Department of Family Services Can Be Dangerous to Your Family

Having lived in the foster care system I was glad to see that almost five years after the well-publicized death of two-year-old Dominic James, at the hands of his foster parents, the Missouri House of Representatives passed House Bill 1453 designed to overhaul the manner in which the DFS handles children suspected of being abused or neglected.

Unfortunately, however, by the time the bill passed, it had little left that was viable thus changing little about the way DFS handles children in the system. Ron Dean, president of Families for Change in Greene County, Missouri, who has watched the system, from a foster parent’s vantage point, the last eleven years, believes that “DFS hasn’t been doing what is in the best interest of the children” and now fights to keep children from being unnecessarily removed from their homes.

One question that Dean asks is a simple one, “Why if the state has a family first agenda, has the number of children in foster care in Missouri alone increased more than 70 percent since 1991?” Dean asserts that the problem is “the system which is full of kids that don’t need to be there and what’s worse is that once a child is placed in the system, they are forgotten so DFS can rush on to the next case.”

Other critics of the system, according to Mark Dalton, staff writer for the Queen City Free Press, claim DFS moves too quickly because it follows the creed “better to be safe than sorry,” but the real reason is more likely that caseworkers who leave a child in a dangerous environment face firing, suspension, demotion, and an attack by the media. While this may be fact, how does DFS justify the removal of children from their biological parents without adequate investigation or their placement of these children in homes that prove to be dangerous to them?

In Missouri, one of the most blatant examples of the understaffed or careless handling of cases by DFS involved a 7 -year-old girl who was allegedly raped by a 17-year-old foster brother while under DFS placement. Once the authorities learned of the rape the boy was arrested but the girl and her 2 sisters were immediately returned to the same foster home until a week later when media pressure forced the department to relocate the girls. Sadly, the girls had been taken from their biological mother for what they termed medical neglect, which the mother’s denies stating she had only delayed giving the medication as the children were sleeping at the time. Additionally, the department claimed that the mother, due to her extreme thinness was a drug abuser, a claim that has never been proven through random drug testing.

Dean states “the average caseworker is undereducated, under trained, and often overwhelmed and that a four year college degree and some follow-up training just doesn’t cut it.”

Countering the accusations is Ana Compain-Romero, representative for the Missouri Department of Social Services, stating “the training DFS provides its caseworkers is more than accurate and that all are college graduates, many with advanced degrees.”

However, even if the caseworkers are trained, there is no due process in Missouri regarding the removal of children from their homes and even though the caseworker themselves cannot simply remove a child all they have to do is get someone in uniform to do it for them. Dean states, “In some instances, the caseworkers abuse their authority by badgering the parents and then promising that if they sign the necessary paperwork to remove the children from the home they can get them back later but unfortunately, to often they never do regain custody.” When it comes down to the facts, however, all DFS has to do is to prove probable cause to believe mal-treatment has occurred so these parents are basically guilty of a crime without being charge with one and without the rights afforded to a criminal.

One other fact that needs noted is that children in foster care, according to a U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services report, are three times more likely to die of child abuse in foster care than in the general population. When you look at that statistic, you have to ask yourself if there is enough danger in the home to justify putting the child at an even greater risk.

[tags]DFS, Department of Family Services, Missouri, foster care, U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services, Ron Dean, Families for Change, dangers of foster care system, Missouri House Bill 1453[/tags]

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  • marc klink

    This is especially upsetting to me as I was in a foster home for a short time. It was my real parents home, they had decided to care for 1 or possibly 2 children.
    My 2 sisters and I were excited when Shelley, a bright 10 year old came to our house. She was sweet, intelligent, and very well behaved. We could not think of one reason why she would have been abused by her father, or for that matter, why her mother did not clock him when he did. Shelley stayed with us for almost a year, in which time my parents had decided that she would make a beautiful addition to our family. Unfortunately, the system here in California is far from perfect, and somehow Shelley’s father convinced the caseworkers that he had ‘straightened out’ and could then be trusted to parent his child. Shelley left our house tearfully, and less than a year later we learned that not only had she been physically abused, but was also sexually abused, which lead to her suicide. The so-called parents were never brought up on charges, and so another life was extinguished for no reason, due to negligence of a system with not enough controls.

    This completely soured my parents on foster care as a system, so not only was the child a victim of the system, our family felt victimized as well. It also deprived any other children of coming to our family, which was not ‘Leave It to Beaver’ but was solid and caring, nonetheless.

