This week at the legislature
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:
- 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.
- For the collaboration among state, local, community, public and private stakeholders in child welfare programs and services that are administered by the department.
- 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:
- Child welfare agencies that directly provide contracted services to children and their families
- Child advocacy organizations that deal with child welfare system policy issues
- Current or former foster or adoptive parents
- Medical providers, with a preference for pediatricians, who have experience in diagnosing and treating injuries related to abuse and neglect
- Volunteers with foster care review board or court appointed special advocate program
- Persons with an academic appointment to a state university who conduct research in child welfare services, child maltreatment or child abuse
- The courts. The representative must be involved in child welfare issues
- A rural area in this state who has experience in the child welfare system
- A Native American tribe or nation who has experience in the child welfare system
- A child advocacy organization that advocates for or represents children who are victims of crime
- Persons who have experience with children with special needs and the child welfare system
- 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: