Social Workers AGAINST Child Protecive Services

Child (or agency) Protection?
By Rich Rigney
November 17, 2008


Photo © Reed Hoffmann

“You guys do more damage to kids than the parents!”

The above observation uttered by a loving parent is echoed by many.  Most Child Protective Services Supervisors and caseworkers would consider it malicious slander.

As a Child Protective Services caseworker of eight years, however, I know it to be true.

I’m not alone.

Consider the following irony lamented by Duke Law Professor, Doriane Lambelet Coleman (2006):

“…in the name of saving children from the harm that their parents and guardians are thought to pose, states ultimately cause more harm to many children than they ever help.”

Few in the field argue that Child Protective Services (“CPS”) nationally has myriad problems that are well documented in the form of media, research, congressional sub-committees and expert reports. Documentation supporting this fact is ubiquitous and readily available on-line.

However, the most grievous problem is that those who can most benefit from this knowledge, those who might use it pragmatically to improve the lives of children and families – the caseworkers and supervisors of CPS – appear either ignorant of or indifferent to the damage that removal of children perpetuates.

That is: the most profound problem with “Child Welfare” is that it is not about the welfare of the child.

Rather, it is about the welfare of the agency itself.

The internal paranoia that a “Cover-Your-Agency” (CYA) mentality creates has become so pervasive that most caseworkers and supervisors are determined not to make any decision that might jeopardize their career… and the children are afterthoughts.

The agency hierarchy itself reinforces this CYA mentality due to its’ understandable desire to remain off the front page of newspapers.

This “defensive social work” is helpful in preventing bureaucrat heads from rolling.

“…it has become undeniable that despite many saintly foster parents, the government makes a poor parent. The research shows unequivocally that CPS should be loathe to remove kids from their homes because, in most cases, there is nowhere better to put them.”

The tragic wake of this status quo, however, is strewn with the lives of children and parents.

Estimates I’ve come across in my research reckon that between one-third and two-thirds of those children currently in foster care nationally should be living with their parents.

Furthermore, it has become undeniable that despite many saintly foster parents, the government makes a poor parent. The research shows unequivocally that CPS should be loathe to remove kids from their homes because, in most cases, there is nowhere better to put them.

As a result, the state is stuck between a rock and a hard place: remove children from marginal parents, causing well documented, irrevocable emotional damage (not to mention the physical and sexual abuse that occurs more frequently in foster care), or leave these children with parents who, arguably, should never have had kids in the first place— the “lesser of two evils” if you will.

Enter the “Safety Model.”

The state of Oregon has become one of the last ten percent of our nation’s states to adopt a “Safety Model” guide to protecting our children, created by Wayne Holder, the man Oregon CPS has called the “foremost expert in child protection in the nation.” (I encourage anyone interested to visit his website at www.actionchildprotection.org to understand Mr. Holder’s credentials and the Safety Model as a whole.)

“What do I have to do to get my kids back?”

Those of us in CPS have all heard it. It is inevitably the first question our clients have and it is echoed frequently until the kids are returned.

The Safety Model forces Child Welfare to quantify their answer to this question.

In my experience, most families don’t care how long CPS monitors (or micromanages) their family as long as their kids can live with them in the process. Mr. Holder would probably cite this as THE driving force behind the creation of the Safety Model.

In quantifying their answer to parents’ most pressing question, CPS must delineate for all parties and the court, the necessary “behaviors, conditions or circumstances” in the home required to “manage”- not eliminate- the safety threats that necessitated the removal of the children.

The agency’s answers must be “specific” (i.e. quantifiable). They must be “well articulated.” They must be “least intrusive.” They must be “well defined.” They must provide a “benchmark” (i.e. they must be measurable). They represent the “official record and expectation” for parent-child reunification.

The parents themselves need not change at all prior to the children being returned to the home.

” The Safety Model provides a useful tool that, if used correctly, can save many children from the fate of CPS being their only perpetrator.”

The Safety Model, in addition to its dictates that CPS be as “least intrusive” as possible in intervening to control threats to child safety, requires that these threats be “observable and specific,” “out of control,” “imminent” and expected to cause “severe” harm to a “vulnerable” child.

