Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the CARE Team, will Arizona make CPS better or worse?

We are continuing our discuss on the CARE Team’s recommendation and the need for our audience to take action now.

Gov. Jan Brewer called the special session specifically to address the problems with CPS. It will start on Tuesday.

Our voices must be heard!

Recap of where we are today

We got involved in CPS reforms when 9 of our grandchildren were taken by CPS. Over the 14 ½ months that it took to get the family fully restored we observed and took notes of the problems and issues we experienced within the CPS system. We decided not to become victims of the system and instead chose to take action to help families when they become involved with CPS. We hope we can help families avoid a CPS encounter and know actions to take from the beginning if CPS comes knocking on their door.

The current state of Arizona’s CPS system stems from the over 6,500 uninvestigated CPS calls that hit media attention. The governor put together a task force to investigation the situation. This was the CARE team, which stands for Child Advocate Response Examination.

The CARE Team solicited input from community organizations and 1,700 CPS employees. From this input the team has made recommendations to the governor to reform CPS. Some of the people Arizona Family Rights Project is hearing from today have become victims once again because of this problem.

The Attorney General’s office believes it is their duty to defend the CPS position in removing the children from the family. It doesn’t seem to matter if the allegations are true or false. The Attorney General’s office is only there to support the government agencies and no longer supports the people.

The legislature unanimously passed SB1386 for an independent review of CPS at a cost of $250,000 just before they adjourned. Gov Brewer vetoed the bill on April 30th. At the end of the session this year the reforms to CPS were not addressed.

Gov Brewer called this special session, which begins tomorrow, May 27th, to address CPS reforms. This means that all legislators are called back into session. Since the session does not start until tomorrow there is nothing on the legislative calendar at this time. Once they are officially back in session the committees and sessions should be posted on the legislative calendar, which can be found on azleg.gov under Calendar/News.

On Saturday we covered recommendations such as:

  • Hire more staff to reduce the overwhelming workload the Case Workers carry (include regional boundaries as criteria).
  • Raise salaries to market levels
  • Modernize technology

You can read about these and other issues in our article posted on Saturday’s radio show.

But the one recommendation we did not cover, which we believe is also important is community involvement and prevention. The committee recommended:

Community Contacts and Partnerships

While this sounds great and is needed the state has to be sure this doesn’t just create another mechanism to fuel the kidnapping for profit scheme. How many for-profit businesses benefit from the removal of children from the family?

A number of people recommended certain programs – all with nice sounding names. But dig in to what they do and I found a number of them were actually adoption focused agencies!

Others commented on providing services to families to prevent them from getting involved with CPS. Some even recommended providing parenting classes in school. While I agree with providing services to help those in need, another government controlled class to deal with social issues provided by public schools is not the answer! Many of the issues parents face with CPS is not because they aren’t parenting correctly, it’s because they aren’t parenting in the ways the government believes they should.

The issue I have seen is one that was also reported; the lack of a centralized database of agencies that can provide services. But we have to be careful because once the agency gets government money then government wants to control the discussion. That is when we ran into agencies that stated “no CPS bashing allowed.” Often times that is just what the families wanted and needed – an open discussion on the frustrations in dealing with CPS. But because of government funding free speech was being prohibited.

You also have to keep in mind that making a referral for services does not necessarily result in services being provided. So if community resources and partnerships are part of the reform, safeguards need to be in place to ensure services are actually provided. This cannot result in simply the CPS case worker making a referral to a community agency and then checking off the box that services are complete.

We know from past experience that these community agencies do not follow through with the referrals and never provide any services. Some of these agencies are just as corrupt or inept as CPS. In our own situation an agency worker lied to us and her supervisor about trying to make contact with the family, she claimed she did but had not (her number never showed up on our caller ID either). Then later she closed the case without anyone’s knowledge and claimed she had attempted to contact the family as well as sent a letter regarding the case. She did known of those things.

So while community resources and partnerships can provide a much needed service, they too must have clear expectations and the means to be held accountable when they fail to follow through with their obligations.

