Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the initial formal process of CPS – the Team Decision-Making Meeting and first court hearing

Last week we discussed the CPS and police investigations. Today we will discuss what happens next in this process including the Team Decision-Making Meeting and first court hearing.

CPS has removed your children from your home. What happens next?

After the removal of your child CPS is required to hold a Team Decision-Making Meeting. We were told this meeting is supposed to take place within 72 hours of removal but I could find no formal information on this meeting.

Since our grandchildren were taken on the Friday before a holiday weekend, our meeting was held on the following Tuesday but CPS actually documented the meeting as taking place on Monday – which was Labor Day.

While the inaccurate reporting of the date of the meeting seems rather unimportant, it actually reflects a bigger issue. The agency does not believe in accurate reporting of anything! Some may say it was just an oversight, but is it? Did they report the meeting so it fell within the 72 hours as required, even though they knew it was a holiday? Are they fudging documents in order to appear as if they are meeting their mandatory requirements?

This wasn’t the only case of inaccurate date reporting. They also reported hearings on different dates than they actually took place, prior CPS reports documented prior to the actual allegation, and referenced motions they claim the mother’s attorney filed prior to CPS removing the children, just to name a few.

Look at what is happening at the VA in Phoenix. It’s all about documentation and dates. Do we have similar behavior within the CPS agency?

What is the purpose of the Team Decision-Making Meeting?

The purpose of the Team Decision-Making Meeting is for all parties to meet to “discuss” what to do with the children. The family is supposed to bring other family members that may be interested in assisting the family or people who might be willing and able to temporarily foster the children. Family is supposed to be able to attend the meeting via phone if they cannot attend in person.

One attorney our family spoke with said this meeting is supposed to be a discussion to try to solve the immediate problem of providing the children with a safe environment while causing the least disruption to the children and family.

The booklet “A Guide to Child Protective Services” specifically states that “CPS works on behalf of children and families in Arizona to ensure the safety of children, while causing minimal disruption to the family.” The CPS booklet also says that: “CPS considers all viable options to protect the children from abuse or neglect prior to foster care placement.”

When put in to actual practice this could not be further from the truth!

Our team meeting consisted of CPS telling the family what was going to take place. The family had NO input into this decision. Several family members were willing and able to take the children into their homes but CPS refused to consider them at this time because of an “open police investigation.”

The family was able to report on our concerns for the children, their strengths, recommend which children might be best placed together, educational issues and concerns including that 4 of the children have IEP’s, one child was in the process of setting up the 504 Plan, and 3 of the children were currently in the process of pre-school evaluations due to suspected learning disabilities (something that runs in the family).

When the mother asked what she can do to make the process go faster the answer was “absolutely nothing.”

When one of the grandparents stated he did not understand what or why this was happening CPS responded with “No you don’t, you don’t know everything.”Yet CPS refused to give the family any additional information.

At this point the family had very little knowledge of the case. We only knew which child was involved and a vague idea of the allegations. We only got an idea of the allegations and case based on what the father could relate from his police inquiry.

While family was supposed to be able to attend by phone a number of interested parties had to be eliminated as there were not enough phone lines; we were limited to two. The family was not informed prior to the meeting that there was any limit. Four family members from out of state wanted to attend the meeting by phone and all were willing to accept some, if not all, of the children. We attended by phone also as we had a previous commitment. Due to the limited phone lines we and an aunt from out of state were able to attend by phone. Everyone else from out of state was not included in the meeting.

Due to the “open police investigation” the family was told the children would remain in foster care, the family would have no contact with any of the children including phone contact, there would be no visitation, there was nothing the parents could do to assist in the process, while everything else was being withheld.

We learned none of the children had been placed together except the twins and it would stay that way. We learned the mother’s drug test was clean and she could provide breast milk for the baby.

After those on the phone were disconnected CPS continued with the meeting with those in physical attendance. They collected the names and information to screen the family as possible kinship placements. CPS left out all people on the calls, both were willing to be considered as placements or safety monitors for the children.

It had been recommended by the family’s attorney that no attorney be present at this meeting. I’m not sure her rationale was valid. But if you have hired a private attorney to represent you in the case follow their instructions. If you are waiting for a court appointed attorney you will not be given the opportunity of having that attorney for the Team Decision-Making Meeting.

When we received the report from the Team Decision-Making Meeting we discovered that approximately 75% of the families’ input was not included on the report! This is when we were informed that it is not uncommon.

We further learned that CPS was having “issues” involving their documentation and the release of information to attorneys and others. This was reported in the Arizona Republic on September 14, 2012 with the article “Arizona CPS discovers computer glitch that hid files for years” which states:

An employee noticed that different sets of records were released to different parties in the same case.

Further review found the database system that tracks CPS cases, called CHILDS, had been programmed to print about one-third of the information considered public record under state and federal law. The programming error had been in place since the database was created in 1996.

