Thursday, September 22, 2011

Second Oklahoma DHS worker fired in Serenity Deal case

Randy J. Lack, 58, a Pottawatomie County child-welfare specialist, has denied doing anything wrong. He worked for the Department of Human Services for 11 years.

The principal DHS worker on the Serenity Deal case was fired Tuesday.

Randy J. Lack, 58, a Pottawatomie County child-welfare specialist, has denied doing anything wrong. He worked for the Department of Human Services for 11 years.

Serenity Deal, 5, died in June from an assault after she began living full time with her father in Oklahoma City at the recommendation of Lack and other DHS workers.

The father, Sean Devon Brooks, now is charged with first-degree murder. She was placed with her father from foster care even though she was injured twice in January during overnight visits with him.

“I don't have a crystal ball. I couldn't possibly have known any of this was going to happen,” Lack said last week.

Lack said he thought Serenity's injuries in January were from accidents.

His supervisor, Jennifer Shawn, was fired Thursday.

Lack was fired on grounds of unsatisfactory performance, misconduct, willful failure, dishonesty in reports and neglect of duty.

Lack of background check cited

In the termination papers, the agency specifically said Lack failed to fully check the father's background, often taking the father's word for things. Lack, for instance, once reported Brooks had no history of family violence. Brooks' ex-girlfriend actually had obtained a protective order against him after an angry confrontation in 2003.

The agency also said Lack never interviewed that ex-girlfriend, who had three children with Brooks. The ex-girlfriend later told police she considered Brooks too violent to be around his children.

The agency said Lack failed to notify the judge and the district attorney when Serenity needed medical treatment for black eyes and a swollen face the second time she was injured in January.

The agency said Lack failed to report to a judge that Serenity had reacted negatively to hearing her father's name while in foster care. Both of Serenity's foster mothers had reported this concern, according to the termination records.

Lack and Shawn have hired an attorney, Pete Serrata, to appeal their firings.

Serrata on Tuesday again criticized DHS, saying the agency did an incomplete and haphazard investigation into what happened in Serenity's case. Lack last week said he was personally invested in his cases.

“When you go home at night you still think about those kids,” he said then. “It's the first time in my life I've ever been fired. ... I've always done a good job in whatever capacity I've worked. Now, at this late stage in life, having to start all over again, it's a pretty scary thing.”


Reseda family reunited after year of foster care

Blog author note:
It's interesting to note that this article comments that reunification of children with their family is a "recent" policy. Then why does CPS state that they always try to reunify and they have said that for years? Also, this article makes note that CPS knows that they are ripping families apart. Why would they do that? There are other ways to handle situations rather than add other issues to families by ripping them apart. And what is missing from this story is how false allegations and other strange situations can cause this ripping apart of families. They don't bother to note that many families have done nothing wrong, yet their children are removed. Futhermore, why isn't the number of children abused, neglected and killed in foster care noted? Such dirty secrets....

Pablo Nino smiled proudly while posing for pictures with his family on a patch of grass in downtown Los Angeles.

All but one of the Reseda construction worker's six children had spent about a year in foster care, and he was deeply grateful to have them back.

"I'm so happy," the father said in halting English.

Nino is a beneficiary of the county Department of Children and Family Services' relatively recent drive to reunite children with biological parents and relatives who have consistently shown desire and ability to once again safely care for them.

"I think it's important for families to be together," said Phillip Browning, who took over as interim director of the DCFS three weeks ago.

"So often, we've taken families and pulled them apart," he said. "Now, I think there's a renewed emphasis to make sure that we can provide the support that is needed to keep a family together."

Nino was among several parents and social workers honored by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for being "Family Reunification Heroes."

During the fiscal year that ended in June, DCFS reunited 9,730 children with their families, though 977 of them were in foster care again as of Tuesday.

DCFS had more than 35,000 open cases as of Aug. 31, including about 9,100 who are receiving family reunification services.

Another 15,500 are in out-of-home placement, such as foster homes and group homes. Five years ago, that number was around 50,000.

Sometimes returning children to families that harmed or neglected them in the past can lead again to tragic outcomes, acknowledged Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Still, he contends that returning them is less risky than keeping them in prolonged foster care, citing research from 2007 and 2008 that involved more than 15,000 children.

