Legislators, both state and federal, are responsible for the child welfare laws we live with today. But this problem isn’t a recent one. It has been going on for over 100 years.
Take a trip back into history and you will find Family Court, the court responsible for the child welfare cases, was established in 1910 in the United States.
Why family court?
Family court was originally intended to deal with domestic relations cases. The court was created by special statutes and they are permitted to operate on looser procedures and standards than civil or criminal courts. By establishing this new statutory court system, it allows the states to circumvent the constitution and established their own laws under which they function.
In a Cps case involving criminal behavior you can be found “not guilty” in criminal court and yet that will not automatically dismiss the Cps case. You will still have to fight the Cps battle and could lose!
What else was happening in the United Stated during this time?
Think about history. (1900-1919)
- Known as “The Progressive era” it began in 1895 and lasted until WWI
- In 1913 two amendments to our constitution were ratified – 16th & 17th – one creating the IRS and the progressive income tax, the other changed the way Senators were elected to the federal government
- Congress established the Federal Reserve System
- The United States Bureau of Mines is authorized by Congress
- The National Park Service was established
- Labor unions continued to grow
- Every state passed a minimum wage law
- Women’s suffrage, women wanted equality – 19th amendment was ratified in 1919
- Population growth was a problem because of immigration
- The first elementary school was created
- Testing became the norm in schools
- NAACP is founded
So who’s responsible?
Well intended legislation has created the monster we have today. Laws passed for the right reasons resulted in unintended consequences.
For example: Older children weren’t getting adopted and often remained in foster care until they aged out of the system. Federal legislators concerned about the welfare of these children, especially as they were bounced around from foster home to foster home, or even group home to group home, didn’t provide them with a stable environment. So legislation was created to give states a financial incentive to adopt out these children. This led to the bonuses the federal government now pays out when the state completes an adoption on a foster child, but does not provide any funds for returning the child to the family. Well intended legislation to help older children find permanent homes has fueled the kidnapping-for-profit scheme. Age is no longer a factor, but the financial gain to states become the incentive as they now sell children rather than return them home.
So it isn’t just one legislator or a group of them today that is responsible, it has been decades of elected officials in both federal and state governments that have added legislation upon legislation while the public has remained asleep to what was happening. The public didn’t know or didn’t care.
The biggest threat to our children are the people who continue to remain silent, who continue to fail to get involved, who would rather sit on the couch and watch reality TV or sports. We are our biggest enemy! We didn’t pay attention and we allowed the governments to create this child welfare monster.
The first and most important step in solving the problem is becoming educated and informed. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You can join our efforts by getting others involved. Help identify legislators who are concerned about the issue, not only of protecting the children that need protection, but are also concerned about protecting families, our constitutional rights, and prohibiting the continued abuse of the system that can cause more damage to children than the alleged allegations.
Each legislator we spoke to has a different focus. If we can find their hot button, we can relate that to one of the many deficits and abuses within the child welfare system. Each legislator we spoke with was concerned about protecting the children, but most were not aware of the abuses from the system itself. They need to be educated as well, especially from families who have gone through the abuse by CPS. They get numerous calls from desperate constituents needing help in dealing with CPS, but few families offer constructive criticism and solutions to the problems. We hope our efforts will do just that.
So even if you don’t necessarily agree with all of the legislator’s stands on issues, there is probably one within the CPS system that will get their attention. Since we need to make massive changes one step at a time, we can partner with these legislators to address those issues.
Of the Arizona legislators here is what we found:
Rep. Carl Seel has been one of the best supporters of family rights and constitutional protections. He was instrumental in getting our initial proposal to the committee members for review.
Rep. Brenda Barton was concerned about the lack of services and availability of real therapy to help the family recover from the trauma of being removed from the home and of the potential abuse that may have occurred. If abuse is reported during therapy it must be reported to CPS (mandatory reporting laws) – sending the family through the fear of yet another potential traumatic encounter with CPS. So everyone clams up instead of being able to really address and overcome the problems that lead the family to CPS in the first place.
Rep. Steve Montenegro was concerned about CPS’s failure to follow the Arizona law. He was also concerned about the lack of transparency within the agency and even his inability to get information to help his constituents, to be able to help them navigate and understand the process and ensure CPS is really following the law as intended.
Rep. Heather Carter showed a concern about the negative impact on the children’s education. One of our grandsons was kept out of school for 5 weeks once in the custody of CPS, something the family would be condemned for. She spent quite a lot of time talking to him about his experience and the school issue.
Rep. Kelly Townsend listened to our issues but was especially interested in the aspects of the investigation and police involvement. If criminal abuse is happening in the home then an investigation needs to take place that will hold up in criminal court. It does not do the public justice if you remove an abuser from the home but permit him/her to remain in the community to abuser someone else. Cases must be properly investigated and evidence secured to obtain a criminal conviction, when appropriate.
Senator Nancy Barto also listened to our issues and concerns and gave us ample time to share our experience. She is a member of the Senate Health Committee who should be involved in the reforms on the Senate side of the state.
