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Author Topic: Another travesty of the system.........  (Read 2348 times)

Kitty C.

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Another travesty of the system.........
« on: Apr 23, 2004, 11:37:32 AM »
Thanks to Gordon E. Finley for the following.

The following article was published in The Miami Herald
on Friday, April 23, 2004 on page 6B.

I would urge that it be circulated as widely as possible.

Gordon E. Finley


The Miami Herald
Friday, April 23, 2004

DCF: Agency blasted in abuse probe
A state attorney blasts officials at Florida's child welfare agency
for their 'reckless mishandling' of a child abuse investigation that
tore apart a father and two children.

In a blistering letter to the head of Florida's child welfare agency,
the state attorney in Fort Pierce has accused Department of Children
& Families caseworkers of ''coaching'' two children to falsely accuse
their father of sexual abuse -- allegations that robbed the man of
custody for several years.

State Attorney Bruce H. Colton blasts the agency for causing a father
who may be innocent to lose his children, while an alcoholic,
drug-addicted and neglectful mother was allowed to raise them.

'Although DCF employees are not technically guilty of committing a
crime in this case, it is evident that these children have no chance to
be `normal' due to the reckless mishandling of this family,'' Colton
wrote in the March 29 letter to DCF Secretary Jerry Regier.

``If the children are telling the truth in their latest statements, the
children have been sent on a six-year roller coaster ride of reckless
indifference by DCF from which they will probably never recover.''

Colton's letter concerns an ongoing dispute between DCF investigators,
caseworkers and attorneys in several Central and North Florida counties
and Dennis Gaffney, the father of boys ages 16 and 10. DCF's actions
in the case now are under investigation by the agency's Inspector
General's Office in Tallahassee.

''I feel very strongly about ensuring integrity and accountability in our
district offices,'' Regier wrote in a March 17 letter to Colton, asking the
chief prosecutor to outline his concerns over DCF's handling of the case.

Gaffney said he was heartened by Colton's remarks, which serve as a
kind of vindication. Since 1997, Gaffney has lived under a cloud of
suspicion that he molested his own son, as well as the teenage daughter
of his ex-wife's friend.

'It comes down to this: `Oops, we made a mistake,' '' Gaffney said.
``It is obvious DCF is not capable of policing themselves.''

Okeechobee sheriff's Capt. Dale LaFlam, who investigated the case, said
he has concluded Gaffney ``has not done what he is accused of doing.''

In surprisingly harsh language, Colton suggested agency employees made a series of decisions over several years that left the two boys at great risk.

During most of the past seven years, DCF caseworkers went to great
lengths to leave the two boys with their mother, Colton wrote, despite:

* An internal agency report that concluded ''the mother may not be a
stable parent.'' One report concluded the mother's alcohol and drug
abuse ``may present a substantial barrier to her achieving effective
parenting skills.''

* Reports from officials at a halfway house in which DCF placed the
mother and two boys said that they ''suspected that she leaves the
premises to drink,'' does not require the boys to attend school, has
allowed her car to be repossessed and is not allowed to visit her own
mother due to a domestic violence injunction.

* A sworn statement from a doctor who said the mother ``brings [the]
children to his office with alcohol on her breath.''

At a January 2001 court hearing, DCF officials blocked the introduction
into evidence of a videotaped statement by the mother who said ''that
DCF employees asked her to lie in order to obtain an injunction of
protection against Gaffney,'' Colton wrote.

''DCF first took the children away from the father based on an
inadequate investigation,'' Colton wrote. ``Then, DCF gave custody to
the mother who had past criminal convictions, abused alcohol and
controlled substances, and committed new crimes while having custody
of the children.''

''Is it any wonder that the children are rebellious and uncontrollable
at the present time,'' Colton added.

© 2004 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......


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RE: Another travesty of the system.........
« Reply #1 on: Apr 23, 2004, 01:00:27 PM »
This one has really broken my heart. Just received it thru e-mail.

What I can't figure is why they can't be prosecuted for their 'ooops'
They did not do their job and the children pay once again. And then DCF asked the mother to lie. Hope they go all the way with this one and it scares the shit out of other agencies.

"During most of the past seven years, DCF caseworkers went to great
lengths to leave the two boys with their mother, Colton wrote, despite:"

That statement really hit home...

Kitty C.

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RE: Another travesty of the system.........
« Reply #2 on: Apr 23, 2004, 01:09:41 PM »
Well, this guy sounds pissed off enough that I wouldn't be surprised if he digs until he finds a charge that will stick.  Then he'll throw the book at them.

If nothing else, the father sueing the workers for pain and past and future suffering, for the damage they caused the boys.  That would certainly amount to a pretty penny.  And if the state wanted to negotiate, if it were me, I'd be telling them either criminal charges will be brought, they lose their jobs for ANY state agency in the US, and they NEVER be allowed to work with kids or the lawsuit continues.

All DCF/CPS/DHS agencies should be shaking in their boots, and rightly so............
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......


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State loses track of 302 abused or neglected kids



Twelve-year-old Prentiss Rachal is supposed to be under the legal care of the state's child welfare agency.

