Friday, November 18, 2011

Quinn took 4 months to remove child-welfare chief - Illinois

SPRINGFIELD | Gov. Pat Quinn took four months to remove his director of child welfare after being told state inspectors believed the man had turned a blind eye while a friend ripped off state government, and Quinn kept quiet about problems at the agency even after conducting his own review.

Quinn aides said the governor acted as quickly as possible to determine the truth and then make changes without causing major disruptions at the Department of Children and Family Services. They say state ethics laws barred him from revealing that inspectors were investigating then-Director Erwin McEwen, information that didn't become public until three weeks ago.

The Democratic governor has a long history of calling for more government openness and accountability, first as an outside activist and then as state treasurer and lieutenant governor. Legislators are questioning how he handled the McEwen case, and why it took him so long to remove McEwen.

Two Illinois House committees plan a joint hearing, said Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat and chairman of the House Human Services Committee.

"There are questions we would like to ask about the decision-making," Harris said Tuesday. "This merits a full discussion."

Rep. Jack Franks, chairman of the State Government Administration Committee, said he was troubled that Quinn did not remove McEwen far more quickly, particularly when the report said McEwen was no longer cooperating with investigators as required by law.

"The first day an employee of mine stopped cooperating would be his last day on the job," Franks said.

McEwen was accused of creating an atmosphere of lax oversight that allowed a friend to take millions of dollars from the state for shoddy or non-existent work. Inspectors recommended legal action against McEwen's friend, George Smith.

Quinn's office got the inspectors' preliminary report on May 25, aides said, and the governor ordered a review that was completed by Aug. 1. McEwen's resignation was announced nearly a month later, and he left the agency in late September.

His departure was portrayed as routine. Quinn said nothing about McEwen's mismanagement or Smith's potential fraud. That came to light when the inspector general's official report was released on Oct. 17.

Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson denied any contradiction between Quinn's calls for openness and his silence when removing McEwen. She said state law barred Quinn from disclosing anything about the inspectors' work, even his own internal review or what convinced him that McEwen had to go.

She said Quinn is satisfied with those restrictions on what he can reveal about his own administration.

"The current law strikes a fair balance between due process and transparency," Anderson said in an email.

The law cited by Quinn's office is part of the act setting up an ethics commission and detailing the duties of inspectors. The section on what information the commission can release says "all investigatory files and reports of the Office of an Executive Inspector General ... are confidential."

Quinn's position got some support Tuesday from author and attorney Scott Turow, the former chairman of the state's Executive Ethics Commission.

"As a matter of policy, I think the governor is probably doing the right thing in not releasing details until the disclosure procedure at the EEC has been complied with," Turow said in an email.

But other government watchdogs questioned Quinn's claim that a governor is legally barred from telling the public why he has removed an agency director.

"Once there's a termination, that cause should be public," said Brian Gladstein, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

McEwen did not return messages left at his home.

State inspectors report Smith billed several government agencies for work done by non-existent employees, submitted fake papers, forged people's signatures, turned in fraudulent expense accounts and falsely claimed he was a psychiatrist. They also found he administered psychotropic drugs to children without permission and without determining the proper dosages.

The report said Smith and his various organizations collected $18 million in state grants from 2008 through 2011. Smith often rebuffed questions from employees at the Department of Children and Family Services by saying he only answered to the director.

"Director McEwen created a situation that was ripe for a vendor such as Dr. Smith to enrich himself and inflate costs by billing for 'ghost' positions and billing various agencies for the same services," said the report, a result of an investigation by the DCFS inspector and the state's executive inspector general.

It's not clear whether any law enforcement agency is considering charges against Smith. The governor's spokeswoman wouldn't say whether Quinn thinks charges are warranted.

"That is for the proper authorities to determine," Anderson said.


Overruled: Government Invasion of your Parental Rights (Official Movie)

FBI Investigates Lackawanna Family Court - Pa.

Blogger Note:
While this story talks about situations that appear to do with divorce custody cases but we posted it because we would think that the same would hold true in other forms of child welfare cases.

Dave Bohman

Action 16 Investigative Reporter

We know more about why Federal Officials are investigating a program in the Lackawanna County Family Court system.

In September, and again this week, FBI agents confiscated records from Family Court.

Newswatch 16 has learned the Guardian ad Litem is a court appointed lawyer who represents a child while its mother and father try to settle custody cases.

One or both parents are required to pay the fees for the Guardian at Litem's services. Sources tell us Federal agents are looking to see if parents were cheated, and if the fees were pocketed.

A woman who does not want to be identified because she`s testified to law enforcement agents claims she was cheated out of thousands during supervised visits with her young son.

"It broke me," she said. "Paying that amount of money. It broke me."

Her ex has custody of her son.

Lackawanna County records showed that she was supposed to pay $20 an hour for a caseworker to supervise her weekly visits.

Instead, she said she was charged $65 an hour.

"One hour, and the hour would go by so quick," the woman recounted of her visits. "Here`s my money. I see my son for the hour. Goodbye."

She also said the caseworker insisted on taking cash and refused to write receipts.

"I didn`t get any receipts no," the woman said. "I tried very hard. She said the County knows how much you`re paying."

