States citizens who are naïve to the ways of the Child Protective
System and the courts, or perhaps not wealthy or connected, may
inadvertently find themselves subjected to a nightmare. Many entities
profit from the time a child first enters the system.
What are some of the techniques CPS and the courts use, why does
nobody hear about this problem and what is the outcome for the
children and their families? Below is one familys encounter
and Alexandra - Siblings separated by adoption.
With adoptions from CPS, all contact
between family members may be broken. Jacob has not been permitted
to visit, call or write to his own sister in five years.
Clayton, MO (PRWEB) October 23, 2004 -- In 1999, Sonja De Vivos
parental rights to her daughter Alexandra were terminated. The
state of Missouri severed all contact between her youngest daughter
and the rest of the family, including Alexandras older brother
De Vivo said, Alexandra was removed from the custody of
my ex-husband after he admitted to unspeakable acts
. Despite her mothers pleas, Alexandra was not returned
to her care but kept in foster care.
Why was Alexandra not given to her mother after being removed
from her fathers care? They accused me of not protecting
her once her father openly admitted to his wrongful and inappropriate
acts. But it was them who gave her father custody after he made
many calls to the hotline with false reports of abuse. He knew
just how to do it, make the calls and then go immediately afterwards
and get a restraining order. The calls were made sometimes one
right after another with different and multiple claims of wrongdoing
that were fabricated. Since they gave him custody, how could I
De Vivo agreed to every requirement placed on her, hoping to
get her daughter back. As time dragged on, she recounts: It
surprised me how often cancellations were made. Both attorneys
from both sides canceled and rescheduled, the judge canceled and
rescheduled, the guardian ad litum (GAL) canceled and rescheduled.
Everybody participated in recommending adoption, not one person
stood up for what was right. I have two older children and they
didnt seem to be at all concerned about leaving them in
my care. I didnt know then about the time law
that after 15 months in the system the parents rights may
be terminated and the child adopted.
The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act allows states to terminate
parental rights and find an adoptive family if a child has been
in foster care for 15 months or longer.
According to De Vivo: I owned my own house when all this
started. But the guardian ad litums both demanded pay and even
though I made the payments within the time frame requested, following
receipt of payment and unknown to me they both put a lien on my
house. Because of all of the programs I was required to attend,
the meetings, the counseling, the court appearances, I lost jobs
and pay. With the resulting drop in finances, I had to sell my
house. When I found a buyer, I discovered that there were liens
on my house so I was unable to sell it, placing me into a position
that would put me into foreclosure. I had to prove to the court
the money was paid to get the GALs to release the liens.
I had completed all counseling and even went beyond the
requirement. My counselor at the time told me that I was finished
and really did not need to keep coming back and that she would
do a telephone counsel with me if I wanted to. Later in the court
room the GAL kept pressuring the counselor to say that I was not
finished. She kept demanding and saying things to the effect that
because Ms. De Vivo called you on the phone that she was not showing
up for her counseling, correct? Then she would get the counselor
to say yes for the record and using that as a means
to say I was not finished.
They all knew what questions would be asked in court and
each individual had set up situations to create a story for their
testimony. No one prepared me for what would happen and the questions
they would ask in court.
The transcripts state how impressed the counselors were
with how well my daughters father and I got along and there
is no proof of arguing between us. Yet the testimony in court
was that we could not resolve our differences and no progress
had been made. The statement that I was unable to set age-appropriate
boundaries and meet the behavioral and emotional needs of my daughter
was made based on testimony by the social worker that she didnt
believe I knew my daughter, by then 5 years old, was to begin
kindergarten. Of course I know what age a child goes to kindergarten.
After it was all over, the termination papers stated that
there was no evidence that the mother has abused any child that
she has in her custody or the child in the courts custody,
there was no evidence of drug abuse, there is no evidence that
any other person did anything wrong that the mother knew about
or should have know about. They proved only one thing I had actually
done wrong: One late child support payment for the foster care.
