Saturday, February 18, 2012

Child Deaths Up In Families Watched By Ga. Agency

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s child welfare agency has confirmed that child deaths are higher than normal among families who have been under its watch.

The Division of Family and Children Services said that 35 children died in the 10-week period since Dec. 1, all of them from families that have a history with the agency that investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. That’s more than 1/3 the number of child deaths — 92 total — the agency saw in all of 2011 in families it had investigated or monitored.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported ( Saturday that officials cautioned that not all of the deaths were caused by abuse or neglect. Still, the child welfare agency’s deputy director, Kathy Herren, said that, “This is a mathematical number that is higher.”

Child advocates said they’re concerned the deaths may signal that the agency isn’t properly investigating homes where children could be in danger.

Georgia DFCS has been criticized for years for being short staffed and losing children’s records. The state settled a 2005 lawsuit that insisted on improving the state-run foster care systems in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Atlanta attorney Don Keenan, a critic of Georgia’s child welfare system, called the recent deaths reported between Dec. 1 and Feb. 12 “an outrageous figure.”

“That’s a school bus full of kids,” Keenan said.

The Atlanta newspaper and WSB-TV jointly pushed state officials to release the death statistics. Each of the children who had died came from families that had been investigated or monitored by DFCS in the past five years, though the children may not have had open cases at the time of their deaths.

Officials said four of the deaths were attributed to abuse, while 10 were caused by medical problems. Six children died after a parent rolled on top of them while they slept in the same bed. Others were reported to have been killed in bathtub accidents, car wrecks, a house fire and an accidental shooting. Some deaths were listed as having unknown causes with no evidence of abuse.

The agency said three of its workers were fired over the handling of one case involving the Feb. 6 death of a 4-year-old Fulton County boy. DFCS section director Peggy Woodard said the boy apparently died from abuse and had an open case with the agency, but no caseworker had visited the family in about two months. Visits are supposed to happen monthly.

Officials said none of the other child deaths resulted in disciplinary actions.


Files show Josh Powell’s twisted legacy of hate

Blogger Note:

We are supplying the link to this article because there is a ton of information there that makes any person wonder why those who were supposed to be protecting Powell's children even thought that meeting this character at "his home" was even a remotely good idea. His visits should have been held in some kind of visitation facility or police station. There were far too many red flags not to require the state to do so. But once again, the state fails more children. Aren't the state actors supposed to be trained to detect this stuff and to understand an evaluation enough to have a good idea of what the risks are in their decisions? What sorry judgement the state showed in this case! The Cox family should the pants off of everyone involved!

Cops: Josh Powell murder-suicide house was sham set up for social worker visits

The house Josh Powell blew up earlier this month – a cozy residential house near Puyallup, Wash. – was a front, the Tacoma News-Tribune reported.

"He set it up like a rental place, with pictures of the family," Sgt. Denny Wood of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said, according to the News-Tribune. "I think it was staged so when CPS (Child Protective Services) came, it would look like a loving family."

Police say that Powell rented it in 2011 but neighbors said they never saw anyone there. When Powell learned he could not keep his children, he rigged the house, turning it into a bomb, authorities have said. On Feb. 5, when his sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5, came to visit, he slammed the door in a social worker’s face, slashed the boys with a hatchet and lit a match to a can of gasoline.

The house exploded within moments, killing all three. The social worker was uninjured.

Powell had been in the media spotlight because he was the only person of interest in his wife’s disappearance. In December 2009, Susan Powell, 28, went missing in Utah, where the family lived. At the time, Powell told police that she had run away from their family during a midnight camping trip.

On Monday, Wood detailed what police believe occurred on that fateful Sunday: "The little boys come in. He takes them to the back and hits them with the hatchet. Josh Powell scatters gas. He walks around the house, tossing it on the walls and floor. He puts the five-gallon gas can by the front door. He sits with the other can between his knees."


Former Baltimore City cop faces child sex charge for third time


Advocate Frank LaMere Talks About Battles Shaping Indian Child Welfare

By Stephanie Woodard

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been in the news lately. A National Public Radio (NPR) series exposed horrific child-welfare injustices in South Dakota, while two CNN stories—one on the return of an infant boy to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and another on the return of a baby girl to her Cherokee father—criticized the law, and then-CNN anchor Campbell Brown added some scathing commentary. We went to Frank LaMere, member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and executive director of the Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, Iowa, for a reading on how perceptions of ICWA are changing and what still needs to happen to ensure state social-services departments and courts nationwide understand and fulfill its requirements. LaMere is a longtime advocate for Indian child welfare who works on a daily basis with Native families.

