Thursday, November 10, 2011

More on All It Takes is an Accusation

I was talking to a long-time buddy of mine who told me something that made me so angry, I wanted to punch someone.

She told me a tale that is so disturbing, upsetting, sad, and ironic I couldn't believe it.

Here's the story:

About four years ago, my friend was a relative caregiver for several children.  As kids often do when they don't get their way, they made a false abuse allegation against her.  The child welfare authorities came in, and even though there was no evidence of abuse, they took the kids.

Although the kids quickly recanted their allegations, it was too late.  My friend was labeled a child abuser, and was told that she would only be allowed supervised visitation with the children, because she was obviously so dangerous.  For a variety of reasons, which I won't go into here to keep my friend's privacy, she decided not to fight.  The children were taken into foster care, and there they stayed.

My friend refused to participate in supervised visitation because she hadn't done anything wrong.

One of the kids has since turned 18.  The others are still minors, but well into their teen years.

Fairly recently, the social worker involved in the case decided that supervised visitation wasn't really necessary.  My friend was finally allowed visits with the kids.  Pretty soon, the foster parents were wanting to use her as respite, and the children were being allowed to stay longer and longer.

And now, the most stunning news of all.

A few days ago, the children's social worker called my friend and asked if she would be willing to take the children back.

Yes, that's right folks.  After all these years of being labeled a child abuser, social services had suddenly changed their mind.  Now, instead of being a child abuser, she is a preferred caregiver.

It seems that the kids had been placed in separate foster homes, and the worker was eager to reunite them.  Since none of the foster families involved were willing to take on more children, and the preference is to place kids with relative caregivers when possible, my friend's home suddenly became the logical choice.  The worker even unofficially apologized and admitted that they had made a mistake those four long years ago.

Removing the children from my friend's  home hadn't been necessary after all.

When my friend told me the news, I was so angry I found myself trembling in rage.  Although I am delighted my friend was vindicated, because she truly was innocent of wrongdoing, I am enraged at the damage this has caused to her, the kids involved, and her extended family.

The system in this case was so eager to take children away from the "evil abuser" that they didn't bother to stop and really check out the allegations.  There was no physical evidence that the kids had been abused, and all it took was the words of a few angry teenagers to put things in motion that couldn't be stopped when the children later recanted their stories.

The terrible thing about this is that my friend had cared for these kids, without complaint, for most of their lives because of an earlier tragedy.  She was trying to do the right thing for her kin, and the child welfare system punished her for it.  The kids went to foster care, she was drug through the emotional wringer, and her good name spoiled by an ugly mark in a computer database somewhere.

And now, because it's convenient, expedient and less expensive, they want to give the kids back?

I am outraged.

But I also have to think about the kids here.  I think about how they have spent the past few years in foster homes, separated, and not allowed to visit with some of their relatives.  I know that the kids, especially the instigator, are struggling with guilt.  They know that their lies have done unalterable damage to their relative caregiver, their family and each other.

And all because the system is so eager to remove kids from their homes without bothering to really investigate.

My friend's case is not the only case like this.  Back in September, SocialWrker24/7 wrote about a case where she thought a mistake had been made:

I feel deep down in my gut that a horrible mistake has been made with this family. That perhaps the doctors were mistaken. That a decision was made too quickly. That what we initially classified as resistance and manipulation was more likely confusion and desperation. I'm neither doctor nor investigator and I was not present during the investigation to see all the evidence.

But, I am convinced that these children should never have been taken from their parents.

Happily, the children were returned to their parents. Still their case isn't over:

They will be continually monitored - in fact, way more frequently than usual. We are still trying to get to the root of their medical condition, but making strides forward I hope. I will still hold my breath and hope that the other shoe doesn't drop. If this job has taught me anything, its that nothing is always as it seems. I expect that this case will be open for quite a while, but I do hope this is the beginning of the end.

Keep them in your prayers, won't you?

Keep them in our prayers?