But all the money had been paid in full.
I was later told that $4000 went to the governors
pool treasury when my daughter was adopted.
The $4000 De Vivo is referring to is a federal incentive provided
to get children adopted out of foster care. The 1997 Adoptions
and Safe Families Act provides a $4,000 bonus for each child placed
in an adoptive home, and an additional $2,000 for a "special
needs child. On Dec. 2, 2003 President Bush signed legislation
increasing the bonus by $4,000 for children adopted at age 9 or
Said De Vivo: Im not sure the bonus was their only
incentive. They were making money off her anyway while she was
in foster care.
When I told the Judge that the guardian placed a lien on
my house, I remember looking at one of the guardians and her beginning
to laugh about it. A sheriff that sits in the back of the court
room in a corner raised a newspaper above his face while he was
uncontrollably snickering and laughing. My impression was that
he was so amused by how ridiculous the testimonies of the social
worker and the CASA Worker were. The social worker committed perjury
under oath while the Judge clipped his nails and allowed her to
continue on to terminate my rights. She lied about and admitted
lying about who told her what to do but she did say
that that person is in Jefferson City. It may be a coincidence,
but Jefferson City is where our governor is.
De Vivo has tried contacting the press repeatedly in the years
since. She says: This is the least talked about subject
in the news. I hear the head of social services once in a while
on the radio present their side of the story but do you ever hear
a mother on there, or a parent?
When De Vivo attempted to contact the governor her call was forwarded
to social services.
It has long been known that separation from family has ill-effects
In Uphold Rights of Parent and Child published in
The Child, Vol 13, No. 2, August 1948, Inez M. Baker (Parish Supervisor,
Childrens Division, Orleans Parish Department of Public
Welfare, Louisiana) wrote this: Except in the rarest cases
of physical danger we might go so far as to say that no home is
better than (a childs) own. It is our responsibility to
help him use it
.We know what separation means to children;
that it is akin to death and carries with it anger , disillusionment,
despair and a deep sense of badness .
The effect on children separated from adopted-out siblings is
rarely publicized. De Vivo recounts: I think it is even
worse for the kids than for the adults. My son Jacob, a close
sibling to his youngest sister, often spoke of how he was going
to take care of his sister when she started kindergarten, but
they never returned her. I think he suffered deeply. He sat on
the couch and cried about it, now I think its just grown into
a silent anger that he holds within. He does talk about it, but
the only thing he will really say is they lied the
courts made stories up. He still asks Mom are you going
back to court and are the courts going to give her back?
All I can say is I am trying.
The internet is full of information and books on how to handle
social services, family rights and childrens rights contacts
in various states, what to do when Child Protective Services comes
to your door, how to fight false allegations and restraining orders,
how to find the right lawyer or defend yourself, how to prepare
children in advance for their own protection.
Association with ones family is a human right. Being educated
about the realities of the system might help you to
retain that right.
Note: The names of the children have been changed for their protection.
Ms. Devivo is still trying to get her daughter
back and reunite her family. Please read about the case and if
you agree, then add your name to the petition.
To add your name to this petition go to:
in the United States are working hard to meet or exceed their
quotas of children adopted from foster care. When there are quotas
or bonuses attached to any action of a child protection system,
there is less likelihood that the interests of an individual child
will be considered a priority.
Recommended Reading: Adoption
and Safe Families Act and Adoption Bonuses
and Safe Families Act" is a misnomer - there is nothing
"safe" about this law for children or for their families.
"Professionals" have been known to say "We give
family members ample time to come forward," but there is
no incentive for them to keep family together. Rather than placing
children with relatives or with the old-style temporary foster
caregivers, children today are often placed with fost/adopts.
Fost/adopts are people who are looking for a child - if they like
the child then they won't want to allow the child to return to
family. Non-custodial parents constitutional rights to the care,
control and custody of their children are often violated.