CPS Michigan Starved 10YO Disabled Boy to Death After Mom Sought State’s Help, Johnny’s Story

Disabled 10 YO Boy Starved 10YO Disabled Boy to Death by CPS After Mother Asked for Help; Financial Incentives Encourage States to Kidnap and Withhold Children, Johnny's Story Pt 1/2 April 2010, ABC7 Detroit Investigation into Michigans tragically-flawed foster care system. The heartbreaking story of a 10-year-old boy who starved to death while a facility banked cash to care for him. The state is quick to take kids from parents and put them in foster care, especially poor parents. The state makes it very hard to get them back. Experts say the state has a financial incentive to keep kids away from their families.

Johnnys mother, Elena Andron, dedicated her life to caring for her wheelchair-bound son. All she wanted was a little help. The states answer was to put him in a foster care facility. One year later, Johnny starved to death. Johnny, who was nine at the time, could not walk, talk or feed himself. He had cerebral palsy and epilepsy. When she lost her factory job she turned to the Michigan Department of Human Services, a decision she will regret for the rest of her life. The foster care facility where the state sent Johnny failed to feed him enough food. Andron says she watched her son waste away as she begged for help.

Why? Some say its because the state gets a lot of cash for foster kids. Termination of parent rights is very high in Michigan. But its also very high nationwide and it happened because of some laws that were passed by the federal government and encouraged states to terminate parental rights more often than they used to and promise to send them money if they would terminate rights and have the children adopted.

According to the states own figures, the federal government gave Michigan about $110 million last year for foster care. Thats compared to the $26 million in programs that help parents keep their kids. Foster facilities also have an incentive to keep kids away from their parents. In Androns case, the foster home got about $12,000 a month from the state for Johnny. "Youre getting paid, youre getting a lot of money," says attorney Arnold Reed, who represents Andron in a lawsuit against the foster care facility and several other state-contracted groups. Reed says the foster facility profited big time off of Johnny. "There is no shortage of money, plus youre getting a stipend, youre getting a clothes stipend and youre getting a stipend for food," says Reed. But not enough of that food made it to Johnny. "He started deteriorating so quick I could not believe my eyes," says Andron. "He had gotten so weak to where he was just shaking constantly."

She agreed to make her son a temporary ward of the state. She was supposed to bring him home after a year - once she got back on track financially.

When she complained about Johnny losing weight, she says the state turned on her. "They didnt care. None of my complaints mattered," says Andron. The Department of Human Services did not like Androns complaints or her efforts to get her son back. They took her to court and asked that she not be allowed to see Johnny.

Andron says the first time she met her court-appointed lawyer was that day in court. She says the lawyer didnt put up much of a fight. The judge sided with the state.

The next time Andron heard about Johnny he was dead. Johnny weighed 120 pounds when he went into foster care, she says. An autopsy report shows he was only 48 pounds when he died of malnutrition.

Were spending a ton of money for putting these kids in foster care," says Vivek Sankaran, an assistant professor at the Child Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. "But for these children we are irreparably scaring them by damaging the bonds that they form with their families."

Sankaran says only about nine percent of the 16,000 kids in foster care were sexually or physically abused. The majority were taken from their parents because of poverty-related neglect. "Removal is too often thought of as the first option for protecting children and child welfare rather than working with families, engaging with them, providing them services in the home," says Sankaran. His organization, Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, helps parents on the front end. "We need to create a culture where parents are willing to say, 'I need help'" says Sankaran. That is exactly what Andron tried to do, but with heartbreaking results. "I gave them my healthy child and to get him back in a casket. Hed still be a live today if he was home with me," says Andron.

Perpetrators of Maltreatment (04' now much worse) # Cases per 100,000 Children in U.S. from NCCAN. Physical Abuse CPS 160, Parents 59; Sexual Abuse CPS 112, Parents 13; Neglect CPS 410, Parents 241; Medical Neglect CPS 14, Parents 12; Fatalities CPS 6,4, Parents 1,5. http://suncanaa.com/cps

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