Sources tell Newswatch 16 several non-custodial parents are complaining that they`ve been overcharged for supervised visits and not given receipts. And a recent federal subpoena of the Guardian ad Litem`s office appears to be getting some answers.

Court papers show a Federal Grand Jury directed the Lackawanna County Courts to give investigators every case supervised by Attorney Danielle Ross. She runs the Lackawanna County Guardian ad Litem program, and assigns caseworkers for supervised visits.

This woman said Ross was the guardian ad litem for her son. The woman claims she was overcharged between $1500 and $2000 in the last two-and-a-half years.

"You don`t want to give up," she tells us. "So just keep fighting, because it`s just not fair for people to get away with lies and deceitfulness. And then they work for the County? It`s unexplainable."

We tried to contact Guardian ad Litem Administrator Danielle Ross. Her secretary said Ross was busy with clients when we visited, and Ross did not return our phone calls.

There have been no criminal charges filed in the case.

Meantime, the woman you heard from is now paying just $20 and not $65 dollars an hour for visitation, after telling her story to law enforcement.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Doctor at Austin State Hospital accused of child sex abuse - Texas

By Andrea Ball and Eric Dexheimer

The state Department of Family and Protective Services has accused a longtime staff child psychiatrist for the Austin State Hospital of sexually abusing at least one child in his care, and investigators from an independent oversight agency have opened a wider inquiry into accusations from at least eight possible victims dating back a decade.

The state agency alerted hospital officials three weeks ago that it had confirmed that Dr. Charles Fischer had been involved in two separate instances of sexual abuse, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the agency. The agency terms an incident "confirmed" if its investigation shows the allegation is supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, which runs the Austin hospital, said Fischer, 59, was fired effective Monday.

The state hospital is a residential facility for people with mental illness. The child and adolescent unit where Fischer worked houses youths up to the age of 18. The Adult Protective Services division of the Department of Family and Protective Services is required by law to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in state hospitals.

Crimmins said police have been notified of the agency's findings; however, an Austin police spokeswoman said Fischer has not been charged with any crimes.

Contacted at his West Lake Hills home, Fischer declined to comment. "You'll have to ask the hospital about that," he said.

The Texas Medical Board, which licenses physicians, shows Fischer has an unblemished disciplinary record. Details of the case against Fischer were still unclear late Wednesday. Williams did not say when the two confirmed incidents occurred, how they were confirmed, if the youth was a boy or a girl, or whether he or she was still a hospital resident.

But, she said, Fischer, who earned $185,000 a year from the state, had been accused of sexually abusing patients in the past.

"There were previous allegations against Dr. Fischer over the years," she said. "Each was reported and investigated outside the agency, but the allegations were never confirmed."

Crimmins said the Department of Family and Protective Services investigated each of the abuse allegations as they became known.

"We have received several reports alleging sexual abuse by Dr. Charles Fischer dating back several years. In each instance in which sexual abuse by Dr. Fischer was alleged, law enforcement was notified at the time of the initial report, and again when a finding was made," he wrote in an email response to questions.

"Each case was investigated thoroughly, but none were confirmed until October, when two separate allegations of sexual abuse against Dr. Fischer were confirmed, and the Department of State Health Services was notified."

A spokeswoman for the state Health and Human Services Commission said the agency's internal investigative arm was looking into the abuse allegations. Stephanie Goodman declined to say whether the Office of Inspector General was investigating the incidents of alleged abuse or the agency's response to them.

And on Wednesday, Disability Rights Texas — a nonprofit organization officially designated by the federal government to protect the rights of the state's disabled — said it had launched an inquiry into cases involving eight potential victims in incidents involving Fischer dating back to 2001. Because of its federal affiliation, the organization has access to records at state hospitals and can bring lawsuits against the state on behalf of people with disabilities.

Beth Mitchell, an attorney for the organization, said she did not yet know if the eight cases it had been notified of included the two abuse incidents confirmed by the Department of Family and Protective Services.

"We are all heartbroken over these allegations," Williams said. "These kids come to us to heal, and the situation is very sad and extremely troubling for everyone involved."

State records show Fischer received his medical license in 1978 from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He completed a residency in general psychiatry and further specialized training in child psychiatry, the records show.

Child-protection laws under scrutiny in wake of scandals

(CNN) -- Experts said Thursday that the alleged child sexual abuse scandals at Penn State University and another at The Citadel in South Carolina underscore the frailty and inconsistency of the legal system intended to protect children, while some lawmakers called for changes in reporting such crimes.

"As parents, as members of the community, as leaders of organizations, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent the next Penn State," said Stop It Now!, a group that seeks to end child sexual abuse, in a commentary on its website. "Because, unfortunately, it will happen again, unless something fundamental changes."

In the Citadel case, a former cadet-turned-camp counselor faces a series of charges, including three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and three counts of lewd act on a minor, according to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, police. The school's president said this week that the university is "profoundly sorry" for not reporting allegations against the counselor in 2007.

In the Penn State case, Pennsylvania's attorney general has charged a former Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, with 40 counts in what authorities allege was the sexual abuse of eight boys. In addition, two Penn State officials are charged with failing to inform police of the allegations, and questions have been raised about the university's response.

Child-welfare advocates are not alone in their calls for reform. The senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee asked Thursday that the chairman call a hearing to determine whether federal laws intended to protect children and students should be changed.

