Dramatic Increase In The Number Of Children In Arizona CPS/DCS Custody

Arizona-CPS-Abuse-665x385

With the recent stories of children allegedly being medically kidnapped in Arizona, as well as reports that there are not enough foster homes to house all the children in DCS custody, some parents have asked if this is truly an increasing trend or if there are simply more of these stories being reported. The trends they are seeing are concerning.

An average of 32 children enter the foster care system in Arizona every single day. Kris Jacober, the executive director of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation, told KTAR, “There’s more kids in foster care than there has ever been before.”

She is correct. According to the latest DCS Semi-Annual Child Welfare Report, there has been close to a 50 percent increase in the number of Arizona children in out-of-home care over just the last four years, from 10,514 in the period from April 2010 to September 2010 up to 15,751 in the period from October 2013 to March 2014. “New removals” have increased at just about the same rate, from 4,010 in 2010 to 5,701 in the 6 month period ending in March 2014.

Besides having half again as many children living in foster care as were there four years ago, Arizona has the greatest increase in the nation of child removals from their home. While most of the nation has seen fewer CPS cases, only 11 out of 50 states have shown an increase in the past decade. Arizona leads the pack, by a large margin, according to a Data Brief by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Arizona’s own data confirms that increase.

Arizona leads the nation in the number of children taken by the state

Arizona leads the nation in the number of children taken by the state

The number of very young children in foster care has skyrocketed.

Despite a federal law that ties Title IV-E funding to a requirement that CPS/DCS seek to place a child with a relative first, many parents allege that this is not being done. They may be correct. According to the Child Welfare Report, only 42.7 percent of children removed from their homes in Arizona are placed with family members.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of children whose parents’ rights have been terminated, who have been adopted out of foster care — again, it is a 50 percent increase over the past four years, from 991 over 6 months in 2010 to 1,518 in the 2014 period. Over half of those placements are finalized within one year of the child being taken from their parents’ custody. This could indicate that any parents who may be falsely accused are not given adequate time for a defense.

All of these numbers might be good if it meant that the government was getting better at protecting kids from abusive parents. But it is far from clear that this is the case. While the numbers have remained fairly steady for removals for physical, sexual, and emotional abuse over the four years between 2009 and 2013, it is neglect cases that make up the staggering increase in DCS cases, according to data from the DCS Oversight Committee.

Arizona-CPS-Abuse-Chart-670x322

Also, the same report show that the number of children entering the DCS system has sharply increased, but the number of children exiting the system has remained steady.

Since the majority of the children removed from their homes are neglect cases, and since the greatest increase in DCS removals are based upon that charge, it is helpful to understand how neglect is defined by the Arizona DCS. According to the state code in Arizona, “neglect exists when parents, guardians or custodians place children at unreasonable risk of harm.”

“Neglect occurs when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury. Neglect also includes leaving young children unsupervised or alone, locked in or out of the house, or without adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Allowing children to live in a very dirty house which could be a health hazard may also be considered neglect.”

Further clarification states that neglect includes “a denial or deprivation of necessary medical treatment or surgical care or nourishment with the intent to cause or allow the death of an infant who is protected under A.R.S. § 36-2281.”

Herein lies the rub. Recently there have been a string of cases that have been taken up by Arizona’s DCF which have been termed “neglect.” Most of these allege medical neglect of the child(ren), when what is actually happening is that the parents challenge, debate, or disagree with a treatment plan or diagnosis by a doctor, or simply ask for a second opinion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMJJ4oCSMoU

When parents in Arizona try to enlist the help of their elected representatives, or file a redress of grievances when they say they are falsely accused, they report that they get nowhere. Health Impact News recently reported why, and it is a reason that should alarm everyone who believes in representative government. Maria Hoffman is an unelected employee under contract to the Arizona Legislature who is the Director of the Arizona Legislative Office of Family Advocacy. She reports that she is the “the only person at the legislature who handles CPS constituent issues directly and with the Attorney General’s Office.” All complaints are routed through her. When concerned citizens ask questions or talk to the media, she has threatened them with contempt and jail time, citing an ambiguous federal law that removes the person’s first amendment freedom of speech.

