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)

 

House Ways and Means Committee Discusses Obama Plan on Psychotropics on Foster children

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources heard testimony yesterday on the disproportionate use of psychotropic medications on foster youths, and the president’s $750 million proposal to address the issue.

The hearing yesterday was spurred along by the presence of a celebrity witness, talk show host “Dr. Phil” McGraw.

“These drugs can change and even save lives,” McGraw told the committee. But with foster youths, they are “too often misused as chemical straitjackets,” prescribed to mitigate “undesirable behavior” and make foster youths “less inconvenient.”

The use of psychotropics on foster youths has received attention from several corners in both houses of Congress and the White House in recent months. President Barack Obama proposed in his fiscal 2015 budget a $750 million, 10-year plan to help states develop different ways to address mental health challenges among foster youths.

Last week, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee said the committee plans to “play offense” on what Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) called “mind-bending drugs.”

Youth-Shadow-Day_0

Ways and Means leadership from both parties asserted an interest in addressing the issue. “This is a bipartisan issue,” said Subcommittee Chairman David Reichert, “We are together on this.”

A 2011 law shepherded through Ways and Means required states to share their prescription and monitoring protocols with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Everyone agrees that these drugs are flowing too much,” McGraw said. “The real question is, why? Why is this happening?”

The president’s proposal is a two-pronged plan that focuses mostly on building the ability of states to treat foster youths without psychotropic drugs – or at least with less drugs – and then rewarding states for lowering reliance on the drugs.

The first part is a $50 million a year, five-year investment by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). That mandatory spending would “encourage the use of evidence-based screening, assessment and treatment of trauma and mental health disorders” among foster youth.

The second part is a $500 million Medicaid demonstration program that would provide performance-based Medicaid incentive payments to improve care coordination and delivery of evidence-based services for foster youth.

One key element of those demonstrations would be improved collaboration between child welfare and health services agencies.

“You’d think that child welfare and mental health systems would work together a lot; you’d be very wrong,” said Dr. Michael Naylor, who helps lead a medication oversight partnership between the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

ACF official Joo Yuen Chang testified that the agency found a services gap as it engaged more local systems about psychiatric medications.

“Child welfare agencies did not have access to the research-based, non-pharmacological, mental health treatments for the conditions for which many of these children were being medicated,” Chang said at the hearing.

The Dr. Phil Foundation is one of the 110 organizations to sign a letter in support of the Obama proposal, which ranking minority member Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced for the record.

But McGraw also suggested a more nefarious reason for overreliance on medications.

“It’s pay for pathology,” said McGraw, who is also a spokesman for Court Appointed Special Advocates. “More prescriptions, less treatment. More prescriptions, less treatment. These children deserve better than that.”

Read More at: House Ways and Means Committee Discusses Obama Plan on Psychotropics | The Chronicle of Social Change:

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

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

Legislators, both state and federal, are responsible for the child welfare laws we live with today. But this problem isn’t a recent one. It has been going on for over 100 years.

Take a trip back into history and you will find Family Court, the court responsible for the child welfare cases, was established in 1910 in the United States.

Why family court?

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

Family court was originally intended to deal with domestic relations cases. The court was created by special statutes and they are permitted to operate on looser procedures and standards than civil or criminal courts. By establishing this new statutory court system, it allows the states to circumvent the constitution and established their own laws under which they function.

In a Cps case involving criminal behavior you can be found “not guilty” in criminal court and yet that will not automatically dismiss the Cps case. You will still have to fight the Cps battle and could lose!

What else was happening in the United Stated during this time?

Think about history. (1900-1919)

  • Known as “The Progressive era” it began in 1895 and lasted until WWI
  • In 1913 two amendments to our constitution were ratified – 16th & 17th – one creating the IRS and the progressive income tax, the other changed the way Senators were elected to the federal government
  • Congress established the Federal Reserve System
  • The United States Bureau of Mines is authorized by Congress
  • The National Park Service was established
  • Labor unions continued to grow
  • Every state passed a minimum wage law
  • Women’s suffrage, women wanted equality – 19th amendment was ratified in 1919
  • Population growth was a problem because of immigration
  • The first elementary school was created
  • Testing became the norm in schools
  • NAACP is founded

So who’s responsible?

Well intended legislation has created the monster we have today. Laws passed for the right reasons resulted in unintended consequences.

