Monday, August 31, 2015

Feds Step Up To Help Parents With Civiil Lawsuis in Kansas Child Welfare

Do my eyes deceive me?

Are "Representatives from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" actually trumping a state administration to protect civil rights by "certifying" claims for civil litigation?

Are the feds finally getting off their arses by enacting mechanisms for this area of state government where "equal protection of the law" does not apply?

Will there be coordination with legal firms and foundations to help parents get access to legal representation?

Stay tuned becuase I will be watching.

This needs to take place in all the States and Territories.

UPDATE: More Kansas parents want to sue DCF

WICHITA, Kan. --- Dozens of Kansas parents are hoping to take legal action against the state of Kansas.
KAKE News reported Thursday that concerned community members want to file a class action lawsuit against the Department for Children and Families. They're accusing the agency of taking kids from their homes without cause and placing them in abusive foster homes.
Now other parents are joining the cause and sharing their experiences.
This August marks one year since Vincent Brown lost custody of his 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter.
"It's a nightmare I live over and over again," Brown said.
The 36-year-old father says the kids' mentally unstable maternal grandmother falsely accused him of abusing his boy.
"Without doing any further follow up in terms of the accusations... the police and DCF deemed it necessary to place my kids in protective custody and transported them to the Wichita Children's Home," Brown said.
Brown says St. Francis Community Center, which works for DCF, told him to take parenting, anger management, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol treatment classes in order to get his kids back.
"Despite me completing all of the classes recommended by St. Francis, their goal had changed following my completion of the courses and classes to adoption," Brown said.
Rose Flores is also fighting to be with her four kids. The 45-year-old single mother says DCF took them away two weeks ago, after Flores herself had called the police and contacted social workers numerous times to report her adult son's friends picking fights with her teenagers.
"I was being very open with them, I wasn't hiding anything I was divulging a lot of information, and then to twist everything the way they did, it's wrong," Flores said.
Since being placed in foster care, Flores says her 8-year-old daughter has been sexually abused by her foster father.
"She showed me he was touching her in her inner thigh and her private area," Flores said.
Both Flores and Brown have complained to DCF officials. They say they've been ignored, told to calm down, and even threatened. Suing the state, they say is the only way they believe they might be able to protect their families and future families in similar situations.
"These officials [need to] be held accountable for their actions," Brown said.
"I think if we all stand together, we have a voice," Flores said.
The state has refused to comment on individual cases. Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will investigate each parents' complaint, and then let the group know whether they have a case against the state. If investigators believe they do, the group plans on filing a class action lawsuit.
If you want more information, please contact the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights at 816-426-2157.
Kansas parents whose children have been taken from them are slamming the state.
They're accusing the Department for Children and Families of abusing its power and putting their kids in dangerous homes.
After months of trying to find someone who would listen to their cries for help and calls for change, parents, grandparents and concerned community members gathered for a special meeting on the Wichita State campus Thursday night.
"It has been an emotional travesty what has happened to my family," said Jarus and Lara Pore.
The state took away the Pores' three kids in May, when a neighbor found their 2-year-old wandering alone outside. They say trying to regain custody has been a nightmare.
"The entire time, we've been lied to. There's no communication or advocate for the parents to know or expect what's coming up," Lara said.
In 2010, Theresa Owen lost her two daughters, who suffer from a form of Muscular Dystrophy, because the state said the family's religious beliefs were hurting the girls' education and health.
"[One of my daughter's] life is at risk the longer she stays out of the home because she's developed seizures in a new part of the brain," Owen said.
Latisa Micheaux says social workers deemed her unfit to care for her grandchildren because of a misdemeanor on her record from 1981. She says she hasn't been told where they are and worries they're being abused.
"All I know, is the last time I seen my grandson, he had bruises all around his lower back from the foster parents," Micheaux said.
Not only do these families want to be whole again, they say they want DCF officials to be held accountable for the mishandling of their cases.
"DCF, all of the foster care agencies, and the courts need to be investigated thoroughly because families are being torn apart," Owen said.
"They're suffering now, more than they ever have in their whole life because of the damage," Micheaux said.
The state has refused to comment on individual cases. Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will investigate each parents' complaint, and then let the group know whether they have a case against the state. If investigators believe they do, the group plans on filing a class action lawsuit.
If you want more information, please contact the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights at 816-426-2157.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Conyers: Why I Strongly Support the Iran Nuclear Deal

DETROIT – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement expressing his support of the Obama Administration’s agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The Obama Administration’s determined diplomatic efforts have yielded one of the most important international agreements in memory: a verifiable deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“While there are numerous arguments for the deal, there's one underlying point that's essential to understand: the deal accomplishes the core objective that the United States set out to accomplish in entering the negotiations in the first place.  It eliminates two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, removes 98 percent of its enriched-uranium, and establishes the strictest inspection regime in history.  This vastly reduces the potential for a successful secret nuclear program.  Should Iran violate the terms of the agreement, we and our allies will have sufficient time to discover the violation, and all our current options to stop it—including the re-imposition of multilateral sanctions—remain on the table.  

“While some claim that Congress rejecting the hard-won agreement will result in a ‘better deal,’ the far likelier outcome is that our international coalition would splinter and the sanctions regime would collapse as our foreign partners come to believe that the United States is incapable of accepting ‘yes’ for an answer.  Rather than bolstering our bargaining position, a Congressional rejection of the deal would empower Iran’s hardliners, enable the resumption of unmonitored nuclear fuel enrichment, and increase the likelihood of conflict.

“Nothing would endanger American and Israeli security and economic interests more than a war that would unleash terrorism around the world and result in the blockage of the crucial Strait of Hormuz.  Such a war might delay an Iranian nuclear program by two years at most while discrediting US diplomacy in the eyes of our allies around the world.

