Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the placement of children

Last week we discussed the disclosures of documents and what family can expect. This week we will discuss what the options are in the placement of your children.

It is rumored than Gov. Jan Brewer is going to call a special session specifically to address the problems with CPS. It is anticipated to start sometime in June.

Make sure you listen to next week’s show when we discuss the CARE team’s report. Is the state moving in the right direction this time?

CPS has decided that in order to protect your children they must be removed from your care. What happens to the children and what was happening at the time your grandkids were taken?

This is where CPS makes no sense and is also where the kidnapping for profit scheme takes hold.

You would think with all of the problems of getting and keeping foster care homes that CPS and the state would welcome family placements. But no. They would prefer to have children sleep in the CPS offices instead of placing them in a home setting!

Ironically at the beginning of our case an article was published in the Arizona Republic, “Many Arizona foster children live far from home.” September 2, 2012 http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/09/01/20120901arizona-foster-children-far-home.html

The article reported on the lack of foster homes for children. Often times children were placed far from home, which causes issues with schooling and visitation. It was because of this article that we became aware and started paying attention to the CPS issues in Arizona. The rise of children being removed from September 2012 to January 2013 was about 1,000 children a month, until it peaked at around 15,000! Currently in Arizona there are over 16,000 children in foster care, up from 11,000 in September 2012 when our grandkids were taken.

CPS is also supposed to try to keep siblings or sibling units together. If you have a small family this might happen. But with a large family this is unlikely. In our case only the twins were placed together, everyone else was placed with no other siblings.

ARS 8-824 states:

“G. The department must make reasonable efforts to place a child with siblings and, if that is not possible, to maintain frequent visitation or other ongoing contact between all siblings.”

“H. If the child is in the temporary custody of the department, the department shall submit not later than the day before the hearing a written report to the court and the parties that state:

7. What efforts the department has made to place siblings together, and if they are not placed together, the specific reasons why this did not occur.

8. If the placement of siblings together was not possible for all or any of the siblings, efforts the department has made to facilitate communications among siblings and a proposal for frequent visitation or contact pursuant to subsection G of this section. If frequent visitation or contact with siblings is not recommended, the department shall state the reasons why this could be contrary to the child’s or a sibling’s safety or well-being.”

So the AAG and CPS are using an extremely broad scope of the law claiming an “open police investigation” as the reason they are justified in keeping siblings from being placed together as well as prohibiting visits without any other independent reasons. Later in the case it was more or less just a check box. When they were to report on the placement of children it was stated "least restrictive" placement with no explanations why the children weren't together or placed with family. No one with any power questioned it.

Further ARS 8-821 A states that “the child’s sibling shall also be taken into temporary custody only if reasonable grounds INDEPENDENTLY (emphasis added) exist to believe that temporary custody is clearly necessary to protect the child from suffering abuse or neglect.”

So CPS goes in and takes all children, using this language in the law, and substantiates their actions based on the word and statements from the CPS case manager only, who we know doctors their reports to justify the removal of the children. And you wonder why the number of children in foster care is increasing!

What really shows the lack of compassion for children by the agency and the AAG is in our case when the judge ordered two of the boys to be placed with grandparents. He signed that order on December 13th, yet CPS refused to move the boys until after the 1st of January. They kept these boys with strangers over the Christmas holiday when in fact they could have been celebrating with family.

What placement options are there?

These options are important for family to know and understand so they are prepared if this decision has to be made. Options for your children are:

  • Staying in your care with a safety monitor
  • Placement with immediate family within the state
  • Placement with immediate family outside the state
  • Foster care placement
  • Group home placement

The ORDER of this placement is set by law in ARS 8-514-B:

“The department shall place a child in the least restrictive type of placement available, consistent with the needs of the child. The order for placement preference is as follows:

  1. With a parent.
  2. With a grandparent.
  3. In kinship care with another member of the child’s extended family, including a person who has a significant relationship with child.
  4. In a licensed family foster care.
  5. In a therapeutic foster care.
  6. In a group home.
  7. In a residential treatment facility.”

Is that what really happens?

The state does not want your children leaving the state, even if or especially if the case plan is severance and adoption. The reason is that if the child leaves the state the funding goes with them! If the children are adopted out the state will not receive the adoption bonus. So that option is unlikely, UNLESS you are Native American, which has some special placement requirements.

ICPC’s to place children with family outside the state in our case were never processed and no one could obtain the status of these. (The ICPC is the interstate agreement to place children in CPS custody with out of state placements.)

A safety monitor is also not a likely outcome. That would require a family member or other adult to live in your home to ensure the safety of the children. The outcome of this case would be expected to be a successful reunification since the children aren’t leaving the physical custody of the parent. Once again if the goal is severance and adoption this is not likely to be a recommended option.

Isn’t family supposed to be considered as placement options for the children?

