KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The size of Kansas’ foster care population has swelled 18 percent over the past six years, and child welfare advocates blame high turnover among caseworkers, parental drug addiction and cuts to programs that helppoorfamilies.
“I really think something needs to be done,” said Diana Frederick, executive director of Douglas County CASA, the agency that provides volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates to work with abused and neglected children in state custody. “Things are enough of a concern that we need to acknowledge that there is a problem and we need to work together to find a solution.”
Children are usually removed from their homes because of neglect, and leave the foster care system when they rejoin their families, are adopted or reach age 18. State data shows that the 2009 fiscal year is the last time more children were exiting the system each month, 312 on average, than were entering, 260 on average. Since then, the numbers have gradually flipped, with 317 children entering the system on average each month in FY 2015, which ended June 30, and 286 leaving the system.
The public's right to know is more than some noisy neighbor's curiosity.
When it comes to child safety, the level of openness can determine whether a child protection agency gets the scrutiny it needs to improve or simply uses secrecy to hide its mistakes.
Arizona's failed former child welfare agency was stealth-prone.
The agency that replaced it last year, the Department of Child Safety, was born amid promises to be more transparent.
Lawmakers, supported by Gov. Doug Ducey, are moving in the right direction.
But there are troubling shadows of secrecy.
For example, Ducey's office is refusing to release a whistle-blower complaint made against Greg McKay, who is now the department's director. It was made by the department's general counsel, Allister Adel, when McKay led the agency's Office of Child Welfare Investigations.
In response to a Feb. 20 public-records request from The Arizona Republic, Ducey's office claimed attorney-client privilege, saying the memo from Adel was covered under attorney-client privilege and was not subject to disclosure, according to a statement to The Republic from Ducey's spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato.
Openness would be a better approach.
There were tensions last month when Ducey fired Charles Flanagan as the department's chief and put McKay in the job. A lengthy memo from McKay criticizing Flanagan's handling of backlogged cases preceded the change. Under Flanagan, the department's internal-investigations unit had investigated McKay and other employees.
When McKay took over, he eliminated the internal-investigations unit.
A new film exposing the corruption behind much of the Shaken Baby Syndrome diagnosis used to remove children from the custody of their parents, and in some cases put parents behind bars, is currently making its way through the film festival circuit. The Syndrome is a film produced and directed by Meryl Goldsmith, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who teamed up with her cousin and investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith as the co-producer and editor. It is Meryl Goldsmith’s feature directorial debut, according to the film’s website. Included in the cast are doctors and law professors.
Lauren Kirchner, writing for the Pacific Standard Magazine, recently interviewed Susan Goldsmith and discussed the opposition the film has received from the medical community:
Many of the film’s subjects have dedicated their professional lives to gaining attention to updated research on child injuries, and to defending accused abusers in court. For this, they have faced a huge backlash from the doctors and prosecutors who disagree. The filmmakers knew they’d get swept up in that, too. Many film festivals that considered including the film were threatened with litigation, and accused of promoting child abuse, the filmmakers said in a recent interview.
“This is a theme in our film—how the proponents of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma have tried to silence their critics,” Susan Goldsmith says. “And that theme is extending to here and now, to our documentary. I was expecting it. We thought we were helping by uncovering these other medical conditions that can look like abuse, but are not [abuse]. It actually threatens the entire shaken baby syndrome working group and industrial complex.”
Kirchner writes that those who support Shaken Baby Syndrome in the medical field are part of a powerful and influential group, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Before the film’s first screening, they tried to get the Kansas International Film Festival to block the film, calling it “dangerous” even though they had not viewed it.
Audrey Edmunds, mother of three, spent 11 years in prison for killing a baby she never harmed. And she is not alone. What happens when widely held beliefs based on junk science lead to the convictions of innocent people?
The Syndrome is an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the US, is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist.
Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with Award-winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted.
The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” It unflinchingly identifies those who have built careers and profited from this theory along with revealing their shocking pasts. Shaken baby proponents are determined to silence their critics while an unthinkable number of lives are ruined.
Last year (2014) law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer, who is featured in Goldsmith’s film, wrote a an article for Slate about 43-year-old Jennifer Del Prete, a former Illinois day care worker who had served 10 years of a 20 yearprison sentence over Shaken Baby Syndrome, but was then released by a federal judge. Tuerkheimer’s article, Finally, a Judge Calls Shaken Baby Diagnosis an “Article of Faith”, stated that the ruling was “one of a growing number that reflect skepticism on the part of judges, juries, and even prosecutors about criminal convictions based on the medical diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.”
