May 3, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I often comment on child protective agencies being underfunded and understaffed, resulting in poor casework. This is not one of those times. No, this story isn’t about a tragic lack of resources resulting in abused children (Coeur d’Alene Press, 5/1/18). It’s about the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare apparently having all the resources it needed and still abusing three children and their entirely fit father.
Did Doug Bressie make a mistake? He did. His mistake was in trying to get caseworkers to treat his youngest child, Oscar, respectfully. Doing so looks to have put a target on Bressie’s back. He spent the next four years learning the awesome power wielded by child welfare agencies. Theirs is the power to take children from parents, one that every parent dreads.
But targeting, Bressie said, began earlier, after an incident at school when caseworker Stacy White accused Bressie of spanking Oscar, who was then a 7-year-old. She made the boy pull down his pants as she photographed his buttock without dad’s consent. The case fizzled because her photographs were lost, but not before Bressie confronted White and her agency.
“Oscar came home and was very embarrassed that this had happened to him at school,” Bressie wrote in an affidavit. “I was upset my children were spoken to without my knowledge. I was angrier when I found out photographs were taken of my son’s naked body by a stranger … This was highly inappropriate.”
For seemingly no reason at all, the Department took his three children into foster care, tried to railroad Bressie into admitting some form of wrongdoing, lied to him, lied to numerous courts and ignored the fact that his oldest child, Dusty, was in the care of foster parents who were unequipped to properly care for her diabetic condition. That lasted an astonishing four years, during which time the agency produced precisely no evidence of child abuse or neglect by Bressie.
[F]ormerly sealed court records show that for more than four years, between 2008 and 2013, the agency prohibited the Bressie family from reuniting while caseworkers hid exculpatory evidence from judges, repeatedly bullied Bressie, subjected him to irrelevant tests and evaluations, and cycled his children through foster homes in the Panhandle…
Child protective services illegally kept the family apart, attorneys for the family said, without due process, or any evidence the actions were warranted, for a period that far exceeded timeframes set by state law.
State caseworkers kept evidence from judges and pushed to break up the family without ever showing the court why dissolution was warranted, according to court records.
Meanwhile, 11 separate state judges simply lapped up caseworkers’ perjured testimony like cats with warm milk.
Caseworkers charged Bressie with being an unfit father. They testified before 11 Kootenai County judges over an eight-year period that Bressie was transient, sexually abusive and jobless, although he ran his own plumbing business, had two homes, and had never been charged with sexual misconduct.
Most of the judges didn’t question the state, instead rubber-stamping demands that the family remain apart and Bressie be subject to evaluations, counseling and strictures set up by child protective services, court records show.
And, just for good measure, they required him to jump through so many hoops his lawyer wondered how he remained employed.
He failed to comply, caseworkers testified, with the many plans the agency set as roadblocks to the reunification of a family that was knit tightly as boiled wool since Bressie’s wife abandoned them years earlier.
“I did everything they wanted me to do,” Bressie said. “It was maddening.”…
“I was so busy talking to counselors, peeing in a cup, and doing whatever they asked, and nothing was changing,” Bressie said. “I never got to see my kids.”
While other parents with kids in foster care got to see them frequently and without supervision, Bressie remained a marked man.
As other families under the child protective services authority had regular visits, including during holidays such as Christmas, Bressie was barred from spending time with his children without supervision, while the agency attempted to coerce him into admitting wrongdoing, he said.
“I wasn’t allowed to take my kids anywhere, the whole time,” he said.
Once in two years, the agency allowed him to visit his children in a park, he said.
Keep in mind that, for almost all of those four years, caseworkers knew Bressie was fit to care for his kids. He’d been doing so perfectly well for years since their mother abandoned the family. So all of the vitriol they directed at him, all the tests and evaluations, the refusal to allow him to see his children, the abuse and neglect the children experienced in foster care, the lies, the perjury – all of it – was understood by the Department to be completely unnecessary. Caseworkers seem to have done all of it purely out of spite, purely because a fit father dared to question their behavior.
And of course they did it because they knew they could. They knew the power they exercise, they know judges aren’t curious to know if they’re telling the truth and like so many state agencies, with power like that, it’s not unusual to see it misused.
Finally Bressie hired two lawyers who eventually were able to put a stop to the abuse of state power and the abuse of children, and the abuse of a system that’s supposedly in place to protect children and reunite families where possible.
That was almost six years ago. Having secured the return of his kids, Bressie wisely turned the tables on the Department that had wronged him and his children. That resulted in a civil verdict in his favor that was signed last December by Judge John Stegner in the entirely insufficient amount of $350,000.
In December, Judge John Stegner, a Second District judge ruling in First District Court, found in Bressie’s favor, indicating the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Child Protective Services had turned its back on its compact with Idaho citizens by illegally removing Bressie’s children from his care and placing them in foster homes, preventing the dad from visiting the children — a traumatic situation that resulted in suicide attempts by two siblings — and splitting up a once-stable family.
Bressie will see little of that money. Most of it will go to his lawyers and to pay for the expert witnesses he had to hire to wrest his children back from a malicious and unfit state agency.
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