Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scary stuff

Coffeyville Journal (KS): Problems with Montgomery County foster care cited in state audit

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. — An audit of the state's foster care system, presented to legislators Tuesday, addressed issues raised by parents in a dozen foster care cases in six counties. Legislators ordered the review after parents complained about how they were treated by attorneys, judges and state welfare officials.

Lawmakers who are faced every session with concerns about treatment of parents and children in foster care acknowledge there are no easy answers in a system tilted toward the best interests of the children.

The audit examined such things as whether parents were amply represented during foster care proceedings in court, whether they were treated fairly and whether judges acted too quickly in taking away their children.

The 12 cases reviewed were among the 5,821 cases filed in 2005. Legislative Division of Post Audit teams conducted interviews to determine whether there was wrongdoing in the court system or Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which oversees adoption and foster care in the state.

Five of the cases were from Montgomery County, where investigators found problems with the court transcripts of cases, including a recording device used in the courtroom that failed to work for a year.

“According to the audit, Montgomery Co. has more than double the state's rate of children taken from parents and put up for adoption, as a percentage of child-protection cases. Further, there are abnormal –possibly illegal – behaviors of specific individuals in the Montgomery Co. judicial/child-protection bureaucracy,” said Richard Harris, a former commissioner of the Wichita Civil Rights Commission. “The audit is especially full of troubling details about Montgomery County's system – including a permanent-severing rate that is statistically nearly 5 times what auditors expected.”

According to the audit, 59 children in Montgomery County were put up for adoption, while only 12 were expected, based on state-wide data and statistical adjustment for poverty rates.
..... (emphasis added)

Kind of hard to see how the system is working "in the best interests of the children" if it is unjustly separating families. The bureaucrats always hide behind the children whenever questions are raised, though (that and the high profile abuse cases). Of course in the child welfare court merry go round, an attorney or a CASA (court appointed special advocate) (usually a volunteer or a social worker) is appointed as the child's representative. This person usually operates hand in glove with the state (and often never sees the child outside the courtroom). So when the case goes before the judge (these cases are almost never handled by jury) there are two folks calling for the severing of parental rights, one of whom claims to speak for the child, versus the parents. The system is not designed to protect the children nearly as much as it is executed to impose the will of the bureaucracy upon families that fall in their grasp.

Children are much more likely to be molested and abused in foster care than in their homes of origin. There are a lot of good foster families, and even more that are good enough, and there are a few horror stories. Part of the problem is inadequate screening, part of it is overcrowding (too many kids are taken from "tolerable" homes and too many foster parents take more than they can safely handle for income reasons).

The sad thing is the majority of cases where SRS (or the corresponding state agency) takes a kid out of a home it's for dependency (i.e. not having adequate food, care, and shelter). For the money the state spends on foster care, they could probably provide services to pick up the slack where the parents cannot. Even if your mom is dirt poor, nobody will love you the same.

No comments: