Now This Was Not Only A Distaster Waiting to Happen It Was Just Plain Stupid and You Can’t Fix Stupid

STUART, Fla. — Martin County sheriff’s deputies have arrested a husband and wife accused of leaving their newborn baby in a hot vehicle.

Walter Lugo and Monica Alastra were arrested Monday on child neglect charges.

Deputies were called to a report of an infant left unattended in a vehicle outside the Joanne’s Fabrics in Jensen Beach.

When deputies arrived, they found a 7-month-old girl inside a parked Toyota minivan with the doors unlocked and the windows rolled up.

Witnesses said the child had been left in the vehicle for about 30 minutes.

Deputies said the parents were inside the store shopping with their other 3-year-old child at the time.

According to the arrest affidavit, Lugo and Alastra told deputies they used poor judgment and didn’t know what they were thinking when they left the girl alone in the vehicle.

Deputies said the child was OK, although her clothing was damp from perspiration.Copyright 2009 by WPBF.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu

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Stepfather convicted in death of ‘Baby Grace’

He should have been fast tracked to the chair. This child was an innocent and now she will never make her footprint of this earth. These two people had no feeling or love for this preciouse little girl. They threw her away like yesterdays trash.

JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press Writer Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 33 mins ago
GALVESTON, Texas – A Southeast Texas man was convicted Friday of capital murder in the 2007 beating death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter whose battered body was found in a container floating in Galveston Bay.

Jurors deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before finding Royce Clyde Zeigler II guilty in the death of the child known as “Baby Grace.” He will receive an automatic life sentence because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. Jurors also could have convicted Zeigler of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Zeigler and his wife, Kimberly Trenor, the toddler’s mother, were accused of killing her during a discipline session that spun out of control. Trenor was convicted of capital murder in February and also received an automatic life sentence.

Investigators called the child “Baby Grace” until relatives in Ohio identified her as Riley Ann Sawyers.

Prosecutors said Zeigler and Trenor killed the toddler at their home in Spring, a suburb north of Houston, during a July 2007 discipline session intended to teach her proper manners. Authorities said Zeigler was upset the 2-year-old didn’t consistently use “please” and “thank you.”

Prosecutors said Trenor and Zeigler beat Riley with belts, dunked her head in a cold bath water and threw her onto a tile floor, fracturing her skull. An autopsy determined the child died of two skull fractures.

After Riley’s death, the couple stuffed her body in a plastic box and hid it for months in a storage shed at their home. Then they drove about 75 miles southeast to Galveston Bay, where they dumped the container and body in October 2007, according to authorities.

Riley’s remains were discovered by a fisherman on a small island in the bay.

During the trial, Ziegler’s attorneys told jurors their client was in another room when Riley died and there was no evidence he killed her.

But prosecutors said Zeigler lied repeatedly to investigators, giving them conflicting statements on the girl’s death. Prosecutors showed the Galveston County jury video of Zeigler admitting dumping the child’s body in the bay.

Riley’s identity was a mystery for weeks until her paternal grandmother in Ohio saw an artist’s sketch of the girl and told authorities in Texas she thought it was her granddaughter.

Trenor and Zeigler met playing an online video game and married in June 2007 after Trenor moved with her daughter from Mentor, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, to live with Zeigler in his home in Spring.

Why Was Child Protective Services Not Charged with Contempt, and Abuse?

Child Protective Services accused of ignoring a judge’s order

Posted: April 14, 2009 02:17 AM EDT

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Child Protective Services accused of ignoring a judge’s order
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The last thing law enforcement wants to do is take a child from its parents. Still, they have to do exactly that thousands of times a year. But this story is different because of what they did with the child once they took her away from her mother.

The consensus is, keep a child with it’s extended family whenever possible. That’s the approach Child Protective Services wants to take. But Monday we met a woman who says they didn’t do that in her case, even though they had a court order telling them to.

One thing is absolutely clear. Everybody wants what’s best for baby Sara.

“She can’t defend herself. She’s only three months old,” said her mother April Register.

When Child Protective Services was going to take away April’s son and daughter, April knew she wanted her mother-in-law to have custody.

“She’s a very strong woman. I trust her entirely,” she said.

But they went to a foster family instead. CPS sayes a member of the grandmother’s household failed criminal background checks.

5 days later, the 3 month old little girl was out of foster care, and in the hospital.

“When I saw her I saw how bad it really was. She had a diaper rash that was red and swollen that went all the way up her back. She had a deep cut on her knee,” aid Register.
April’s convinced that her 3 month old daughter was severely neglected, even abused while in foster care. Both Child Protective Services and North Las Vegas Police are investigating that. But no matter what the outcome of those investigations, the question remains: should those kids have been in foster care, or with their grandmother in the first place.

“Very surprised,” said Attorney Tom Michaelides of the placement decision. “The reason why is there was no ambiguity in the judge’s order.”

Michaelides is handling the case for April. He says a family court judge had told CPS to place the kids with their grandmother. But they didn’t.