“Approval of the deal would not only obstruct Iranian nuclear ambitions and promote stability in the Middle East.  It would strengthen US diplomatic authority in the world and, potentially, set forth a wave of reformist energies within Iran.  President Obama fought successfully for the strong multilateral sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.  By conditionally lifting some sanctions in exchange for a verifiable freezing of nuclear activities, this deal demonstrates to the Iranian people that constructive engagement with the United States is the path to the prosperity.

“The American people have been clear—they strongly prefer a negotiated agreement to the alternative of war and bloodshed.  Congressional approval of this deal would be crucial win for peace.”

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Michigan Lawmakers Forgot To Protect Kids In State Care From Rape

A very interesting ruling out of Michigan.

It seems incarcerated youth under the auspices of the state do not have any civil rights based on the technicality that the Legislature never amended the section of Michigan's anti-discrimination law, Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act, which was ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

I fault the Legislature, not the Attorney General.

This means that this same technicallity also applies to children in foster care, youth in juvenile detention and residential facilities, who are all wards of the state.

This also means Michigan has no intention of addressing the rape of children in its care, unless current federal litigation prevails..

Once again, children inthe  child welfare system have no civil rights and will continue to be raped.

If there is to be national criminal justice reform, it must include children.

Court strikes lawsuit over alleged abuse of prisoners

Michigan’s Court of Appeals has dismissed a high-profile lawsuit against the state filed by male teen inmates alleging rape and abuse while they were housed in adult prisons.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2013 on behalf of several teenaged “John Does” who were sentenced as adults and placed in prisons around Michigan. On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals released its 3-0 decision throwing out the suit on two technical matters. An attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case said she plans to appeal.
In their ruling, the judges cited a “failure to comply with disclosure requirements” tied to previous court filings on behalf of one plaintiff. Michigan law requires prisoners to disclose any other civil matters with which they are involved when filing litigation.
“This disclosure is ambiguous regarding the identities of the parties in the previous litigation, and leaves to speculation whether it was ‘the prisoner[s]’ from this case as a full group, partial group, or individually,” Judge Michael J. Riordan wrote.
Two of the three judges on the panel also ruled prisoners are not protected by Michigan’s anti-discrimination law known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Passed in the mid-1970s, the law offers protection from discrimination based on “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.” A 1999 amendment to the law sought to exclude “an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment in a state or county correctional facility” from the protections.
A federal court eventually declared the amendment unconstitutional, according to Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
“If a federal court decides a law is unconstitutional and that decision is not appealed by the state, ... then you don’t get to go and rehash that case before a different judge,” Korobkin said.
Michigan’s Department of Corrections, the target of the lawsuit, welcomed Wednesday’s ruling. But the state is also targeted by a federal lawsuit based on similar claims.
“The department is thankful and hopes this case will come to a swift end,” said Chris Gautz, public information officer for the Department of Corrections. “This case has been defended at a great cost to the taxpayers, and we hope this ruling will bring it to its conclusion.
“As we have said from the beginning, while we take these allegations very seriously, it’s been our position that the allegation that rampant sexual abuse was taking place in our prisons is false. We have provided more than a half million pages of documents and more than 500 videos as part of the discovery process, which have not provided support for the allegations made in the lawsuit.”
Deborah LaBelle, part of the the plaintiffs’ legal team in the case, said the disclosure issue is a small technical matter. The ruling regarding Elliott-Larsen, she said, is more troubling.
“It’s an appalling attempt to disenfranchise,” LaBelle said. “If you are carved out of the civil rights act, you’re carved out of the Constitution’s equal protections.”
In a partial dissent from appeals court ruling Wednesday, Judge Jane M. Beckering also objected to the state’s reliance on the 1999 amendment to Elliott-Larsen that a federal court later rejected.
“...Despite a clear constitutional mandate..., in 1999 the Legislature attempted to take away the rights of prisoners who seek redress under the ELCRA,” she wrote. “It is this exclusion from protection under ELCRA that, in my opinion, renders the 1999 amendment... unconstitutional.”
The John Doe cases gained national attention earlier this year from The Atlantic magazine and Huffington Post website. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office brought additional scrutiny by issuing subpoenas for the notes of a Huffington Post journalist who interviewed two of the plaintiffs and eventually withdrawing them after they were publicized.
The inmate plaintiffs have given graphic accounts of rape and abuse at the hands of other prisoners. And they depict prison workers in many cases as allowing assaults to take place.
One plaintiff who spoke with The Detroit News detailed being raped in the shower at Kinross Correctional Facility at the age of 17 by a stronger, older inmate.
“I pretty much just sat in the shower crying,” he said. “I never expected it to happen to me.”
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Iran diplomacy: History is on Obama’s side

By John Conyers, Jr.
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
An American president, approaching the end of his second term, stands up to foreign policy hawks to defend his legacy-defining efforts toward nuclear disarmament. Exacerbated by relentless criticism from the right, he makes his case bluntly: “Some of the people who are objecting the most ... whether they realize it or not, those people basically down in their deepest thoughts have accepted that war is inevitable.”
The year was 1987. The president was Ronald Reagan.
While I was often at odds with President Reagan during his time in office, I’m grateful for his dedicated pursuit of nuclear arms reductions with the Soviet Union. This tenacious work made the world safer and helped to create the political space for reformers to eventually dismantle old dictatorial structures. 
Today, with his historic Iran agreement, President Obama is on track to do the same. 
Of all the arguments on the Iran deal, there's one key point that's essential to understand: The deal accomplishes the core objective that the United States set out to accomplish in entering the negotiations in the first place. It eliminates two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, removes 98 percent of its enriched uranium, and establishes the strictest inspection regime in history. This vastly reduces the possibility of a successful secret nuclear program. Should Iran violate the terms of the agreement, we will have sufficient time to discover the violation, and all our current options to stop it — including the re-imposition of multilateral sanctions — remain on the table.  
Just as in Reagan’s day, the critics of this nuclear negotiation are all but assuming the inevitability of military conflict. While some claim that Congress rejecting the hard-won agreement will result in a “better deal,” the far likelier outcome is that our international coalition would splinter and the sanctions regime would collapse as our foreign partners come to believe that the United States is incapable of accepting “yes” for an answer.  Rather than bolstering our bargaining position, a Congressional rejection of the deal would empower Iran’s hardliners, enable the resumption of unmonitored nuclear fuel enrichment and increase the likelihood of conflict.  
Nothing would endanger American and Israeli security and economic interests more than a war that would unleash terrorism around the world and result in the blockage of the crucial Strait of Hormuz. Such a war might delay an Iranian nuclear program by two years at most while irrevocably discrediting U.S. diplomacy in the eyes of allies. The only winner in such a destructive conflict would be the enemy that the United States and Iran share: ISIS.
Approving the deal would not only inhibit Iranian nuclear ambitions and promote stability in the Middle East. It would bolster U.S. diplomatic authority in the world and, potentially, set forth a wave of reformist energies within Iran. Obama fought successfully for the strong multilateral sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy. By conditionally lifting some sanctions in exchange for a verifiable freezing of nuclear activities, this deal demonstrates to the Iranian people that constructive engagement with the United States — not reversion to the ideology of the ayatollahs — is the path to the prosperity they desire.
Just over half a century ago, another American president, John F. Kennedy, in another era of difficult engagement with the Soviets, provided a piece of enduring wisdom for American diplomats and for our nation as a whole: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” Obama’s diplomacy with Iran is grounded in strength and realism. But it’s also animated by something all too rare in foreign relations: Hope.

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Can a Government Be Sued for Child Abuse?

There are so many facets to this argument, I just do not know where to begin.

Let us begin with the recently introduced Senate Bill "The Family and Kinship Act of 2016"which focuses on decriminalizing poverty and improving neighborhood economic conditions which would prepare a student for school.

This Senate Bill speaks volumes to the currently standing problems of a dysfunctional national child welfare system simply because there was need for the Bill to be introduced straight out of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

Then one has only to look at the "other" goal of the Federal Reserve and that is to "mazximize employment" which it has failed to do so by coddling its primary objective of protecting financial institutions too big to fail.

In doing so, the end result has been a desperate battle of sruvival in traditionally, economically neglected pockets of society.

Detroit is an available heuristic for the go-to concentration of poverty visual and a reflection of state social policies for the rest of the nation in dealing with child welfare.

This would mean that neglect would be the fault of the local government, not the fault of the individual guardian.  I have previously had the pleasure of doing a parody piece on this angle.

The implications of this ruling would mean a totally new approach on how we allocate our Medicaid dollars and other resources in ameliorating and improving conditions which have led to the filing of this federal suit.

Technically, I believe the group bringing this lawsuit is circumventing the problem of stripping a state of immunities by presesnting the questions to the local school district.

As I always say, before you were a man, you were a child.  All policies begin with the concept of the child.

Quintessentially, if poverty, inclusive of its endogenous conditions, thereof, is considered child abuse which is an automatic trigger for Child Protective Services, then would not this be a case of child abuse and neglect against the City and the State for failing to protect children?

Are Traumatized Students Disabled? A Debate Straight Outta Compton

Kimberly Cervantes, one of the student plaintiffs, says she witnessed the deaths of two fellow students while in middle school.
Kimberly Cervantes, one of the student plaintiffs, says she witnessed the deaths of two fellow students while in middle school

Kimberly Cervantes, one of the student plaintiffs, says she witnessed the deaths of two fellow students while in middle school.
An unprecedented, class action lawsuit brought against one Southern California school district and its top officials could have a big impact on schools across the country.

On Thursday in Los Angeles, a U.S. District Court judge will preside over the first hearing in the suit against the Compton Unified School District. To understand the complaint, you need to understand Compton.
The city, located just south of LA, has long had a violent reputation. Last year, its murder rate was more than five times the national average. Now, a handful of students say they've been traumatized by life in Compton and that the schools there have failed to give them the help they deserve.
The complaint is a terrifying read — of kids coping with physical and sexual abuse, addicted parents, homelessness and a constant fear of violence.

One of the plaintiffs, listed as 15-year-old Phillip W., says he witnessed his first murder when he was 8.

"Somebody got shot in the back of the head with a shotgun," the boy explains in a video on a website dedicated to the case. "And they threw him over the rail, and he was just sitting there bleeding, blood all down the sewer line. It was a horrifying sight."

The complaint says Phillip has witnessed more than 20 shootings and, in 2014, was hit in the knee by a bullet.

What's this have to do with Compton's schools?

Susan Ko of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress says exposure to violence can have a profound effect on the brain's ability to learn.

"That impacts concentration, the ability to just listen to what the teacher is saying, to understand what you're reading, to remember something that you learned or what the teacher just said," Ko says.
Not only that, many traumatized students live in a state of constant alarm. Innocent interactions like a bump in the hallway or a request from a teacher can stir anger and bad behavior.

The lawsuit alleges that, in Compton, the schools' reaction to traumatized students was too often punishment — not help.

"They were repeatedly either sent to another school, expelled or suspended — and this went back to kindergarten," says Marleen Wong, who teaches at the USC School of Social Work and has spent decades studying kids and trauma. "I think we're really doing a terrible disservice to these children."
The suit argues that trauma is a disability and that schools are required — by federal law — to make accommodations for traumatized students, not expel them. The plaintiffs want Compton Unified to provide teacher training, mental health support for students and to use conflict-mediation before resorting to suspension.

"That's a very strong mandate, and it needs to be funded," says the district's attorney, David Huff. He argues the suit uses too broad a definition of disability and sends the wrong message to kids living in other struggling neighborhoods.

"A sweeping declaration would effectively tell these children that they have now been labeled as having a physical or mental handicap under federal law."

Compton Unified has asked the judge to dismiss the case.

