Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cash for Kids

Over the course of the past three years, I have had numerous talks with my friends, relatives, and co-workers (not necessarily mutually exclusive) and have heard some fairly profound stories about just how badly the system is broken.

The intent of the Federal Adoption Incentive was to spur CPS and the Family Court system into finding "forever homes" for children who had been lingering in the system for years.

Unfortunately, there is a reason these children had been held in limbo, unadopted. Many of them had physical or developmental issues that would be difficult to manage. Others had been subjected to severe levels of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse that would require intensive treatment over a period of years.

To draw an analogy - most people would prefer a brand new puppy to a dog from the local animal shelter, and the mentality about adopting a child isn't much different.

People who are looking to adopt want a baby they can "raise from scratch", or a child who hasn't been subjected to the ordeals of actual abuse. But those didn't exist in the foster care system - so CPS had to find a way to generate such a marketable commodity.

With the rise of private adoptions, in which pregnant women could broker deals for the unwanted child they were carrying, CPS needed to find another source of babies and children to supply the adoption demand, and to start generating quotas to earn their state the bonuses under the Federal Adoption Incentive.

That meant that they needed to start seizing children who were "marketable", so CPS found a new target. They began to go after people on "neglect" charges - and they came up with a new description to broaden their search - "derivative neglect".  

In the eyes of CPS, parents are neglectful if they miss a doctor's appointment (even if they immediately reschedule), if their child misses too much school (even when there is documented illness and the parent coordinates with school and keeps their child up to date on work), if their child isn't dressed according to the standards of the social worker (regardless of whether the child's clothing meets "community standards" - what is considered acceptable to most of society), or if the parents aren't feeding a diet deemed acceptable by the social worker. All of it is entirely subjective, and gives caseworkers wide latitude to charge a parent wrongfully, setting in motion a seizure of their children.

Derivative neglect is even more interesting as a concept. It basically means that a parent can be charged for anything that may have happened to a child, even if they were not present, were not informed about it, and the child never told them or demonstrated any signs that anything occurred. Under this standard - each and every one of us could be deemed guilty of derivative neglect for the Boston Marathon bombing, or the Twin Towers - that is how broad the standard is and how non-existent a burden of proof is required.

And this is how CPS has been able to make their own niche in the Cash for Kids market - they find families with minor amounts of discord and assess for how "marketable" the children are, then proceed accordingly. The Family Court judges buy into this corruption because they receive funding based on case load and disposition, not the merits of the case. There is no incentive to adjudicate fairly - after all, once a family has been logged into the CPS system they become "fair game" for future action.

People worry about the NSA and other agencies maintaining a database - however there is a much more insidious database being maintained by a specific government agency - the CPS and Family Court System. Any individual who has ever been a "party" in Family Court or in any Child Support action, has now been entered into the CPS database. This includes not only the adults, but also the "subject" children. This is in addition to the records maintained on any and every report ever called in to CPS - whether "founded", "indicated", or "unfounded".

Foster children, victims of false reports, parents who have fully completed and complied with "service plans" (and learned and changed their behaviors as a result), are all fair game for the pickings. They have become a "fertile field" for CPS to harvest adoptable children.

And meanwhile, the situation that the Federal Adoption Incentive was designed to correct continues - with repercussions. Now only the most severely obvious cases of abuse are acted upon - and often those are the only families that are reunified. The system is bogged down with cases of "neglect" and "derivative neglect" that are fast-tracked into TPR (termination of parental rights) and adoption, rather than the reunification that should occur with these mild or even non-existent charges.

Meanwhile, foster parents looking to adopt the "high needs" children are put on the back burner - their cases are dragged out with repetitive paperwork and unnecessary delays - while children from intact families are fast-tracked into removal from their parents and placement for adoption.

I have spoken to two separate adoptive parents who refuse to work with our local CPS system any more after their experiences in foster-to-adoption. Both parents are mandated reporters who have been trained in the recognition and reporting of child abuse, and who have no doubts that the children they fostered and then adopted had been actually abused. Yet they faced what they characterized as a "lack of support" for ensuring that the needs of the children in their care were met. This would be expected - the needs of a genuinely abused child would require spending money long-term and would erode the CPS profit margin on the funds they receive from multiple sources.

Additionally, one of the adoptive parents was subjected to extortion attempts from the extended family of the children they were adopting. The family had absolutely NO interest in taking the two children, but upon learning of the employment status of the foster family adopting the children, they began making direct contact with the foster family requesting payments for them to sign off on the adoption quickly.

In conversations with several teachers, I learned about multiple cases that had been "hotlined" in which children made allegations against a parent, with more than sufficient evidence to back up the allegations. Yet not only weren't the children removed from the homes, nothing was done to address the abuse. In one instance a sexually abused child (one of several in the home) finally attacked the abusive parent with a hammer and was sent to a juvenile facility.

We even have a local county legislator who was showed up on CPS radar after his child and other kids got into a "very active" game of street hockey that left marks. Despite the evidence presented by all of the children involved, it took months before the legislator was given a "clean slate".

The common factor when children are seized? No evidence of abuse, often no evidence of neglect, and characteristics in the children that would make them "adoptable" - no disabilities or other issues that would render them undesirable. Even in our own case they tried to fast-track Ruby into adoption - within four months Ruby's father was told that she was going to be adopted out "soon", despite family members who wanted to take her. (It kind of makes you wonder who would be in the market for an intelligent, beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who at age 14 could pass for 17 or older.) 

The system is irreparably broken. It is merely a cover for the illegal seizure and sale of children and youth, as well as a source of revenue generation and career preservation.

It is time to stand up, speak out, and expose CPS!

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