For example: Older children weren’t getting adopted and often remained in foster care until they aged out of the system. Federal legislators concerned about the welfare of these children, especially as they were bounced around from foster home to foster home, or even group home to group home, didn’t provide them with a stable environment. So legislation was created to give states a financial incentive to adopt out these children. This led to the bonuses the federal government now pays out when the state completes an adoption on a foster child, but does not provide any funds for returning the child to the family. Well intended legislation to help older children find permanent homes has fueled the kidnapping-for-profit scheme. Age is no longer a factor, but the financial gain to states become the incentive as they now sell children rather than return them home.

So it isn’t just one legislator or a group of them today that is responsible, it has been decades of elected officials in both federal and state governments that have added legislation upon legislation while the public has remained asleep to what was happening. The public didn’t know or didn’t care.

The biggest threat to our children are the people who continue to remain silent, who continue to fail to get involved, who would rather sit on the couch and watch reality TV or sports. We are our biggest enemy! We didn’t pay attention and we allowed the governments to create this child welfare monster.

The first and most important step in solving the problem is becoming educated and informed. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You can join our efforts by getting others involved. Help identify legislators who are concerned about the issue, not only of protecting the children that need protection, but are also concerned about protecting families, our constitutional rights, and prohibiting the continued abuse of the system that can cause more damage to children than the alleged allegations.

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

Each legislator we spoke to has a different focus. If we can find their hot button, we can relate that to one of the many deficits and abuses within the child welfare system. Each legislator we spoke with was concerned about protecting the children, but most were not aware of the abuses from the system itself. They need to be educated as well, especially from families who have gone through the abuse by CPS. They get numerous calls from desperate constituents needing help in dealing with CPS, but few families offer constructive criticism and solutions to the problems. We hope our efforts will do just that.

So even if you don’t necessarily agree with all of the legislator’s stands on issues, there is probably one within the CPS system that will get their attention. Since we need to make massive changes one step at a time, we can partner with these legislators to address those issues.

Of the Arizona legislators here is what we found:

Rep. Carl Seel has been one of the best supporters of family rights and constitutional protections. He was instrumental in getting our initial proposal to the committee members for review.

Rep. Brenda Barton was concerned about the lack of services and availability of real therapy to help the family recover from the trauma of being removed from the home and of the potential abuse that may have occurred. If abuse is reported during therapy it must be reported to CPS (mandatory reporting laws) – sending the family through the fear of yet another potential traumatic encounter with CPS. So everyone clams up instead of being able to really address and overcome the problems that lead the family to CPS in the first place.

Rep. Steve Montenegro was concerned about CPS’s failure to follow the Arizona law. He was also concerned about the lack of transparency within the agency and even his inability to get information to help his constituents, to be able to help them navigate and understand the process and ensure CPS is really following the law as intended.

Rep. Heather Carter showed a concern about the negative impact on the children’s education. One of our grandsons was kept out of school for 5 weeks once in the custody of CPS, something the family would be condemned for. She spent quite a lot of time talking to him about his experience and the school issue.

Rep. Kelly Townsend listened to our issues but was especially interested in the aspects of the investigation and police involvement. If criminal abuse is happening in the home then an investigation needs to take place that will hold up in criminal court. It does not do the public justice if you remove an abuser from the home but permit him/her to remain in the community to abuser someone else. Cases must be properly investigated and evidence secured to obtain a criminal conviction, when appropriate.

Senator Nancy Barto also listened to our issues and concerns and gave us ample time to share our experience. She is a member of the Senate Health Committee who should be involved in the reforms on the Senate side of the state.

We have also reached out and contacted the candidates running for governor. We are starting to get responses from them, and interest in reading our 53 page report, as well as a willingness to meet with us in person from a number of them. We will keep you informed if/when these meetings happen with each of them.

But we did run into one legislator that refused to speak with us – in fact she is our representative in LD28 – Rep. Kate Brophy McGee. Over a year ago when our case started we made an appointment to speak with her. She cancelled our appointment about an hour before we were scheduled and only slipped in to our first meeting with Heather Carter minutes before it ended. This year she refused to even make an appointment to meet with us. She is one of the legislators on the Health Committee that oversees CPS. She was on the CARE Team that made recommendations to the governor to reform CPS. It is her committee that will make recommendations to the new CPS system.

Even when confronted at our LD meeting, she still had no interest in speaking with us. She basically told us that everything was decided. As OUR representative she is not willing to speak with her own constituents. Is she not willing to listen to someone on the other side of the issue? She may have some good ideas, but when she fails to speak to and respond to her own constituents you have to question who is she really representing?

