Common Sense

A place to discuss thoughts and ideas concerning what is wrong in this country, the United States.

Name:
Location: United States

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Back on June 29, we had a letter stuck in our door when we got home from our caseworker. The bottom said "About Case Closure!".

My wife called them, they came out and wanted some "collateral contacts". This is the last we heard. The contacts were never contacted!. Is our case closed? I hope so. I just know the next time they darken our door, they will not be allowed inside! Never let them in without a warrant, because until they can find something, anything in your living situation, they can do nothing. If you have two or three dishes in the sink in the morning, because you haven't unloaded the dishwasher the night before, they will say your kitchen was full of dirty dishes. Then they have you. They don't have to provide proof. Toss out all your ideas of constitutional protections. You are not innocent until proven guilty. You have just been tried, prosecuted and are awaiting sentence by a government agency, who doesn't even respect the law themselves. They've been known to ignore court orders!

Anyway, back in February, I'd finally gotten a job, and kept it. We'd moved out of the double-wide we were in, into a small house. And we'd lost our food stamps sometime around May, seeing as with both of us working, we make too much money.

Seems to be a coincidence that being removed from a program that is administered by DFCS coincides with our case being closed. Or perhaps it was because we started recording their visits, as the person who was supposed to teach us how to keep our house "clean" was ugly to my wife one time.

I don't know.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We attended a panel review on July 19 to defend ourselves against allegations of abuse or neglect for both the sakes of our children and that of our family unit. We brought it all on the 19th. We had our children's medical records, showing the comments "well appearing, well nourished in no distress" on each visit. We had the psychological evaluation and IEP the school wrote concerning my son diagnosing him with Asperger's Syndrome and documenting his fear of bathing and his lack of toilet training. We told of my daughter's physical therapist saying that using cereal on the floor to get my daughter to start crawling was a good idea.

I know that during the panel review I stated that the decision of the panel did not concern me; that I wanted what was best for my children and that I was open to counseling if that was the conclusion of the panel since it would be a positive for our family for which I wanted the best. At that time I felt any insistence on my part that the charges be dropped would not show that I had the best interests of my family at heart.

However, since receiving the judgment, certain doubt gnaws me. Firstly, at the time of my statement, I had no concern of the outcome because I felt very strongly that DFCS has no right, divine or otherwise, to judge my capabilities as a parent. Secondly, information came to light at the panel review, which I was unaware of. I had asked time and again for my rights before the date of the panel review without response. I feel that the decision at the point of the panel review was only made because the wheels of bureaucracy must turn.

You see, the case against my family by our original caseworker, Ms. Carswell, was very colored, very biased. It was littered with judgmental words, like “insist”. Suddenly, the school had reported that my wife “insisted” that my son stay there after our meeting. Our caseworker had to “insist” that we check to see what my daughter had put into her mouth from the floor. Our floor had become “littered with food” instead of just the cereal we had put there to encourage our daughter to crawl. Our kitchen was “stacked high” with dirty dishes with “dried-on food”. None of which made the “Safety Report”, which stated only that the crib had too many toys. The same report we did not see until the day of the panel review.

And yet, Mr. Bennett, who appeared to chair the panel review, told us during that review that as part of the process, DFCS had the right to interview others concerning the case if we gave written permission. Could not the panel review have decided that not all process and procedure was followed correctly, since we were both unaware of this and the caseworker did not pursue an interview with our daughter’s physical therapist when she was told we were putting the cereal on the floor with her therapist’s blessings? Wouldn’t it have been prudent to interview my son’s speech therapist to establish whether his appearance, as reported by his school, was usual or a deviation from the norm?

During the review, I also questioned the process and procedures concerning reporting regarding “mandated reporters”, those such as schools that are required to report incidences to DFCS. This process I would have thought to be dictated by DFCS, since the reporter is "mandated" to report. Mr. Bennett replied that DFCS has no guidelines. Mandated reporters create their own process and criteria! Does this make sense that you are required to report, by DFCS, but you create your own criteria and process for that mandated reporting? So we were told we would need to take this issue up with the school system! And remember, reporters are anonymous. It is only because of irrefutable evidence that we are aware of the reporter in this instance.