"Potential weaknesses in specific laws designed to keep children safe have come to light in the wake of the alleged sexual crimes committed on the campuses of the Pennsylvania State University and the Citadel," wrote Rep. George Miller, D-California in his letter to Chairman John Kline, R-Minnesota. "Our inquiry should not seek to parallel, replicate, or interfere with those efforts; rather, we must examine the ongoing operation of the underlying federal laws to identify any vulnerabilities and better ensure against future risks to children."

Miller cited two federal laws: The Clery Act requires higher educational institutions to collect information about and report on crimes that occur on campus. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires states to develop laws mandating that child abuse be reported.

In a statement, Education and the Workforce Committee communications director Alexandra Sollberger said, "The committee is monitoring the situation at Penn State carefully and will assess the need for congressional action after the Department of Education concludes its investigation into the matter."

One state has already moved to tighten reporting requirements. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday issued an executive order requiring "all public or vocational school, community college, college or university professors, administrators, coaches and other school employees to report child abuse or neglect within 24 hours of observing an incident of child abuse or neglect." The report must be made to child welfare authorities and police.

Changes should include tightening requirements among the states about who must report suspicions that a child is being sexually abused, said Lisa Fontes, a lecturer at University Without Walls at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and author of "Child Abuse and Culture -- Working with Diverse Families."

For example, Pennsylvania has an unusually narrow category of mandated reporters. The Department of Health and Human Services' website says that, in Pennsylvania, professionals "required to report include, but are not limited to: licensed physicians, osteopaths, medical examiners, coroners, funeral directors, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, interns, nurses, or hospital personnel, Christian Science practitioners or members of the clergy; school administrators, teachers, school nurses, social services workers, daycare center workers, or any other child care or foster care workers; mental health professionals; peace officers or law enforcement officials."

"It doesn't include many people who have regular contact with children, such as school bus drivers, children's barbers, athletic coaches," said Fontes, who has a doctorate in psychology.

Under "Reporting by other persons," the law appears to leave it up to the individual: "Any person who has reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected may report," it says.

And the requirements of professionals are limited to what they learn on the job, and do not apply to cases where a professional learns about suspected child abuse outside of his or her work, Fontes told CNN in a telephone interview.

Some states, like Indiana, are stricter. Professionals required to report include "any staff member of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency."

And the onus in Indiana also falls on non-professionals. "Any person who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect must report," the law says.

Such variation "makes no sense to me," said Fontes. "Mandatory reporting is not the be all, end all of preventing child abuse, but it certainly is an important part of making authorities aware of children at risk," she said.

Variation also extends to laws covering other behaviors, such as age of consent, which ranges from 16 to 18 in the United States, with some states having age-gap provisions under which sexual relations are legal as long as both parties are within a certain age range.

Children from poor families tend to be particularly vulnerable to child predators, said Fontes, who noted that the alleged victims were from The Second Mile, a program founded by Sandusky for at-risk youths.

Poor families tend to have fewer options for after-school care; poor communities tend to lack public libraries and safe parks; and their schools are less likely to be staffed with adequate guidance counselors and school psychologists who might notice if a child's behavior has changed, Fontes said.

In addition, children from poor families may be more vulnerable to offers of gifts, as Sandusky is alleged to have made, she said.

In the Penn State case, the grand jury report led to the firing last week of head football coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier. Assistant coach Mike McQueary -- who, according to the grand jury report, witnessed Sandusky raping a child in 2002 -- has been placed on administrative leave.

Gary Schultz, who was the university's senior vice president for finance and business at the time of the alleged assault, and former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failing to alert police.

Curley requested and was granted administrative leave, while Schultz -- whose responsibilities also included oversight of Penn State campus police -- has retired.

Sandusky told NBC's Bob Costas on Monday that he has been falsely accused, saying that he only "horsed around" with kids in the shower after workouts.

The Sandusky scandal: Who knew what? Sandusky denied being sexually attracted to boys, and his lawyer, Joe Amendola, told CNN Monday night that showering with children does not equate automatically to sexual assault.

In the NBC interview, Sandusky denied one of the charges in the grand jury report, i.e., that McQueary had walked in on him in the school's locker room raping a boy about 10 years of age.

Sandusky was arrested on November 5 after the release of the grand jury report detailing crimes that he allegedly committed between 1994 and 2009. He is free on $100,000 bail.

Authorities have said they are checking into more than a dozen calls from people who have said they were victimized by Sandusky.

Several other alleged victims are considering coming forward after seeing Sandusky's Monday interview, two State College attorneys told the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Patriot-News.

"I spent about half the day in kitchens and living rooms, speaking with victims of Sandusky's molestation and processing with them the effects of Jerry Sandusky being on television and Jerry Sandusky denying wrongdoing," attorney Andy Shubin told the newspaper. "And what I found was that these folks are being re-traumatized."

He said many of the alleged victims weren't sure whether they would contact police, as some cases may be too old to prosecute. One case dates back to the 1970s, the newspaper reported.

Lawyer Jeff Anderson told CNN he is representing one alleged victim and has received calls from more than 10 other people who said they, too, were victimized.