"We thought we were printing out everything that there was," Peterson said. "We didn't have any reason to believe until this summer that we were not meeting our obligations."

Apparently when an attorney makes a request for the case file the attorney does not get the entire case file. Our attorney told us the ATTORNEY must then ask CPS for the missing documents. We wondered how an attorney could request documents that they may not know even exist. In any case it is the attorney’s responsibility and not CPS to obtain these missing documents.

So what happens next?

The next step is the Preliminary Protective Hearing in front of the judge and in court. This hearing is to take place 5-7 days after removal of the children. However, conveniently weekends and holidays do not count, so because CPS removed our grandchildren on a Friday afternoon over a holiday weekend it was 12 days later before our hearing was scheduled. CPS bought 2 weekends and a holiday to delay the hearing by selecting the day they removed the children.

Notice of this hearing is supposed to be delivered to the family within 24 hours after filing the petition. Our attorney told us we should receive this notice at least 24 hours prior to the date of the hearing. We were told the CPS case manager is responsible to hand deliver the notice. We never received any notice.

If you miss a court hearing the judge can find against the parents, take custody of the children and sever the parental rights. You cannot miss a hearing. So why would you fail to receive notice of the very first hearing you are to attend?

Had we not obtained a private attorney to represent the mother in the case we would not have been aware and would have missed the first hearing. However, the attorney had a watch on the court calendar and informed the family when the hearing was scheduled. Further, the attorney told the family to gather clothing and other items for the children so they could be delivered to CPS at the hearing as CPS would probably request these items. So despite CPS’s failure to follow the law, the mother’s attorney kept the family abreast of the requirements so they could be prepared.

The day of the hearing the CPS case manager spoke with the parents on the phone. It was only then that he informed the parents of the hearing and requested they bring clothing to court. This was TWO HOURS prior to the hearing and it is a one hour drive by car to get to the court building!

How many families have been negatively affected by CPS not following the requirements of notification as required by law?

Tell us what happens at this first hearing?

There are actually two steps at the first hearing.

The first is a Preliminary Protective Conference held prior to the court hearing. CPS, the attorney general’s office, the attorney’s, the parents and a moderator are included in this hearing. We had to get special permission for the grandparents to attend this meeting and we were instructed to remain quiet, even though the CPS booklet states “other people can come to this meeting, including relatives or others with whom the child might be placed.”

The parents will meet their attorney for the first time just prior to this meeting if they are assigned a court appointed attorney. The father received the court appointed attorney, so he met with his attorney just prior to the meeting and the meeting was actually delayed because of it.

This conference is supposed to be where all sides of the party meet and come up with some plan for reunification or disposition of the case. Services would be recommended, visitation recommendations are made, and the expectations are laid out so the family knows what obstacles they have to overcome in order to have their children returned to their custody.

But in our case it was different. Once again the family was told nothing. Due to the “open police investigation”; remember we are now 12 days after the removal of the children and the police investigation is still not complete, the case was stalled.

There was to be no visitation for any family member, no contact, the children could not have contact with each other, no services were being requested for the parents, and this is where the bombshell hit – CPS and the AAG (Assistant Attorney General) were asking for severance and adoption of all 9 children! Reunification was not in the plans and they were refusing to budge!

The grandparents all discovered that they were also under investigation. None of us understood why. We had no clue as the first time we became aware of any CPS issue was the day they took the children.

CPS did not have the information to process the family members wishing to take the children, so once again that information was provided to them.

The actual court hearing, the Preliminary Protective Hearing, was held after the meeting in front the judge. We had a temporary judge because the judge assigned to the case wasn’t there for this hearing.

At this hearing the judge would hear the recommendations from the Preliminary Protective Conference and then rule on the recommendations.

Our case had no recommendations for reunification. Once again the family had to endure the AAG making accusations that were not true and asking for all the limitations and restrictions on the family. The family has to remain silent despite all of this and allow their attorney to speak.

The mother’s attorney was fighting for visitation, especially with the babies (3 of the children were 3 or under). Baby cases, as they call them, are cases involving children under 4. The requirements for these children are shorter, the times betweens court hearings is shortened, as well as the time permitted for the reunification process. The parents only have 6 months to complete the reunification process before severance and adoption can be started on a baby case! So the clock was ticking and no services were being provided to the parents and the case plan the AAG wanted was severance and adoption.

Cases involving children 4 and older have 12 months to complete the reunification process before severance and adoption can be started. We were told this can be extended to 18 months.

So based on the lack of services and a reunification plan for the family we were facing a 6 month deadline for the babies and a 12-18 month deadline for the other children. The clock was ticking and we were getting no where!

While the judge did not order visitation, she also understood the process to get visitation could take several weeks. Despite the objections of CPS and the AAG the judge ordered that process to start, which meant the referrals were to be made.