And what of the investigation by Ms. Washington of DHR? I took time to print over 30 pages of documentation, the same documentation I took to our review, and mailed it to her on July 9. The week of the panel review I could not reach her, as her voice mailbox was full. I finally spoke to her on July 25. She called me back after talking to my new caseworker. She had not had time to read all of my documentation. The findings were thus: that the case had been substantiated, and that we were to undergo parental counseling for a period of three months to a year. That I should cooperate as I said I would and if I kept to the plan and did not receive any more reports, eventually DFCS would close the case. To me, this paraphrases as “Just be a good little boy, don’t cause any trouble, take your medicine, and once you are straightened out we will leave you alone.” It would seem my investigator is all too willing to concede my errors and accept the judgment of DFCS as inviolable. The wheels of bureaucracy have turned again and are past the point of reconsidering the judgment, which must be carved in granite somewhere.

What happens if I say “No”? What if I refuse the counseling and the caseworker intrusions into our lives? Mr. Bennett told me we were not threatened with removal of our children. That our case rated a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. So, what if we refuse? What would be the course of action? Would they then remove my children based upon a refusal to accept their decision?

DFCS is domineering. DFCS is menacing. Everyone we have spoken to – the investigator, our children’s therapists, Babies Can’t Wait personnel, other parents – have all said the same thing. “Accept what they say. You can’t fight them. Do everything they tell you to, and eventually they may leave you alone.” This is to do nothing except to accept their judgment upon you. You cringe and cower in front of a Dark Power, submitting to its will. If you do this, you diminish. At this point, I have diminished enough and will be pushed no further. At some point I must take my stand or fade forever! The last thing I was proud of in my life was that I was doing my best in raising my children. And if I submit to the ultimate decision of this corrupt power without fight, I surrender this very last thing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

We brought it all on the 19th. We had our children's medical records, showing the comments "well appearing, well nourished in no distress" on each visit. We had the psychological eval and IEP the school wrote concerning my son diagnosing him with Asperger's Syndrome and documenting his fear of bathing and his lack of toilet training. We told of my daughter's physical therapist saying that using cereal on the floor to get my daughter to start crawling was a good idea.

All for nothing. Sure, the people on the panel review seemed impressed with our evidence. And yet, for all of that, we still received a letter dated 21 July stating that the original determination was upheld.

The testimony of our original caseworker was colored, at best. She used words like "insisted" to describe my wife's desire that my son attend the rest of the day that Friday when she could not remember what my son had for breakfast. Did not remember that I "insisted" that we take him and get him something to eat. That she "insisted" we check to see what my daughter had picked up off the floor and put in her mouth the day of her first contact. She did not need to insist, and of course it was the cereal we were using to encourage her to crawl.

We were told that DFCS had the ability, with our permission, to question others. Why then did they not question my daughter's physical therapist with regards to the use of the cereal? Of course, the DFCS worker insisted that our floor was "littered" with food (no, just the cereal). That our dishes were piled up in the kitchen with dried food. (Warning: The government feels that you should have your kitchen clean before regular visiting hours. I guess you should ensure your dishwasher is unloaded and start loading your dirty dishes as they are used. And if you don't have a dishwasher, I guess you will have to wash them up as you use them.)

I disagreed with the school reporting us without going through some process, a process I would have thought to be dictated by DFCS, since they are "mandated" to report. Come to find out, DFCS has no guidelines. Mandated reporters are allowed to create their own process and criteria?! Does this make sense that you are required to report, by DFCS, but you create your own criteria and process for that mandated reporting? So we were told we would need to take this issue up with the school system.

I brought up questions like: Why didn't his teacher change his clothing with the spare clothing in his book bag? Why didn't she clean his nails before sending him home? Since she wrote the IEP, shouldn't she be aware he isn't toilet-trained? How does she know he was sent to school in his "night shirt"? (He wasn't).

I was told that my children were not threatened with removal. That my case wasn't serious, that the letter stating abuse or neglect is worded too strongly. Gee, could they take a minute to maybe change the wordage? And the person chairing the meeting, Mr. Bennett, said that on a scale of 1 to 10, ours rates about a 2.