We have also reached out and contacted the candidates running for governor. We are starting to get responses from them, and interest in reading our 53 page report, as well as a willingness to meet with us in person from a number of them. We will keep you informed if/when these meetings happen with each of them.
But we did run into one legislator that refused to speak with us – in fact she is our representative in LD28 – Rep. Kate Brophy McGee. Over a year ago when our case started we made an appointment to speak with her. She cancelled our appointment about an hour before we were scheduled and only slipped in to our first meeting with Heather Carter minutes before it ended. This year she refused to even make an appointment to meet with us. She is one of the legislators on the Health Committee that oversees CPS. She was on the CARE Team that made recommendations to the governor to reform CPS. It is her committee that will make recommendations to the new CPS system.
Even when confronted at our LD meeting, she still had no interest in speaking with us. She basically told us that everything was decided. As OUR representative she is not willing to speak with her own constituents. Is she not willing to listen to someone on the other side of the issue? She may have some good ideas, but when she fails to speak to and respond to her own constituents you have to question who is she really representing?
Kate Brophy-McGee is also the one quoted in the Arizona Republic as stating that all calls into CPS should be treated as 9-1-1 calls and dialed down from there. http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20131122calls-mounting-cps-shake-up.html Treating all calls to CPS as 911 emergencies can be more detrimental to protecting the children. There are a large number of calls to CPS that don’t involve any risk or harm to children, often made by misinformed people or people using the system to retaliate against a family member or neighbor. By treating all calls as emergencies the case workers become overworked and the child really in danger may be overlooked because of the overloaded system. Each call should be taken seriously and addressed, but responding to all calls as 9-1-1 emergencies and expecting the agency to dial it down from there is asking for trouble. Dialing it down may take days, weeks or months and in the meantime the children become the victims of the system intended to protect them.
Who do we contact and what do we say?
We have put the 2 House Committees, Health and Reform and Human Services, on our website with the names of the members. Those would be legislators to start talking to.
Each legislator’s contact information may be found on the state website: www.azleg.gov. You can find each one listed from the House and Senate, along with their district, email, and phone numbers. Use that website to get the most current contact information for each legislator.
We would suggest asking your own legislators some basic questions about CPS. Keep your bias to yourself so you can get their opinion first without influencing them. A good place to start would be:
- Ask them about the current situation in the state involving CPS and the over 6,000 uninvestigated cases.
- Ask them how they would help prevent this in the future.
- Ask if they are involved with any current legislation that will reform the state’s CPS system. If so, what is that legislation?
- Ask them if they or any member of their family has been a foster parent. (They may have already disclosed this in your conversation.)
Then hit them with whatever issue you are knowledgeable of and passionate about. The system is so big that we cannot address the entire thing. So come prepared with backup data and sources and focus on the issue that concerns you the most. Don’t accept vague answers; keep asking until you get a response. In some cases that response may be, “I don’t know enough about that issue to comment,” which is what we finally got out of one candidate. If they don’t understand the issue are they willing to sit down with you to discuss it? Sometimes the uninformed candidate or representative can become an ally because they don’t come with bias.
For example: “Did you know that in 2010 Arizona ranked about 25th in the nation in CPS with just over 4,000 in foster care. Today Arizona ranks 47th in the nation with just under 15,000 children in foster care. The reforms made in the Arizona CPS system have actually made our child welfare system worse. How do you intend to fix this?
When you get responses from legislators, please let us know via email at email@example.com. We can accumulate these responses and get the information out to the public, especially before election time.
How does CPS violate our constitutional rights?
- 4th Amendment – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The constitution states there must be probable cause and they must obtain a warrant.
In CPS cases their probable cause may only be a sketchy allegation from an anonymous caller.
They don’t need a warrant to take your children. If you take them to Child Help they already have your children, they just need to ask you to leave. Even when they forcibly remove children from the home, often times they remove them first with the help of police and obtain a warrant days later to justify their actions.
- 5th Amendment - …..nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The constitution states you are not to be deprived of property without due process of law.
In CPS cases they remove your children first. Due process doesn’t happen until months later, after they have already deprived you of your children.
- 6th Amendment – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
The constitution states you have a right to confront those people who have accused you.
In CPS, anonymous is permitted to make allegations against you and anonymous is not compelled to testify in court. You have been denied your right to face your accuser.
Unfortunately in today’s society the government believes your children belong to the government. Our elected officials believe it is their duty to act in order to “protect the children” and “in the child’s best interest” regardless of whether or not the allegations have been proven true. CPS bases their actions on what “might happen” or what “could happen” and not necessarily on what “did happen.” Speculation and assumption is often used to make their case. Families have no rights and family rights are not protected.
Next week we will be discussing the investigation process by CPS and the police.
For listeners interested in learning about real life cases, I did find a movie that addresses one case of how the police work. Remember the case of the photos developed at a lab and the lab reporting the mother to CPS. The movie “Snap Decision” is based on that case and focuses on the criminal aspects of child abuse and neglect.
The movie does not address the CPS aspects of this case. If this case had taken place in Arizona the parent would have not only faced the criminal charges but also an entire CPS case. Most likely it would have also gone further and charged not only the mother, but the photographer and friend who were also present in the room.