"In every instance, Sandusky used his position of trust and power and his caring ways as a coach and mentor to groom the families and the children," Anderson said. "And after he did, he would in some way act out on them -- either at the schools, at the events, on trips, at a variety of locations. And in some instances, he raped or assaulted them."

He added, "This is about an institutional failure by many over decades to heed the warning signs and to protect the kids and, instead of protecting the kids, many, many adults chose to protect the reputation."

Attorney Ben Andreozzi, who represents one of Sandusky's alleged victims, said in a statement issued after Sandusky's television interview that his client "fully intends to testify that he was severely sexually assaulted by Mr. Sandusky."

The lawyer said more information would be forthcoming.

Washington civil rights law firm Katz, Marshall and Banks issued a statement Thursday saying it is working with Shubin and Seth Kreimer, a law professor, to formulate a civil case against Penn State.

Earlier this week, Sandusky's attorney told CNN he was expecting other people hoping to take advantage of the situation to come forward with claims.

During an investigation into the allegations, authorities found that Second Mile records, including travel and expense reports, were missing from about 2000 to about 2003, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing two sources with knowledge of the case. The records were supposed to be stored at an off-site facility, it said.

Records from one of the years were later found after apparently having been misfiled, the Times said.

"It could be that they were just lost, but under the circumstances it is suspicious," one law enforcement official told the newspaper.

The alleged rape witnessed by McQueary, who was then a graduate assistant, was detailed in the grand jury report.

According to the report, McQueary told Paterno; Paterno then alerted his boss, Curley.

The grand jury report also indicates that McQueary talked to Schultz and that Schultz never presented the information to university police.

Preliminary hearings for Curley and Schultz were set for December 6 in Dauphin County Magistrate Court.

CNN's Mary Snow, Jason Carroll and Sarah Hoye contributed from State College. CNN's Ashley Hayes reported from Atlanta.


Police: Boy Tied Up, Beaten To Death By Dad - Indiana

Blogger note:
CPS failed, once again! Shame on them. When will CPS ever be held criminally accountable for their failure to protect children and being neglectful in their duties?

Caseworker Reported Nothing Wrong In Home, Records Show

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The father and grandmother of a 10-year-old boy who was beaten to death have been charged, yet a caseworker who investigated the family months before found nothing wrong, records show.

Tramelle Sturgis died earlier this month after he and his older brother were tied up with duct tape and beaten with a club by their father, Terry Sturgis, over several hours, in the family's South Bend home, police said.

The 10-year-old was found to have both old and new injuries, including a broken arm and leg, bruising across his body and marks from the club, police said.

His older brother survived the attack but also suffered bruises and welts, police said.

Terry Sturgis has been charged with one count of murder and two counts of felony battery. His mother, Dellia Castile, 53, the boys' grandmother, was charged Wednesday with three counts of felony neglect of a dependent.

Police said Castile, who lived with her son and his five children, was in the home the night that her grandson was killed and heard the boys screaming but did nothing to stop the abuse.

Indiana Department of Child Services records obtained by the Call 6 Investigators show at least one person reported ongoing abuse in the home in May.

According to the complaint, the parents "beat the children with two-by-fours" and that one of them "might be bleeding internally."

Records show that a caseworker went to the home to investigate but found the report to be unsubstantiated. The caseworker said the children didn't show signs of being abused.

Sandy Runkle-Delorme with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana said it is critical to study child fatalities to determine how other children might be saved in the future.

"Who knows where the responsibility lies, other than with the perpetrator, ultimately," she said. "Anyone with whom that child had contact with -- where was the missing link and who failed this child?"

Due to confidentiality rules, DCS officials were unable to comment on the case.


Does Foster Care Protect Children?

by Law Journal for Social Justice at Arizona State University

November 16, 2011

by Fatima Badreddine

On Jenna’s eighteenth birthday, she arrived at her home only to discover that her foster parents had taken all of her belongings and placed them in the driveway. She stayed at a friend’s house for a few days, but she soon became homeless. Jenna had been in foster care since she was six years old and was passed around from foster home to foster home. The lack of stability in her life left her traumatized, feeling alone and unwanted. Jenna’s eighteenth birthday should have been a happy day. Instead, it was one of her most hurtful experiences, invoking a renewed sense of anguish and rejection.

Unfortunately, Jenna’s experience illustrates one of many examples of the problems associated with foster care in America. Foster care has been a traumatic experience for children, many of whom are shuffled between different foster homes. Sanda Chipungu and Tricia Bent-Goodley reported in 2004 that after about three months of being placed in a foster home, many children exhibited symptoms of “depression, aggression, or withdrawal.” In severe cases, children exhibited symptoms of “sleep disturbance, hoarding food, excessive eating, self-stimulation, rocking, or failure to thrive.”[1] Like Jenna, more than half of the former-foster children that were surveyed reported that they were not prepared to support themselves after leaving foster care.[2]

However, foster care was created as a temporary injunction to find safe havens for abused and neglected children. Foster care was not designed to be a permanent remedy for abused and neglected children. Rather, the goal was to either return the foster children to their parents, or to place the children for adoption when returning them to their families is inappropriate. However, some children have remained in foster care permanently, being shuffled among different foster homes until they reached the age of majority. This unstable and continuously evolving environment contributes to the psychological problems described by Sandra Chipungu and Tricia Bent-Goodly. Furthermore, some children have been placed in abusive foster homes, meaning that they were shuffled from one abusive or neglectful environment to another. Considering that many children have been negatively impacted by foster care, is it an appropriate method for protecting abused and neglected children?

