Friday, April 16, 2010

West Virginia Abuses Children in Foster Care

The organization, Men and Women Against Discrimination has called for West Virginia to be transparent and accountable for its operations in child protection. Imagine that, a grassroots organization questioning governance?

Ladies and Gentlemen, let's give a standing ovation to another group of individuals who are celebrating National Child Welfare Fraud Prevention Month!

What is so entertaining is that the state countered the the group's allegations by citing child abuse propaganda.

Does CPS help or hurt families?
Staff Writer
CHARLESTON � Ron Foster, Region IV Coordinator for Men And Women Against Discrim- ination (MAWAD), which includes Lincoln County, wants the state Legislature's special committee overseeing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' (DHHR) Child Protective Services (CPS) division to hold more public hearings regarding the agency and its policies and procedures.

"Absolutely more public hearings should be held," he said.

Foster and his group believes CPS creates policies and procedures that favor them over families.
"False allegations are being used as a tool in family court," he said.

It's all about revenue maximization of federal funds to keep the state economy afloat.

PS, the testimonies are mostly negative and very critical of the agency.

That's because no one has been allowed to testify before.

"CPS took my adoptive daughter based on false allegations," one woman told the committee overseeing CPS. "Instead of helping to preserve my family, CPS tore it apart."

One complaint is that CPS workers have the ability to take a child from a home, even prior to any court proceeding.

MAWAD advocates a higher standard of proof before removing children from homes without a court order.

"We want to protect the rights of families," Foster said.

While CPS workers take the brunt of the criticism, the agency's policies and procedures continue to change in an attempt to fix the system.

"CPS appears to be severely mismanaged," said a father, who claimed to be a victim of false allegations in a custody case for his child.

Toby Lester, CPS Program Policy Specialist in Charleston, says the agency's goal is to keep families together.

"To just say that CPS wants to take children from their families is just not true," Lester said.

Yes, it is.  Social resources and federal funding have been taken from the people and redirected to CPS.  Poverty is a crime and grounds for CPS removal.

According to the DHHR's Internet Web site, CPS is a specialized child welfare service.

CPS also specialized in child welfare fraud, specifically Medicaid fraud.

"This service is provided to families on behalf of children who are neglected or abused by their parents or by the guardians or custodians responsible for the care of children," the site says.

It goes on to say that CPS is a combination of the requirements of state and federal statutes and the current standards for good practice.

No mea culpa over here!

However, the agency has come under fire in recent years and was successfully sued when a child in Raleigh County froze to death while the family was under the supervision of CPS workers.

Despite the negative image, CPS officials say the agency's goal is to protect children.

Lester says the target population for CPS intervention is any family in which a child has been suspected to be abused or neglected or at risk of abuse or neglect.

Targeted Case Management, a Medicaid funded program.  

"When there is an allegation of child abuse or neglect we are obligated by law to investigate," he said.
Foster says his group was successful in helping to get one piece of legislation passed, but feels it's not working effectively.

"It allows civil suits in cases where someone knowingly and intentionally files false allegations," Foster explained. "The standard is so high that it cannot effectively be used. The law still allows for someone to repeatedly make false claims before it can be considered in limiting parenting time. It places into our code the right to make multiple false claims with no recourse being taken by the judge."
Investigating the same individual or family several times is a common complaint, Foster added.
He says the false claims make for very high caseloads for CPS workers and that is something the agency has been working on for several years.

Lester says there are no statistics on how much false allegations add to CPS caseloads.

I say there are no statistics on how much child welfare fraud adds onto the national debt.

"We don't know if it's a false allegation," Lester explained. "We investigate and either substantiate based on evidence gathered during the investigation or we are not able to substantiate."

We do not know if its Medicaid fraud because the Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit does not investigate based on evidence gathered during Auditor General reports and citizens and are not able to substantiate because once a child is adopted, the files are shredded.

Lester added that CPS does "screen out" some referrals of child abuse.

CPS "covers up" all instances of fraud and child abuse in foster care.  That is why there are class action lawsuits.

"We do assessments and do screen out some referrals," he said. "The bottom line is that we don't investigate anyone that someone doesn't report."

Lester said approximately 25 percent (24.1 percent in 2007) of all CPS investigations in West Virginia are substantiated.