“I’ve never in 15 years every had anybody completely ignore a judge’s order like that. Especially a government agency,” he said.

Even after all of that, Child Protective Services is sticking with their original argument. Today the kids were placed with their grandmother. And in court Monday, CPS told the judge, they still think he got it wrong.

Meanwhile, April Register herself is still under investigation for the incident that started all of this. A mistake, she says, that put prescription drugs in the hands of her son, and her son in an emergency room.

People are going ot want to know why are they in the system? We told her.

“They are going to come at me with whatever they can because they’re in trouble right now. I’ll do whatever it takes to get my kids back,” she told us.

Child Protective Services told me, they just don’t agree that baby Sara is best off in her grandmother’s house. And they have different take on what landed the three-month-old in the hospital too. They say it wasn’t abuse, but dehydration.

The foster parent assigned to take care of Sara and her brother brought them back to Child Haven – saying the kids were more than she could handle.

Michigan Child Welfare System Directly Responsible for Abuse, Neglect, and Death of Foster Children, Says New Expert Report in Reform Lawsuit

Michigan Child Welfare System Directly Responsible for Abuse, Neglect, and Death of Foster Children, Says New Expert Report in Reform Lawsuit

Failures throughout Department of Human Services’ management and investigations of abuse allegations make department “no safer” in many cases than children’s abusive homes

DETROIT, MI Likening the management of Michigan’s Department of Human Services to “blindfolded school bus drivers,” unable to see and respond to impending dangers to the children in its custody, a scathing new report by an expert in Children’s Rights’ child welfare reform lawsuit against the state of Michigan lays the blame for several children’s deaths squarely at the agency’s feet.

The report, issued by an independent consultant with more than 30 years of experience working in child protective services, examines the cases of five children who died in DHS custody—some from extreme physical abuse—and provides a long and detailed list of failures throughout the department’s management and investigations of alleged abuse and neglect in DHS foster care placements that, it says, render DHS incapable of protecting the children in its care.

Today’s report corroborates the findings of another released last week that examined DHS’s management in close detail (characterizing its practices as a “formula for disaster”) as well as findings from a review of 460 individual cases of children in DHS custody—and concludes that DHS has knowingly used misleading calculations to obscure the rate at which children in its custody suffer maltreatment. According to both last week’s case review and today’s report, Michigan’s rate of maltreatment in foster care is two and a half times the standard deemed acceptable by the federal government.

“While the Michigan Department of Human Services has tried to distance itself from the disastrous results of its dangerous practices, children have been dying in its custody and on its watch,” said Sara Bartosz, senior staff attorney for Children’s Rights. “Today’s report reveals the stories behind the statistics, and illustrates in no uncertain terms what is at stake if DHS does not commit to real reform immediately.”

The children whose cases are highlighted in today’s report include:

Elizabeth, whose family became known to DHS after she suffered a brutal physical attack in her home when she was just 14 days old, leaving her with a fractured skull, three fractured ribs, and a fractured clavicle. Elizabeth was made a ward of DHS but was returned to her home, leaving a child placing agency contracted by DHS in charge of monitoring her. This agency failed to forward two reports to DHS with additional evidence of Elizabeth’s abuse—including severe burns and two black eyes—until after Elizabeth was found beaten to death in her home.
Heather, a 15-year-old girl whose serious psychiatric problems went untreated by DHS while she was placed in a filthy, chaotic home with an aunt and uncle unlicensed to provide foster care, where a total of 17 people crowded into a three-bedroom house with only one bathroom. Heather eventually ran away to South Carolina, was abandoned there by DHS, and hanged herself.
Brandon, a seven-week-old boy who was placed in an overcrowded DHS foster home with five other children—three of whom had serious behavioral and mental health problems—and died of apparent suffocation when his foster mother left him unattended.
Isaac, murdered at the age of two in a foster home that had been the subject of nine Child Protective Services (CPS) complaints before his placement there. Less than two months after arriving in the home, Isaac was found beaten to death, covered in burns and bruises and having suffered multiple bone fractures. “An overloaded and apparently incompetent caseworker placed Isaac in dangerous foster homes, failed to visit him regularly, and overlooked evidence of Isaac’s maltreatment,” says the report. “DHS’s actions and inactions, and those of its contractor, caused Isaac’s death.”
James, who died of blunt-force trauma to the head in a DHS foster home just a few months shy of his fourth birthday. Despite the medical examiner’s finding that James’s death was a homicide, DHS’s vague definition of the term “abuse” enabled the agency to conclude in its own investigation that there was not a preponderance of evidence that James had been abused.
The report cites widespread systemic problems throughout DHS that it says created the conditions that contributed to these children’s deaths—and place the 19,000 children currently in DHS custody in similarly grave danger. According to the report:

