Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Have a Fighting Chance and Get Your CHILDREN BACK

How to Have a Fighting Chance Against CPS and Get Your Children Back
By Melinda Murphy, M.A., in consultation with Julian Dominguez, LMFT, co-authors of A Culture of Fear; An Inside Look at Los Angeles County's Department of Children & Family Services (SBPRA Books, 2014).
For those parents whose children are under the care, custody and control of Child Protective Services (CPS), getting your kids back can be near im-possible if you don't know what you're up against. Further, many parents employ strategies that simply don’t work in their dealings with CPS. Fol-lowing the guidelines that are incorporated herein will not guarantee your child will be returned to you, but they can put you in a position to have a fighting chance.
The factors parents are up against:
Financial Incentives:
Our government offers cash incentives (known as bonuses) to states for each child they adopt out of foster care. If children go home to their par-ents, states do not receive this bonus money. Moreover, money has been cut from those agencies geared towards keeping families together. Since 1997, when ASFA (Adoption and Safe Families Act) was signed into law, the push towards adoption has been unwavering. CPS will recommend adoption in those cases where it clearly is not in the best interest of the child to sever parental ties. In addition, in the event reunification is not likely, CPS will remove a child from a good foster home, where the child feels loved and is thriving, should the foster parents opt for Legal Guardi-anship versus adoption. The child will be promptly put with new foster par-ents (strangers) who identify adoption as their goal. If a social worker dis-agrees with making the recommendation for adoption, s/he will likely be taken off the case and replaced with a worker who will recommend adop-tion. At the time of the Detention/Removal hearing, CPS can receive Title IV-E funding (Federal money paid to CPS) if the court makes specific findings 1) that CPS made reasonable effort to prevent the need for removal and 2) that staying at home is contrary to the child's welfare. In addition, CPS' burden of proof is very low (prima facie).
Lack of Integrity in Court Report Writing
The court relies on CPS to provide it with accurate and complete information so it can make the best possible orders on cases. Even though CPS sign their reports under the penalty of perjury, there is a lack of integrity when it comes to court report writing that Judges who rubber stamp CPS’ recommendations may not be aware of. Allegations may be subject to exaggeration and fabrication. In addition, it is not uncommon for CPS to omit from their court reports exculpatory information that may aid in a parent’s case. Confirmation bias which is searching for, and interpreting information in a way which confirms previously held preconceptions or confirms what one wants to believe, runs high.
Fear of Liability
There exists a pervasive fear in CPS offices where CPS does not want to be held responsible for anything unfavorably that might happen should a child go home. Instead of making decisions based on sound social work, CYA (Covering Your Ass) appears as the number one priority, and the re-unification of families may be eclipsed or marginalized. Even in those cases where children should go home, CPS might well recommend to the court that they don't, and pass the buck to the court. Should there be a child death in the news, CPS tends to over react, and the rate of detentions (children taken from parents) significantly increases. Testifying in court means the social worker not necessarily testifying as to the absolute facts, but rather as to the departmental position. If a social worker and/or super-visor disagrees with the stance CPS has taken against the parents, s/he will likely be taken off the case and replaced with a worker who will tow the company line. Social workers are admonished, CPS “speaks with one voice.” Although the union for CPS argues for more hires, there is no sense in hiring more social workers if they’re going to be thrown into that culture.

Lack of Real Social Work
There is a myth in child welfare that those who work for CPS actually do social work. In their schooling, those drawn to the helping fields may have been taught to do no harm, to listen and build rapport, advocate for, and help the downtrodden, but whilst on the job, it's a different reality for them. If one wants to work for CPS, one's ethics will be tested over and over again. It's a classic bait and switch. They come to work for CPS thinking they will be helping to strengthen families and protect children, only to learn their job is to protect CPS and its reputation. In addition to this, as in every field, there are good workers, and bad workers. The good usually struggle in the climate inherent in CPS. The bad social workers: those who pre-sent with judgmental and biased attitudes, those with no common sense; individuals who have no business working in this industry. Yet, CPS ad-ministration allows these bad social workers to carry caseloads. To add to this, CPS does not take care of its own. Social workers are generally not supported. There are no formal debriefing sessions for workers, no training to prevent vicarious traumatization, and no reward for acting ethically. In fact, the opposite is true. The tendency for burn out is high. A burnt out social worker is an ineffective one.