Although I'm glad that SocialWrker24/7 had the guts to admit that a mistake was made in this case, I am disgusted that she seems to support the continued monitoring of this family.

How about social services get the fuck out of these people's lives?

Now there is something unusual about both of these cases. It's rare that individual social workers are willing to admit to mistakes. In our case, we've been accused of wrongdoing, spent a year in court and have been investigated four times, and not once has anyone ever apologized for the emotional and financial destruction the system has brought upon our family.  Even though we have been cleared of any wrongdoing and charges were unfounded, which means the allegations couldn't possibly have happened, no one has ever admitted they were wrong or apologized for the damage they've done.

I know there are some who believe that "protecting the children" should be a priority, and that the innocent families who end up destroyed as a result of overzealous investigations are simply collateral damage.  I know that there are some folks who believe that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or even the one family that might be injured by this process.

But me, I believe that the child welfare system, in its current form, is simply evil.  It is in the business of destroying families, and reallocating resources and kids, all in the name of "the best interests" of the children involved.

Best interests?  My ass.

Going back to my friend's story, she has decided not to take the children back, at least for now.  Having been through the wringer once, having been falsely accused of wrongdoing and having no one listen to her, she quite reasonably believes that the same thing could happen again.  She was nearly destroyed the first time this happened, and she isn't prepared to go through this again, the next time she says no to one of the kids.

My friend quite wisely realizes that she can either be a parent or a loving relative to these kids, but not both.  For now, she wants to keep her role as the loving relative, and to be able to enjoy her time and visits with the kids.  She wants to be able to love and spoil them without having the daily responsibilities of parenting.

And I don't blame her one bit.

Now I realize that I've kept the details of my friend's story a bit vague.  I have her permission to share her story, anonymously, because what has happened here needs to be brought to the light of day.  My friend has decided not to go public herself, because some of the kids involved are still underage, and she wants to protect their privacy.  I understand and respect that.

But it's stories like these that need to be brought forward.  Unless and until the public becomes truly aware of the abuses that the child welfare system inflicts on innocent and undeserving families, the system will be allowed to run roughshod over anyone who has, or cares about, children.


  1. You're beginning to sound like me.


  2. Having experienced multiple accusations in our lives as foster adoptive parents, we are always astonished at how quickly social workers can turn on us. As we always say, it's not if there will be a false accusation, its when.

  3. Ditto - Psychotropic Parenting - also, guilty until proven innocent (by defending ourselves, not because of common sense).

    I think your friend in this story is very, very smart in her decision. I had a nephew live with us for an entire school year when his mom became homeless and it wasn't ideal, to say the least. This is a child who probably should have been removed from his mom for her very serious neglect over the years, but wasn't. He spent almost every weekend, all summer and every school break at our home once he started school (before he started school he would stay with us for 3-6 weeks at a time) and he was wonderful and obedient and a great addition to our family. Once we had to step into the roll of "parent" we could feel the tension amp up with him. When he went back to his mom after 9 mos of living with us, we didn't see him for 7 long years. The Mom was very threatened by our relationship and moved away, cutting off all ties. My nephew is now 19, just reconnected with us a year ago when he randomly showed up at our door the night before Thanksgiving, and is, once again, a wonderful addition to our lives. I just think that some kids cannot handle a strong parental figure - especially when they've not had it in their lives on a regular basis, ever. Your friend knows what it's like to try to parent these kids and knowing how much more pleasant the alternative is, just being the fun relative, is much more attractive to her. It certainly would be to me. I love children and want to help them. I want to be a good influence and give them opportunities they might not have otherwise. The allegations, however, are emotionally exhausting, even crippling when everything you've ever done for the kids, sacrificed for the kids, etc. is thrown back in your face as "not enough". Frankly, some children will never get enough, have enough, be enough - that's their issue, not ours - but it becomes ours when the allegations start flying. With 2 of my adopted children, it is as simple as saying "no", even when I can say yes to 20 other things. That is about control, and not allowing anyone to have it over you. When in the world will cps workers figure that out and take that into consideration before ruining peoples lives?


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