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Setting the Standard for Substandard Care of Children in Foster Care

10 Jan

Readers of Arlington Parent News are now well aware of how Arlington DHS/CPS mistreats its foster children, and how many of the GALS and the Arlington Family Court judges often act against the best interests of those children — instead feeding the coffers of those that “serve” the foster care industry to the detriment of the foster children.

On December 17, 2015, a US Federal Judge Janis Clark clearly laid out the standard that these entities should be following in order not to violate the constitutional rights of the children in the foster care system.   (M.D. v Greg Abott, USDC Southern District of Texas, Civil Action 2:11-CV-84)    Arlington gets a big “F” under that standard.   Its high time the Arlington County Board to shake up that agency and require it to seriously reform its practices BEFORE it takes in another child and stomps on their constitutional rights.

Here are some hightlights from that opinion:

The Constitution imposes upon the State affirmative duties of care and protection.” Id. at 198-200. These duties arise when the State takes a person into custody, thereby limiting that person’s freedom to act on her own behalf. Id. at 200. Custody, in other words, creates a “special relationship” between the State and that person, which triggers a constitutional duty to provide basic needs. Id.

when the State restrains an “individual’s freedom to act on his own behalf—through incarceration, institutionalization, or other similar restraint of personal liberty,” the State assumes an affirmative duty to provide basic needs. DeShaney, 489 U.S. at 200

…the Fifth Circuit held that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the State owes its foster children “personal security and reasonably safe living conditions.” Hernandez v. Tex. Dep’t of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 380 F.3d 872, 880 (5th Cir. 2004)

…The Fifth Circuit is not alone. With near unanimity, the other circuits have found that states owe a duty of care to their foster children. See e.g., Tamas v. Dep’t of Social & Health Servs., 630 F.3d 833, 846-47 (9th Cir. 2010); James ex rel. James v. Friend, 458 F.3d 726, 730

 ….A foster child’s right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm “encompasses a right to protection from psychological as well as physical abuse.” R.G. v. Koller, 415 F. Supp. 2d 1129, 1156 (D. Haw. 2006); see also LaShawn A. by Moore v. Kelly, 762 F. Supp. 990, 993 (D.D.C. 1991)….Moreover, foster children “have a substantive due process right to be free from unreasonable and unnecessary intrusions into their emotional well-being.” Marisol A. by Forbes v. Giuliani, 929 F. Supp. 662, 675 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)…Harm, both psychological and physical, can be inflicted in a variety of ways, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological maltreatment. “[T]he Constitution requires the responsible state officials to take steps to prevent children in state institutions from deteriorating physically or psychologically.”

…Foster children need not wait until actual harm occurs before obtaining relief. This has been made most explicit in the prison context, where the right is characterized as the right “not to be subjected to the unreasonable threat of injury.”

….Regional Director Bowman agreed that placing children far from home negatively affects the bonds and connections that children need to be emotionally healthy. Yet 39% of children are placed out of their home region and 60% are placed out of their home county…

…Cross-state moves also impede primary caseworkers’ ability to visit their foster children..

….In addition, separating siblings harms foster children.

…Inappropriate placements also harm foster children.

 …Lastly, placing sexually abused children with other children in foster family homes and foster group homes causes an unreasonable risk of harm…

….Plaintiffs have proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that DFPS’s policies and practices amount to structural deficiencies that cause an unreasonable risk of harm to all class and subclass members

….

— Judge Janis Clark

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Try Listening to the Kids Next Time

4 Aug

Arlington County, like a lot of other local governments, have a gestapo-type attitude towards the treatment of children.   Although they say they do things “in the best interests of the child,” they rarely care what the child wants — in fact, they rarely give the child an attorney to represent them in proceedings that will determine their future.

Two brave children (now adults), Hope and Elizabeth Loudon, recently wrote a great and touching piece for the Washington Post.  They make the case for CPS and family courts to listen to the children — not simply a  bunch of adults (including poorly qualified GALs who answer to no-one) about what to do with them.  Their article should be required reading for every social worker, GAL, family court judge, and circuit court judge before they touch another case!

These two children were willing to go to jail to protest for what they wanted for themselves… which was what was in their best interests!

Here are some excepts:

When we entered high school, we hoped the court would believe we were old enough to decide to live with our mother. When our father arrived to pick us up from school one day, we refused to go. We called for the school police officer, foolishly believing he and a school administrator would protect us. We were wrong. They scorned us for the way we were treating our “loving father” who “just wanted to make things better.” Instead of allowing us to leave with our mother, the police officer gave us a choice: Go with our father or be arrested. We chose the latter.”

“[S]ocial workers acted as though our mother had brainwashed us. They accused us of causing a fight between our parents and treated us like criminals. At the detention facility, we were forced to remove our clothes and replace them with stained uniforms. Authorities separated and interrogated us. When we tried to explain that we felt mistreated and depressed in our father’s home, the man processing us said, “Stop giving me these evasive answers! Did he or did he not leave a mark?”

