Month: October 2009

cps, family, healing, social worker, system failure, welfare reform
When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…

A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

The child never comes home again.

This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

It happens all the time in this system.

All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

3a1ff59156e57f08

Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

Is that you?

Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

Carry on a legacy?

Make a difference in someone’s life?

Change history?

Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

Why is it so important to define these two words?

Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

Definition of Child Neglect

Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

  • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
  • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
  • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

Instead she failed them.

He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

She has the name that haunts him.

She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

the social worker now lives forever…

to that little boy …

(c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

cps, family, healing, social worker, system failure, welfare reform
When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…

A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

The child never comes home again.

This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

It happens all the time in this system.

All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

3a1ff59156e57f08

Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

Is that you?

Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

Carry on a legacy?

Make a difference in someone’s life?

Change history?

Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

Why is it so important to define these two words?

Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

Definition of Child Neglect

Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

  • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
  • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
  • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

Instead she failed them.

He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

She has the name that haunts him.

She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

the social worker now lives forever…

to that little boy …

(c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

cps
Successful Alternatives to Taking Children from their Parents
(source: National Coalition for Child Protection Reform)
Picture_1-1

At the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, they are often asked what can be done to prevent the trauma of foster care by safely keeping children with their own families.

There are many options, and some are listed below.

None of the alternatives described below will work in every case or should be tried in every case.

Contrary to the way advocates of placement prevention often are stereotyped, the NCCPR do not believe in “family preservation at all costs” or that “every family can be saved.”

But these alternatives can keep many children now needlessly taken from their parents safely in their own homes.

Similarly, even communities that have turned their child welfare systems into national models still have serious problems, and often much progress still needs to be made.

All of the things that go wrong in the worst child welfare systems also go wrong in the best – but they go wrong less often.

Alternatives to Taking Children

from their Parents

Doing nothing. There are, in fact, cases in which the investigated family is entirely innocent and perfectly capable of taking good care of their children without any “help” from a child welfare agency.  In such cases, the best thing the child protective services worker can do is apologize, shut the door, and go away.

Basic, concrete help. Sometimes it may take something as simple as emergency cash for a security deposit, a rent subsidy, or a place in a day care center (to avoid a “lack of supervision” charge) to keep a family together.

Intensive Family Preservation Services programs. The first such program, Homebuilders, in Washington State, was established in the mid-1970s.  The largest replication is in Michigan, where the program is called Families First. The very term “family preservation” was invented specifically to apply to this type of program, which has a better track record for safety than foster care.  The basics concerning how these programs work – and what must be included for a program to be a real “family preservation” program — are in NCCPR Issue Papers 10 and 11.  Issue Paper 11 lists studies proving the programs’ effectiveness.

CONTACTS:

  • Susan Kelly, former director, Families First (734) 547-9164, susan.kelly @cssp.org

The Alabama “System of Care.” This is one of the most successful child welfare reforms in the country. The reforms are the result of a consent decree growing out of a lawsuit brought by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. The consent decree requires the state to rebuild its entire system from the bottom up, with an emphasis on keeping families together. The rate at which children are taken from their homes is among the lowest in the country, and re-abuse of children left in their own homes has been cut sharply.  An independent monitor appointed by the court has found that children are safer now than before the changes.

CONTACTS:

  • Ira Burnim, Legal Director, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (202) 467-5730, ext. 129. Mr. Burnim also is a member of the NCCPR Board of Directors. The Bazelon Center also has published a book about the Alabama reforms.

  • Paul Vincent, Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, Montgomery, Ala. (334) 264-8300.  Mr. Vincent ran the child protection system in Alabama when the lawsuit was filed.  He worked closely with the plaintiffs to develop and implement the reform plan.

  • Ivor Groves, independent, court-appointed monitor, (850) 422-8900.

Family to Family. This is a multi-faceted program developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (which also helps to fund NCCPR).  One element of the program, Team Decisionmaking often is confused with the entire program, which has many more elements.  The program is described at the Casey website .

A comprehensive outside evaluation of the program, found that it led to fewer placements, shorter placements, and less bouncing of children from foster home to foster home – with no compromise of safety.

CONTACT:

  • Gretchen Test, Annie E. Casey Foundation (410) 547-6600.

Community/Neighborhood Partnerships for Child Protection. These partnerships, overseen by the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, are similar to the Family to Family projects. They mobilize formal and informal networks of helpers to prevent maltreatment and avoid needless foster care placement.  Partnerships in Florida’s Duval County, St. Louis, Mo. and Georgia  have reduced placements and improved safety.

CONTACT:

The turnaround in Pittsburgh. In the mid-1990s, the child welfare system in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County, Pa. was typically mediocre, or worse.  Foster care placements were soaring and those in charge insisted every one of those placements was necessary.  New leadership changed all that.  Since 1997, the foster care population has been cut dramatically.  When children must be placed, nearly half of all placements are with relatives and siblings are kept together 82 percent of the time.

They’ve done it by tripling the budget for primary prevention, more than doubling the budget for family preservation, embracing innovations like Family to Family and adding elements of their own, such as housing counselors in every child welfare office so families aren’t destroyed because of housing problems.  And children are safer.  Reabuse of children left in their own homes has declined and there has been a significant and sustained decline in child abuse fatalities.