The studies found that children who were left in their own homes fared better in later life than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care.

"When you think about how traumatic it is to be completely uprooted from everyone you know, and bounced from one home to another, and then another, the findings should not surprise anyone," Wexler said.

"Some children really do have to be taken away, but foster care is an extremely toxic intervention that has to be used sparingly and in small doses," he added.

The DCFS was unable to provide statistics on the number of children who died from abuse or neglect after being returned to their families.

Wexler said when such tragedies do occur, they can be blamed on lack of sufficient staffing at the DCFS.

About 34,000 children entered its system during the last fiscal year.

"By and large, when you have the cases that go wrong, it's because workers don't have time to investigate carefully enough because they're so overloaded, they can't make that extra phone call or check with that extra source, or review the child's history carefully enough," Wexler said.

Browning said he intends to have more employees handle casework.

"We're looking at all the positions within the department that can be moved to do frontline work, move them from administrative role back to a case-carrying situation," he said.

He also intends to provide them with better technology so they can have as much data as possible to make an informed decision about cases.

In Nino's case, DCFS intervened to take custody over his children after his only daughter, then age 6, came to school with a bloody gash at the top of her head.

Nino had hit her with a belt buckle for telling a lie.

DCFS placed the five children in two separate foster homes. Nino's sixth child had not been born at the time.

"I felt bad, I was so sad," Nino said Tuesday while recalling the incident.

He spent about a year trying to win his children back, including attending parenting and anger management classes.

Finally, last November, DCFS deemed it safe to reunite the family.

Judge Michael Nash, presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court, said parents should be given a chance to redeem themselves.

"A family that is unfit at a particular point in time may not be unfit forever," he said. "Families are the cornerstone, the foundation of our community in this country, and we should do everything possible to maintain families when we can safely do so."


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carver County Corruption Blog -- A Must Read!

This blog is revealing some really horrible stuff. It is a must read...

Lawmakers express continued frustration with DCF response in Barahona case

By Dara Kam
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 6:16 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 6:12 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

TALLAHASSEE — Frustrated lawmakers grilled the head of Florida's Department of Children and Families Tuesday and expressed doubt about whether he's doing enough to make the state's children safer in the aftermath of the alleged Barahona child abuse case.

DCF Secretary David Wilkins' appearance Tuesday morning before the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee was his first since the July 25 release of a Miami-Dade County grand jury report that found that child welfare workers failed to properly monitor Nubia Barahona's adoptive parents as highlighted by her alleged torture and slaying this winter.

Wilkins was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott shortly before 10-year-old Nubia's body was discovered in a plastic bag in the back of her adopted father Jorge Barahona's truck alongside Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach on Valentine's Day. Her twin brother, Victor, was found drenched in chemicals and convulsing in the front seat.

Jorge Barahona and his wife Carmen, the children's foster parents for five years before adopting them, have been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in Nubia's death.

Since then, the agency hired 100 child protection investigators, conducted additional training session for caseworkers and increased the number of foster children who are getting regular medical and dental care, Wilkins said. The department has also stopped measuring how long hot line operators spend on the phone with tipsters, he said. The abuse hot line received at least two calls in the days preceding Nubia's death.

"But we've still got a long way to go," Wilkins told the committee, acknowledging there was a "big breakdown" in the Barahona case.

The non-binding grand jury report recommended that child welfare workers have full access to databases containing reports of allegations about at-risk children, something that Wilkins said he was still trying to put into effect.

But he drew fire from Committee Chairwoman Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, when he blamed the tragedy on Andrea Fleary, the DCF child abuse investigator fired in March who allegedly repeatedly signed off on the children's welfare without making contact with them.

"Our assessment is that the number one symptom of the problem was the case manager was not owning the case," he said.

To which Storm said, "I don't know what the heck that means. What the blankety-blank does that mean? The little girl was practically peeling paint off the wall to eat and they were afraid of these people and everybody at the school was saying it and the most we can come up with was the case manager was not owning the case?

"I think you should be more direct to say this was a human failure for humanity for this person. That's a human failure. I don't know how else to say it."

