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.

Twin Sisters Sue Washington State DCYF

A set of unidentified 12-year-old Washington twins are suing the State of Washington’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and we, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, hope they get every penny that’s coming to them.

The twins started off their lives already in DCYF custody, after they were removed from their mother’s custody. Their mother’s drug use left lasting effects on the girls, whose father is in jail for murder. With so many unfortunate circumstances in these vulnerable young girls’ lives, one would think the state would make sure they were protected. Instead, they did the opposite.

The girls are being represented by Tamaki Law, a personal injury firm in the Tri-Cities area. Their attorneys said the twins are suing because DCYF social workers removed them from the foster care where they were loved and protected and gave them back to their biological mother, who they knew to be an abusive drug addict. The girls had lived with their foster family since birth, and they were removed at age 7, which must have been devastating for the girls and the foster family who loved them.

Why would DCYF force these innocent girls from the only home they had ever known to return them to a woman who insisted repeatedly she wanted to relinquish her parental rights? This woman had failed to complete alcohol and drug rehabilitation, and she did not attend the required safe parenting programs.

Once they were trapped in their mother’s home, the twins were starved, forced to live in their own waste, and kept from school. Where were social workers when these girls were being kept isolated in a dark room? Why did no one notice the girls weighed only half their body weight?

Attorney Bryan G. Smith said, “This is the worst case of child abuse and neglect I have ever seen in my 20 years of representing children in these situations. What my clients’ mother did was not just abuse and neglect – it was torture under any definition. These social workers completely let my clients down and failed to protect them. As a result, they will be forced to live with physical and emotional trauma for the rest of their lives. We are hopeful that by bringing this lawsuit the state will be forced to make changes to ensure that this kind of neglect by social workers never happens again.”

The girls’ biological mother is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, but that is simply not enough. She is only one of the many people who need to be held accountable for this tragic injustice.

Tamaki Law has a proven track record when it comes to getting justice for children. They reached a $6.55M settlement with DSHS for placing children in a home they knew was unsafe and abusive. The firm also reached a $20M settlement with the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings for a case that involved 86 claims of child abuse within the church. Let’s hope this firm can get justice for the girls in this case, who have already been through far too much in their young lives.

Learn more about the effects of drug use during pregnancy.

Texas Moves to Privatize CPS, Putting Kids in Danger

Texas’s foster care system is broken, and putting vulnerable kids into privatized care isn’t going to fix it. We are Robert Raskin and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, and if the CPS system has left you feeling helpless and hopeless, we want you to know you are far from alone. We are working to raise awareness of the need for a system of checks and balances in the corrupt, inept agencies that are meant to protect children. We are against privatized care because no such system can be put in place when we hand kids over to agencies that work for profits.

Texas, what are you thinking? The children in state’s custody suffer the consequences of mismanagement, understaffing, underfunding, and a high turnover rate that leave them without any stable source of support. This is an issue that has persisted in the state for decades, and because of this one federal judge in Corpus Christi demanded changes, stating that children who leave State custody often come out “more damaged than when they enter.”

It has been estimated that child protective services workers in Texas spend just 26% of their time visiting children. Currently, 43% of caseworkers are managing at least 21 cases, which is far more than the recommended standard. Neglect and abuse investigations are being delayed, kids are being placed in hotels and mental health facilities, the rates of death for children in the system is climbing, and approving an extra $500 million in the budget for foster care hasn’t helped. Bureaucratic lapses are putting children at risk, and it’s inexcusable.

We need an immediate overhaul of Texas’s foster care system, and the last thing our kids need is to be thrown into for-profit care that will always prioritize the numbers over the children. Putting kids into private care will mean relying on self-reported statistics to determine whether or not they’re receiving the level of care they need. It will diminish transparency in the system right when we need it more than ever before.

The state is expected to begin the process of moving to privatization in the near future. It’s time to put a stop to it. Write your legislators and let them know that you want vulnerable children to be placed in situations where their safety can be measured and tracked, with someone other than the people who have everything to gain financially advocating for them.

Opposing privatized foster care in Texas.

 

Why children are dying at an alarming rate in for-profit foster care.

Indiana Foster Kids Fight Back

Marion, Lake and Scott Counties in Indiana have lawsuits filed against them on behalf of foster kids, and it’s about time. We are Robert Raskin and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, and we are advocates for families that have been harmed by corruption in the CPS, DHR, foster care, and court systems. Stories of families and children fighting back and demanding justice when they have been wronged by these systems warm our hearts, because we understand how helpless most families feel when they are caught in the system.