In Arizona, the statistics for children who have been removed from their home, both temporarily and permanently, are staggering. The number of children in out-of-home care[3] increased monthly from January to June 2011. In January 2011, 10,512 children were in out-of-home care, and by June 2011, 11,082 children were in out-of-home care.[4] These statistics become more significant when compared to the length of time that children remain in out-of-home care. About 22.6% of children remain in out-of-home care for over a year, while 20.7% of children remain in the state’s care for over two years.[5] This means that over twenty percent of foster children in Arizona have not been in a permanent living arrangement for more than two years. Furthermore, the report fails to clarify how long children are in state custody beyond two years, leaving the impression that the Department is attempting to bury this important information.

Likewise, the Arizona Department of Economic Services does not include statistics regarding the mental health and emotional well-being of children under state care. As mentioned above, the longer a child is separated from his/her family and support system, the more likely he/she is to experience emotional distress. Yet, the Department excludes this information from its statistical reports, which prevents the public from reviewing whether the Department adequately meets the needs of foster children.

Unfortunately, some children in Arizona have suffered from abuse while in foster care. Arizona Child Protective Services (“CPS”) does not consistently visit all children in out-of-home care, which is an important element in preventing and reporting foster care abuse. In March 2011, CPS case managers failed to visit 17.5% of children, and licensing case managers failed to visit 11.5% of foster homes.[6] This is a significant amount of children who have not received the minimal monitoring required by the state, thereby increasing the potential for unreported abuse in foster homes and families. In fact, during a mere six month time period, from October 2010 to March 2011, two children in Arizona died while in CPS custody due to “alleged abuse.”[7] The report did not include statistics concerning the number of reported abuses that resulted in harm other than death. Furthermore, the majority of children in out-of-home care are under the age of six[8] and unlikely to have the mental and emotional capacity to understand, let alone report, abuse. Thus, the actual amount abuse inflicted on foster children in Arizona is likely higher than disclosed in the Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report.

Victims of abuse while in state custody may seek restitution through the courts, but this process is complicated by state statutes that grant sovereign immunity to government officials and employees. Although 42 U.S.C. § 1983 permits victims of foster care abuse to overcome sovereign immunity, the burden to overcome it is heavy. As a result, there is minimal litigation in the United States and Arizona involving foster care abuse.

In Weatherford ex rel. Michael v. State (2003), the Supreme Court of Arizona ruled that foster children could establish liability against state employees for abuse under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court concluded that a foster child “has a right to reasonable safety while in foster care” and that this right required more than protection just from “known or obvious dangers.”[9] So, the Court expanded the previous Grubbs II test to include a negligence liability for social workers.[10]

However, a foster child still has a difficult burden to overcome. He/she must prove that: 1) the social worker was unjustified in acting “with deliberate indifference” by putting or keeping a child in foster care, when the social worker knew or should have known that the child would be exposed to danger; or, 2) the state worker deliberately ignored or refused to obtain information that placing the child in foster care would expose that child to danger, and the worker had “time to consider the placement for a foster child . . . .”[11] Furthermore, the court must consider “the totality of the circumstances” because the social worker is not liable if he/she cannot find placement for the child or is bound by “financial constraints.”[12] The totality of circumstances rule grants wide deference to social workers because the Court does not clarify what constitutes adequate time to consider or find placement. The Court also fails to specify the extent of reasonable “financial constraints.” So, although the Court expanded the state’s liability under § 1983 to include negligence, it simultaneously granted wide deference to social workers, making the plaintiff’s burden difficult to overcome.

Foster care in the United States and Arizona is in a state of chaos and confusion. Although foster care was created as a temporary tool to protect abused and neglected children, a significant amount of children in Arizona remain in foster care for over a year. A year or longer in an unstable and impermanent home environment is a considerable amount of time for a child, making it more likely that the child will develop psychological or physical harm. Until foster care is reformed to account for these issues, it should be reserved as an emergency solution for extreme cases of abuse and neglect that seriously threaten the safety and/or health of the child.

[1] Douglas Abrams & Sarah Ramsey, Children and the Law: Doctrine, Policy and Practice 439 (West, 4th ed. 2010).
[2] Id. at 440.
[3] Defined by the Arizona Department of Economic Security as the number of children in CPS custody “who require placement in a foster care setting.” Clarence H. Carter, Dep’t of Econ. Sec., Child Protective Service Bi-Annual Financial and Accountability Report, at 3 (Ariz. 2011), financial_and_program_accountability_2024_report.pdf.
[4] Id. at 3a, 3f.
[5] Clarence H. Carter, Dep’t of Econ. Sec., Child Welfare Reporting Requirements: Semi-Annual Report, at 44 (Ariz. 2011), http:// mar_2011.pdf.
[6] Id. at 46.
[7] Id. at 58.
[8] Id. at 39.
[9] Weatherford ex rel. Michael v. State, 206 Ariz. 529, 537 (2003).
[10] Id.
[11] Id.
[12] Id. at 538.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Federal judge should hear Arlington CPS case

By: Barbara Hollingsworth

One of the most disturbing stories I've ever written for The Washington Examiner was about a 3-week-old baby girl who was snatched from her mother's arms and placed in foster care by Arlington County Child Protective Services because she lost 10 ounces after birth. Baby Sabrina's story hit me hard in the gut because that could have been me; my youngest daughter lost a whole pound postpartum.

