July 26, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The shenanigans of child welfare agencies are amazing to behold. The run of the mill type consists of the everyday incompetence that leads child welfare workers to alternately ignore the plight of children in horrifying and dangerous family situations or swoop in and take children from perfectly fit parents. It’s pretty much a daily occurrence to read of a child, who’s known to authorities to be in danger, who’s been seen in the hospital for injuries that look like abuse or for malnutrition or any of countless other problems. All too often, that child ends up dead or seriously injured.
Then there’s the flip-side of CPS incompetence – the child who’s in perfectly good parental hands who’s nevertheless whisked away by CPS into foster care. Remember the case of the perfectly attentive mother who was sitting on her porch watching her child play at the end of a cul-de-sac where she lived? A neighbor decided there was something wrong with that and the police and CPS took the woman to jail and the child into care. Was the child harmed in any way? No. Was the mother neglectful in any way? No. Based literally on nothing, both mother and child were traumatized by police and CPS.
As I said, that’s just the usual meat-and-potatoes of bureaucratic incompetence on the part of CPS workers. But there’s more, much more. All too often, child welfare agencies move out of the realm of doing their job – whether competently or not – and into seamier activities. CPS wields enormous power. All adults with children are aware of that power and, if they’re sensible, dread it. The power to take children from parents on any pretext, no matter how slight is awesome and frightening.
So we see the Maryanne Godboldo case in Detroit and the Anna Nikolayev case in Sacramento. In both, CPS acted as the cat’s paw for medical providers, intervening to second-guess medical decisions by parents and force unneeded medical care on helpless children. Both resulted in much-deserved lawsuits against CPS that we can only hope the parents win.
But it gets worse. CPS power has its ideological dimension too. Back in 2006, the Urban Institute released its study of child welfare agencies’ behaviors in placing children after they’ve been taken from their mothers due to abuse or neglect. The report, called “What About the Dads?” revealed that CPS workers go to considerable lengths to make sure fathers aren’t included in the lives of their children. In over half the cases, no effort was made to contact fathers as possible placement alternatives for children despite the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, the caseworkers knew the dad’s identity and where to find him. It’s a remarkable fact given that placing children with their fathers is essentially free to the taxpayer whereas placing them in foster care is expensive indeed. Three years ago I wrote up the case of a Colorado man, whom Arizona CPS refused to contact despite knowing his ex was a danger to his child. Sure enough, she killed the child who would have been safe with her father.
Then there are the CPS agencies that are so bureaucratically dysfunctional as to be all but useless. The child welfare agency of Richmond, Virginia is one such. Incompetent management meant incompetent and uncaring caseworkers. A whopping 34% of case files simply couldn’t be found. And then of course there was the problem we see almost everywhere of caseworkers attempting to handle twice the case loads recommended by industry standards.
And it gets worse still. The role of child welfare agencies in trafficking children into adoptive care is a scandal that’s simmering just below the surface. The fact is that the federal government pays states for every child adopted out of foster care. Unsurprisingly, that financial incentive goads CPS to channel as many children as possible into foster care. The Supreme Court of Idaho said as much in reversing the adoption of a Hispanic child whose mother had had her parental rights terminated and her father had been deported. And when the State of South Dakota learned that the bounty on foster kids deemed to have “special needs” was twice that of other kids in foster care, guess how the state classified every single native American child in the state? That’s right, they’re all special needs children, so when they’re adopted out of foster care, the state really cashes in.
Which brings us to the case of Arizona State Senator Rick Murphy (AZ Capital Times, 7/24/13). It’s beginning to look like CPS has a political vendetta against Murphy and they’re using his four adopted daughters as the whip to thrash him with.
Murphy has long been an outspoken critic of CPS and that may not have sat well with the state agency. Now, back in February, 2011, a former foster child of Murphy and his wife leveled charges of sexual abuse at Murphy. The case was investigated by police and found to be without merit. Basically, the teenager’s story was riddled with inconsistencies and was itself inconsistent with the facts as related by other children in the family. Case closed.
But back in June, another former foster child of the Murphys, now 18, claimed that Murphy had sexually abused him six years ago. Again the matter was investigated by police who, based on a number of factors, not least of which was the boy’s recantation of his claim, again closed the case as unfounded.
So, all’s well that ends well, right? Hardly. Despite there being no evidence of sexual misconduct by Murphy, no open file on the case, no charges against him and abundant evidence of his innocence, CPS still has his four adopted daughters and is in the process of attempting to terminate his parental rights. That’s doubly strange given the fact that the boy’s allegation was leveled on June 22nd, on which date the four girls were taken from the home. But on June 27th, they were returned and they remained with the Murphys until July 17th when they were taken again into foster care.
What had happened between June 27th and July 17th to warrant pulling the girls out of Murphy’s home? Not a thing.
Murphy issued a lengthy written statement through his attorney Wednesday afternoon denouncing CPS’s actions since removing his daughters and beginning a dependency proceeding, used to determine if the girls should be permanently removed from the Murphy’s care.
Murphy wrote that CPS failed to give sufficient explanation for why they decided to remove the girls beyond citing an “ongoing investigation” and have since failed to release any information on when their dependency hearing is to be held.
A dependency hearing is scheduled for this week, according to the police report.
CPS also failed to attempt to place his daughters with another family, and instead immediately sought to place them in a group home, Murphy wrote.
The senator claimed CPS took his daughters “to retaliate for the fact that the girls refused to be interviewed, as is their right.”
“CPS may be trying to coerce them into saying what CPS wants them to say. It is also possible that they simply are retaliating as much as they believe circumstances allow for Sen. Murphy’s past criticism of CPS and its lack of public accountability,” Murphy wrote…
It’s too early to tell just what’s going on in this case, but early returns suggest an agency that saw its opportunity to retaliate against a public critic of CPS and jumped at it. That Murphy is a public figure who must stand for re-election is a fact surely lost on no one. The facts aren’t yet all in, so no firm conclusions can be drawn, but right now, this one has the distinct odor of a smear campaign.
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