This idea — of treating trauma in children as a disability — is new, though the problem is not, says Ko. "Twenty-five percent of kids will have experienced a traumatic event before the age of 16."
Not all of those children will struggle in school. But many will — and not just in Compton, where students returned to class this week bringing with them the stories of summer, good and bad.
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Conyers Hails $3.1 Million in Grants to Wayne State University

Medical Grants Will Protect Adolescents, Infants, and Others

Detroit – U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement about recent grants by the Department of Health and Human Services:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“In the fight for jobs, justice, and peace, the provision of adequate healthcare for all communities is a vital tool.  As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’

“This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $3.1 million dollars in research grants will be awarded to the distinguished Wayne State University to address AIDs in adolescents, protect young infants from fevers, increase the effectiveness of medical treatment, and improve the delivery and efficiency of healthcare services at a major urban hospital caring for under-served populations. I commend the HHS for their support of these crucial priorities, and am proud to see Wayne State’s outstanding faculty and staff recognized for their outstanding research.”

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Conyers Grieves The Loss of CBC Co-Founder, Louis B. Stokes

The Original Members of the Congressional Black Caucus
DETROIT – Today, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement on the passing of former Congressional Black Caucus founding member former Rep. Louis B. Stokes (D-OH):

“Today we have lost one of the greatest trailblazers of public service, a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, and I am proud to say – my good friend, Louis B. Stokes.”

“Louis was the true embodiment of a dedicated public servant who broke barriers throughout his distinguished career.  Having served as a public servant on the local and state levels, in 1969 Louis became the first African American to represent Ohio in Congress.  He served for 30 years in the House of Representatives and was the first African American to have a seat on the Appropriations Committee and chaired the Intelligence Committee.”

“During his tenure as a Representative, he knew that there was much more that could be done to enhance the quality of life for all African Americans. In 1971, I joined Louis and several other African American colleagues in forming the Congressional Black Caucus – the conscience of the Congress – to bring more awareness to issues impacting the advancement of black Americans.  Most notably,  he founded the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, which focused on increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness of the health disparities affecting African Americans.  To this day, the CBC Health Braintrust remains one of the most active elements of the annual legislative conference.”

“As a former Army veteran, he was a voice for the voiceless.  His extraordinary career resulted in positive changes for thousands of Americans, one of the greatest accomplishments a public servant can achieve.  I extend my sympathies to his wife, Jay, and children, Shelley, Angela, Chuck, and Lori, and their entire family at this difficult time.”
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New Child Welfare Bill Focuses on Keeping Families Together

I believe this Bill is going to survive.
Call your Senator and tell them to support this.  
Poverty will no longer be a crime and jobs will be created.  
Lots of jobs.

Wyden, Stabenow, Casey, Bennet, Brown, Cantwell, Schumer, Menendez introduce bill to promote family stabilization and prevent foster care
WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was joined by seven other members of the committee today in introducing a bill to keep families together by allowing the nation’s largest child welfare funding stream to support front-end family services to reduce unnecessary foster care stays.
Currently, the majority of federal child welfare dollars is spent on foster care. The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act would give states the flexibility to use federal funds to pay for preventive services that can stabilize families and keep kids out of foster care and safe at home or with kin. Senate Finance Committee cosponsors include: Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
“Somewhere in America, a mother has to choose between leaving her kids at home alone to work a nightshift, and losing the wages that allow her to barely scrape by,” Wyden said. “The current child welfare funding system provides two choices: put kids in foster care or do nothing. There must be a better option for families who need just a little bit of extra help and this bill will give the system flexibility to respond to real-life situations of families in need.”
The bill is based on Wyden’s discussion draft from May aimed at opening up those dollars – Title IV-E of the Social Security Act – for evidence-based services to help children return to – or remain safely with – their families or be placed with kin.  
Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Washington State currently have Title IV-E waivers that have allowed them to test innovative approaches such as investing in front-end child welfare service delivery to help families remain safely together. Wyden’s legislation would allow every state to permanently make these types of investments with federal support.
The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act would also allow states to provide these support services to extended family members who are called upon to take care of relatives’ children at a moment’s notice.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee with jurisdiction over the nation’s foster care system, will soon introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
“I am pleased to join Senator Wyden’s important initiative. Our current system is failing too many children and dividing too many families. More resources must be directed toward preventing abuse and neglect of children and to providing the support to keep families together,” Doggett said. "With early engagement, the need for foster care can be reduced substantially."
More than 60 organizations have expressed support for the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators and the Children’s Defense Fund.
“The Children’s Defense Fund believes the Family Stability and Kinship Care Act represents a long overdue, giant step forward in protecting children by strengthening families,” the organization’s Policy Director MaryLee Allen said. “It will improve outcomes for children by offering services necessary to keep them safely with their families and out of foster care, and assist children in foster care to move quickly to permanent families and protect them from needing to re-enter care.”  
The bill’s cosponsors said:
“Our children deserve a permanent, safe and loving home, and that starts with community support for families,” Stabenow said. “This bill targets children who are at risk of entering the foster care system by providing access to critical family services. Not only will this approach keep more families together, it will prevent children from unnecessarily having to enter the foster care system in the first place.”
“This is commonsense legislation that will help more families in difficult circumstances stay together,” Casey said. “Under this proposal states can innovate to come up with the best solution to help these vulnerable children. If we can help families with challenges on the front end then we increase the likelihood that these children will have a better shot at pursing their dreams.”
“We have a responsibility to every single kid in Colorado and throughout the country to do everything we can to ensure they grow up in a supportive and loving environment,” Bennet said.“Providing states with flexibility to use their federal dollars on proven prevention efforts will help keep our kids safe from abuse and neglect.”
“When hardship forces an unexpected stay in foster care, it disrupts children’s routines, ripping them away from their families and often forcing them to switch schools or leave their communities,” Brown said. “We should make every effort to provide parents and kin with the support and resources they need to provide a healthy and safe living environment from the start. By investing in preventive family services, we can help ensure stable home lives for all children and keep them in the care of their families.”

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Too much money in child trafficking

If you want to stop undocumented children from coming to the U.S., just tell the truth of what will happen to them.

Anti Immigration Poster by Beverly Tran

This may be considered as cold hearted, but I am only adopting the rhetoric of those who do not like children.

The U.S. Child Welfare System is abysmal yet no one will do anything about it.

Why?  Too much money in child trafficking.

Young immigrants placed in sponsor homes are at risk of abuse, experts say

A 15-year-old girl who crossed the border from Central America illegally last summer was placed by a U.S. government agency with a Santa Ana relative who demanded the girl go to work, rather than school, to earn her keep.

To pressure the girl, the relative withheld food and kept the refridgerator locked.

A 16-year old girl was sent by the same agency to live with a man in the Baltimore area who, she later told police, had smuggled her into the U.S. and, once she joined him in Maryland, molested her.

The agency sent several Central American children to their mother in an Austin, Texas, trailer park even though she faced domestic violence charges.

The incidents — documented by advocates, police and court records — underscore what critics say is a haphazard system that frees thousands of children from government custody but leaves them vulnerable to neglect and abuse.

The federal government has created a pseudo-foster-care system for placing youths with relatives and other "sponsors" without the same levels of screening and follow-up found in state and local foster-care agencies.

"There's no oversight," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a lawyer who represents the Rio Grande Valley, where many of the youths entered the U.S.

"Some of it is almost based on the honor system," Cuellar said, referring to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, which places the children with sponsors. "I have to take it on their word that that's what they are doing."

Agency officials said they could not respond to specific complaints cited by advocates because of the privacy of the youths involved, but emphasized that they had tried to prevent abuse with added oversight in recent months. They do not track reports of abuse, since they are not required to provide follow-up services for most children, and state child welfare agencies are not required to notify them of alleged abuse or neglect by sponsors.

More than 62,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the Mexican border last fiscal year. ORR placed 53,518 in homes while their cases are pending: 60% with parents, 30% with other family members.
An additional 39,000 minors are projected to cross the border this fiscal year, according to the nonprofit Washington Office on Latin America. As of last month, 17,439 had been placed with sponsors.

Unaccompanied children detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are supposed to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. They are held at shelters, group homes and residential treatment centers until being placed with sponsors.

The department, which includes ORR, defines sponsors as adults who can "provide for the child's physical and mental well-being and have not engaged in any activity that would indicate a potential risk to the child," according to spokesman Kenneth Wolfe, who said the goal is to get children out of shelters and into homes.

Regardless of immigration status, "we try to place the child with a parent if possible, and if that is not possible, with a relative. And if that is not possible, with a family friend," Wolfe said.

After the immigrant influx last summer, some lawmakers demanded to know where children were placed, and ORR posted figures online. As of July, most had been placed since the beginning of last fiscal year in Texas (9,481), California (8,113), New York (7,522) and Florida (7,309). In California, most were in Los Angeles County: 1,018 this fiscal year.

Last summer, Cuellar wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell asking how the department screens sponsors.

Burwell replied that sponsors had to undergo a check that "consists of a public records criminal background check, self-reporting by the sponsor of criminal history or domestic violence." Children were interviewed to uncover signs of sponsors' criminal activity.

Fingerprints were cross-checked with FBI and Homeland Security records to see whether "there is any concern for the child's safety, or if the sponsor is not the child's parent or legal guardian," she wrote.

Burwell said the department was not releasing children to those convicted of various offenses, including abuse or neglect, or those with pending criminal charges "that compromise the sponsor's ability to ensure the safety and well-being of the child."

Visits to screen sponsors, or "home studies," were required by law only for some children, such as the disabled and abused. Follow-up services after children were placed were also only required for certain cases, such as trafficking victims.

Last fiscal year, ORR did home studies for 1,434 children, 2.5% of those placed, and provided post-release services to 3,989 children, about 7% of the total. Agency officials emphasized that they are not a foster-care agency and have no jurisdiction once a child is placed.

"The local or state child protective services agency and local law enforcement become responsible for following up on reported allegations of abuse or neglect," said Cynthia Vitelli, an agency spokeswoman.

Critics said it was not clear how often or thoroughly sponsors were screened.

"The official policy is they do background checks and they do verify the family relationship, but we have found that's not the case," said David Walding, executive director of the Bernardo Kohler Center in Austin, which provides legal assistance to immigrant children.

Walding said that after a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy was placed with a non-relative sponsor who provided a Dallas phone number and the address of an Austin taqueria, he was unable to reach the youth. Walding worried the boy had become a human trafficking victim, and filed a report with Texas children's services. He later heard the youth was at a ranch in Oklahoma.

ORR officials said home studies are done in person. But Caitlin Sanderson, who worked at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles last year, said some were not and left youth vulnerable — including a 16-year-old Central American girl with schizophrenia placed with her mother in Riverside County after a home study by phone by an ORR contractor in Florida. Afterward, the girl stopped taking her medications and ran away, Sanderson said.

She said a 15-year-old Central American girl who arrived last summer was also quickly placed with her father in Los Angeles without a home study that would have revealed he was a laborer sharing a studio apartment with several men.

"If you're a foster parent, you have to take classes and be certified and if something happens to a kid in your custody, you can be held liable. That's not really the case with sponsors. It's really just a way for ORR to get kids into homes," she said.

Agency officials have attempted to place more youths with sponsors more quickly especially as shelters grew crowded last summer: 96% between October 2013 and June of last year, up from 88% the previous year.

Many immigrant advocates also want children out of shelters quickly. But speedy placements without proper screening come at a price, they say.

In 2013, the agency issued an alert warning of three "fraudulent sponsors" with addresses in Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota seeking to claim multiple, unrelated unaccompanied minors.

The youths are particularly vulnerable because in immigration court, they are not provided lawyers — leaving them few advocates except sponsors.

Stephanie Canizales, a doctoral student in sociology at USC studying young Guatemalan immigrants in the U.S., met a 13-year-old who was placed with an older sister who berated the boy and forced him to work to pay off his $4,000 smuggling debt.

"He ended up never going to school. The sister's husband became abusive toward him. This kid ended up becoming homeless," Canizales said.