And for the first time since this has started, I saw the original case manager's report. She was supposed to give us a copy, but we never received one. It stated: "Crib had several toys and was considered a safety hazard
1. Mr & Mrs Yates will remove the toys from the crib to ensure safety.
2. CM will make hvs [home visits?] to counsel family regarding making home child safe.
3. CM will make hvs and collateral contacts to determine progress"

So, that is it? Where was written documentation concerning our kitchen and floors? I've read articles stating they can't claim abuse/neglect for a dirty home, so she had to find something that they could use. Warning: keep those dangerous toys out of the crib! We told her that we didn't allow her to sleep with those things in there... but they were there during her visit, so we were in trouble.

Got a call from the investigator from DHR looking into our case. Nice of the governor to have an interest in our case, but I am sure now he is going to get the standard report, something like "As long as Mr. & Mrs. Yates follows the DFCS guidelines, work with their counselors, and meets the objectives of their plans, the case will be closed in three months to one year".

To paraphrase: "Be a good boy and good girl, do EVERYTHING DFCS tells you to do, keep your mouth clean (and shut) and we will eventually leave you alone (or until you are reported again).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Update:
On July 5, received letter from DHR stating that someone has been assigned to investigate our case. I've mailed a copy of all our documentation to this person.

On July 8, received an email from Gov. Perdue saying he is having the DHR investigate our case. I wish to thank Gov. Perdue for his sincere, warm and heartening email.

July 13, Surprise! We have a new caseworker. Not surprising, considering others' stories of being reassigned to caseworkers who know nothing of the case. Considering what we had, she is a real improvement. I met her last Friday, and she seems friendly enough.

Tomorrow is our "Panel Review", 11 am... I have copies of all our documentation. Never did receive a written record detailing the allegations. So much for being prepared.

Wish us luck! We could use some prayers!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

I've written to my case "worker" asking for details in writing telling me what we are being accused of. I don't see how we can either defend ourselves or right any wrongs if we aren't aware of the charges. She hasn't returned my phone calls.

Our "panel review" is scheduled for July 19. The director I wrote to did not bother to reply. Nor did I get any replies from the emails I mailed to my representatives, aside from a 'bot telling me that one of them received it.

I have seen a lawyer for referral to someone, if we meet income qualifications, who can help with our case. That was Monday. Since then, everything has been quiet - too quiet - it is enough to drive you mad, the waiting.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A copy of an email I have sent to my representatives asking for help will explain my particular situation.

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I’m writing you because I am afraid of losing the most precious gift I have ever received in this life. My children. Please take a moment to read the details of my story.

My son Joey is 4 years old. On February 16, he had an appointment with his new pediatrician, Dr. Anderson. We switched to Dr. Anderson after his involvement with Joey’s hospital stay in December (he had contracted a stomach virus). We discussed our concerns about Joey’s delayed development. Dr Anderson recommended that we ensure he is enrolled into the Pre-K program, and that we attempt to get him enrolled early since he is developmentally delayed.

I spoke to the Special Ed Coordinator on 2/28, who stated that speech delay wasn’t the only requirement for special education, and that Joey would have to be evaluated by a school psychologist.

My wife and I had a meeting with the school psychologist on April 28. She had already met with Joey at his daycare. In our presence, she evaluated him using standard testing tools, which pointed to a possible diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. With this diagnosis, he was eligible for Special Ed Pre-K. She wrote up a diagnosis of his condition including parental input during the meeting.

At noon on May 13, had a meeting with Joey’s teacher and other staff members. We went over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) written by his teacher, which included the psychological evaluation. We were offered to allow Joey to spend the rest of the day in class. When asked if my son had already eaten, my wife could not remember at that time if he had eaten breakfast (he had been really excited at the prospect of going to school and had even carried his backpack). The teacher said she could get him something for lunch. I declined, feeling it was my duty to ensure he had a proper meal. My wife later remembered that he had breakfast that morning. My son does not have a structured eating schedule, and refuses to adhere to one. He eats when he is hungry. We took our children out for lunch after agreeing that Joey’s first day of school was to be May 16.

