Who protects the FAMILY--mothers, fathers and children--from becoming victimized by the underbelly of Child Protective Services (CPS)?
No matter the creed, class, race or affiliation of parents in society most of them share the common values of wanting what’s best for their children and to keep them safe.
Parents go through great lengths to teach children the lessons of right from wrong and how to make smart choices. At an early age they often preach to them not to talk to strangers--and what our kids should do if approached by one. This is done out of extreme precaution to provide children skills to thwart off potential dangers like kidnapping or physical harm.
What is one to do when these lessons, taught and learned between them, are rendered useless--whereby the sanctity and bond between parent and child come under threat--not by a stranger at the door—but someone with state authority and the power to break apart a family.
This is the reality for many suitable parents whose lives have intersected with Child Protective Services (CPS).
As is often the situation in a contentious divorce and custody ordeal a parent can find themselves defending against false allegations. Claims by one attorney can be hurled into a hearing for the benefit of having things stated on court record like a child wishes no contact with one parent, or the parent is a threat and danger to their kid. Many times these are identifiable as clear hearsay allegations, not supported by evidence and facts, for the mere benefit of leverage and scare tactics designed to disadvantage the mom or dad on the other end. As a parent you leave these hearings like so many times before--shocked and frustrated at how unethical the workings of family courts can be but relieved to be going home to your family in tact.
Life moves on and you go about your daily routine--until it comes to a screeching halt--when you receive a phone call from CPS listing off allegations provided to them anonymously.
This is one example, of many, as to how quickly CPS can enter a situation where the potential damage to a family can be profound causing severe negative consequences and punishing repercussions.
Motivations, Motives and Money Trees
The largest source of federal funds for a state’s child welfare services come from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Billions of dollars are distributed annually under this entitlement for (1) Foster Care, (2) Adoption Assistance and (3) Kinship Guardianship Assistance.
These funds provide salaries, benefits and jobs for many social workers, court attorneys, child custody evaluators and many other parties. Many of these players often work in conjunction with one another and the Family Courts in making decisions they claim are in the “best interests” of the child.
Funds that are distributed by the federal government are allocated to state governments and are filtered down to county and local governing bodies. The amount of funds received in many instances directly correlates to the numbers of children placed in foster homes--and sustained in them or adopted out--along with other care facilities and services. What it boils down to is that a decrease in children within these systems often equates to less money received by CPS and all those players who financially benefit from these situations.
Over the past many years organizations and support groups have formed nationwide calling for reforms to this system. They are comprised of large numbers of parents who allege they have been unjustly treated, lost parental rights and access to their children, and many times had them removed and placed into abusive and dangerous situations. Many of these advocacy groups serve as support systems for parents wronged in the process and left with few options and not many places to turn for help. A lot of these groups offer resources, data, and plans at how best to reform the system by making compelling arguments and points.
Many prioritize keeping families together by shifting a system away from one that is driven and incentivized by money—to one that is driven and incentivized by mission and cause.
“Incentivized adoption is morally wrong. Children in America should never have a price on their head to be ’loved’. It has created a nightmare for those living in poverty, who have neither the resources nor specialized knowledge to fight for their children. Many lawmakers are fully aware of the outcomes of these cases yet turn a blind eye as the funding is good for business in the counties they represent. My son had a jury trial for his son and was found ’guilty’ even though he had never been charged with a crime. He was told repeatedly throughout the ’trial’ that his son was being taken from him because of my own advocacy and activism speaking out on CPS issues. Federal guidelines and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) policy insist on biological family placement, in reality many caseworkers manipulate the placement toward stranger's because of the higher rate of pay for that type of placement. Since Oct 31, 2013 I have spoken with thousands of grieving extended biological family members who have been systematically cut out of their grandchild's life because they, like myself, were told they were ’too old’ or ’mentally diminished’. I might add that caseworkers although not licensed doctors of medicine, routinely make medical diagnosis to the judge about family members. My work with grieving families led me to work with a dear friend to create a website, AmercasTaken.com, for children and their biological families to search for each other. We offer information, support and hope for many of these families.” -GERI PFEIFFER, AmercasTaken.com, shared with permission of the quoted from an email interview
Abuse of Power
While many people that work in child protective services and provide foster care approach these roles ethically and wanting to see what is best for the children, the environment is such where too many openings exist whereby power can be abused and the system gamed for profits at the expense of children. When you have an entity that has the authority to enter a family dynamic--remove a child--hold private interviews--submit influential reports to courts--all with minimal or no oversight--BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.
CPS and the courts often tout the standard-bearer line of, “err on the side of the child” in making determinations to separate a family and place kids into foster care or with another parent or guardian without having done proper due diligence and investigations. They point to the worst-of-the-worst cases and use them as examples to justify decisions made where facts are unknown and due diligence incomplete. In citing these tragic examples, they do not call out the spades. The courts and CPS fail to disclose all the horror stories where they get it wrong, sold out or looked the other way resulting in cases where children have been abused, molested, raped and died while in the care of CPS or those they have placed them with.
When rights are trampled and due process is subverted in cases involving CPS it can so often lead to crucial information being missed and a child being put into a precarious circumstance. Many parents who have raised red flags and brought credible concerns about these issues to the attention of courts and CPS often find their voices met with deaf ears or being given the run around.
"Reaching out to have your voice heard about abuses to your children can get you caught up in a revolving door that never ends until they age out of the Family Court system. I first got involved with Family Court and Child Protective Services at the end of 2004 when my ex-husband filed an emergency petition in Family Court and CPS. With this emergency petition full of lies my children were removed from my care with no due process. The child protective worker sent a letter to the Judge full of hearsay she collected indicating me for neglect. After much hard work and determination I did get the indicated report removed and spent the next thirteen years trying to keep my children safe and getting custody restored. After having this happen to myself and my children I knew that I could not be the only one and started to reach other parents and found the abuses continue and formed a pattern within the system. As a result of the experience, several of us parents banded together. We formed a group called the National Coalition for Family Court and CPS Reform. We work with hundreds of parents and children in the area that have reported abuse and neglect and have been punished by the Courts and CPS for doing so. We have spoken at county legislative meetings, worked hard in efforts to change laws and have had elected officials write letters on behalf of our organization for the victims of this abuse. Most times these letters go unanswered, and if they are answered we are told that those we have contacted have no jurisdiction to do anything…" -JUDY TIENKEN, National Coalition for Family Court & CPS Reform (Ulster County, New York Chapter), shared with permission of the quoted from an email interview
Remove the Veil of Secrecy
When you become aware of the incidents and stories that enter public awareness by parents blowing the whistle as to what transpires—you often have to pause in disbelief. How can such things happen where children are put in bad situations because of funding opportunities, power trips and people’s job security? They happen in part because in these environments transparency is non-existent or an illusion whereby players can act with impunity.
These are systems that have become institutionally corrupted and a breeding ground for those who would take advantage of them for so many reasons—few, if any, involving the best interests of a child.
When media stories of alleged abuses by CPS are made where compelling claims of mistreatment, wrongful termination of parental rights, abuse of children that have been taken all come into view—the all too common response from spokespeople is often to the tune of, “...more information exists regarding this case, but we are unable to release it or speak about it.”
The privacy laws used in Family Courts and CPS often do a lot more harm than good. They mask many more abuses as they apply to peoples rights being violated and mistakes and errors made by the agency as opposed to reasons of protecting sensitive information.
“Looking back on my case, and learning what others are going through now, I try to help them as from my own experience I have learned the sad truth that criminals have more rights than parents. We had a CPS worker give testimony in our case that did not match the forensic interview that was recorded, but withheld for over a year, from me and the state experts relied upon by CPS. During the course of that year my parental rights were terminated based on comments and remarks made by my then five year old daughter. The recording that was eventually obtained reveals this worker coaching my child and telling her how to draw daddy's private parts and to draw a line right there on him. Then you can hear her suggest to my daughter that she got hurt in her dad's bedroom after dinner when in fact she stated earlier she had gotten hurt at her mom's house. Now I feel as if part of me is missing. The part that was proud to be a dad. That looked forward to my girl’s proms and graduation. That imagined what it would be like to someday walk them down the aisle for their weddings. Now all I have is memories from a time before the nightmare of CPS came into my life. Today I advocate in the State of Michigan for changes to be made so that no parents or children have to go through what I now have to live with each day.” -CARY FLAGG, Michigan, shared with permission of the quoted from an email interview
As situations surface where CPS has taken a child from parents and courts terminate rights, whereby evidence is suppressed or doesn’t add up it is unacceptable.
When countless credible outcries of injustice come forth calling out what is transpiring behind closed doors and are met with threats and retaliation creating a climate of fear—it’s time to remove the veils of secrecy over these agencies and institutions that claim the mantra of acting in a child’s best interest.
If reforms and changes to this system as a whole are not addressed and enacted upon than the risk continues for many parents and children's rights to a life with liberties and happiness—free from threat and fear.
RELATED ARTICLES BY STEPHEN KRASNER