A Different Way of Doing Things: Big Data is Coming for Child Welfare

We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin, and if this is your first time here, then you’re probably intrigued about what we are trying to do here. We try to write daily, so come back in the next few days for a fresh post. Now, we’re continually talking about the overhaul of the child welfare system across the United States. There’s systemic abuse of the order by its workers, the people utilizing the service, and local governments. It needs a complete and total overhaul. A lot of the methods can be part of the 21st century by embracing the resources provided by the so-called big data niche of tech.

But First, the Facts

Roughly 7 million children come to the attention of child welfare authorities every year in the United States; one in three will be the subject of maltreatment investigations in their lifetimes. This data is what we shed light on every time we hear about another new case. Emily Putnam-Hornstein – a USC professor of social work – thought that there had to be a better way to protect kids. Frequently there are fraudulent or non-emergency issues submitted to the child welfare system.

She noted that the system has lots of calls of potential abuse and neglect, but the investigators find it was a misunderstanding. We are wasting resources that could be on the kids who get lost in the system. Since we don’t have the people power to sift through the noise, she hit on the way to identify and protect children more efficiently.

Pennsylvania is Onboard

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania connected with Putnam-Hornstein to develop a predictive analytics tool for the Office of Children, Youth and Families to help screen allegations of child abuse and neglect. That Pittsburgh-based agency is under scrutiny for failing to investigate kids who died from maltreatment.

Thousands of child maltreatment referrals were studied to help create an algorithm that would assign a “risk” score to every family reported to Allegheny County child protective services. The process eliminates the biases and randomness of human decision-making. The algorithm considers a handful of factors and computes the family’s risk based on dozens of determinants from public databases: use of mental health and drug treatment services, criminal histories, receipt of government benefits, and so on. The human screeners get a say, and there are checks and balances to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

American Enterprise Institute has further insight into how big data could work to revolutionize the dated system in place and to help remove the corruption that exists that we’ve reported on for so long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iYNb5UvMP0

Are Stricter Rules Any Better? A Study of New York’s Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment

They do things differently on the East Coast, as evidenced by this act. We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin, and we were intrigued by what we found during our investigations. When accused parents get slapped with charges of child neglect or abuse in the state of New York, they face an investigation by child protective workers. This approach leads to their case heard in family court and the possibility of having their children removed from their care. You’d think, okay, that sounds about right. That’s the job of social services.

However, the process can take months of home visits, disrupting the stability of a child’s life. Their parents may be required to comply with various recommendations about and for social services. The goal – of course – is to make sure that children feel safe in their homes. The glaring problem for us is that once a case of child neglect is in the system, their parents are on the state registry for an egregiously long time, even if their case was heard and dismissed by a family court judge.

How Much is Too Much?

The Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment is easy to get on. But it’s challenging to get off. Not only that, it can restrict parents’ employment opportunities for up to 28 years. That’s not normal. Imagine being 12 years old and a case opened on your family when it was a misunderstanding. You’ll be 40 years old – long past the age of majority – and your parents may be struggling financially due to their lack of steady work.

They can’t work with people in vulnerable situations, such as jobs in daycares, as a substance abuse counselor, and as a home health aide. These are positions that are on the upswing but can’t seem to find enough good people. Imagine being told that you couldn’t continue with the career that you built because of this constraining law. That’s not fair at all. The current methods in place are something to examine with a deeper lens.

Neglect Means Different Things to Different People

If you’re suffering under this law, then you’re probably doing the math in your head. You can indeed be on the registry longer than you would a felony in the state of New York.

This short video tells how kids end up in foster care in New York.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmsrLNq9ogk

Three Years Until Burnout: The Sad Trajectory of a CPS Caseworker

In Outagamie County, Wisconsin, within the Children, Youth & Families Division, a typical caseworker handles about 15 families at once. Imagine being one of 28 social workers in a county of more than 180,000 people. These numbers are disgustingly skewed because our local governments are doing enough to help its citizens. We’re Robert and Kathleen Raskin, and we’ve been reporting on the failure and utter corruption of social services across our great nation for many years. This situation is yet another example of what’s going on right under our noses. And we shouldn’t stand for it!