What follows is the text of an email of May 18 addressed to Joey’s teacher, school and school psychologist describing what followed thereafter. The email went unanswered:

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We were shocked and appalled this afternoon when the DFACS worker showed up at our doorstep with a report from your school that our son was "unkempt".

The report was in reference to Tuesday. The report shows that our son had an "odor" and was still wearing his "night shirt" and had finger paint on his nails from the day before. We showed the caseworker the shirt he wore; it bore no odor. The report also mentioned that we had brought him in Friday without knowing whether he had eaten breakfast, and seemed to show a concern whether he was eating breakfast at all.

First, a little background information concerning our living conditions at present may help to explain some things. We have just moved into town, and have not completed unpacking. Things are not where they should be, and some things are hard to find. For instance, we cannot find a whole bag of socks we bought our son just before moving. Myself, I have to wear the same three pair. However, I do not feel this is enough in excuse for the allegations.

I assume the report concerning his odor and the remaining finger paint all deals with whether or not we give him a daily bath. We had hoped with our son entering special education that you would understand he has special needs. I remember the morning we sent him to school, down to my wife combing his hair. I changed his shirt. The shirt was clean, albeit a little small for him. He didn't want it changed. I've found, with experience, to pick my battles. To change his shirt because it was a little small would have caused an emotional outburst that would have affected his entire day. Plus, due to the move, it may have been difficult to find another clean one. This wasn't the shirt he'd slept in. That shirt he had accidentally tucked into his pull-up and it had "wicked" up some urine. You know he is still not potty-trained. You have the psychological report from the Lowndes County BOE where we state his fear of bathing. This is part of his condition. Early on, we were only able to give him one bath a week. This has progressed to the point we are able to bathe him almost every other day. In between, we can only wipe him down. I could ask why he was sent home with finger paint under his nails?

Joey doesn't maintain a rigid eating schedule. It has not been possible to get him to adapt to such a schedule. Growing up, he often wasn't hungry during our normal eating times. He would eat when he was hungry - and he does let you know when he is hungry! He expresses it both verbally and by gesture. Friday, my wife could not remember if he'd even eaten a "breakfast" (I was already at school). She later remembered he had pancakes for breakfast. She suffers from a poor memory. I'm sure the psychological report did not tell you that she also took the test for Asperger's Syndrome as well during our meeting and scored higher than our son. She may very well have adult Asperger's. Anyway, my son originally wanted to stay. You offered to get him something to eat for lunch. So it wasn't like we were offering him a choice between staying and going hungry or leaving and eating. Even so, I chose to take him with us to ensure he was properly fed. You told us to send a note along if he did not eat breakfast any morning (since his bus doesn't arrive in time for him to enjoy breakfast at school). We have not had to do this, as he has eaten a breakfast (usually pancakes) every morning this week.

As we know, Joey isn't potty-trained. But we are making progress in this area as well. He occasionally has "accidents" in his pull-ups. We clean him up and change him as necessary, although he has started to change his own recently without telling us (meaning he isn't properly cleaned). We are trying to remedy this. I'm not sure yet whether he is trying to be independent or trying to hide his "accident".

To sum this up, I really feel that this situation could have been handled in a better manner. Before, I felt we were all part of a team trying to help my son with his special needs. Now, with DFACS intervention, I feel that a trust has been violated.

My wife was very much looking forward to the Mom's Picnic coming this Friday. She no longer wants to attend. I can't say I blame her. We feel betrayed by those who are supposed to be our teammates in helping our son reach the goals set forth in the IEP. I really feel a better solution to this issue would have been to bring it to our attention. Further discussion would have revealed that it is one of his problem areas, and would have preserved the trust that is vital to the success of the team.

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My wife wound up attending the picnic, not wanting to punish our son. No mention was made of the email or the situation.

The DFCS worker has taken it upon herself to even involve herself in my daughter’s life, telling us that we are not allowed to have toys in her crib. When I asked a director at Baby’s Can’t Wait about this, she didn’t have any recommendations until I told her what the caseworker had said. Then she recommended we follow all DFCS recommendations, as if they are the experts and are The Law.