Tuerkheimer went on to write:
The case is also a critical turning point. The certainty that once surrounded shaken baby syndrome… has been dissolving for years. The justice system is beginning to acknowledge this shift but should go further to re-examine and perhaps overturn more past convictions. (Read the full article.)
Shaken Baby Syndrome Can be Evidence of Vaccine-Induced Rickets
Christina England has written about the work of Dr. David Ayoub, a practicing radiologist from Springfield, Illinois, who has linked healing fractures found on x-rays of children, used to a mistakenly diagnosis Shaken Baby Syndrome, to infantile rickets. Dr. Ayoub believes that it is not only a poor diet and the lack of sunshine that is responsible for the growing number of children suffering from rickets, but also the growing number of vaccinations containing the adjuvant aluminium.
Dr. Ayoub, an expert on the subject of infantile rickets, has been involved in hundreds of cases of misdiagnosed rickets worldwide and has testified on the behalf of many innocent parents charged with Shaken Baby Syndrome. (Read more about Dr. Ayoub here.)
Support The Syndrome Film!
Do not let the medical industry intimidate and block the message of The Syndrome! False Shaken Baby Syndrome charges are ripping children away from their parents and putting innocent people behind bars! The message of this film must reach the public!
Here are the upcoming screenings, and we encourage you to attend and support this film:
Geneva Film Festival—this Thursday 3/12 9 p.m. and Saturday 3/14 3 p.m. @Dodson Place, 416 South 2nd St., Geneva, IL
(In)Justice For All Film Festival–Monday, April 13th 6:30pm @ Northwestern University Chicago, IL
Arizona International Film Festival–April 9-26th (TBA) Tucson, AZ
For more times and showings at future dates, be sure to visit the film’s website: TheSyndromeFilm.com
Representative Jason Overstreet, representing the 42nd district in Washington, and who has taken an interest in this case, just posted an update on his Facebook Page:
The Rengo Family placement hearing was moved up this morning to 10 a.m. from the scheduled 4 p.m. hearing. I will withhold comment on that move.
Security was heavy. The courtroom was packed.
The allotted timeframe was 1 hour with an expected decision on placement either with the parents or a semi-permanent out of family placement. If your a poker player, this will be your “tell.”
The State Attorney General’s Office stood in place of the County legal team in the prosecution of this hearing. A rare move indeed. Attorney General Ferguson, the same AG who is persecuting Christian business owners for refusing to participate in weddings that conflict with their closely held religious beliefs, sent his legal team to take over in an attempt to spare the State embarrassment.
The Attorney General’s Office took the entire hour, discussing police reports where no arrests were made, save one, prior to the birth of the children. No mention of the babies’ health and welfare was even attempted by the State.
The court commissioner was frustrated at the State’s extended attempt to muddy the water, even commenting on the rare nature of such extended testimony on a case that should be cut and dried after a forcible taking of children from their parents.
The hearing was extended to tomorrow at 2:30 on the 4th floor of the Whatcom County Courthouse, where he demanded that the State rap up and allow the family’s legal team to present it’s case.
Constitutional Attorney Steven Pidgeon petitioned the court for a writ of habeus corpus, asking that the charges be laid or the children be released to the parents. The writ of habeus corpus, a fundamental tool of liberty guaranteed by both our State and Federal Constitutions, was ignored by the court, the clerk stating that they hadn’t even seen one in 20 years, with one judge refusing to even look at the writ.
There is much talk of “more to the story.” There certainly is. There always is. If you are tempted to make that statement, ask yourself where your information is coming from and what the validity of that information actually is. This is not a comfortable conversation, it’s true. I shudder the horror of your family, or mine, under a microscope of the bureaucracy that is CPS.
Constitutional Attorney Stephen Pidgeon has agreed to represent the Rengo Family in an attempt to reunite babies Levi, Morna, and Daniel with their parents. He will accompany the family to the hearing tomorrow, and the public and the media are encouraged to show up at the:
Whatcom County Courthouse
311 Grand Avenue
Tuesday December 2nd – @ 9:00 A.M.
More details to follow. A Facebook Page has also been setup for the family.
by Terri LaPoint Health Impact News
All three of their babies have been taken away from them and placed in the care of strangers. Levi was 10 months old when his mother, local singer and songwriter Erica May Rengo, gave birth to his twin brother and sister, at their home in Bellingham, Washington.
