Big Brother Takes Children, Again
Absurd? Unthinkable? Well, according to Roberta this story is a horrifying reality.
Just a few days after giving birth to her daughter, Roberta noticed that her baby had difficulty holding down milk. She took her baby to a pediatrician who was unable to diagnose the baby's gastric condition. Instead, the pediatrician reported the mother to Child Protection Services, who took the baby away. (Doctors are required by state law to report all "reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect".) Shortly thereafter, her two older boys were taken away as well.
Three months have passed, and Roberta still has yet to be reunited with her children. This is despite the fact that:
--the mother has completed all of her parental counseling classes required by CPS,
--the baby has since been re-examined by another pediatrician who diagnosed the baby's problem as a medical condition (Gastroesophageal Re flux), common to babies,
--the baby continues to have the same digestive problems under the care of the foster parents which had occurred while with the mother, and
--the CPS worker in charge of this case recommends that all three of the children be given back.
So why haven't the children, after three months, been reunited with their loving mother? First, while CPS is very quick to remove children, the present CPS bureaucracy is extremely slow to reunite them, irrespective of the traumatic harm to children resulting from such continued separation from their parent(s). Writing reports to justify their actions is a higher priority to CPS than spending time to reunite families.
Second, the present system of federal reimbursement essentially rewards counties financially the longer children are kept in the foster care system. This observation is the cornerstone of a major class action lawsuit filed last year against Contra Costa County CPS.
Third, CPS workers, with only a few exceptions, are immune from liability from harm caused by their actions dealing with families and children. Hence, CPS has another incentive to take first, and think later.
Fourth, those taxpayer funded "child advocacy" legal groups, often chosen by the judge to represent the children, overstep their roles as legal defenders and instead take on a role as social engineers via their own vision of a "good" parent. For example, in Roberta's case, after her court appointed attorney approached the "child's advocate" with the above facts, the child's attorney arrogantly replied that she simply did not "feel" that the children should be given back...at least yet. "Feel"? Since when does the judicial process justify its continued disruption of the family unit based upon mere feelings, rather than the clearly presented, undisputed facts?
However, probably the most powerful explanation for the continuation of this horrific injustice lies in the intimidating practices of a juvenile system which prevents victimized parents, and children, from exposing these injustices to the public. For example, after Roberta was recently notified that the court would continue to delay in reuniting her with her children, she decided to contact the media in order to expose this travesty, without mentioning her children's names or the court's closed-door proceedings. Nonetheless, just before she was about to be interviewed by a reporter, she was informed by her attorney that she would not get back her children if she told her story to the press. Roberta, like almost all parents in her situation, felt little choice but to cancel the interview.
In other words, the juvenile court system's seemingly unbridled discretion creates a wall of intimidation, a wall preventing the kind of public accountability necessary to expose the need for judicial reform.
Unfortunately, Roberta's case is by no means isolated. We at Pacific Justice Institute continue to receive more and more phone calls from non-abusive parents suffering from very similar injustices. That is why we try to work through a network of CPS specialist attorneys willing to represent parents, just like Roberta, who have suffered from a juvenile legal system and CPS system that are in tremendous need of reform.
Pacific Justice will also continue to be available to give constructive counsel to legislators interested in facilitating such reform. Some states, such as Oklahoma, have already engaged in model reform, which includes the ability for parents to have a jury of their peers before being permanently separated from their children.
If you would like to be informed of similar cases Pacific Justice Institute is handling, please feel free to contact us at (916) 857-6900.