Tuesday, February 03, 2004
This is a story about a system gone mad. It begins with a little girl, an unloved child, abused to the point that she no longer knew how to smile. When she was finally rescued, her testimony in court revealed that she could not remember ever having been “kissed or petted.” Not ever.
The poor child was whipped and beaten daily, perhaps several times per day. She was belittled, forced to do many chores, dressed in rags, fed little, and was the size of a child years younger than her true age.
It is heart wrenching that such horrors are the life of any child. Any person with an ounce of compassion would have to take action. One woman did. She tried various outlets to no avail. She was eventually forced to reach out to an animal cruelty society, because at the time there was no such agency for the protection of children.
Little Mary Ellen’s case was the jumping off point for the agencies we know today as CPS, or Children’s Protective Services. “We the people” breathed a collective sigh of relief with the creation of such agencies, because we believed that children would be protected. Knowing that our tax dollars went to such a noble cause, we felt relieved of any further responsibility toward abused and neglected children. But, we failed to demand accountability and proper procedure, or to require proof that children were actually safer.
There is also one very ironic fact to this story that is rarely discussed; the child that sparked the protection revolution was abused and neglected not by her parents, but by her foster caregivers. From the documentation of this case, it appears that the foster mother actually perpetrated the abuse, but the foster father was not innocent... he also neglected Mary Ellen and per today’s terminology “failed to protect” her.
Yet, even though this case makes it obvious that it is not a good idea to hand children over to people that have no bond with them, and that strangers often treat other people’s children like animals, our current system “rescues” children from parents every day and delivers them to strangers.
When this movement first began, the “child savers” became zealous almost immediately. In those days it was quite common for them to take children, for no other reason than that their parents were poor, and then give them to “better” families. Never mind that these “better” families often just took the children in so they could acquire free labor, and that the children were treated like farm animals, they were being “saved” from their less fortunate parents. Have we gone back to those days?
When about 60% of all substantiated cases of maltreatment each year are founded for neglect, and most of this neglect is based on inability to provide and lack of adequate housing rather than willful acts or omissions, it is not too difficult to see that the so-called child savers have their own ideas of what “saving” children means.
And, we must ask: are children really any better off today when taken from home? No.
Children are by percentage more often brutally injured, seriously neglected, sexually abused, and killed in state care than they are at home. Children under state “protection” are lost, beaten, drugged, starved, tortured, maimed, enslaved, tied up, used for sex, permanently scarred, and often killed by those entrusted as caregivers. The child savers own statistics prove it. How many horror stories of foster abuse and death at the hands of the system will it take before we put an end to these atrocities?
Please do not misunderstand. This is not to say that all foster caregivers are bad. Some are actually very kind and open their hearts as well as their homes to children in need. But, unfortunately the good ones are the exception, not the rule (and we have not even touched on the horrors children experience in institutional placements).
If our government agencies cannot GUARANTEE a safer environment than the home the child was taken from, they have no business taking the child in the first place.
On top of being abused (if the child was even actually abused) he is then traumatized by being uprooted from his siblings, his home, his own bed, toys, clothes, school, church, extended family, friends, and everything else he knows and loves, only to be abused by a stranger. This is not in the “best interest” of any child.
Statistics also prove that far too many families are being subjected to unwarranted government intrusion. Of the approximately three million maltreatment reports taken each year, over two million are unfounded, consistently. And, looking to the cases that are actually substantiated, not all the maltreatment was perpetrated by parents. All “caregivers” are combined in this tally including daycare workers, foster caregivers, adoptive parents, relatives, and guardians. Also within the number of substantiated cases, are those cases where no neglect or abuse was shown, but where a caseworker predicted the child was “at risk” of possible maltreatment in the future. You will not hear these facts from the child savers or the mainstream media, and you also will not hear that many falsely accused parents still lose their children, even when their children were merely deemed “at risk” or when the accusations against the parents were never substantiated.
While the foregoing supports the contention that the system does not work, it is not meant to imply that all parents are good either. The majority of parents are decent people who love and care for their children, but there are admittedly some that do horrible things to their children. There is no argument that they should be severely punished. They should pay for their crimes, but the point is, not all parents should be made to pay because of those that maltreat their children.
Wouldn’t it be better to prosecute abusive parents? Shouldn’t they be removed from the home instead of removing their victims? Why should the child be taken into custody, uprooted from his home, left with strangers, and put in harm’s way?
One reason child abuse is not handled in the criminal arena is that it would take too much effort. A real investigation would have to take place, and real evidence would be required. Accused parents would have to be charged, arrested, and convicted beyond all reasonable doubt. All those pesky Constitutional protections would come into play. Due process would be required. Gone would be the days of violating fundamental rights and protected liberties, and the notion that anyone accused of child abuse is guilty until proven innocent.
Another reason is money, the good old almighty dollar. Not only would it cost money to prosecute true abusers, but it would also hurt the profits. The fact is that the self-perpetuating bureaucracies, universally known as CPS, could no longer rake in billions of dollars. They would no longer be allowed to force their “services,” which are time and again proven not to work, on families at their mercy. They could no longer siphon millions from Medicaid and Social Security, because far fewer children would get sucked into the system if real proof of abuse or neglect was required. Foster care, the big money maker (because it is a “double dip” where these agencies not only collect federal dollars for foster care, but also charge the parents child support), would be reserved only for cases of true abuse or real neglect, and then only in the event that there was no other acceptable adult in the family to care for the children once their abuser was jailed.
The numbers are in and have remained consistent for at least the past decade, so, why are our legislators dragging their feet? How many children must die, or at the least, be irreparably damaged by the system? How many families must suffer or be destroyed before our highly respected officials will admit that this vast social experiment is an abysmal failure?