The structure of DHS is diffuse and inefficient. The department is responsible for a very broad range of services—including Michigan’s welfare, disability assistance, Medicaid, juvenile justice, and child support programs, among many others—but lacks a division devoted specifically to child welfare. Components of the child welfare system are scattered throughout the department, diluting accountability and impeding the communication of critical information. DHS management is structured, says the report, “as if to minimize expert focus on child welfare and to all but preclude the effective protection of its foster children.”
DHS managers lack the education and experience necessary to run a child welfare system. National standards for good practice call for directors of child welfare agencies to hold graduate degrees in human services and demonstrate competence in the delivery of child welfare services. Relevant advanced degrees are the exception among top DHS staff, and few have any child welfare experience at all.
DHS fails to adequately investigate allegations of abuse and neglect in foster care placements. The department’s investigations are unstructured, superficial, and rarely gather sufficient information to determine accurately whether maltreatment has occurred. Furthermore, says the report, DHS investigators “often make determinations that are not consistent with the facts.”
DHS has no quality assurance program and is unable to produce reliable data about its practices and outcomes. The statistical information necessary to guide the operation of the agency at every level—and to identify systemic problems—either does not exist or cannot be trusted. When disturbing data does surface, little is done about it. And the agency calculates some statistics—including its rate of maltreatment in foster care—in a misleading manner that hides the danger to which it subjects the children in its custody.
The report further notes that DHS’s shortage of caseworkers would be enough by itself to preclude the agency from adequately protecting the children in its care—and echoes concerns raised by last week’s case review that the agency places children in unlicensed foster homes with relatives as a means of maintaining a “second class” of placements that receive neither appropriate safety and criminal background checks nor adequate financial support.

“Combining the disturbing deficiencies in MDHS’s performance in the five cases reviewed with the many serious shortcomings found in the agency’s structure, regulation, practices, overall management, and—especially—staff resources, it is clear that children are far too likely to be no safer in foster care than they were with their abusive and neglectful parents,” the report concludes.

Today’s report will be offered as evidence in the federal class action known as Dwayne B. v. Granholm, brought against Michigan by the national child welfare watchdog group Children’s Rights, the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery, and local counsel Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton. The lawsuit charges the state with violating the constitutional rights of the approximately 19,000 children in its custody by failing to protect their safety and well-being and find them permanent homes.

The More I dig The Worse It Gets- Children Removed by Child Protective Services Wind up Dead or Worse

PART II CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES HORROR STORIES

It is time to take our children back. They are our future. Once they are gone there is no replacing them. They are not pets. They are abused by the very system who comes and rips them out of their parents homes and lives. That is the worst abuse in the world. I am sick and tired of it.

Posted By: kbcjedi
Date: Friday, 24-Jun-2005 12:28:08

In Response To: Kidnapping for Profit by Child Protective Services (kbcjedi) To date, the city of Wenatchee, in the state of Washington, and Chelan and Douglas counties have either agreed to or been ordered to pay plaintiffs at least $10 million. This year, at least $1.21 million has been paid to settle lawsuits. Though settlements have been reached, about two dozen people are still seeking damages from the government agencies, public defenders and other entities and individuals. Attorneys expect more suits as children who were interrogated and removed from their parents during the probe file their own claims. At least 14 children have already sued.

Utah currently has about 7,000 children living in faster care.

Five DCFS agencies placed six children in a foster home run by 64 year old Mary Bryant. When police searched the house, they came to a bed with something under the cover. Officer Oscar Arteaga found under the cover a three year old little boy with a 10 foot chain wrapped three times around his neck padlocked in place. The foster mother, said he was chained up for stealing food. Mr. Bond was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment while Mary Bryant was charged with felony child endangerment and weapons and drugs charges. Five other kids in the house, ranging from three to eleven, were taken into the custody. The sixth child was left in the home. Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy rebuked DCFS for placing so many children in the home.

Lena Cumberbatch, 36, of Jacksonville, Florida pushed a baby’s head under water while at least two other children watched her murder the baby. The baby died from drowning and blunt head trauma. Cumberbatch had 8 children in her home, four of whom were foster children and four her own ranging in ages from 2 months to 10 years old.

Rilya Wilson, a Florida foster child was missing for more than a year before anyone noticed in April 2002. She is now presumed dead. Rilya Wilson’s caseworker filed false reports of monthly visits, and no supervisor reviewed the case.

The Florida legislature passed a law making the falsification of documents concerning children under state care punishable by up to five years in prison. Death or serious injury to a child resulting from such records fraud is now a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In Utah the Judge looks the other way when changes are made to make dates and other information fit the story better.

Odelia Baca’s two children Miguel, two years and Oswaldo 14 months were placed into foster care. They ended up with Ricky and Evon Haney. Miguel was taken to the hospital on February 1st, 1999 by his foster parents who claimed that he had fallen off the toilet during a potty training session. He died the next day from severe head injuries suffered from a beating. Miguel was in the Haney home several months, while his mother Odelia was allowed visitations. She asked about several bruises on Miguel. Once was told that the marks were from a permanent marker that Miguel been played with. Odelia’s complaints to Social Services fell on deaf ears; they never bothered to check them out and both kids were left in the abusive foster home. How could Social Services place her children with a couple who both had arrest records? After Miguel’s death it was found that both of the Haneys had arrest records and both of their drivers licenses had been suspended.