Foster children are at the mercy of the court and the organizations that are charged with protecting them, but what happens when their rights aren’t protected? For most of us, when our rights are violated and harm is done to us, we call an attorney. Foster kids in Indiana need an attorney in these instances just the same as any of the rest of us would. Even felons who have committed violent crimes are appointed attorneys, so why not this vulnerable group of minors?

There are an astounding 17,000 children in foster care in Indiana. According to one 2018 report, the state has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect cases in the country, with children ending up in the system at over double the national average. That’s 17,000 kids whose constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law were violated. Parents in these cases are appointed legal counsel, so why aren’t the kids?

It’s time to start making these corrupt organizations pay and holding them accountable for their failures, and that’s exactly what these lawsuits have set out to do. Providing these children with legal representation is not just for their benefit – it’s for everyone’s benefit. Currently children who are not receiving counsel are being placed into group homes more often than they would otherwise. This costs the state more, and it costs the children, too, because outcomes for kids in group homes are worse than for those who are in foster homes.

The kids who aren’t getting a say in any of the details of their own lives are the ones who need it most, and finally the State of Indiana has a chance to give it to them. Let’s hope the courts do the right thing. After all, it’s in the Constitution.

Indiana is no stranger to scandals in their CPS system.

 

There is a shortage of qualified foster parents in Indiana.

South Carolina, How Dare You Refuse to Fund DSS

South Carolina’s Department of Social Services has been plagued by issues that have gone on for years. One of the biggest of these issues is the lack of funding to hire desperately needed caseworkers for their foster care system. The state’s social workers are underpaid and overworked, and DSS has requested to hire 163 new case managers to ease the workload. This would protect children and families, but thanks to mismanagement and corruption, the funding is not being provided. We, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, demand to know why.

One of the goals the state has is to lower the worker-to-child ratio in the system. As it is currently, there are 948 caseworkers, with 43 of whom have a 1:50+ worker to child ratio. The agency would like to see this ratio lowered to 1:20-24 children. They are also aiming to reduce DSS’s reliance on group homes when very young foster children are involved. These group home facilities can have dangerous conditions, putting children who are already at risk in even more peril.

How much would a new staff cost? According to estimates, over $11 million. The total budget request of $53.3 million is more than enough to meet this need, especially when you consider the state’s total proposed budget for 2017-2018 is $9.3 billion. Foster children are NOT the place to cut costs. Their lives are literally in the state’s hands. Terrifyingly enough, during the lawsuit against the state’s DSS, they admitted they did not know the exact number of children who died while in state’s custody.

One of the problems with the budget is it includes no provisions for settling the federal-class Michelle H. lawsuit, which accused then-Governor Nikki Haley and the DSS of failing to protect vulnerable children. In other words, the money that should have gone to the management of foster children is now going toward the past mismanagement of them instead. Currently, SC DSS doesn’t even have a permanent director, so it’s hard to imagine how the troubled agency wouldn’t be mismanaged in a situation like this.

Come on, South Carolina, it’s time to do better for these kids.

 

Learn more about South Carolina’s war on children and families.

South Carolina’s foster care system is in desperate need of more resources.

 

Why Are We Jailing Runaway Foster Kids?

If running away from your foster home isn’t a crime, why is the State of Washington jailing kids for it? That’s what we, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, would like to know.

Unlike other runaways, when foster kids run away they are often simply trying to return to their normal lives. It is not uncommon for friends and family members to agree to harbor them until they age out of the system. Wherever these kids end up, there can be consequences for them, those who harbor them, and for the lawmakers and caseworkers who consistently fail them.

Inside many group home facilities there is simply no semblance of normal life, leaving these kids without access to the things they were used to being able to do, like watching TV when they wanted, hanging out with friends, or even simply being able to go outdoors. One foster child said she ran away because she knew wasting away in a group home was going to prevent her from ever meeting an adoptive family. There’s got to be a better alternative than that.

What these kids are running from:

  • Abusive foster parents
  • Loneliness and the loss of their support systems
  • A system that may penalize them or their loved ones

What these kids are running to:

  • The communities and connections they came from
  • Their schools and educational opportunities
  • “street parents” and communities of their own choosing
  • Sex traffickers
  • Predatory older “boyfriends”

Many foster kids are exposed to deplorable conditions while they are at the most vulnerable point of their lives and already suffering. Children report everything from being kept in shackles to being forced to sleep on bloodstained mattresses while in group homes. Many of the foster youth who run away have done so multiple times. In one study only one in eight children had run away a single time. Half had run away over ten times.

When children leave state care and refuse to return, it’s difficult to predict what the consequences may be. If you are a foster child who has run away, remember that you have rights. Call a lawyer and find out exactly what those rights are. You can contact that Foster Care Alumni Association at (703) 299-6767 for help with your situation.

For the rest of us, it’s time to contact your legislators to demand improvements that will help these kids.

Learn more about why children choose to run away from foster care.

Just one of many reasons we need to find real solutions to this problem, and fast!

 

 

 

 

 

NM Pushes Bill to Track Child Welfare

New Mexico has a bad habit of taking children from families and then placing them with dangerous foster parents. We, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, are happy to hear a plan has finally been proposed to hold their child protection agencies accountable.

Why is New Mexico such a hard place to be a child? There are many reasons children are failed in this state, including parents who are in prison, an opioid epidemic, a weak education system, and crippling poverty levels. When the problem is so deeply rooted in multigenerational poverty, how can a corrupt system with no checks and balances in place possibly address it? The simple answer is it can’t, and that’s why a bill has been introduced to track funding and prove results.

Sobering New Mexico Facts

New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, but for children it can be anything but. Here are some of the reasons this state is named one of the worst for children.

  • Nearly a third of NM children live in poverty, compared to 22% nationally.
  • 16% of NM children live in communities that are riddled with crime.
  • 12% of NM babies are born to teen moms, compared to 7% nationally.
  • Over 60% of NM babies are born to mothers who received no prenatal care at all during the first trimester of their pregnancy.
  • Child injury deaths are 50% higher in NM than the rest of the nation.
  • Nearly twice the number of children die after being intentionally injured than the national rate, an appalling 7.1 per 100,000.
  • Nearly 2% of children who die in NM are victims of abuse, compared to 1% nationally.

The chips are stacked against the children of New Mexico from day one, and the woefully inadequate child protection services system has exponentially worsened the situation. On any given day, there are 2,500 children in the state’s system. A combination of tight budgets and high caseloads has led to an increase in the use of privately-owned child welfare agencies. These for-profit agencies have come under intense scrutiny after a slew of high-profile cases like that of the 11-month-old baby who died in foster care and  the tragic murder of little Alexandria Hill.

The Child and Family Databank Act will identify the residents who are most in need of services, and after they receive those services, it will track whether or not they were effective. It will also make it possible for agencies to share data that will determine where resources should be directed, which is critical when there aren’t enough resources to go around.

Will the State of New Mexico care enough about its children to pass this bill? This still remains to be seen. New Mexico parents, it’s time to demand accountability.

New Mexico families are suing CYFD

The New Mexico foster care system is seriously overcrowded

Troubled Foster Kids Shipped Out of State

Reports of some states lowering their rates of foster children kept in motels are deceptively optimistic. Although it is true that fewer kids are being kept in motel rooms are lower, it is because many are being transported out of state due to a lack of available facilities. We, Kathleen and Robert Raskin of Las Vegas, find this completely unacceptable.

 

How being placed out of state harms foster children

The majority of the youths who are being placed out of state are those who require behavioral or psychiatric care, with many ending up confined to locked residential treatment facilities. This places vulnerable children far from their families, their support systems, and the communities child welfare agencies should be integrating them back into—not moving them farther away from.

 

The average length of stay a foster child can expect in an out-of-state placement or facility is 11 months. Although their family members generally have the right to visit, for many the financial hardship travel presents is more than they can overcome. Therapy sessions and other necessary communication with families often ends up taking place via Skype.

 

Democrat State Senator Sara Gelser admitted there could be consequences for this later on, including “pushing (foster youth) into a shelter program that isn’t particularly high quality or safe for kids or sending them out of state or leaving them in an unsafe situation.”

 

If states don’t have enough treatment beds and foster care available, they must prioritize this as well as taking a deeper look into what families need to deal with kids who have emotional and mental problems.

 

Many kids in the system are suffering from issues ranging from reactive attachment disorder to PTSD before they enter the system. Being torn away from everything you know can lead to mental issues, and often being removed from the home only exacerbates existing problems.

 

Our kids deserve better. Won’t you join our cause and help us fight for the rights of children?

Learn how one community transformed their foster care system.