Kate Brophy-McGee is also the one quoted in the Arizona Republic as stating that all calls into CPS should be treated as 9-1-1 calls and dialed down from there. http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20131122calls-mounting-cps-shake-up.html Treating all calls to CPS as 911 emergencies can be more detrimental to protecting the children. There are a large number of calls to CPS that don’t involve any risk or harm to children, often made by misinformed people or people using the system to retaliate against a family member or neighbor. By treating all calls as emergencies the case workers become overworked and the child really in danger may be overlooked because of the overloaded system. Each call should be taken seriously and addressed, but responding to all calls as 9-1-1 emergencies and expecting the agency to dial it down from there is asking for trouble. Dialing it down may take days, weeks or months and in the meantime the children become the victims of the system intended to protect them.

Who do we contact and what do we say?

We have put the 2 House Committees, Health and Reform and Human Services, on our website with the names of the members. Those would be legislators to start talking to.

Each legislator’s contact information may be found on the state website: www.azleg.gov. You can find each one listed from the House and Senate, along with their district, email, and phone numbers. Use that website to get the most current contact information for each legislator.

We would suggest asking your own legislators some basic questions about CPS. Keep your bias to yourself so you can get their opinion first without influencing them. A good place to start would be:

  • Ask them about the current situation in the state involving CPS and the over 6,000 uninvestigated cases.
  • Ask them how they would help prevent this in the future.
  • Ask if they are involved with any current legislation that will reform the state’s CPS system. If so, what is that legislation?
  • Ask them if they or any member of their family has been a foster parent. (They may have already disclosed this in your conversation.)

Then hit them with whatever issue you are knowledgeable of and passionate about. The system is so big that we cannot address the entire thing. So come prepared with backup data and sources and focus on the issue that concerns you the most. Don’t accept vague answers; keep asking until you get a response. In some cases that response may be, “I don’t know enough about that issue to comment,” which is what we finally got out of one candidate. If they don’t understand the issue are they willing to sit down with you to discuss it? Sometimes the uninformed candidate or representative can become an ally because they don’t come with bias.

For example: “Did you know that in 2010 Arizona ranked about 25th in the nation in CPS with just over 4,000 in foster care. Today Arizona ranks 47th in the nation with just under 15,000 children in foster care. The reforms made in the Arizona CPS system have actually made our child welfare system worse. How do you intend to fix this?

When you get responses from legislators, please let us know via email at info@azproject.org. We can accumulate these responses and get the information out to the public, especially before election time.

How does CPS violate our constitutional rights?

  • 4th AmendmentThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The constitution states there must be probable cause and they must obtain a warrant.

In CPS cases their probable cause may only be a sketchy allegation from an anonymous caller.

They don’t need a warrant to take your children. If you take them to Child Help they already have your children, they just need to ask you to leave. Even when they forcibly remove children from the home, often times they remove them first with the help of police and obtain a warrant days later to justify their actions.

  • 5th Amendment - …..nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The constitution states you are not to be deprived of property without due process of law.

In CPS cases they remove your children first. Due process doesn’t happen until months later, after they have already deprived you of your children.

  • 6th Amendment – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

The constitution states you have a right to confront those people who have accused you.

In CPS, anonymous is permitted to make allegations against you and anonymous is not compelled to testify in court. You have been denied your right to face your accuser.

Unfortunately in today’s society the government believes your children belong to the government. Our elected officials believe it is their duty to act in order to “protect the children” and “in the child’s best interest” regardless of whether or not the allegations have been proven true. CPS bases their actions on what “might happen” or what “could happen” and not necessarily on what “did happen.” Speculation and assumption is often used to make their case. Families have no rights and family rights are not protected.

Next week we will be discussing the investigation process by CPS and the police.

For listeners interested in learning about real life cases, I did find a movie that addresses one case of how the police work. Remember the case of the photos developed at a lab and the lab reporting the mother to CPS. The movie “Snap Decision” is based on that case and focuses on the criminal aspects of child abuse and neglect.

The movie does not address the CPS aspects of this case. If this case had taken place in Arizona the parent would have not only faced the criminal charges but also an entire CPS case. Most likely it would have also gone further and charged not only the mother, but the photographer and friend who were also present in the room.

Next week’s show

Loving a Child in the ‘Hard Cases’

The pro-abortion crowd will often throw up the usual hard cases when it comes to their demand for abortion on demand. One hard case often raised is that of rape. They will argue that surely no woman would ever want to carry and give birth to the product of rape.

But the truth is, many do, and many have. Many women choose to keep their baby, and either raise him or her themselves, or give the baby away for adoption. And there are many such individuals who were the product of rape who are so very glad their mothers allowed them the choice of life.