When biological parents report suspected incidents of child abuse in foster care there is no investigation. I know of one case. in Utah, where the biological mother was told that if she reported any more child abuse by the foster parents they would put the biological mother in jail to shut her up.

A Will County judge awarded custody of 11-year-old Nicolas Zavala to Margaret Williams in February 2002, based on a glowing report about the woman, written by a Benton County, Ind., child-welfare worker. He didn’t know that the home study hadn’t been done by Indiana’s Department of Family and Social Services. It was done by an attorney for Margaret Williams. The study said nothing about her being convicted of two child abuse-related misdemeanors in 2000. These findings are part of a report from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ inspector general into Nicolas’ case. The boy disappeared in August 2002 in Oxford, Ind., and was found dead in April.

Troy Anderson of the LA Daily News reports that in 2001 in the United States, 1.5 percent of the 1,225 children who died from abuse and neglect were in foster care. County and state systems are so overwhelmed with false allegations of abuse by parents that four out of every five reports of mistreatment are ruled unfounded or inconclusive. And experts say the system is filled with so many children who shouldn’t even be in the system, that social workers are failing in their basic mission to protect kids. Nationally, two out of three reports of mistreatment are false.

Across America, thousands of foster children are missing. More than 5,000 are runaways; some have been abducted. And some simply disappear; the state agencies responsible for their care can’t find them.

Tennessee 496
Texas 142
Michigan 198
Illinois 362
Florida 650
Los Angeles County 740

These figures count only those missing children not suspected of running away. Any missing foster child between the ages of 14 and 17 is deemed to have run away and is not included in the figures. All children who turn 18 while still listed as missing are simply removed from the list.

There is no national register of missing foster care children. And there is no standard for reporting missing children. Reports surface of foster parents continuing to receive payments for children who are missing of case workers falsifying visits and not even filing reports of death, injury or molestation.

Jim Barrus
CEO
Constitutional Concepts Foundation

Child seriously injured while in foster care

Last Updated: Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 4:42 PM MT
CBC News
A 15-month-old boy who was in a southern Alberta foster home is in hospital with serious injuries.

Janis Tarchuk, the minister of children’s services, confirmed Thursday the case is serious.

“I do understand we have a tragic event, we do have a small boy that is in our care that has been taken to hospital with serious injuries and the police are now investigating, and I’m sure we’ll know more within hours, or days,” Tarchuk said.

The Childrens’ Services Minister wouldn’t say how many children were in the foster home when the boy was injured.

Rachel Notley, New Democrat MLA, said she’s been told there were too many foster children in the residence and that the child was injured as a result of being shaken.

“This is the third time in just over two years that a child apprehended by government has suffered life-threatening injuries in care,” Notley said.

“Two previous incidents resulted in fatalities.”

Notley called for an independent and public inquiry into Alberta’s foster care system.

Tarchuk said there is no need for a public inquiry at this time.

This Child Died in Foster Care

Gresham child died while in foster care
Neighbor says foster mom ‘is a good person’
By Mara Stine

The Gresham Outlook, Sep 5, 2006, Updated Sep 5, 2006
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A pair of bright pink “Dora the Explorer” sandals sits next to the front door of a cheerfully painted duplex in Gresham’s Asert neighborhood.

It’s the foster home of a 2-year-old toddler who died of internal injuries Monday, Sept. 4. Police are treating her death as a homicide.

Officials from Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center called police at 3 p.m. to report the suspicious death of a child who lived at 245 S.E. Vista Ave., said Sgt. Teddi Anderson, Gresham police spokeswoman. Due to the toddler’s young age and unexplained cause of death, detectives from Multnomah County’s Child Abuse Team and Major Crimes Team are investigating.

The Department of Human Services, which oversees the Children, Adults and Families Division responsible for administering child protective services including foster care, also is investigating, said Patricia Feeny, spokeswoman.

Few details are being released due to the ongoing investigation. Police can’t comment on how or where the child was injured, whether she was dead when she arrived at the hospital, whether her body showed signs of abuse, whether the child had a history of being abused or who she was living with.

The toddler has siblings, but Feeny couldn’t comment on whether they were in the same foster home or if they had been removed. Feeny did say, “No children are in the home currently.”

Feeny also said it’s “extraordinarily rare” for children to be killed while in foster care. But when it does happen, “nothing prepares you for such a tragic loss,” she said.

Karen Rodregez, a mother of three who lives in the adjacent duplex, can hardly believe the little girl who played with her own children was killed.

“It’s shocking,” she said, standing outside her front door just steps from her neighbors’ door. “I just cried all night.’
The foster parents moved into the duplex about eight months ago from California with their two birth children. They also had two foster children – half-sisters, ages 2 and about 3, Rodregez said.

