The Case When It Comes To Child Protective Services By Estrella Gonzalez

What would you do if the knock at your door wasn't from a pleasant neighbor? What would you do if that person was knocking on opportunity's front door to catch you being a bad parent? Yeah, you would close that door shut.

Unfortunately, the front line defense for innocence and child welfare is failing. Social workers under the Department of Human and Health Services (DHHS) are supposed to alleviate conditions for the people possibly being involved in an investigative case, but instead they carry this villain-like persona from beginning to end. The government organization known as Child Protective Services (CPS) is corrupt due to the power they hold in being able to make executive decisions on a child's life and the family behind that child, along with failing to acknowledge the consequences of it.

Let's start at the beginning of their creation story that gave them their sovereignty. First starting in the 1600's was when cases of child abuse started to appear in the courtroom. However, the first prosecuted case was that of Mary Ellen Wilson. This little girl claimed her mother whipped and beat her everyday; she never said anything because of the fear of being hit as a consequence. In order to remove her from her mother's custody, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was used. Meaning, by 1874 there were no laws pertaining to the safety of children under abusive homes. It wasn't until the following year in 1875 that the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was established. Since then, the system made more improvements such as by the mid-1960's nearly all U.S. states passed child abuse reporting laws. Moreover, acts like the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) were also passed. These laws and policies all work under the DHHS to advocate for family preservation and fund the process of prevention, investigation, prosecution and programs associated with child welfare. It was not until 1997 when President Bill Clinton signed ASFA that things started to reverse. This act aimed to transfer kids into foster care more quickly into permanent homes, basically contradicting the goals of previous laws.

Ultimately, CPS claims their goal is to be "the center of child protection efforts," but let's take a look into their broad scope of practice. Their use of authority includes: 1) Stating one's purpose and function clearly at all times 2) Supporting and challenging the children and family 3) Expressing feelings. In the 2003 guidelines it states that caseworkers should "Earn the respect of the children and family (and gain psychological influence)." That sounds a little condescending if you ask me. They learn specific techniques for handling "Hostile and Angry Situations," probably for the reactions they get when participants in the process learn they were involuntarily required to comply. Moreover, they have "Stages of Change," meaning steps to be taken by the family to show their behavioral, emotional, or physical state has progressed in some way. Some people may take this as being trained to go in looking for a problem because change is only needed when something isn't right, or could be better. Social workers also need to acquire information on the categories of: the child and family, the alleged maltreatment, the child, the parent or caregiver, and the family. Under obtaining parent or caregiver information, it includes: their emotional and physical condition, behavioral history, view of their own child, child-rearing practices, are they a single parent or not, do they have adequate income or are they employed at all, and relationships outside of the family. Under the category of family they must look at family characteristics, dynamics, support, place of employment, how many strangers are in and out of the home, is there drug dealing in the home, what is their connection to their community like their place of worship, etc. They determine if there is any forms of maltreatment and if so, if it is physical, sexual, neglect, or emotional. Furthermore, these caseworkers conduct assessments. These assessments pertain to neglect (providing the child with regular meals that meet basic nutritional requirements, cleanliness of the child's hair, skin, teeth, and clothes, appropriate clothing for weather and conditions, does the home have hazardous physical, unsanitary conditions, do they live in an unstable living condition like frequently changing residence for any reason), psychological (does the child have an inability to learn, inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers or adults, develop inappropriate behaviors or feelings in normal circumstances, have a general mode of unhappiness, depression, or suicidal feelings), and physical (symptoms of fear with personal or school functioning i.e. bed wetting, or a lack of interest in school activities). These people also decide when, where, and how many interviews are to be conducted for each case. If there ever is an appeal, or hearing, "The burden of proof rests with the CPS Agency. If the review reverses or modifies the substantiation decision then the CPS Agency will have to revise the records." They "ensure" foster placement and family progress, in which case the guidelines for family are way more thorough in their need to prove family cohesiveness and know their strengths, or weaknesses in order to correct them, on top of other requirements. They are responsible for the way a case is closed whether it's termination, referral, transfer, or discontinuation by family. Finally, they are also in charge of documentation from start to finish.

