Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Extraordinary Efforts of DCS: Department of Child Services

Recently I wrote about Christine Porcaro abusing and neglecting her children and how pursuant to the obligation by law imposed upon me I made a report to DCS. In that case DCS took the guided tour and found the allegation to be unsubstantiated. Of course Porcaro lied and the abuse and neglect intensified.

So then what is the basis for the horror stories we hear about DCS taking children from good parents and subjecting the children to actual abuse and neglect?

In the Matter of B.M., Indiana Department of Child Service and Child Advocates vs. Me. M and P.M., a memorandum opinion of 24 September 2010 provides what I feel is a good example of the motivation that leads to such a reputation. Although it is usually the parents who appeal the decision of the court, in this case it was the Indiana Department of Child Services using Hoosier taxpayer dollars.

Appellant/Petitioner Indiana Department of Child Services (“IDCS”) and Appellant Child Advocates, Inc. (“Guardian Ad Litem”) appeal the juvenile court's determination that the evidence was insufficient to prove that B.M. was a Child in Need of Services (“CHINS”). B.M. is the minor child of Me.M. (“Mother”) and P.M. (“Father”).

The family, which included B.M's sister M.M., took a canoe trip on a river. As the family was nearing the end of their canoe trip, their canoe became stuck in a log jam and was overturned. Father and Mother were able to rescue B.M. but M.M.'s body was not located until three days later. IDCS then initiated a CHINS action on B.M.

The juvenile court heard conflicting evidence regarding whether B.M. and M.M. were wearing life jackets during the canoe trip. The juvenile court also heard conflicting evidence relating to the level of attention and care with which Mother and Father provided the children during the canoe trip. The juvenile court also heard substantial evidence depicting Mother and Father as caring parents who always adequately cared and provided for their children. The juvenile court issued an order finding that B.M. was not a CHINS. IDCS then appealed arguing that there was insufficient evidence to show that B.M. wasn't a CHINS and that the court should not have allowed the parents to invoke their Fifth Amendment right.

The children were seen wearing life jackets by three witnesses at various points of the canoe trip. The children also used other flotation devices such as arm floaties and seat cushions that float. [Mother] told DNR 1st Sergeant Jeff Barker that the children were wearing life jackets that day.

None of the witnesses had any concerns about [Mother]‟s parenting ability. She is described as loving, patient, kind, and attentive to her children‟s needs. FCM Silver listed [Mother]‟s strengths as being available for [B.M.], providing for her needs, empathetic, compassionate, able to communicate effectively, having support from family, employed, and a loving person. Ms. Butler, the home based counselor, had no concerns with how [Mother] raises her child and does not think there is anything [Mother] could do that she has not been doing.

There were about 20 findings total. They were not supportive of finding B.M. to be a CHINS. Upon review the panel concluded that the evidence most favorable to the judgment and the reasonable inferences flowing therefrom show that each of the challenged finding is supported by ample evidence in the record.

Fifth Amendment
In this case the parents invoked their Fifth Amendment right and refused to testify. DCS objected but the court rightly allowed the parents to remain silent. The U.S. Supreme Court “has long held that the privilege against self-incrimination not only permits a person to refuse to testify against himself at a criminal trial in which he is a defendant, but also privileges him not to answer official questions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings.” Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364, 368 (1986) (quotations omitted).

The Indiana Department of Child Services knew that authorities in Bartholomew County were still considering bringing criminal neglect charges against Mother and Father. Yet, they tried to question the parents at the CHINS hearing and argued on appeal that no right to refuse to testify in a civil proceeding related to a criminal action exists.

Where is the medical neglect?

In Boone County DCS is currently alleging a child to be a CHINS based upon a medical condition. This status may be conferred upon a child who has exceptional medical needs or is not receiving care. In this case the young child had seizures and managed to bang his head around and get some bruising about the face. He also had a blood condition called thrombopoietin (TPO) which contributed to the bruising. Additionally, the child had an allergic reaction to the Ibuprofen given to him.

His parents took him to Witham Hospital in Lebanon who turned them away saying there was no problem. Doctors at Payton Manning Hospital determined that the child had a seizure and prescribed Kepra for treatment, which has been effective.

In this case the parents had not denied or failed to seek medical care. It was actually the medical care provider that made the report to DCS. Under Indiana Code 31-33-5 anyone suspecting abuse or neglect of a child is responsible to make a report to DCS or law enforcement authorities.

The amazing part of this case is the court's reliance upon the incompetent medical staff making the report whose claims are directly contradicted by other medical authorities. By denying that the child's injuries are a result of the diagnosed and treated seizures the reporting person and the court is concluding that the injuries are the result of abuse.

This is simply DCS again trying to make a case where one does not exists.

Needed Intervention

Some of the most heart-wrenching and appalling cases I see are CHINS cases. There are times when the involvement of DCS is necessary. Some of these cases are appalling not because of the actions of the parent but because of the inaction of DCS.

I was involved in a case in Marion County in 2008 where the FCM's report indicated that the only food that mother had available for the children was what the baby was picking off the floor. There was animal feces throughout the home and that it was generally trashy. The adolescent girls complained that they could not be in the bathroom unless accompanied by mother's live-in boyfriend and the oldest child, age 15, had not been seen for a week.

One week after the children were removed from the home the supervisor of the FCM was recommending reunification with Mother over FCM's objection.

Although the Indiana Department of Child Services has a legitimate task to perform it should not be done in a way that abuses parents and neglects the very children they are charged with protecting.

If you need assistance with a DCS [aka Child Protective Services] action please contact my scheduler for details.

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©2011 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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