Wilkins also said that all foster children are now being seen by caseworkers every 30 days but that he wanted an extra $25 million for additional visits "any time a major event" occurs in the child's life.

Caseworkers should already have been visiting the children monthly, Sen. Nan Rich said, because lawmakers initiated that requirement after the disappearance a decade ago of Rilya Wilson, a 4-year-old foster child who has never been found.

"We're going right back to the same kind of situation," Rich, D-Weston, said.

The disconnection of the Barahonas' telephone, the children's problems at school, hot line reports and an inability to make physical contact with the twins apparently went ignored, Rich said.

"Normally I would say we don't need legislation. But to me something is dramatically and drastically wrong if all of these red flags are not seen. This to me is just crying out for us to do something," she said.

Wilkins suggested that the agency keep tabs on adopted children for up to one year, especially in the case of special needs children.

But Storms, a lawyer, said she believed that would be unconstitutional.

After Wilkins' hour-long testimony, lawmakers appeared uncertain what, if anything, they could do.

"It's a source of enormous frustration. It can be very discouraging to continue to hear some of the same things," Storms said after Wilkins testified. "All I can do is keep trying and keep hoping that we get a different result. But we can make all the laws that we want to make and pass all the statutes and if people will not do what they're supposed to do then I don't know how you fix that."


County Commission approves $267,000 settlement in foster care lawsuit

By Joe Schoenmann
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 | 12:01 p.m.

Clark County will pay $267,000 to three children allegedly neglected and sexually abused while in foster care.

Steve Sisolak was the only commissioner to question the pre-trial settlement. He made sure wording was added to the payment to mandate as much counseling as needed for the three children, who were pre-teens during the time of the incident, even if that means cutting attorney fees.

"It's a small sum for what these kids went through," he said later. "These kids are really subjected to some horrors. It is a terrible shame."

Little information about the children or what happened to them was provided in county documentation. A case filed on the matter in U.S. District Court alleges that the abuse occurred in 2004. Attorneys were hired for the children's biological parent in 2009.

According to court documents, the foster parent was accused of denying medical care and providing poor supervision, which may have led to sexual abuse of a child or children by a man who was a registered sex offender in Nevada.

In return for the settlement, the plaintiffs, Tim D. Fullmer, et al., has agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the county.

Foster care in Clark County has for years been the focus of intense scrutiny. In the mid-2000s, stories of children who died in foster care led to a resignation and the hiring of Tom Morton in 2006 to take over.

Morton, credited with helping turn Alabama‚s child welfare system into a national model, arguably improved the system, decreasing caseloads per case worker and ending the warehousing of children in Child Haven.

Morton resigned in August, citing increasing fiscal pressures and a trend indicating that cases per caseworker were once again on the rise, a trend he blamed on the need to cut staff in the face of budget cuts.


Federal Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program

This link explains IV-E and has state by state links for each state's info.

Articles about foster care $$ and possible fraud

Here is a blog following foster care money. It's interesting to not how much money is to be made and some of the fraud that goes on.

Testimony agrees that child welfare system needs reform

Note from blog author:
This article shows that CPS is mostly about removal and money. It is obvious from our experience with CPS that they are not truly worried about the best interest of the child and they do not support families. CPS does it's best to rip families apart. Why? The almighty buck!!

By: MAUNETTE LOEKS, Staff Reporter
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:08 PM CDT

The child welfare system needs fixed.

That was the overwhelming message during testimony Tuesday at a hearing as a legislative committee examines the Department of Health and Human Services.

From a Department of Health and Human Services standpoint, few issues were identified as problems within the department itself in local operations.

Nathan Busch, western service area administrator, highlighted the successes of the Department of Health and Human Services in the western service area, which includes the 11 counties of the Panhandle. Since Busch was appointed as western service administrator in October 2007, he said, he believes the area has seen improvements.

Over a four-year-period, the number of children identified as state wards has decreased by 245 children, he said. Busch said the western service area serves 605 state wards, with 73 percent of those children placed out of their home. Seventy-three percent of those children are placed out of their home. Of those children, 41 percent are placed with a relative or someone known to the area. The service area also provides services to 172 children outside the formal court via a non-court involved process.

