Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mother Of slain Girl Sues Tenn. Dept Child Services, Father's Estate. DCS Fails To Protect Another (

Posted on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 3:45:47 AM by The Magical Mischief Tour
DYERSBURG, Tenn. (AP) - The mother of a 15-year-old Dyersburg girl who was killed by her father after she claimed he sexually abused her is suing the state.
Jessica Readen, of Roseburg, Ore., claims the Department of Children's Services failed to protect her daughter when it moved her into the house of neighbors Todd and Susan Randolph, two doors down from her father, Christopher Milburn.
Milburn killed himself on Aug. 2 of last year, shortly after killing his daughter and Todd Randolph.
The State Gazette reports Readen's suit claims the Randolphs called a DCS caseworker's cell phone repeatedly on Aug 1 and 2 because they were concerned about Milburn's behavior, but their calls were never answered.
(Excerpt) Read more at wkrn.com ...


Friday, October 28, 2011

Children's Rights New Push For More Foster Care In Tennessee

Children's Rights

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The group that so arrogantly calls itself "Children's Rights" is back in federal court in Tennessee. Once again, CR is trying to ensure that nothing gives the judge in Anderson County, whose fanaticism about child removal may be unexceeded anywhere in America, even a moment's pause about tearing apart family after family.

    As is discussed previously on this Blog, CR is challenging a law that says if counties tear apart families at more than triple the state average they are free to keep right on doing so – but they have to pick up the tab for the foster care. The only county actually affected is Anderson, which removes children at a rate either four times or five times the state average, depending on which source you believe. Either way, that might make Anderson County a candidate, along with a few others, for Child Removal Capital of America.

    In theory, CR is simply arguing that judges must continue to make their decisions in their current pristine, pure state, uncontaminated by even a passing thought about money or anything else besides "the merits." If anyone needs still another reason to open these hearings to press and public, the fact that CR is trying to pass of this Disney version as reality is a very good one.

If that really were how juvenile courts operate, there would be no foster-care panics, no surges in removals after a high-profile case made headlines. Judges would simply admonish caseworkers not to be influenced by the fear of landing on the front page, refuse to rubber-stamp all those additional removals and that would be that. If decisions were made purely "on the merits," there would be no enormous variation in rates of removal, not just among counties but among states, to the point where children in one state are torn apart at rates five times higher than another. And were decisions made only "on the merits," it would not be possible to track the rise and fall of the foster care population throughout the 20th Century, as Prof. Leroy Pelton does in his seminal book For Reasons of Poverty, (Praeger, 1989) to one factor above all others: changes in federal financial incentives.

    Incentive after incentive after incentive, personal, political – and financial – push child welfare agencies to take-the-child-and-run. These same incentives push courts to rubber-stamp those decisions and, sometimes, even demand removal when a child welfare agency wants, say, in-home supervision.

The way to counter these incentives is not to pretend they don't exist, but to push back, with incentives to curb removals, so the incentives cancel each other out and decisions really can be made on the merits. (Of course that also would require that impoverished birth families have high-quality legal counsel, so they can balance the presentations by child welfare agencies, but one never hears about that from CR.)

    Tennessee's new law provides what can best be called one tiny counter-incentive. And that is the one and only incentive CR chooses to fight – in Tennessee or anywhere else.

    All over America, private agencies are paid for every day they hold a child in foster care. If they do what they are supposed to do – return the child safely home or, when that truly is not possible, get the child adopted, the money stops. The pernicious impact of these incentives was documented at least as far back as 1975, in a brilliant series by the New York Daily News.

    But I know of no case in which CR has gone to court to try to change these incentives. On the contrary, when New York City first tried to change them, in 1995, CR went to court and successfully stopped the change. (Now, the City is making some tentative steps toward changing those incentives again.) In perhaps the ultimate irony, CR just today released a study reportedly whining about how children languish in foster care too long in New York City. Perhaps had CR targeted the financial incentives to hold them there, back when the Daily News first exposed them, things might be different now. (CR didn't exist as a separate entity back then, but its founder, Marcia Lowry, was doing much the same work, affiliated at the time with the New York Civil Liberties Union.)