Has recent coverage of ICWA adversely affected the attitude toward Indian child welfare?

LaMere: The exposure brought attention to the plight of our children, and I am glad of that. As a result of the NPR coverage, members of Congress were inspired to ask for an investigation of South Dakota. I wrote to the legislators involved and told them, “Don’t stop there.” South Dakota has problems, but so does the rest of the country. They should investigate every jurisdiction in every state. Here in Iowa, the social services department of Woodbury County [surrounding Sioux City] has made progress, but it’s just one of our 99 counties. Many in Iowa would still do an end run around ICWA.

What did you think of CNN’s take on ICWA?

CNN and Campbell Brown need a reality check! Brown, as a mother, said she could not imagine the hurt a white family felt when their Indian child was returned to his people. Why could she not also imagine the hurt thousands of Native families feel right now, knowing their children will cry themselves to sleep tonight because someone did an end run of ICWA and stole their children under the “color of law”? Over the generations, hundreds of thousands of Indian families have endured this pain. That’s the grim reality. We must engage and educate ICWA detractors, and we must remind them that the Indian Child Welfare Act is the law of the land—whether they like it or not. And we must applaud the tribes and parents in these recent cases for persevering and those in the courts for reuniting them with the children.

Why do even states that seem to comply with ICWA—or at least seem to try—still have relatively high numbers of Native children in foster care?

We in Iowa are trying to better understand those numbers. Native families were not identified as such in the past, and perhaps now that we’ve drawn attention to them and are identifying them as such, the numbers are rising for that reason. Additional data I want is tracking of individual social workers’ records of pulling our families apart—or keeping them together. Once we have these numbers, we need to ask what their agencies are going to do about it. This needs to happen everywhere, and it needs to happen now.

How does a Native parent fare in child-custody matters when facing a non-Native parent?

Generally, not well. Right now, I’m dealing with the worst case I’ve ever seen and the best example of how the system can fail our families. Two severely disabled Native children were taken from their white father, a founded—that is, proven­—child-abuser. After a crisis, during which one child ended up in the hospital, the court gave the youngsters temporarily to their Native mother. Now the state of Iowa has decided to reunite the children with the father, and the mother fears for her children’s lives. This is about old attitudes that make it tough for our Native families to get justice and to convince courts that ICWA, a federal statute, must be heeded.

Can you give some examples of what Native parents face?

I sit in on many meetings to determine the fate of Native families—along with the judges, lawyers, social workers and others involved—and I observe that they do not apply objective standards. If one standard were applied to all, Native children would go home more often than not. Time after time in these meetings, the Native parent has solved the issue—typically alcohol or drugs—that caused the children to be taken away. The parent proudly announces, “I’ve been sober for 22 months,” or what have you. We all congratulate them on their new wellness, then when that conversation dies down, a social worker inevitably says, “Well, yes, but… ” and raises a new issue. He or she may bring up a long-resolved problem from 20 years before, or something new. At a recent meeting, a social worker announced she’d found dirty dishes in the sink during her last visit to the mother’s home, so the mother shouldn’t get her kids back. I became unglued. I stressed that the mother didn’t lose her children over dirty dishes, and they couldn’t be kept from her for this reason. I deal with this kind of thing every week.

Do states have a financial incentive to ignore ICWA?

It’s a conspiracy of silence. Everyone knows our children feed the child-welfare system. They have for a long time and will continue to do so, because the funding is set up that way [with more children generating greater funding]. But those who work for the system won’t speak up. Beyond that, many social workers and courts nationwide feel they know better than we do about what’s good for our children. It remains for Native people to speak up. We must keep blowing the whistle on the child-welfare system, to local, state and national lawmakers. Only then will we have a chance to keep our families intact.

Is this what Four Directions does?

We at Four Directions Community Center routinely make people in the child-welfare system uncomfortable. Nothing changes until someone feels uncomfortable. That includes us. It is hard to confront those who control the systems that control our lives, but we must. Our children and their futures are in jeopardy. We have a long way to go, but we will prevail.

Click here to read our Q&A with Diane Garreau, ICWA director for South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Funding for this story was provided by the George Polk Program for Investigative Reporting.


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