Both girls came from another foster home. Although the youngest girl still visited the former foster home, her older sister didn’t want to and preferred to remain at her new foster home, Rodregez said. The youngest girl, however, recently returned from a vacation with the previous foster parents, she added.

Rodregez said she doesn’t know what to think of the girl’s death or what caused it. She can’t imagine her neighbors being capable of hurting a child of any age.

“I hope it’s not her, I know she’s a good person,” she said of the child’s foster mother.

The foster mother sometimes baby sat Rodregez’s three boys, ages 7, 5, and 5 months, who loved playing with the girls next door.

“She always takes care of my kids very good,” Rodregez said, adding that her baby would smile when he’d see the woman next door.

Now, she worries that something may have happened to her own children.

“I ask them, ‘Did they ever hurt you, shake the baby?’ and they said no,” Rodregez said. But she’s careful not to ask too much for fear of scaring her children.

For now they just know that the little girl next door went to the hospital. There was an emergency.

“Maybe God took her with him,” she tells them.

How Safe Are They? Not Safe At All!

How Safe the Service? During a recent two-year period, one foster child died on average every seven and a half weeks in the state of Arizona. Four of them were reported as having been “viciously beaten to death” by their foster parents (Jacoby, 1995). Among the deaths in Arizona was that of China Marie Davis, of Phoenix. An autopsy revealed that over her 11 months in the care of her foster mother, Dorothy Jean Livingston, China Marie suffered a compression fracture of the spine, breaks in both forearms and wrists, two broken collarbones, fractures of both thighs, and a broken left arm, right rib and left hand. China Marie finally found her relief in death, after Livingston repeatedly kicked her down a staircase because she refused to clap her hands to gospel music (Harker, 1997). Among the deaths was that of Tajuana Davidson, also of Phoenix. While in foster care the three-year-old suffered a broken shoulder blade, a black eye, and bruises on her stomach, back, legs and arms. But it was the “seven crushing blows to the head” that finally killed her (Wexler, 1995, p. 315). “The state’s foster care system has been racked by tragedy in recent years,” reports the Boston Globe. “In the past three years, several foster children have been murdered or have died from neglect, while others have been horrifically abused” (Murphy & Vaillancourt, 1996). In 1995, at least eight children died while in foster care in Massachusetts, and federal officials were threatening a private lawsuit against the agency if changes weren’t made (MacQuarrie, 1996). But the most telling statistic of all may be that of the seven deaths directly attributable to child maltreatment in Massachusetts in 1995, three of them-nearly half-were in foster care (Grunwald, 1996). Determining the actual incidence and prevalence of child abuse, neglect and fatalities in foster care is problematic given child protection agencies’ apparent unwillingness to investigate or document such cases. In California, for example, the Department’s legal division discovered a “secret room” in the Los Angeles Department containing 15 fling cabinets holding approximately 3,000 case files on foster care facilities that had problems which were not reported to the state. In one case, 10 foster children slept on the floor of a garage, while 10 more were crammed into an upstairs bedroom. Three had been abused, one with a fractured skull and two broken limbs. Yet the home was not closed until months after the conditions were discovered (Little Hoover Commission, 1992). Child welfare departments are rarely forthcoming with information about the actual extent of harm that comes to children in their care. It is largely through audits and casereadings associated with legal actions that the actual extent of the abuses in the foster care system come to light. The reasons for this may not be as complex as they are made to appear. Child welfare officials who have managed to entrench themselves in lifetime civil service positions in the more desirable nooks and crannies of the child welfare system have a vested interest to protect, and those who run public bureaucracies have devised their own “rationalized myths” to protect their interests, argues John Hagedorn (1995). The myths of “doing good” benefit those who are advantaged by existing institutional arrangements. Even as politicians are constantly criticizing “bureaucracy” and “bureaucrats,” they approve millions of dollars worth of public funds to keep the bureaucracies running. As Hagedorn explains: “It’s simply too risky for bureaucrats to admit that their agency may not be ‘doing good.’ The erosion of that myth may lead someone to investigate them or even propose cutting their budgets” (p. 99). In Florida, caseworkers in the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services reportedly run files relating to a botched investigation through a paper shredder. “Documents were being altered, shredded,” testified a former HRS employee who watched the destruction of the documents. “It went on and on and on . . . It was nothing but a cover-up” (Mathers, 1996). In Oklahoma, an agency administrator dismissed two agency employees accused of the sexual abuse of foster children without so much as a blot on their records (Trammell & Clay, 1992). In Illinois, we find a report of systemwide abuses at the Columbus-Maryville emergency shelter suppressed by Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy (Golden, 1997). In New York City, a caseworker indicated as unfounded the repeated rapes of a young girl in institutional care, notwithstanding the testimony of credible witnesses. One such case involved a young girl who was repeatedly raped by other children at the St. Joseph’s Children’s Services Agency. A 1993 report prepared by New York State Senator Franz S. Leichter (Skrak, 1993) explains: One of the cases this office claimed to be unable to substantiate involved a seven-year-old girl who was apparently repeatedly raped last year by other children at St. Joseph’s Children’s Services Agency in Brooklyn. When deposed in a lawsuit brought by the little girl’s mother, the DSS investigator testified that