After ORR was contacted by The Times this spring, officials said they were strengthening efforts to prevent abuse.

The agency added child abuse and neglect registry checks for all non-relative sponsors and distant relatives and expanded a hotline for parents trying to find children in ORR custody to accept calls from children and sponsors reporting safety concerns.

Last month, ORR required home studies for all children released to non-relative sponsors who previously sponsored or attempted to sponsor more than one unrelated child.

We should send them back to their relatives in their home countries. If they want to apply for asylum, let them do so in their home countries. We don't have enough money, resources, or Spanish-speaking foster parents in our foster care system to take care of all these children.

Officials announced a pilot program to expand home studies to include children age 12 and under released to a non-relative sponsor. They also added post-release services for children and sponsors who have contacted the hotline within 180 days because their placement has been "disrupted" or is "at risk of disruption." This week, ORR officials announced they would start conducting 30-day post-release "wellness checks" of children and sponsors by phone.

They have contracted "child advocates" in six metro areas, including Chicago and Los Angeles, to aid children in ORR custody and coordinate their care.

Immigrant advocates said more oversight is needed to ensure the government places children with appropriate sponsors.

Cuellar wants ORR to conduct biometric screening of all sponsors.

"When you have this pressure on HHS to place kids, we just want to make sure they're put in the right place," he said. But a proposal he circulated this year in Congress never made it out of committee.
Canizales, among those pushing for more oversight, recalled a 14-year-old Salvadoran girl who was placed with a distant relative in Los Angeles. He lost his job and gave her to other relatives, a couple who abused her.

"They don't feel a sense of obligation to the child," she said. "There has to be some kind of accountability system where children are just not placed in situations like that. If we're just pushing children out, we're not doing a favor to the communities, the families or the child."

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Windsor Burns Down His House

For those who are not aware, there are moments when a special person crawls out of the woodwork to try and make a few bucks off the hardship of others in dealing with child welfare.

Bill Windsor is one of them.

I posted this for the Michigan Parental Rights folks who support Bill Windsor.

I also posted this because the post from the blog Joeyisalittlekid is really, really good.

Windsor Burns Down His House

Its been an excruciatingly long, hot, but most of all boring summer for Bill.  Even he admitted he has been boring by his own standards.  Instead of trying to focus and work on his looming criminal trial in Montana, Bill has been subjecting his 4 remaining followers to watching his home made vacation movies in the form of his 780 Lawless America Movie pics (which are all Windsor selfies btw).  He's also become addicted to the drug like high one gets from reposting news articles on your facebook page that you read from the news feed on your browser's home page.

That is not to say that Windsor hasn't continued his vexatious ways.  We have a new lawsuit in his fictitious home of South Dakota against only fictitious internet names.  Real people tend to defeat him in court.....especially when they have attorneys on hand.  So let's just keep that pesky reality as far away as we can from Bill's court room.

The Texas 10th Court of Appeals gave Bill his theme letter for the summer. in denied. They also noted Bill's blatant attempt to hornswoggle them with his premature filings and then trying to go back and amend them as if done correctly.  With Ellis County DA still holding the cards to file charges on Bill for his bond jumping escapade once the Montana trial is over.....I would say Texas isn't on his list of happy places.

Which brings us to Montana.  The Missoula DA gave Bill and offer he couldn't refuse.  It would take a completely insane person (like someone who had lost his mind) to refuse an offer that would keep the words Convicted Felon from always preceding his name.  Ironically, DA Jennifer Clark's can't refuse offer included a mental evaluation for Bill.  Instead of taking the more than generous offer, Bill decided to burn down his house.  He has never done anything wrong in his entire life, just ask him, so why plead guilty to anything?  Ever?  Now, his trial is almost a month away, he still hasn't found a decent defense for himself but why fret, his charm and wit will overwhelm that court room and dazzle the jury as they will surely find him not guilty.  And even if he fails and is forced to serve a prison sentence against his will and pro se, he's got a really good feeling about his appeal.  His warning to the world is that even if they lock him back up....his domestic terrorist activities will not cease as he has a legion of unseen minions ready to continue his cause of dishonesty, corruption, stalking, and lawlessness.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Washington Pays Out Over $166 Million in Child Welfare Lawsuits

If you rarely, even take the time to read what I present, I strongly encourage everyone to read, share, then open discussions because there is so much more to the cost of children than could ever be imagined.

Washington State has such a high payout of child welfare lawsuits strictly because there are bold attorneys who are not afraid to brandish the facts, in a court of law, of what happens to a child in foster care.

In most states, particularly Michigan, the legal profession has an unspoken code of being "blacklisted" if an attorney goes up against the state in a matter of child welfare.  Then there is that pesky matter of one being able to afford an attorney to represent their child, or even themselves as the parent.

The stigma of being involved with Child Protective Services is so deeply embedded in social culture that it makes sense for everyone to remain silent, even the children who are, for whatever reason (i.e. unnecessarily, involuntarily, poverty) so that no political leader will directly touch this "tar baby" a ten-foot pole.

I must give credit to to Congresswoman Karen Bass and her founding of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth but it is a dearth, if any, activity in addressing the structural issues of the entire foster care system, mainly the billing and civil rights.

Political candidates of both sides of the aisle only have joined the aforementioned congressional caucus for D.C. political posturing, and not even for their constituents.  I can attest, personally, first hand knowledge, that Congressional Chiefs of Staff will ignore and omit anything dealing with the child welfare system from the Offices.

(I would name names, but I believe it will be much more enjoyable to sit back and watch certain Chiefs of Staff to be escorted off the Hill.)

Why?  Because they consider this to be a state issue and have never taken the time to even investigate as child welfare is a closed, secretively administered system.

State political leaders will vehemently exclude anything about child welfare from their rhetoric as it comes across as defending bad parents and an hindrance in helping the "poor, abused kids".

Child welfare is the last frontier of civil rights.  Stated in this article, reiterated by my previous scribings, children have no civil rights because they do not pay taxes and cannot vote.

