Treading lightly is often the manner in how people traverse down the path when coming forward with information of wrongdoing in the arena of family law, where on both the institutional and individual levels the outright dysfunction often runs rampant. Countless stories of impropriety and horrific ordeals, often propped up on the shoulders of constitutional rights neglected and denied, are found in plentiful numbers across the country.
Examining many of the situations that often play out where Family Courts intersect with Child Protective Services (CPS) and Foster Care finds people caught in situations that would make for the type of story found in episodes of the series The Twilight Zone.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Hard to imagine for those who have not had to encounter such a situation—one that gives way to the gut-wrenching pain a mother or father has in watching their kids express how much they want to come home—and not being able to answer them with any real certainty.
Jonneshia Doss of Michigan knows this feeling as she watches her four-year-old child, the youngest of six, become heartbroken as she explains to him that he cannot come home with her that day. In a scene similar to many others playing out on a daily basis, Jonneshia has found herself in a situation where she is forced to be a visitor in the lives of her children who are residing in the foster care system.
Silent Voices – Jonneshia Doss (Published on September 19, 2017)
Produced by Dennis Lawrence
“I am afraid my babies will be retaliated against if I continue to report what they tell me. I can’t go see them and check on them when they are afraid or not being fed properly. My children cry weekly at visits — they have repeatedly told CPS, foster care workers, and the Legal Guardian Ad Litem (LGAL) they were not abused or neglected but no one listens. My family relationships have been destroyed because of this case. I am heartbroken and my children will never be the same. I have been severely traumatized by this happening. I am afraid to have anyone over to see me after reading my CPS report and finding out how they stalked my home. They violated the rights of my visitors by photographing them and placing them into to their computer. CPS and foster care are not for children or families — none of them put children’s best interests first. They answer to nobody — I no longer have faith in the justice or family court system.” —JONNESHIA DOSS
How does a loving mother or father find themselves in this situation?
In Jonneshia’s case this is a very poignant question — one of many questions that arise when reviewing the timeline of events she has experienced over the years.
One of these events involves her placement on Michigan’s Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. Placement that was ultimately expunged but not before a long ordeal and separation from her children at the hands of an emergency order. An order originating from a CPS complaint that appears to have been shopped around to a couple court referees who would not grant this type of order — but ultimately finding its way to one that would.
Thus began a series of actions and results playing out as follows:
RESULT: On April 11, 2017 Jonneshia was notified she had been placed onto the Central Registry (well past the 30-day notification policy). On July 25, 2017 an Administrative Law Judge issued an order for Wayne North Central Department of Health and Human Services to expunge Jonneshia’s name from the registry.
ACTION: Ten days later on August 3, 2017, Wayne North Central Department of Health and Human Services files a request for rehearing or reconsideration.
RESULT: On October 9, 2017, the Supervising Administrative Law Judge issued an order denying the request for rehearing or reconsideration.
In the 12 plus months it took for this situation to play out no finding found evidence of abuse in this situation — the concern, however, should be focused on what appears to be some very alarming photos and observations of the children while they have been residing in the foster care system — evidence that would seem to eclipse any claims made in the CPS investigation.
Bill of Services
Oh to live in the whimsical world of family law and its surrounding entities that, while well aware of the financial health and status of people coming before them, have this fancy free notion that people have successfully found a way to plant and harvest money trees.
A lot of money circulates in foster care — money for the state, employees and federal funds often dependent upon quotas of children put into this system.
In Jonneshia’s situation the court has made reimbursement demands for foster care services it claims to have provided in response to alleged potential for abuse these children faced that stemmed from disproven hearsay.
These services billed by the family court totaled $148,736.28 covering an approximate two and half year period. At the time the children were residing with a relative in lieu of being placed in a formal foster care situation. According to the family it took over a year before the state provided any support to the relative on the children’s behalf — support which is said to have been in the form of gas cards for visits.
This, of course, begs the larger question as to what exactly the “services” demanding reimbursement cover?
Incentive driven motivations can many times play a large role in taking children away from good parents by placing them in foster care and exposing the crookedness of these systems — leaving both parents and children emotionally harmed and many lives shattered.
While several bad eggs seem to be attracted to the three-ring circuses of family court environments, allured by the ability to profit off those that are vulnerable, the opposite can also be found where good people are there doing the best they can on behalf of children — but plagued by systems designed to fail. Caseworkers can often face a double-edged sword whereby making decisions on a child’s fate can have serious, sometimes dangerous, repercussions if they get it wrong. Some of the problems often transpire when decisions are made by workers who may have good intentions — but lack the proper training and experience that can result in a loving home being pulled apart.
Adding to the dysfunction and abuses that transpire is the realization that when mistakes and wrongdoings are discovered the hurdles in correcting such ordeals are numerous and compounded by slow-moving bureaucracy — adversely impacting the best interests of children, parents and family bonds that have been obstructed.
This post was originally published on HuffingtonPost and is republished here with the author’s permission.
Photo credit: Getty Images