boys at the facility had told her about their sexual contact with the girl, staff members had admitted witnessing the abuse, and one staff member had admitted engaging in sexually provocative behavior with the girl. In addition, medical evidence which the investigator failed to request confirmed that the little girl had been raped since she arrived since she arrived at St. Joseph’s. Nevertheless, the DSS investigator’s official finding in the case was that there was “no credible evidence” of child abuse or staff neglect. Outspoken veteran Juvenile Court Justice Judy Sheindlin (1996) attributes much of the problem to confidentiality laws. “The only people being protected here are caseworkers and other officials, who regularly hide behind a wall of secrecy,” she writes. Sheindlin notes that dozens of New York City cases where children have been maimed or murdered never reach public attention, and it is not just because they are poor minority children. Rather it is “because of confidentiality rules, which protect inept bureaucrats and a faltering social services system” (pp. 200-201). “In the name of protecting children, we have kept it a secret how we as a society deal with our most vulnerable children,” explained American Civil Liberties Union attorney Eric S. Maxwell to the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Post-Audit and Oversight. “There is a great gap between protecting a child’s identity and keeping the process and acts of our government secret” (Murphy, 1995). “Foster care systems are cloaked in secrecy that often is used to conceal illegal and unconscionable practices,” observed Children’s Rights attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry during Congressional hearings. “Every state in the country cloaks its foster care system in secrecy, prohibiting the disclosure of any information about children’s experiences in foster care. Though these statutes often were enacted to protect children, they routinely are used by state officials to conceal illegal and unconscionable practices” (Committee on Ways and Means, 1995). Indeed, confidentiality laws serve the system well, if the figures from the state of Georgia are to be taken as an indication. Nancy Schaefer, twice a gubernatorial candidate for governor, has repeatedly called for a fundamental restructuring of the state’s foster care system, including the dismantling of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services. Schaefer charges that an astounding 433 children have died while in state care over the last several years (Thompson, 1997). “Words cannot describe the travesty of justice suffered by these children who, rather than receiving the protection of the state, gave their lives in a most horrible and painful death because of a failed and unaccountable system of administration,” said Schaefer to Macon Telegraph reporters. Some sense of the dimension of the problem is to be obtained from the accounts of those who sit on the bench in the juvenile court. “Many kindly couples have given love, guidance, and homes to strange children,” writes former Philadelphia Judge Lois Lorer (1991). The reality of the courtroom, as she explains, differs markedly from the idealized image of foster care: In court we see countless children who have been abused by their foster parents. Some have been killed. We see troubled children who have been rejected by one foster parent after another and have been moved from home to home, from school to school every few months. I have seen in criminal court foster mothers who have cheated and stolen and engaged in prostitution. I have seen foster fathers with serious criminal records who have beaten their foster children and introduced them to lives of crime (Lorer, p. 193). Lorer is sympathetic to the view expressed by Judge Daniel D. Leddy, of New York Family Court, who she cites as having told the New York Times: “It’s gotten to the point where we’re sending kids home to bad circumstances because foster care is such a terrible alternative.” When Judge Leonard Edwards first sat on the bench in Santa Clara, California, he routinely ordered children to remain in the children’s shelter while social workers completed reports. This practice, intended to show parents how serious the proceedings were, stopped when he visited a shelter himself, finding children exhibiting signs of shock: “I realized then that removal from a parent is a terrible event for a child,” he explains. “They found themselves in a new world of strangers, and they had the terrible fears of not knowing where their parents and brothers and sisters and other loved ones might be. I regularly come across children who have been removed for a weekend and then return home to suffer from months of nightmares. They refuse to be out of the presence of their mothers” Indeed, Judge Edwards has himself presided over cases in which children had been raped, beaten, starved and badly neglected in foster homes (Hubner & Wolfson, 1996, pp. 72-73). “We have to ask ourselves whether we’re doing children a service by taking them out of their homes and placing them in a system that’s just as unable to meet their needs,” says District Judge Bill Jones of Charlotte, North Carolina. “Are we doing them more harm than good?” Says District Judge Deborah Burgin of Rutherfordton, North Carolina: “If you take on the responsibility to take care of someone-and are paid to take care of someone-the least we can ask is that they come out of it alive” (Williams, 1994). Notes former Juvenile Court Judge Judy Sheindlin (1996, p. 111): Every year in every a state a commission meets to attempt to identify the scores of children killed and maimed while in foster care. And each year a report is published with suggestions for legislative and systemic change. Although the number of victims is increasing, there has been no nationwide overhaul of the systems that permit these in-house tragedies to occur. There is no shortage of such reports. A blistering 280-page report issued by the 1993 Massachusetts Governor’s Special Commission on Foster Care recommended abolishing the civil service system used by the Department of Social Services in the hiring and promotion of workers, finding the agency to be on the verge of organizational collapse, with management and leadership failures having left the department virtually paralyzed. As a result, the Commission said, the