    So clearly CR isn't against all financial incentives – those that prolong foster care are just fine.


    CR's "supplemental complaint" to the court is filled with quotes from various state officials and state documents which CR seems to consider damning. In fact, they show precisely why the Tennessee law is needed.

CR quotes the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, Voila Miller, on a provision of the original bill that would have let the state bill counties if they took children at more than double the state average, instead of triple, as in the final law. Had that passed, and if counties did not change their ways, Miller estimated it might have reimbursed the state a total of $7.5 million. Said Miller:

The way we track commitment rates in Tennessee and most states is the number of children per thousand that come into the custody of the state. In Tennessee we have an average and most states, I mean, most counties rock right around that average of somewhere between three and four kids per thousand, we have a few counties in this state that commit at 16, 20 per thousand. That is significant overcommitment of children. Children are coming into state custody who should not. Now, we have been addressing this problem aggressively and we've made a lot of progress, and as I said, I want to work with those counties in making sure those kids can stay safely in their home. I don't ever want to collect a nickel of that 7.5 million dollars, I want to reduce that commitment level. [Emphasis added.]

    A Tennessee legislator explained that the provision was simply common sense. We're all more careful about spending our own money than someone else's:

[T]he policy consideration for this particular matter is to somewhat have our local governments be a little more judicious as to who they commit to state custody . . . . It makes people more responsible for their decisions, and when you're more responsible for your decisions you're going to be more careful with your decisions.

    Then CR quotes a memo from The Tennessee County Services Association, which it describes as "a nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group." The memo said, in part:

The state average is 3.6 per 1,000 for children committed in the Dependent & Neglect and Unruly category. Anderson County's commitment rate is 17 per 1,000, some four times more than the state average. … The public policy implication is that in some cases juvenile judges are over-using their commitment authority and, thus, not offering alternatives to the family nor the child. [Emphasis added].


    Then CR quotes the child welfare agency's budget director, who says:

    Actually, this one reduction actually is the only one in our Department that actually is good for kids. Now, you as a county may say, well, no, this is affecting your county budget. Our goal with this is that we as a Department don't collect a dime from the county. And that would be what was in the best interest of kids. . . . It's about . . . leaving [kids] with their families. (Emphasis added. But the ellipses this time and in the quote below are from CR – one can only wonder what CR chose to leave out.)

    And finally, what CR seems to think is the ultimate "smoking gun": An e-mail from the child welfare agency's legislative director in which he says:

    Anderson county [sic] clearly understands that they have a huge problem on their hands – their judge … We have the support of the county commission to work with the judge to bring down unneeded commitments.

    As for the law itself, in its final version it requires the child welfare agency to initiate a "collaborative planning process" with counties when entries are double the state average. Counties must pay only when they exceed triple that average.

    So what CR seems to view as a veritable arsenal of "smoking guns" points only in the direction of an agency that finally decided to use financial incentives in a way that can bring significant benefits to children – by saving them from the enormous harm of needless foster care.

    As to how CR got back into court on this issue – that, too, is instructive. And I'll try to get to it in a future post.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2nd Suspect Arrested In Spring Hill Child Abuse Case

SPRING HILL, Tenn. - A second person has been arrested in connection to a severe child abuse case in Spring Hill.

Anthony Talley, 54, of Chapel Hill, was arrested Wednesday morning.
Spring Hill police said Talley was an "accomplice" and friend of the woman who allegedly held her two children captive in a dark room.
The children, a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, were found badly bruised and malnourished, wandering along a busy road last October.
The children's mother, Shelley Blair, surrendered to authorities Friday.
She is facing several counts of aggravated child neglect, kidnapping and assault.
Talley is charged with aggravated child neglect and endangerment, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping and assault.
Talley was booked into the Williamson County jail Wednesday.
The children are in DCS custody.