When asked about the police investigation, the police investigator stated they had not yet interviewed all of the children. Because the police investigation was not completed the judge also ordered the investigation to be completed within a week. The next hearing was scheduled for the following week.

This was also the first time we met the Guardian ad Litem or GAL. This attorney is assigned to the children and is supposed to look out for their interests in the case. It is the GAL that is the child’s voice in court.

Children over the age of 12 may also be assigned an attorney to represent them. Three of the children in our case were assigned to an attorney; the same attorney represented all three.

During this process we attempted to speak with the GAL. The paternal grandmother had managed to speak with her prior to the court hearing and they became “best buds.” We believe it was that relationship that undermined our relationship with the GAL.

While the GAL gave us her card, she only spoke with us briefly after the hearing and told us to call her. Playing telephone tag for a period of time we never connected with the GAL. Throughout the case the GAL on our case was extremely negative toward us, would not recommend us for anything to help the case along, and never really spoke with us.

Due to the court order to complete the “open police investigation” we had an extra hearing within one week of the first.

What bothered us was that just prior to when they call everyone in to the hearing, the detective on the case went into the courtroom alone. He came back out and then the case was called. The first thing stated in court was that this judge had worked with this detective before and the judge declared he could remain impartial. It raised our suspicions.

At this second hearing we heard more of the same. But then the judge ordered NO visitation, cancelling the previous judge’s order! Severance and adoption was the case plan. The family was devastated. How could this be happening?

At this point in the case we still have not seen anything tangible. No police reports have been disclosed, no videos released. We had nothing!

What else can you share about your case?

There was one statement we heard throughout the case from all sources: “This is not the way this is supposed to happen.” For some reason, only known to the AAG and CPS, our case was not following the law and the way things were supposed to work.

The second thing to keep in mind was that all therapists our daughter saw agreed that CPS failed to handle the case “in the child’s best interest” and with their mandate of trying to keep the family together and cause the least disruption. They agreed that the best solution in the case would have been to have the father move out of the home, to have us move in to the family home and act as safety monitors or temporary guardians for the children in order to keep them together. Had they actually done that the children would not have suffered the trauma they still live with today.

Next week’s show

Next week we will discuss what might take place after this first hearing until the next.

Sources:

Arizona Republic article links for undisclosed records/computer glitch, September 2012:

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/09/14/20120914arizona-cps-computer-glitch-hid-files-years.html

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2012/09/17/20120917arizona-cps-undisclosed-records-downplayed.html

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the CPS and police investigations

There is so much involved with the CPS investigation it is difficult to cover in a 30 minute radio spot. The investigation, or lack of, often results in the children being removed from the family and placed in foster care while the family has to wait out an “open police investigation” and then face the months or years long fight to get their children back.

If the case involves a potential criminal charge the police investigation isn’t any better.

Part of the issue with both investigations is the agencies commitment to believing only the victim at all costs. They refuse to acknowledge that children lie or exaggerate the truth. So what can you or the children expect if CPS and/or the police call you in for questioning?

What kinds of tactics are used or are you aware of when questioning the children?

You have to remember it is not the intent of the investigators or CPS to discover the truth. It is only their objective to get enough information to declare dependency for the removal your children, putting them in foster care. They don’t care about the truth – only their version of the truth that will support their actions.

When questioning the children:

  • They will word questions in a manner that there is no correct answer for the child. For instance, they may ask the child “After your mommy smokes marijuana are you afraid of her?”

No matter how the child answers that question it will implicate the parent in some manner. Most children are not able to evaluate that type of question accurately. Young children are usually not mature enough to handle this type of questioning; heck many adults can’t handle it! The child may also be scared, uncomfortable and nervous being questioned in the first place and will simply answer “no”. By answering “no” the child is implying that the mother does smoke marijuana but that the child isn’t afraid of her. CPS will then use that against the parent.

  • They will use questionable interrogation techniques.

In our case stuff just didn’t add up, so we had one of the video interviews analyzed by a professional. While the questioning by the investigator started out okay, after a short period of time the investigator was using questionable tactics. He was leading the child instead of asking.

In subsequent interviews with this same child the investigator had to “remind” the child of their previous interviews as well as remind the child of what had been disclosed in these interviews as the child claimed they did not remember. This is not a young child but a 17 year old teen! So based on the investigator’s “reminders” he then proceeded to ask additional questions.

They also had a male in the room alone with the female child asking about sexual abuse. There should always be two adults in the room and one should be the same gender as the child.

  • They never ask for details from the child that could be proven false.

Since it is not their intent to discover the truth, they don’t ask for facts that can be confirmed or proven false.

For instance, they never asked the victim in our case how many times the alleged abuse happened. They never asked where the mother was while this abuse was taking place. They never asked what age it started at. They never asked which home(s) it took place in, and didn't always what rooms in the home. They never asked for dates or specific events when the alleged abuse took place.

The only reference the child made to a date when the abuse allegedly started was a date that both parents could confirm and verify where they were – and neither was with this child! But the investigators weren’t interested in this information and when the parent shared this information the investigator made excuses why the child might be mistaken.

  • They never question the parents or family to confirm or rebut the information the child gave.

They will ALWAYS assume the child is telling the truth. According to CPS children do not lie. Yet CPS and the AAG will pick and choose which “truths” to believe and bring to court and which “truths” to ignore because they don’t further their case or may undermine their case. The child is “telling the truth” with one statement, but when asked about a contradictory statement they will ignore it.

If the parent offers any information that may prove the child is not telling the truth, the parent is accused of not believing the child and the child will be removed from their custody.

When you are finally able to get the summary interview reports from CPS they will not necessarily reflect the statements made by the children.

Because we were able to watch the video interview and read the summary report, we found they had summarized the information in order to further their agenda. The summary did not reflect what the child actually said. They left out sentences and merged events together to come up with a completely different scenario than what the child reported during the video interview.

This is common.

Your children and the investigation

If they bring your children to Child Help they will question the victims. They will do physical exams on any child they believe is a victim. Yes, this does include an invasive physical exam if they believe sexual abuse has taken place. You will not be permitted to be with your child during this exam.

They will interview the victims and should video record the interviews. These video interviews can be obtained by your attorney.

Children in the family who are not victims but are brought to Child Help because they are going to remove all children may not be questioned until weeks later. The children told us that they were not questioned until much later, and most said it was two weeks later!

This was used against the family in court. This is what happened in our case. They would not permit any of our family contact with any of the children, nor could the children have contact with each other because of “an open police investigation.” When the investigation was not completed by the first court hearing the court had to order CPS investigators/police to complete the investigation.

This is wrong. No children should be moved from the CPS/Child Help offices without being questioned first. They should never be placed in foster care until they have been examined, if necessary, and questioned. If they do not question the children until weeks later any evidence they may need for a criminal case may be gone. Likewise, any abuse to the children in foster care may be alleged against the parents!

What is Child Help?

You need to be aware of what Child Help is and where they are located. Child Help is CPS!

Our daughter was asked to follow the police because her husband would need a ride home after questioning. He was not placed under arrest but went to the police station voluntarily to answer questions. Our daughter didn’t think anything about it. She followed and ended up at Child Help, which she did not realize was CPS until it was too late.

Once you get to Child Help they don’t need to do anything to take your children. They already have custody and they can remove you from the building.

If you are asked to go to Child Help or are tricked into going there CALL YOUR ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY. This is not likely to end with you leaving with your children.

  • Be careful about what you say or disclose to all CPS workers and police officers, even in hallways.
  • Do not rattle on about problems or issues the family has or has had – keep your mouth shut!
  • Be extremely careful about what you say about YOUR past. What you tell CPS can be used not only against you but against any family member to keep them from getting your children, even temporarily.
  • Ask for an attorney before you speak to them – especially if you believe you are innocent.
  • Cooperate and be polite.
  • Only answer questions that are directly asked of you.
  • They may ask you to sign forms – you do not have to sign them. One will be the TEMPORARY CUSTODY NOTICE and the other is the CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES NOTICE OF DUTY TO INFORM. We have both of these forms posted on our website in “Understanding the Issue – Parental Resources.”
  • You should also be given the CPS booklet “A Guide to Child Protective Services,” which is also posted on our website.
  • CPS is not looking for the truth – they are only looking for information to substantiate their involvement. You are guilty.
  • If you want to keep custody of your children you MUST believe the victim! You must also have taken steps to protect the victim from the abuser. This may mean someone in the home must move out (the alleged abuser). You may have to get an order of protection. Unless you had absolutely no knowledge of the abuse, YOU must have taken steps to report the abuse.

If they believe drugs are part of the issue you will be required to get a drug test. If you are nursing an infant and wish to continue to provide breast milk for the infant you will have to get and pass a drug test before any milk will be accepted. The drug testing is not provided at the Child Help facility, so you will be required to get yourself to the testing location in order to participate in the required drug testing.

Once you have finished speaking with CPS, no matter what the outcome, write down what you remember immediately.

You will find that in motions to the court, reports, and even court hearings, what you actually said will be twisted into something you didn’t say or didn’t mean. Document everything!

CPS will make up stuff, so be prepared.

In our case CPS claimed our daughter made a statement about us during her questioning. The statement never made it into any report. We could not obtain the statement because we weren’t a “party to the case”. The attorney asked for the information and was never provided with it. And when we filed our appeal CPS still refused to disclose the information. In fact the interviewer on the appeal was not aware of the statements they claim were made against us. To this date it has never been provided. But that kept us from getting the children at the beginning of the case and it took almost 6 months to complete the appeal process.

