Sacramento County, California ‘s Child Protective Services hired a fox to guard the henhouse. In the latest of a string of errors by the county’s CPS, it hired Blancho Brumfield to investigate the most egregious cases of child abuse. The problem with that? Brumfield is herself a child abuser. Until September, 2007, she and her husband had been licensed by the state’s Department of Social Services to operate a foster home for up to six children at a time. But in September, 2007, Brumfield’s license was revoked by DSS because of her abuse of the children in her “care.” Read about it here (Sacramento Bee, 4/25/12).
In fact, Sacramento County CPS hired Brumfield four months after DHHS started its investigation of charges of abuse against her in May of 2004. DSS says it notified CPS of the investigation, but never told it the results. Apparently CPS didn’t ask.
By 2006, the state and Brumfield had been sued by one of the mothers of the children in her care because of Brumfield’s abuse. In addition, DSS filed a formal complaint against Brumfield for her behavior as a foster parent.
The state Department of Social Services filed a complaint in 2006 leveling several accusations about the couple. Among them:That complaint was settled, with the provision that Brumfield lose her license to care for foster children.
• The Brumfields verbally abused foster children, including calling one child “faggot” and “queer.”
• The Brumfields encouraged foster children to fight one another, and allowed a child who visited the home to physically and verbally abuse foster children.
• Blancho Brumfield locked foster children in her garage, which did not have air conditioning or heating.
However, the department made an exception for Blancho Brumfield to allow her to work with people in state-licensed facilities “in the course of her employment with and under the supervision of the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services Child Protective Services agency,” according to a copy of the agreement.So, amazingly enough, Sacramento DHHS signed off on a deal with a known child abuser that specifically allowed her to continue working for CPS investigating child abuse cases. In other words, the department knew exactly what was going on and signed a document allowing it to continue.
As to the lawsuit, it too was settled, and Brumfield still kept her job.
Kristin McAllister has a son who she alleges was abused during the years he lived in Brumfield’s foster home. CPS did the investigation that resulted in McAllister’s son being removed from her care, following allegations of abuse that she said were untrue. In 2006, McAllister filed a lawsuit on her son’s behalf against Brumfield, CPS and others. The suit was settled in 2010 for an undisclosed amount.Serious as the Brumfield case is by itself, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CPS in California. For example, the last we heard from CPS in Los Angeles County, it was refusing to divulge any information to the state Ombudsman about some 70 cases of children who died at the hands of caregivers who’d been brought to the attention of CPS.
McAllister said she was “sickened and infuriated” to learn that Brumfield was still employed at CPS earlier this year, when an acquaintance told her about a case that was handled by the social worker.
And it was only in 2009 that Sacramento County CPS changed its policy of hiring criminals as caseworkers. That change came about as a result of Bee articles revealing the presence of some 68 people with criminal records on the CPS payroll.
The probe into Brumfield’s background is the latest in a string of disclosures about Sacramento County’s child welfare agency. In recent months, it has come to light that CPS failed to keep track of a baby boy who now has been missing for a year and that the agency did not properly document its reasons for returning a baby girl to the home of her parents, where she later died of medical neglect.Again? They’ve been happening all along. The reason is that CPS in many states operates as a kind of medieval fiefdom, answerable to no one but itself. That’s why parents so fear the agency; they know full well that they can lose their children at least for a while at the whim of a caseworker and based on little-to-no evidence of neglect or abuse. How could that be the case if there were real accountability within CPS?
Bill Grimm, senior counsel at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, sees a troubling pattern.
“The agency needs to be put back under the microscope,” he said. “People need to ask why these things are happening again.”
The attitude of CPS bureaucrats was caught nicely by one of their own in Arizona who wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Republic last year. As usual, the Arizona child welfare agency was under the gun for allowing yet another child to die even though caseworkers knew about its abuse. But to the experienced manager writing the op-ed, it was the agency and its caseworkers who were the victims. The piece was a virtual hymn to passing the buck. The point being, it looks like there’s a culture within CPS, a kind of defensive, bunker mentality in which those inside the walls bear no responsibility for anything that goes wrong and those outside are the enemy.
So why not hire criminals? Why not hire child abusers? If CPS can do no wrong, then those practices can’t be wrong. And if someone complains, they’re the enemy. When the Sacramento Bee complains, sometimes it spurs change, because CPS has little with which to retaliate with against the media. But woe betide the parent who complains. To do so is to place oneself squarely in the crosshairs of CPS, where no parent wants to be.