NOTE BY EDITOR, Donna Westfall. On Aug. 30th we published an Article credited to Mercola.com titled: CAPTA: The Child Abuse Law That Can Destroy Your Reputation.
James Marmon sent in the following as a comment, but since it’s so relevant to what’s going on in our County, that we are running it as it’s own article.
By James Marmon, MSW
Del Norte County Child Protective Services must have reverted back to their old ways after I left them in 2007. I thought I had them fixed. Just kidding, Program Manager AL Raddi really had them fixed, but I contributed by reporting illegal activity within the Department to the State Attorney General and the Department of Justice. My whistle-blowing stopped the Department from running unauthorized criminal background checks on citizens and employees. It took me filing a $7 million dollar lawsuit to really get their attention and make them change their ways.
I took a Title 42 lawsuit to federal court in San Francisco but was way in over my head, especially after County hired a expensive law firm from Eureka to oppose me. The Federal Judge felt that most of my causes of actions would be better addressed at the State level, meaning back in Del Norte County. I didn’t think I would prevail in Del Norte so I decided not to pursue it any further, besides I knew Del Norte didn’t have the money anyway. It was more about the principle of it to me, I got them to stop and that’s all I really ever wanted.
Back to Mr. Raddi, in 2003, the first thing he did when he came to Del Norte was to bring in Structured Decision-Making assessment tools and made sure all the Social Workers were adequately trained for the proper use of the tools. He also made sure that the department was adequately staffed with qualified social workers. He immediately brought the Department staffing within the State standards regarding education and/or experience. It was important that the right people were using the tools. He also broke up the “case conferencing” of suspected child abusers within the department. He believed, and he was right, that those meetings were often nothing more than gossip sessions and fueled by personal biases. It is an extremely small community and if somebody went to school with somebody cousin or something, it could mean the difference as to whether a child was removed from their home or not. I suspect this is happening again.
Mr. Raddi was also under a Board of Supervisor mandate to reduce the amount children placed in foster care. We created a “Linkages” program that provided Cal-Works money and kept families intact. He also built up a large Family Maintenance Program and developed what is know as “differential response” which called upon the community to help keep children safe in their homes. During his time at Del Norte he cut foster care down 50%.
Currently, according to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project (CCWIP), which tracks county performance outcomes, 81% of Del Norte County CPS investigation cases so far in the last 12 months, are for general neglect. The state average is 46%. All the other categories such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, severe neglect, caretaker incapacity and emotional abuse are way down from state averages. I’m glad to see that, it means you are getting rid of some of the really sick bastards. Good work Del Norte County.
What concerns me about the high percentage of suspected general neglect is that it appears that the poor may be being targeted. A lot of general neglect cases are dirty houses, substance abuse and mental health issues. In some cases all three. Now on their own substance abuse or mental health issues are not a reason to remove a child, there has to be the risk of other abuse as well. If it is just risk of abuse and a dirty house, I wonder if CPS is still putting preventative services in the home, or are they just cutting to the chase and removing children immediately?
Before realignment in 2012, funding was program specific. There was a specific amount that was allocated for substance abuse services and another for mental health services. Now most of the funding from the state comes in one big lump sum, Counties are free to spend or not spend any way they want to. Social Services, Public Health, and Child Welfare funding all come from that same pot. A lot California counties have reduced spending on programs to just the very minimum which are mostly just mandated programs.
Most of those mandated programs are only for people involved in the court system one way or the other, whether it is in criminal court or family dependency court. Services for the general public have been reduced to virtually nothing. People who need these services cannot get them unless they get arrested and/or have their children removed. Because of this unanticipated phenomena, the child welfare industry has exploded, especially in small counties.
There is really no dedicated funding for a child unless they are removed from their families and placed in foster care. That is when money starts flowing in from other sources, primarily Medi-Cal from the State and Title IV-E Funding from the Feds and administered by the state. There is specialized care rates that can be paid to foster families agencies and foster family homes. To qualify for these higher placement rates and Medi-Cal the child has to meet medical necessity.
Now, since the Katie A. Settlement a couple of years, all children who enter the foster care system have to be assessed for mental health needs as to whether they need them or not, so it behooves examiner to declare medical necessity. Mental Health can start collecting money for mental health case management, Alcohol and other Drugs can also start billing for services to the parents. Therapists can bill for their services, and foster family agencies can receive specialized and intensive care rates. The only ones who don’t benefit are family members who step in to help and take the child into their homes.
So to make a short story long, Yes, children are being legally kidnapped and an industry based on child abuse has arisen. But not only is CAPTA money to blame, Medi-Cal and Title IV-E funds are also contributing. Children have become a cash crop, and poor and under served families of Del Norte County are being exploited by the system.