Saturday, January 13, 2007

State social workers acting spitefully, falsifying documents and lying to judges

Inspector General cites possible crimes by social workers
Honeycutt-Spears, Valarie. Lexington Herald-Leader, Jan. 12, 2007, pg. A1.

For the past year, some parents have been telling officials that state social workers acted spitefully, falsified documents or lied to judges in an effort to take their children away, in some cases permanently.

Many of the complaints involving child removals and state adoptions are valid, according to a report released yesterday by Kentucky's inspector general for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The report, which followed a yearlong investigation of the social service office based in Elizabethtown, showed that workers there may have committed criminal acts in at least 13 cases.

Overall, in the office servicing Hardin and seven other counties "the focus was on adoption, not reunification" with biological families, the 61-page report said.

The investigation cited cases of social workers who laughed as they took children away from parents, who ignored and mistreated relatives deserving of custody in favor of foster parents and who even boasted of making it difficult for families to work with the cabinet.

One state social worker struck and cursed a biological parent during a visit with their child, the report said.

Though the investigation centered on the Lincoln Trail Region office that serves Hardin and seven other counties, Inspector General Robert J. Benvenuti said that his recommendations point to fixing the problem across the state.

"I don't think there's a recommendation in there that just applies to the Lincoln Trail," Benvenuti said.

The report calls on the Kentucky General Assembly to eliminate the confidentiality in child abuse and neglect cases, including court proceedings.

"We believe strongly that the cloak of secrecy that currently dominates the process is not in the best interests of Kentucky's children and must be removed as part of any material reform," the report said. "The fact that children are involved in the process should no longer be used as an excuse to protect these proceedings from meaningful public oversight."

The inspector general's report said the investigation began on Jan. 9, 2006, after a report from Louisville-based child advocacy groups Kentucky Youth Advocates, and the National Institute for Children, Youth and Families raised allegations that state social workers inappropriately removed children and placed them in foster care or adoptive homes.

David Richart, executive director of the National Institute for Children, Youth and Families, called the OIG report "a devastating indictment of the Cabinet."

Cabinet Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell said the OIG report highlights several areas his staff is already addressing. "We have reviewed the OIG's report and are prepared to act on it," he said. "I find it troubling, but not entirely surprising. It clearly points to long-standing problems with decentralized management that lacked appropriate checks and balances to protect the integrity of the system."

Birdwhistell said he had also already heard of many of the problems because he chairs the Cabinet's Blue Ribbon Panel on Adoption , a task force of lawmakers and professionals recommending new laws to correct many of the problems.

According to the report, regional managers abused their power, neglected to follow the chain of command and stripped supervisors of their authority. Some caseworkers held birth parents to higher, often difficult-to-meet standards when determining whether to recommend parental rights be terminated.

The report cited "a pervasive attitude of supremacy."

However, most social workers across the state do a commendable job, state officials said yesterday. In fact, Benvenuti said many workers actually made the allegations that were investigated and helped in his review.

Birdwhistell and the Cabinet's first order of business is to get the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel passed into law. Cabinet Undersecretary Tom Emberton Jr. said the Cabinet has already been working on reorganizing so there is less autonomy in the social services offices. The inspector general's report said that many decisions were made in the Hardin County office without state oversight.

Emberton said that when the Division of Community Based Services was realigned last September, 16 regions were combined into nine. The Cabinet also is expanding a parent advocacy program to help families navigate scrutiny from workers.

The inspector general's report said there were cases in which a lack of services provided to the "biological parents by DCBS most likely increased the chances the case would result in the termination of parental rights."

Added Benvenuti, "There were opportunities to slow down adoptions that did not happen."

The report said the investigation found no actual cases of fast-tracking of state adoptions, also called "quick trigger" adoptions. Still, there were dozens of problems in state laws, courtrooms and the entire process cited in the report, including instances in which "investigators verified that home visits documented in case files did not occur."

