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

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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.

Colorado foster children need more than medications

There's little doubt that many children who come to Colorado's foster care system have lived through horrors that few of us can imagine and behave in ways that are hard to handle.

But that's no excuse for pumping so many of them full of psychotropic drugs instead of dealing with their problems.

A series of stories in The Denver Post last week detailed how more than a quarter of Colorado's 16,800 foster children were prescribed such drugs in 2012.

The prescribing of these drugs to foster kids is occurring at a troubling rate. Colorado foster children are given antipsychotics at a rate 12 times that of other kids on Medicaid.

The stories, by Post reporters Jennifer Brown and Christopher N. Osher, also described how Colorado lags other states in establishing policies to cut down on the use of psychotropic drugs by foster children.

The state needs to get a handle on this situation. That starts with actually tracking which foster kids get these drugs and how much.

Colorado is among a minority of states that doesn't compile such metrics.

A task force has been established in Colorado to talk about ways to track prescription practices when it comes to foster kids, but such a policy is not yet up and running.

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses how CPS became the problem it is today and what we can do to protect our families

“It’s the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about” is probably the best quote I have heard when referring to CPS, and one of the reasons it has been able to expand to the monster it has become today.

How did CPS get to be the problem it is today?

Well intentioned laws resulting in unintended consequences is one of the reasons it has been permitted to grow to the extent it is. People thought the laws were good and would help protect children. They could never have imagined how a well intentioned law could result in the abuse we see today.

One examples is the law Bill Clinton signed giving money to states for adoption. Legislators thought this was important and necessary because of the number of children in foster care not getting adopted, especially the older children. They created the incentive to remove the children and put them up for adoption but provided no incentive to restore and preserve the family. This provided a mechanism for financial gain in legal child trafficking through CPS.

Like everything else in government, they keep throwing more money at it and expecting that to solve the problems. It doesn’t solve the problems, only makes it worse, and builds a bigger bureaucracy leading to more corruption, more spending, and more children being abused by the system.

Did you know that Child Help, CPS, is trying to raise money to expand their facilities in Phoenix? I saw their ad on Facebook recently so I went to check it out. They are using the tactics of child molesters to entice children, with murals on walls, stuffed animals all over the floors, bringing them in to the lion’s den before the snatch them from the parents and stick them in foster care. But it’s all to protect the children.

Why can and do they get away with this?

Because people are afraid to talk about it.

The family that is involved in a CPS case is afraid to discuss their involvement for fear of being judged by friends, neighbors and family. In fact, if they are involved with CPS they are told by their attorney NOT to talk about it because CPS will retaliate against them and adopt out their children.

Everyone in the community who is not informed about CPS has the perception that if CPS was involved “there had to be something wrong.” The general population doesn’t want to discuss it because people might think they do not care about the welfare and safety of children.

The foster families don’t want to honestly discuss it because then they might have to admit they are aiding and abetting this criminal activity. They are often lied to by CPS about the children they have in their care, falsely believing they are “saving” these children from a depraved, unsafe family.

Adoptive families don’t want to discuss it because they might not be able to adopt the child they want. Worse yet, if they have already adopted a child thru foster care, the child they have could have been taken illegally and should not be theirs. They aren’t willing to admit that so they remain ignorant and silent.

Attorneys don’t want to get involved because their license could be on the line. Besides, all the dependency battles with CPS provide them with a lucrative income!

Legislators are taking marching orders from those in higher positions in the government. They want to keep a low profile on this subject because as a former representative told us “it is the elephant in the room that no one wants to address.”

So talking about it starts opening up discussions and brings light to the problem. Since we started Arizona Family Rights Project, we have heard from many families willing to share their stories and experiences with the public. Many families who have been involved with CPS want to talk about it; they want to know they aren’t alone. They want to share their horrible experiences and the injustice they have felt at the hands of this agency. If they find people or an organization willing to speak with them without passing judgment they are willing to open up and tell their stories. That is what we hope to bring about. You can share your story on our site and we will not disclose personal information unless we obtain permission. In fact some of these personal stories are being picked up by larger news organizations to show the abuse happening in their state! We will also be putting together video interviews for people to share their stories.