The poverty rate in the state is 17.4%U.S. Census Bureau  Poverty is considered child abuse.

"That doesn't mean the other 75 percent that are unsubstantiated are false allegations," he explain- ed. "It just means there was not enough evidence to substantiate. Often times investigations are substantiated after a second or third investigation."

Foster says the CPS substantiation rate is at a very questionable level.

"The 24.1 percent rate is a very low number," Foster said. "That means many lives of children and parents are being destroyed by false allegations and over zealous advocates that fail to substantiate before removing children from loving parents."

Lester says misinformation is also a problem the agency must deal with daily.

"Some think that if parents spank their children as a form of discipline the CPS will take away their child," he said. "This is not true. There is a difference in spanking and injuring a child by beating them."

Oh yes it is true.

Another area of concern is that grandparents are not protected by the CPS system either.

"We have been told many stories by grandparents who are not able to see their grandchildren, especially when a false allegation in leveled against their child who is the parent of the grandchildren," Foster said.

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,760 child fatalities in 2007. This translates to a rate of 2.35 children per 100,000 children in the general population. NCANDS defines "child fatality" as the death of a child caused by an injury resulting from abuse or neglect, or where abuse or neglect was a contributing factor.

NCANDS as well as Cornell's National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) does not maintain data on children abused in foster care, child welfare fraud, child deaths in foster care:

Biased research on child abuse

With the exception of 2005, the number and rate of fatalities have been increasing over the past five years, statistics showed.

Fatalities increase because of suspect data and poor record keeping.  Children are more likely to die in foster care, this is why the number and rates of fatalities have been increasing, along with major lawsuits against child protection organizations.

No matter how the fatal abuse occurs, one fact of great concern is that the perpetrators are, by definition, individuals responsible for the care and supervision of their victims.

In 2007, one or both parents were responsible for 69.9 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities. More than one-quarter (27.1 percent) of these fatalities were perpetrated by the mother acting alone, the statistics indicated. It also showed that child fatalities with unknown perpetrators accounted for 16.4 percent of the total.

The percentages of child abuse and neglect correlate with the rates of poverty, as poverty is considered abuse and neglect.  CPS is an entitlement program, meaning the child must meet the Title IV-A criteria for poverty, hence a targeted population.

There is no single profile of a perpetrator of fatal child abuse, although certain characteristics reappear in many studies.

A profile of a perpetrator of child welfare fraud is that it is a state government department that sponsors public and private corporations .

Foster says there is no statistics available reg- arding the possibility of class profiling of poor families by CPS, but his group knows of religious and national origin comments that reflect profiling by CPS.
"We also see gender profiling against males," Foster said.

According to the U.S. Advisory Board's study on child abuse and physical abuse, frequently, the perpetrator is a young adult in his or her mid-20s, without a high school diploma, living at or below the poverty level, depressed and who may have difficulty coping with stressful situations.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, Human Services Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General, U.S. Federal Court System, U.S. Governmental Accountability Office, the perpetrator of child welfare fraud is in authority of federal funding.

"In many instances, the perpetrator has experienced violence firsthand. Most fatalities from physical abuse are caused by fathers and other male caregivers. Mothers are most often held responsible for deaths resulting from child neglect," the study said.

According to the U.S. Administration of Children and Families, children are more likely to die in foster care.  There are no data on the rates of child deaths in foster care resulting from suicide, medical abuse, drug abuse or murder.

The research indicated that very young children (ages three and younger) are the most frequent victims of child foster care.

NCANDS data for 2007 demonstrated that children younger than one year accounted for 42.2 percent of fatalities, while children younger than four years accounted for more than three-quarters (75.7 percent) of fatalities.

These statistics are skewed as it is not reported the actual number and if the fatalities are from natural causes.  The United States has the highest rate of child mortality in the United Nations. 

"These children are the most vulnerable for many reasons, including their dependency, small size, and inability to defend themselves," the study said.

These children are the most vulnerable because the United States is the only country that does not provide health care to everyone.  So, in light of recent health care reforms, the rate of child mortality is expected to decrease significantly.

In 1981, Congress proclaimed April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

In 2010, Beverly Tran proclaimed April as Child Welfare Fraud Prevention Month.
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