Benvenuti said he would send cases involving possible criminal violations to prosecutors and then to the Cabinet for personnel action. Benvenuti said he would continue to investigate allegations from other parts of the state and hoped that lawmakers would make necessary changes in state laws.

Terry Brooks, who heads Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the Cabinet should practice due diligence to make sure that no other family suffers similar indignities. No one could have predicted how toxic the climate was for families in that region," Brooks said. "It exceeded our worst fears."

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services will host a public forum next week for parents to make suggestions on ways to improve the state's child protection services. The forum will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Room 169 of the Capitol Annex.

1. Open court proceedings involving removal of children and termination of parental rights.
2. Conduct unannounced inspections of state social work offices.
3. State law should better define what constitutes abuse, neglect, and dependency.
4. Allow police to accompany social workers in potentially threatening situations.
5. Improve record keeping.
6. Train workers to better understand what constitutes abuse.
7. The Cabinet ombudsman's decisions should be given more weight.
8. The Cabinet's central office should review all cases of termination of parental rights.
9. The chain of command should be improved so managers don't abuse power.
10. Social workers' computers should be modified so records can't be improperly altered.
11. Centralize case information to provide more oversight.
12. Change state law to notify relatives of family members facing termination of parental rights. 13. The Cabinet should ensure that preference is given to relatives when appropriate.
14. Information given by workers to a family assessment program at the University of Kentucky called CATS should be studied.
15. Social workers should be evaluated on their performance, not on how many adoptions they complete.
16. Subjects of Cabinet investigations should get the results in a timely fashion.
17. The Cabinet should launch an aggressive effort to implement best practices.

3 Comments:

Blogger RACHEL M SHIELDS-CAMPBELL said...

CHILDREN WAS REMOVED FROM FATHER AND PLACED IN FOSTER CARE. I MOM WAS GIVING A PARENT PLAN WHICH WAS COMPLETED BUT BECAUSE THE WORKER HAS LIED SO MANY TIMES AND MADE ME LOOK SO BAD MY CHILDREN WAS PLACED UP FOR ADOPTION. THE WORKER WOULD TAKE MY VISITS AND WOULD NOT TELL THE FOSTER PARENTS MY GIRLS WOULD BE SITTING IN THE OFFICE WAITING ON ME WORKER TOLD GIRLS I GAVE UP ON THEM AND DIDNT LOVE THEM THE WORKER TOLD ME FROM THE START THAT I WAS NOT GETTING THEM BACK AND ACCUSED ME OF ANYTHING SHE COULD AND WOULD EVEN LIE ABOUT COURT DATES SO I WOULD NOT SHOW THIS IS VERY DISTURBING THAT THIS HAPPENS MY GIRLS ARE JUST OUT THERE NOT EVEN KNOWING HALF THE TRUTH MY LAST VISIT WITH THE GIRLS I STARTED TELLING THE GIRLS THE TRUTH ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON MY WORKER PULLED ME OUT OF MY VISIT AND WENT OFF ON ME AND I HAVE NOT SEEN MY GIRLS SINCE. THIS IS TERRIBLE PLEASE IF SOMEONE CAN HELP! MY WORKER IS ALSO DOING THIS TO TEN OTHER PPL. I'M LOOSING MY GIRLS OVER LIES I CRY EVERY NIGHT DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO.

12:04 AM  
Blogger hosanna said...

contact the 6 circuit of the supreme court for emergency ruling it can overide local courts. Also contact universal police for assistance no money needed.J> edgar Hoover once said to expose something just kick over a rock and see whats crawls out. Hossannna

1:25 PM  
Blogger Andrew Lee said...

Im in the same boat we are a military family my husband is waiting for his shipment date for us to pcs and the social investigator threatened me and said me and my kids better not leave the state or she will come after us we will be military not civilian she cant tell me not to leave when the military comes after us UCMJ who can i contact over this it's all bc my kids missed 10 days of school the whole year and half was due to a death in the family please help

12:05 AM  

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