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CPS home removals decrease; critics question accountability...

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Old August 3rd 07, 06:19 AM posted to alt.support.child-protective-services,alt.support.foster-parents,alt.dads-rights.unmoderated,alt.parenting.spanking
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Default CPS home removals decrease; critics question accountability...

CPS home removals decrease; critics question accountability


Dallas County agency counsels, steers parents to counseling

10:57 PM CDT on Thursday, August 2, 2007

By MICHAEL GRABELL / The Dallas Morning News

The number of abused and neglected children removed from their homes is
down almost 50 percent in Dallas County from the first half of last year
as Child Protective Services places more children with relatives and
steers their parents to counseling.

CPS officials said the shift to assign more cases to Family Based Safety
Services such as drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling
and parenting classes will help prevent abuse and neglect by
addressing a family's underlying problems before a child gets hurt.

But even Dallas family court judges and child safety advocates who agree
that the changes might save lives said they worry that social workers
will be too busy to give the families the attention they need.

"The only risk that you have right now that scares me quite frankly is
that the Family Based Safety caseloads are out of control," said
Madeline McClure, who runs TexProtects, a Dallas advocacy group for
abused and neglected children.

"These families need intensive monitoring and intensive services, so if
we don't add enough FBSS workers, we're leaving some of these kids in
risky situations."

For an agency with a recent record of not responding to warning signs of
abuse, deaths in foster care and children sleeping in offices because of
a foster home shortage, it's not surprising to find critics.

On the surface, leaving children in homes where investigators have found
neglect or leaving them with the relatives of an abusive parent doesn't
seem like the safest approach.

But CPS officials said recent measures passed by the Legislature have
allowed them to reduce investigator caseloads (from an average of 44 a
day to 26), spend more time with families and find better ways to deal
with less-serious neglect cases, such as when a briefly unsupervised
child wanders away from home, which often led to removal.

In the past, investigators were so swamped that they often just removed
a child for fear that something would happen before their next visit,
CPS officials said.

"When you're an investigator and you're going from family to family to
family ... you don't have time to really figure out what's going on in
that family, so you might just remove," said Colleen McCall, state field
director for CPS.

CPS will still remove a child in cases of abuse or severe neglect. But
the vast majority of cases about 71 percent involve neglectful
supervision or situations in which parents fail to provide enough food
or take a child to a doctor, according to agency statistics. Many of
those cases are now being referred to Family Based Safety Services.

Officials acknowledged that it's too early to know whether the program
will be successful. Even though CPS is removing fewer children, the
number of abuse and neglect reports remains high.

"There's no silver bullet where you can say if you do this, no child
will ever die," CPS spokesman Darrell Azar said. "You can only find ways
to make children safer, and we think these changes and this focus on
family services will be a positive improvement."

Although Family Based Safety Services isn't new, it is being used much
more than in the past.

CPS officials said they have always thought preserving families and
involving parents in decisions is the best philosophy. But they said the
agency was too short-staffed to devote the time needed to pursue that

A Family Based Safety Services caseworker will often begin with a
"family team conference" to encourage relatives, friends and others with
influence over the parents to come up with solutions rather than having
a caseworker make decisions for them.

CPS might consider whether factors such as poverty, drug and alcohol
abuse, or a family's cultural background contributed to the neglect. A
caseworker might then talk to the parents about managing their money,
personal relationships or sexual behavior and try to hook them up with
programs in the community that can help them resolve their issues.

In these cases, CPS will get the parents to voluntarily place a child
with a close relative while they get help. A CPS caseworker would then
meet with the family several times a month, whereas caseworkers
typically visit foster homes about once a month.

The idea is to keep the children's lives stable by allowing them to stay
connected to positive influences such as relatives, church and school.

"Children do thrive better in their normal environment," said Ms.
McClure of TexProtects, who is also chairwoman of the Dallas County
child welfare board. "The last thing you want to do is remove them from
the only family they've known. That is highly disruptive and sometimes
can be more traumatic than the neglect that warranted the removal to
begin with."

In the past, caseworkers would often bring in social services and hold
family meetings after taking the family to court to get the kids
removed. The thought was that parents would change their behavior to get
their kids back.

But the remove-first, solve-problems-later approach didn't always work.

Parents were reluctant to work with CPS after the agency set up an
adversarial relationship by taking away their children, said Ms. McCall,
the state field director.

Now, CPS wants to strike while the iron is hot.

"When you're in a crisis situation, you're much more likely to change,
when you have to think, 'OK, I'm close to having my children removed,' "
Ms. McCall said.

But family court judges said they're concerned that the voluntary
agreements between caseworkers and parents don't have any teeth. Family
Based Safety Services agreements don't come with court orders, meaning
CPS doesn't have custody.

"Who monitors if they're attending their drug counseling or batterers
intervention program?" asked Dallas family court Judge Lynn Cherry, who
represented children as a guardian ad litem before becoming a judge.

The same question was asked in Tyler last week after 4-year-old Jose
Aguilar was killed in a drunken-driving crash with his stepfather. His
parents were assigned to Family Based Safety Services after previous
neglect reports.

Under a CPS safety plan, Jose was left in his mother's care. His
stepfather wasn't supposed to be left alone with the children. But those
conditions were ignored.

"These cases are being referred to FBSS, who is short-staffed, and they
have nothing to prevent the drug-addicted and mentally ill parents from
getting their kids," said Judge Carole Clark, a state district judge in

Officials there are now backing up the informal safety plans with court
orders whenever cases involve a child under 3 in a home with drug and
alcohol abuse.

Ms. McCall of CPS said the agency tries to ensure that Family Based
Safety Services can watch the families by intentionally keeping their
caseloads lower than those of other CPS caseworkers.

According to the most current figures, those caseloads average 20.8 at
any given time. Ms. McClure of TexProtects said federal guidelines call
for 15.

But help is on the way.

CPS will hire an additional 188 employees to work in Family Based Safety
Services and 86 to run family group meetings as a result of budget
measures passed by the Legislature this year.

And CPS plans to expand resources, such as financial assistance, job
training, GED classes and training for parents on how to keep their
house clean, prepare meals and care for a baby.

It's unknown if any of these changes could have prevented the killings
of three children in North Texas foster homes in the past two years.
Those children were removed from their homes because of neglect and
drugs, only to be beaten to death in foster care.

In December, Katherine Frances, 6, was killed by being body-slammed
repeatedly by her DeSoto foster brother. She had been removed from her
mother after being left alone without electricity and with little food.
Her mother said there was a mix-up over who was supposed to be watching
the children.

"I don't know all the details," Ms. McClure said. "But I do know in
Katherine Frances' case, the FBSS services that are now coming online
may have prevented a removal and potentially the death of that young girl."


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




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