No doubt for many of you this is a hard pill to swallow. These are unreasonably low standards for our most precious resource.

You, like me, think children deserve more.

The fact remains, it is irresponsible at best and abusive at worst to remove and/or withhold a child from his or her home upon the speculation that a “threat” of danger exists, when we know from the research that removal and placement of children in foster care is always detrimental.

I’m not talking here about severe neglect or physical/sexual abuse.

In five years with Oregon CPS (I worked for three in California previously) I have had only one case with such abuse (and the research puts this type of abuse at about 15 percent combined).

The Safety Model is merely a tool, an attempt to minimize the trauma to children inflicted by their own government. There is no tool or legislation that will ever completely expunge child maltreatment or child deaths so long as the only requirement for parenthood is a capacity for coitus.

I believe that if the state institutes a model, a tool envisioned by the “foremost expert in child protection in the nation,” the state should actually use it.

That is, if CPS is making the rules, they should follow them.

Currently CPS (at least in Oregon) is not, or not consistently.

The sad yet necessary truth is that it is not the job of Child Protective Services to pick the best available situation for kids and place them there permanently.

That would literally be kidnapping.

Rather, it is the job of CPS to work with marginal parents and make them “safe” or capable of providing a “minimum standard of adequate care.” It is CPS’s job to make parents “safe,” not “good.” Again, it is also our job to be “least intrusive” in our intervention.

In America we must accept freedom’s costs with its benefits. As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “There is nothing new in the realization that the Fourth Amendment [illegal search and seizure] protections come with a price.” This is true of many other “protections,” such as the right to procreate and parent.

Unfortunately, Child Welfare is not held accountable for the unattributable damage to children caused by removal from their families to foster care.

However, it is well-documented damage.

Shouldn’t we, like doctors, use our professional judgment to “first, do no harm,” rather than using it to forecast the future?

It is the children who pay the ultimate price for this unqualified prophesying.

The Safety Model provides a useful tool that, if used correctly, can save many children from the fate of CPS being their only perpetrator.

Rich Rigney
Child Protective Services
Coos Bay, Oregon

Meet Rich at MySpace

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Social Workers AGAINST Child Protecive Services

  1. How does any one find relief from all the tourcher. This has been hell for my. Eight year old grandson my family has been roped up apart brain washed Please!!!!!!!!Some HElp

  2. amiablyme

    You obviously didn’t do your homework.. MOST OF THE CHILDREN DON’T HAVE TO GO INTO HOMES!! They are put there by the CPS KIDNAPPERS who are TRAINED to create a diversion in court, lie, cheat and steal from the parents.. coerce the children and the parents.. split families apart.. Social workers are the lowest life forms on this planet.. there is little difference between them and Hitler!! IF any ONE of them did their homework they could easily know what they are doing is illegal.. oh .. but wait.. most of them don’t even have a license.. Many of them get away with MURDER and other illegal activities.. PATHETIC!

  3. amiablyme

    Alicia, forgive me, but I only read 1/3 of your post on Amiablyme.. I couldn’t get through the rest, because I think it’s VERY important that you know that most of the people you suggested to complain to work for the same organization. Take the Ombudsman for example, they consult directly with CPS Directors, who are bias. I tried that in the beginning of my case, and was directly told they can not do anything against the same organization they work for. There is NO Agency that is not tied up in either red tape or directly or indirectly involved with the goings on. So far, I have found the ONLY solution is getting the Media involved.. as I was told by a Social Worker “the ONLY thing CPS is afraid of is the Media”.. I have found this to be true, and discovered why. None of the organizations you suggested will do much of anything UNLESS it becomes a high profile case and is exposed for what it is.. but keep in mind, Parents are threatened that they will never see their children again if they say anything to anyone.. they are gagged and told to NOT DISCUSS ANY PART OF THE CASE WITH ANYONE! Habeas Corpus is a direction, however getting an attorney to file one is IMPOSSIBLE! And it needs to be filed IMMEDIATELY. There are specific tactics that CPS and the court system use against the families in order to ensure they win in court, and the children are rarely placed with family.. it’s not lucrative to the government!