The goal of caseworkers is to keep families together. They must make decisions that will reverberate within the families they oversee for years to come. It’s when they fail to see the facts at hand and return children to dangerous situations for the sake of keeping families together. It’s not right. It’s not fair to the kids when the reasons that brought Child Protective Services in the first place continues and – in some cases – the abuse intensifies.

Studies Show Corruption

In 2017 alone, an estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect in the U.S. A quarter of them were previously known to CPS agencies in their jurisdictions. It’s especially heartbreaking when you become aware of the death of Andrew “AJ” Freund in Illinois. The resolution from that charges against his parents for murder. It’s an ideal solution, but child welfare workers could’ve prevented his death. They had been called to their home previously.

Reports of abuse nationwide have increased by more than 12% since 2013. Thankfully, more stringent laws that require the reporting of suspected abuse, which brings more eyes to these disastrous situations. There has also been an increase in calls related to the opioid epidemic over the years. In Outagamie County alone, the number of kids in the system has doubled over the past four years.

Workers Reduce Risks, But Can’t Eliminate Possibilities

That’s their job, and they’re unable to perform the duties of their career. In America, it’s a sad day when we realize that’s what it’s come down to here.

This documentary sheds light on the crisis of in the southeastern part of Wisconsin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV9xZW3ghP4

Child Deaths Stack in Oregon Foster Care

Child Death Justice

We – Robert and Kathey Raskin – believe in enforcing the laws already on the books. They’re right, and they do what they’re supposed to do. In Oregon, the law requires child welfare officials to promptly review the deaths of children killed by abuse or neglect in the year before they died. The bill was supposed to provide oversight for the overworked caseworkers, helping them identify any missteps that may have occurred before the death of the child. From there, solutions would be provided to fix what wrong so that they don’t happen again.

Failure to Follow the Law

The local press has reported and showed that the Department of Human Services failed to meet existing deadlines to follow the law to the letter. By sheer incompetence, they knowingly and gradually told the public less about the department’s preemptive actions, if at all. The blatant lack of respect for the law is nonsense. What is going on in Oregon that we can’t protect children? The department’s backlog of unreported child deaths stretches as far back as 2017.

A seven-month-old infant died after being thrown from a car that veered off Interstate 84 near Boardman, Oregon, court documents say. The department – who was familiar with this family – barely launched a review nine days after police concluded the driver was drunk. This bureaucratic approach helps no one, and a more mindful approach about the family’s situation brought an unnecessary death.

Failing the Children

Of 14 categories related to child welfare, a Child and Family Services Review shows Oregon DHS failed unconditionally. We know that is patently absurd.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-NElGy_960

No System in Place to Track Foster Care Complaints in West Virginia

The West Virginia State Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has plans to begin soliciting applications for the state foster care ombudsman position. The incumbent’s duties include tracking foster families’ complaints about agencies they deal with here. These organizations include social service agencies, public agencies, including DHHR itself, and managed care organizations. So, the question that we – Robert and Kathleen Raskin – are asking is why wasn’t there something already in place?

There are about 7,000 kids in state custody. How were their complaints handled before? How many have fallen to the wayside because of a lack of government oversight? It’s this lackadaisical approach to caring for simple human needs has us downright fuming. People must take a stand and say something for the people who don’t have a voice. That’s what we’re doing with everything that we do here.

Transitioning to Managed Care

West Virginia lawmakers, during the 2019 legislative session, added this position as part of a bill assisting foster children to managed care. The system in place means the state pays third-party managed care organizations to not only improve the quality of health care but also reduce Medicaid costs. However, if you look at some of our previous entries, these third-party organizations need to be paid. And who pays them? The state, with your tax dollars.