We believe they made up the information because they knew we would have been the best placement for the children, and it would have been in the children’s best interest, but they had ulterior motives of severance and adoption from the beginning and didn’t want family to get custody of the children.

Police Investigation

If your case involves a possible criminal charge, be prepared.

While I am not advocating for permitting child abusers to go free, we do believe that everyone is entitled to have their constitutional rights protected and their day in court.

If you or anyone is taken to a police station for questioning you must invoke your constitutional rights. Remember:

  • CPS believes you are guilty.
  • Ask for an attorney – even if you are innocent! Do not believe that innocent people don’t need an attorney. Do not believe that by asking for an attorney you are somehow guilty.
  • If you are being charged with a crime you have a right to a court appointed attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney.
  • Do not speak to the police or investigators or make any statements until your attorney arrives. They may hold you for hours until your attorney arrives. Wait it out and don’t speak.
  • Do not talk to yourself while waiting. They are recording everything and they will use it against you.

Remember:

CPS is not investigating to find the truth. They are only investigating to get enough information to accuse the parents of wrong-doing so they can claim dependency and put the children in foster care.

They ignore the wishes of the children, even when the children say they feel safe at home and want to be with mom, dad or both.

They have to substantiate their case and CPS will work with the attorney general’s office to make sure they can justify the removal of your children.

What made our family’s case even sadder was that this happened on the 5th birthday of one of the children. He was looking forward to spending his birthday with family. Instead he was taken to Child Help. He begged his mother not to make him go into the playroom; he wanted to stay with her. She assured him it would be okay. That was the last time he would see his mother until 2 ½ months later. He never celebrated his 5th birthday.

Next week’s show

Next week we will discuss the initial process for dependency.

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses family court, history, Arizona legislators and violation of our constitutional rights

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?

If you do a search on the internet you will find information on each state’s family court system, but it is difficult to find consolidated information on family court as it pertains to our country.

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.

In Arizona we have been able to speak to a few legislators about Cps. We have met with them and presented our reforms.

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 info@azproject.org. 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 AmendmentThe 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.

Next week’s show

Arizona CPS Exposed – discusses reporting to CPS

Reporting to CPS

The biggest issue we saw with reporting is the ability of people to make reports anonymously.

Currently in the state of Arizona people do not have to identify themselves when reporting to CPS. This violates the constitutional rights of the accused because they cannot and are not given the opportunity to face their accuser.

When you are faced with a dependency case and have to appear in court you cannot question anonymous in a court hearing. So it is assumed that everything anonymous said must be true.

If you are involved in a CPS custody battle be prepared to have anonymous involved in your case. We were told by a number of sources that anonymous can actually be CPS employees creating their own evidence or may be from foster families wishing to launch a complaint against the bio-family so they have a better chance of adopting the child.

In our family’s case CPS started receiving anonymous letters just after the father’s rights were severed. The letters claimed the mother was violating a court no contact order . This order didn’t start until after the father’s rights were severed, several months into the case. Whoever wrote the letters was aware of the case, was aware there was a no contact order by the court, and further was aware of who the mother-in-law in the case was. These letters were not done by some random outsider! They had intimate details about the case.

Further, CPS claimed the letters were written by two different people. But the fronts, margins, and language used in the letters were identical. The phrasing they used in the letters was so similar that it was apparent they were written by the same person.

Each letter was anonymous. When asked about how they were delivered, CPS claimed they had been received by mail. Yet neither letter had been folded as no creases could be seen on the paper. No copy of the envelope was provided. Each letter was received just prior to a court hearing. Since CPS only picks up their mail on a weekly basis, it was amazing how both these letters arrived just prior to the hearings.

Because of these letters the judge was concerned. During the court trial when the issue came up the family was unable to rebut the accusations in the letters because anonymous could not take the stand and be questioned. The family could only deny the statements. Fortunately the judge did not use the letters to press the issue further and just restated his order of no contact.

Initial Call

The initial call takers can do the most damage to the case. Their inaccurate coding of the call can either escalate it into something it wasn’t or could cause the call to go uninvestigated.

After 5 months into our family’s case we were finally able to get the initial report from CPS for our family. Most of it was redacted – many pages were nothing but black.

But, along with the report came the Arizona CPS Response System, which we have posted on our website. This report gives you the codes and the risk factors associated with the allegations.

What we discovered in our case is that CPS coded all of the children as “high risk” when in fact they should have been coded “low risk” (there is no code for no risk), and one child coded “moderate risk.” CPS escalated the risk factor on the case, not by factual information received, but by someone taking the call.

What is “mandatory reporting”?

This is where the system really gets messed up.

Certain professions are mandatory reporters, such as teachers, doctors, psychologists, and even pastors under certain circumstances.

Parents and guardians are also mandatory reporters. If you fail to report an incident as a parent you may be charged with a felony.