The only way to fix the abusive and broken system is to expose the truth. Only then can real reform take place.

We read or hear about stories in the media about abusive parents. What about those stories?

Unfortunately there are abusive parents in our society. Statistics show that only about 20% of the children removed by CPS should actually be removed. But is it acceptable to remove an additional 80% and put those children through trauma and potential abuse at the hands of CPS and foster care to help the 20%? Would you want your child to be part of that 80%?

Have you noticed how many of these stories tell us that CPS had already been involved with the family, yet somehow even with CPS prior involvement they were unable to avoid an outcome that made the headlines?

Have you noticed that none of the stories are about the abuse that takes place in the foster home? Statistics also show that more children are neglected, abused, sexually abused and murdered in foster care. The agency meant to protect actually does more harm to more children.

  • You don’t hear about the 4 year old who is missing from foster care because he ran away.
  • You don’t hear about the 17 year old who is on the street because CPS refused to take the mother’s concerns seriously and he ran from a therapy session.
  • You don’t hear about the infant who contracted MRSA at the hands of the foster parent.
  • You don’t hear about the mother who lost 2 of her children because they were killed at the hands of foster care.

Why?

Because once CPS is involved the case becomes protected. Even the family and attorneys may have difficulty getting the information needed for their own case! It’s all masked under the need to protect the children.

But this allows for an agency to go unchecked. It breeds corruption and is easily hidden because there is no transparency and accountability.

Did you know that in 2010 Arizona ranked about 25th in the nation as far as CPS was concerned with just over 4,000 children in foster care. Today Arizona ranks 47th with just under 15,000 children in foster care. Are parents more abusive now than they were 4 years ago? What changed?

What changed in Arizona was the governor’s task force in 2011 which made recommendations resulting in more children being abducted under the authority of “protecting the children.” The one recommendation which probably facilitated the increase was that if one child in the family is at risk or in danger, they all are – and they remove all the children from the home.

So what can we do?

We wanted to discuss what families can do to protect their children. There may be families that have just received a call from CPS or are facing a home visit. If we can help prepare them prior to that visit then maybe we can prevent their children from being removed from the family.

A well educated population can help save these children.

Some of these suggestions may sound elementary, but far too often people just don’t understand the seriousness of CPS. Because people don’t usually talk about it, the family is totally unprepared when it hits them.

We have a self-evaluation on our website that can help you. You can access this under the Family Rights Project, Understanding the Issue. Look for “Parental Resources” and you will find the “Are You At Risk – A Self Evaluation.”

The self-evaluation is for your use only. It is a tool for you to use to evaluate your own family situation. It is not intended to be judgmental. Many of the items on the list are not illegal, but if CPS becomes involved with your family they will become a concern and may be used against you in court to justify removing your children. So be honest if you take the evaluation. Taking corrective steps early on may help save your children and family.

