Comment Of The Day: “A Visit To “The Ethicist””

A disturbing Child Protective Services tale from slickwilly, and a Comment of the Day, on the post, A Visit To “The Ethicist”…

When my kids were little, we learned of the stories from friend and relatives where a CPS worker with a vendetta (or being paid off) would take someone’s kids and subject the parents to 7 kinds of hell just using the process against them.

A friend crossed (innocently enough) a CPS worker, who threatened to ‘get even.’ Several days later she was visited by stormtroopers who forcibly removed her toddler aged child and shipped him to Arizona, to a father who did not want him. This meant that the Arizona foster care system was where the child landed. Think dealing with ONE CPS agency is hard? Try two at once! It too all of the mother’s savings, and over a year, to get her child back. She did not get to even SEE her child for 3 months: a huge part of that child’s life. Terrible.

My relatives had a similar experience, after their daughter’s ugly divorce (where the father, who did not want the 3 year old boy, nevertheless made a mess by threatening to take away custody.) When the father sicc’d a friend from CPS on her, alleging abuse, the family sprang into action. A day after the initial call from the corrupt CPS worker, her apartment was raided to remove the child and document the alleged signs of abuse.

The child was gone. On an extended trip with his grandparents. No, she did not know where they were, exactly. They did not have a cell phone, either: she talked to her boy when they caught her on the phone (cell phones were not common at the time). Since there was no warrant at that point, all the CPS worker could do was tell her to make her parents contact the CPS worker when they next called(!) She promised to do so, and even kept a straight face.

The parents, meanwhile, had fled to west Texas, and one was living in a motel room rented by a friend, without a credit card, living on cash brought to her by her husband. She also took trips out of state with the boy, usually calling several times from various locations to muddy the phone records. Since the CPS worker really had no evidence, getting a warrant for the grandparents was a non-starter (State your name and explain to the judge how you did this to help a buddy get out of child support payments for the child…) This went on 3 months until the daughter was able to navigate the system and kill the removal order. The judge she eventually got to was NOT amused, either.

So our rules for CPS knocking at our door were:

1) If they do not have a warrant, CPS is not entering our house.
2) They may not talk to the child alone. A child can be made to say ANYTHING by anyone experienced enough to gain their trust.
3) The children do not go to school the next day. They and their mother would be with her parents, at an ‘undisclosed location’ (family ranch in West Texas) for an extended stay ‘to help take care of her parents.’
4) Without a warrant, CPs has no business knowing where my kids are. Even with a warrant, I want a lawyer before answering questions… AND A CAMERA RUNNING

We never used the Plan. But we kept emergency food, funds, and discussed the GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) plan regularly, just in case we had to flee our own government on unjust charges.

7 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “A Visit To “The Ethicist””

  1. My interactions with California CPS have never been good and the bias against males is severe. My oldest and I have never had a close relationship, his mother despite being put in jail multipal times, drugs and domestic violence, she would beat on her boyfriend, I could never get custody but I also didn’t lose custody, being in the military our parental order gave us basically equal rights but whomever had the kids with them the most have final say. It worked for the most part except when it came to the state. Each time she was thrown in the slammer he would get sent to foster care, I would get no notification and wouldn’t be allowed to take him home even after I I could find him. I had a few legal options but shouldn’t have had to, there was no reason to keep my kid out of my custody assuming I wasn’t deployed at the time but even then my wife or other family would have taken care of him but instead they would decide to put him in foster. The system is broken and corrupt.

  2. Three years ago a family friend died. She left behind an extraordinary legacy. In the time we had known here she had been a foster parent to dozens of kids (maybe as high as 100) and even adopted a few of them. It was then when I turned to my wife and said, I think we should foster some children. There we entered the wonderful (and terrible) world of what it means to be a foster parent.

    The state of Florida has very strict rules for foster parenting. First, you fill out a packet that asks about interest in foster parenting and a ton of background. If this is accepted, then you must attend 30 hours of training. If you miss a class, you have to make up that same class. Attendance and participation are documented and reflected in the next stage.

    Next is a federal background check. We were told it is the highest background check a civilian can go through. Having lived in quite a few states (and abroad) this took a few months to clear. After that was the multiple home inspection, home interviews, interviews with my children, animal check, safety plan check, and a few things I am not even sure about. All in all, the process took 10 months from when we first started.

    We were certified on a Friday. Saturday, we got our first call. We agreed to take two girls (sisters). At the time they were four and five (this combined with our two boys who were four and six). The next six months we got to know CPS on a personal basis. The first thing I learned about them is that they are overworked and overwhelmed. For our county, to be a CPS worker you must do the following:

    Fill out an application.
    Spend 8 hours shadowing CPS worker.
    Pass CPS worker’s personal inspection.
    Federal background check
    Provide 5 references (non-family) who have known you for at least 5 years (yes they will be called).
    Pass Psych exam.
    Pass Polygraph test.
    Be approved by the committee for an interview.
    Pass interview.

    If you fail at any point before this stage, you will not be considered for another position for at least a year. You will not be told why.

    Be chosen for the position.
    Go through training (I can’t remember how long).
    3 months of job shadowing.
    1-year probation.
    Must past comprehensive test at the one year or be terminated.

    I write all of this to say a few things. First, I would have called CPS on the father being sexual to his daughter. This is mostly because as being a foster parent I am a mandatory reporter. In my time with the girls, I had to call CPS on the girls no less than 15 times. It was actually quite frustrating because the purpose of the system was to get them help and most of the time, I fought with CPS and the Child Safety Coalition to get them help. We suspected one of the sexually abused and had callous and unemotional traits (if she was an adult, we might have said she was a psychopath). All our calls were mostly about things she did.