So now we have the “snitch squad” – a government created reporting law that makes it mandatory for you to snitch on your own family. You have to report without concrete evidence, but only if you “think” something might have happened.

Doctors have used CPS to report on families when they don’t agree with the parent’s decision of medical treatment, including vaccinations. One such case has made national news – the Justine Pelletier case in Massachusetts.

In our family’s case a doctor had previously reported the family to CPS because the mother gave birth to twins at home with no anesthetic. The babies were both fine. However, this didn’t stop a doctor from making an invalid report to CPS resulting in a home visit to the family. The report was unsubstantiated but remains on the family CPS record.

Teachers or school officials are often the reporters on cases. Once again they make a report without all the details, resulting in the family having an unsubstantiated case on file.

Again, in our family’s case there was a report made by the school for an incident that happened on school grounds! The family was not even aware this report had been made as no contact by CPS to the family was ever done. But once again another unsubstantiated report was logged onto the family’s CPS file.

What is even more concerning is that teachers often don’t understand the law. At a teacher’s conference in Arizona the group of over 100 teachers were asked if spanking was permitted in Arizona. Almost all teachers believed, by their show of hands, that spanking a child in Arizona is against the law! This is not true, as spanking under certain restraints is permitted in the state. But with the vast majority of teachers believing it is illegal, how many of them would report a spanking to CPS?

The Investigation

So now that CPS has a report they need to investigate, which first starts with speaking to ALL of the children in your home or in your custody.

They will most often contact your children at school. This is a safe place for CPS because they don’t have to deal with parents trying to assert their constitutional rights and the school will cooperate. Your children will be removed from class and will be asked questions by CPS. The child may have no knowledge of what has happened, but they will still pull them in for questioning.

CPS has even been known to pull 18 year olds out for question – these “children” are legal adults and CPS should not have any jurisdiction over them, but they do it anyway.

They do not have to inform parents or get prior consent when they are speaking to your children. Often the first time the parent hears of this is when the child returns home from school and informs the parent! This is why it is so important for our children to understand their rights. It will be up to them to exercise their rights and not bend to intimation by the agency.

What can you do to protect your child from this abuse?

According to an attorney we spoke with recently – nothing.

  • CPS can do anything they want – they have been given so much power that parents are helpless when it comes to protecting their children from the agency.
  • CPS can ask your child questions without your knowledge or your prior consent.
  • If the child requests to have their parent present when questioned, CPS does not have to comply.
  • If the child requests to have their attorney present when questioned, CPS does not have to comply.
  • The only recourse the child has is to refuse to answer their questions. This may end up with CPS removing the child from school and taking them in to custody.
  • The schools are an accomplice to this abuse of the system. Counselors or psychologists will encourage the child to talk. If CPS wants to take custody of the child, the school will tell the child “that these people are their friends and it’s okay if they go with them.”

We teach our child about stranger danger and the school encourages the child to go with strangers! Then the children find out later that the parent was correct, the school was wrong because now they are taken from family and put with even more strangers.

This affects the children even after CPS is out of the picture because now school is no longer safe for the child and they start to fear even going to school.

Next week’s show

Next week we will do some catching up on how our constitutional rights are violated and what our Arizona legislators are doing about this problem.

A good movie to watch that shows the abuse of the child welfare system is “Just Ask My Children.” It is a movie based on the true story of a family’s battle with CPS in California. It shows how fast a case can escalate and how a corrupt system can be used to manipulate children to further their case.

After our children were back home the older children watched this movie. They stated they could relate to many of the things presented in the movie to what had happened to them.

The adults in the family watched this movie near the beginning of our case. It invoked some strong emotions and I don’t think one person that watched it wasn’t in tears at some point during the movie. We could absolutely relate to this movie! Just replace the district attorney’s office in the movie with the attorney general’s office in Arizona.

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses how CPS became the problem it is today and what we can do to protect our families

“It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about” is probably the best quote I have heard when referring to CPS, and one of the reasons it has been able to expand to the monster it has become today.

How did CPS get to be the problem it is today?

Well intentioned laws resulting in unintended consequences is one of the reasons it has been permitted to grow to the extent it is. People thought the laws were good and would help protect children. They could never have imagined how a well intentioned law could result in the abuse we see today.

One examples is the law Bill Clinton signed giving money to states for adoption. Legislators thought this was important and necessary because of the number of children in foster care not getting adopted, especially the older children. They created the incentive to remove the children and put them up for adoption but provided no incentive to restore and preserve the family. This provided a mechanism for financial gain in legal child trafficking through CPS.

Like everything else in government, they keep throwing more money at it and expecting that to solve the problems. It doesn’t solve the problems, only makes it worse, and builds a bigger bureaucracy leading to more corruption, more spending, and more children being abused by the system.