Newborn weight loss is normal, Sabrina was under a doctor's care and had even regained all of her lost birth weight when she was taken. Kit Slitor, a freelance video editor, and his wife, Nancy Hey, a federal employee, were never charged with or convicted of child abuse or neglect, and the Virginia Department of Social Services exonerated them of any wrongdoing. It didn't matter.

After doing everything social workers and the Arlington Domestic and Juvenile Relations Court, or DJR, demanded of them -- including home inspections, supervised visitation, and psychological testing -- their parental rights were terminated and Sabrina was put up for adoption. They spent more than $250,000 fighting for her, all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court, which declined to hear their case.

Four years later, their story still haunts me.

On Sept. 16, a class-action lawsuit modeled after a similar pleading in Massachusetts was filed in federal court in Alexandria on behalf of eight children -- including Sabrina -- who have been placed in foster care by Arlington County.

The list of serious accusations contained in the lawsuit against DJR Judges George Varoutsos and Esther Wiggins, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jason McCandless, and various Arlington CPS officials is long: perjury, RICO violations of civil rights, fraud upon the court, obstruction of justice, unconstitutional "ex parte" hearings, court orders that were never served, depriving parents of their due process rights, "missing" court orders, illegal searches and seizures, and felony removal of documents from court files, to name just a few.

Arlington CPS "has not implemented the reforms necessary to remedy the severe and persistent legal violations within its foster care system, despite its longstanding knowledge of these systemic ills," the lawsuit alleges. The allegations are so grave that if the judicial system were working properly, an emergency restraining order against DJR would be issued immediately.

Don't hold your breath. The "next friend" lawsuit was filed by nonlawyer James Renwick Manship, a disabled Navy cryptologist and court-appointed special advocate, on behalf of foster children and their impoverished parents. It's the longest of long shots aimed directly at a corrupt, unaccountable system that holds every card in the deck.

Or almost every card. Judge James Cacheris caused quite a legal stir in May when he cited the landmark Supreme Court Citizens United ruling to strike down a ban on corporate political donations. Campaign finance is an important issue, but it pales in comparison with judicial kidnapping, which strikes at the very heart of Americans' God-given rights.

If social workers and judges can take your child away without due process, the Constitution is nothing more than a piece of paper the powerful can continue to ignore with impunity.

There's still a chance that Cacheris, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan, will search his conscience, rise to the occasion, and allow this David vs. Goliath case to proceed to trial despite tremendous pressure from the legal establishment to ignore the compelling evidence of official misconduct and continue covering up this rot.


Child's mother saw signs - Idaho

Blogger note:
Many families caught up with CPS find that their children are being hurt or neglected in foster homes and in almost every case, when they report the situations to CPS, they are ignored or CPS downplays their concerns. This kind of problem can lead and has led to child deaths while in foster care. Many families will even bring this information up in court and sometimes to their state lawmakers and guess what? Those same people say they have complete faith in CPS. How can a family proctect their children in foster care when no one will hear them?

Daughter in foster care had bumps, scratches


COEUR d'ALENE - Samantha Richardson said she had three visits with her children in the two months they lived with foster parents in Post Falls in late 2008 and early 2009.

At each of those one-hour meetings, she said she saw changes, both physical and in behavior, in one of her three children, 2-year-old Karina J. Moore.

By early January 2009, Karina was in a coma in a Spokane hospital. Days after that, she was dead.

Now the foster parents, Amber M. Clark, 28, and Jeremy M. Clark, 36, have been indicted by a grand jury in Kootenai County, accused of felony injury to children, conspiracy to conceal evidence, and perjury. They were arrested and jailed, but then released on $25,000 bond.

"After three years, you're thinking these people might get off the hook," Richardson, 25, of Coeur d'Alene, said Monday.

She's eager to see the Clarks in front of a judge and jury, she said, and for an opportunity to take the witness stand and tell her side of the story.

Richardson had her three children taken from her in mid-November 2008 because she allegedly harmed her son, Shawn, who is 8 years old today. She said the alleged mistreatment turned out, upon investigation, to have been nothing more than an accident. She has had a fourth child, Saniyah, who is now 8 months old. She has custody of her children now.

In the first supervised visit at the end of November 2008, her daughter, Karina, had a big knot on her head, Richardson recalled.

The foster parents told state child protection employees that Karina had slipped and fallen on some ice. State employees then passed that story on to Richardson. She was concerned, but such a fall didn't sound unlikely.

But that wasn't all.

Karina's older brother Shawn told Richardson he didn't like it when the foster parents spanked Karina when she didn't put her clothes on herself.

"That was the very first thing he said to me in that visit," Richardson said.

State workers told Richardson that her son was exaggerating. "'Shawn is a liar,'" she said she was told.

Along with Karina and Shawn, Richardson had a third child, a daughter Aaliyah, who was a baby at the time, and also was living with the Clarks.