  • Know your rights when it comes to CPS. Legal advice from an attorney is your best resource if you encounter CPS. Don’t assume that because you are innocent or have nothing to hide that you don’t need legal advice. The advice you get up front may save your children. You need to know how to act, how to respond, what your rights are, and what obligations CPS needs to meet to legally remove your children or speak to you.
  • Take the call or home visit SERIOUSLY! Take each and every call or visit seriously. Do not think because you got passed this visit that you will get passed the next. All calls stay on your record and CPS will use prior unsubstantiated calls to claim a history of abuse in order to remove your children.
  • If there is a problem in the home correct it. Many families find they are confronting a CPS report because of financial difficulties. Financial issues are not supposed to be a reason to remove children, but they do it anyway. Once removed financial issues will continue to haunt your case until the court decides you can financially care for your children. Knowing where and how to get community resources can be part of your ability to provide financially for your family.
    While resources are in the community, sometimes they are difficult to find. We found it amazing how if there are so many problems with families and raising children that there are not the resources out in the community to help. I cannot tell you how many times help wasn’t available because there are so many waiting lists – often 2-5 years out! Often times services aren’t available to help parents before they get involved with CPS, but only after there is a court order for services.
  • Your CHILDREN need to be aware of their rights. Educate your children on how to respond if CPS comes to the school to ask them questions. CPS will engaged the children at school, and often the school nurse, counselor or psychologist will encourage the child to speak to CPS telling them that “this is their friend and it is okay.”
  • Teach your children that the words they use must clearly convey the message they want to say. Something simple said by a child in the hands of a CPS case worker with an agenda can turn into disaster.
    One such instance making its way around the internet is the young girl who said “my daddy went pee pee in my pee pee. This resulted in a CPS investigation. It turns out the girl didn’t flush the toilet after using the bathroom and her father used that toilet after her. Something innocent turned into an accusation of something perverted.
    In my own family one of my grandchildren told me when I picked her up from school one day that “she didn’t get to eat lunch that day.” In the hands of CPS this could turn into the parent did not provide the child a lunch and wasn’t feeding her. They would jump to conclusions and decide that removing the child from the home was in the child’s best interest. Concerned, but understanding that there must be something more to this statement I asked the child a few specific questions:
    1. Did your mom forget to pack you a lunch today? (Child was to eat hot lunch)
    2. Did your mom not have enough money left on your lunch card to buy you lunch? (There was enough money on the card)
    3. Did you not have enough time during lunch to eat your lunch? – ANSWER: No, she had enough time, but she wanted to play on the playground instead so she didn’t eat her lunch.
    Teach your children to be specific in what they say.
  • Your children need to understand and be prepared to answer the question “who would you like to live with.” If CPS removes your children, the sooner you can get the children with family the better. Be sure you know who the safe family members are and who are not. If severance and adoption are the end result, which happens in 50% of the cases in Arizona, family is supposed to be considered first. However, if the children are in foster care and doing well, those foster parents will have a better chance of adopting the children because they now have a “relationship” with them and CPS and the courts will find that placement “in the child’s best interest.” So if you can get the children with family first you reduce the risk.
    Unless the child is truly afraid of a family member, they should be willing to go with anyone in the family. A seemingly innocent remark made by one child can keep all children from being placed with that family member. They need to understand the alternative is being placed with strangers. When and if they start asking children about who in the family they might like to live with it is because they are looking for a foster situation for the child.
  • If you are Native America make sure CPS knows this. Native American children are better protected than the general population.
  • Have your children carry the Reverse Miranda Rights with them at all times and know how to use it. This is a link on our website that parents can print out with the appropriate information. Some parents have the card laminated so the child can carry it around without being destroyed.
  • Have an attorney available that you can contact immediately if CPS becomes involved. You don’t want to have to find an attorney at 5pm on a Friday evening during a 3-day holiday weekend, which is what happened to our family. Spending a few hundred dollars at the beginning can save you tens of thousands later.
    It cost our family approximately $60,000 to get the children back. That does not include the other legal fees and expenses involved with the case. It is estimated that most cases in which a private attorney is hired, the costs range from $50,000-$150,000. The faster you can resolve a CPS investigation the better.
    While you will be assigned a court appointed attorney if dependency is sought, you will not be able to meet with this attorney until your first court hearing. This takes place approximately 2 weeks after they have removed your children.
    We are working on a membership program that would give parents access to an attorney. There would be a fee attached and the services under the program would be limited – but it would give parents access to legal advice immediately if they encounter an issue with CPS.

You can visit our website for tips and other resources on dealing with CPS, “Understand the Issue.”

Next week’s show

Next week we will be discussing reporting to CPS, mandatory reporting laws, and how you can protect your children.

Child Protective Services Threatens a Medical Cannabis Activist

Cannabis could save her epileptic son, but it's illegal in FL, so they've never tried it.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ladybud Magazine

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ladybud Magazine

Renee Petro has already been living a parent’s worst nightmare for years: her 12-year-old son  Branden suffers from a rare form of pediatric epilepsy called FIRES, which causes uncontrolled seizures that can be fatal. On Tuesday, a new nightmare began for Renee, when Florida Child Protective Services showed up at her home to investigate an anonymous tip that Renee was not administering Branden’s prescription anti-seizure medication and was instead treating him with cannabis extract.

“I’ve never used cannabis medicine for Branden,” said Renee. “I know fully well that cannabis would help him, but because I live in an 'illegal' state we have never tried it. I have not broken any laws.”