  4. Here’s one way I reccommend you fight for your kids. From day one of the detention-hearing, if you feel it’s biased, prejudiced, and discrimination against you complain of the CPS Social Workers to their Licensing Board (BBS in most states ). Also to the Program Mngr. or CPS Administrator & to the county Public Guardian’s office, which oversees the DESS office that CPS falls under. Next file complaint with your county Grand Jury and if you’re child has been placed into foster-care then the State Ombudsman Office, which will likely refer you down to the County Ombudsman or a Civil Rights person in the county you reside in. Be very detailed in who, what, where, date things happen. Also kids are supposed to be placed with closest relatives when first taken from parents. So a sibling relative or grandparent ususally. Everything CPS or any agency tells you let them know you need “copy of what they say in writing and dated with signature please.” They’re not always so willing at CPS to put their own words or threats to a piece of paper, that’s your first clue everything they say isn’t mandatory at all. I know it can be stressful but never give up on your being reunited with you children. I know a local family that’s still fighting & they didn’t fight it at first because they believed justice would prevail and their letter to judge would be considered, but it wasn’t. Biased Judge. Crooked court-appointed atty who worked with opposing counsel. The client filed complaint on court-appointed with Bar Association and one will be going very soon to the Commission on Judicial Performance about the judge. And know that the ‘media’ is your friend and you have every right to express your opinion…..free speech. They won’t like it but it will work to your favor. For months they’ve threatened family they’ll be in trouble but nothing has happened. That fear-tactic on their part to not go to the media is just a smoke-screen. You have the ability to beat this if you have proof your children were taken unfairly and illegally. You can try to file for a habeas corpus of your child if you believe they were illegally detainted, but you must have the proof on this or it can hurt you in court otherwise. Good Luck to other’s who face this ordeal. Law must be changed as this happens across our U.S. of America. Courts must start complying to Federal Laws wth regrard to the our US Constitution and the amemdments under it.

  5. IT IS SO SAD THAT KIDS HAVE TO PLACED IN HOMES I HAVE ADOPETED MAYN OF THEM IF I COULD I WOULD TAKE THEM ALL

  6. Lets see if I can give you a shorten version of the expeirences my son and daugter-inlaw have had to endure these past couple of years at the hands of CPS of Oregon. When my first grandchild was 4mo. old she got ill and so I took her and my daugter-inlaw to see our family doctor around 4pm. He told us she had a cold and maybe slight case of bronchitis. That night she had gotten worse, so we took her into the emergencey room, they told us she had RSV and suggest it be best she went to the hospital in Eugene ASAP. Eugene hospital is about 75 miles away from us so she was taken by ambulance and we followed behind. My daugter-inlaw called her sister in Eugene an asked her to meet the ambulance at the hospital as we had to stop by the house to pick up my son and wanted someone there at the hospital to represent the family till we get there. When we got there her sister was there and they had the baby in the childrens ward and had started to take test and work on her. After a few hours they said she was stable and we should all go home and get some rest, it was nearing 1am. in the morning by now. So I gave my cell phone to the kids and they stayed in Eugene at her sisters house and I drove back to Florence. Sometime around 5am. the hospital got ahold of the kids and said the baby had taken a turn for the worst and they need to get back to the hospital ASAP and even paid for their cab to do so. The doctors felt it best that the baby go to Portland to the childrens hospital by ambulance and the kids agreed. They called me and I drove up to Eugene and picked up the kids and then drove to Portland, the baby had already headed up. When we got there the doctors had induced a coma as to keep her still and relaxed other then that they didn’t say much as to her condition. Now its towards the end of the month and the kids hadn’t any money and my daugter-inlaw was pregnant yet again and was around 3mo. so she needed food so she wouldn’t get sick to her stomach. The hospital sent the kids down to their social service office and said they could help with food and a place for them to stay ( Mc Donald House ). The only problem is they were out of funds, so they ate pudding, jello, and gramcrackers out of the nurses station till the social service office set them up with funds from the DHS office in our home town. They were going to give the kids a check to help them out while they were up in Portland with the baby. A very nice hispanic couple in the room next door gave the kids $25 and brought them some dinner one day, after about 4 days the check came from DHS to my address in Florence Oregon by this time the baby was doing much better so the kids met a young man who said he would give them a ride to Florence to pick up the check and then bring them back. They informed the nurses at the nurses station their plans and gave them the cell phone number as well as my home number in case there was a change or emergencey. they left Portland around noon and got to Florence around 4:30pm they ate and took showers and decided to cash the check the next morning and go to the DHS office due to some paper work they need to sign and then head back up to the hospital. While they were out getting all this done a CPS worker called the house and said the hospital had went to release the baby and could not find the parents and had no idea where they were so the baby has been placed as a ward of the court and there was no need for them to even head back up to the hospital because they wouldn’t beable to see her or take her, also said that they would contact them as to what the next procedure would be in the near future. I was dumb founded. This about 10am and if I was thinking clearly I would have called the hospital to varify the story and relized they didn’t even have enough time to make her a ward of the court since it was only 10am. The fact the kids didn’t go back up there, after they called the worker back and she told them the same story would later be used against them at the fact finding hearing. Anyway several weaks went by before they finally heard from anyone at CPS ( due to the fact the baby wasn’t released yet from the hospital as we were told ) about 2 weeks or so. the kids were told they would have a fact finding hearing and then set up visits with their daugter. The fact finding hearing was postpone twice for one reason or another none of which were ever made clear. So needless to say it was a couple of month before they got to see their daugter again. At the hearing they were both granted seperate lawyers even though they are a married couple. They were sent off to seperate rooms with their lawyers then brought back into the court room after awhile to hear the recommendations of the case worker and then the final say of the judge, who went with the recommendations laid out by the CPS team. They said the kids abandended the baby at the hospital and refused to ride up in the ambulance with the baby therefore arriving several hours later, so on and so forth along those lines and the recommend parenting class, individual counselling, as well as couples counselling, and drug treatment ( did I say anything about drugs? ). Ok, well all you can do is jump their hoops so they started out to do just that because they couldn’t fight them. CPS agreed that the kids could get their counselling in Florence at a place called Options Counselling Services and their drug treatment at a place known as Emergence. It seem as though their case worker faught them at every turn, even though several dozen families visited their children each week at the DHS office here in Florence she told them that this could not be arranged for them they would have to go to Eugene each week. This was OK till my car broke down then the kids had to find a different ride each week. At one point my daugter-inlaws mother came up from Coosbay (60 miles south of Florence ) to pick the kids up and take them, thats a 130 miles one way. That was just one item in which this case worker would not help them out, untill she found out that the local DJ at the pub she frequented was my sons cousin, my nephew. She apparently liked him even though 20yrs. his senior, and now she’s dropping by the house just to shoot the breeze with the kids for hours at a time. She is also much more help to them. By this time my daugter-inlaw is real close to her due date and they have completed all the individual, and couples counseling also the parenting class, and was well into drug class. She went into labor and at the same time the case worker was being fired for having sexual relations with one of her clients. A new older case worker took over and made sure that my new granddaugter was taken straight from the hospital and put into custody of the court due to the fact they had the first one. Both babies at time of birth were given drug tests ( routine in this day and age ) and were negative so was mom because this time they tested her as well, even though drugs were never proven in their life style or by testing. My son however has medical marijuana, but since Emergence won’t recognize it as medicine he quit in order to beable to pass drug treatment. Then their new counsellor decided she would not reconize Opitions as a creditable service and wants them to start all parenting class, individual and couples counselling over in Eugene. Even though they express to her the difficalty in getting to Eugene once a week let alone several times a week. Oh and did I tell you its now been 9mo. that they have had costody my first grandchild and only have a year in which to complete all of this or risk loosing their parental rights and the girls then would be put up for adoption. At this point they were aproached by another case worker that over seen their viits every week, and was told the foster parents would like very much to adopt both girls that they have had pretty much since birth. The kids fearing they loose their rights and the girls would be split up at adoption, considered their opitions and talked to the foster parents. They were told it would be a open adoption and as long as drugs were not an issue they would beable to visit the girls at any time with a reasonable notice, like a extended family feeling. So they agreed to this and CPS stepped out of the picture and the lawyers and a negotiater got with the kids and the foster parents, the only problem is the plan changed and the kids now can’t see the girls for atleast 2yrs. with corrispondence after 1yr. what can they do if CPS gets involved again they will just put the girls up for adoption due to the fact they had agreed to it one point so they went along with it. A year later they find themselves pregnant again. In their last month their midwife tells them they are red flaged and CPS is taking the baby as soon as she is born. They left Oregon and have a beautiful baby and family in another state, but far away from their families, its sad but best and I plan to go see my new granddaugter at the end of summer. I plead that someone does something so this doesn’t happen to other young families. Yes there is saddly a need for a agency like CPS but new rules and laws need to be put in place to guard the rights of the parents, who are guilty till proven innocent as it works at this point in time. The case worker need better screening and training and perhaps rotated into different branches of cival service jobs as to not get harden to the events of this day and age. Children need if at all possible to live with their families to have the security of a heriage and a past in which they can be proud of. So many of us no longer know our heritage or extended families of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to learn family stories and legends that help give us roots. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope that some good comes from telling it. A sad Grandma.

  7. amiablyme

    First of all you Attorney DOES NOT WORK FOR YOU! He will NOT EVER Defend you!!! If you think he will then you will SURELY LOSE! The system is designed to TAKE YOUR CHILDREN AWAY! You will be coerced and threatened into being a subservient.. They will tell you to “listen to the Social Workers, and do what they want, they are the ones in charge of your case” You Attorney will NOT do what is necessary get you your children back! Ask your Attorney to file a 388 and see what he says.. ask him to File a Habeas Corpus and see what he says.. they will make excuse after excuse not to do it.. they will give you any and all reasons they “can’t” do it.. but they can.. remember this.. he is suppose to DEFEND YOU.. LISTEN TO YOU.. AND DO ALL HE CAN TO SIDE WITH YOU.. but .. he wont.. Good Luck!

  8. Fearful in Sonoma County

    Thank you for your suggestions. The only thing that has stopped me from going to the media at this point is the possibility of jeopardizing my case. I’ve been researching WIC 300 for several hours now and have found what I think is very useful information…and information my attorney hasn’t been bothered to clue me into or pursue on my behalf.

  9. amiablyme

    You should go to the papers/media! Offer to give them anything and everything they need. The ONLY people CPS is afraid of is…the Media!
    You also need to get the truth on the record in the court.. Many parents have fired their attorneys and won their cases.. read up on the CA WIC 300 (look at a 388, this may be the best way to get your word in court) KNOW THE LAWS in your state KNOW what the policies and procedures are so that you can hold them accountable, and as many have said ALWAYS FILE AN APPEAL, that may be the ONLY way to get a REAL Judge and/or real attorney to look at it.. Every case is different, even if the parents are all getting railroaded the same way.. NO ONE KNOWS YOUR CASE BETTER THAN YOU! TRUST YOURSELF!

  10. Fearful in Sonoma County

    I have found this article by searching for information on CPS abuses because my son was taken last year. He was removed on the basis of a false report by a pyschiatrist because I questioned his wanting to arbitrarily change my son’s meds every ten minutes. The report was further encouraged by an abusive father. My son was not only taken out of a safe environment, he was also placed with his dad, whom CPS investigated TWICE for abuse (and substantiated said accusation yet “referred it out”). Now Sonoma County CPS has taken my child to Davis, CA and placed him in a level 14 facility claiming that I’m the root of all evil in his life, despite not being in my home for a year now and having very little contact with me.

    I’m utterly terrified at this point for his safety and do not know where to turn or what to do. The court appointed lawyer has said she isn’t doing anything on my case because she “doesn’t know what to do.”

    Does anyone here have any suggestions on where to take this to keep my son from being wrongfully taken permanently? I’ve considering taking it to the newspapers, but I doubt anyone could care less and probably will not be bothered with it.

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