At least with the new ombudsman position, people will be able to air their grievances about what’s going on. It’s tangible and trackable, and trends can be identified to focus on closely. However, this only one drop in the bucket. The entire system must be overhauled to accommodate the issues that are plaguing West Virginia right now.

Open Your Eyes to the Foster Care Crisis in West Virginia

There’s an emergency going on in your backyard. We charge the state of West Virginia to take control of the situation and protect its citizens.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s031UhcohUo

Systemic Abuse and Neglect Continues for Mississippi Foster Kids

In 2004, caseworkers at Mississippi Child Protection Services (CPS) acknowledged that their caseworkers in 2004 were juggling over 200 cases at a time. We’re Robert and Kathleen Raskin, and we charge the state to do better by its citizens. A report recently released stated that over 95 children were victims of abuse or neglect by their caregivers last year, which is more than the three times the agreed-upon standard. How is this possible? It’s because they don’t have the resources to care.

On top of all that, the state bungled some abuse and neglect investigations over the years. This view should not be a secret to anyone who knows the CPS in Mississippi. Their persistent failure to meet the fundamental, court-ordered reforms before the investigation puts the state at risk. The government may flex its authority and take over their system to hopefully overhaul it to make it the best it can be. At this point, they should, and for a good reason too!

The agony these undeserving children suffer under the hands of bureaucracy

Listen to this: What if you saw a foster home was the adoptive mother punished the kids in inhumane ways? Imagine discovering evidence that a five-year-old squatted against a wall naked, or in their underwear. How is this allowed? It shouldn’t be, and that’s why we need to come together and crackdown on the abuses of the system that are so rampant today.

Police arrested a 16-year-old foster child for breaking into cars and stealing handguns and bringing marijuana into the home. Their adoptive mother worked the night shift. There was documented evidence showing that the children had free access to guns and drugs. There was a police officer quoted as saying that there was “no way these boys were being properly supervised.” So why didn’t someone step in sooner and speak up on behalf of those kids?

In another case, a foster home wasn’t shut down until the choking of a child occurred by an adoptive mother. This same adoptive mother previously reported to have allegedly slapped her foster daughter in the face and pulling her hair for putting “a spell on her without using words,” calling the child “evil” and a “devil worshipper” five months prior — five whole months.

Who determines the ideal interests of the child?

We the people should. Departments like South Mississippi’s Department of Human Services (DHS) shouldn’t be given the responsibility any longer. We should be stepping up and doing what we can to bring light to these injustices.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YspXYxFcsuE

Where Are Your Tax Dollars Going? Private Companies Paid Millions to Manage DCFS Cases

We expect our government to take care of its citizens. But we – Robert and Kathleen Raskin – want you to know that private sector companies exist who take on those roles instead. Their sole purpose is to manage the caseload of workers under the Department of Children and Family Services in Springfield, Illinois, just one of many places with this system in place.

And who is paying for this? You! The office of the Governor of Illinois reported that an ineffective supervisory structure, inadequate procedures for closing high-risk cases, and significant communication gaps are what hinders the employees of DCFS from doing their job. Who would stand for that? No one would, so they abandon their cases and the children they are trained to protect.

300 private agencies take 85% of the workload off DCFS

This figure is unacceptable for America. 300 private agencies! This systemic bureaucratic abuse of the system needs to stop immediately. We’re reminded every day to trust the process and believe in the government to do the right thing. The sole purpose of the Department of Children and Family Services is to keep an eye on the children, the same people who will make your community great someday.

Imagine not having the right tools to do your job. You’d do something about it, wouldn’t you? What if you couldn’t even get into the system because there wasn’t anybody to help you? No one wants an apathetic person who is only in it for the paycheck, but no one wants someone paid so poorly that they were unable to do their job at all.

