even enough!
Of the 3 million cases reported in FY2005; 872,000 were supposedly verified. I say supposedly because the verification process can differ from state to state as well as counties within each state. Because of how Child Protective Services acts some verifiable cases can actually result from false allegations…if CPS wants to find you guilty they will no matter the evidence. Some of these reports came in after a child was removed from their biological family and placed in out of home care.
Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases the data breaks down as follows:
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment
966 cases actually resulted in the death of the child
I first have to wonder about the over 2 million reports that were NOT verified. Were they not verified because there was not enough evidence? Were they not verified because they were false allegations and were those who made such allegations held accountable for their actions? What price did the biological/foster/adoptive familes pay (not just financial) due to these allegations?
Of course this is a statistic that is not available despite exhaustive research done by me. I am sure this is one statistic that no state would want out in the daylight for the world to see.
I know of many specific cases from across the country where families were destroyed by investigations that should never have been launched. In the end the children were not removed but the family will NEVER be the same. They paid a price none of us should ever be asked to pay!
The original accuser can choose to remain anonymous, which makes little difference, as one has no right to know who is accusing them. Parents do not have the right, as criminals charged, to face and have their accuser crossed examined. The confidentiality of the reporter is guaranteed by law.
The rule of confidentiality I believe is NOT to protect the child but rather to protect those who make false allegations as well as CPS officials in order to cover their A$$ when they fail to do their job legally and properly.
A former foster youth and reform activist in Canada, John Dunn, wrote the following poem in regards to the confidentially rule. I believe it tells how foster youth feels about the rule and could apply as well to biological/foster or adoptive parents as well.
“Bound by Confidentiality”
They say the confidentiality is needed to protect us…in reality it is to protect themselves.
Child Welfare takes us from our friends and families.
Using chainsaws of authority, they cut down our family trees.
Once in the quagmire foster care, you wind up living God knows where.
Shipped around like a piece of mail, till eighteen years when you can bail.
To our natural families, were not allowed to speak.
Child Welfare is too afraid, we little rats will squeak.
They make our file summaries in attempts to satisfy.
But cut out all the crap they did and leave us with a lie.
They keep our lives a secret, from the public and the press. So nobody can witness this manufactured mess.
They say our files are secret so that they can protect us.But in reality, it’s so they can repress us.
Bound by confidentiality, what a lovely phrase;
Hiding sanctioned child abuse for 6570 days.
The longer they procrastinate in giving us our lives.
The bigger and more fortified become the Child Welfare hives.
Copyright: John Dunn
Anonymous reporting should be abandoned. A reporter should be required to give a signed statement of their charges. They need to be advised that the accused have the right to face their accusers. They also need to be advised that intentionally false or unsubstantiated reports could result in perjury charges brought against them.
This would be extremely helpful where there is domestic violence or disputed divorce custody issues involved. This would also cause the accuser to at least pause before making a false or unsubstantiated allegation; knowing there will be a price to pay for doing so.
CPS or other workers involved in a case MUST be held accountable for their investigations and disposition of cases. If they perjure themselves at any point of a case, been negligent in their responsibilities or their actions result in harm or death to a child; they must be held accountable up to and including criminal charges.
We now come to the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases…are they ALL true…NO!
We have to ask a few questions:
Are children being abused, neglected and even killed in their homes…ABSOLUTELY!
Should some children be removed from their biological/foster or adoptive parents for abuse or neglect…ABSOLUTELY! As fast as CPS remove some children with little or no reason; they also allow some children to remain in a dangerous situation until it is too late!
Is there a need for Child Protective Service and are their good, hardworking and honest workers within CPS…ABSOLUTELY!
There are some who would strongly disagree with the last answer above.
Some would suggest the abolishment of CPS. I believe this is absolute not necessary and totally unrealistic based on the two previous questions. Critical reform however is direly needed in order to not only protect the children but also many innocent parents as well.