Two-Sisters-Kidnapped-By-S

The Inquisitr has reported on several of these stories in Arizona, and elsewhere, including the two Deigel sisters and Christopher Brown, who were taken by DCF based on accusations from doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Isaiah Rider in Chicago, Jaxon in Missouri, and Justina Pelletier in Boston are other cases that have made headlines recently. There are hundreds more whose stories have not been reported, often out of fear, and sometimes because of an unconstitutional gag order that has been placed upon the parents.

Arizona CPS Christopher Reign

Christopher Brown

The question is: How many of Arizona’s DCS/CPS cases are truly abuse cases, and how many of them are for alleged crimes by the parents, when the parents were simply doing what parents do, and fighting for answers and the best possible care for their children? When did disagreeing with the doctor become a crime punishable by having one’s child kidnapped?

Arizona has solid parental rights laws, laws that overzealous or corrupt social workers, judges, and doctors need to be reminded of, laws that are not being followed in many cases.

“The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health car and mental health of their children is a fundamental right.”

For the parents whose children were taken away because they questioned or disagreed with a doctor’s treatment plan, the law may as well not exist. There has been a huge increase in the number of children taken from their homes in recent years, more in Arizona than in any other place in the country. Parents and concerned citizens want to know why.

Arizona CPS Exposed – Arizona Creates the Department of Child Safety aka CPS

This week the Arizona legislator passed both bills to create the new Department of Child Safety as well as funding for the operations.

This week at the legislature

This week the Arizona legislature convened for a special session called by the governor to address the issues with CPS. The results were disappointing but not unexpected.

The focus of this session was to pass the bills to create the new CPS system, now called the Department of Child Safety or DCS. People need to understand that CPS is not abolished. It was simply moved out of the Department of Economic Security (DES) and now is a stand alone department that reports directly to the governor. The legislation proposed this week was to make that temporary change a permanent one.

Unfortunately the media coming from all sources was ready to paint any legislator who was not in support of the bill as someone who didn’t care about the safety of children. The bills passed.

They passed one bill to supply the funding for the new agency. The second bill was to create the new structure for DCS and change the wording in the current legislation to reflect the name change. If you review the 218 page bill, there were very little changes other than 13-14 pages addressing the new structure.

If you listened to those speaking on behalf of the new department you would believe that vast changes are taking place and that an independent oversight committee was established to make sure DCS was following the laws. This isn’t quite accurate.

The foundation for the new department was created. The majority of changes discussed during the committee meetings was more Director Flanagan’s vision for the new agency. The problem is as directors change and the governor’s change the policies become whatever those in charge decide they should be. This can be a problem moving forward.

Did the legislative process go as it should or as anticipated?

It is really disappointing when our state government runs similar to our federal government. The state requires all bills to be posted by 4:00pm in order to be heard in committee the next day. This allows for the people to read the bill and submit comments or prepare to speak. Unfortunately the Senate bill SB1001 was not published until around 4:30pm and we have no idea what time SB1002 for funding was actually published.

We heard that while the legislators were all called into session on Tuesday, the bills weren’t finished. They were still writing them on Tuesday!

Then in order to accomplish what they wanted in the timeframe they expected, the legislature had to suspend the rules in order to have the committees hear the bills, despite the fact that they were not published in time. These are tricks which results in limiting comments or questions about the bills.

To further the issue, the House committee that had been dealing with the CPS issues all last session was Health and Human Services. We had been working with a number of legislators on this committee, so many of them were familiar with our report as well as our concerns. On Tuesday rather than having Health and Human Services hear HB1001, it was instead given to Public Safety. We only found out about it at the last minute.

