A Critical Look At The Child Welfare System
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A Critical Look at the Child Welfare System
Reunification Plans


    Kevin Norell is one of the newer foster care caseworkers in the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, hired to satisfy child-welfare reform laws and the terms of a recent lawsuit settlement in Utah.

    According to Norell, the state asks a lot of parents who want their children returned home. They have to find a job, find housing, all of which can be "tough to do for anyone in Salt Lake County." Parents are ordered into therapy, parenting classes, perhaps drug rehabilitation, and they have to find time to visit with their children.

    "Even an organized parent might have trouble with all that. And many of these parents are anything but organized," says Morell.[1]

    The intent behind court ordered reunification plans may be admirable, but the reality appears to be that many plans are designed for failure, according to the 1991-1992 San Diego Grand Jury:

    Testimony was received regarding the hours of time which must be spent in order to comply with these plans. Defense attorneys have testified that they have told clients that it is impossible for them to work and comply with reunification. Judges and referees were observed, seemingly without thought, ordering parents into programs which require more than 40 hours per week. Frequently, these parents have only public transportation. Obviously, there is no time to earn a living or otherwise live a life. A parent often becomes a slave to the reunification plan.[2]

    On April 20, 1993, a Florida father entered into such a "performance agreement" with the Florida Department of Health and Human Resources. The performance agreement, which is now referred to as a "case plan" pursuant to revisions in the Florida statutes, required the father to perform nine tasks to be reunified with his child:

    • (1) completion of an abuse counseling program and its recommendations;

    • (2) completion of a psychological evaluation and its recommendations;

    • (3) completion of a parenting program and demonstration of proficiency in parenting skills;

    • (4) evaluation for anger management and follow recommendations;

    • (5) evaluation for individual counseling and follow recommendations;

    • (6) monthly contact with HRS;

    • (7) follow reasonable requests and recommendations of the supervising counselor;

    • (8) provide HRS a list of relatives, their addresses, and phone numbers; and

    • (9) maintain adequate housing and demonstrate financial ability to provide for the child.

    The father, through sheer determination, managed to comply with the provisions of the performance agreement. But was HRS satisfied with the result?

    On November 22, 1994, HRS filed a motion for change of goal, requesting that the father's rights regarding the child be terminated because he had 'failed to benefit from services in a reasonable length of time.'
    The lower court, on this basis, terminated the father's parental rights. The determined father appealed to the District Court of Appeal. On March 22, 1996, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the lower court, holding that HRS had not met its burden of proof. The case was remanded for further proceedings. By this time, the child had been in foster care for three years.[3]

    In another recent case, HRS filed a petition to declare a child dependent, and to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The lower court dismissed the petition, as it failed to allege any abuse or neglect.

    The Court of Appeal ruled that abuse or neglect need not be alleged, and that the lower Court was in error holding that it could not terminate parental rights on the ground that HRS had alleged only that the mother failed to comply substantially with her performance agreements:

    Florida Rule of Juvenile Procedure 8.500(b) provides that the only substantive allegation required in a termination petition, aside from the parents' and child's identities, etc., is that 'the parents were offered a performance agreement or permanent placement plan and did not substantially comply with it,' when required by law. The petitions conformed with this requirement.[4]

    In most states, allegations of abuse or neglect are not necessary to remove a child, or to permanently sever parental rights. In virtually every state, the laws have been constructed in such a way as to allow the removal of children on the basis that they may be abused or neglected at some point in the future.

    In the State of Montana, for example, temporary removal orders require the department only "to submit to the court facts establishing a probable cause that a youth is abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected."

    According to a recent judicial assessment of the Montana juvenile justice system, such treatment plans are often implemented early during the proceedings, even though a child may not have been adjudicated "a youth in need of care."

    "Adjudication provides the basis for state intervention in a family," reviewers note. "Therefore, enforcement of treatment which is not required for the immediate protection of the child... is an inappropriate exercise of the state's power."

    Citing state law, assessment reviewers explain the dire consequences of failure to complete the "treatment plan" constructed by the department of social services:

    the failure of a parent or guardian to participate in, comply with, in whole or in part, or to meet the goals of the treatment plan is prima facie evidence that return of the child to the parent or guardian would be detrimental.[5]
    Incredibly, rulings like this can be found throughout the states.

    In California, an often-applied ruling used to terminate the parental rights of parents who simply refuse to comply with social worker demands that they attend "treatment" or "therapy" reads:

    the failure of the parent or guardian to participate in any court-ordered treatment programs shall constitute prima facie evidence that return [of the child] would be detrimental.[6]
    Hence, the refusal to participate in these programs will result in the permanent separation of a child from his parents--whether or not any maltreatment had actually occurred.

    In examining studies conducted by the American Humane Association during the mid-1980s, Dana Mack of the Institute for American Values found that half of the families that child welfare agencies compelled to undergo therapeutic services for child maltreatment never mistreated their children at all, and that many removals of children are capricious actions of "preventive intervention," based on a caseworker's presumption that although abuse may not have occurred, it may at some time in the future.[7]

    Even for those parents who comply with the reunification terms, the state has another way of using these plans to terminate parental rights.

    The laws throughout the states are written in such a way that "failure to substantially comply with the terms of the performance agreement," or "failure to derive benefit from the services provided by the Department" are reason enough to have children permanently separated from their parents, once they have become dependents of the court.

    In a recent Minnesota case, for example, the "disposition plan" for reunification included the following elements:

    • (1) that appellants work with a housekeeper provided by the county to maintain the housekeeping standard from week to week;

    • (2) that appellants cooperate with an assessment and goals as determined by an in-home skills counselor, to provide a safe, clean, and organized living environment for the family;

    • (3) that prior to reunification, the home environment will have an adequate level of housekeeping, as determined by the social worker and public health nurse;

    • (4) that appellants keep all scheduled appointments with service providers or cancel and reschedule appointments in a timely manner;

    • (5) that appellants complete individual psychological and psychiatric evaluations and follow all recommendations;

    • (6) that appellants attend individual therapy to determine and address issues of depression, grief, and loss, and other issues as may be recommended by the treating therapist;

    • (7) that appellants cooperate and work with the assigned financial worker from the county and comply with the budget or recommendations of the financial worker;

    • (8) that appellants follow all recommendations of [the child's] treating physicians and keep all appointments with the home health aide for the purpose of childcare, nutrition, and bathing; and

    • (9) that appellants maintain a working telephone in the residence at all times.[8]

    The sad reality is that abuse or neglect need not be demonstrated. Simple failure to maintain a purely subjective housekeeping standard, the missing of an appointment, failure to "adequately assimilate" budgeting skills, or the disconnection of a telephone can result in the permanent separation of a child from his or her parents.

    In most states, social workers have been granted the authority to construct these reunification plans at their sole discretion. And, there is precious little oversight from the courts in the construction of these plans.

    Montana reviewers found that most judges rarely issue orders or make recommendations addressing reunification or treatment plans, finding also that: "Some judges assert that it is appropriate for the courts to defer to the department's expertise in these matters because of the social workers' experience and education."

    One judge reported that while he often orders parents to take parenting classes, he does not actually know what those classes entail!

    Hence, the construction of these plans is left to social workers who typically have precious little training, oversight or experience.

    Worse, over half of counsel representing parents said that they seldom receive information from service providers or the department regarding the availability of services. Reviewers determined that: "Parents' counsel are, therefore, unable to to effectively challenge the appropriateness of a treatment plan."[9]

    Personal bias or prejudice often play a role in how these plans are constructed.

    Veteran Juvenile Court Judge Judy Sheindlin recounts the story of one young couple named Robin and Tim. Robin had two children before she met Tim. She also had a drug problem. City caseworkers stepped in and removed her three children when the third was born with cocaine in her system.

