OUT OF CONTROL, WHO'S WATCHING CHILD PROTECTION AGENCIES? Author Brenda Scott. AZ News + Cases. 1 The System in Action 2 CPS Brief History 3 The Numbers Game 4 This Thing Called Abuse 5 The Specter of Sexual Abuse 6 State-Sponsored Sexual Abuse 7 The Foster Care Nightmare 8 Tampered Witness 9 Undue Process 10 Trial by Jury 11 Wards of the State 12 Call for Change 13 The Best Defense, Notes + Refs
Sept 2012. Arizona ADES/CPS has discovered a "computer glitch" that kept public records from parents, lawyers and others for more than 15 years, a malfunction that could have led to children being wrongly removed and prevented caregivers from supporting civil claims against the state. azcentral.com/news/articles/20120914arizona-cps-computer-glitch-hid-files-years.html?nclick_check=1
Time for a new approach to protecting children? Oct 2011. On Saturday, I wrote about the many times over the years that Child Protective Services has been reformed, only to see the same old result.
After a decade's worth of reforms, we now have a record number of children in state custody, an overflowing foster care system, an astonishing number of open CPS investigations...And more bodies washing into public view.
I called Richard Wexler this week. Wexler has long decried Arizona's approach to child welfare -- what he terms the "Foster Care Panic".
He runs the Virginia-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, basically a one-man operation overseen by a board of directors. He's a former journalist, a guy who got interested in child welfare 35 years ago while doing a story on foster care.
"I met a college student who'd been in 9 different foster homes by the time she was nine years old," he told me. "She said that she had survived by keeping the rage bottled up inside her, 'unlike my 5 brothers who have been in every jail in NY State.'"
Wexler's life's work is now devoted to making the case that children, even the ones who've been mistreated, are best left with their families.
If we help stabilize families - providing intensive help, real drug treatment, subsidies for things like daycare and rent - he says we could actually do what we claim we want to do, which is to help children.
"Arizona has never seriously tried any of this stuff," he said. "With Arizona, it's always take the child and run, year after year after year."
That attitude was spawned nearly a decade ago, he says, after a spate of deaths prompted incoming Gov Janet Napolitano to chart a new course for CPS caseworkers, faced with seemingly conflicting missions of keeping families together or protecting children. "Err on the side of protecting the child," she said at the time, "and we'll sort it out later."
2 years after Napolitano's proclamation, the number of children in foster care jumped 40 percent, with more to come.
Studies suggest that kids are actually better off when left with their families, even with minimal support, rather than bouncing around in foster care.
And so comes Wexler's recommendations:
... Shut down places like the Crisis Nursery -- "parking place shelters" -- and use the money to provide services to families. If a mother is reported for leaving her kids alone while she works, help her with daycare. If a parent can't provide a decent place to live, offer a rent subsidy. If drug addiction is the problem, offer treatment.
... Offer a program of more intense services when warranted, allowing a social worker to spend several hours a day to helping a parent when a child is deemed unsafe. If after six weeks nothing changes, move to terminate that parent's rights.
...Seek a waiver from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, so that $83 million in federal funds now designated for foster care can instead be spent on keeping families together.
...Provide quality defense lawyers and parent advocates, to help families get out of the CPS system when they don't need to be there. To free up caseworkers to focus where they're most needed -- on the children who will die if no one comes to their rescue.
...Open all CPS records, so we get a truer picture of what's really going on.
Protecting children by helping their parents.
Arizona falls to bottom 5 in child welfare ranking. July 2012. kgun9.com/news/local/163740226.html
July 2012. CPS is not the only one to blame for backlogged cases, abuse + deaths of Arizona's children. Judges need to take responsibility, too. azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2012/07/27/20120727child-welfare-system-woes.html
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