“Our birth was glorious,” she said, and the twins were reportedly healthy, full-term babies, who had no problem quickly figuring out how to breastfeed. The little family was overjoyed until CPS stepped in to “help.”
It is another medical kidnapping according to the parents. The Rengos have chosen a wholesome, holistic lifestyle, based in their Christian faith. But CPS has stepped in to override the parents’ decisions. Now Erica and Cleave are living what they call a nightmare, separated from their children for reasons that don’t make any sense at all to them.
Decision to Home Birth
It was only natural for Erica to choose normal, family-centered birth. Erica herself was born at home, and says that her mother was a homebirth educator and La Leche League leader (a world-wide support and education group for breastfeeding mothers). She and Cleave chose a birth-center birth with their first baby, but decided to birth at home the second time. She knew that her body was perfectly designed to work for birth. She believed this was the direction God was showing them for the birth. Erica was very careful during her pregnancy to watch her diet and exercise, in preparation for the birth. She read, researched, and prepared.
She describes her homebirth as “exquisite” and “empowering.” Morna Kai Grace and Daniel Clemente were born into their parents’ loving arms.
The birth was perfect. There were no complications with the birth or afterwards. But Erica and her husband Cleave agreed to allow the local paramedics in when someone called them, in an effort to appease concerned family members who were fearful of their decision to birth at home. That is where their problems began.
The Medical System Gets Involved
Sometime after the babies arrived on October 2, paramedics arrived to find the twins nursing and everybody doing fine. The twins each weighed over 5 lbs, and the paramedics allegedly verified that everyone appeared healthy. The paramedics allegedly recommended that they go to the hospital for evaluation, which is standard procedure for EMTs.
The Rengos say they declined, telling them they didn’t want to expose their newborns to the dirty environment of the hospital. They were planning to follow recommendations they had found, which stated that newborn twins should stay home for the first six weeks of life, to give their immune systems the opportunity to build up.
CPS Shows Up
The parents’ believe that because they chose not to go to the hospital at that time, somebody called CPS. A couple of social workers showed up the next day, and wanted to see all of the children. CPS told Erica that they were “here to help.” But Erica says that is not at all what happened.
When the social worker found some eczema on Levi’s skin Erica told her that she was treating it with some herbal remedies, including comfrey and calendula, as well as applying coconut oil and giving probiotics. She was also doing an elimination diet to try to locate what could be causing the skin condition. Even though it was in the healing process, the social worker became critical that Erica wasn’t treating his eczema with steroids, a treatment option that Erica wanted to save as a last resort because of the side effects. The CPS agent would later testify to the judge that Erica had neglected to treat him completely.
Even so, the eczema was the only thing wrong. Erica says, “right away they found out that the children were not in danger.” The twins were completely healthy; the house was clean; and there are no drugs or alcohol involved.
The Rengos agreed to take the children to a pediatrician, who said the babies were doing fine. The only concern was that the twins were slow to gain weight. At the time, Erica was trying to maintain a supply for three breastfeeding babies. She says she followed the pediatrician’s advice to supplement with formula, and the babies promptly got back on track with weight gain.
This was allegedly verified by a nurse sent out by CPS to check on them.
Erica May and Cleave are holistic in their approach to life and health, preferring natural alternatives, like herbs and diet changes, to medicinal treatments. Those things appear to be options only if CPS is not involved.
CPS Takes Custody of Children
On November 6, CPS showed up at the front door while Erica was softly singing and playing her guitar to her resting babies. When she checked the door, they told her that they were there to take her children, citing neglect for not giving Levi steroids for his eczema, and the home-birth without medical prenatal care with the twins, as well as the allegations of abuse, accusations which Erica had already assured them were completely unfounded. She also had prenatal care, just not with a doctor.
With one baby on her back, the frightened mother fled out the back door with her children to a neighbor’s house, but police and CPS “hunted her down,” and took these breastfed babies from their mothers’ arms. The twins were 5 weeks old.
Erica broke down into sobs as I spoke with her. “My children were safe and healthy with me.” Since they have been taken by CPS, Levi has reportedly had pneumonia, and has reportedly been diagnosed with “behavioral problems” because he screams and cries all the time.
He is screaming, Erica says, because he wants his mom and dad.
Why Are Children with No History of Abuse Being Taken Away from Loving Parents for Medical Reasons?