I believe that when a complaint of ABUSE (physical or sexual) is made it should be investigated by the police like any other crime. If the police determine there is ample evidence of abuse the parent(s) should be charged & prosecuted; only then should CPS be called for determination regarding the youth involved. If abuse of an animal is a crime (Vick Case); shouldn’t abuse of a child be even more so of a crime??!!
Once a child is becomes a part of the system merry-go-round via CPS; it is extremely difficult to get off, in some cases it never happens.
The psychological damage a child suffers in being ripped from the only family he’s known, his home, his/her siblings with no contact allowed, his community, his school, his pets, his friends…is a CERTAIN damage; especially if the result of a false allegation. This is whether the family is his biological/foster or adoptive. Damage WILL happen; to what degree might vary but there WILL be damage. Yes, there is a risk…but to remove the child because of a risk only to inflict certain damage to that child would be like amputating a limb for a wound that MIGHT cause a fatal infection.
After supposedly verifying the 872,000 cases of child neglect and/or abuse during FY2005; 311,128 youth were removed from their homes. Some of these cases involved biological, foster and adoptive families.
We know that 459,872 of the supposedly verified cases did not warrant removal from their home whereas 311,128 did according to state CPS officials.
I know a number of the cases were due to how abuse/neglect is defined. There are no uniform codes or guidelines used across the country for determining removal of a child from their home. Each locality, county and state defines in their own fashion when CPS should be called, how abuse/neglect is defined and how CPS determines if removal is necessary. What may be such in one locality would not even come close to being such in another. There also appears to be no enforcement mechanism in place to see that CPS follows the guidelines of their specific area. This ABSOLUTELY MUST be changed in any part of a reform movement. Guidelines need to be made uniform laws across the country!
I know for a fact some biological and adoptive parents had their children removed strictly because of the broad definition of abuse and or neglect by some localities. I also know that some, despite proof of false allegations, still had their children removed from them. I have the evidence which I cannot share it here in order to protect the innocent and keep my promise of confidentiality to those who have shared with me as some are still fighting the system. I also know some CPS workers have visited my blog as they have left comments on occasion. These cases come from across the country.
Please remember what I said earlier; some biological and adoptive parents absolutely need to have their children removed because of abuse and/or neglect which places them in imminent danger and it was done properly by all involved!
I know there are also cases of children being removed from foster homes due to abuse and or neglect. The same applies to them as it does the above biological/adoptive parents cases above.
However foster parents’ can face even more possibilities of having children removed from their care. CPS and the foster care system can remove, and do, a child from a foster home without cause.
Though anyone can become a mother or father; foster parents must go through a lengthy screening process to be approved to become such. They are fingerprinted, have background checks done, have their home invaded for a home study as well as ongoing intrusions, have a verifiable income to show they can support themselves without foster care stipends and go through initial training as well as further training each year.
If an allegation of abuse or neglect is made against them, whether false or not, the foster youth, in most cases, is removed immediately and then the investigation follows. Some foster youth will make up allegations just to be removed from a home just because they don’t like it there or the rules they must follow. System workers have and will also make up allegations so it looks like they are justified in removing a child.
The system had also been known to threaten removal or actually remove a foster youth if they feel the foster parents advocates too much on behalf the youth.
Just as with biological and adoptive parents I have the evidence for my above statements. Their cases as well come from across the country. I to will not share the information they have supplied me in order to protect the confidentiality placed in me and they are still a part of the system.
Let me just share generalities of two situations:
I know of a case where a youth was with the same foster parents for six years and suddenly jerked out of the home for no reason to be moved to another foster home. Think of the lifetime impact this traumatic experience will have on the youth.
I in fact know this happens as it happened to me. I spent my entire youth growing up in foster care. I was moved sixteen times before aging out.
During those years in care I spent four and a half years with one family (they had also care for me previously for over two years). I was suddenly yanked from there home. It was not to go to an adoptive family but rather to yet another foster home and then eventually to an orphanage where I age out. This was forty eight years ago. It is a tragic shame this continues to happen to youth still today.
