Size of Kansas foster care population up 18 percent

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 help poor families.

“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.

Over the six-year span, the foster care monthly average jumped to 6,257 children in fiscal year 2015 from 5,317 in 2009, state figures show.

Read more at: Size of Kansas foster care population up 18 percent

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Adoptive father sentenced 100 years for child sex abuse

An Oklahoma City man was sentenced to 100 years in prison Thursday for over 20 counts of child sex abuse.

The District Attorney's Office requested that Robert Allen Shirley, 54, be sentenced to 200 years, but District Judge Lori Walkley lowered the sentenced to 100 years, said Shirley's defense attorney Elton Jenkins on Friday.

Shirley was charged with 26 counts of child sex abuse and two counts of enabling child abuse in 2013 after several children were forensically interviewed at the Mary Abbott Children's House.

According to an affidavit filed with the charges, Shirley’s wife reported that her four children said they were sexually molested by Shirley, the children's adoptive father, records show.

The children, two females and two males, ranged in age from eight to 11. The abuse began sometime in 2011 beginning with the oldest female, the affidavit states.

The siblings were forced to shower together, touch each other inappropriately and Shirley engaged in inappropriate sexual acts with them, the document said.

All of the incidents occurred in Shirley’s Oklahoma City home, located in Cleveland County, the affidavit shows.

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Report released in death of Tulsa foster child

5406a85a57a68.image[1]BROKEN ARROW — A 3-year-old foster child who died of suspected child abuse in August was not removed from the home of his foster parents after a DHS worker smelled marijuana during a visit, according to a report released Friday.

The boy, Andrew Prior, died at a Tulsa hospital Aug. 31 from a head injury he received four days earlier. His foster parents, Mallory Krajian and Peter Krajian of Broken Arrow, have been charged with first-degree murder in his death.

Report released in death of Tulsa foster child

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Arizona foster-care numbers rose over decade, as national numbers fell

Advocates hold photos of foster children during an April 2013 rally af the Arizona State Courts bulding in Phoenix. 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 of Child 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 services system 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.

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.