Department is unable to effectively serve the needs of children and families and many children, while in the care of the department, suffer continued and repeated abuse and neglect. The Commission called for a complete restructuring of the agency, saying that without an overhaul, any other recommended changes will be nearly impossible to undertake. “This commission is asking for nothing less than a serious reformulation of the objectives of the state’s child protection and child welfare systems,” said Dr. Eli Newberger, a Commission member and director of family development programs at Children’s Hospital (Benning & Ribadeneira, 1993). Two years later, after a five-month investigation based on hundreds of interviews with Department of Social Services workers, court personnel and families, a legislative committee found that children in state care were often worse off than they were in the original homes from which they were removed (Lakshmanan, 1995). From New Jersey comes a 270-page report issued by a panel of 26 experts appointed by the Governor-one which makes hundreds of recommendations for revamping the state’s failed child protection system. Among the panel’s findings was that children alleged to have been abused or neglected are abused once again-by the very system intended to help them. The report followed on the heels of another scathing report issued by the Association for Children, in which 75% of the 772 respondents-among them police officers, foster parents, caseworkers and other individuals involved with the system-rated the agency’s performance as inadequate, ultimately forcing the agency’s director, Patricia Balasco-Barr, to resign (Parello, 1998). Two California Grand Juries report: “Professionals working in the field of child abuse voiced strong concerns that the children removed from abusive homes were being abused again by a system designed to protect them” (San Diego Grand Jury, 1991, cf. San Diego Grand Jury, 1989). A Santa Clara County Grand Jury (1993) would reach a similar conclusion: “Sometimes, foster care placements are made that are just as abusive, if not more so, than the home from which the child was removed. The Grand Jury learned of placements where sexual and physical abuse took place. There was even a case where the infant died.” From Washington State, a blue-ribbon task force concludes: “The effect of our present foster care system is disastrous. Children are moved from one foster home to another, their school attendance is disrupted and health care needs often go unmet. They are sometimes exposed to abuse by other children in care” (Governor’s Task Force on Foster Care, 1989). The California-based Little Hoover Commission, in examining the functioning of the foster care system determined: “That children can come to harm-and even die-while supposedly under the protection of foster care is not in dispute.” Some cases cited by the Commission included a foster mother arrested in Los Angeles on charges of beating to death her 23-month-old foster son, allegedly over toilet training problems; a Los Angeles woman arrested for the attempted murder of a 19-month-old foster child who she said fell from a jungle gym-doctors believed the severe head injuries, which may result in blindness, could only have come from abuse; and a Sacramento woman who was injured in a car accident who voluntarily placed her daughter in a foster care facility. During a tantrum by the child, an employee of the facility wrapped her in a blanket and squatted on her. She was later discovered dead. On a national perspective, a recent Time Magazine article (Van Biema, 1994) references a troubling report commissioned by the Reagan Administration in the late 1980s, which concluded: “Foster care is intended to protect children from neglect and abuse at the hands of parents and other family members, yet all too often it becomes an equally cruel form of neglect and abuse by the state.” The Associated Press (Bayles, 1995) reports on a 1994 Department of Health and Human Services audit conducted in six states which found foster homes that were crowded and unsafe. The report illustrates that cases of foster parents inflicting harm on their wards is anything but uncommon: A Sacramento, Calif., man was charged last December with raping and murdering one of his three foster children, a 16-year-old girl. He was arrested after holding the other two children at gunpoint during a standoff with police. The Cook County public guardian’s office recently sued a Chicago private social agency for placing an 11-year-old girl in the home of a convicted rapist who allegedly raped the child. In a separate case, Chicago police say 2-year-old Corese Goldman was killed in February by a foster mother who held him under a faucet to toilet-train him. The woman, a distant relative, was not required to go through training, background checks and a home inspection before taking the child. Abuse and neglect of children in out-of-home care are common (Spencer & Knudsen, 1992). Yet even for those children fortunate enough to enjoy an environment free of overt physical abuse or neglect, conditions vary tremendously, often putting children at genuine risk of harm from other environmental factors. A report by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1995b) determined that the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services “has no assurance that the quality of care being given to foster children placed by child-placing agencies was adequate.” Federal reviewers found “many cases” of children “in potentially harmful situations.” At least one fire or health deficiency was found at 40 of the 48 homes reviewed. In 28 of the 48 homes, no record could be found to prove that required criminal background checks had been made. The report continues, noting that conditions endured by many foster children are far from the ideal: For 19 of the 43 foster homes visited, the home and/or neighborhood environment appeared to put the safety of the foster children at risk. Neighborhood homes were boarded-up and the yards were overgrown with tall grass and cluttered with debris. Some of the foster home yards were cluttered with old tractors, lawn mowers, and cars. The foster homes were also cluttered with wastepaper, clothes, and debris. Foster children were living in three homes identified by the child placing agency as being located