Were you able to attend any of the hearings or speak at any of them?

We were able to attend a portion of the Senate Appropriations Hearing as well as a portion of the House Public Safety Hearing.

We did attend the full Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing and we were able to speak.

We listened to Director Flanagan’s vision of CPS, now DCS. He has some good ideas and he does understand some of the issues. However, if he doesn’t listen to the parents and families affected by CPS and the removal of children he will fail to provide corrective action that will result in positive reforms. So there is still the potential of creating a more abusive agency.

However, after everyone gave their positive spin presentations and others made supportive comments, I was able to give my testimony. During the testimony even I heard gasps from those in the audience from what I said. Some of the legislators understood and were sympathetic to what families have had to go through.

What did take place that was very positive to our cause was Rep. Ableser who spoke up in the understanding of our issues and stated he has received a number of calls from constituents with similar issues. We are not alone and he knows that.

More important was that the chair of the committee, Sen. Nancy Barto, also spoke up and voiced similar concerns to ours – that the new legislation doesn’t have any teeth. So we got this on official record as well as statements from the committee that this is only a foundations and there is still work to be done.

Did our listeners calls make any difference?

Absolutely! Even though we didn’t get the results we would have liked, we heard over and over from legislators on the committees to others we spoke with that they have received numerous calls with concerns about CPS and the out-of-control agency it has become. Those on the committees acknowledged these calls and concerns from constituents and voiced them on the record. They were listening!

That might not sound like a lot right now, but if you were at the committee meetings numerous times legislators presented questions, especially to Director Flanagan, from people like you.

Did anything else come from this process?

Some positive things came from what happened this week.

Director Flanagan heard our testimony in the Senate hearing, he was there, he heard the gasps from the audience. He was disappointed that someone spoke out against the bill as written. They didn’t expect anyone to take a negative stand, especially on record on the floor.

This resulted in Director Flanagan actually asking to speak with us after the last session. We spoke with him briefly and he knows he has work to do to gain the support from the public, especially those who have been harmed by CPS in the past. We gave him a copy of our 53 page report and he has promised to read the report and get back to us with a response. He is also open to speaking with us in the future. If he is true to his word, then he will reach out and listen to families like ours and people who are trying to make meaningful reforms to protect children, but also to prohibit abuse from the system;

We met with even more legislators which permitted us to make them more aware of the problems within the CPS agency. It isn’t just bad parents. It is about an agency that has not been following the law.

We also made contacts and have referrals to legislators willing to work with us to create legislation. These contacts are important and we hope to work with them over the next couple of months to draft legislation that will make the necessary changes and hold the agency accountable.

We also challenged legislator’s knowledge of the bill. Everyone believes that there is an oversight of the agency through a Community Advisory Committee. Here’s what the committee is and the members of the committee:

A. The Community Advisory Committee is established to provide a community forum:

  1. To inform the department, analyze current law and policy and make recommendations to improve the ability of the department to increase the safety of children, respond to child maltreatment and ensure the well-being of and timely permanency for children who are referred to and involved in the child welfare system.
  2. For the collaboration among state, local, community, public and private stakeholders in child welfare programs and services that are administered by the department.
  3. To improve communication between mandatory reports and the department.

B. The committee consists of one representative of each of the following who is appointed by and services at the pleasure of the director:

  1. Child welfare agencies that directly provide contracted services to children and their families
  2. Child advocacy organizations that deal with child welfare system policy issues
  3. Current or former foster or adoptive parents
  4. Medical providers, with a preference for pediatricians, who have experience in diagnosing and treating injuries related to abuse and neglect
  5. Volunteers with foster care review board or court appointed special advocate program
  6. Persons with an academic appointment to a state university who conduct research in child welfare services, child maltreatment or child abuse
  7. The courts. The representative must be involved in child welfare issues
  8. A rural area in this state who has experience in the child welfare system
  9. A Native American tribe or nation who has experience in the child welfare system
  10. A child advocacy organization that advocates for or represents children who are victims of crime
  11. Persons who have experience with children with special needs and the child welfare system
  12. A law enforcement agency. The representative must have experience with the department on cases that involved criminal conduct allegations.

