California Assemblyman: Abolish Child Protective Services and Start Over

April 11, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

And, since we’re on the subject of child protective agencies in the State of California, it’s worth noting that at least one state Assemblyman would simply scrap the whole thing if he could. Read about it here (Sacramento Bee, 4/8/14).

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Tuesday that he would abolish the state’s Child Protective Services system and start over "from the ground up," saying social workers often remove children from their homes without sufficient reason.

"If I were in charge of the entire state, I can tell you right now I would abolish CPS," he said at a news conference at the Capitol, "because CPS has become the greatest threat to the very kids it was designed to protect."

Strong words, but not inaccurate. “Remove children from their homes without sufficient reason?” I’d say so, and so would Scott and Sara Rolick. In their case the term “sufficient reason” greatly understates the matter. In fact, it looks like county CPS workers have a vendetta against Scott because he had the audacity to videotape his interactions with CPS workers. They of course are used to working in secret which, as a practical matter, means they can say anything they want about what a parent or child said or did. So when a parent videotapes them they lose that power because he’s got incontrovertible proof of what occurred. And nothing gets their ire up like challenging their authority, which is precisely what Scott Rolick did.

It doesn’t matter that his actions were almost certainly protected by the United States Constitution. Indeed, it appears that CPS workers routinely forget that they’re agents of the state and must therefore respect the constitutional rights of the people they deal with. Many times we’ve seen CPS workers go on the rampage for the sole reason that a parent said “come back when you have a warrant.” CPS is no different than the police; if they want to come in your house, they need a warrant. You don’t have to answer their questions. They need probable cause for all their actions.

Most people don’t realize that and CPS isn’t about to tell them. So caseworkers get used to doing what they do while casually ignoring the Constitution. That means that, when a parent asserts his/her rights, caseworkers figuratively paint a target on his/her back and the person is in for weeks or months of abuse at the hands of the person whose salary he/she pays.

In light of the Rolick case, it’s interesting what Donnelly would do short of tearing down the whole thing and starting over.

Donnelly, a state assemblyman from Twin Peaks, called the news conference to promote legislation that would require social workers to conduct video or audio recordings of their interactions with children and parents when investigating child abuse. He said recordings would protect both families and social workers in disputes.

I encourage Scott Rolick to contact Assemblyman Donnelly, given the fact that he’s currently in hot water for doing exactly what Donnelly wants to require by law. Of course Donnelly knows his bill has little chance of passing. The Department of Social Services and every county CPS will fight such a thing tooth and nail for the reasons stated above; they enjoy the secrecy in which they operate far too much to let it go without a fight. The last thing they want is for We the People to know what they’re up to with our parents and our kids. Videotaped interactions would mean they’d have to behave civilly and reasonably, neither trait being their long suit.

As to Donnelly’s claim that “CPS has become the greatest threat to the very kids it was designed to protect,” that may be an overstatement, but we know what he means. After all, here is an agency that has a single mission – the protection of children against the adults in whose care they live. And yet, far too frequently we hear that (a) they ignored clear warnings of abuse and a child turned up either dead or horribly injured, or (b) they snatched a child on the slimmest of pretexts.

In the former category, we have kids like Omaree Varela in New Mexico, Tiffany Klapheke’s children in Texas, countless kids in Arizona and now Gabriel Fernandez in California. In the latter of course there are the Rolick’s daughter Stevie, numerous children with parents who promote the de-criminalization of marijuana or who use it for medical reasons, and many kids whose fate it is to be exposed to the talons of CPS.

We recall for example courts in Michigan and Idaho calling their child “protective” agencies to task for frankly trafficking in children. In both those cases, an undocumented man came to this country from Mexico or Central America, and met an American woman with whom he had a child. But when she had her rights terminated (in one case) and he was deported (in another), CPS saw its opportunity and tried to capitalize on it. In each case, CPS attempted to terminate the rights of a fit father just because he was in a vulnerable position legally. In both cases appellate courts struck down the bid by the child welfare agency saying what they were doing amounted to trafficking in children. And that was an accurate description given that those agencies receive a substantial check from the federal government for each child adopted out of foster care.

One former head of North Dakota’s child protective agency remarked that, when the federal law went into effect and all that money started flowing to the states, “everything changed” about how the state agencies behaved. That change is still very much in effect.

Are CPS agencies truly the greatest threat to kids? Probably not, but they’re a clear example of the tendency of government to expand at the expense of the rights of the citizenry. And when the agency’s mission is the protection of children, it makes the process all the easier. After all, who doesn’t want to protect kids from harm? So the combination of the need to protect children, the privilege of acting in complete secrecy and parents’ terror at the prospect of losing their kids to the state means CPS gets away with a lot.

Moreover, CPS is a fine example of bureaucratic incompetence of the kind we’re all familiar with. The Internal Revenue Service used to hold the title of “Most Abusive, Least Caring” governmental agency, but I’d say CPS has usurped the title. And, for the most part, all the IRS can do is take your money, but CPS can take your kids. Or worse, they can ignore plain evidence of child abuse until the child is found dead.

Unsurprisingly, CPS’s lack of accountability results in caseworkers ignoring the law and simply substituting their ideas of proper parenting for those of parents. In Houston a couple of years ago, a family of four had hit hard times and were living in a mini-warehouse. Now, this particular warehouse consisted of 10,000 square feet of climate-controlled space, i.e. a large area with heating and air-conditioning, a fully furnished kitchen, beds, television, personal computers, etc. So what was the problem? No running water. Yes, there was a bathroom and running water just across the driveway that the two parents and their kids availed themselves of, but this situation, acknowledged by all to be of short duration, was too much for CPS.

According to caseworkers, children without a bathroom nearby are in imminent danger. Never mind that millennia of children made do with no bathrooms and no running water at all, and many still do. According to CPS, there was nothing to do but take the children from their parents and place them in foster care.

The point being that the caseworker found no abuse or neglect of the kids, but took them from their parents anyway. She simply substituted her own notion of proper parenting for that of the parents who were clearly doing the best they could which was clearly good enough.

Donnelly said the CPS system meddles too often in cases where intervention isn’t warranted, while devoting too little time to serious matters.

"They are literally becoming the dust bunny and dirty dish police," he said.

It’s a hard point to argue against.

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#childabuseandneglect, #ChildProtectiveServices, #AssemblymanTimDonnelly, #ScottRolick, #California

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