“Though children aren’t a commodity to be counted, I believe this means children are achieving permanency in an expedient matter,” Busch said.

He said the western service area has also improved in meeting federal benchmarks put into place to measure outcomes to assure protection and safety of children in the child welfare or juvenile services system. In October 2007, he said, the western service area had been meeting only one of the six federal outcomes. However, the western service area is now meeting three of the six guidelines, with strengths in absence of maltreatment in foster care, timeliness of adoption and permanency for children in foster care. He said areas needing improvement include absence of maltreatment recurrence, timeliness and permanency of reunification and placement stability.

The western service agency has put into place efforts to try to improve in those areas, including the formation of a permanency planning committee.

“The challenge is to take an area where good things are happening and make an area where great things are happening,” he said.

However, for all the successes touted by the Health and Human Services, there were also issues presented during testimony. Just some of the issues touched on were:

-- In citing challenges faced by the western service area, Busch cited that there are not enough resources to provide services to children close to their home communities.

As of October 2009, he said, the western service area had 317 foster homes, which has grown slightly to 348 foster homes. Busch said there is a gap in the number of foster homes willing or able to provide for children with severe behaviors, such as mental health issues, infants or teenagers.

Over the last two years, the number of group homes in the district have decreased. Non-payment of services by the Boys and Girls Home had been cited as a problem by some of the providers, though Busch simply said that the reduction “is the result of terminations of contract or (the providers) choosing not to renew contracts.”

The western service area has only one youth shelter within its district, with 12 beds in Scottsbluff.

Some of the reduction in providers is a direct result of strained relations after the Boys and Girls Home had been contracted to provide services. Non-payment of services, a reduction in payment or non-referral of services to specific providers resulted in a loss of providers within the district. One provider said that the Boys and Girls Home situation has presented a distrust between providers and DHHS.

Foster families have also seen a decrease in payment and services, including the loss of respite and clothing payments for children. Foster parents and providers have said they have had to fight for services that were needed for children. In some cases, parents or providers give up. In other cases, they continue lobbying for the services or children have had to be placed into emergency protective custody situations for lengthy periods of times.

-- With a lack of services, children are being placed out of state. In one instance, cited by Busch, a child has been placed in Ohio because he said adequate services were unable to be obtained. Judge James Worden, who testified regarding observations seen in the juvenile justice system, said he has had to have at least three children placed outside of state because placement for the children had not been found within a 60-90 day time frame. He said he knew that placement for two children, placed in Colorado, and is in excess of $1,200 a month. Services could be provided within communities, if funded, he said.

Both Busch and Worden, as well as other people testifying throughout the hearing, said that reunification with parents is made more difficult when children have to be placed in other areas of the state or out-of-state. Access to familiar services, schools and visitation with parents becomes problematic.

-- Testimony cited needs for improvement in transparency and communication. Busch testified that local officials were notified by e-mail, at 5 p.m., on a Friday, that the Boys and Girls Home would be discontinuing services and had to rush to make placements. Other agencies cited that parents, workers and other officials partnering with DHHS initially didn’t have questions answered about the Boys and Girls Home coming into the community. This also resulted in questions and then problems. Problems have continued with other companies that functions have been outsourced since the Boys and Girls Home ended its contract.

While DHHS represents itself as transparent – “It does not benefit the children, the families, to play hide the ball” — families with cases involved in the system, foster families and other cooperating agencies named a need to improve transparency most often when commenting on improvements that needed to be made within the system.

-- Though the DHHS is tasked by law with focusing on reunification, some of the people testifying stated that they believed that the system focuses on foster services and adoption. Often, comments were made that the DHHS had failed to focus on children and families in providing services. Suggestions were made to help families by establishing early intervention programs, such as parenting classes, and continuing to provide support to families after children have been re-united with parents or adopted.

-- Current policies and procedures do not allow for flexibility within the system. Repeatedly, testifiers cited a difference in being able to provide services in rural areas. Some regulations do not allow multiple providers. Some regulations do not allow for flexible options, such as a proposal by Worden to have day treatment or reporting centers where children could receive services during the day, but return to home in the evenings. Routinely, the need to allow innovative programs was identified as a need of child welfare reform services.