There are even entire organisations which have now been set up by those pleading for the right to life for those conceived via rape. As but one example, consider rape-survivor Rebecca Kiessling. She has a website devoted to putting a human face on this issue.

As she says, “Have you ever considered how really insulting it is to say to someone, ‘I think your mother should have been able to abort you’? It’s like saying, ‘If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.’ And that is the reality with which I live every time someone says they are pro-choice or pro-life ‘except in cases of rape’ because I absolutely would have been aborted if it had been legal in Michigan when I was an unborn child, and I can tell you that it hurts.

“But I know that most people don’t put a face to this issue – for them abortion is just a concept – with a quick cliche, they sweep it under the rug and forget about it. I do hope that, as a child conceived in rape, I can help to put a face, a voice, and a story to this issue.” Her site is found here: www.rebeccakiessling.com/index.html

But here I wish to tell the story from the point of view of a mother. One very moving story appeared a few years ago which is well worth reporting on. The lengthy testimony of a teenager who was raped and left pregnant is worth reading in its entirety, but let me just offer some parts of this amazing story:

Little Phoebe “will never want to know the truth about the man who gave her life. She was conceived on a cold December evening when Elizabeth – then a 16-year-old virgin – was dragged into the back of the van and raped. All that Elizabeth will be able to tell Phoebe one day is that her father was a stranger in a hooded top who forced himself upon her. She has no idea of the man’s age, ethnic background, even height, such was the confusion of that evening. Indeed, he could be one of three possible individuals.

“One of the few things that Elizabeth is sure of is that she was raped three times that night, by three different men. That Phoebe exists at all almost defies belief. Practically everyone who knew exactly how Elizabeth had fallen pregnant – doctors, siblings, even her own father – urged her to have an abortion as soon as possible. The only person who pleaded with her to at least consider having the child was her mother, Sarah. Today, Elizabeth and Sarah are together to tell their remarkable story to the Mail….

“‘Everyone, save for mum, thought I should have an abortion,’ she says. ‘My dad even made an appointment at the clinic, and they showed me the little blob on the scan, I presume, to convince me that it was just a mass of cells and the whole thing would be over quickly. But I couldn’t go through with it. At school, my friends – most of whom didn’t even know about the rape – couldn’t understand why anyone my age would want to have a baby rather than an abortion. And the few I did tell about what had happened were even more horrified that I would want to go through with the birth. But I did. And I don’t regret it for a moment. Every time I look at Phoebe, I know I made the right decision. I never wanted to end my baby’s life just because of how she came to be’….

“News of the impending addition to the family caused a deep rift. The other Cameron children – Julian, 32, Nicholas, 29, and Alice, 13 – were horrified. One day, Sarah found a note Alice had typed on her computer. It read: ‘Dear God, please help me to love this new baby, because at the moment, I hate it.’

“As Elizabeth’s bump grew, though, people outside the home had to be told – and the inevitable tuts ensued. ‘People have been horrible,’ admits Sarah. ‘But that just made us more determined to fight for this innocent little child. She had not asked to be conceived, had she?’ On September 15, 2006, little Phoebe arrived weighing a healthy 8lb 4oz. Sarah stayed by Elizabeth’s side during the long labour and was the first to hold the little girl. Both new mum and grandmother admit they were relieved that their only feeling on setting eyes on her was one of adoration.

“As Sarah puts it: ‘She was so pretty, with thick dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. People may wonder how it is possible to love a child conceived in this way, but believe me, I love her even more because of it. All the hatred I felt towards those men disappeared when I saw the baby. I put Phoebe on Elizabeth’s breast and that was the most moving sight. In that moment, it wasn’t about her being attacked in some car park, it was simply about the precious moment a new mum holds her baby.’

“Elizabeth concurs. ‘I have never, ever blamed Phoebe for what happened. While it was terrifying, knowing that I was going to be a mum made me look forward and focus on something else. I suppose I have tried to look beyond what happened, to the life that was created’.”

The article concludes, “And Phoebe? What will Elizabeth tell the child when that difficult subject has to be broached. ‘If I have to, I will say that she was the good that came out of something bad. And I will tell her that, however she came to be, I have never ever regretted having her, and I would not be without her for the world’.”

This is quite an amazing story, and well worth reading in its entirety. Truly good can come out of evil, and this is a great example of it.

www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1043041/I-raped-left-pregnant-16–I-love-baby.html

 

A version of this column originally appeared in www.billmuehlenberg.com.