Further, there are already waiting lists to obtain services. Unless there are more agencies available for services reaching out to the community that doesn’t have the resources isn’t going to solve the problem.

  • We could not find parenting classes readily in the community. Most of those listed no longer provided the classes.
  • When the referral was made for a mentor for our grandson it never materialized. Seven months into the case and he still did not have a mentor. The resources just weren’t available.
  • When referrals were made for high needs case managers and behavioral health services we found the waiting lists were 3 months or longer. These are children that are at the most risk, often suicidal, yet once the referral was made it would take 3 months or more just to get the process started!

All of these services are provided by community resources yet every one of them failed.

Comments for community partnerships, prevention and support programs included:

  • Reinvest in prevention and community support, so fewer families ever reach the breaking point.
  • Work towards realigning state funds to support programming such as intensive in-home services rather than foster care.
  • The foster parent community wants addressed the fact that there are 40% more kids in care and that they languish longer, we are spending so much money to put kids in group homes – FUND PREVENTION.
  • CPS must become more pro-active at keeping children in their homes by (1) offering intensive in home services (2) focus on Family Preservation.

We agree that in-home services would be beneficial to families, especially when they keep the children in the family rather than removing them and placing them in foster care. We just need to be sure that those community services are available and provide programs necessary for family preservation and that they too can be held accountable.

CPS workers want more money and bonuses. What if their bonuses were based on the number of cases that resulted in successful reunification for the family and an additional bonus if the family stayed CPS call free for a period of years afterward. What if the goal of the agency was to truly work with families to prevent problems, resolve issues before the situation became abusive, and when it really becomes necessary to remove the children to work with the families to be successful in the reunification process and make the changes to be stronger families while helping them overcome the problems or circumstances that brought them to CPS’s attention in the first place.

What should our listeners do?

Ask for the independent review of CPS. While the governor claims they reached out to different groups, the voices of the parents and families affected by CPS were not heard. If the state wants to make real reforms they MUST listen to those people who have had to endure the abuse FROM CPS!

Is it really that much to ask of our legislators to spend even just a day listening to the testimony of the families experiences and what recommendations they would have in reforming the system?

Then ask a question about how the new legislation is going to accomplish a specific goal or ensure certain safeguards. You can base this on your own case, if you have one. What one thing really stuck out that caused your case to end up in the removal of your children, to end up with reunification delayed, or even what ended up in a severance and adoption outcome?

We have several questions at the end of this article if you can’t think of one. This may help you get started. Or just ask one of ours.

Action Steps to Take:

  1. Read our proposal and recommendations on the issues we experienced or observed. This will get you informed on the problems with CPS from the family side.

    You may also want to read the CARE Team Report and the CARE Team Summary of Comments.

    Read the article on the Saturday, May 24th’s show.

    Watch the Uncle Tom Horne’s Cabin video on YouTube.

  2. Sign up for ALIS to make your voice heard.

    This can be done on-line and you can track and submit comments on legislation right from your home computer. The link is posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue,” under the topic “Arizona Legislation.”

    Then watch our site at azproject.org, our facebook page at facebook.com/arizonaproject, or the legislative session on azleg.gov for information and updates on how to take action.

  3. Call or email Sen. Andy Biggs and Rep. Andy Tobin asking for the independent review of CPS before making any changes and spending more money. Tell them they had it right when they passed SB1386. Ask them to over-ride the governor’s veto of this bill, or put the legislation back on the floor and pass it again.

    Sen. Andy Biggs: (602) 926-4372 email: abiggs@azleg.gov

    Rep. Andy Tobin: (602) 926-5172 email: atobin@azleg.gov

  4. When calling or emailing Sen. Andy Biggs and Rep. Andy Tobin also ask them one question on how the new legislation is going to help protect the children and support families. Use your own situation or you can use one of the questions we have posted below.

    If you are using your own situation include a BRIEF statement on how this issue affected your case and why this is an important reform.

  5. Call your senator and representatives and ask them to do the same. You have one senator and two representatives for your district. If you don’t know your district go to http://azredistricting.org/districtlocator/azleg.gov. Look for your Legislative District, which is your state representation.