But the agency has no idea where he is.

Prentiss is just one of 189 abused and neglected children from Wayne County -- and a total of 302 statewide -- whom the state has lost track of, according to the Michigan Family Independence Agency.

Officials believe he may be in Georgia with his biological mother, whose rights had been terminated by Wayne County Juvenile Court in 1998.

"I just pray to God that this child is safe because I don't have any indication that he is," a Wayne County Juvenile Court referee said during an emotional Aug. 20 hearing on Prentiss.

FIA spokeswoman Karen Smith said the "vast majority" of the missing youths are older than 14 and that many of them are runaways from foster care.

Teenage girls, especially those who come from homes where they were abused or neglected, often run off with boyfriends they think they're in love with, Smith said.

Missing children aren't just a problem in Michigan.

In Miami last April, Florida authorities discovered that a 5-year-old foster child named Rilya Wilson had been missing for 15 months. That state's Department of Child and Family Services came under intense criticism after reports that 500 foster children were missing.

After a newspaper in Ft. Lauderdale quickly found nine of the 24 children listed as missing in its area, the Florida Legislature this week began debating a law that would require the DCF to publicize the names of the missing children to get the public's help in finding them.

In the wake of Florida's problems, Smith said, the Michigan FIA began reviewing the placements of all 19,000 abused and neglected children under its charge. Caseworkers are checking with relatives of the 302 missing children for any leads, she said.

Mark Jasonowicz, FIA's deputy director, said the agency has procedures to notify local police and juvenile courts immediately when a fosterchild is missing.

Police agencies handle such reports by waiting for a child to turn up in a traffic stop or other action. But not by conducting door-to-door searches, officials said.

The fact that hundreds of Michigan foster children are missing disturbs some child advocates.

"How can you have a system in place and not know where 189 children are?" said Nannette Bowler, director of the Chance At Childhood Program at Michigan State University and the Detroit College of Law in East Lansing.

Sharon Claytor Peters, executive director of Michigan's Children advocacy group, said the child protection system is not funded well enough to provide adequate supervision for children in its care.

"We have unbelievably unmanageable workloads that we're putting on these people providing oversight," Peters said.

Prentiss Rachal entered Michigan's child welfare system in 1996 because of neglect and his mother's drug abuse, according to court records. Prentiss was placed into foster care while social service workers tried to help his mother overcome her addiction to crack cocaine.

But his mother, Gwendolyn Rachal -- now known as Gwendolyn Pickett -- failed to seek treatment and missed visits with her son. Because of those lapses, Wayne County Juvenile Court Judge Freddie Burton Jr. terminated her parental rights in April 1998.

Pickett eventually moved to Georgia where she married and had two other children, both girls, according to court records. The girls later were temporarily removed from her care because of drug abuse, the court records said.

Authorities in Georgia returned the girls to their mother after she got treatment and a job that paid $60,000 a year, according to reports from Georgia obtained by the Free Press.

Meanwhile, Prentiss was having a difficult time in foster care and workers at Orchards Children Services, a private agency doing foster care and adoption placements under contract with the state FIA, placed him with his aunt, Jennifer Rachal, in June 1999.

Although court records said Jennifer Rachal told Orchards she was interested in adopting Prentiss, things didn't work out. In November 2000, Prentiss was temporarily placed with his grandfather, Willie Rachal, a retired auto worker and part-time auxiliary police officer in Inkster.

In October 2000, Michigan authorities asked officials in Georgia to investigate Pickett as a possible adoptive placement for Prentiss. Prentiss had been asking to be reunited with his mother, who was living in Jonesboro, a suburb of Atlanta, according to court records.

After getting permission from state officials, Prentiss' grandfather took him to his mother in Georgia last September.

Georgia's Division of Family and Children reported things were going well in Pickett's home until Pickett told a substance abuse counselor that she had smoked crack again.

Child Protective Services workers went to check on the child and found the family gone. No social worker has seen Prentiss since last April, authorities said.

According to court reports from the Orchards agency, a previous referee had authorized Prentiss' placement with his mother. But a tape recording of the Aug. 20 hearing showed that the referee now handling the case, Kathryne O'Grady, was angry at the placement and the boy's disappearance.

"It seems to be a complete circumvention of the system and a total travesty of justice," O'Grady said. "We don't know if this child is alive, do we, at this point?"


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 kitty c. Thanks for all the good info. ! I enjoy reading your posts. Your doing good work, and obviously a lot of it. Thanks again.


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RE: Another travesty of the system.........
« Reply #5 on: Apr 23, 2004, 04:37:18 PM »
Very well said! I would love to send this guy my support.

I hope this hits every newspaper in the country. It should scare the hell out of people.

Another prime example of our tax dollars at work!

"Children learn what they live"


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How the heck can you lose 189 kids? I was under the impression that foster parents were somewhat monitored. Periodic checks.

I also thought for a long time that if both parents did not want the child, why not have a family member come forward and take them.  But it sounds like the grandpa just handed the kid back to the mother after getting permission from the state.

So glad you posted this. I knew the system fails the kids, but this is exensive.

"Children learn what they live"


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