DSHS employees rarely pay a price for failing to protect foster children

Cheryl Schaefer, 28, and three siblings suffered years of abuse in a foster home under DSHS supervision in northeastern Washington. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Cheryl Schaefer, 28, and three siblings suffered years of abuse in a foster home under DSHS supervision in northeastern Washington. She was angered to learn from a reporter there was no apparent record of discipline for...
Over the past eight years, the state Department of Social and Health Services’ child-welfare division has been hit with scores of lawsuits, paying $141.4 million for failing to protect children under its care.

The state of Washington’s largest department is tasked with caring for the state’s most vulnerable residents — abused children, foster kids, mentally handicapped adults. But time and again, it has failed.

Over the past eight years, the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has been hit with scores of lawsuits, ultimately paying $166.4 million for personal-injury claims. Many of the most severely injured were children who were tortured, starved or raped. Some died.

DSHS employees behind these failures rarely are punished, The Seattle Times has found.

From those scores of lawsuits, the newspaper selected one dozen of the high-cost, child-welfare cases for which records were readily accessible. Many of these cases made headlines and resulted in verdicts or settlements ranging from $750,000 to $11 million, some $75 million in all.

Using court records, public records and interviews, the newspaper identified 48 DSHS staffers involved in the failures in these 12 cases.

None of the 48 was fired or suspended. None was demoted or lost pay.

That is according to DSHS, which ran the 48 names through its human-resources databases at the newspaper’s request. (The database only shows records that affect compensation.)

Whether any of the 48 staffers were given lesser forms of discipline, such as reprimand letters, is unclear. DSHS in May said it would takes several months to provide answers. (Recently, the agency said one staffer had been given a letter of reprimand. It hasn’t completed its research.)

Slightly less than half the 48 still work for DSHS; some have retired.

The review of the 12 cases — as well as several dozen interviews with present and former DSHS employees, state employee-union officials, personal-injury lawyers, children’s advocates and others — turned up some common failings: overlooked complaints of abuse; delayed or inept investigations; placement of children in unsafe homes.

DSHS’ lack of focus on personal accountability is a significant problem, said Tim Tesh, a personal-injury lawyer who has sued DSHS many times. Policymakers can suggest reforms, he said, but “often, it’s that the worker didn’t follow procedures that are already in place. What good does reform do you when the worker just doesn’t follow them?”

DSHS said paying a victim does not mean an employee made a mistake.

“I don’t think anyone in the field can credibly deny that there’s a scary connection between overburdened workers and risk of harm to kids.” - Ira Lustbader, litigation director of Children’s Rights"

Jennifer Strus since 2013 has been head of the Children’s Administration, the division responsible for payouts of $141.4 million. She would not comment on how her predecessors handled employees who may have made mistakes years earlier.

Any failures must be well-documented before the agency can take action, she noted. DSHS in recent years has improved training and how it tracks complaints of abuse and also reviews the performance of employees implicated in claims against the agency.

Being a social worker is the “toughest job in state government,” Strus said. A combination of large caseloads, employee turnover and budget cuts makes it “pretty hard to do great work,” she said.

Cheryl Schaefer, 28, isn’t comforted by these words. She and three siblings suffered years of abuse in a foster home under DSHS supervision in northeastern Washington. Up until 2001, court records show, they were beaten, forced to overeat, throw up and eat their own vomit, and suffered sexual abuse.

According to court records, Schaefer and her siblings said the caseworker repeatedly ignored their cries for help.

A 2012 lawsuit, filed by Tesh against DSHS, was settled for $5.3 million. To Schaefer, money does not equal justice.

Paying for mistakes

DSHS paid out $166.4 million over eight years for injury claims. The largest cases involved the Children’s Administration, its child-welfare division.

Sources: Washington Department of Social and Health Services; Washington Department of Enterprise Services (Reporting by Will Drabold / The Seattle Times; Graphic by Mark Nowlin / The Seattle Times)

“I can’t do my job”

Complaints about how DSHS handled foster kids and reports of child abuse
have tagged the agency for years. In 1998, lawyers for 13 foster kids filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, saying foster children were being harmed across the board by inadequate care. The state Supreme Court, in the landmark 2003 Braam decision (named after one of the plaintiffs), upheld a lower court and put Washington’s child-welfare system under judicial oversight.

The Braam case led to several improvements, including sharply cutting back on children bouncing from one foster home to another. The court oversight continues, in part because a key court-ordered mandate remains unfulfilled: foster-child caseloads of 18 or fewer for 90 percent of social workers.

Besides the court, state lawmakers recently required DSHS to be more accountable for mistakes.
DSHS was required to do automatic reviews of botched child-welfare cases only when someone died in state care, a “fatality review.”

As of July 24, under “Aiden’s Law,” DSHS must review worker actions if a child experiences a “near fatality” within one year of a previous incident of abuse.

State Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, who sponsored the legislation, called it an improvement. That lawmakers had to force DSHS to review such cases “speaks volumes,” he said.

Most of the multimillion-dollar settlements come from the DSHS Children’s Administration division. There more than 1,800 social workers oversee nearly 10,000 children in foster care and last year looked into 90,000 reports of child neglect or abuse. Turnover is high — about one in six staffers leaves each year. Starting pay can be as low as $32,688.

Joyce Murphy, a social worker in Vancouver who’s worked for a decade at the agency, said she has failed to see children once a month, as required by DSHS policy. She blames it on her caseload, which she says over the past four years has averaged about 25 children — well above the national standard of 15 and the DSHS average of 19.
"When we are some 30 percent above a reasonable caseload, that can be like sending the Seahawks to play the Super Bowl with two-thirds of a team, then firing them when they lose.” - Kevin Quigley, DSHS Secretary"
“I can’t do my job,” she said. She worries each night that one of her clients will die on her watch.
No one died in the case of two young Snohomish County boys, ages three and six, who were being starved and beat by their father and his girlfriend in 2006, but it does illuminate the tragic results when workers utterly fail to do their jobs. The case is one of many that reveals the personal consequences for such failures can be slight.

