DCF Worker Charged with Falsifying Reports

This month Vanessa Arias, 33, a former employee of the nonprofit Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, which is a subcontractor of the Florida DCF, was arrested after an investigation determined that she documented a welfare check that never happened. According to DCF records, she was fired in January. We are Kathey Raskin and Robert Raskin, and we are committed to bringing these cases to light so families and other concerned citizens can be made aware of the shortcomings within the systems that are set up to protect children.


A Tragic Case of Neglect

There were five children living in the household in question, and one girl reported to the police that her mother had been staying in the house sporadically, leaving the children to fend for themselves when she was not there. The girl told the police that she had been caring for her younger siblings and getting them ready for school every day on schedule, but the children had been using a single wax candle as their only source of light or heat. Between 2005 and 2014, 140 people died from fires in the state of Florida alone, making this a very risky situation for children.


What Arias’s Report Said

At the time of her false report, the disgraced DCF worker reported that the children were free from any visible signs of abuse or neglect, and all of their basic needs were being met. Within a week the Kissimmee Police Department visited the home in response to yet another report of neglect. It was during this visit that they determined Arias had not only not visited the home at all, she had not returned more than a dozen calls from the children who were depending on her for help.


The Case Against Arias

After her arrest, Arias was booked into Osceola County Jail, and her bond was set at $2,000, which she has since posted. Her trial is still pending as of this report, but the Office of the State Attorney, 9th Circuit, has said that they will prosecute.  In response to the charge that the worker knowingly stated erroneous information, DCF released a statement that said, “The department has no tolerance for any individual compromising their integrity and, thereby, potentially jeopardizing the safety of a child.” In this case law enforcement was called in, but how often does this same thing happen when the case goes unreported? We are Robert Raskin and Kathey Raskin, and we, like many others, demand answers.

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?

Are Kids Really Safe in Foster Care?

More than 250,000 children in the U.S. enter the foster care system every year, and this includes children who have been removed from loving homes due to false allegations and those who removed by overzealous and corrupt DHR representatives. Executive Director Tammi Stefano of the National Safe Child Coalition said, “The minute you call child protective services, you can rest assured that the investigation will not be done properly. Chances are the child will not be protected.” This is because cases of child abuse are criminal cases, and DHR workers are not law enforcement officials, nor are they qualified to investigate criminal cases.

Tragic Flaws in the System

There are many cases that tragically demonstrate that the children who are removed from allegedly abusive households are often put into abusive foster homes where they will be further abused. Former foster parents are currently in prison for everything from distributing child pornography to sexual abuse and even including cold-blooded murder. There have also been reports of DHR and CPS workers resigning rather than facing prosecution for the deaths of children who were removed from their homes and then handed over to their murderers. Until there is more accountability for DHR workers and they are finally stripped from the power they too often wield over helpless families, this will continue to happen to innocent parents and children.

Is There a Chance this Could Happen to Your Child?

That statistics speak for themselves: According to one report by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau Division, in 2012 in the state of Chicago alone, 171 children were abused while they were in the foster care system. This, of course, is just the reported incidents of abuse, and it’s only one year of many, and one state of many. The true incidences of abuse in foster care may never be able to be accurately reported, but they are likely to be much higher than what is known. One study claimed that approximately 28% of children are abused while in the foster care system. This number becomes even more tragic when you consider how many children are removed from their homes due to false allegations.

Why You Should Not Call DHR to Report a Crime

DHR workers are not law enforcement officers such as police or detectives, and they do not have the training or the qualifications. This has led to many serious mistakes that sometimes lead to abuse or even murder at the hands of the very foster parents who were entrusted with the child’s safety. In 2013 CPS took thousands of children away from their parents in Los Angeles, and 570 of these children were murdered while they were being held by the system. The system that is used to screen foster parents is flawed, and though there are many loving and safe foster homes, far too many child offenders and people who only take in children for a check still manage to slip through the cracks.

What Can You Do to Keep Your Child Safe from Harm?

If you suspect a child has been abused, then a serious crime has been committed against the child, and this crime needs to be investigated by qualified law enforcement officers before a child is removed from the home. If a DHR or CPS worker shows up at your house and wants to take your child due to suspected child abuse, demand to have a lawyer present before you speak to them, and do not let them into your home or let them interview your children unless your lawyer advises it. Your child’s safety and their life could depend on it.