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A Failed System

Updated on February 3, 2013

A system needing reform

Is the system that is supposed to protect our children failing them and us as parents? Every year, many children are stripped from the arms of their parents when the Child Protective Services intervenes. Many parents are afraid of this government agency because they feel that they have done many injustices since they were established. Children even fall victim to this agency by being abused while being in foster care and some of which have even died at the hands of the foster parents. Even children who have been placed with adoptive parents because the state decided that their parents weren’t fit enough to take care of them have died because their adoptive parents abused them. Child Protective Services is a flawed system based on many stories from all over the country in which children have died as a result of their practices and neglect, families being forever shattered by those tragedies and with petitions being filed by those seeking reform of this system. There are two stories I’d like to share, both very different but very similar that tell about how the system in place was supposed to protect these children and their families but failed them miserably.

First off, is the story of Isaac Lethbridge, who traveled a painful journey in his two and half years. Child welfare workers took him and his four year old sister from their parents in Detroit, Michigan and placed them in an unsafe foster home. His parents were found in neglect due to poverty and their six older children had already been taken from them in previous states.

The foster home in which him and his sister was placed before Isaac’s death was the third home they had been placed in since their removal eleven months earlier. The foster mother had several complaints against her from others who had called in to the agency telling them how she wasn’t watching the children and that the children would stay out late at night. Even before Isaac’s death, several people noticed bruises on him but failed to report it or did report it but nothing was done. On August 16, 2006 Isaac was beaten and burned at his foster home and died, while in state custody foster care, at the hands of his foster mom and her adopted thirteen year old daughter. There were at least seven children living in the home when his death occurred. The thirteen year old adopted daughter was accused of inflicting the final injury on Isaac. When this happened, he was the third child to have died violently while in foster care within eighteen months. What happened to him under state supervision exposes a child welfare system so overwhelmed and lax in its oversight that, despite attempts at reform, children are still being placed in danger.

Next is the story of Seth Ireland, a ten year old boy living in Fresno, California with his half brother, mother and her boyfriend. During the four month investigation before Seth’s death, Child Protective Services (CPS) had been contacted at least six times about possible child abuse against Seth and his seven year old half brother. A neighbor had called in a few months prior stating that she could hear fighting and thought that it could possibly be physical and feared the children were being abused.

Prior to Seth’s death, which occurred on December 29th of 2008, his mother and her boyfriend tried to leave the two boys with a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy. The officer refused to take the boys into custody even after speaking with a CPS worker who told him that they had an investigation open on the boys.

A few days later a neighbor called in to the agency stating that Seth had major head injuries, bruising all over his body and was in the trauma center. Seth died ten days later from his injuries which were inflicted by his mother’s boyfriend in which he beat and stomped on him while his mother watched.

After his death, CPS Director Cathi Huerta said that his social worker followed protocol, and that their department was supposed to keep children safe but that she couldn’t humanly say that they did everything that they possibly could have done to prevent his death.

Every year, each and every day there are children being placed in foster homes, adopted homes and back in to their own homes to endure abuse by those who are supposed to protect them. Many children die as a result of this failing system. Many families are forever torn apart because of this failing system.

Many believe this system is flawed including some politicians. In 2007, Senator Nancy Shaefer published a report called The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services in which she describes how a grandmother from her district had contacted her in regard to her daughter losing her children to the agency. The report exposes that there are many people being ignored or prohibited from protecting children who are begging for protection, and also children who are wrongfully taken from their families who want to be with them. She also stated in her report that The Adoption and the Safe Families Act, set in motion by President Bill Clinton, offered cash “bonuses” to the states for every child they adopted out of foster care. In order to receive the “adoption incentive bonuses” local child protective services need more children. They must have merchandise (children) that sell and you must have plenty of them so the buyer can choose. Some counties are known to give a $4,000 bonus for each child adopted and an additional $2,000 for a “special needs” child. (Shaefer, 2007)

Online, there is a petition in which you can let the president, senators and congress members know how you feel about the system and to try and get the system changed. Senator Nancy Shaefer wanted to see the system reformed because she saw how corrupt it was and there are many more who feel the same. I am one of them. Twelve years ago, my twenty three month old son was taken by Virginia CPS workers while he was at his babysitters. I fought two years in court trying to regain custody of him but failed. The system took advantage of me because I was young, a single mother and from out of state. I didn’t have the resources that someone from the area would have and had only lived in the area a few months. I did everything that they told me to do in order to get my son back, but it was never enough. I was told that it would be in my best interest and my sons best interest if I were to relinquish my parental rights and let him be adopted to a family that could provide for him and give him a better life than I could.

Does this system fail? Yes, each and every day a child dies while in the custody of a state child protective agency. How important is it that this system be reformed or completely shut down? It is very important because many people have their lives changed because this agency sells our children and becomes rich doing so. It just isn’t right. Do you think this system is flawed?


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