    Tim, who was separated from Robin, lived at home with his parents and his brother, all of whom were employed. Judge Sheindlin describes the obstacles Tim had to face when he sought custody of his child:

    First, he had to establish paternity, proving that he was the biological father of his child. Tim did this. Next, the caseworkers told him that before he could even be considered for custody, he had to take parenting classes. He had to provide the name of the person who would be caring for his child while he worked during the day. He had to establish a permanent, independent residence. There was not a scintilla of evidence that he was an unfit parent, but these were the rules that Tim had to follow. He met all of the conditions.

    Meanwhile, Robin the drug addict had it easy. All she had to do was enroll herself in a drug treatment program and get on welfare. That, my friends, was it.

    When Judge Sheindlin asked the caseworker about this obvious gender disparity, her answer was simply: "Well, she's the mother."[10]

    The San Diego Grand Jury confirmed that these plans are sometimes intentionally made impossible to prevent reunification:

    Failure to comply with any element of a reunification plan is sufficient for termination of parental rights. We have taken testimony from attorneys, court appointed therapists, and social workers, that some of these plans are intentionally made impossible, particularly when infants or toddlers are involved.

    Chief Administrative Officer Norman Hickey conducted an independent investigation of the San Diego Department of Social Services. His report confirmed the San Diego Grand Jury findings, following on the heels of another stinging critique of the system by the county's Juvenile Justice Commission.

    The system is too demanding of the parents, distracting them from more important issues, he wrote. "Too many tasks or unproductive requirements overwhelm parents and reduce the potential for priority behavioral change."

    His report also indicated that foster parents may try to thwart reunification efforts. "A desire to take care of the child on a permanent basis must not be permitted to work against the parent's goal" of reunification.[11]

    The Juvenile Justice Commission examined several troubling cases in which social workers sought to prevent reunification of children with their parents. They found such cases in their representative sampling to be "numerous and diverse."

    In one such case, a social worker threatened that a child would be removed from the mother's home if she allowed the child to attend a scheduled birthday party with her father in a public place. She further advised the mother to move to another part of the County, and keep her whereabouts unknown to the father.

    In another case, a social worker sought to prevent the development of ties between a child and her maternal aunt, even though the aunt was known to the worker as a licensed foster mother. The worker sought instead to maintain the child in a foster home in which the foster parents had expressed a desire to adopt the child.

    "The unwillingness of the Children's Services Bureau staff, from line to administrative, to listen to opposing views to the point of being hostile and threatening has resulted in a backlash from the community, as well as tragic consequences for families," the Commission found.

    "Court time and real time are world's apart, so that while a case drags on from week to week and month to month, the agony of separation continues," the Commission concluded. "While Court cases often require lengthy investigation and preparation to ensure due process of law to all involved, it must never be forgotten that these cases are ultimately about living, breathing human beings."[12]

    DO's and DON'T's When Falsely Accused of Child Abuse/Neglect.

    This material is brought to you courtesy of NASVO, the National Association of State VOCAL Organization and The Illinois_Family_Rights_Association

    • DON'T INVITE LAW ENFORCEMENT OR SOCIAL SERVICES INTO YOUR HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT. This waives your right under illegal search and seizure under the Constitution. This will allow them to come into your home at ANY TIME and search and seize your children or belongings.

    • DON'T SPEAK TO ANYONE ABOUT YOUR CASE without first consulting a lawyer. Everything you say can and will be used against you. If you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed to you if you are arrested. No attorney will be appointed to you if this is a civil case (family law). In some states, attorneys are appointed to parents in juvenile dependency court. Contact the local Bar Association or legal information service nearest you for this information.

    • DON'T CONTACT THE ALLEGED VICTIM, THEIR FAMILY, OR PROSECUTION WITNESSES. Any and all such contact will be construed as an attempt to bribe or threaten the alleged victim into silence or recantation. Such contact must be done through a PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR who will work through or with your attorney.

    • DO GO ATTORNEY SHOPPING. Seek out an attorney who is experienced in child abuse cases (specifically false cases). For assistance, contact your local BAR ASSOCIATION, STATE BAR ASSOCIATION OR COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION

    • DON'T TURN TO DRUGS OR ALCOHOL. Such substances are habit-forming and are depressants. They can cause you to jeopardize your case.

    • DO KEEP ACTIVE. Physical and social activity are healthy and will assist in keeping depression at bay.

    • DO HIRE A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR. Some attorneys have their own in-house investigators. Some do not, and IT IS CRUCIAL THAT AN INVESTIGATOR BE IMMEDIATELY ASSIGNED TO YOUR CASE. If your attorney does not provide one, call NASVO for references.

    • DO KEEP A DAILY JOURNAL. A journal should document what you do, where you go and people who see you or are with you. Keep receipts of purchases for evidence of activities. Go through canceled checks, photos, letters and holiday experiences to back-date a journal. Try to reconstruct everything you did and where you were at the time of the allegation. Give a copy of the journal to your investigator and lawyer; it may provide evidence.

    • DO STRIP-SEARCH THE ACCUSING CHILD'S ROOM, if the child lived in your home. It can provide proof of your child's activities and sexual and social habits. Look for notes, letters, diaries, photos, telephone numbers, drug or sexual paraphernalia. Give copies to your investigator and your lawyer.

    • DO PAY YOUR ATTORNEY OR INVESTIGATOR. The people you hire for your defense are professionals and will work toward finding a solid defense. It is advisable to ALWAYS ENTER INTO A CONTRACT AGREEMENT FOR FEES. This sets the boundaries of your agreement and protects both you and your defense professional from failure.

    • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING If possible, tape record or video tape all conversations with anyone involved in your case, as well as any visits you may have with your child. Federal law says that it is legal to make tape recordings as long as one person being taped consents to it. Some states say otherwise; California is one of them. To legally tape record anyone in California (state law) you must advise them that you are going to tape record the conversation and that if they do not wish to be taped then they have the right to remain silent. If you are unable to tape conversations or visits, then document the situation as it is happening or as soon afterwards as possible. Be sure to include as much detail as possible.

    • START A PAPER TRAIL Every time you talk to Social Services, document what was said and write a letter to that person asking them to confirm or deny the contents of the letter within 10 calendar days. In your letter state that "failure to confirm or deny the contents of the letter will constitute an agreement that the information contained therein is accurate". Send the letter by certified mail or Return Receipt Requested. Faxes can sent as long as you have verification that the fax was sent and received. Make sure that you cc: copies of all these letters to your attorney. Advise your attorney (in writing) to send copies of the letter to County Counsel, other attorney's involved in the case and to the judge IF your attorney feels that it is appropriate and that it might be to your advantage.

    • ARM YOURSELF - WITH POWER Knowledge is power. Knowing how the system works and what is required of social workers can help you put them on the defensive when you force them to do their job properly!


      Read the manual and document all violations. Give your attorney a copy. In court, your attorney can basically "put CPS on trial", forcing them to defend their actions. This takes the focus off you. If your attorney puts you on the stand, the focus should be on your concern for your child (i.e., regression, poor grades, behavior changes, etc.). This strategy will not guarantee a win, but it can change "the flavor of the court" in your favor.


    • LEARN TO TALK THEIR LINGO CPS uses key phrases like: "indicates, seems to think, appears, could be" and others to gain an advantage in court. Learn to use their key words in your everyday language so it becomes natural and then use them to your advantage on the witness stand. Their use of these phrases is no accident. They KNOW how it will look to the judge. The judge won't see their statements as implications and opinions but will accept them as facts instead. Whatever you do, DON'T LIE but DO use their key words to your advantage. You MUST be better prepared than they are!

