Educate Yourself When Interacting with Children and Youth Services
There are many heartbreaking and hard to believe cases of parents who have had a child or children taken by Children and Youth Services. This is a big issue in Berks County and in every county in Pennsylvania. All of the participating judges, social workers, lawyers, guardian ad litems, therapists, doctors, and foster agencies (players) are part of a bigger picture and money wheels that work together to keep them profitable and retain job security. It begins with the government awarding states and counties money for every child they confiscate (legally kidnap). It comes by way of Title IV-E funding. Your tax payer dollars. This is an uncapped source of funding that is guaranteed and pays to keep all these "players" and administration profitable by showing only a minimal reason, "findings" for removing a child and only a "reasonable effort" to reunification with parents. It continues with the "players" and their joint efforts in sealing the fate of children and their families. Many of these "players" are contracted by the county. That is why you only have a choice of a handful of doctors when forced into expensive evaluations and counseling. This is why court appointed attorneys are playing their role in helping the county keep your child. They are paid out of these government funds. This is guaranteed income and job stability as long as they play their part. Contracted foster agencies also can receive huge amounts of money for farming our precious children into strangers homes and finding ways to alienate them from family in an effort towards termination of parental rights and eventually adoption. There is big money and tax incentives in adoptions. With the passing of House Resolution 4980 most counties receive $4000+ per child and even more for special needs and teens. American Adoptions reported tax incentives can be as high as $13,190 per child. In some cases the continuation of Medicaid benefits (free healthcare), clothing allowances and money for the adoptive families goes on until the child turns 18 years of age some may even collect until age 21. Counties have come to rely on this huge source of revenue. The corruption of this funding is continuing because nobody oversees the courts and or "players" in this twisted destruction of our nations core, the family.
There has been fundamental information collected on this subject by various groups. There are things parents can do to protect themselves but many parents are not educated on their rights. From the moment CYS attempt to or actually take a child parents should understand how to stand up for their rights and those of their children. The parents willing to share information want to help a family going through this process by providing what they have learned. The following are some of the many pointers families have shared about their experiences.
A young father of three wishes he would have known that CYS cannot legally enter your home without a warrant or court order. If they have one make sure you see it he shares. In some cases they may even bring the police to intimidate you. Without your consent they cannot enter your home. If they threaten to call police that is also illegal and is coercion, threatening and intimidation tactics. If CYS lies to the judge to get a court order and you can prove it that is a direct violation of your 4th and 14th Amendment rights, all of which were violated in his case. If they do take your child from your home or school without your consent it is considered a "seizure" under federal law. If CYS cannot show that your child is in imminent danger or has no probable cause they cannot enter your home or the school. They cannot just say they received a call and have the name and phone number of the complainant. He stated he now has a signed document at the school that nobody can remove or speak to his child without his consent. CYS can be sued if involved unlawful acts. If police violate your rights they can be sued as well.
Another parent said if they do take your child start a timeline of all things that occur. Document, document, document. Send a copy to your caseworker after each occurrence. Insist on them telling you the details as to why they have taken your child. Demand the name of person who filed a complaint or made the phone call. Always ask for copies of what is in your file. You have the right to your file. Information collected may be valuable in a future lawsuit.
A mother of two said her attorney advised her not sign anything without him reviewing it. You can take any paperwork CYS gives you to an attorney. Tell your children not to sign anything. If you are forced to sign something write above your name "under duress." She also explained why she thinks safety plans are often a TRAP! They use codes you will not understand and force parents to jump through hoops which may include counseling, parenting classes, drug testing, expensive evaluations etc. They will make you believe this is to get your children back when in reality they are just depleting you financially, mentally and physically. CYS has also prolonged many cases to reach the 15 months needed to terminate your parental rights. She noted in some cases children are given to the abuser in a relationship especially if the other parent is financially better off. She believes this is because that parent will drain everything they have to get those children back and away from the abuser.
Court appointed attorneys most likely work for CYS not for parents and reunification. This includes guardian ad litems appointed to children. They are paid by the same funding distributed to take a child so it is in their best interest to keep the child in the "system." As one parent continued to explain his 12 year old daughter had never met with her guardian ad litem until the first court hearing. He felt the guardian ad litem was unprepared and knew very little about their case. This is in direct violation of 42 Pa.C.S. 6311(b); Pa. Rule of Juvenile C. P. No. 1154. His court appointed attorney had never presented what he considered powerful evidence in his case allowing the county to keep his daughter in the "system."