Children who have allegedly not been abused in any way have been taken by CPS from loving parents for reasons so flimsy that it has left the Rengos and their friends stunned. Several of their friends write that Erica is “a great mama.”
“This is not the right thing to do to mothers and children,” Erica emphasizes. “If they thought we needed help, they should have brought help in, not taken the children out. They have suffered and I have suffered since our separation.”
Erica feels that she and her children are being abused by the system. When they separate babies from their loving mothers, she says “they are dehumanizing people. The outcome of that is so much worse than any kind of dispute for medical reasons.”
Cleave and Erica were supposed to have their visitation with their children on Monday, but there wasn’t a social worker available to supervise the visit. Levi’s first birthday is on Black Friday. The day will be black for Erica and Cleave, but for very different reasons than the holiday retailers. They will miss their first child’s first birthday because CPS won’t have any workers available to supervise a visit that day either.
The Stressful Separation of Infants from Parents
Erica is a brokenhearted postpartum mother who wants nothing more than to be at home with all of her children by her side. Research shows that infants do not comprehend separation from their mother; they feel abandoned when they aren’t with her. Has it really come to the point where CPS can justify the emotional trauma to the children simply because parents don’t choose to follow every recommendation of the medical associations?
In President Obama’s immigration speech last week, he asked, “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”
Yet it is this very nation whose Child Protection Service agencies have ripped tiny babies from their parents’ arms simply for the crime of disagreeing with a medical decision. If this could happen to a family who has only sought the most natural of care, then whose children are safe from CPS? Should this type of apparent medical tyranny be tolerated?
Erica May and Cleave Rengo face a court date on December 2. They don’t know what they will face then. Supporters are hoping that their story will be shared far and wide, and their children can be returned home quickly.
The Governor of Washington is Jay Inslee. His office number is 360-902-4111. You can email him from here.
The parents next court date is December 2, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at the Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham Washington.
WASHINGTON – Arizona saw the number of kids in its foster care system rise significantly from 2002-2012, a time when most other states were posting sharp drops in their foster care rolls, according to new federal data.
The report by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families said Arizona was one of 11 states with an increase in foster children and one of only two – along with Texas – with significant increases.
Arizona had the second-largest increase in the nation over the decade, adding 7,296 children to Texas’ 8,294. There were 15,751 foster kids in Arizona at the end of March, according to the latest numbers from the state.
Advocates said the numbers are more evidence of a state foster care system in crisis, one that has been “overworked and overwhelmed” as budgets have been cut.
“There was a perfect storm of things – the recession hit, the budget cuts had to be made and so more kids were coming in to care,” said Russ Funk, director of marketing and family recruitment at Aid to Adoption of Special Kids.
State officials said there is no one reason for the increase, but expressed confidence that recent improvements will have an effect.
After reports in late 2013 that more than 6,000 foster-care cases had not been investigated, Gov. Jan Brewer created a Child Advocate Response Examination (CARE) Team of lawmakers, advocates and state officials to oversee those cases and monitor Child Protective Services.
And the Legislature this spring voted to give oversight of the state’s foster care system to a new Department ofChild Safety.
Jennifer Bowser, a spokeswoman for the new department, said she has seen improvements made “all over the place” to the state’s child care system since the agency’s creation.
Bowser said the state is revamping its training process for caseworkers, has reviewed legislation for additional staffing and is making significant progress on backlogged cases.
The 15,751 children in out-of-home care this March represented an increase of 714 children from the previous year, according to the state.
While the state is attempting to improve the child protective servicessystem and provide more preventive services, families are still faced with challenges that put them in difficult situations – situations that can lead to their children being placed in foster care.
“There are a variety of different reasons that children become neglected or put at risk of being neglected when their parents are struggling,” Funk said.
Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile justice at Children’s Action Alliance, said the increases are occurring because of a system that has been “overworked and overwhelmed.”
“We were bringing more kids in to the system than the kids were leaving the system,” she said.
Funk said a prime factor for the surge of children in the Arizona foster care system was budget cuts during the recession that led to reductions in preventive services, such as parenting skill workshops and addiction rehab support.
And while the system was gaining kids, Funk said, there are “fewer caseworkers handling more cases with less services in place to help return those children” to their families.
Bowser agreed that socioeconomic challenges and substance-abuse issues could make it more likely that a child is removed from his or her home.
“If we can provide more prevention services – early intervention services – the hope is to not have the children need to be removed,” she said.