    • CHECK YOUR COURT RECORDS Check all court documents for errors. Simple things like names and birth dates are often wrong. List all errors, give your attorney a copy. It establishes a pattern of errors which may be used in your favor (i.e., social worker incompetence).

      Find opinions stated as facts, i.e. "The child was not unhappy, indicating he did not wish to return home." This is an opinion. The social worker has no idea how your child acts when he/she is happy, sad, scared, confused, tired or sick. The opinion didn't prove anything but a judge may see it as fact: "The child is happy at the foster home and does not want to go home." The judge will not side with you if this opinion isn't clarified!

      List every opinion that is presented as fact and give your attorney a copy. Ask your attorney to clarify them in court. It might be enough to tip the scales in your direction. If nothing else, CPS will have some explaining to do in court!

    • WHO'S SAYING WHAT? If you are involved with CPS, you have the legal right to look through your case file (and to have copies of it). Social services may tell you that you must have your attorney request that information in writing. (It's not entirely legal for them to do that, but you don't really have many options here.) If that happens, ask your attorney to request a copy of ALL case notes and any other documentation that CPS has against you. Ask your attorney to give you copies of ALL information that is obtained so that you can list the errors and omissions in the documentation. (By law, CPS is required to list every contact they have had with you, including all phone calls, but they seldom document it unless they can use it against you.) This step may help you in your defense.

    • MAKE THEM 'PUT IT IN WRITING'! Any time CPS tries to force you to do something that is not in their plan (i.e. Reunification Plan or Family Maintenance Plan) tell them to put it in writing. (Example: CPS tells you that you can not talk to your child about the past or the future.) They will probably tell you, "I don't have to put it in writing. I told you what to do." At that point, simply inform them that you are not legally obligated to do as they requested unless you have a court order. Make sure that you tell them that you do not feel that those actions would be in your child's "best interests". (Some attorney's will tell you to go along with CPS anyway. They want to keep the peace and they don't want you to make the judge angry. There is some justification to this way of thinking.)

    • GET FRESH BLOOD Most attorneys work within their own county. Keep in mind that your attorney must face the same attorneys and judges day after day. They all know what to expect from each other and what kind of a response to expect from the court for various situations. Judges can prevent attorneys from providing their clients with the full benefit of their strategies and expertise, so get some fresh blood in the court room. Try to hire an attorney that is NOT from your county. If possible, hire an attorney from the capital city. Why?

      1. The judge has no idea how your new attorney operates or where your attorney is from. The judge will wonder why you didn't choose someone local and will usually put their "best face" forward. (The judge may think he/she is "being watched" or "evaluated", especially if the judge discovers that your attorney is from the capital city!)

      2. The judge will generally allow far more latitude in the trial to your new attorney. (This is definitely an advantage.)

      3. Opposing counsel won't know what to expect either and it can shake them up enough so they will make mistakes that make CPS look bad. (It's happened before!)

      4. The child's attorney doesn't know which way to go and will probably "straddle the fence" through the entire trial or switch sides in support of the defense. After all, the child's attorney wants to be on the WINNING side. It looks better that way!

    • STACK THE DECK Right now you probably have at least two attorney's fighting against your one attorney. In most cases the attorney for the child will side with CPS as long as they look like they are on the winning side. Keep in mind that your child's attorney is getting one-sided information. They are not talking to you. They are not asking you what you think is best for your child. Chances are, they aren't doing much talking to your child either. How can that attorney possibly know what is best for your child if he/she only spends an hour or two with your child? They can't. They rely on the information from the therapists (usually paid for and appointed by the county) and the information from the social workers.

      You need ALL the help you can get. Two or more attorneys in your corner will certainly increase your chances of success. If there is a step-parent involved in the child's upbringing, have the step-parent declared a "defacto parent" (this entitles them to have an attorney, one may not be appointed for them, but at least the step-parent can get legal representation and this is another "ace up your sleeve"). If there is a grandparent that plays a very significant role in the child's life (i.e. grandma provides day care while parents work), they MAY be granted "defacto" status as well.

      If there are any ex-spouses (child's natural parent) in the picture, he/she MAY be willing to have counsel appointed for them (or hire an attorney) with the understanding that all of you are WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHILD. It doesn't matter if the natural parents hate each other, the child is all that matters and those negative feelings MUST be put aside. CPS uses the strategy of divide and conquer. You must provide a UNITED front in order to defeat the CPS.

    • HELP YOUR ATTORNEY The more you do for your attorney, the better armed your attorney will be, and the easier it will be to win. When parents take an active role in their own defense their chances of winning are greatly increased. Don't just pay your attorney and walk away expecting the attorney to do the rest. Your attorney can not paddle your life boat for you unless you inflate it first. Help your attorney defend you. Do your own research, ask questions, and keep your attorney informed.

      Keep a log of everything concerning your case (phone calls, research, etc.). Find cases similar to your own that has been won, make copies of your findings, and give a copy to your attorney. Make it easier for your attorney to defend you by preparing your attorney well.

    • PROVE YOUR CHARACTER Get Affidavits of Character from friends, co-workers and clergy. You can take them to the Clerk's office and request that they be attached to your file. Once they are attached to your file the judge is mandated BY LAW to read them. The Affidavits of Character can not be "thrown out of court" nor do they have to be entered into court as "evidence". You can take these steps without the assistance of your attorney. Another advantage to this is that it allows your friends and co-workers to "testify" for you without having to be subjected to a cross-examination by the prosecution. It is strictly a one-sided view, in YOUR favor! [See Note 1]

    • KNOW YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS The Bill of Rights, part of the United States Constitution, is the law. Unfortunately, we the people, often don't know what our rights are. We have, through our own ignorance, allowed the state courts and "the system" to strip us of those rights and we never raised a voice in protest. How did it happen? It happened one little step at a time, year after year, until the system is as it stands today. We can reverse this trend by demanding our rights. We can challenge the laws of the state, court rulings and "county policies" that have been declared local law. We the people have a duty to change the system when it no longer works. These are not idle words, they are the American dreams and ideals we grew up believing in. We can't rely on others to protect our rights, we must do it ourselves; the cavalry is not going to rush in to save us. Learn your Constitution and keep a list of the rights that were violated in your case. You can later use this information for civil suits if you wish to proceed in that manner.

    • TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO "BE A BROKEN RECORD" When any government official wants to question your child, he/she can answer each question with something to this effect:
      "According to the Privacy Act of 1974, I don't have to answer any questions without my parents being present."

      If they proceed to question your child without you being present, they are in direct violation of the law and can be sued for it. The state receives Federal Money and their employees are bound by the Privacy Act of 1974.r


    • CAN I SUE? Yes. Some states are changing laws so that social workers can be sued for violations of civil rights. In California social workers will have the same immunity that police officers have starting on January 1, 1996. Social workers previously had absolute (total) immunity regardless of their actions. Civil law suits are forming all over the country. Some are class action suits, some are single suits. You can find out what suits are forming near you by calling various parents and family rights organizations (VOCAL, MASA, Fathers For Their Children, Protective Parents, Injustices In The Court, and so on). Who can be sued? The state, the county, social workers, police officers, foster parents, and sometimes judges and the federal government. It won't be easy, but your fight will ultimately help the next generation and each generation after that. By making the effort now, you are helping your children avoid the same dangers when they become parents themselves.

    • FILING AN INTERNATIONAL COMPLAINT You can file a complaint against the United States for violations of the Constitution. This complaint is filed with the U.N. and will remain as part of America's history for as long as the U.N. stands. Complaints can be filed for: false imprisonment, cruel and unusual punishment, torture, acts of terrorism, and so on. For more information, call VOCAL at (800) 745-8778 and request the address for the Florida VOCAL chapter that is compiling this information.