Where are the families or parents represented in this committee? Where is the voice to report when the agency or it’s service providers fails to uphold the law or violates the law?

Once again it isn’t there. THAT is what we must change!

What can we do next?

We need to get to good legislators elected that understand the problems with CPS/DCS. Do they want to expand the agency and give them more power? Are they just giving the politically correct answer of “it’s to protect the children,” or “child safety.” Do they understand the issue from the family’s perspective? Do they understand the abuse FROM the agency? Those are the questions you need to be asking in your district.

If you live in LD28 it is important to remove Kate Brophy-McGee from office and replace her with someone who will actually listen to the constituents. She refused to meet with us to discuss the CPS issue, even though we live in her district. These are our elected officials, so even if they may not agree with your position on an issue, it is still their responsibility to at least hear from their constituents.

Shawnna Bolick is running against her and has been very instrumental in helping us raise the awareness of the problem to legislators. We need someone in the legislature who will listen.

Kelli Ward in LD5 in the Senate was helpful in getting us on the floor to speak. She also seems to understand the issue. She was the only dissenting vote on the appropriations bill. She didn’t want to give them all the money at one time and instead wanted DCS to meet benchmarks before obtaining additional funding.

Ed Ableser in LD26 in the Senate was very sympathetic to my testimony as well as those families that have had to face a CPS case. He wanted to get a definition and clarification of neglect, and he understands neglect is one the reasons CPS has used to remove children. He also offered an amendment to change the name of the bill to include “family preservation.”

Nancy Barto in LD15 in the Senate, and chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee also understands the issue and acknowledges that this is only the beginning. Listen to her opening remarks during the committee hearing, which is posted on our website. Sen. Barto also met with us prior during the regular legislative session.

David Bradley LD10, however believes CPS is the child’s savior, based on his comments made during the Senate hearing. He formerly worked for CPS. He did not appear to understand the issue from the family perspective.

Carl Seel in LD20 in the House, has been very supportive and has helped throughout the entire session deliver our message to other members. He understands the issue as well the constitutional implications of the agency’s policies. Carl is also a voice on the House floor who wants answers.

REMEMBER, this is only one issue in the state but one we are all obviously passionate about. Before making a decision on how to vote in the primary in August, contact the candidates and ask them questions. We are not endorsing any candidates but are just reporting which ones have been supportive  or unsupportive about the CPS issue.

This is only the beginning as we reach out to legislators in the upcoming months.

Next week’s show

Next week we will continue to discuss the CPS topics and what you can do to protect your family.

Sources and Links:

Senate Health and Human Services Committee Hearing

Department of Child Safety SB1001 – New bill (signed by governor)

 

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?

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

This week we are going to break from the CPS process and discuss the governor’s care team and their recommendations.

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

What can our listeners do?

Listen to this show. Today we are discussing the care team’s report and recommendations.

Read the proposal on our website. Every legislator was emailed a copy of that proposal yesterday.

We will be asking you to make phone calls or send emails. But first you need to be informed.

Can you tell us what happened over the last couple of months since Brewer made the announcement that she abolished CPS?

Like every time in the past, when CPS makes the headlines for failing to protect the children, the governor appoints another task force to look into the problem. And just like every time in the past the committee is stacked with people from within the agency itself and those organizations who directly benefit from the business of removing children from their homes. The families who have had to fight CPS are never included.

The task force solicited input from community organizations and sent surveys to over 1,700 CPS employees. They claimed the CPS employees were “subject experts” that are performing this important work.

They also claim to have established a website for individuals to submit comments as well as a toll free number to call in. However, when we inquired about this website a number of times and never received a response. Others have reported the same frustration. If the public was invited to comment, it was not widely publicized. So one can only imagine where this input really came from. If you read the comments it will be clear that the majority came from CPS employees.

Also this week the topic on Van’s radio show “Crossroads with Van“ was Tom Horne. While we were listening guess who called in to the show – Tom Horne! We asked questions of CPS and his response was disturbing. He was actually bragging about having helped removed thousands of children from their families and homes and that the number of children in foster care today in Arizona is now over 16,000. He believes he is “protecting the children” by removing them from their family and it is his agency’s job to defend CPS’s position.

Tom Horne agreed to be open to discussing the issue with groups like ours. We are trying to set up a meeting. If you would like to listen to Van’s show click on the link at the bottom of this article, or you can access it from our website. It is approximately 16 minutes into the show when CPS is brought up.

What are the recommendations from the CARE team?

We have posted both documents from the care team on our website, which can be found under the tab “Understanding the Issue,” under the topic “Arizona State Reforms,” which include “Arizona Care Team Reports 2014” and “Arizona care Team Comment Summary FINAL.”

The recommendations include:

  • Hire more staff to reduce the overwhelming workload the Case Workers carry (include regional boundaries as criteria).
  • Raise salaries to market levels
  • Examine ways to prevent employee turnover
  • Modernize technology
  • Streamline work processes to promote best practices
  • Provide more training for employees
  • Restructure the agency to a standalone body, to provide more oversight
  • Promoting healthy partnerships within our community to ensure safety and services for children and families.

Do you think these recommendations will solve the state’s CPS issues?

While some of the concerns voiced were valid and actually some of what we observed, none of the recommendations get to the heart of the problem. None of this addresses the corruption and deception taking place within the agency by the employees as well as the Attorney General’s office. Until you focus on the true mission of CPS and hold employees, the AAG and judges accountable nothing will change. Far too many employees believe they can play a god role and that they have the right to determine who should raise our children.

Far too many businesses and agencies measure their success on numbers. For CPS it is based on the number of children “helped,” the services provided, adoptions completed…it’s all about the numbers. They want to measure by statistics but fail to recognize the negative statistics that result because a child was removed from the family. Numbers and statistics cannot measure the heart and soul of the child that has been permanently affected by being removed from their family.

Just recently the federal government released a study done by the National Center for Health Statistics. This study is also posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue” under the topic “Reports and Studies,” “Adverse Family Experiences Among Children in Nonparental Care.” The results of this study show what society in the past has always known. Children raised by traditional two biological parent families fare the best, while children raised in foster care fare the worst.

The biggest question the CARE team failed to answer is why there are so many more children in foster care today than even 3 years ago. Are Arizona families more abusive? Why does Arizona rank 47th in the nation when it comes to protecting the children?

Instead of focusing on those questions the comments in the CARE Report reflect the issues with the agency. Many of them came from CPS employees. Don’t get us wrong, the agency is an issue. But the problem isn’t the number of employees, the lack of pay or benefits, or not enough technology. The problem is the unchecked and unrestrained power the state has given the CPS employees with the support of the Attorney General’s office and judges.

Can you share with us some of the issues raised in the CARE report?

Staffing

The first three areas listed involve staff. They want more staff, more money, less work, and more incentives to stay in their jobs.

Hiring more staff will only increase the problem and does not address the root cause. That is insanity. CPS has been adding more staff with each past reform, but this has only led to more children being removed.

Somehow the public is supposed to believe that if these CPS workers get paid more money and have more incentives to stay on the job that their work ethic will change. Paying people more will not change their attitude or belief that they are “saving the children” by destroying the child. It will not change their philosophy of the “redistribution of our children” and their belief that they alone have the right and obligation to decide who shall parent our children.

I get so ticked off at people who go into a line of work, especially those in government positions, knowing the pay scale, and then complain because they aren’t paid enough. If you don’t like the pay when you are offered the job find something else!

If they want less work then maybe they should properly investigate cases and stop removing children they know shouldn’t be taken. Start working WITH families whose children are removed to obtain a successful reunification instead of fighting against it. They create their own work issues when they have the attitude of “take all the children and sort it out later” which usually means 12-24 months later.

They only increase their work load when they delay the reunification process and continue to fight against it, even when the parent’s have met their goals and done what is asked. Keeping these cases on their load instead of releasing them only increases their case load by their own choice!

The incentives they mention to stay on the job also came with comments that they don’t feel appreciated. I can tell you that the parents whose children you have taken will never thank you. The children who feel wrongfully removed from their families will never thank you.

Comments included:

  • The only recommendation is increase our pay. I have dedicated more time and effort regardless. However, additional pay motivates people to stay.
  • There is absolutely no incentive for me to stay besides having good health insurance. No rewards for 100% contact, or getting so many adoptions done.
  • I do not appreciate having a case load more than double workers in rural areas and being paid the same amount.
  • I resent being told this is a calling, not a job.

The one I thought was the most self-serving was:

“The first day I walked in our office, the first thing that I perceived, is that this organization needs exercise rooms. Definitely.”

Modernize Technology

While I believe they should have working equipment and supplies in the office, these people all want laptops to take in the field. Apparently paper and pencil to take notes is no longer sufficient and they cannot find the time to document their cases until they get back to the office without the computer. However, from our own files, we found they couldn’t find the time to document their notes until almost 2 weeks later!

We were at so many CFT meetings and the facilitator of the meeting, as well as a number of others, all had computers. The problem was that much of the meeting time was spent waiting for the person to type notes into the computer. There wasn’t eye-to-eye contact with those in attendance. Everyone was too concerned about documentation in the computer. At every site they had to locate electrical outlets to plug in. Many also needed some type of internet access which wasn’t always available or was too slow.

These people should be role models for parents. So what message are you sending to these parents when the CPS case workers think it is okay for all attendees in a meeting to have their faces buried in a computer screen while never making eye-contact? Is that how we want parents to interact with their children?

While technology is not a bad thing, does every case manager need to be provided a laptop? Many times these case managers never attended the meeting in person, and sometimes they attended while they were driving in the car or at home with children in the background! All they did was phone it in.

As with all technology you have to be concerned about security. When you read other comments about the work habits of these CPS workers you have to be concerned how secure the computer information would be.

One comment in the report indicated that they had been trained to “keep the file cabinet locked at all times, but this doesn’t happen.” You can imagine the violations that could occur if they all had computers!

The greatest benefit to technology would be having a system that actually worked. The CHILDS system has issues. As we mentioned before, only about 1/3 of the documents actually print and this has been a known problem since 1996.

So technology is only as good as the program and those using it. Obviously if the state has had an issue for over 18 years with technology and continues to use it, more computers isn’t going to solve the problem.

Streamline the Process and Use Best Practices

I will agree there is a lot of duplication in the system. When we read reports they were obviously entered in different systems and the information wasn’t consistent, even though it was supposed to have documented the same meetings or encounter. By eliminating duplication in entry perhaps we can also eliminate biased reporting entered days or weeks after the fact.

But a number of the comments written indicated that policies and procedures aren’t even being followed. Instituting new policies and procedures won’t help if the staff ignores them.

There has to be real consequences for failing to adhere to the policies, including termination of employment. Of course the CPS workers only want what benefits them and they certainly don’t want to be held accountable if they fail to do so.

Comments included:

  • What happened to checking policies? I have also heard from other workers that this is the main reason why AZ DES has a high turnover rate.
  • After attending various training classes, where it was stated that ALL FILES WILL BE LOCKED IN A SECURE CABINET OR ROOM, I find that no one follows that dictate. They do not follow policy.

Training

That seems to be a catch all for most organizations. Proper training when you hire someone or even promote them to a new level is necessary. On-going training for the sake of training just wastes tax dollars. I know I’ve held a number of jobs where we were required to participate in training sessions yearly. They were not informative, did not help us with our jobs and only put us behind on our workload because we missed several days in the office.