In the second visit, in early December, Karina had another knot on the side of her head, Richardson said.

This time the foster parents told child protection employees that Karina had run into another child and bumped her head. That message was forwarded on to Richardson.

"I didn't buy it," Richardson said. "I didn't buy it at all."

Karina's speech also had become "slurred" at this point.

"Her speech was gone," she said.

By the third visit, on Christmas Eve in 2008, Karina had black eyes and scratches on her face, Richardson said.

This time, she was told Karina hadn't gotten enough sleep lately, and had "raccoon eyes," and a dog had scratched her face, Richardson said.

She was concerned because Karina had been a healthy child and developing normally while in Richardson's care. That didn't seem to be the case while in foster care, she said.

"She never had anything wrong with her," she said.

Richardson, who got married in July 2009, but was a single mother at the time of Karina's death, said she complained about the changes she had seen in Karina. Karina's father lives in South Carolina.

Richardson went to both the state child protection employees and Karina's court appointed special advocate to voice her concerns.

However, the next time she saw Karina, the child was in a coma.

At 1 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2009, Richardson received a phone call from a restricted number.

A Post Falls police detective was on the line.

He told her, "'There has been a horrible accident, and Karina is being flown to Sacred Heart (Medical Center, in Spokane),'" she recalled the detective saying. "'We think you should get over there.'"

Richardson said, "My heart sank."

Too distraught to drive herself, Richardson got a ride to Spokane with her mother.

When Richardson reached the hospital, she was told by police that Karina had fallen down some carpeted stairs. Richardson couldn't be told anything else, as that was all police knew at that point, she said.

"Where were the baby gates?" she said.

Karina was lying on the hospital bed in a diaper and neck brace, she recalled.

"Her body was cold," Richardson said. "Her lips were purple."

Richardson was told by doctors that Karina had a very high sodium level and low body temperature.

"I still to this day have no idea why her sodium level was so high," Richardson said.

She has her theories about why the girl's body temperature was so low.

Indictment documents filed in Kootenai County court said the Clarks were responsible for "causing the child's body temperature to drop under 96 degrees or permitting the same to occur; or by withholding medical care" for her.

Richardson has had a tough three years.

She starts a new job on Wednesday.

She hasn't been able to work since Karina's death, because she doesn't want to let her children out of her sight, she said.

She has regular counseling for anxiety, she said.

"I have the worst anxiety when it comes to the kids," she said. Karina's death "has messed with me a lot."

She said both she and her family and the Post Falls police are "relieved" that a grand jury has indicted somebody for Karina's death.

She was told of the indictment by the Kootenai County prosecutor's office and Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug.

"They worked so hard on this in the last three years," she said.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Elected Officials Involved In Coverup Penn State Alleged Sexual Abuse Of Young Boys?

Information in this TMZ video suggests that more than university officials may have been involved the coverup at Penn State. It runs until about 21 minutes before it goes off onto another topic.
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‘Culture of Secrecy” hid death of child in state welfare system - Kentucky

By Mike Farrell

Now we know why Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd declared a “culture of secrecy” exists at the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

That secrecy was necessary to hide from the public the state’s failure to protect a child who was bludgeoned to death.

“This case presents a tragic example of the potentially deadly consequences of a child welfare system that has completely insulated itself from meaningful public scrutiny,” Judge Shepherd wrote in the most recent decision over state records in the death of a child.

In a 19-page decision he issued Nov. 7, the judge detailed what he referred to as a “systematic breakdown” of the state’s child protective services, which contributed to the death of a nine-year-old Todd County girl in February.

The judge made it clear the cabinet failed to fulfill its responsibilities in this case. “(T)he Cabinet’s records document an alarming history of misfeasance, at best, or malfeasance, at worst, on the part of the Cabinet in addressing allegations of abuse and neglect” in this case.

Amythz Dye was murdered on Feb. 4 outside her home by her 17-year-old brother, Garrett Dye, who pleaded guilty last month. She had been bludgeoned. According to the court’s decision, she had been shoveling gravel outside the house on a cold night as punishment for stealing pudding and juice from a friend’s lunchbox at school.

The girl had been adopted by Kimberly Dye after she had been removed from her biological home in another state as a result of physical and sexual abuse. She was the great-niece of Kimberly Dye, who was then divorced and living with her two sons. The cabinet had approved the adoption, even though other relatives had indicated interest and the cabinet had previously confirmed the abuse of one of her sons by the father.

Judge Shepherd reported that the cabinet had received eight separate reports of suspicions that the girl was being abused.

• The first report in the cabinet’s file was that one of her two older brothers had thrown her across the bed and kicked her, leaving 5-inch bruises on her hips. The cabinet’s records indicate the report involved a “sibling altercation” and did not meet the criteria for investigation.

• One week later, the school nurse reported that the girl said the brother had been hitting her and knocked her off the bed. This incident was viewed much as the first, and after the cabinet talked to the mother, it took no further action.

• About a month later, the school nurse called again to report the girl had thumb prints on her face and her skin was peeling. She said the injuries were caused by the same brother, and that the mother had warned her she would be spanked if she told anyone. The mother told a cabinet worker the girl had been playing in gravel and rubbed it on her face. The cabinet record shows no further follow-up.

