A System in Disarray: The Child Welfare System in Nebraska

Nebraska seems fine at putting their children at risk. Over ten years ago the state decided to privatize their child welfare services, but – surprise, surprise – the entire system fell apart. It took YEARS to fix what happened while the double-pronged approach also had them cleaning up their image in the public eye. As with children in the system, stability is vital to a successful, persistent, and constantly replenished system. But the goodwill they earned at cleaning up their mess didn’t seem to mean much to the State because now they’re shaking things up again to the detriment to the people they serve. We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin, and we’re here to tell you all about what we’ve learned.

If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has selected a new, out-of-state private child welfare provider for Douglas and Sarpy Counties. The current provider, PromiseShip, had high scores for service quality and management. Our research has found that HHS awarded the contract to St. Francis Ministries.

St. Francis’ history in Kansas has drawn ire from Nebraska lawmakers and child advocates. These concerned citizens cite concerns about foster placement stability, case manager workloads, and costs. They bid $196 million over five years, far lower than PromiseShip’s proposal of $341 million. That’s a big red flag to us, because you get what you pay for. Caveat emptor: one of the oldest clichés in the book, yet it always seems to be viable to the situation at hand.

 

The Debate

A spokeswoman for Saint Francis claims the organization “will meet all expectations outlined in our Nebraska contract and conform to all applicable state regulations and laws.”

Former CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Kerry Winterer points out that “changing contractors at this time based only on cost and ignoring PromiseShip’s experience and success in providing these services, not to mention its scoring better on the substantive criteria, is a mistake and puts our children at risk.”

The state has an enormous responsibility to get this right. Child welfare service is complicated, as you know from the reporting that we’ve done over the years. It demands a high level of competence. The potential for corruption is high within the industry and the children lose.

KMTV gives you a rundown on the changes here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzj8bJjo_28

Is This the Right Path? West Virginia to Outsource their Foster Care System for Three Years

Time for another update on a previously reported location: West Virginia. We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin, and we don’t feel that outsourcing the current system is the right way to go. You can claim to have oversight when you outsource something. But the fact is, you’re not. Not only that you’re taking away jobs from hard-working Americans. It’s because you don’t have the foresight to take a proactive stance, drain the swamp, and protect Americans from 8 weeks to 80 years.

Who Are We Helping Here?

The state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) recently reported that they’re putting up for bid a three-and-a-half-year contract, beginning January 1, 2020. The estimated value will be nearly $200 million per year. Of course, as with most things, it’s subject to change if additional services need to be integrated into the program. Services provided by NECCO are independent of this contract. DHHR would continue to provide services to the Bureau for Children and Families.

Making Good on Threats

According to the Associated Press, the move is billed to help streamline care for children in state custody and adoptive families. The reason why it’s moving over to a managed care organization is because local lawmakers passed a bill requiring DHHR to transfer children in foster care to an MCO by January 2020. But they only moved forward with this because the Department of Justice threatened to sue the state over possible violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act within its foster system.

You’re reading this right. They only decided to pursue an MCO because they were being threatened with a lawsuit. Not once did it occur to them to take control and do something about it before it even got to that point. This lethargic approach is why we’re adamant that the problem is within the department, and the department should handle it. Bringing an outside source in is only a Band-Aid. Unless we work to clear out the disease, it’ll come back time and again.

Hear more about the West Virginia Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty from Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Ted Boettner:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWVXY1K-THA

Indiana Foster Kids Fight Back: A Pending Class-Action Lawsuit Was Filed Against Indiana Department of Child Services, Governor Holcomb

We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin, and we’re delighted to learn that the children in Indiana’s child welfare system are fighting back against the apathy that they’re in. We’re proud of these patriots standing up and claiming what’s theirs: a fair and just examination of the fouled-up system that they’re in here. Their allegations stem from their opinion that Indiana is failing in its duty to protect more than 22,000 children in the state’ child welfare system.

We’ve written about the state of affairs that makes up the welfare system for children in Indiana in the past. We always try and follow up on previously reported locations to provide timely updates on what’s happening out there. We’re not a one and done blog. We stay on top of everything that concerns what we see as the lethargy and corruption that plagues the system worldwide. The entirety of the child welfare system deserves a closer look. We reveal what we can here.

