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Child welfare system needs dose of sanity By RICHARD WEXLER
Child welfare system needs dose of sanity
By RICHARD WEXLER Special to the Times
Published July 19, 2007
Fixing a child welfare system isn't that hard. Just listen to your gut
instinct - and do the opposite.
Gut instinct says: Caseworkers in Florida sent Courtney Clark and Kenia
Valencia back to dangerous homes despite plenty of red flags, therefore,
there must be some kind of fanatical desire to keep families together.
So the solution must be to take away even more children and keep them
trapped in foster care.
But that's exactly how Florida has been responding to child abuse
tragedies for nearly a decade. All it's done is make children less safe.
That's because the real reason children known-to-the-system sometimes
die is almost always because caseworkers are desperately overwhelmed.
What's overwhelming them is all the cases in which children never should
have been taken from their parents in the first place.
In the Courtney Clark case, workers never had time to verify claims by a
mother who, if charges are true, is an accomplished con artist. And
workers repeatedly ignored pleas from relatives who gladly would have
cared for Courtney - hardly what one would expect from agencies
hell-bent on keeping families together.
Similarly, in the case of Kenia Valencia, the children were doing fine
with their aunt. Then the aunt said she was too overwhelmed to care for
them. No one provided the help the aunt needed to continue caring for
the children - again, not behavior suggesting a bias toward families.
Rather, this is evidence of workers too busy to make good decisions.
What keeps workers so busy:
- Cases like the six children of Wanda Daniels of Fort Myers, the oldest
age 13. They were torn from their mother for a year because one day she
left them home alone - to go to work.
- Cases like the child of Krinna Patel, a woman from India visiting
friends in Tampa when she gave birth. The child was confiscated at birth
and held for days solely because caseworkers mistakenly thought the
mother lacked housing and employment - no reason to take a child even
were it true.
Cases like these are far more common than the horror stories that,
rightly, make headlines.
It's not just that these children were needlessly kept from everyone
loving and familiar, in itself a trauma far more severe than anything
suffered in their parents' care. It's not just that a huge new study
finds that, on average, children left with birth parents do better than
comparably maltreated children placed in foster care. It's not just that
another study found only one in five foster-care alumni does well as a
young adult. It's not just that a Florida study found even children born
with cocaine in their systems did better left with mothers able to care
for them than they did in foster care. It's not just that other studies
suggest foster children probably face a one-in-three risk of abuse in
foster care itself, a figure far higher than official estimates.
The worst tragedy is that these cases are stealing precious time from
caseworkers, time that should be used to rescue children in real danger.
So more such children are missed.
If now there is another foster-care panic - a sudden surge in removals
by workers terrified of having the next tragedy on their caseloads - it
will overwhelm workers even more, making that next tragedy even more likely.
Florida has been down that road before.
In 1999, when she was named to run the Department of Children and
Families, Kathleen Kearney believed the agency did too much to keep
families together. That year, the number of children taken from their
parents soared 50 percent.
Though Kearney is long gone, statewide, removals of children remain at
that obscene level. But instead of making children safer, deaths of
children "known-to-the-system" have soared. Overall re-abuse of children
increased 50 percent.
As the system decentralizes under privatization, some districts have
learned from these mistakes. The Miami district takes, proportionately,
the fewest children and has, by far, the best record for keeping
In contrast, even before recent tragedies put more pressure on workers
to take the child and run, the Suncoast Region was taking children at a
rate above the state average, and more than double the rate in Miami.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and
expecting a different result. For a lot of children, their futures,
maybe their lives, depend on a saner response to recent tragedies.
Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child
Protection Reform. NCCPR's reports on Florida child welfare are
available at www.nccpr.org.
CURRENTLY CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES VIOLATES MORE CIVIL RIGHTS ON A
DAILY BASIS THEN ALL OTHER AGENCIES COMBINED INCLUDING THE NSA / CIA
CPS Does not protect children...
It is sickening how many children are subject to abuse, neglect and even
killed at the hands of Child Protective Services.
every parent should read this .pdf from
connecticut dcf watch...
Number of Cases per 100,000 children in the US
These numbers come from The National Center on
Child Abuse and Neglect in Washington. (NCCAN)
Recent numbers have increased significantly for CPS
*Perpetrators of Maltreatment*
Physical Abuse CPS 160, Parents 59
Sexual Abuse CPS 112, Parents 13
Neglect CPS 410, Parents 241
Medical Neglect CPS 14 Parents 12
Fatalities CPS 6.4, Parents 1.5
CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES, HAPPILY DESTROYING HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT
FAMILIES YEARLY NATIONWIDE AND COMING TO YOU'RE HOME SOON...
BE SURE TO FIND OUT WHERE YOUR CANDIDATES STANDS ON THE ISSUE OF
REFORMING OR ABOLISHING CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES ("MAKE YOUR CANDIDATES
TAKE A STAND ON THIS ISSUE.") THEN REMEMBER TO VOTE ACCORDINGLY IF THEY
ARE "FAMILY UNFRIENDLY" IN THE NEXT ELECTION...
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