Did you know that Child Help, CPS, is trying to raise money to expand their facilities in Phoenix? I saw their ad on Facebook recently so I went to check it out. They are using the tactics of child molesters to entice children, with murals on walls, stuffed animals all over the floors, bringing them in to the lion’s den before the snatch them from the parents and stick them in foster care. But it’s all to protect the children.

Why can and do they get away with this?

Because people are afraid to talk about it.

The family that is involved in a CPS case is afraid to discuss their involvement for fear of being judged by friends, neighbors and family. In fact, if they are involved with CPS they are told by their attorney NOT to talk about it because CPS will retaliate against them and adopt out their children.

Everyone in the community who is not informed about CPS has the perception that if CPS was involved “there had to be something wrong.” The general population doesn’t want to discuss it because people might think they do not care about the welfare and safety of children.

The foster families don’t want to honestly discuss it because then they might have to admit they are aiding and abetting this criminal activity. They are often lied to by CPS about the children they have in their care, falsely believing they are “saving” these children from a depraved, unsafe family.

Adoptive families don’t want to discuss it because they might not be able to adopt the child they want. Worse yet, if they have already adopted a child thru foster care, the child they have could have been taken illegally and should not be theirs. They aren’t willing to admit that so they remain ignorant and silent.

Attorneys don’t want to get involved because their license could be on the line. Besides, all the dependency battles with CPS provide them with a lucrative income!

Legislators are taking marching orders from those in higher positions in the government. They want to keep a low profile on this subject because as a former representative told us “it is the elephant in the room that no one wants to address.”

So talking about it starts opening up discussions and brings light to the problem. Since we started Arizona Family Rights Project, we have heard from many families willing to share their stories and experiences with the public. Many families who have been involved with CPS want to talk about it; they want to know they aren’t alone. They want to share their horrible experiences and the injustice they have felt at the hands of this agency. If they find people or an organization willing to speak with them without passing judgment they are willing to open up and tell their stories. That is what we hope to bring about. You can share your story on our site and we will not disclose personal information unless we obtain permission. In fact some of these personal stories are being picked up by larger news organizations to show the abuse happening in their state! We will also be putting together video interviews for people to share their stories.

The only way to fix the abusive and broken system is to expose the truth. Only then can real reform take place.

We read or hear about stories in the media about abusive parents. What about those stories?

Unfortunately there are abusive parents in our society. Statistics show that only about 20% of the children removed by CPS should actually be removed. But is it acceptable to remove an additional 80% and put those children through trauma and potential abuse at the hands of CPS and foster care to help the 20%? Would you want your child to be part of that 80%?

Have you noticed how many of these stories tell us that CPS had already been involved with the family, yet somehow even with CPS prior involvement they were unable to avoid an outcome that made the headlines?

Have you noticed that none of the stories are about the abuse that takes place in the foster home? Statistics also show that more children are neglected, abused, sexually abused and murdered in foster care. The agency meant to protect actually does more harm to more children.

  • You don’t hear about the 4 year old who is missing from foster care because he ran away.
  • You don’t hear about the 17 year old who is on the street because CPS refused to take the mother’s concerns seriously and he ran from a therapy session.
  • You don’t hear about the infant who contracted MRSA at the hands of the foster parent.
  • You don’t hear about the mother who lost 2 of her children because they were killed at the hands of foster care.

Why?

Because once CPS is involved the case becomes protected. Even the family and attorneys may have difficulty getting the information needed for their own case! It’s all masked under the need to protect the children.

But this allows for an agency to go unchecked. It breeds corruption and is easily hidden because there is no transparency and accountability.

Did you know that in 2010 Arizona ranked about 25th in the nation as far as CPS was concerned with just over 4,000 children in foster care. Today Arizona ranks 47th with just under 15,000 children in foster care. Are parents more abusive now than they were 4 years ago? What changed?

What changed in Arizona was the governor’s task force in 2011 which made recommendations resulting in more children being abducted under the authority of “protecting the children.” The one recommendation which probably facilitated the increase was that if one child in the family is at risk or in danger, they all are – and they remove all the children from the home.

So what can we do?

We wanted to discuss what families can do to protect their children. There may be families that have just received a call from CPS or are facing a home visit. If we can help prepare them prior to that visit then maybe we can prevent their children from being removed from the family.

A well educated population can help save these children.

Some of these suggestions may sound elementary, but far too often people just don’t understand the seriousness of CPS. Because people don’t usually talk about it, the family is totally unprepared when it hits them.

We have a self-evaluation on our website that can help you. You can access this under the Family Rights Project, Understanding the Issue. Look for “Parental Resources” and you will find the “Are You At Risk – A Self Evaluation.”

The self-evaluation is for your use only. It is a tool for you to use to evaluate your own family situation. It is not intended to be judgmental. Many of the items on the list are not illegal, but if CPS becomes involved with your family they will become a concern and may be used against you in court to justify removing your children. So be honest if you take the evaluation. Taking corrective steps early on may help save your children and family.