    The phone numbers for all legislators are posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issues,” under the topic “Arizona State Reform,” titled “Arizona State Legislators.” Look for your Legislative District.

  6. Email Arizona Family Rights Project with who you have contacted and when. If you get a response you can include that in the email. Send emails to: familyrights@azproject.org.

We discussed this on Saturday but it is important. When we talk with legislators and candidates, the most common questions is “what three things can be done to improve the CPS system?”

Our recommendation would be:

  1. No anonymous reporting at any point, including the first call or report to CPS
  2. Oversight agency to ensure CPS policies and laws are being followed and a source for parents involved in CPS to file complaints that will be investigated by an independent agency, not referred back to CPS
  3. Raising the level of evidence required to remove children from the family, hearsay or just accusations from the CPS case worker or investigation cannot be the sole justification for removal

Next week’s show

Next week we will continue to discuss the CARE team’s reports and the concerns raised that weren’t addressed in the recommendations. We will also do an update on what is happening in the Arizona legislature.

Sources and Links:

Arizona State Legislators – contact list

ALIS Link – to sign up and become an active member of the legislative process from your home

Uncle Tom Horne’s Cabin

question_mark_naught101_0111[1]Questions to address with proposed legislation:

  • How will the new legislation hold CPS workers and the AAG’s office accountable to the people and families when the agency violates the law?
  • What safeguards are in the legislation to ensure CPS case workers and the AAG present true and accurate statements to the courts, and what penalties will there be in place when they violate that trust?
  • What reforms are being made to prevent CPS from removing children with no proof of abuse but only a “we think” or “we believe” accusation from a case worker, community social worker, or even medical professional?
  • What reforms are being proposed to help parents or families who may have been involved in drugs but have no other valid allegations against them? What protections are proposed to help mothers on prescription medication, including medical marijuana, not in violation of the law from having her children removed?
  • What proposals for reform are being made to ensure police investigations are completed in a timely manner and aren’t left open just to delay the case? Shouldn’t all children be interviewed prior to placement in foster care to ensure investigative integrity?
  • What safeguards are being added to ensure the child’s rights are protected? What protections are being implemented to prevent CPS from “holding the children hostage” in order to force disclosure before determining the direction of the case?
  • What reforms are being proposed to ensure the extended family is being considered for placement or as safety monitors first? What will be done to ensure case workers aren’t just throwing extended family to the wind in order to place the children in adoptable foster care?
  • What steps are being taken to ensure ICPC’s are filed? What tracking mechanisms are being implemented for family, attorney’s or even legislators the ability of tracking the process to ensure it is being accomplished?
  • When a child confesses their allegations are false, what in the legislation will ensure that not only the criminal charges are dropped but CPS drops their dependency also? What additional procedures are being proposed to make sure this false allegation does not remain on the parent’s record?
  • Is there anything in the legislation to mandate the removal of unsubstantiated calls against parents within a specified period of time (say 3-5 years) and to prevent unsubstantiated information from being used in court and against parents to justify the removal of the children?
  • Children aren’t always truthful. Teens today are using CPS as a means of retaliation against parents when the teen has been caught at doing something they know they shouldn’t. Are there any safeguards being proposed to check the validity of a teen’s call, especially when there is no physical or other proof of the allegations, other than the child’s statements? Could the child, especially teens, be required to give statements under a polygraph to determine the validity of their statements?
  • What safeguards are being proposed to give families the ability to file complaints against CPS for an independent review or audit of their case? What in the legislation would give families the ability to file a complaint that wouldn’t just end up back at CPS?
  • What audit process is being proposed to ensure calls aren’t neglected and the laws are being followed?
  • What recommendations and changes are being made to ensure CPS and the AAG aren’t rushing to severance and adoption before giving parents a chance?
  • What reforms are being made so parents are evaluated separately? What reforms are being proposed so the dependency and/or severance petitions are filed separately and determined independently of the other parent? (One parent might be guilty but the other parent isn’t even aware. Making them one case does not protect the rights of each independently.)
  • What recommendations are being made to require CPS actually listen to parents and family in the Team Decision Making meeting (TDM) and consider their recommendations?