98 Children’s’ Lives Lost Due to Incompetence From the Top Down

The system must be agile, innovative, and modernized in Illinois. It’s time for an overhaul.

CPS and Child Trafficking

Human trafficking in the United States brings in more money than illegal guns and drugs combined, and it is a business that is growing every day, sometimes with the help of so-called child protective services. To date over 1,000 convicted sex offenders in LA County alone have been approved to become foster parents, and that is just one city out of hundreds where this is a problem. There was a specific sex trafficking case in which it was discovered that an unbelievable half of all of the sexually abused children who were involved were in the system and under the state’s control during the time of their abuse. Of those children, most were never reported missing.

What You Need to Know

It has been rumored that children are being kidnapped by child protected services and then sold to wealthy pedophiles all over the world, and a big part of the reason not enough is being done to stop it is because there are many incredibly powerful and influential people involved and a great deal of money at stake. In the state of California, a prisoner will bring in approximately $48,000 per year in revenue, but each child who is brought into the foster care system will generate up to $1 million. There is more political motivation than anyone is willing to risk admitting, and that is just one of many reasons this atrocity is happening right under our noses in this country today.

Raids Turn up Victims

Although the states’ child protective service organizations are ostensibly there to protect kids from harm, the reality of the matter is that there have been many trafficking raids that have turned up victims who were wards of the state and had been removed from their homes by CPS, DHR, and other similar entities. Even when the state itself is not involved, pimps and other people who prey upon children find easy access to victims among those who are being neglected and abused in foster care. Because these kids have been removed from their homes, there may be nothing their parents can do to protect them, and in fact there parents may not even know where they are because the system has stripped them of their rights.

Can the System be Fixed?

There are many dedicated individuals and organizations who are working hard to fighting corruption and to put systems of checks and balances in place within these organizations that will reign in the corrupt social workers who have been recklessly allowed to wield their power over so many helpless families. There is legislature in place right now in many different states trying to achieve this very thing, and while you may be limited in how much effect you can directly have against these blatant abuses of power, researching these issues and voting accordingly is a great place to start. You can write letters to your governor and to others in power letting them know that this is important to you and you demand that something be done about it.

What Can You Do?

The best way you can protect your family from CPS is to know what to do if they show up at your door so that you can limit your interactions with them and lower your risk. The best way to deal with DHR and related organizations is to educate yourself ahead of time and to know your rights, because once they get their foot in the door it may be too late. In today’s litigious society, where so many people are just waiting to use government agencies and the courts for revenge, there have been too many cases where false reports have been filed for petty reasons that have nothing to do with the health and welfare of children. Don’t let your child become a statistic. Take steps to research the laws in your state today, and contact a lawyer if you fear that you may be at risk.

The Need for Private Foster Care Reform

In the state of California during the 1980s it was believed that putting children in private foster homes, but unfortunately so far that has not been the case. Although the state has spent $400 million annually each year on the organizations that are responsible for training, vetting, and providing foster parents, the rates at which children in these privately approved and selected homes are abused is not any lower than those that are in publicly approved placements. In fact, those children fared much worse, as one study that determined they were one-third more likely to be victims of serious abuse than the children in the state-supervised homes were.

What’s the Difference?

The key difference between private and public foster care is who is in charge of training, and who determines where these allegedly at-risk children will end up. Private providers, who earn money through the placement of children, have accepted thousands of people who have been convicted of crimes into the program, and this underhanded and greedy kind of decision making may be one of the key reasons for the startling amount of abuse of both kids and the system that is currently going unchecked in far too many cases. Currently in LA County, 80% of children who are removed from their homes who do not end up living with their grandparents will end up in homes selected by these extremely questionable private agencies.

Organizations for Reform

There are several key organizations that are dedicated to reforming the child protection system and protecting children’s rights. Many experts and child advocates believe that far too many children are being removed from their homes and placed into care without good cause, and the rates at which these children are subject to abuse in privately chosen foster placements are at least as great as those that are placed into care through state agencies. Children who are placed with relatives do better than children who are left in what is commonly referred to as “stranger care,” but when there is no alternative, it’s crucial that the care they are getting is through an agency that has to answer to a higher authority that is not profiting from the same system.