Oh, there is the pretense of change from time to time. The names of these departments change often, usually after a tragedy is exposed. No one can keep up with all the different names and initials, which is why these agencies are simply referred to by the generic term “CPS.”
Once the name has changed, yet again, it is then claimed that the agency at fault has been “restructured.” On rare occasions, an official will be used as a scapegoat and fired (although very few regular workers are ever so much as reprimanded, let alone fired or criminally charged) but overall no real changes are being made. Children are still suffering and dying in state “care” and families are still being ripped apart for no good reason.
Constant re-naming and restructuring are reminiscent of the tactics used by scandalous companies like pay-day lenders and the like, that get rich taking advantage of the poor. Such companies change names too, but they still continue ripping people off. In fact, they just keep getting better at it. When too many lawsuits have been filed against them, they simply change names and “restructure” yet again.
Government agencies should not employ the same tactics as these parasites. Government agencies must be above board, inspiring confidence, rather than inspiring fear and distrust.
While this pretense of change goes on, children and their families continue to be sacrificed. These agencies continue to waste billions of dollars a year while children “slip through the cracks.” This is the CPS catch phrase that so innocently describes the tragedy faced by American children.
Children that truly need help do not get it, or are re-victimized in state care, and children taken from home for vague and even ridiculous reasons are hurt and killed on the agency’s watch. Do the math. It won’t take long to turn your stomach. I only hope it will also turn your heart.
REAL reform is long overdue.
The children are counting on us.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Each and every one of us knows that the current child protection system does not work. Children are not safer. This fact is proven day after day.
Without much effort, you can find horror stories of abuse on the news, in the paper, or on the net. Whether it's children being left to die at the hands of their abusers, or children who are lost, victimized, or killed in state care, far too many children are "slipping through the cracks." One is too many.
In case you are cynical, I'll refresh your memory. Even though you probably weren't looking for such stories, you must have heard about little Rilya Wilson. She still hasn't been found. The only "good" thing to come from her story, is the fact that once it was exposed, Florida's system finally noticed that its "protectors" weren't doing their jobs. Unfortunately, they also learned that at least 400 more children were missing. Other states were looked into, and many had hundreds of missing children. What a travesty.
These people are trained and paid to take over where parents supposedly failed.
And, what about Logan Marr of Maine? (See PBS Frontline for more information) This beautiful little girl was taken from her mother, even though she was never abused or neglected. The system claimed that her mother, Christy, "failed to protect" her. She had left her little girl with her mom, but a man that wasn't supposed to be there showed up. Even though Christy had no way of knowing this man would show up, and even though no harm came to the child, Logan was taken. When Christy gave birth to a second daughter, they came and took that child as well. Then, when a social worker turned foster parent decided she would like to adopt these beautiful little girls, the agency cut back mom's services. They began cancelling her visits, stopped providing transportation to the visits, and cut her off from her own support system by forcing her to leave her husband and stop all contact with her own mother... under threat of losing her children permanently of course. But, before they could terminate Christy's rights and give her children away, little Logan lay dead on a cold basement floor, killed by the woman that was supposedly "protecting" her from her own mother.
Then there's tiny Dominic James of Missouri. His mom apparently had a few too many one night and began arguing loudly with Dad. The neighbors called the police, who came out and decided this situation was not healthy for Dominic. Rather than taking the mother to jail overnight and letting her sleep it off, they actually woke little Dominic from a sound sleep, took him from his bed, and then from his home. That would be the last time he slept in his own bed.
If this baby was sleeping so soundly that he had to be awakened, he was obviously not being traumatized by the incident in any way. If the police truly feared for his safety and felt they had no choice but to take him, it should have at least been temporary. He should have been returned the next day when things had calmed down. Perhaps supportive services should have been offered the family. Instead, Dominic was kept in foster care for five months, even though there were telltale signs that he was being abused in the foster home. He died there, the medical examiners report says, from shaken baby syndrome. The foster father has been charged with second degree murder.
What about the two starving and beaten Williams boys found in a basement in New Jersey? Sadly, the third little boy, Faheem, did not live. When the surviving boys were discovered they voiced concern over not having seen their brother in quite some time. He was discovered in the next room, dead, and stuffed into a plastic storage container like so much trash. Complaints were made against the aunt that was supposedly fostering these children, but the case was closed without there ever having been a face to face meeting with the boys, or with their so-called caretaker. This case spawned closer inspection of the New Jersey system, which is said to be one of the worst in the nation.
There are far too many horror stories to cover them all here, but the fact is, children are not being protected by the protection system. These are not isolated incidents. They happen frequently, in every state. The fact that every agency in this country (and in other countries, as they are all similarly modeled) faces the same dilemmas, should show any reasonable person that there is a problem with the very foundation of this system. Even though ever increasing millions are continuously funneled into these agencies through block grants and federal funding streams, including Social Security, the quality of the service is not improving. Even though these agencies are continually re-named and restructured more and more children are dying, and those that do manage to survive their protection are scarred and damaged for life.
By percentage, more children are harmed and killed in state "care" than are harmed and killed in the general population. What's wrong with this picture?
Workers in these kinds of cases are rarely even reprimanded, let alone fired or criminally charged. Children who were taken from loving parents for non-serious, vague excuses are neglected, tortured, and killed in state "care." Families are being destroyed. And, while precious resources are being wasted on families who do not neglect or abuse their children, other children that really need help are left suffering. Children who are actually removed for abuse are re-victimized instead of being kept safe.
It's time to demand accountability. The old saying goes, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Will you be part of the solution?