Some attorneys will suggest that if you are approached about having children removed to make an appointment with your doctor and have the children go through a thorough exam so it is on record that they were healthy and wound free.
All the parents agreed that it is essential to notify a relative or relatives that would be willing to take immediate kinship of the children. Even though in some cases parents were not permitted to call relatives to get the children forcing them into county custody.
Many parents suggest that they would never go alone to CYS. Always take a friend or relative with you as a witness. It is permitted for one other person to be with you at all times. Do it!! One mother said she was always polite but assertive when dealing with CYS social workers and employees. She also recommended if you are treated rudely, harassed or threatened by a caseworker, report them. Report them to their supervisor, the director, the county commissioners and the Department of Welfare. Paper trails are crucial if you are being mistreated and anyone is being unlawful.
One father in our discussion advised that any documents pertaining to your case be read carefully and all mistakes corrected and request a copy once the corrections are made. More often than not mistakes are made and you can lose a child because the caseworker even though they may know of the mistake will use the information against you to keep a child in custody. In a recent case errors were made about abuse to a child being committed by the step father when in fact the abuse was inflicted by the biological father. You are entitled to all documents. It is your right to get your records and your file. Keep copies of everything and have a double that you keep off site and safe. Some of the parents backed their information up on scan disks and gave them to a relative.
Many in the group said they used email as much as possible when communicating with CYS employees so they would have a paper trail. Some even used an email tracker so they could see that it was received and knew who all was reading it. Another hint given was that if you mail something to CYS do it certified with signature required.
One mother said she left all phone calls go to voicemail so she could listen and prepare for a return call or send an email for records. She would never permit conference calls unless everyone listening identified themselves and she wrote down their names. She also would not let her caseworker use a cell phones during visits with her and her children. She added if you do decide to record anything you must make them aware that you are recording. If they leave messages on your machine or voicemail you can use them because they knew they were being recorded.
Use an attorney that comes recommended by a friend or relative. One that you can trust. Parents in this group did find ones that were honest and worked for them. Often these are attorneys who will bill you but all the parents said it was worth whatever it cost them knowing their attorney was working to get their children back home.
One couple suggested that at court proceedings don't allow chamber chat sessions. Demand everything be in the open and recorded for the record. Try and have court watchers or other witnesses in the courtroom as well. They felt having others there, if they are permitted in the courtroom, really helped in their case. It brought more awareness to all involved. They also made a point to ask any caseworker testifying to forgive immunity. This way if they do lie they can be held accountable. Also if they are lying and the supervisor or director knows of the lies and they allow it they can also be held accountable. We learned they can all be sued for deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia. There is no immunity, (which caseworkers are automatically granted), if they took actions under malicious intent to cause someone to be deprived of their rights as stated in Title 18 of the PA Crime Codes. § 4910. Tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if, believing that an official proceeding or investigation is ... pending or about to be instituted, he: (1) alters, destroys, conceals or removes any record, document or thing with intent to impair its verity or availability in such proceeding or investigation; or (2) makes, presents or uses any record, document or thing knowing it to be false and with intent to mislead a public servant who is or may be engaged in such proceeding or investigation.
Title 18, U.S.C Section 241 Conspiracy of Rights: If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured. They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
"We all have the right to have custody and take care of our children", she continued. If denied there is a good chance that fundamental principles of liberty and justice are being violated. We are protected by Amendments in the United States Bill of Right which these "players" are denying parents on a daily basis. These "players" are doing this with no conscience and only to fill their pockets and keep their job. It seldom has anything to do with protecting the children.
All the parents felt Berks County needs more attorneys that want to stop this corruption and want to help reunite families. The "players" will back down to an attorney they know will not play along. Federal lawsuits have been filed and won in Berks County cases. There is hope because the right attorney will help you. Sadly there are few attorneys willing to go up against those involved due to retaliation.
California has a hero in Attorney Shawn Mcmillan. He filed a class action lawsuit on April 22, 2015, against Orange County Child Protective Services. The lawsuit stems from a boy being removed from his mother's home in the middle of the night with no justification and without obtaining a warrant. It also alleges that the agency does this often and has over the last 5 years involving over 5,000 children. All counties need a Shawn Mcmillan to stop the corruption in family courts. Parents and children need protection from the abuse of power that is destroying their families.