There are parents, family advocates, social workers, attorneys, community members, etc., voices across the nation, calling for reform of CPS. Parents--please know that reform is not coming. The way CPS conducts its business is not going to change any time soon. The sooner parents understand this, the sooner parents can get it together and focus on what needs to be done.
How to Increase the Odds of Getting your Children Back from CPS:
Call out your inner warrior; be calm and steady and prepare for battle using the right means. Refrain from going up and down with the environment and giving your power away. In this time of chaos, be strong and in control. Do not allow your buttons to get easily pushed. Keep focused. The CPS can make parents crazy. Think more, emote less.
Do not give up. Your child needs you. You know deep in your heart that no one is ever going to love your child the way you do. Do what-ever it takes. Fight for your child.
Know that CPS is not your friend. Do not vent to your worker with the hope s/he will understand. Talk with a trusted advocate or individual instead.
Do not try to talk reason with your worker in hope of changing the worker's mind. Once CPS has a recommendation in mind for your case, sometimes, it doesn't matter what new evidence comes to their attention, their minds are made up. Parents tend to talk too much and over explain. Everything you say runs the risk of being misquoted, or taken out of context. Limit what you say to CPS to three things if possible: “I love my children”/”I love spending time with my children.” / “I am learning so much from my counseling/pro grams.” And then be prepared to testify as to everything you’ve learned should you need to, in court.
Treat the worker like you’re in a business relationship. Be cordial.
If you don't like your worker, pretend that you do. It’s called acting “as if.” (Act as if you like your worker.) Acting “as if” is a powerful tool. Use it.
CPS typically does not do a good job of distinguishing between those families needing intervention and to what degree, from those families that shouldn't have CPS involvement, but unfortunately tend to treat all the parents in the same vein. Be prepared to get a worker who is dismissive of you and or one who truly believes all parents under the watch of CPS are horrible. Try not to take it personally. Refrain from confronting the worker and telling her how incompetent she is. Save your strength. For the record, there are good, conscientious, unbiased workers out there trying to make a positive differ ence. If you happen to get one of those, consider yourself lucky.
The court needs to see that what brought you to the attention of the court and the CPS no longer exists, and further, will never happen again. Whatever behaviors are not working for you—get rid of them. You're a good role model when you show your child how to face one’s problems head on and correct one’s wrongs. Not too many people in our society can do that. You have what it takes to be a hero to your child.
Expect no apology from CPS at the times they screw up things on their end.
You need to look good on paper, meaning you have proof of enrollment and completion of programs and good progress letters. Keep the original and give copies to your CPS worker.
Work on getting good progress letters from your counselors, therapists and agencies that are providing services to you. Ask your providers to include in their letters if you 1) are actively participating; 2) present with insight, and 3) are incorporating new, healthier behaviors into your repertoire.
Refrain from stating to CPS and the court, “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do.” Instead, describe what you’ve learned (i.e.that positive reinforcement is a new parenting tool that you’ve learned).
Have evidence ready to refute any inaccuracies or untruths CPS presents to the court. Not doing so can delay or stop your reunification with your children.
Follow all court orders
Let there be no excuses (i.e. you couldn't drug test because your car broke down, or you couldn't do this or that, etc. because of some reason). Do not give the CPS any ammunition to use against you; most probably they’re going to try to make you look bad. Don’t help them.
If you cannot get your social worker to call you back and return your calls,, contact her supervisor and say something along the lines of, “I know my social worker is busy, but I’ve left messages and haven’t heard back. Can you have her call me please?” Sound reasonable and nice.
Don’t hesitate to let the foster parents who are serving as your child’ s caregiver know your child’s likes and dislikes (i.e. that your son needs his stuffed animal to fall asleep at night, or your daughter will only take her medicine if you make a fun game out of it). You want what’s best for your precious one and nobody knows your child like you do.
Know that your appearance matters. When going to court or meetings with the CPS, look conservative. Although in this field, one can not judge a book by its cover, many do.
Learn to be a good advocate for yourself. Keep an important file folder to compile all your important paperwork; dates; notes. Start a log as to dates of contact with your social worker, and what the communication entailed. Also, keep tract of attempts to reach your social worker.
Visit your children as often as can be arranged. In Los Angeles, visits are usually court ordered 3 times per week for 3 hours. However, it’s not uncommon for CPS to instead, only give parents one day a week for two hours. Ask your attorney to bring this to the attention of the court. Young children, especially, need frequent contact with parents to maintain a bond.
Too often the quality of visits in CPS reports is silent and/or a monit or may be untrained or have a conflict where the court may not re ceive accurate information. Arrange for a witness or advocate to ob serve some of your visits.
Do not stay stuck in the victim role. Do not rely on your worker to help you. Be mindful that the time frame to get your child back is limited. Increase your resiliency and build on your coping skills. If your work er isn't helping you to navigate the bureaucratic CPS system, then find somebody who can.
Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Be good to yourself. Find whatever works for you--exercise, positive affirmations, prayer, etc., and stick with it.
While your case is open, keep chatter about suing CPS to yourself. Telling this to your worker or other personnel in CPS doesn’t help anything. Most social workers don’t know the rights parents have and erroneously believe their administration is going to protect them should something happen. While your case is open, focus on getting your kids back.
Arrange for your advocates/ professionals to attend meetings held by CPS with you. You will appreciate having this type of support. Along this topic, there was a time where CPS got it right, and that involved utilizing the Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) model for meetings (now discontinued). FGDM gave the power to the families to make decisions and have the last word, and they were very successful.
Please set your Facebook account to private or remove your profile while within the radar of CPS.
Know that you are not alone in your struggles with the system. Check out the The National Safe Child Show ( Host, Tammi Stefano brings on parents and experts in the field to educate and create media attention on the issues in child welfare.

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