Common Sense

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

Name:
Location: United States

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.