On June 18, a day after a follow-up visit in which our caseworker claimed that the case was on-going and that we were to be reassigned, we received a letter from her (dated June 14). It stated that child “abuse or neglect is substantiated”. The caseworker has yet to return my call. An intake worker I spoke with said the brief case-notes on the computer stated “inadequate food, clothing or shelter”.

I wrote the following letter in response:

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June 21, 2005



Virginia Boswell, Director
Lowndes County DFCS
PO Box 5166
Valdosta, GA 31603-5166

Subject: Child Abuse/Neglect allegations

I received a letter on Saturday, June 18, dated June 14 – a form letter alleging “abuse or neglect is substantiated.” The caseworker is Derri Carswell, who last week said we were being reassigned.

To this date, I have received no written documentation supporting this claim. In talking to a DFCS intake worker, I was told the reason given was “inadequate food, clothing or shelter”. The intake worker could give no further details, and Ms. Carswell was not immediately available.

I would like to address each point.

Ms. Carswell looked into our pantry and refrigerator. Our refrigerator was full. We have limited cabinet space in the kitchen, and told her that we have more in the linen closet next to the guest bathroom. She said she did not need to see this. Her response was that the food supply was adequate.

We had just recently moved into our new residence. There are bags of clothing still unopened, and a pile of laundry. But it cannot be said that clothing is a problem. My son has been blessed with many “hand-me-downs” from my nephew. And we are able to provide the balance and whatever my daughter needs.

As I stated above, this is a new residence. One of the advantages was to give my son and daughter separate rooms. Shelter is not a current issue. We are still unpacking and in the process of moving boxes into our storage shed that we just recently finished placing, so clutter has been a temporary problem.

I want to see the details of her report, so I can respond in kind. As I stated, I just received the letter and have very little time to respond. Therefore, I request a panel review. An administrative review of the record may indeed show that proper procedures were followed, while not considering the judgment of the caseworker that in my opinion is flawed if she felt that any of the three were lacking.

Respectfully,





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I requested the caseworker’s supervisor to call me. She was not available, so a “consultant” who is currently handling signing-off on my caseworker’s paperwork called me back on June 22. She deflected my questions concerning the details of the alleged abuse, telling me that if I requested a panel review, I would have the chance to defend myself against the allegations. I told her that this would be like “defending myself in court without knowing what I am accused of”. When asked a second time, she asked me what I had been told the initial complaints were. After I had told her what the caseworker had said, and that I knew the school reported me because of details only the school would know, she acknowledged the details as being in the report. I have received no written plan of action, no details of the findings to substantiate their claims - only the letter stating abuse is substantiated.

I told her my view of the situation, as addressed in the letter to the school. That this information was in the very IEP the school had written, that I had shown to my caseworker. Her response was that “you shouldn’t have any problem with the panel review”. And if I do? My children are more important to me than anything else!

I realize that a panel review is my right, and at that review I can answer the allegations. However, it seems that I am assumed guilty and that I have to prove my innocence, the burden of proof placed upon me. And I feel that it is just way too easy for DFCS to arrive at this decision of “substantiated” abuse, with no need to detail the charges to those being charged. Also, I feel at the crux of it all, is that there may be some differences in opinion in how best to raise a child – and I don’t feel that it is the government’s role to tell me how to do so, unless a child’s life is endangered or their basic needs are not being met. And if that is suspected, the burden of the proof should rest upon the accuser. The very system DFCS uses is against all the American standards of justice.

I wanted to call this to your attention. This matter is of greater importance to me than any other. Thank you.

P.S. – Please take a moment to check out the following links I’ve visited after doing a simple web search on DFCS. It left me even more frightened that losing my children was a possible outcome. These are just three. I didn’t have the heart to read any more.

http://www.petitiononline.com/dfcs1234/petition.html
http://educate-yourself.org/cn/statehegemonoverparentsrights06oct04.shtml
http://educate-yourself.org/lte/theystolemygrandson19apr05.shtml

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Can you name something that is more important to you than your Country?

If you said your children, obviously you must be a parent. This is a reasonable answer. Any parent would give their life to spare their child. Yet not all would give their life to save their Country.

What happens when the two come in conflict? Stay tuned for my story...