Alternative Solutions

Countless studies have shown that the vast majority of kids are in far greater danger when they are removed from troubled homes and placed into foster care, and the fact that so many of these allegations are baseless and the child in question was in no danger in their own home just makes the situation that much more tragic. If these organizations have their way, child protective services workers will have their power reigned in, and fewer children will be taken from their homes to begin with. A safer alternative is to set up better safeguards and services for families in crisis that will give them the tools they need to raise their children in a positive environment.

What Can Be Done?

The system is corrupt, and many believe it is beyond reform and needs to be abolished. Because it is funded by more than $20 billion annually in taxpayer money, it is possible to draft new laws that will require that people who are suspected of child abuse to be investigated and prosecuted by the justice system the same as they would any other criminal. Although the current system was started with the well-meaning goal of protecting children, it is clearly not working in its current form, and the result is that social workers and agencies that are not trained in law enforcement are being allowed to act as officer, judge, and jury. That isn’t morally right, and it is certainly not the way this country’s government is supposed to work.

The Tragic Case of Logan Marr

In 2001 5-year-old Logan Marr died of asphyxiation after being bound with duct tape and strapped to a high chair in her foster mother’s basement. One quick online search will tell you that this is nothing new. Foster care givers are arrested in the United States on a regular basis, their crimes ranging from child molestation to abuse to murder. While Logan’s story is not unique in the current system, her murderer was: Sally Schofield was a highly respected former caseworker for Maine’s Department of Human Services. If a case worker cannot be trusted to not physically murder a child herself, then how can she be trusted to make life or death decisions regarding the placement of children?

Christy’s Story

Christy Darling was just a teenager when her daughter Logan was born. Christy did not have much support outside of her mother, with whom she had a turbulent relationship that included frequent calls that were placed by the mother to DHS claiming that her daughter was too immature to raise Logan. Whether or not the complaints were legitimate or they were just a way for Christy’s troubled mother to control her is not clear, but DHS ultimately determined that Logan was not being abused. They did put conditions on the young mother, one of which included moving out of the house she shared with her mother and the mother’s boyfriend, who DHS wrongly believed was a sex offender based on hearsay alone without any evidence.

Logan’s Death

After an attempt at staying away from her mother, Christy returned to the only source of support she had ever known, however erratic it was. And this is when the events turned tragic. Although Christy was deemed to not be abusive, Logan was removed from the home anyway and handed over to foster parent Sally Schofield. This mistake would prove to be fatal when Logan was found dead in the basement on that January day. Although Schofield claimed the child must have fallen and hit her head, an autopsy determined that the child died of asphyxiation. At trial Schofield was found guilty, and she is currently serving a sentence of 20 years with all but 17 years suspended.

Where is Schofield Today?

Although her release date is set for May 2, 2017, Lynn Schofield has already tried to have the terms of her probation changed so that she can have contact with children. Originally the terms stated that she could have no contact, so her lawyers lobbied to have that changed to no unsupervised contact with children under 12 citing her fear of “accidental” or “unintentional” contact, but a judge denied her request. In prison she has won the right to count her charitable efforts toward her 500 hours of community service, but none of this will ever bring Logan back to her loving mother, who was never accused of abusing the child.

Has Anything Changed Today?

Has anything really changed in the foster care system since Logan Marr died? It is obvious that serious reforms need to be made in the foster care system, particularly with regard to whether or not children should be removed from their homes at all. All too often children are removed from loving homes in which there is no evidence of abuse. Whether or not Christy Darling was actually too immature to parent will never be known, at least not in Logan’s case, because Christy’s daughter is dead. How many more times will this happen before the system takes steps to stop it?