Between May and July 2006, a neighbor filed four complaints with DSHS, saying two young boys were being starved and beaten by their parents. She would later say that no one at DSHS ever followed up with her, court records show.

The father, Danny Abegg, and his girlfriend, Marilea Mitchell, kept a padlock on the refrigerator and withheld food to punish the boys. A social worker, Aubrey Kilgore, in one visit reported that the house “had plenty of food in it.”

He went back a second time after a sheriff’s deputy, shopping at Wal-Mart, saw bruises on the face of the 3-year-old, and alerted DSHS. This time, Kilgore required the parents to see a family therapist, documents show.

The child-welfare case was transferred that fall to another social worker, Deanna Neff. Among her failures, she gave Abegg eight-days notice she would be visiting the home, giving him time to hide evidence of abuse. Nor did she speak to the more severely abused younger brother, Shayne, records show.

A few months later, Ada Sharp, who had no experience or training investigating child abuse, was given the case, court records show. Other warning signs surfaced, records show, but Cherokee Screechowl, the area supervisor, ended the investigation in February 2007.

A month later, someone alerted authorities that a little boy was being “starved.” Paramedics rushed Shayne, now 4, to the hospital where he was found in urine-soaked clothes, emaciated, with a body temperature of 87 degrees. After being given food at the hospital, the boy told doctors not to let his parents know that he had eaten. A veteran paramedic later said he had not seen “a worse case of neglect or malnourishment.”

After Abegg and Mitchell were charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment, the case, with its sickening details and claims of DSHS failures, exploded in the news. Gov. Chris Gregoire asked for a special review, and DSHS said its employees failed to protect the two boys.

At the time, a DSHS spokesman said two employees linked to the case had resigned. DSHS recently said one of the four did receive a letter of reprimand.

Kilgore and Sharp still work at DSHS. Neff resigned from the agency. Screechowl resigned in 2007, came back in 2011 and then re-retired.

Screechowl could not be located; the other did not return calls for comment.

Shayne Abegg received $5 million from the state in 2009 after a judge compared him to a concentration-camp survivor. His older brother received $2.85 million two years later.

Danny Abegg sits after being arrested for criminal mistreatment of son Shayne, 4, who weighed 22 pounds. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Danny Abegg sits after being arrested for criminal mistreatment of son Shayne, 4, who weighed 22 pounds. Shayne got $5 million from the state after judge compared him to a concentration-camp survivor. (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)

“It is a war zone”

If the high-profile Snohomish stavation case didn't result in someone being punished, what sort of case would?

“This story has been going on for 30 years,” said Dennis Braddock, DSHS secretary from 2000 to 2005. He oncedescribed DSHS’ culture as “bunkerlike” and said he tried to hold staffers to account but faced an uphill battle.

“Republicans don’t like administration,” he recently said. “Democrats all side with the union. So management gets the short end of the stick in [employee] disputes.”
It’s a proven formula: To effectively serve children and families, social workers need a reasonable number of cases to manage, a finding backed by decades of state and national studies.

Currently, the average caseload for child-protective-services (CPS) workers — Children’s Administration employees who investigate reports of child neglect — is 16, well above the national standard of no more than 12. Also, it takes on average two years for a CPS investigator “to become proficient,” DSHS said.

Since 2008, the Children’s Administration has lost 300 employees. This year, for the first time since, the division received an additional $7.2 million for 43 employees and other resources, an attempt to lower caseloads and improve investigations.

Greg Devereux, executive director of the Washington Federation of State Employees, which represents unionized DSHS staff, describes social-worker caseloads, burnout and turnover in dire terms: “It is a war zone.”

Some former DSHS officials and child advocates point to his union when noting that individual discipline doesn’t always occur. DSHS is required to have substantial documentation to punish negligent employees, they assert, and the arbitration process can be time-consuming.

“That’s ridiculous,” Devereux said. The union makes sure DSHS “fairly holds people accountable.”

In the past eight years, the union went to arbitration on only two cases of Children’s Administration social workers who were terminated, he said. One firing was upheld; the other employee was reinstated.

“I don’t think anyone in the field can credibly deny that there’s a scary connection between overburdened workers and risk of harm to kids,” said Ira Lustbader, litigation director of Children’s Rights, a national organization that advocates and files lawsuits to bring accountability to child-welfare systems.

Lustbader’s organization has filed lawsuits in other states arguing high caseloads are a civil-rights violation for children because it puts them in harm’s way.
“They’re poor. They’re disproportionately of color. They’re not a legislative priority.” 
“These kids don’t vote. They’re poor. They’re disproportionately of color. They’re not a legislative priority,” he said.

Not held accountable

Even so, heavy caseloads cannot always explain away mistakes or why they go unpunished. According to interviews with 10 plaintiff attorneys who have brought personal-injury cases against DSHS, none of them has heard of a social worker being disciplined for failing to protect someone.

David Moody is a Seattle lawyer who has brought lawsuits against DSHS that resulted in $86 million in verdicts or settlements since 2000. “There’s a constellation of warnings and a corresponding constellation of failures by DSHS to heed those warnings,” said Moody, lawyer for the Abegg children. “No one is held accountable.”

DSHS Secretary Kevin Quigley declined to be interviewed. In an email, he wrote that the agency has an improved performance-evaluation system and is more aggressive about dismissing subpar workers during their probation period.
“I understand the solution for some is to blame the caseworker every time a mistake is made but when we are some 30 percent above a reasonable caseload that can be like sending the Seahawks to play the Super Bowl with 2/3 of a team then firing them when they lose,” Quigley wrote.

Some officials note that the state does have another tool to hold DSHS accountable: The Office of Family and Children’s Ombuds. Director Patrick Dowd says the office plays a neutral role when it intervenes in cases in which DSHS failed to act or was unreasonable.

However, he said, his office’s “focus is on the actions of the agency and not the specific caseworker.”

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