in high crime areas and drug environments. During our visit to one of these homes, the foster parent explained there had been a shooting behind her house the night before. For another home, the case file showed that the neighbors to the foster home were drug dealers and the foster child associated with them. No action was taken to move the children from these surroundings to a safer environment. A subsequent review (Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996) provides insight into some of the dynamics underlying these failures. In auditing a number of private child placing agencies, it was found that the agencies retained 38% of the Title IV-E maintenance payments intended to benefit foster children, diverting the funds instead to pay for such services as “costs of operations, case management, therapy, counseling, respite care, psychiatrists, training, transportation, day care assistance, medical needs not covered by Medicaid, recreation, and other administrative costs.” Money intended to benefit children was routinely appropriated to other programs, auditors found, and not only did the amounts in question total into the millions, but the problems identified were pervasive, affecting the majority of children among the sample group: For example, for a child entitled to a daily maintenance payment of $36.65, one placement agency provided only $10.00 to the foster home. The difference of $26.65 was retained by the child placing agency. In another example, a child placing agency was paying its foster care homes $26.00 a day for children who were entitled to a maintenance payment of $67.10 a day. The agency was keeping the difference of $41.10 for non-maintenance costs. Eight of the nine child placing agencies reviewed consistently paid their foster homes less than the maintenance payment they received from the State agency. Of the 441 children included in this review, a portion of the maintenance payment for 424 of these children was retained for non-maintenance purposes. One of the most comprehensive surveys of abuse in foster care was conducted in conjunction with a Baltimore lawsuit, L.J. v. Massinga. In her analysis, Trudy Festinger, head of the Department of Research at the New York University School of Social Work, determined that over 28% of the children in state care had been abused while in the system. Reviewed cases depicted “a pattern of physical, sexual, and emotional abuses” inflicted upon children in the custody of the Baltimore Department. Additional cases reviewed as the trial progressed revealed children who had suffered continuous sexual and physical abuse or neglect in foster homes known to be inadequate by the Department. These included cases of sexual abuse of young girls by their foster fathers, and one of a young girl who contracted gonorrhea of the throat as a result of sexual abuse in a unlicensed foster home. In Missouri, a 1981 study found that 57% of the sample children were placed in foster care settings that put them “at the very least at a high risk of abuse or neglect” (Kaplovitz & Genevie, 1981). Lowry describes the findings of a subsequent review: “The most troubling result of the Kansas City review was the level of abuse, undetected or unreported, in foster homes. Twenty-five percent of the children in the sample were the subject of abuse or inappropriate punishment. Eighty-eight percent of those reports were not properly investigated” (Subcommittee on Public Assistance and Unemployment Compensation and the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, 1988). In Louisiana, a study conducted in conjunction with the Del A. v. Edwards civil action found that 21% of abuse or neglect cases involved foster homes (Stein, 1988). In another Louisiana action, one in which thousands of pages of evidence were reviewed, and extensive testimony and depositions were taken, it was discovered that hundreds of foster children had been shipped out of the state to Texas. Stephen Berzon of the Children’s Defense Fund summarized the findings of the court before a Congressional subcommittee, explaining that “children were physically abused, handcuffed, beaten, chained, and tied up, kept in cages, and overdrugged with psychotropic medication for institutional convenience” (Subcommittee on Select Education, 1976). To provide the committee a favor of what these children were suffering, Berzon ended his testimony by quoting extensively from a report prepared by the Louisiana Welfare Department, which itself investigated out-of-state facilities: There are telling signs that these children in general are far from being fulfilled. The yearning for home-or whatever they conceive of as their home-is ever present in all of them. This feeling came through poignantly as I talked to some of the children. Their tone and wistfulness left me with the feeling that they are “serving time” away from home and for reasons they perhaps do not understand nor fully accept. Some accept their plight passively, others simply run away. Incidents of runaway seem especially high among the adolescent group. Our first visit was undoubtedly very meaningful to the children with whom we were able to talk. That they may not have ever seen us before did not matter. The simple knowledge that we were from Louisiana was instantly soothing for them, for we were a tangible and personal link with home. They seemed to swarm around us (even those not from Louisiana) as though to consume us. We were someone to whom they could ask questions about home. They invariably did ask about home. “Did we know the name of their home town? Their address? . . . or even, Did we know the name of their street? How long would they have to remain here? Would we come back to see them? Would we tell acquaintances hello?” etc. It was almost a desperate plea for assurance that “home” still exists for them. If these children told us anything at all, it is that they are not where they are, away from home, by simple preference. As Children’s Rights attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry explains, physical abuse is only the tip of the iceberg on which foster children are cast adrift: “There are a lot of injuries, a lot of abuse. The most significant thing is the psychological death of so many of these kids. Kids are being destroyed every day, destroyed by a government-funded system set out to help them” (Ambrose, 1994).