What Renee has done, however, is advocate loudly for reform both in Florida and across the country,  organizing parents' rallies and speaking to the media, calling for broad-based medical cannabis legislation that could help her son as well as many others. Ladybud Magazine has reported on  Renee’s activism numerous times.

“I feel like our family was targeted,” said Renee, “just because I’m doing what our beautiful country is built on: freedom of speech. I’m just trying to change and better the world that we live in.”

When the Cps investigator arrived at the family’s residence, Renee was picking up her 9-year-old daughter Rachel from school and Branden was at home with his visiting nurse. The nurse frantically called Renee to tell her that an investigator was at the door and Renee rushed home, fearing the worst.

When Renee arrived, the Cps investigator explained that she would have to question the children in a separate room so that Renee could not influence their answers. The investigator isolated a terrified Rachel from Renee and asked the child, “Does your mother give your brother illegal drugs?” Renee said the investigator also asked Rachel other questions that did not directly pertain to Branden’s medical treatment.

“She asked Rachel if I was 'nice' and if she felt safe – these questions were totally not what the tip was about – they were asking more about if I’m some bad person or bad mother," Renee said. "They were making me out to be a monster.”

The investigator also tried to interview Branden, but he was in a “post-ictal” state recovering from a seizure and was non-responsive. As Branden slept in his bed, the investigator asked Renee to move his head and position him so he could be photographed as evidence.

“I feel like our family was violated, like we were raped,” said Renee. “My daughter was terrified. She was afraid she was going to be taken away from our family.”

Renee said that the investigator also inventoried and photographed all of Branden’s prescription medications. Terrified of losing her children and wishing to cooperate fully, Renee also shared Branden’s latest labwork, which shows the levels of the prescription drugs in his blood – levels which Renee said prove that all Branden’s pharmaceutical medications have been administered as prescribed.

“I cooperated like I was an open book,” said Renee. “I’ve been doing it by the book all along because I don’t want to commit a crime. I don’t want to lose my children. All I want to do is change laws to get the chance to save my son’s life.”

Renee quickly shared the story with  local news media, believing the public would rally around her family as as it has in the past when stories about her activism and advocacy work have been covered by local television stations. The reporting about this incident as well as the public response has been overwhelmingly positive, said Renee.

“The medical cannabis community has been incredibly supportive,” Renee explains. “And even people who have no idea about medical marijuana have extended their support and said what is happening is cruel. They say, ‘We’ve seen the news stories and we don’t know too much about [medical marijuana] but we see that you love your son.’ “

Although the Cps investigation has left Renee feeling vulnerable and afraid, it has also strengthened her commitment to advocate for medical cannabis.

“I’m not backing down,” said Renee. “In fact, this is making the tiger roar even louder and I’m going to continue fighting [for medical cannabis laws to change]. I am an activist to help him heal.”

Renee fears that the investigation is not over, however, and she is preparing to weather more questioning and scrutiny.

“As a strong and determined but absolutely terrified parent right now, I’m reaching out for people to help me,” said Renee. “We are going to need help legally, and I’m rallying people to support our family in this fight because I know that we’re going to need it.”

ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES BY THE GOVERNMENT For Your MONEY and YOUR CHILDREN!

If you didn’t believe before that your children can be taken on false allegations; if you didn’t believe before that many parents did nothing wrong to have their children taken and put into foster homes, where they are brutally abused and sometimes killed, or put up for adoption all to boost Federal and Non-profit Grants, you might now believe.

You may be a good parent, a good care giver to your family member. You may trust your attorney, but… Your attorney CAN NOT DEFEND YOU against Social Services!!!!

If you don’t believe NOW, then makes some calls to Family Attorneys, call out of the phone books, call University Professors, ask them. You will see these are SECRET COURTS, where, if YOU have your child taken away.. YOU WILL NOT EVEN BE ALLOWED IN THE COURT ROOMS when they discuss your case, when they RAILROAD you into False allegations. And if you do decide to fight them.. YOU PUT YOURSELF IN JEOPARDY OF BEING JAILED!!! And sometimes imprisoned, so does your attorney.

Have any questions? Ask me, I’ll be happy to tell you what I have learned.

 

 

A version of this column originally appeared in amiablyme.wordpress.com.