Failure to Protect the Kids

The lawsuit alleges that the nine children – unnamed for their privacy – felt that the state put them in inappropriate, unstable, or overly restrictive settings. They represent a class of 22,000 children who are in DCS custody, as well as an ADA subclass of thousands of children with disabilities who are wards. They didn’t receive the necessary support services and medical care. Their medical care, mental health, and physical needs are hampered by irregular DCS assessments and the lack of available resources.

Furthermore, they weren’t given meaningful case management resulting in delayed or no services and little oversight of a child. All these factors – among many others – allowed children to languish in foster care for years. Eventually, they were reunified with their primary caretakers, adopted, or aged out of the system.

Statistics Mean Nothing Without Tangible Results

The Child Welfare Consulting Group criticized the agency’s disorganization in a 2018 audit. The agency claimed to have made changes – too little, too late, we say – including a 17 percent decrease in total cases since January 2018 and a 14 percent decrease in out-of-home placements. They claim staff turnover is down 18 percent, and attorney caseloads are lessened as well. They added 25 positions since January 2019.

But the kids are smart. Their lawsuit points this out by alleging DCS appears to focus more on improving statistics. They still failed to properly investigate allegations, or they would send children home too quickly and without necessary services and aftercare. They demand that Indiana transform its foster care system, including acquiring properly trained caseworkers to meet the needs of foster children.

Here’s more information about the lawsuit below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVao03k2dmM

When Will People Stand Up for the Kids in Arizona?

There’s a foster bed shortage in Arizona. We’re Robert and Kathey Raskin and we want to tell you more about this alarming development. There aren’t enough cribs for infants either. There are over 21 private agencies operating in central Arizona. While it’s true that foster beds are always in demand, the shortage is more prominent because they’re simply unable to find foster families. There are checks and balances in place. For example, Child Crisis Arizona is one shelter in Mesa that handles the overflow of intakes when the Department of Child Safety can’t locate a foster bed. Yet, there was no room in their facilities to handle the multitude of children coming through the system. Strangely enough, of 200 foster homes that agency gives licenses to, none of them had open beds.

Drop in Applications

Something’s wrong statewide when there’s a significant drop in new foster-home applications. DCS has been offering $200 gift cards to current foster parents who send referrals their way. All they must do is complete foster-care training and get their license. A private agency named HRT offers a $75 bounty for successful referrals. It’s sad that you have to incentivize the life of a child to get people interested.

There are more than 1,200 foster homes with on hold licenses, meaning they’re unable to continue being foster locations. This is offered when families want to take a break, go on an extended vacation, or dealing with other extenuating circumstances that prevent them from being fully committed to their duties. While understandable, DCS should stay aggressive and on top of their game, knowing that lulls in availability are possible. We implore the State of Arizona to take a deeper look at their current system.

Streamline the Process

It’s been said that it typically takes four to six months for prospective foster parents to complete the needed training, background checks, and home inspections. So why wouldn’t they have done their research and realized that the DCS preference for moving older children out of group homes and into foster placements is more than likely what caused the kink in the pipeline? They should have had the foresight to know that when you focus on one area, another becomes lax. We should always account for bumps in the road when it comes to our children. Arizona has let them down.

Arizona is making plans to fix the system but let’s see how far they get. Stop DHR is on the lookout for improvement and once we see results, we’ll tell you more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKjfZAk5SFo

Indiana’s Poor Deserve Better From DCS

In Indiana, being poor while parenting is a crime, and the punishment is the removal of your children.

Indiana, why aren’t you helping poor parents instead of taking their children away? That is what we, Robert and Kathleen Raskin, will be discussing today. Most states do not consider the inability to provide for your child to be a crime, but Indiana is one of the few that do, despite having no evidence that demonstrates rates of child abuse among the poor are any higher than they are for any other group. In fact, of all reported risk factors children in the state face, the only group that showed higher than average rates of abuse were those families that were suffering from financial issues.