SPRING HILL TN Department of Children's Services Approved Foster Parent

SPRING HILL — A woman accused of abusing two foster children in her care pleaded guilty today to some of the 15 original charges against her.
Shelley Blair faces sentencing Dec. 7 on four charges: two counts of aggravated assault, attempted especially aggravated kidnapping and kidnapping.
Blair faces 14-22 years in prison for those charges, said Spring Hill Police Detective Geoff Betts, the lead detective in the case.
On the morning of Oct. 20, 2008, Officer Jesus Lopez noticed the malnourished and poorly groomed children — a 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl — walking near Belshire Way on Main Street.

Lopez noticed one child was riding a bicycle without a helmet and wondered why they were not in school.
Both children were in Blair's care and had been imprisoned in her Spring Hill Estates home where she denied them food and drink and access to a bathroom.
The children were treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and turned over to the Department of Children's Services during the investigation.
Blair has been charged before for child abuse. In 2003, she was charged with five counts of abusing the same girl.

Betts said Tuesday’s court proceedings took only about 10 minutes, but that he expected there to be hours of details discussed at the sentencing hearing.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Protesters Say State Sanctioning Abuses

Published August 13, 2011
By Becky Campbell - Press Staff Writer

Protesters on N. Roan St. in Johnson City. (Press photo/Becky Campbell) Related Video
A small group of area residents gathered Friday near Johnson City Juvenile Court hoping to bring attention to what they call state-sanctioned abuse committed against Families and children in Tennessee and across the nation.
Ruth Cummins, the local protest coordinator for Govabuse, said the goal is to reform laws governing how child-protection services — the Department of Children’s Services in Tennessee — investigates claims of child abuse and the process used to find a suitable home while an investigation takes place.
“There are no longer family rights in this country. These social workers can commit perjury and fraud upon the court ... to take our children and grandchildren away from us,” Cummins said.
“There is nobody that oversees these people to make sure they’re following federal law, state law and even their own policies,” she said.
DCS caseworkers have sole power to remove children from a home when an allegation of child abuse is lodged against the parent or caregiver — allegations that are often false, Cummins said.
Too often, she said, a child is abused in a foster home as well.
“If it happens in a foster home, they won’t do anything to a foster parent so the abuse continues in the foster home and there’s no fear of repercussion.”

Her first experience with the DCS system started a year ago when she tried to get custody of her 4-year-old granddaughter, the child of her dead son. Cummins said a DCS caseworker in Knoxville told her she would never get custody of the child and that she, the caseworker, would find a family to adopt the child out.

Cummins said she and her fiance, a veteran with full military benefits, were not allowed the opportunity to protest the adoption and it was processed without them being contacted.
“I was told she didn’t need anything from me because she got a check from the state,” Cummins said.
Cummins is fighting the adoption and the case is pending in the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, she said.
Cummins said one of the biggest problems with the child-protective-service system is the money involved and paid to foster parents and adoptive parents. Foster parents receive hundreds of dollars each month to take a child into their home and adoptive parents are allowed to take large tax credits.
“There’s a lot of cases of actual abuse going on in the foster care system,” she said.
And children who end up in foster care are at a higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse because they turn to drinking and drugs as an escape, Cummins said.
“They’re having to turn somewhere to help deal with what they’re going through in the foster care system,” she said.
Crystal Ward knows all too well what being a foster child does to a kid. She lived in foster care for two years after she got pregnant as a 14-year-old and her mother was deemed unfit.
And now, her family has faced another situation involving her three nieces and nephews who were being removed from their home. Ward said when her family wanted to file a petition for custody to prevent the children from going to live with strangers, they were charged $110 per child in order to file the petition. She said it’s another way that money plays too big of a role in the system.
Cummins said the organization is already planning a second peaceful protest to continue educating the public about the abuse in the child protection system.
For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.govabuse.org or email Cummins at rcummings@govabuse.org.