    • WHEN GOING PUBLIC.... If you go public with your story make your child "bigger than life". Have a picture of your child blown up to poster size. You can use it when giving speeches or protesting. It is a great attention getter, AND, the people you are speaking to are forced to "see" your child. Granted, it's only a picture, but your child is no longer a faceless victim of the system. Your audience will remember the color of your child's hair, the missing tooth, the grin, the glint in your child's eyes, and so forth. Your child will become real to them, rather than just being a statistic.

      Do not use your child's name when protesting or giving speeches. Although the Constitution and the Supreme Court upholds your right to free speech, the judge in your case may not. The court may issue a "gag order" against you for "going public" and may claim you are "endangering your child" with your actions. You may be advised that "for your child's protection" these proceedings are confidential. You can also be fined or jailed. Only you can decide if it is worth the risk.

      Note: Many copy stores charge less than $5 for a poster sized color enlargement.

    • WHEN YOU'RE RIGHT, YOU RIGHT! Letter writing campaigns can be a wonderful tool. Write to your politicians, as well as to the politicians that represent every member of your extended family (parents, siblings, etc.) and to those of your friends. Chances are you will come up with a long list of Assemblymen, Congressmen, State Senators and U.S. Senators around the country. Keep your letter simple, but be concise; anything over two pages will generally not get read. State the problem (e.g. CPS is trying to force us to lie in order to get our child back.) Include a cc: section on the letter (that can be page three). In your letters to politicians outside your area, send a cover sheet that contains a statement like:
      "I know you don't have the jurisdiction to help me but you represent people in my family that are directly affected by the situation described herein."

      You may think, 'Well if they can't help then why should I waste my time and money?' The answer is simple: this is how laws get changed. Your politicians may sweep your concerns under the rug but when you send letters to politicians across the country you are holding your own representatives accountable. Your politicians must face their peers and explain what they are doing about YOUR problem! It puts pressure on them to do something! It also keeps you busy and focused on your case. You're doing something positive regardless of the direct results and it proves how hard you fought for your child. Someday your child may read those letters and know how much you cared.

      Note: cc: means - (carbon) copies sent to. Be sure to follow the colon with the names of the people that copies of your letter were sent to. (The more names, the better!)

    • CHECKING FOR PHONE TAPS/PHONE TRAPS If you believe your phone may be tapped, call the phone company's repair center and ask them to check the line for taps/traps. Tell them about any unusual sounds (humming, clicking, etc.) you may be hearing. The phone company may be willing to run a signal that can detect most devices. If they refuse to check your line for you it may be an indication that your phone is tapped or it may just be company policy.

      Even if your phone lines are clear, that doesn't mean it's safe to talk freely. It is still possible for someone to listen in at the phone company rather than through the lines near your home.

      Watch what you say on cellular phones, cordless phones, and car phones. Those calls can be monitored with a scanner.

    • PARANOID??? Think again. They really are out to get you. Make copies of EVERYTHING relating to your case. If you have a friend or relative that lives out of state (that CPS is not aware of) send copies of everything to that person for safekeeping. Do NOT rely on the safety of a safety deposit box. The state can get a warrant to open the box and confiscate your "evidence" against them. Ideally, keep one copy at home and one copy close by and keep one copy out of state.

    • CONTACT YOUR COUNTY GRAND JURY Many Grand Jury investigations of Child Protective Services are being done. The investigations are confidential; the public and CPS may be unaware of ongoing investigations. It is important to notify your county Grand Jury if CPS is violating your rights or not following their regulations. The Grand Jury may require a certain number of complaints before they will take action; your letter could be the one that will make the difference. Contacting the Grand Jury may help you and many others as well.

    Come To My Garden is the background for The Illinois_Family_Rights_Association. The music is written by Lucy Simon and Marsha Mason for the 1999 Broadway Music "The Secret Garden."
    I hope you enjoy it.