  • Is there anything in the proposed legislation that requires all interviews to be video recorded and those recordings released to the parent’s attorney?
  • Is there anything in the proposed legislation to abolish anonymous complaints or reporting?
  • What changes are being recommended to permit parents the opportunity to get an independent psychological evaluation instead of only ones recommended by CPS to a biased provider?
  • What provisions are being made to ensure visitation takes place as court ordered and that any child not attending visitation must have a doctor’s note documenting the absence or a valid reason? What are the consequences when they don’t?
  • What changes are being made to ensure foster families comply with court orders, including visitations and permitting parents to attend the child’s medical appointments? If the foster family refuses, what steps are being made to remove the child from their home and revoke their foster license?
  • What safeguards are being implemented to ensure children aren’t placed in at risk homes or homes with communicable diseases that could be passed on to foster children? Are disclosure requirements being implemented to mandate foster families disclose health issues prior to licensing and to disclose after licensing if a medical issue arises? (Especially important for AIDS and MRSA diseases)
  • What changes to the legal system are being made to remove the 6-month limit on filing a lawsuit against the state or foster family when neglect, abuse or death occurs by their hand?
  • Are there any proposed changes to require the foster care review board to shorten the length of time required to meet when the case involves children 3 and under to ensure their case gets reviewed? (Baby cases are supposed to be completed in 6 months and if the foster care review board only meets after 6 months these cases are never heard by the foster care review board.)
  • What changes are being proposed to ensure the foster care review board actually meets every 6-months, especially in the first 6 months, after children are removed? What consequences will be imposed if they delay meeting until 7 or 8 months.?
  • What reforms are being made to the Young Adult Program/Independent Living to ensure it is being used for children that need it and not as a tool to bribe children in order to keep them in state custody? Are steps being taken to remove this option for children placed with family or kinship, which is a means to circumvent the foster care licensing process?
  • What bonus incentives are being offered to case workers for helping a family complete a successful reunification?
  • What protections are there to help families who have been through and completed a successful reunification to obtain quality therapy and behavioral health services without fear of being reported again for past incidents or actions? (Probation for juveniles permits them to “confess” their actions without being charged again, unless their action is after adjudication. Can something similar be implemented to help families process their own case?)
  • What changes are being made to remove the “except weekends and holidays” clauses from the requirements, especially on holding meetings and hearings at the beginning of the case? If children are abused daily and that doesn’t take a holiday, why should CPS?
  • What reforms are being proposed to ensure service providers actually provide the services contracted for and in a timely manner? What penalties are being imposed when they don’t?
  • What changes are being made to the transportation services that transport children to visitations and services to ensure they are reliable and on time? What safeguards are being proposed to ensure they are not violating personal information – such as when they take children from different families in the same vehicle and drop them off at the family home for visitation?
  • What is being recommended to ensure the CPS case managers provide accurate and up-to-date information to the courts and on parental progress reports to the court? What consequences will be implemented when they fail to do so?
  • What recommendations are being proposed to actually hold CPS case workers or the AAG in contempt of court for failure to follow the judge’s orders?
  • What process is being created so parents can report abuse in the foster homes without fear of retaliation and severance?
  • What procedures are being proposed to ensure CPS listens to the child? If the child states they feel safe and want to go home, what right does CPS have to keep the child from the parent/home in which they feel safe?
  • What changes are being proposed to ensure the parent has the right to interact with police and attorney when a child is arrested while in foster care? What safeguards are being put in place to ensure the state doesn’t represent all sides of the case? (Prosecutor, defense, and guardian of child)
  • What is being done to ensure CPS acts within the timeframes set by law? What penalties are being proposed when they fail to do so?
  • What protections are being implemented to ensure CPS isn’t severing the parental rights of a child and deporting the parent when they are in the country illegally?
  • What changes are being made to ensure services in the reunification process can take place concurrently? What is being done to prevent services or to withhold services contingent on a CPS case workers desires and not court orders? Can’t drug issues be address while also participating in therapy and even parenting classes?