State Audits DCS Death Investigations

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- State lawmakers reviewed findings of an audit assessing Tennessee Department of Children's Services' investigations of children's deaths.
The state investigates more than 37,000 child abuse and neglect cases every year.
The state comptroller's office reviewed 61 cases from 2004 through September of the agency's Child Protective Services Division. In a review of 61 cases of children's deaths, investigators determined that DCS failed to present 88 percent of those cases to the Child Abuse Review Team within its own mandated time of 60 days. Out of the 61 cases, 50 percent of those cases were not completed in 60 days.
The state comptroller's office found in the cases that were completed important information was missing from the file.
The audit found that the department also "did not notify the juvenile court judge of intake cases or the investigation results in most cases; and did not notify the District Attorney General of indicated cases of severe child abuse in most cases reviewed.
"In addition, most case files did not have all required information," according to the report. "Without proper adherence to policies and procedures for investigating children's deaths, the department risks jeopardizing these investigations, including determining the cause of death and perpetrator, if any."
It's a problem Sen. Thelma Harper said has been documented in audits dating back to 1999.
"It is a persistent problem," said Harper, a Democrat from Nashville. "And you find it difficult to believe that there are adequate measures being taken to ensure it doesn't happen."
The legislative committee that oversees DCS looked at the audit Monday. The auditor and DCS commissioner Viola Miller answered questions about the audit.

DCS Spokesman Rob Johnson told NewsChannel 5 Monday night that those 61 cases were among the toughest cases the agency had. The agency often had to wait for Metro to finish their investigations before theirs began and they had to wait for a period of time for toxicology reports and other information.
The agency admits there are problems, but administrators are working to fix them.
"I think we're here saying it's not perfect," said DCS Counsel Stacy Miller. "But is it much, much better, yes.  And are we on the right road, absolutely."
DCS administrators did not deny the faults found in the audit, but they pointed out the department is making improvements. But that was something Memphis Sen. Ophelia Ford did not want to hear.
"You need to get with the funeral directors and you need to know what's going on.  You don't know how many children we are burying," said Ford, whose family is in the funeral business. "And you don't know how hard it is.  And what you're talking about ain't hit nothing with me, as a certified funeral services practitioner.
Commissioner Viola Miller said during that hearing that three years ago DCS had 22,000 open cases and now the agency's caseload is much lower.
She also said case workers in Child Protective Services have been given up to 30-percent raises to try and stop turnover and they've added staff to cut down on case load.
The legislative committee voted Monday to give DCS another year to work on its problems and they'll review the agency again next year.


Govabuse Protests Knox Co. Courthouse, Across Country

Govabuse protests Knox Co. Courthouse, across country
Protesters stood outside the Knox County Courthouse and other courthouses across the country Friday morning against what they call court system problems.
Posted: 9:52 PM Aug 12, 2011

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Protesters stood outside the Knox County Courthouse and other courthouses across the country Friday morning against what they call court system problems.
Govabuse organized the protests in every state.
Charlotte Jeffries represented the group at the Knox County Courthouse. A visitation case has taken 14 years of her life in court and away from her granddaughter. She says she also faces over a hundred thousand dollars in lawyer fees.
Jeffries hopes the demonstrations will keep others from enduring the same hardships, saying "Personally myself, that no one else goes through the crying, sleepless nights and financial burden of ever having to go through 14 years of the judicial system or the court system."
Govabuse hopes their efforts will lead to reform within family and juvenile courts as well as county family services divisions.


This occurred in ORANGE COUNTY,Florida  but if you look at other city's such as Miami, Florida or Nashville,Tennessee or even your home town you will find protest everywhere and not just one or two but hundreds. It is time to stand up to our state governments and tell them our children are not a commodity, parents have rights, and we as Americans have Constitutional Rights. Ignorance is no excuse.