Reports have shown nearly 90% of reported child welfare cases in the state’s system are due to neglect, but is it neglect if a parent can’t pay the bills? If a family is suffering from financial issues that are detrimental to children but the parents are otherwise caring, it is the state’s duty to intervene and act in the child’s best interests. Studies have shown approximately 28% of children are abused in the foster care system, so if they aren’t being abused at home it is most definitely not in their best interests to be removed.

Foster Care Abuse Statistics

  • Nationwide, 71.8% of child fatalities were younger than 3 years old, putting children who are non-verbal and cannot report foster care abuse at higher risk.
  • In Indiana in 2017, 59 children were murdered by foster parents.
  • That same year, 126,719 completed child abuse reports were made between 880 investigators, meaning each investigator averaged 14.45 investigations per year.
  • Physical and sexual abuse reports have declined in Indiana, while cases involving neglect have substantially increased.
  • Rates of substantiated neglect in the state did not increase, only investigations that did not find neglect.
  • In 2017, the state had the nation’s 14th highest opioid overdose rate, which has been fueled by poverty.
  • African-American children are overrepresented in the state’s DCS system, and 28% of those who live in poverty in the state are Black, making this the largest group.

When we know poverty and drug abuse are factors that are leading to the removal of children and it’s not necessarily leading to better outcomes for Indiana’s families, it’s time to take a good, hard look at the system and determine where the disconnect is.

We’ll give you a hint, Indiana lawmakers: The disconnect is located in your most poverty-stricken communities, and it’s time to do something about it instead of kidnapping their children.

 

Poverty is on the rise in Indiana.

 

One Indiana mother’s DCS horror story.

Wrongful Convictions: An Innocent Parent’s Worst Nightmare

Imagine that you are a mother going about your business, just having a regular day. You are struggling to keep up with the demands of an active toddler and a helpless newborn, maybe worried about the dishes that are piling up, or the laundry. Then out of the blue the police show up and arrest you for a crime you did not commit, taking your children away from you in the process. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but the truth is this happens to parents here in America more often than the authorities would like to admit. We, Robert and Kathleen Raskin, are shining a spotlight on these injustices today.

Studies have estimated that between 2/3 and 5% of all prisoners are innocent, with as many as 10,000 American citizens wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year. According to the Innocence Project, over 200 women who have been exonerated in the U.S. Of those, 40% were charged with harming children or loved ones in their care. In 37% of those cases, it was eventually discovered that no crime was committed.

In one recent case a Broward County, Florida mother was arrested on charges of heroin trafficking in a case of mistaken identity. Investigators bungled the case and confused single mother Ashley Foster with another woman who had the same name. What began as a routine trip to Target with her toddler and newborn quickly spiraled into a waking nightmare. Foster was forced to listen as her 8-week-old screamed, and she was not permitted to feed or comfort him.

Ashley Foster’s children were removed from her custody, and child protective services was involved when the officers could not immediately find someone to take the children. This innocent mother spent seven days in jail before an officer interviewed her at the jail and realized they had the wrong person. The young mother lost her children and her job because of the mistake. Her children were eventually returned to her, but not her means to support them. Who will be held accountable?

Adding insult to injury, before returning her children to her, a Clermont County Job & Family Services investigator gave her home a 10-minute check before she was cleared for her children to be returned to her. Foster was cleared of all charges, but she was still subjected to a search and treated as though she were a suspect who had to earn her own children back before they were returned to her. Foster has retained the services of an attorney, and we hope she gets every penny that’s coming to her.

This case makes you wonder, when this has happened to other mothers, what was the outcome? Did they lose their children? Their jobs? Their homes? This could happen to any of us, and the possibility of it is frightening enough that we need to ask these questions.

 

Woman exonerated in son’s murder after 20 years.

 

Wrongfully convicted grandmother finally released from prison.

 

 

 

MA Foster Parents to Get Bill of Rights

We are Robert Raskin and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, and today we’d like to talk to you about a subject we don’t touch upon here on StopDHR Corruption too often, and that is the needs of foster parents.