CONTACT:

  • Karen Blumen, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Office of Community Relations (412) 350-5707.

Reform in El Paso County, Colorado. By recognizing the crucial role of poverty in child maltreatment, El Paso County reversed steady increases in its foster care population.  The number of children in foster care declined significantly – and the rate of reabuse of children left in their own homes is below the state and national averages, according to an independent evaluation by the Center for Law and Social Policy.

CONTACT:

  • Barbara Drake, El Paso County Department of Human Services, (719) 444-5532.

The Bridge Builders, Bronx, New York. Combine the giving and guidance of ten foundations with the knowledge and enthusiasm of eight community-based agencies, then partner with the child protective services agency and what do you get?  A significant reduction in the number of children taken from their homes, with no compromise of safety, in a neighborhood that is among those losing more children to foster care than any others in New York City.  That’s the record of the Bridge Builders Initiative in the Highbridge section of The Bronx.  (NCCPR has received a grant to assist the Bridge Builders with media work).

CONTACTS:

  • Mike Arsham, executive director, Child Welfare Organizing Project, co-chair Bridge Builders Executive Committee, mike@cwop.org, 212-348-3000.

Throughout the City, the Administration for Children’s Services has made significant progress in safely keeping children in their own homes.  Since 1998, even with backsliding since 2006 in the wake of highly-publicized deaths of children “known to the system,” the number of children taken from their parents over the course of a year has been cut significantly, with no compromise of safety. Though child abuse fatalities garnered extensive media attention in 2006, such fatalities have declined during the reforms, only to increase in the wake of the backsliding.  Overall re-abuse of children left in their own homes declined significantly when entries into foster care were reduced.

Contact:

  • Sharman Stein, Administration for Children’s Services 212-341-0999

The transformation in Maine. After a little girl named Logan Marr was taken needlessly from her mother only to be killed by a foster mother who formerly worked for the child welfare agency, the people of Maine refused to settle for pat answers about background checks and licensing standards.  They zeroed in on the fact that Maine had one of the highest proportions of children in the country trapped in foster care.  The combination of grassroots demands for change from below and new leadership at the top led to a dramatic reduction in the number of children taken away over the course of a year.  And while the state still has a long way to go in using kinship care, the proportion of children placed with relatives has more than doubled.  It’s all been done without compromising safety, earning the support of the state’s independent child welfare ombudsman.

CONTACTS:

  • Dean Crocker,Vice President for Programs,Maine Children’s Alliance,  (207) 623-1868 ext. 212, dcrocker@mekids.org;

  • Mary Callahan, founder Maine Alliance for DHS Accountability and Reform, (207) 353-4223, maryec_98@yahoo.com

Changing financial incentives. While not a program per se, making this change spurs private child welfare agencies to come up with all sorts of innovations. This is clear from the experience in Illinois. Until the late 1990s, Illinois reimbursed private child welfare agencies the way other states typically do: They were paid for each day they kept a child in foster care.  Thus, agencies were rewarded for letting children languish in foster care and punished for achieving permanence.

Now those incentives have been reversed, in part because of pressure from the Illinois Branch of the ACLU, which won a lawsuit against the child welfare system. Today, private agencies in Illinois are rewarded both for adoptions (which often are conversions of kinship placements to subsidized guardianships) and for returning children safely to their own homes.  They are penalized for prolonged stays in foster care.  As soon as the incentives changed, the “intractable” became tractable, the “dysfunctional” became functional, and the foster care population plummeted.  And children are safer.

Today, Illinois takes away children at one of the lowest rates in the country. Independent, court-appointed monitors have found that child safety has improved.

CONTACT:

Due process of law. Even the best programs are no substitute for due process.  That means court hearings in child welfare cases should be open.  But that also means  it’s urgent for accused parents to have meaningful legal representation from well-trained attorneys with low caseloads and solid support staff.  It’s not a matter of getting “bad” parents off, it’s a matter of challenging case records that often are rife with error, countering cookie-cutter “service plans” that provide no services and ensuring that families get the help they need.  A pilot project to provide such representation in some counties in Washington State has had such success in safely keeping families together that even the Attorney General’s office, which represents the child welfare agency in these cases, favors expanding it.

FURTHER INFORMATION AND CONTACTS are available from the Washington State Office of Public Defense at this website.

cps
Man accused of beating his 5-week-old son to death

I cannot imagine this person is being held with any kind of bail at all.  How does someone get so angry at a 5 week old to do this sort of thing? This is unimaginable!

Shelton Keith Alexander, 20, was booked into the county jail early in the morning on September 26th, 2009 and is being held on $1,000,000 bail.

He faces a charge of capital murder.

Dallas police say his 5-week-old son was taken Sunday to Children’s Medical Center with rib fractures, bruises to his abdomen and multiple liver lacerations. He was pronounced dead early yesterday. The Dallas County medical Examiner’s officer ruled the baby died from blunt force trauma, a police report says. During an interview at police headquarters, investigators say, Alexander admitted to detectives that he punched the baby twice in the abdominal area.

A police report says Alexander works at Pilgrim’s Pride, the chicken processing plant. He has not yet responded to a DMN request to be interviewed in jail.