Common Sense

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

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


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:


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.


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:


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.



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.


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