    So imagine my surprise when CPS showed up at my door 6 months in. I had a job interview out of state and we left the foster kids with another foster parent. The girl had made accusatory remarks about me to the other foster parent. She told that foster parent we let her sleep in our bed and I had my shirt off around the house (neither is bad, but as a foster parent, you are not allowed to let them in your bed and walking around without a shirt is discouraged).

    They came, they talked, they investigated, and then that was it. It was scary, but I understood they were just doing their jobs. The other foster parent did the right thing. I stayed calm and collected. When we passed the girls on, I told everything to the new foster parent (who ended up being the one who did the reporting). I heard later, that they thought I was overstating and learned I was understating.

    The second is in regards to CPS. In my county, on average, these people have 2-3 cases a day (individually) in a department of 75 caseworkers. These people were overworked and overwhelmed and really have no time for personal vendettas. I will not excuse the bad apples in the crowd. They deserve to be fired and jailed if they abuse their position. This process is designed to weed those people out. There might be problems with the procedure, but that is up to the lawmakers. They see a lot of terrible things, so they take their jobs quite seriously (I met a former CPS worker who had to deal with a case involving a killed child. He told me it was years ago and it still haunts him to this day).

    Because part of their job is removing children from their parents (with police support) they get a very bad rap (think of what is happening down at the border). Both the #1 goal of CPS and the Children Saftey Coalition is reunification. The state does not want (or can handle) your children.

    Afters: In writing this, I thought of a few things. 1: My bias. I did my best to leave it out, but I know it is showing here. I am very passionate about this subject. I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

    2. Rationalizations. Am I employing them? The most obvious ones I think of are: think of the children, everyone does it, kings pass, and the Ruddigore Fallacy,

    • Unfortunately it’s hard to tell the difference between the stories of those rightfully denied access to their children and those being run over by the egregore that is the child welfare system. I can tell you my experience and that of foster parents I know (good friends both couples, totally disillusioned with the system less than six months after being approved). I can point you to what others have experienced (see article in my comment).

      My take is the incentives are such that the good social workers will be stunted in their careers for taking the time to do the right thing and taking the hard (a dangerous) cases. Mediocre ones will just follow the incentives will take the easy ones and just sic enough of the guard dogs on the innocent middle class families (statistically safer) to argue they’re doing their jobs. Sociopaths will exploit the system for their benefit (once again I point you to the article above, in particular the doctor).

      I don’t have a solution, but I have to question if the current system is doing more good than bad, at least in my state.

      • In my county, CPS agents don’t get to pick cases, they are assigned alphabetically (picking up where they last left off). So it is possible you might have a stream of the easy case or a stream of difficult ones. One agent did tell me a good portion of the cases didn’t warrant follow up.

        I did look at your article. In the case, it is unfortunate. The same appeal to authority that put parents in this situation, is the same appeal to authority needed to get children to help. Caseworkers may not a lot about these issues, but they are not experts and rely a lot on expert opinion for work. One of the reasons we had trouble getting our foster child help is because the expert said she found no psychological evidence of sexual abuse. She said she found our examples troubling, but unless they say something, there is little they can do to help them. You can’t come right out and ask it, and the multiple probing sessions didn’t reveal anything.

        On the other hand, we were able to get the other one a lot of help. It was through us pushing for a diagnosis they discovered she has had some brain damage, needed glasses, and IEP (that led to a new set of problems). She was the sweetest girl.

        In any case, I don’t think you can call this example a failure of the system. Despite the fact that we lived in a very busy county, the cases where children were taken away, went to the judge very quickly. Having sat through a number of them waiting our turn, the judge was very good at listening to the parents, the foster parents, and the kids (older ones). I heard her call a caseworker an idiot, and a parent a dumbass (because the child couldn’t read at 13). Almost always, she focused on getting the children back with her kids. As I said, the number #1 goal is reunification.

        Bit of a tangent here. There is a problem in our society with the way authority figures are viewed because of the bad ones around them.

        As a minister in a non-catholic church, I have been lumped ogether with their sexual abuse problems. Despite the fact that there are few incidents of police brutality, they all get accused. When I was in the army, I got called a murderer, killer, bloodthirsty, and once by some random guy on the street a baby killer. See ICE agents, see the way foster parents are viewed on TV and movies, see politicians (ok maybe that last one was a bad example).

  3. My experience was similar. One of my boys had some sort of rash and we took him to urgent care. One doctor thought it was a broken arm (second opinion later said that diagnosis was stupid) but we had to take him to the local children’s hospital. After staying overnight and dealing with hours of questioning by some sort of social worker we were released next day. There was no diagnosis for the rash, but they took one last picture. I knew something was wrong and told my wife to not talk to anyone. We also retained a lawyer that day. Proving my instincts right, a CPS worker stopped that day, unannounced, with some diagnosis by a doctor we never met and asking to see the under one year old child. Luckily, my wife was prepared and said no, but for the bexfour months we had to deal with social workers and police officers on a weekly basis. The while ordeal cost us a few thousand dollars and completely upended our lives for months. I’m also pretty sure we suffer some mild of PTSD after the whole thing.

    The kicker: This is the guy who diagnosed our kid without even meeting him or us in person:

    I don’t say this lightly. This idiot will burn in hell.

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