I know of yet another case where a youth suffered a “bug bite.” The system suddenly made it a case of abuse and removed the youth. When abuse could not be shown they then tried to say the foster parent’s heath may not allow her to properly keep after the youth. When this could not be documented they kept on going. Suddenly out of nowhere a charge of “sexual activity” was made supposedly by the youth towards two older youths in the home. Despite no proof of the allegation one youth had to be removed from the home so the other youth would not be. This case continues. The foster parent involved in this is a “strong” advocate for those placed in her care and has fought the system many times. This appears to be nothing more than retaliation for her efforts.
There are far too many such cases from across the country that have been shared, in detail, with me to believe that none of the above occurs. It does! It happens far too often!
The result is families are destroyed; more importantly to me…children’s lives are destroyed! It appears the system is an equal opportunity destroyer!!
Far too many children become just a pawn within a system they do not understand.
Yes, they can be and are moved at will, they can be and are lost, they can be subject to abuse far worse than may have occurred within their own homes…and yes a number of them tragically get off the merry-go- round only through death, painfully suffered through the system that was to protect them!
Sadly 534 youth died during FY2005 while in out of home care attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and yes; homicide. This is in addition to the 966 youth from abuse which brought the original allegation.
Any parent, whether biological, foster or adoptive, which abuses, neglects or kills a child must be held accountable. Abuse (physical and sexual) should be handled as a crime just as I would face an assault and battery charge if I struck someone. There are enough “real” cases of such actions; the system does not need to deal with false allegations made by others nor make up their own!
We, as a society, must be extremely careful when we say we are “saving” the children. If “saving” the child is going to do more harm to that child!
At the end of FY2004 there were already 517,463 youth in foster care
311,128 youth entered foster care
828,591 youth spent some portion of FY2005 in foster care
287,998 youth exited foster care via reunification, adoption, runaway, aged out, etc
114,000 TPR (termination of parental rights) complete awaiting adoption of which 66,000 had TPR completed in FY 2005
24,407 youth aged out
51,691 adopted by foster parents or others
513,131 remained in care at end of FY2005
I absolutely know in these above figures some biological parents should have never have had CPS enter their lives.
I know some youth should never have been removed from their natural homes and placed in foster care. I also know that some youth should have been removed and were not; they ended up paying the ultimate price.
I know some youth should not be spending year after year in foster care or move after move without the justifiable termination of parental rights being completed
I know some youth should not have been removed from some of their foster homes due to a false allegation or the whim of a worker.
I know some youth who will spend years in the system unjustifiably only to age out (thousands in FY2005 alone) and possibly have their future in shatters due to what happened to them initially by removal followed by years of damage.
We will never fully know the number of lives that have been destroyed due to false allegations, the broad and non uniform definition of abuse and neglect or the whims of the system.
If nothing changes… by the year 2020:
Nearly 14 million more reported cases of child abuse and neglect will supposedly be verified;
22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday (roughly 36% after placed in out of home care);
An additional 9,000,000 children will spend some time in foster care (there are over 12 million current alumni of the foster care system);
300,000 more children will age out of our foster care system unprepared to become productive members of our socety
We each MUST become outraged, motivated and caring individuals willing to fight our child welfare system for reform.
We MUST fight to see that a child is removed from their biological, foster or adoptive home only when abuse or neglect is truly proven and not due to false allegations or a CPS withchunt.
We MUST fight to see that those who make knowingly false allegations against families be held accountable for their actions.
We MUST fight to see that the bound of confidentiality currently enjoyed by the system is broken. We cannot allow the system to continue to hide behind this convenient cloak of darkness. The vault doors of confidentiality MUST be opened to the sunlight of day.
We MUST fight that all involved in the child welfare system be held accountable for their actions.
Until the above happens families and children will continue to be destroyed. We cannot afford the price our society will be asked to pay as a result!
The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children. ~Margaret Mead
http://www.larrya.us (my web site)
Filed under: Birth Parents, Child Protective Services, Family, Foster Care, Foster Care Reform, Foster Kids, Foster Parents | 56 Comments »