May 4, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare put a target on Doug Bressie’s back. When caseworker Stacy White allegedly abused his younger child, Oscar, who was then just eight, Bressie fought back, criticizing White’s behavior. Apparently, White didn’t like that. When his oldest child, Dusty, had to go to the hospital for a viral infection, amazingly, White showed up.
“I was horrified,” Bressie wrote in an affidavit. “White absolutely gloated when she walked into the room. I remember thinking … she must be enjoying herself.”
What Bressie described was the face of every petty tyrant in history. White had, I suspect, been bent on revenge against Bressie since the incident with Oscar. With Dusty in the hospital, she saw her chance and she wasn’t about to let it slip away. When it turned out that Dusty was diabetic and suffered from a seizure disorder, White pounced. Bressie’d been told by doctors that her seizures could be life-threatening and required immediate attention. So Bressie had the girl sleep in his bed so he could be aware the instant her body went rigid with a seizure.
That seemed to please White. She immediately claimed Bressie was sexually abusing his daughter. Of course, she had no evidence of abuse and Dusty was then 11 years old, i.e. old enough to describe her father’s behavior. But apparently, White and Idaho DHW cared little for facts.
Then and there, at the hospital, Bressie was forcibly removed from the premises. He wasn’t permitted to say good-bye to his children or try to explain what would happen. The children would spend the next four years in foster care. (By then of course, Dusty was 15, but never alleged any sort of impropriety on her father’s part.)
Indeed, the state never produced any evidence of any form of abuse or neglect by Bressie, but it kept his kids in foster care anyway.
As outrage piled on top of outrage, the state finally moved to terminate Bressie’s parental rights. It did so in a hearing from which he was barred. Perhaps the key piece of “evidence” used against him was his refusal to admit the wrongdoing of which the Department had accused him. Never mind that caseworkers had no evidence of abuse or neglect or any personality defect in Bressie at all. Never mind that he invariably complied with all agency demands. They’d accused him and his refusal to fall on his sword meant, to them, that he was guilty of whatever they’d charged him with.
Magistrate Judge Penny Friedlander, after listening to testimony from the state at a December 2009 hearing in Coeur d’Alene — that did not include Bressie or his children, even though they asked to attend — opted to move to terminate the father’s rights…
Buying into unconfirmed allegations by the state of Bressie’s abuse, Friedlander made the father’s denial a cornerstone of her decision to terminate his rights.
“There has been a lack of compliance,” Friedlander said. She cited allegations of a personality disorder that the state proffered. “(They) go hand-in-hand with (the father) denying any history of abuse.”
Franz Kafka would only smile and nod.
So how did the children’s lives improve in foster care? After all, since White and the Department had decided they needed the protection of foster care, how did their foster parents perform?
The agency failed to place the siblings together, a provision of its standards, and it violated another standard that required ensuring the children’s well-being…
“I hated my wanna-be home,” Dusty Bressie, who now attends college in North Dakota, said recently. “By the time I was 12, I wanted revenge. I wanted to be around my brothers, my father, my pets, my family. The thing I wanted most was my life (back). I went to bed every night not praying to God ... But begging (to be reunited).”…
Six times in 2008, as Dusty suffered from a lack of care, and was twice hospitalized for her diabetes, the state failed to address unmet physical needs, Busch wrote.
Nine similar incidents were documented in 2009.
“On or about Nov. 3, 2009, (Dusty had a new foster placement as of 10/31/09) concern was expressed about Dusty’s care, potential coma. The state failed to address Dusty’s physical needs,” according to Busch’s report.
The agency also failed Oscar, who expressed a desire to harm himself, and following a suicide attempt in January 2009, continued to show a desire to harm himself.
“Incident reports increase to almost daily,” Busch wrote. “The state failed to address Oscar’s mental or physical health needs.”
The report pinpoints sexual abuse or neglect by a foster family. Barb Kingen was accused of locking the children in a garage, putting soap in their mouths, or not giving them food as punishment. The issues were not resolved, according to Busch, despite depositions by two case workers who questioned Kingen’s ability to care for foster children.
“There is no indication the state took any action … after these complaints,” Busch wrote in a detailed, 17-page report.
In other words, the state took three children from a perfectly fit, capable and loving father, separated them and sent them to live with foster parents who were by turns abusive and incompetent to care for the children’s medical needs. They also fed Dusty food that was inappropriate for her diabetic condition and fed Oscar very little at all. All the while the kids were, of course, placed on psychotropic medication that was never needed before their time in foster care or after.
Plus, the Department violated its own standards, state standards and federal standards for how to deal with abused or neglected kids. First, they separated the three children into three separate foster homes. That violated the Department’s own rules. Then it made no effort at reunification, also a violation. And finally, it kept the children apart and apart from their father for four years, far longer than state and federal rules stipulate.
Children tend to do worse in foster care than in parental care, even when their parents are marginally abusive. Under the Bressie kids’ circumstances of course they did far, far worse. Bressie is a good father; the children’s lives in foster care were terrible. That’s how the Department responded to a single instance in which a concerned and rightly indignant father had the nerve to criticize one caseworker’s high-handed treatment of his eight-year-old son.
“They were just never going to admit they were going down the wrong road,” said James Hannon, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who, with [Attorney April] Linscott, represented Bressie in the final stages of his case. “The truth had no place in this.”
Linscott’s assessment is more blunt.
“Their main argument was, we’re the state, so we win,” she said.
And what of Stacy White, the caseworker who first abused Oscar and then gloated over her power to destroy Bressie’s family? She’s been promoted to “the regional supervisor of child protective services for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Panhandle district.”
White looks to have always known she could do anything she wanted toward Bressie and his kids and fear no repercussions. If so, she was right. And of course any other caseworker looking on and seeing her promotion can’t help but conclude the same thing.
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