Yes, by ARS 8-514, family is supposed to be sought out as placement options. In fact throughout Arizona law it states that CPS is supposed to make reasonable efforts to locate family for placement. But they didn’t do that. Using a broad definition of “reasonable” I guess they figured obtaining the names was enough of an effort. The only effort they put forth was to DENY family as placement.

In fact they were using the “open police investigation” as the reason why family wasn’t being considered in our case at first. Then they claimed in numerous court documents that they had sought out family and deemed everyone unacceptable. In some cases this was just days after the children were removed and they hadn’t done ANY checks on the family.

We then discovered the grandparents were under investigation, so we contacted the detective on the case to clear up any questions they may have on us. The detective was not even aware of who we were! When we told him we were part of the CPS case, he then refused to speak to us, telling us that he could not verify who we were over the phone. We offered to meet him at his office and show him ID in order to clear this up. Once again he refused. To this date we have no idea what investigation, if any, we were under.

All grandparents were denied custody of the children and each one filed an appeal. Once again laws, procedures and deadlines were not followed by CPS. The paternal grandmother was denied a second time during her appeal because of allegations she was trying to protect her son. The paternal grandfather was able to get his appeal completed by December, about 3 ½ months into the case. We were finally able to get our appeal HEARD 5 ½ months into the case, but only after we got a legislator involved.

Further, in an email exchange we discovered that the AAG had absolutely no intention of placing the children with grandparents when she stated “under no circumstances will we consider grandparents as placement options.”

Against the laws of Arizona (ARS 8-514 B), the AAG was refusing to consider placement with grandparents.

We felt we were living a nightmare. We were facing the real possibility that our grandchildren would be taken away forever. We had no one to speak with about the process to understand what was happening. We tried to get assistance from our government officials, the governor’s office and even the ombudsman for CPS. We found all roads lead to CPS. There is no help for families stuck in the process.

Have you seen any other placement issues?

We have noticed a disturbing trend when CPS places children with family. They often place the child with the abuser or the abuser’s side of the family!

We cannot explain this phenomenon, but a large number of our calls are because CPS placed the children with the abuser or the abuser’s family. The child continues to be abused and the non-abusive parent must fight to gain custody. Often times the court and CPS are aware of the abuse!

In our own case the victim is living with the alleged abusers mother. So while they were all concerned about the mother having contact with the father and risking the safety of the children, they now approved the alleged abuser’s mother to have custody of the daughter. She still maintains contact with her son. So somehow it isn’t okay for the child’s mother to have contact with the alleged abuser but it’s okay for his mother to maintain contact with him and have the victim in her custody.

Also, his mother had similar accusations against her as the mother in the case. She learned of the alleged abuse just after the mother did, if not before.

In another case the father was the abuser. He was abusing the children as well as their mother. During the divorce she begged the court to not give the father visitation rights. But the judge didn’t listen and granted the father unsupervised visitation. So during the court ordered visitation the children were abused. When CPS got involved they removed the children from the mother’s custody because she “failed to protect.” She had a no-win situation. They placed her children in foster care. Eventually she gained custody of the children, but not until several months later.

These are the cases where you really have to question the motives of CPS. Why would they knowingly place the child with the abuser?

Sometimes it is other family members wishing to get custody of your children that make the initial report. Perhaps you’ve recently experienced a divorce and the custody battle extends to CPS. Often times it is a grandparent wishing to gain custody of the grandchildren. This is why anonymous reporting should never be permitted.

Only you know your situation and relationship with your family or ex’s. This dynamic could create issues in your CPS case so be prepared.

If the children aren’t placed with family what happens in a foster care placement?

Foster care is a more likely placement for your children, especially if they are infants or pre-school age. These children are highly adoptable and families are seeking to foster these children with hopes of adopting them. When we took the orientation class to become foster parents, we were told that only 50% of the children removed from the family are actually returned to the family in Arizona. We were also in the minority in wanting to foster. At least 75% or more of the families in our orientation class were fostering in order to adopt.

That was definitely the case with the 5 month old in our family. That foster family had been told upon placement that the child would be adoptable. They fought the family over everything, kept the child from attending visitations, wouldn’t permit the mother to attend doctor appointments for the child, and even refused to allow her to see him on his first birthday! They lost him 5 days later when the mother was granted physical custody.

The quality of foster care varies from family to family. Some are very good, others are worse than the situations the child was removed from.

While the state is supposed to consider cultural compatibility for placement it has been ignored. For instance an English-only speaking child was placed with a Spanish-only speaking foster family. Similarly religious and ethnic difference can cause conflict between the child and foster family.

What kind of payments do foster families get?

In Arizona foster families get a minimum of $600 per month for each child. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, on top of that all of the child’s medical expenses, dental expenses, therapy sessions, and other necessary services are paid for by the state. If the child is old enough transportation to their appointments is also provided. A clothing allowance is given for each child and school supplies are also provided. Discounts or free passes for activities are also available for foster families. So while they whine about not getting “paid enough” to foster children, the only additional expenses they have is an increase in food cost plus the daily expenses of maintaining a home, which they already have.

Foster families can take up to 5 foster children – so a foster family could be getting a minimum of $3,000 per month to foster children!

Legislators and others are advocating to raise this payment. When I was on a tele-townhall meeting with Doug Ducey and Bill Montgomery they both indicated they were in support of raising this monthly allotment.

I have family out of state that fosters children. They only foster and will never consider adopting a child. They receive their monthly payment and tell us that there is no way they can spend all that money on the child. They use that money to buy the child toys, clothing and have even used it to purchase Christmas and birthday gifts for the child that they allow the mother to give to the child when she can’t afford it. They get $650 per month, which is only $50 more than Arizona.

Fostering should not be a career. Families should be fostering to truly help the child and work with the family and CPS to encourage a successful reunification. Unfortunately far too many families are fostering for profit or fostering to adopt.

What’s the difference between a foster home and a group home?

Group homes are another placement option. These are homes specifically created for foster children and have a staff to provide supervision and guidance. Older children are often placed in a group home setting.

The group home setting was actually recommended as the best placement for older children, not by CPS but by probation! It was the first thing that made some sense in the whole case.

Older children are bonded to their family and parents and are not as likely to accept foster parents as family. They often resent them, especially if the foster parent is trying to take the place of the biological parents. This happened in our case and the foster mother complained the children were disrespectful and often didn’t want to be involved with their “family.” The foster mom was trying to compete with the bio-mom and the children were rejecting her. They stated “they already have a mom.”

So the group home can provide a setting for the children that doesn’t involve a conflict with the parental role. In fact, our oldest grandson liked the group home he was placed in. While it did turn out okay, it was this group home that kept him out of school for 6 weeks and permitted him access to the internet which he wasn’t supposed to have.

However, group homes are often staffed with young, inexperienced people who have no idea how to “parent” and often just become friends, and not always the best role model.

The lack of supervision in a group home can lead to all sorts of negative behaviors and experiences.

  • Our granddaughter pierced her lip while living in a group home
  • Our grandsons were often bullied in group homes
  • We suspect one or more of the boys were molested in a group home
  • The children often didn’t feel safe from the other children in the group home

As with everything, you can have a good group home or bad ones.

I understand the children are supposed to have certain rights when placed in foster care. Is this true?

Yes, but it’s a well kept secret and apparently only the attorney’s know this secret. We were not aware of it until I was looking through the legal files.

Children are supposed to have certain rights per ARS8-529. But just like everything else they don’t follow the law. These rights are posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue” under “Parental Resources.

For instance the law states the child has the right:

  • To know why the child is in foster care and what will happen to the child and to the child's family, including siblings, and case plans.
  • Didn’t happen. None of our grandchildren knew why they were removed from the family, except the victim. They did not know what would happen to them, the family and had no knowledge of the case plan. In fact, the older children were told that they would be going home on Tuesday, just 4 days after they were taken. One of the boys spent all day that Tuesday waiting by the door with his bags packed waiting to go home. It never happened. Just imagine how he felt.
  • To comply with any approved visitation plan, and to have any restrictions explained to the child in a manner and level of details deemed age appropriate by the foster parent in agreement with the caseworker and documented in the child's record.
  • The children were all denied visitation of any type for the first two months. They then had sibling visits and finally 2 ½ months into the case started visits with mother. But they didn’t have any knowledge why the visits were restricted.With the younger 3 children especially, the visitation plan was not being adhered to, especially with the baby.
  • To attend the child's court hearing and speak to the judge.
  • This didn’t happen until the children’s attorney finally spoke up and insisted. CPS was trying to keep the children out of court. They claimed that attending a court hearing would violate the visitation order. When the judge made the ruling to permit the children to attend court the case manager failed to arrange the transportation.
  • To be free of unnecessary or excessive medication.
  • This one is especially important. Far too many times children are medicated for the wrong reasons. We will cover this more in detail when we cover services and therapy.
  • To report a violation of personal rights specified in this section without fear of punishment, interference, coercion or retaliation, except that an appropriate level of punishment may be applied if the child is proven to have maliciously or wrongfully accused the foster parent.
  • When the children disclosed the abuse happening in their foster homes, we informed our attorney. We were told we could say nothing. The children were supposed to disclose the information to their attorney, we couldn’t discuss it with them. We don’t know if that happened. But in any case, we were told that any complaints against the foster parents would be held against the bio-family. No one told the family that the children had this right. Once again while looking through legal documents I found the information.
    But what is even more hypocritical is that if a child falsely accuses a parent, the system is rigged so that the child MUST be believed at all costs. After all, children do not lie. If the child comes forth later and admits they lied no punishment can be applied to the child and the family has a CPS call on their record.

Next week’s show

Next week we will discuss the CARE team’s reports. Is Arizona going in the right direction this time?

Sources:
Arizona Republic article links:
Many Arizona foster children living far from home, .” September 2, 2012
http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/09/01/20120901arizona-foster-children-far-home.html

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