-- Some problems were identified with the people working within the system. In three incidents cited during the hearing, prosecutors made decisions to remove children and at least one person cited that it was felt that the removal of children had been done as punishment to a parent for not testifying in a case. All three individuals testified that they believed more than one individual should be responsible for determining if a child is removed from a home to avoid conflicts.

One of those individuals testified about being involved in a case in Keith County, called the “collaboration” between agencies “collusion,” saying that officials within different agencies conspired to create falsehoods to remove children from home and keep them from homes. Two of those individuals testified that caseworkers had committed perjury in court hearings and that they had evidence from law enforcement and school officials proving such.

Cases where guardian ad litems or caseworkers had little knowledge of cases, having not met with children or families, were noted. Visitation issues were cited by Worden, CASA workers and families with cases in the court system were cited as problems because providers were not showing up or were canceling pre-scheduled appointments. Meetings designed to discuss and examine cases also had similar complaints, with case workers or others canceling appointments and not notifying parents or other persons working on the cases in a timely fashion.

-- Lack of training and low wages.

Everyone from foster parents to persons within agencies that partner with DHHS testified that training for caseworkers to foster parents is needed. People also testified that low wages to people working with children, such as visitation aids, were low and resulted in unqualified individuals supervising children and cases.

Caseworkers were also cited as being overworked, with too few caseworkers and too many cases assigned to workers.

Support services for families, and for foster children and children returned to homes, were also cited as needs.

-- More oversight, both fiscal and in operations. Waste and redundancy within the system where identified throughout the hearing. One testifier noted that she and her daughter had received 12 letters regarding a reduction in services. Other examples of waste and redundancy were also cited.

Testimony during Tuesday’s hearings came during open and closed sessions.

“We came out here to get your stories and what you would like to convey,” Sen. Kathy Campbell told the crowd attending the hearing. She regularly encouraged people testifying or attending the hearings to contact local representative Sen. John Harms with follow up testimony or information or to contact members of the committees overseeing the legislative study process


Fatal Child Abuse Cases Spark Outrage In Fayette County

Note from blog author:
It blows us away that every time that CPS fails a child, they cry it's because they lack funding... another reason for the money game to continue and grow larger. Why? It is our belief that if CPS wasn't so busy looking at false allegations and trying to create cases against those who are not abusing their children, CPS would have enough time, staff and money to look after real abuse cases appropriately. They need to stop the witch hunts and focus on those that are truly abusing children.

UNIONTOWN (KDKA) — Two fatal child abuse cases in Fayette County have people outraged and looking for answers.

Trenton St. Clair, 4, died this week after he was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend.

Earlier this year, 15-month-old Madison Dodson was found dead on the floor of a filthy Point Marion home. Her feeding tube was improperly installed.

Fayette County Commissioner Vince Zapotosky told KDKA-TV’s Trina Orlando by phone: “We are fighting a battle. Two deaths in less than a year is a crisis and we are reaching out to the state as well as the federal government for help.”

Video Link:

The help is needed because decreased allocations from the state and federal government have resulted in a nearly $800,000 cut in funding this year for the department of Children and Youth Services.

That is despite an increase in the number of cases CYS is dealing with. In the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the agency was asked to investigate 1,021 households.

In 2010-2011, that number jumped to 1,204 households.

The number of households needing CYS services went from 361 in 2006-2007 to 392 in 2010-11.

“Right now, we’re holding our own and we’re doing what we need to do,” Gina D’Auria, a casework manager for Fayette County CYS, said.

“But what you will see down the road is we will be requesting additional funding from the county level in the hopes that they’ll be able to fill in what we’re losing from the state and federal.”

Video Link:

D’Auria said she can’t talk about specific cases, but says right now she has 20 caseworkers dealing with more than 900 open cases in the county.

“They’re all here for the right reasons, they believe in what they’re doing and they’re here because they want to work with families and keep children safe,” she said. “I can’t praise my staff enough.”

CYS says the biggest misconception about their department is that they’re not doing anything. Confidentiality laws keep them from telling the public about the many things that are happening.