At the same time, the school nurse wrote a letter to the cabinet detailing six referrals of suspected abuse of the girl she already had made. She asked that a cabinet worker come to the school to talk to the girl.

Apart from that letter, Judge Shepherd said the cabinet’s records do not document three of those six referrals:

• Two weeks before the first incident documented in the cabinet’s records, a guidance counselor told the cabinet the girl had bruising on both thighs and said she had been hit by her brother.

• Between the second and third report in the cabinet’s documents, the school nurse reported the girl said “her private parts hurt” and she felt a burning sensation when she urinated.

• The next week, the same school nurse reported the girl had fingerprint bruises on both arms, which she blamed on the brother grabbing her and then shooting her with a BB gun.

• Three weeks later, the cabinet received a report that the girl was being hit in the head with a shovel by the brother. The mother told a cabinet worker the girl had hit her head on a desk. The only documented action was to refer the family to an outside agency.

• Another report came several months later. The girl said the brothers had hurt her, her eye was bruised and swollen, and she was covered in bites. Kimberly Dye told a cabinet worker that the girl had tripped and fallen while running, the same story the brothers told. The girl also was interviewed and she said she had fallen and hit her face on the ground. The cabinet concluded as a result of this information that the family did not need any services.

The court decision does not document further reports, meaning about three and a half years elapsed between the final referral reported to the cabinet and the girl’s murder. We know all of this only because the Todd County Standard sued the cabinet for the records, and in ruling for the newspaper, the judge laid out the story.

This decision was the third open records decision Judge Shepherd has issued against the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, and the second in four days. The cabinet has refused to release records related to the deaths of children who were under its supervision, citing a federal requirement of confidentiality. In all three lawsuits filed by newspapers seeking the release of those records, Judge Shepherd has ruled federal laws do not require that confidentiality when a child dies.

“The Open Records Act is the only method available by which the public and the legislature can obtain information regarding the systematic breakdown of our child protective services that contributed so directly to this child’s death,” Judge Shepherd wrote.

So where is the public outrage? Perhaps citizens aren’t outraged because the cabinet has succeeded in keeping the public in the dark about its failures.

A young girl who had been abused in her biological home is placed into another home by the Kentucky cabinet, which then fails to recognize, despite multiple reports, that she is being abused again.

Why isn’t Gov. Steve Beshear demanding answers? Where is his message of assurance to the citizens of the state that changes will be made swiftly to ensure children who are being supervised by the cabinet will be protected?

Why does he allow the cabinet to continue this “culture of secrecy,” hiding behind a statutory requirement that exists only in its excuses?

The Courier-Journal reported after a 2009 investigation that nearly 270 Kentucky children had died of abuse or neglect during the past decade — more than half in cases in which state officials knew of or suspected problems.

The General Assembly has a responsibility to assess where the failure lies. Is it training? Is it staffing levels? Are the cabinet’s procedures defective? Is the cabinet simply too big to manage all of its responsibilities? Whatever the contributing factors, something is wrong when eight reports of suspicious injuries fail to bring a troubled family into the cabinet’s program of services.

The cabinet clearly has a difficult job to do with limited resources, trying to protect so many abused and neglected children. Nevertheless, its unwillingness to be accountable to citizens of this state by responding to open records requests is troubling. This cabinet and the administration, regardless of who is in the governor’s mansion, must be accountable to the public. It’s clear from the three lawsuits and the recent string of open records appeals that the cabinet does not understand how important it is that their work be subject to public scrutiny.

Perhaps an independent commission should be established to investigate the death of every child who is a victim of abuse or neglect. That would mean the commission would need staff, subpoena power, and be required to publish its findings and make recommendations.

Being a child protection service worker is a difficult, demanding and sometimes dangerous job. Most of those workers do an admirable job of protecting children and steering troubled parents and families to available assistance. We owe them our appreciation and support.

But the problem is with the officials who run the agency and who resist reasonable requests by citizens and the media for information and about individual cases of abuse and neglect.

All of our children deserve to be protected. We all must do more to ensure their safety and to demand that the state protect each one. And we must demand that the cabinet is accountable to the public for its actions. The little we know at this point we know only because of the work of three newspapers, the attorney general’s office and Judge Phillip Shepherd.

Mike Farrell is the director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky and an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He was a journalist for nearly 20 years at The Kentucky Post. His views are his own and not those of the university or of KyForward.

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It should be noted that "conflicts of interest," such as in this case are common when it comes to CPS and the courts. It happens all across America, to the benefit of CPS. Many of these judges are not just too tight with CPS and their reps but many of them donate time and / or money to agencies involved in foster and adoption placements. The same goes for some Gaurdian Ad Litems and CASA workers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kinship Care and Child Only Cases

Blog Author Notes:
We feel that kinship care is under untilized by state CPS systems. We also find that CPS goes out of their way to make it next to impossible for relatives to get kinship placement of their family members in the system, especially if the kinship placement is not formal, no matter the ethnicity of the family. We feel the reason for this is because states get less federal funding than they would if the child is placed in a state recognized foster home or institution. The numbers have shown this to be true, time and time again. It's a shame because the one's who suffer most are the very children that states claim to be looking out for. What states are really looking out for is their bottom line, which is sad.

Here is an informative link for our readers to check out concerning tribes and kinship placement: