Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paper Orphans - From Voices Of Women

The Adoption and Safe Families Act, (ASFA), was passed in 1997 by the US Congress. The purpose of this Bill was to protect children from lingering in foster care. In some cases children were literally being lost in foster care in some of America’s larger cities. The idea was to find permanent placement for children within a designated time frame. Attached to this movement of children would be financial incentives and bonuses to states for compliance with mandates. Thus, the Child Abuse Industry in America was now, subsidized by the Federal Government.

One would hope that ASFA would make our children safer, at lower risk for neglect, abuse, and lower numbers of children in foster care. This has not been the case! In my opinion the goals of ASFA have grossly failed! ASFA demands that the child welfare agency be responsible for ensuring the safety of children in out-of-home care. Yet, nationwide hundreds of children have died while in the care of “professional parents”.

The actual outcome of ASFA has been a higher number of children in foster care. There has been a massive increase in parental terminations, and adoptions of America’s children. The issue that needs to be pointed out here, is that not only are the parent’s rights to have a relationship with their children terminated, all family members are terminated from having a relationship with these children.

Who is really benefiting from ASFA? The professional parents (foster/adoptive parents), the contracted mental health care providers, the residential and treatment centers, the growing demand for more social workers being hired to handle the caseloads, etc. According to statistics from the National Child Protection Reform each child that is in the system generates an estimated residual economic development figure of $250,000.00 or more per year! This tells me that our children are being harvested as a subsidized cash crop. When the market numbers increase then dividends in the form of bonuses are paid to the states.

The children who are being protected from their parents, (who are rarely if ever charged under any criminal abuse or neglect statue) are going to age out of the system without an adequate education, little or no social skills, little or no work experience, disenfranchised from their families and communities, on psychotropic drugs. What future does that hold for them? What are the residual costs to the taxpayers going to be? Are we just grooming our youth for their eventual commitment to our prison systems?

All of the proceedings that take place (with the exception of the rare criminal abuse charges,) are done by Administrative proceedings under a veil of secrecy. There is no jury, no evidence, only hearsay of the Case Worker, no witnesses or open trail, because of “the child’s confidentiality”. I don’t know of one case where the child(ren) were present in court to testify. The parents are adjudicated and placed on the Nation Registry of Child Abusers. They lose their family. They are told by everyone who hears their story, “They can’t do that!” But the fact remains it was done, is being done and will continue to be done until American families stand together to demand that their Constitutional right to parent their children is restored, and that the child protection system be reformed. However, they don’t do that for fear they will some how suffer further consequences from the State. Or they believe the biggest lie…parents in America have all gone mad and only professional parents and social workers care about and are capable of loving these “poor” children!

I am not suggesting, nor do I believe that there are not children who are being abused. What I am saying is that thousands of children are being removed arbitrarily and without substantiated cause from their homes. Some of these families only needed services that could’ve been provided with the children still in the home. I would like to note that according to national statistics children in foster care are at much higher risk of sexual and physical abuse then in the home of their parents. Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
An act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

After huge class action lawsuits were brought against 32 states, 30 of them reformed their child protection policies with great success in focusing on family preservation and in-home family services that reduced the cost to taxpayers and made children safer.

I know that most of you are thinking to yourself, “These parents have abused their children and are in denial, blaming the system.” According to the statistics filed with the Child Welfare League of America (www. prior to ASFA in 1998 there were 55 adoptions in South Dakota and no children waiting to be adopted, 5 years later there were 144 adoptions and a staggering 464 children waiting to be adopted. The state last year received an adoption bonus of $56,000.00 for adoptions over their baseline number. Residential foster care in 2000 cost taxpayers in $4,498,452.00. Two years later in 2002 that amount had increased to $17,212,505.00! Folks, this is about the money, not about protecting children! From 1996 to 2004 the federal budget increased in SD by 128.6% and the state budget by 53.0%! Did all the parents in SD just start going nuts on their children over that six-year period? I think not! I believe money and economic development in the newly subsidized child abuse industry increased these numbers.

South Dakota has a 9% total Native American population, according to the Governor’s Commission on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Yet more than 65% of the children removed from the home are Native American. I believe this number, is also motivated by funding and opportunity. South Dakota has a statue that allows the Secretary of Social Services to collect funding from the Department of Interior for the cost of their care. Thus, Indian children are worth double the money to the state. Even though this has been denied by DSS at Appropriations and Government Operation and Audit Committee meetings, I find it hard to believe that they would go to the trouble of having legislation drafted for such an action and not utilize it. (Chapter 28 SDCL)

In a recent Rapid City Journal article it stated that 81% of the children were taken for reasons of neglect. What the Social Workers view as neglect is arbitrary. Virtually anything can be used against parents to justify the interrogation of your children at schools by police officers, social workers and counselors to intimidate children, ask leading and open ended questions that are used to ultimately destroy the family. These children then are removed from the school without the knowledge of the parents and placed in foster care. Poverty and its effects are often confused with neglect. Instead of the state, social and community organizations helping these parents overcome the financial struggles they suffer their children they are ripped from their lives.

The Government does not exist for any other reason than to protect the interests of the individual. The Government has no rights, only powers and duties. There is no provision for this non-governmental action in our Constitution. In fact the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled at least fifteen times on the right of parents to raise own their children.

The state of South Dakota has statues that forbid the State, it’s officers or agent to violate the Constitution or US Supreme Court rulings. See SDCL 1-1A-1 and 1-1A-2. In Lehr vs. Robertson, 463 US 248,) The linkage between parental duty and parental right was stressed again in Prince v. Massachusetts ... The Court declared it a cardinal principle “that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.” In these cases, the Court has found that the relationship of love and duty in a recognized family unit is an interest in liberty entitled to Constitutional protection ... “State intervention to terminate such a relationship ... must be accomplished by procedures meeting the requisites of the Due Process Clause” Santosky v. Kramer .

America’s children are not safer. Families are not being honored as the most primary social structure of our culture. The very foundation of a child’s normal development is being disassembled by states. The States create the problem, than they are the solution. The States create orphans, than they are the adoption agency.



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