“At the juvenile facility where we were taken, authorities bullied us just as Judge Gorcyca bullied the Tsimhoni children. We were held as voluntary walk-ins, but were free to walk out only into our father’s hands until we turned 18 or a judge ordered otherwise.”

“The detention facility staff did everything possible to break us down, adding to the trauma we had experienced from our father. We were not allowed to touch each other, even to hold hands in prayer. If we spoke too loudly, the staff yelled at us; if we spoke too softly, they forbade us from speaking at all.”

“It was a dehumanizing experience, but still less frightening than returning to our father. So we tried to make peace with our new reality.”

We passionately resent that the court system forced us to live in a house where we didn’t feel loved and protected. Over time, the law has decided that people are not property, unless they are children. An adult cannot incarcerate his “defiant” employees, parents, or romantic partner, but the law will readily incarcerate his children for him. If the court protected us as it protects adults, we would have had much healthier and happier childhoods.”

“Like the judge in Omer Tsimhoni’s case, our father invoked the concept of “parental alienation syndrome” to discredit our charges of mistreatment. It’s a claim parents in custody battles often exploit to accuse their ex-spouses of brainwashing their children to turn against them, convincing mediators that the children have been coached to lie. As a result, bad parenting and abuse go uninvestigated and children are returned to violent and emotionally damaging homes. In extreme cases, the child or the protective parent is incarcerated for refusing to obey the court’s custody or visitation order.”

Children should never be incarcerated without being found guilty of a crime. Spurious charges like “incorrigibility,” for which only children are prosecuted, are inherently discriminatory and should be abolished. Children should be represented by an attorney in custody cases at the expense of the state. Currently, they’re given a guardian ad litem, often a volunteer with only a few days’ training.”

“Further, courts should never overlook children’s complaints of abuse or mistreatment. Whether emotional or physical, such charges should be thoroughly investigated before custody or visitation orders are made. Courts exist to protect citizens’ rights, including children’s — and children should have the right to live in healthy homes.”

Dear Arlington CPS, GALs, and family court judges….read this article and learn from two very bright individuals!*

Read more:  We were sent to juvenile detention for refusing to live with our father

*:Hope Loudon holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from the University of Nevada, Reno.   Elizabeth Loudon is a social justice activist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and geography from Stetson University

Arlington DHS and Arlington Family Court Could Learn from This…

8 Jul

PBS POV has screened an excellent documentary by Stephanie Wang-Breal “Tough Love.”

It  asks the questions: What makes a good parent? How do you prove you are responsible after you’ve been deemed unfit? Having lost custody of their children to Child Protective Services, two parents — one in New York City and one in Seattle — fight to win back the trust of the courts and reunite their families.”

Would you have reunited the children in this documentary with these parents?   The ebbs and the flows of the proceedings are shown in detail.   Most notable is the frustration of the family attorney (documentary at 45 mins – 55 mins) that the court and CPS artificially holds these parents to a higher standard than other parents (who have not been caught up in the system); how the system imposes artificial requirements on the parents that require them to go to meetings and treatment programs during the day thus making normal work difficult if not impossible, and that the system seeks perfection from these parents even though the standard is only requiring that the child be safe.

This is a must see for every Arlington DHS/CPS employee and Arlington family and circuit court judge (and their clerks)!   Unfortunately, the Arlington system has exhibited the worst of CPS seen in this video..rather than the best.   Maybe they will watch it with an open mind and improve how they do things, and, just as importantly, maybe they will find it in their hearts to review old cases and extend the effort necessary to reunite families with the many children they have separated over the years.

This excellent documentary is available for online viewing through August 6, 2015 at: http://video.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365523216

Read more:

Tough Love/POV

What is wrong with Arlington CPS

 

A Blatant Admission to Medicaid Fraud by Intercept?

15 Mar

Those of you who are following this news blog, know that we have reported from time to time on the malicious victimization of foster children by some group home operators and Arlington DHS to shift costs for foster care from themselves to Medicaid.   They do this by having the child as having special needs, and then applying for Medicaid to pick up the tab.

Intercept Youth Services is one of those operators who Arlington DHS has used to accomplish this fraudulent deed.   In an incriminating interview with the Chesterfield Observer Mark Bogart, the owner and executive director of Intercept boasted about using this money shifting strategy:

“We haven’t been in the news because we are good operators and keep a low profile,” said Mark Bogert, owner and executive director of Intercept. “We strategically locate to have low impact on neighbors. We avoid locating in bad neighborhoods with bad schools for the sake of the kids and the Commonwealth.”

….Funding for group homes comes from local, state and federal governments. “When we pioneered a federal program that bills Medicaid, we saved the Commonwealth millions of dollars,” explained Bogert. He declined to give further financial information.

Arlington DHS, stop the Medicaid fraud and stop victimizing our kids and their families.

Read more: