Tag Archives: death

Kids Murdered In Custody of CPS/DHS

Posted by Sandra Ami

These could very easily be YOUR children!

Hundreds of children die every year in the custody of Child Protective Services.  That’s not something the general public is aware of. But that lack of awareness will hopefully end this winter when the full length documentary, Innocence Destroyed, is released.
Innocence Destroyed is not being produced by a half-witted conspiracy theorist but by former firefighter and federal law enforcement officer, Bill Bowen. Bowen, as you can see in the shorter version of the film he has posted on YouTube and which I have embedded below, is intelligent and articulate and just the sort of man needed to produce such a documentary. When you listen to Bowen, you instinctively know that here is a man you can trust–here is a man who tells the truth…”

full story by: Albany CPS and Family Court ExaminerDaniel Weaver
(  http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-14537-Albany-CPS-and-Family-Court-Examiner~y2009m9d28-Bill-Bowens-documentary-Innocence-Destroyed-about-kids-murdered-while-in-custody-of-CPS-is-powerful )

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State Care / CPS “Why Are These Children Dying?”

San Francisco Chronicle

Persuasive Writing and Commentary

Entry: Why are these children dying?

A three-piece editorial package
Credit: Editorial Writer Caille Millner
Date:
December 3, 2006
Pages: E4, E5

Page E4

EDITORIAL

On Foster Care Reform
Why are these children dying?

THE STATE OF California cannot say how many foster children die each year, even though a state law that took effect in 2004 requires counties to release the names, dates of birth, and dates of death for these children. The new law is not being followed by all: The Children’s Advocacy Institute, a San Diego-based research and lobbying group that co-sponsored the 2004 law, requested the names for 2005 from all 58 counties. Nearly a year later, they’re still waiting for two counties to respond.

The names that they do have for 2005 — 48 so far — offer more questions than answers. What does it mean, for example, that nine of the deaths were children age 17 or older, five of whom were within six weeks of their 18th birthday? Are 17-year-olds simply more likely to get in car accidents? Suffer drug overdoses? Skateboard without helmets? Or does it mean the fulfillment of our worst fears — that some children, facing the harsh realities of homelessness and desperation when they “age out” of the system at 18, are taking their own lives instead?

“There’s no way to get more information without going to the courts,” said Christina Riehl, staff attorney for the Children’s Advocacy Institute.

There is absolutely no reason why an advocacy group, a newspaper, an elected official, or any other concerned member of the public should have to go to court to find out what happened when a foster youth dies.

But due to California’s baffling policies on disclosure, it’s extraordinarily difficult for the public to learn who in the system is dying and why. Nearly every bill that has come through the Legislature in the past several years has been stonewalled by the County Welfare Directors’ Association.

Take AB1817, a very modest bill sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, three years ago. Concerned about a wave of foster children’s deaths in his district, Maze simply wanted legislators to be allowed to review the case files of deceased children in the system. But he couldn’t get his bill out of the Judiciary Committee.

“They said that, as an elected official, I’d just use these cases as a political forum,” said Maze. “I think it’s just baloney. We need to know if there’s some kind of pattern or trend or lack of oversight in case management, because, until we know that, we won’t know how to fix the problem. But needless to say, I’ve been fought against on this issue tremendously by the welfare directors of this state.”

Maze is not the only one frustrated by the lack of information about child deaths from California’s social-services bureaucracies. Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that the state was violating federal law by failing to file reports about the deaths and near-deaths of children due to abuse or neglect. Threatened with the loss of $60 million in child-welfare funds, this summer the state began requiring counties to file these reports. But — and here’s the rub — the Department of Social Services keeps all names confidential, even in the case of foster children.

Imagine — our state’s most vulnerable children, betrayed by a state system that was supposed to protect them — and we have no idea who they are. A look at the questionnaires the state started providing this July offer only haunting glimpses of their fates:

— On July 30, a 15-year-old foster child died after either jumping or being pushed from a moving car in a suspected sexual assault.

— On Aug. 17, a 2-year-old foster child drowned after her foster parents left her alone in a bath tub.

— On Aug. 24, a 16-year-old committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after telling his sibling that he couldn’t take their legal guardian’s abuse anymore.

Confidentiality is important, especially when it comes to protecting the identities of family members and abuse reporters. We understand, as well, that it’s important to protect the names of abused children who suffer near-fatalities but are expected to recover. But there are no good reasons why the full case files — including names, counties and histories — for dead foster children shouldn’t be open to all of us. There can’t be any accountability without transparency.

When we asked Sue Diedrich, assistant general counsel for the state Department of Social Services, why they couldn’t tell us more, she said that the state could risk its federal funding.

That’s simply not true, according to a federal official who tracks the issue.

“Federal law doesn’t require that a state release (those details), but it doesn’t prohibit those disclosures either,” said Susan Orr, associate commissioner of the children’s bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Indeed, there are at least two states, Georgia and South Carolina, which offer up just the sort of connect-the-dots information that an informed public needs — and unlike California, they haven’t had any threats of a funding cut-off.

There is a solution to this, and this year Assembly members Sharon Runner and Karen Bass even tried to offer it. It was AB2938, which required the release of juvenile court records, and county and state files, in the case of a child death pertaining to abuse or neglect. AB2938 should be expanded to include the deaths of foster children, regardless of whether or not they died as a result of abuse or neglect.

Unfortunately, although the governor and Legislature worked together to pass many important pieces of child-welfare legislation this year, AB2938 wasn’t one of them. The county welfare directors’ association voiced its opposition again, and it didn’t go past its first committee.

For some reason, there are still people who seem to believe that if we don’t get the information, we won’t pay attention to the fact that our children are dying.

They’re wrong. It’s time to resurrect — and expand — AB2938. What we don’t know can hurt us. It’s unconscionable to let children pay the price.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/03/EDGRMLJJ091.DTL

Page E5

EDITORIAL

Foster Care Reform
These deaths drew news coverage.

But we need to know what happened

whenever a foster youth dies.

Conrad Morales

When Conrad Morales’ relatives sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in the mountainside town of Randle, Wash., they thought they were providing him with a better life.

After spending his first 11 years in Los Angeles motels with his mother or relatives’ homes in La Puente, the idea was that the boy might benefit from forests, meadows, fresh air, animals — from the concept of an innocent childhood that his parents, both of whom had spent time in jail on drug and assault charges, hadn’t been able to provide for him.

Two years later, the police pulled Conrad’s body out of a trash can.

The suspects in his murder case are the very same aunt and uncle who were supposed to shelter and protect him. The boy — a high-spirited, popular student and avid birdwatcher — told his best friend weeks before his death during the summer of 2005 that he was being sexually abused and beaten. Now that best friend — and the entire town of Randle — is still wondering how they could have failed to miss the warning signs: the filthy house, the erratic school attendance, Conrad’s requests for make-up to cover the bruises on his face and neck.

Months before his death, Conrad began making desperate calls to his older sister, Vanessa Gallardo, in the Los Angeles area. Gallardo, who had already fought unsuccessfully for custody with Los Angeles County Child Protective Services, was perhaps the only one who called social workers and asked that someone check on the boy. She never found out about that check, but the police estimate he was killed weeks before they received a missing person’s report.

Kayla Lorrain Wood

The life of Kayla Lorrain Wood has a made-for-after-school-TV-special quality to it: She was sexually abused, schizophrenic and depressed. She bounced around in Child Protective Services while her mother racked up drug charges. She was suspected of prostitution. And she died a terrible death — this September, the Moreno Valley police discovered her stabbed and abandoned body after firefighters came to put out a fire in a building where transients gathered.

But beneath this tale of woe lies a 16-year-old girl who loved art, music and animals. Tall and thin, she dreamed of becoming a model — an appropriate choice, perhaps, for a young woman who her mother describes as girly, pretty and frilly. In her foster-care placements, she ran away frequently — to find her family.

Eventually, the police found her body instead.

Could anyone have saved her? In 2005, after an evaluation showed that Kayla was suffering from a mental disorder, Child Protective Services recommended that she be committed to a secure psychiatric facility. She ran away from her group home four days later. Though she later returned, no one followed up on the recommendation.

Although Kayla went missing at least 10 times during her two years in the foster-care system, social services admitted to losing contact with her parents. They didn’t know she was missing until she was already dead.

Jerry Hulsey

The life and death of Jerry Hulsey shows how difficult it is for social workers to make the right calls when it comes to protecting children — and how important it is that they do.

Jerry’s biological mother and father were habitual drug users. His first brush with the Department of Social Services came at the age of nine months, when his biological mother passed out from a heroin overdose with him in the car. She was charged with child endangerment and ordered into drug treatment, where she met Vicki Lynn Hulsey, Jerry’s future foster mother.

Though his biological mother couldn’t stay out of trouble — she didn’t complete her treatment program and left her son in the care of anyone who would take him — she did notice that Hulsey treated the boy well. So when she went to prison in 1996, she asked that he be left in Hulsey’s care in Monterey.

Hulsey acted quickly to be certified as Jerry’s foster parent, and by the accounts of friends and neighbors, treated him with love. When she petitioned for adoption, social workers weighed that more heavily than Hulsey’s other problems — namely, her background as a child-abuse survivor, her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, and her bipolar disorder. In the end, Hulsey’s past caught up with her — she beat 10-year-old Jerry to death this year. An autopsy showed that he had cocaine in his system and that, at 4 feet 9 inches, he weighed 60 pounds.

Hulsey’s deterioration and Jerry’s tragic death shows how difficult it is to predict what will happen in an adoption. But it also shows how important it is for the public to understand social workers’ choices.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/03/EDGRMLJJ0B1.DTL

Page E5
EDITORIAL
Foster Care Reform
It works in South Carolina

FOR MORE than 10 years, South Carolina has had one of the nation’s strongest policies about public disclosure for the deaths of foster children. South Carolina’s clear and succinct policies stand in stark contrast to California’s confusing and disjointed disclosure system.

“We review all the records and talk about what the agency did or didn’t do in a specific case — was there a failure to make a home visit? Did someone not follow a policy concerning documentation?” said Virginia Williamson, general counsel for South Carolina’s Department of Social Services. “The reports talk about agency activities instead of laying out the family’s dynamics or revealing information about siblings or other relatives.”

A public request yields plenty of information. They sent us a document containing summary information about the circumstances of death for children who died in 2004. The document included not just children who had died of suspected abuse or neglect while in active protection, but also children whose deaths were the result of accidents or natural causes and received no public attention. By listing this last group without names, their privacy is protected — but the public can still do comparisons.

Composed in a simple, clear format, each entry is easy to read and analyze. For example, we learned that in 2004, there were nine child deaths due to abuse and neglect while in active protection, one well-publicized child death due to homicide, and 28 accident- and natural cause-deaths. Of the nine abuse and neglect deaths, one was a foster child — Lakeysha Tharp, a 10-year-old in Richland County, of probable asphyxiation. We learn that the foster mother has been charged with homicide by child abuse, and that the foster mother’s son (unnamed, because he is a minor) has been charged with the murder as well.

It’s all there: the case, the lost child, and what’s being done to ensure that her death was not in vain. And the sky hasn’t fallen in South Carolina as a result of such disclosure. If they’re worried about “privacy,” or “liability” or “politics,” the excuses that certain authorities offer in California, it hasn’t stopped law enforcement from serving or social services from protecting. Nor has it stopped the public from carrying on with their private lives. The only difference is that the public also has the knowledge to ask questions and push for improvement.

“It’s always a delicate balance between being accountable to the public for how we do business, the privacy interests of families, and protecting the state from lawsuits,” said Williamson. “But ultimately we feel that transparency and accountability are important.”

So do we.

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/03/EDGP8MNBBT1.DTL

About the series

California legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made progress this year by approving a series of measures to upgrade the level of consistency and oversight in the state’s troubled foster-care system — but there is much work to be done.

Today’s editorials were researched and written by editorial writer Caille Millner. You can e-mail her at cmillner@sfchronicle.com.

To read earlier editorials on this topic, go to SFGate.com

— John Diaz, editorial page editor jdiaz@sfchronicle.com

Casket for a small childs Funeral

Casket for a small child's Funeral

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Children Committing Suicide in CPS/DCFS Care

“… laws, according to state documents, encourage counties and their private contractors to earn money by placing and keeping children in foster care. The county receives $30,000 to $150,000 in state and federal revenues annually for each child placed.”

[While reading this, please keep in mind the age of the story. The statistics have not decreased in the past 9 years, but on the contrary have increased.
Although the beginning doesn’t give the full impact of the article,  please do read on as you will find it increasingly interesting and somewhat enlightening. ]

December 28, 2003
Troy Anderson
Staff Writer

Children committing suicide at younger age

Los Angeles County’s child protective system is one of the most
violent and dangerous in the nation, and its foster children are up
to 10 times more likely to die from abuse or neglect than elsewhere
in the country, a two-year investigation by the Daily News has found.

In 2001 in the United States, 1.5 percent of the 1,225 children who
died from abuse and neglect were in foster care, but in the county
14.3 percent of the 35 children who died of mistreatment that year
were in foster care, government statistics show. The percentage in
the county from 1991 to 2001 averaged 4.23 percent.
The taxpayer-funded county and state systems are so overwhelmed with
false allegations – four out of every five mistreatment reports are
ruled unfounded or inconclusive – and filled with so many children
who shouldn’t even be in the system, experts say, that social workers
are failing in their basic mission to protect youngsters. Nationally,
two out of three reports of mistreatment are false.

Since 1991, the county Coroner’s Office has referred more than 2,300
child deaths to the county’s child death review team – and more than
660 of those dead children were involved in the child protective
system, including nearly 160 who were homicide victims.

In many of these deaths, county Children’s Services Inspector General
Michael Watrobski made recommendations to the Department of Children
and Family Services to conduct in-house investigations to determine
if disciplinary action was warranted against those workers involved
in the cases.

Of 191 child deaths Watrobski investigated since 2001, he made a
total of 63 recommendations to address systemic problems to improve
the way the system works in an effort to reduce the number of child
deaths.

Despite spending more than $36 million on foster care lawsuit
settlements, judgments and legal expenses since 1990, DCFS
disciplined less than a third of the social workers responsible for
the lawsuits, most of which involved families who alleged social
workers’ negligence contributed to the deaths and mistreatment of
their children in foster care.

“That’s pathetic,” county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said.
“When you have a department that is responsible for the health and
safety of children there is no excuse to have a dismal record of
accountability like this.”

Meanwhile, in the various facilities that make up the county’s foster
care system, between 6 percent and 28 percent of the children are
abused or neglected – figures comparable to the rate in New Jersey,
which many experts have long called the state with the most dangerous
child welfare system in the nation.

In the general population, only 1 percent of children suffer such
mistreatment.

“When I stepped into this job, I said that too many kids are hurt in
foster care,” said DCFS Director David Sanders, who started in March
after the forced resignations of the previous four directors. “That
is absolutely glaring and the fact this department has never been
willing to say that is a huge problem.

“It is clear when you compare us to other systems, we have more kids
being hurt in our care than in other systems. That is absolutely
inexcusable. I can’t say that more strongly. If is a reflection of a
system that isn’t working.”

Despite the staggering number of child deaths and mistreatment of
thousands of children, Sanders said the department’s efforts have
saved the lives of hundreds of children over the years. He also noted
that the vast majority of foster parents don’t mistreat children.

And child advocates say for the first time in the county’s history
the DCFS director is taking unprecedented steps to reduce the number
of deaths and percentage of foster children who are mistreated.

“In the past, the system has failed to protect children in its
care,” said Andrew Bridge, managing director of child welfare reform
programs at the private Broad Foundation. “The new leadership at the
department has been left with that legacy and is taking aggressive
steps to fix it and protect children.”

DCFS statistics show the percentage of foster children abused and
neglected averages about 6 percent, but in the foster homes
supervised by private foster family agencies, an average of 10
percent of children are mistreated. However, the rates range up to 28
percent in some homes, Sanders said.

Statewide, the rate averages close to 1 percent.

In New Jersey, the foster care mistreatment rate ranges from 7
percent to 28 percent in different parts of the state, said Marcia
Lowry, executive director of the New York City-based Children’s
Rights advocacy organization.

Of 20 states surveyed in 1999, the percentage of children mistreated
by foster parents averaged a half percent. The rate of abuse ranged
from one-tenth of a percent in Arizona, Delaware and Wyoming to 1.6
percent in Illinois to 2.3 percent in Rhode Island, according to
federal statistics.

Susan Lambiase, associate director of Children’s Rights, was
surprised to learn of the percentage in Los Angeles County, calling
it “absolutely horrendous.”

“(Los Angeles County is) a child welfare system in crisis because
the children are getting pulled from their homes to keep them safe
and the system cannot assure that they are being kept safe,” said
Lambiase, whose organization has filed about 10 class-action lawsuits
to place state child welfare systems under federal consent decrees
and is considering what action it might take in Los Angeles County.

“It’s unacceptable,” she said. “This is a malfunctioning foster
care system given that its role in society is to protect children
from abuse and neglect.”

Critics say social workers are so busy filling out paperwork and
investigating false reports that they are overlooking the warning
signs of many children in the community in real danger and are not
able to properly ensure the safety of children in foster care.

“When you overload your system with children who don’t need to be in
foster care, workers have less time to find the children in real
danger,” said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National
Coalition for Child Protection Reform in Alexandria, Va.

The Daily News investigation found that up to half of the 75,000
children in the system and adoptive homes were needlessly placed in a
system that is often more dangerous than their own homes because of
financial incentives in state and federal laws. These laws, according
to state documents, encourage counties and their private contractors
to earn money by placing and keeping children in foster care. The
county receives $30,000 to $150,000 in state and federal revenues
annually for each child placed.

Adrianna Romero Cram, Oregon foster child who was murdered in Mexico at age 4

Adrianna Romero Cram, Oregon foster child who was murdered in Mexico at age 4

Some examples of settled cases involving the deaths of foster
children include:

–Long Beach resident Jacquelyn Bishop, whose twins were taken away
because she hadn’t gotten her son an immunization. Kameron Demery, 2,
was later beaten to death by his foster mother.

The foster mother was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced
to prison. In 2000, the county settled a wrongful death case with
Bishop for $200,000.

–Gardena resident Debra Reid was awarded a $1 million settlement
last year for the death of her 9-year-old son Jonathan Reid, who had
been in foster homes in El Monte and Pomona. He died of an asthma
attack in 1997 after social workers didn’t notify the foster mother
of his severe asthma and diabetes conditions – a tragic irony,
because the boy was placed in foster care after county social workers
alleged Reid was neglecting her son by not providing appropriate
medical care for his diabetes and asthma.

Reid’s other son, 10-year-old Debvin Mitchell, who received $100,000
as part of the settlement after he was wrongfully detained, said his
foster parents were “brutal” to him during his one-and-a-half years
in multiple foster homes.

“I thought that it was cruel and unusual for being beaten like that
for no reason,” said Mitchell. “When I came home, I had bruises
everywhere. I feel good to be back with my family where I don’t get
beaten for silly things for no reason and most of all I’m glad to be
back with my mom.”

Anthony Cavuoti, who has worked as a DCFS social worker for 14 years,
said the department does a poor job of protecting children.

“The nominal goal is to protect children, but the real goal is to
make money,” he said. “A caseworker used to have 80 to 100 cases.
Now we have 30, but we have to file five times as much paperwork. If
the workers put kids before paperwork and administration, they are
going to be forced out or harassed. With such a mentality, children
are always in danger.”

In a historic step to address the problem at the root of the system’s
failures, Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash recently called
for a historic reevaluation of half of the 30,000 cases of children
in foster homes to determine who could be safely returned to their
families or relatives.

If properly done by providing the services families need, experts say
this step combined with the DCFS request for a federal waiver to use
$250 million of its $1.4 billion budget on services to help keep
families together could ultimately reduce the number of children in
foster care and social workers’ large caseloads, giving them more
time to help protect children in truly dangerous situations.

“The court system itself should only be for those cases that reflect
serious cases of abuse and neglect,” Nash said. “We have to have
more of a talk first, shoot later mentality rather than a shoot
first, talk later mentality. We can do a much better job.”

Sanders said more than 25 percent of those children will probably be
able to return home. Concerned that two-thirds of his 6,500-employees
are working behind desks, Sanders said he plans to move 1,000 staff
promoted to office jobs by previous directors back to the streets as
social workers, which will reduce caseloads and give workers more
time to spend with families, a critical element to assure the safety
of children.

Keywords: LOS ANGELES COUNTY – FOSTER CARE – CHILD – DAILY NEWS –
PROBE –

VIOLENCE – DEATH – MURDER – US – STATISTIC – COMPARISON – REPORT –
DEPT OF

CHILDREN FAMILY SERVICES – DCFS – REACTION – ABUSE – ISSUE – LIST –
SAFETY –

CALIFORNIA – REFORM

———————————————————————-
———-
All content © 2003- Daily News of Los Angeles (CA) and may not be
republished without permission.

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THE PEOPLE THAT PROTECT CHILDREN??

Imagine for one moment, this is your child, taken while an investigation is being made against you, even if findings are “unsubstantiated” But this is your child waiting to come back home. All that is necessary for our social workers to succeed is that “good honest people” do absolutely nothing to hold social workers accountable for there actions. It may well be that our means are fairly limited and our possibilities restricted when it comes to applying pressure on our social workers. But is this a reason to do nothing?
“First they came for my neighbors children . I was silent. It was not my children they were there for. Then they came for my friends children, again I was silent. It was not my children they were there for. Then they came for my children. There was no one left to speak for me”.
The race we are in towards correcting neglect and wrong doing and abuse by the social workers that are supposed to be there to protect, is a race against time for many of us now and many more if we do not fix the system that is currently in place. Washing one’s hands of the wrongs by the social service and the powerless; means to side with the social service, not to be neutral.
If we don’t wake up and take a stand against this horrible horrible system that has been put into place, for no other reason than to Tear Families apart, so that the Government can take total control over our lives, then you too are doomed to be a victim of the same injustice. If you can’t stand up today to protect the families that have been torn apart, and children who have died, then you are not protecting yourself, and you are as guilty as those doing it.

Sandra Ami

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