As you probably can tell by now, they are legally obliged to be so invested in the family’s life and therefore, have the power to do almost anything once a report has been made on you. This is the scariest part of all...that they are aware of it. More astounding though, there is no legal guidebook for parenting. That's the thing though, there is no one way to parent; everyone has their own way of conducting their family life. For example, there's people who give their children loads of freedom, like playing outside by themselves during the day time, who call themselves a "free-range parent." However, there's the opposite, a "helicopter parent," who thinks it's almost never right to leave their child unattended and for their child to never make decisions without them. So who is CPS to say a family needs to be held up to their standards?

Factually speaking, here are some things I found that rebut the security of welfare they're trying to promote. CPS guidelines state, "Children older than 12 are able to spend 1 to 2 hours alone each day." Now, what teenager do you know spends 22-23 hours of their day with their parent(s)? This statement was found under the neglect category; does this mean if they're not in the eyesight of a parent for more than 2 hours the parent is neglecting them? In 2014, it was found that CPS investigated 3.2 million children, yet 2.5 million of those kids were declared non-victims. The act that President Clinton signed in 1997, ASFA, offers cash bonuses to states for every child they adopt; every child adopted through the system is worth up to $4,000-$6,000...an extra $2,000 if they have a disability. Moreover, on average it takes 9-18 months to complete the process of adoption. Unfortunately, the head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work determined that over 28% of the children in state care had been abused while in the system. Even when children are old enough to leave the system, they have staggering statistics on their future because of systematic intervention. In 2012, a study found that 1 out of 5 kids who "aged-out" of the system will become homeless after the age of 18, only half will be employed by the age of 24, less than 3% are likely to earn a college degree, 71% of young women will be pregnant by age 21, and 1 in 4 will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are few of the many statistics that prove children are not safer, if not safe, when in the hands of CPS.

Hearing perspective through the eyes of people who worked the system may give you more insight on how the system is aware of their authority and their negligence that comes with it. An anonymous former social worker said the following on her view of CPS: "Child removal law, policy, and execution are there to provide for the best possible protection of children when the parent cannot or will not. But it cannot become the standard answer to every questionable situation or expected to prevent every instance of child harm. No law can do that, even one this powerful. And that power must be countered by defending and maintaining a parent's right to raise their child in the manner they see fit. I might not like it. You may not like it, but ultimately it’s not our call. And it shouldn't be." Another former caseworker admitted, "They know they have power. People have perceived power and when you have the ability to do those things and someone pisses you off. Yeah it happens. Should it happen? No absolutely not." She also mentioned that a coworker took kids away from a family because she was frustrated that they weren't responding fast enough in their initial interview and that many of them did "drive-bys." This literally meant they would drive by the child's home without asking any questions of their welfare instead of physically checking on a child. If these people can't even follow rules as a part of their profession, how are they allowed to be responsible for an innocent's life and on top of that, actively accuse a mother, or father, of not holding their parental duties up to a certain standard? That's what you call inequity.

Now, listen to a story of a child personally victimized by the system. Stepping forward is a young lady by the name of Claire Cooper who titled a 2016 YouTube video "Child Protective Services destroyed my family." She said she was displaced from her mother's care to her grandmother, but that her grandmother was the actual abuser. Although she reported the incidents to her caseworker, it took a year before her and her brother were moved to foster care. It took another 2 years for her to be officially reunited with her mother. Cooper was crying as she stated, "They took away my childhood...I'm happy. I found peace. My life was normal...my life is normal when I'm with my mom...my family needs to stay together." She also said a law that stated the other party and herself must receive word of the social worker's recommendation to the court 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date was not followed. Her sole purpose in sharing her story was to expose the ways in which CPS has failed to protect her and her family.

This is Claire Cooper.