  • Know your rights when it comes to CPS. Legal advice from an attorney is your best resource if you encounter CPS. Don’t assume that because you are innocent or have nothing to hide that you don’t need legal advice. The advice you get up front may save your children. You need to know how to act, how to respond, what your rights are, and what obligations CPS needs to meet to legally remove your children or speak to you.
  • Take the call or home visit SERIOUSLY! Take each and every call or visit seriously. Do not think because you got passed this visit that you will get passed the next. All calls stay on your record and CPS will use prior unsubstantiated calls to claim a history of abuse in order to remove your children.
  • If there is a problem in the home correct it. Many families find they are confronting a CPS report because of financial difficulties. Financial issues are not supposed to be a reason to remove children, but they do it anyway. Once removed financial issues will continue to haunt your case until the court decides you can financially care for your children. Knowing where and how to get community resources can be part of your ability to provide financially for your family.
    While resources are in the community, sometimes they are difficult to find. We found it amazing how if there are so many problems with families and raising children that there are not the resources out in the community to help. I cannot tell you how many times help wasn’t available because there are so many waiting lists – often 2-5 years out! Often times services aren’t available to help parents before they get involved with CPS, but only after there is a court order for services.
  • Your CHILDREN need to be aware of their rights. Educate your children on how to respond if CPS comes to the school to ask them questions. CPS will engaged the children at school, and often the school nurse, counselor or psychologist will encourage the child to speak to CPS telling them that “this is their friend and it is okay.”
  • Teach your children that the words they use must clearly convey the message they want to say. Something simple said by a child in the hands of a CPS case worker with an agenda can turn into disaster.
    One such instance making its way around the internet is the young girl who said “my daddy went pee pee in my pee pee. This resulted in a CPS investigation. It turns out the girl didn’t flush the toilet after using the bathroom and her father used that toilet after her. Something innocent turned into an accusation of something perverted.
    In my own family one of my grandchildren told me when I picked her up from school one day that “she didn’t get to eat lunch that day.” In the hands of CPS this could turn into the parent did not provide the child a lunch and wasn’t feeding her. They would jump to conclusions and decide that removing the child from the home was in the child’s best interest. Concerned, but understanding that there must be something more to this statement I asked the child a few specific questions:
    1. Did your mom forget to pack you a lunch today? (Child was to eat hot lunch)
    2. Did your mom not have enough money left on your lunch card to buy you lunch? (There was enough money on the card)
    3. Did you not have enough time during lunch to eat your lunch? – ANSWER: No, she had enough time, but she wanted to play on the playground instead so she didn’t eat her lunch.
    Teach your children to be specific in what they say.
  • Your children need to understand and be prepared to answer the question “who would you like to live with.” If CPS removes your children, the sooner you can get the children with family the better. Be sure you know who the safe family members are and who are not. If severance and adoption are the end result, which happens in 50% of the cases in Arizona, family is supposed to be considered first. However, if the children are in foster care and doing well, those foster parents will have a better chance of adopting the children because they now have a “relationship” with them and CPS and the courts will find that placement “in the child’s best interest.” So if you can get the children with family first you reduce the risk.
    Unless the child is truly afraid of a family member, they should be willing to go with anyone in the family. A seemingly innocent remark made by one child can keep all children from being placed with that family member. They need to understand the alternative is being placed with strangers. When and if they start asking children about who in the family they might like to live with it is because they are looking for a foster situation for the child.
  • If you are Native America make sure CPS knows this. Native American children are better protected than the general population.
  • Have your children carry the Reverse Miranda Rights with them at all times and know how to use it. This is a link on our website that parents can print out with the appropriate information. Some parents have the card laminated so the child can carry it around without being destroyed.
  • Have an attorney available that you can contact immediately if CPS becomes involved. You don’t want to have to find an attorney at 5pm on a Friday evening during a 3-day holiday weekend, which is what happened to our family. Spending a few hundred dollars at the beginning can save you tens of thousands later.
    It cost our family approximately $60,000 to get the children back. That does not include the other legal fees and expenses involved with the case. It is estimated that most cases in which a private attorney is hired, the costs range from $50,000-$150,000. The faster you can resolve a CPS investigation the better.
    While you will be assigned a court appointed attorney if dependency is sought, you will not be able to meet with this attorney until your first court hearing. This takes place approximately 2 weeks after they have removed your children.
    We are working on a membership program that would give parents access to an attorney. There would be a fee attached and the services under the program would be limited – but it would give parents access to legal advice immediately if they encounter an issue with CPS.

You can visit our website for tips and other resources on dealing with CPS, “Understand the Issue.”

Next week’s show

Next week we will be discussing reporting to CPS, mandatory reporting laws, and how you can protect your children.