One of the common threads shared was the lack of training for supervisors. Apparently supervisors are an issue and one that is creating internal conflict within the agency. Perhaps it isn’t only a lack of training but the selection or promotion of people who shouldn’t be in supervisory positions in the first place.

I took a customer service class many years ago and the one statement that stuck with me was that “employees are only going to treat the customer as well as the supervisors treat their employees.” That statement is so true! So I guess the true reflection of CPS is seen in this statement. The employees believe their supervisors lack the training and skills to be supervisors, and the supervisors don’t appreciate the work of their employees. Likewise the employees lack the training and skills to be out in the field and they certainly don’t understand the situations facing families. The employees are dumped on by their supervisors and the employees in turn take this out on the families they are charged to help.

Apparently these workers aren’t well trained when you read comments that include:

  • Little to no training is provided to CPS employees in the areas of uncovering deception and assessing perpetrator credibility.
  • We have no adequate testing for our people before they go to the field.
  • Education the people at the Top who make decisions for the field workers. Do they fully understand what it takes to do a thorough investigation?
  • Many times we are thrown out there and we do not know what we are doing.

Restructuring

Gov. Brewer has already taken the steps in this direction by removing it from DES. But if you have the same government agencies overseeing the agency, no matter who is it under, you will still face the same corruption and deceptive practices. The agency and employees must be held accountable!

There should be an audit process that is on-going. Parents should be able to go to a board that is not protected by CPS and bring concerns forward. We just wanted someone to honestly look at our case without bias to see how much went wrong. But there isn’t that type of oversight. Unless the people affected by CPS can report issues without retaliation there will be no meaningful changes to the agency.

Those suggestions were not made in any of the comments.

What can the listeners do?

The legislators actually had it right. They unanimously passed in both houses SB1386 for an independent review of CPS. The cost of this independent study would have been $250,000. The governor vetoed the bill on April 30th. The cost to the state for foster care placement of the additional 5,000 removed over the past 20 months is $3,000,000 per month! The governor is asking for an additional $60 million in this special session for CPS. She has already been granted $59 million when the agency was removed from DES.

How much more money are we growing to throw at the agency? Why are they refusing to listen to those families and children the agency has destroyed? What are they afraid an independent review will uncover?

We need to take action now. This is an election year and primaries are coming up in August. Will the legislators bend to the will of the governor and pass legislation quickly so they can resume the campaign trail? Many are facing challengers in this election.

Make phone calls and send emails to 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 with 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

Call your senator and representatives and ask them to do the same.

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.”

The governor claims that the new director, Charles Flanagan, has been diligently seeking input from others including families affected by the child welfare system. We had a meeting scheduled with Flanagan and he cancelled it. He has not been cooperative in scheduling another meeting with us.

How can she claim they are working to seek input when it has been reported that the legislation to reform CPS is already written?

Finally, sign up for ALIS. This can be done on-line and you can track and submit comments on legislation. The link is posted on our website under the tab “Understanding the Issue,” under the topic “Arizona Legislation.”

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 with 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.

Sources and Links:

Arizona Care Team Report 2014

Arizona CARE Team Comment Summary FINAL

National Center for Health Statistics, report “Adverse Family Experiences Among Children in Nonparental Care, 2011-2012”

Crossroads with Van – Monday, May 19, 2014 Show – featuring guest caller Tom Horne

Arizona State Legislators – contact list

SB1386 – Making a supplementary appropriation to the Department of Administration to contract for a review of Child Protective Services

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

AZ Project 2014 Recommendations

 

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the placement of children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARS 8-824 states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What placement options are there?

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

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

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

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

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

Is that what really happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you seen any other placement issues?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of payments do foster families get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For instance the law states the child has the right:

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

Next week’s show

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

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