If you still don't believe me when I portray CPS' real identity to be malicious, listen to my encounter with them. It starts with my older half-sister, Michelle, being a drug addict and being in and out of jail for most of her life. Her first three kids were Samuel, Nick, and Leslie. A couple months before my fifteenth birthday, I asked my mom to reach out to my sister to ask if her and the kids could make it to my special day. When my mom got off the phone she explained to me and my other sister, Victoria, that the kids had been taken and put in to foster care. This news led to the beginning of our fight for them. Victoria filed papers to get them in her custody and within a few weeks we were at the courthouse. Before going into hear from the judge a few significant things happened. First, our lawyer asked us, "What took you guys so long?" She meant, why did it take us six months to legally fight for these kids. We felt attacked. So for the lady who asked us, it isn't easy to hold a relationship with an unstable person; they're not going to call for help when they know they're the problem. She also said it wasn't needed for Michelle to be at the appeal. So we stopped calling her phone for her to come meet us. When Victoria saw Samuel come in with his foster parents, she decided to go ask them if she could say hi to him. Unfortunately, he said he didn't remember her. Going into the courtroom Samuel's foster grandfather asked him a simple question of, "Where do you want to sit?" Without hesitation he came to my mom's side and hugged her. She showed affection back of course because for the first year of his life he was legally under the care of my father, his real grandfather, and my mother. Samuel would also come visit us from time to time for family trips. His foster mother noticed and the foster grandfather came over to tell him that his "mother" wanted him to sit with their family. Keep in mind that the judge witnessed all of this before starting. Next, the judge asked where Michelle was and our caseworker responded, "Oh, she just didn't show up." Thanks for making our side of the case look bad lady. Even Samuel's lawyer didn't defend Samuel, or his feelings about the situation; he just kept restating his foster parent's stance of "loving" the kids. The last thing I remember happening in that courtroom was when the judge declared Samuel, Nick, and Leslie to stay in the care of their foster parents. I walked out of there heartbroken and cried so hard that I could barely see what was in front of me as I was walking. We were denied a fair chance; we were their biological family and we couldn't even reach them in the slightest. It was as if we were being punished for my sister’s actions. As everyone cried outside the court room, Samuel came up to me and hugged me. He said, "Don't cry Auntie Star." And that was it. I haven't seen him, or my other nephew and niece since. They were adopted a couple months after this too.

2007. My father (all the way left), my nephew (left of Santa Claus), and me (all the way right). This is the last photo I have of my nephew. I only met my other nephew and niece once and those photos were in a phone I no longer have. At the time I didn't think anything of losing those photos because I assured myself there would be more. Never did I imagine to have a blurry memory in my head of family.

I always wonder if they're okay. Are they happy? Will they be mad at us because we didn't fight hard enough? Will they come looking for us one day? Family are the people who are there for you when no one else is; they share unconditional love. Were we wrong in not being able to prove we were their heroes? Not until they are 18 will we be able to contact them without getting charged for harassment.

This is why I give CPS the verdict of being guilty of causing more harm than good. They separate families, not always for good, or probable reasons, and create a tear in the relationship that will be so hard to repair. Because they gain a new check for every child that enters their system, they refuse to let go of their control. Because they are scared of legally being wrong, they hold on to kids in their care and patronize them instead. They are not the law abiding citizens they like to think they are.

What I ask from whoever is reading this, especially a parent, is that you fight against this unjust system. The core of strength should be seen in the family first, but if for some reason you, or family members can't hold that end up, then do the lawful thing and hand the kid(s) over. I just ask you that before it comes to forcibly making this undesirable decision, that you protest the law makers that can correct this system, but don't because these organizations that claim to be dedicated to child welfare aren’t as genuine as they seem. Evaluate and correct this system because although it may not happen to you now, or ever, there are other families struggling to win this battle; don’t let them go through what my family experienced. It is also vital that you are cautious with who is observing your parenting skills because there may be one day when you have to release them into the custody of some stranger, and it is not a guarantee you will get them back, because it is under someone else’s jurisdiction. Their techniques need to be adjusted before it can be said that they are upholders of justice.

Here are some websites that can lead you to the change that needs to be made:

https://somethingforthepeople.wordpress.com/human-trafficking/news/introduction-to-legalized-kidnapping-and-adoption/home/fight-cps-hand-book/

http://fightcps.com/how-to-sue-cps-in-federal-court/

http://www.disabilityrightswa.org/how-file-complaint-against-child-protective-services-cps-because-disability-based-discrimination-0

http://www.parentalrights.org/child_protective_services

Created By
Estrella Gonzalez
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Created with images by Bessi - "aroni arsa children"

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