Becoming a foster parent is a tremendous commitment, it requires 30 hours of training, and the financial compensation is minimal, just $25 per day. When people are willing to go through intrusive home inspections and background checks in order to take at-risk kids into their homes, we need to make sure they have the resources they need.

What the Foster Parents Bill of Rights Will Accomplish

  • Relieve the frustration foster parents experience
  • Grant foster parents more autonomy
  • Increase spending on and access to health services, including mental health
  • Require DCF to share more information
  • Offer additional training

The State of Massachusetts is planning a complete, top-to-bottom overhaul of their system with a focus on consistency, which is sorely lacking. Another focus of this overhaul is to improve communication with foster families, including the addition of an online system that will allow the state to post messages to foster families while maintaining their privacy.

When foster parents don’t have the necessary resources, they risk burnout, and society risks ending up without enough foster parents to place the number of children who require placement. One other item on the agenda is the potential addition of exit surveys that will be sent via email to foster parents who have exited the system so the state can learn more about how to improve the foster parent experience going forward.

Why are Massachusetts foster families dropping out of the system? One common complaint is the lack of access to information and mental health services for traumatized children. Children who have been subjected to horrific abuse are placed in foster homes that have no information about the children’s specific needs. When mental health services are needed, the wait list stretches on for months. It’s simply too much for many families to handle.

Another problem is inconsistent rules. The rules for foster children can vary wildly from agency to agency. Families become frustrated with the lack of consistency and with always wondering if they are breaking rules without realizing it. Who wants to put themselves at risk of being penalized for breaking a rule that was fine in one place or with one child but not okay with another?

Approximately half of Massachusetts foster families have dropped out over the past five years, so this is a crisis that needs a solution, and fast. Will the Foster Parent Bill of Rights be enough to attract quality families back to the system? That depends on how serious legislators are about passing it, enforcing it, and making sure it’s not just more pointless lip service. Right now, the state’s policies are making things harder on foster parents. It’s completely unnecessary, and it’s time to do something about it.

 

5 things no one tells you about being a foster parent.

 

These are the most surprising things you can’t do with foster kids.

 

 

Virginia Will Use Federal Funds for Foster Kids

This is Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, Nevada, and today we have good news for Virginia families! Governor Ralph Northam has signed SB1679 and HB2014 into law. During the 2018 fiscal year alone, 55,255 children in the state were reported as being possible victims of abuse and neglect. The new laws will provide families with access to early intervention services, reducing the number of kids who will end up trapped in the system and put at risk in foster care.  In a system where so many kids end up being removed from their homes, this is a significant improvement.

The New Laws Explained

For far too long, Virginia families have had to wait to get access to services that could have kept their children in their custody if they’d been available in a timely manner. If a parent had a substance abuse issue, the first course of action would be to remove the child from the home, then treatment would be addressed if and when there was state funding available. Much-need services like mental health treatment and in-home therapy were also withheld until after children were removed from the home.

When research has shown that children typically fare better with their families, every effort should be made to keep families together barring cases in which children are being abused. Now that SB1679 and HB2014 have been signed into law, Virginia will be more in-line with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. That means federal money can be used to go toward securing the services a family needs in order to stay together, and not just after it’s too late.

There are plenty of families that are doing the best they can, and who mean well and truly love their children. Despite this, some families still fall short of what their children need, even if the children aren’t being abused. In these cases, it’s wonderful to see the state and federal government contributing toward services that can help give struggling families the tools they need to thrive and be successful.

The sad truth is, this generation is not the first that has been failed by the system. Many parents in today’s struggling families were once abused themselves. Those who are abused are more likely to repeat the cycle, and for some, the cycle has gone on for generations. Families who simply do not know better because they have never been exposed to anything else may be falling through the cracks. Instead, Virginia officials have determined these families are worth saving.

 

 

 

New report is highly critical of foster care in Virginia.

 

Virginia’s foster children deserve better.

Arizona DCS is Kidnapping Kids LEGALLY

The State of Arizona crafted legislation that required DCS to obtain a warrant before removing a child from its family. After being notified of a feverish child whose anti-vaxxer parents declined to have him hospitalized, a SWAT team had no problem getting a warrant that allowed them to terrorize a family despite the fact the child’s fever had gone down. Though this was meant to protect children and families, already it is being abused, and with appalling consequences.

We, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, are dedicated to raising awareness of corruption within the agencies that determine which families do—and do not—get to raise their own children. We are parents and grandparents, and we understand how many different decisions there are to make when you are responsible for your child’s health and well-being. Who among us has followed our pediatrician’s every word of advice to the letter without ever second-guessing? If this is a crime that requires the removal of our children, the vast majority of us are guilty.

Requiring a warrant does absolutely no good if the warrants are handed out without verifiable cause. One doctor’s word without any evidence a child is in harm is simply not good enough. Abuses of power like what we saw recently in Arizona could harm children by making it less likely that their parents will seek medical attention in the first place. If you were a parent who was trying to make a judgement call about the ER and you knew the SWAT team might break down your door and kidnap your children, would you err on the side of caution and visit the ER or decide to sit tight and hope the Children’s Tylenol works?

In the not-too-distant past, CPS workers in Arizona were allowed to remove children without warrants, and they did so often. Since the new legislation passed, if there is not a less-intrusive alternative to removing the children, DCS must be able to have probably cause that the child in question is at imminent risk of harm. Was there really no less intrusive alternative to a SWAT team swarming this family’s home like it was a drug den and ripping their children away? Really, Arizona?

Unless there is compelling evidence that a child is in danger, parents do have the right to decide what is in their child’s best interests. There has been an increase in legislation across the country that is designed to strip us of our rights, and our child protective services organizations are just one way they are doing this. Our children do not belong to the state; they belong to us, and if they plan to take them they need to have more than just a desire to do so. They need to have proof.

 

Listen to an Arizona DCS caseworker explain how they legally kidnap children.

 

One family’s experience with medical kidnapping at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Monsters In the System: The Tragic Death of Grace Packer

Once again the state of Pennsylvania has failed to protect a vulnerable child, this time with lethal consequences.

Sara Packer admitted to investigators that she had a fantasy about killing her adopted daughter Grace, and her boyfriend Jacob Sullivan told the police he’d been planning to kill the girl for years. Why was a monster like Packer allowed to foster 30 children across multiple counties? That’s what we, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, would like to know. Today we’re taking a closer look at the case.

In April of 2010 Sara Packer, an adoptions supervisor in Northampton County, lost her $44,000-a-year job, and she was also barred from taking in any more foster children. The reason? Packer’s now-ex-husband, David Packer, was convicted of abusing the children who were already in her care. Did the state investigate Sara adequately? Obviously not, because the case would go on to become the second time Sara made foster children and adopted children available to predatory males.

At one point a former foster daughter from Sara Packer’s home became pregnant herself, and Packer offered to adopt the child. When you consider Packer’s fantasies and the men she shared them with, it’s terrifying to think that predators like these are using their positions within the system to make victims of some of society’s most vulnerable members, foster children.

In an interview the girls said of being assaulted by Packer’s ex-husband she gave up mentally and physically because she felt she had nowhere turn. Packer and other predators like her know that this will be the case in situations like these, and that is why there must be a system of checks and balances that weeds these predators out and protects children.

Sadly, Sara Packer was not the first foster parent to abuse a child in her care. In fact, her home was the third in which Grace Packer had been sexually abused, after being removed from her birth parents’ custody over sexual abuse allegations. Packer adopted the girl when she was three, making her available to Packer’s pedophile husband, who ended up going to prison for raping a 15-year-old foster child as well as for molesting Grace.

Today the state is looking into the case further to see if any other children have been abused while in Packer’s care and to determine whether or not any red flags were missed. Now that she’s most likely going to prison for life, this is far too little, too late. If children being abused out in the open is not a red flag to investigators, then what is?

Last month Jacob Sullivan pleaded guilty to raping, killing, and dismembering Grace. Now the jury is out regarding whether or not he’ll serve life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Sentencing may last as long as two weeks, but we’ll be watching and demanding justice is served.

Learn more about the tragic life and horrific death of Grace Packer.

 

Sara Packer is not the only monster hiding in plain sight within our foster care system.