  • reflections

    Dear Marc

    I am so sorry for what you suffered. As a child in the system I experienced both the good and bad elements of living in different homes. It sounds like yours was a good one so it is unfortunate that the system deprived you of a sister and that she suffered so much as a result.

    IT is basically what I was trying to say. DFS is all screwed up and aren’t not investigating well enough. I actually needed to be taken away from my mother so that was not where their mishandling occurred. However, I don’t know how some of the foster families were ever screened because they were bad if not worse than my own home had been.

    After my father passed away my mother, who had never been overly stable went over the edge, even going so far as to trying to kill my sister and me. My first foster home, however, was definitely not a delight and the foster father thought that a tweleve year old was fair game. Fortunately, I didn’t stick around to find out what joy he had in store for me. The second one was better but the way the system worked you weren’t allowed to stay in one home long enough to feel safe.

    I am a lucky survivor though, who choose to make my opportunites instead of blaming others and as a result was able to graduate college. On top of that I was blessed with a wonderful husband and three lovely girls all of whom have grown into young women that we are proud of.

    Foster care is a difficult choice and one I wish the country didn’t need but I am realistic and know it needs to be there. I would just like to see it revised to truly look out for the best interest of every child that they encounter.

    Have a good day. Jackie

  • Shirley Sade

    The Greene County Missouri DFS Children’s Division placed my granddaughter in Missouri Baptist Children’s home without even considering any family member. In December 2007 I attended an FST meeting and requested she be placed in my care, but I was totally ignored and within weeks she was placed in the home. There are aunts, uncles, cousins that would have been available to take her also, but NO one was consulted. It has now been 2 years and she is still in the state’s custody, without much activity toward reunification with her mother. Her mother has passed several drug tests, works, has a 3 bedroom home, insurance on the child, everything that is necessary to raise her. Her behaviour has regressed a great deal in this time. After a year in the Mo Baptist children’s home, they placed her somewhere else, saying she was placed in the wrong facility!!! She needed to be in another place, Well, who placed her there??? I have found that the caseworkers do not follow their own rules, and have no compassion for the children that are miserable and hurting because they are away from their family. Our family has lived a nightmare for the past few years, my granddaughter is not living a good life. I have met with supervisors at the childrens division, written letters, etc. without any positive results.

    Ronnie Dean is absoutely right when he said children are placed in the states custody and left there without considering the child best interest. My granddaughter is a prime example of that. Family could and would have taken care of her, but she was rushed into the system and seems like she can’t get out. DFS has used flimsy excuses for her mother not to have visits her, for example: Your mother told her she had more christmas presents that she could have when she got home; (which is true, I have a present that I have had for 2 Christmas’) but visits were not scheduled due to that conversation which violates the division’s own rules. Visits were cancelled due to the casework not having ‘time’ to visit, that violates their own rules. I have many other instances documentated.

    If anyone has had a similiar experience with this division, something needs to be done, I have done all I can.


  • barbara

    my 2 girls and granddaughter are in foster care they told my oldest daughter to give her daughter up for adoption so that the younger sister could go home, she was and is a loving mother even tho she is young i to have been fighting the system for two years with little luck, i now have my youngest home for trail home visit but have constant threats from our caseworker to remove her for the smallest thing something needs to be done they all think they are god

  • Craig DeForest

    I am on occasion disgruntled that scientists themselves are (nearly?) as inconsistent as everyone else. We are taught about Popperian falsifiability and verification, and about the hypothesis-theory-falsification loop, but in practice many scientists just “wing it”, saying, in essence, “These data seem consistent with my theory, therefore my theory must be right!” even when the theory would be consistent with anything. There seems to be some innate human desire to see the world in terms of one’s favorite self-consistent paradigm, whether it be right or wrong.

    Such errors get caught in the long run, of course, by competing scientists — that is the power of the scientific method, that it is self-corrects over time. But just barely.

  • Tigeress_hope

    I believe this is true.My grandkids are in foster care and i have tried since april of last year to get them home were they belong and now i have to see about getting a attorney to help me get them.They make it really hard to get them out.So if anyone can give me advise on this it would greatly help i will fight for my grandkids until they become adults if need be but i am hoping i have them before then.It seems like money is all anyone wants and if you don’t have it then they look down on you know matter what.What money don’t buy love and family i want my grandkids to know i love them very much.Have not seen my grandkids for 2 years all i want is my grandkids home were i can tell them i love them and give them hugs and care for them.