DHS pays $3.4 million in child death, neglect cases

Kelsey Smith-Briggs, 2, died in Meeker in October 2005 from broken bones and other injuries. DHS settled the case for $525,000, with insurance paying $375,000 and the agency paying the rest. Courtesy

By GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2011 3:08 PM
Last Modified: 9/17/2011 3:08 PM

More than $3.4 million in civil lawsuits settlements for child deaths and neglect have been made since 2005 with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, according to records obtained by the Tulsa World.

The 24 payouts range from $15,000 to settle civil rights violations of parents after DHS placed their children into emergency custody to a $700,000 payout in the death of a toddler at a Tulsa child-care home, records show.

Of the settlements, DHS paid about $1.4 million from its budget while insurance entities paid about $2 million. The agency has a self-insured liability fund with AIG/Chartis and the Department of Central Services Risk Management Division.

“The fiscal cost of failures in the child welfare system pales in comparison to the cost Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children paid as a result of those failures,” stated House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, in an e-mail to the World.

“Facts and figures like these clearly indicate a need to pursue serious policy changes at DHS. The status quo at DHS must improve and the Legislature is committed to seeing that it does.”

Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation in the rate of child abuse and neglect deaths, with 3.4 deaths of children per 100,000, according to the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Death. This is a slight improvement from 2001, when the state ranked third in the country with a rate of 3.7.

DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said lawsuit settlements are approved based on the type of case. She said the litigation is used to change policy and practices.

“They work closely with the relevant agency divisions to propose statutory or policy changes or training requirements as necessary,” Powell stated in an e-mail.


Fla. court says 1 spank isn't domestic violence

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A single spank doesn't qualify as domestic violence, an appellate court ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously reversed an injunction for protection against domestic violence.

It cited common law and a 2002 Florida Supreme Court ruling that says reasonable or non-excessive corporal punishment can be used as a defense against child abuse charges.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers of Tallahassee had issued the injunction against a father identified in the ruling only as "G.C."

He had been accused by his former wife of spanking their 14-year-old daughter once on the buttocks with his hand.

The father said the teen had been disrespectful and defiant. The girl said she was only being sarcastic.

"We hold that under established Florida law this single spank constituted reasonable and non-excessive parental corporal discipline and, as a matter of law, was not domestic violence," the appeal judges wrote in an unsigned opinion.

That's even though the domestic violence law doesn't explicitly say so.

The judges, though, wrote "neither does it exclude the common law defense" that parents can administer reasonable and non-excessive corporal punishment.


DHS worker fired after child abuse death


Suit Filed Over Wrongful Child Abuse Allegation

By John Sullivan
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 09/16/11

Goshen — A local couple wrongly accused of sexually abusing their child are taking the unusual step of drawing attention to themselves and their legal fight against the questioning of their daughter by Orange County Child Protective Service investigators.

Marie Condoluci and her husband, Steven Phillips, claim that CPS caseworkers had no good reason to question their daughter, then a student at Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School, without their permission in 2010. The investigation, which did not result in charges, stemmed from hearsay allegations that the child's father sexually abused her.

Condoluci and Phillips struggled with anxiety, isolation, and even physical revulsion after the investigation, Condoluci said.

Condoluci, who is a lawyer, filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. Southern District Court in White Plains. Parties named include the county and the Goshen School District. She says that CPS and the school district failed to vet the allegations against the couple before taking their child aside and asking her questions such as "whether Mommy or Daddy ever fight," whether they ever "touched her down there," and who sleeps with her.

Condoluci initially declined to identify herself, her husband or their daughter for fear of the impact on their child. The couple have since removed their daughter, now 7, from the school and taken their fight public. "I thought it's the only way to clear our names," she said.

The lawsuit raises a rare challenge to the practice of hastily conducting child abuse investigations, often on the basis of an anonymous tip to the state's child-abuse hotline.

In Condoluci's case, officials failed to question the fact that the call to the state hot line came from a pastor reporting hearsay about her family from a third-party source, Condoluci said. Condoluci allowed that reasonable cause, such as visible bruises or telling statements by a child, might justify an unfettered CPS investigation. But "that's different from somebody calling and saying I heard from someone else that there were concerns of abuse," she said. Defense lawyers in the case argue that their clients were just following state law. "The law was not violated," said Lewis Silverman, the Manhattan lawyer representing the school district.