Message for World Day of Peace 2008
1. The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman(2), constitutes
“the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society”(3), and a “cradle of life and
love”(4). The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands
at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order”(5).
3. Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers
and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness
or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this
reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated
in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living
cell of society”(6), something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too:
because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without
the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savour the genuine “taste” of peace
better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them?
4. The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that “the
family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”(7).
For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter
of the Rights of the Family. In its Preamble we read: “the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as
rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family”(8).
The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explication of the natural law written on the heart
of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring
the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.
5. Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community,
national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection:
everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly
stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily
responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace. The family needs to
have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children,
and basic health care for all.
A Critical Look At The Foster Care System
Incentives to Foster Parents
INCENTIVES TO FOSTER PARENTS
While there are many dedicated people willing to open their homes and hearts to children in distress, it can not be denied
that financial gain is among a number of significant incentives leading some to become foster parents.
As the number of licensed foster homes has dropped to a low of 100,000 for the nations' estimated 500,000 foster care children,
so has the quality of foster care homes unquestionably diminished over the years.
Judge Judy Sheindlin, supervising judge for the Manhattan Family Court, describes the foster parent typically found today
in the New York City foster care system:
The typical foster parent I see is a single woman who has several biological children of her own. She is supported
by welfare or social security disability. She is a high school dropout whose own kids are marginally functioning. She does
not have the ability to help them with their schoolwork, and she has little hope for a brighter economic or social future.
A 1989 study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America found many foster parents in California
to be similarly qualified.
In reviewing a handguide for foster parents, the League suggested adding photographs, drawings and graphics, as: "While
some foster families may be college trained, many foster parents may be illiterate or have poorly developed reading skills.
The aim should be toward the average foster parents' reading level."
Is it any wonder that we find so many foster parents like these when we have programs in place which draw their recruits
from the public assistance roles?
One such program is the Michigan Living in Family Environments program, which was developed to link people who are eligible
for public assistance with foster children who have developmental disabilities.
Eligible foster parents can earn $22,000 a year plus medical benefits for caring for a developmentally disabled child through
the program. In some cases, a family taking an additional such child may be paid a total of $35,000 a year.
One Detroit foster parent had just applied for public assistance when her sister suggested the Life Program. Seeing it
as a chance to avoid dependency on the welfare program, she ended up adopting her first foster child. She admits she was drawn
to the program by the money.
Hers is counted as a successful story--she ended up adopting her first foster child. But how might the natural mother have
fared had she had the benefit of a even a fraction of this income to stay at home to care for her own child?
The Detroit model of foster care recruitment from the public assistance roles is one that has apparently gained some measure
of popularity among program administrators.
In answer to a recommendation made by the 1989-90 San Diego Grand Jury, the Chairman of the Social Services Advisory Board
suggested that this recruitment model should be adopted in his county as a means of "professionalizing" foster parenting,
Agree that foster parenting should be professionalized and recommend the Detroit example be used as a model. In
the Detroit model single mothers on welfare are trained and hired as foster parents and receive a salary. They take 3-4 kids
and are not penalized on the welfare side for this job. These recruitment methods account--at least in part--for the high percentage of single foster parents
in the system overall. In Massachusetts, for example, forty-one percent of foster homes are run by single parents, many of
whom care for several foster children in addition to their own.
One of the ironies to be found is that a significant percentage of foster care children themselves come from homes headed
by single parents.
According to a 1991 U.S. Committee on Ways and Means report, the majority of children in foster care come from families
supported by Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and 46 percent of the foster care population are minority children.
The majority of these families are headed by single mothers.
A majority of foster children have themselves been removed from their homes not for reasons relating to physical abuse,
but rather on the basis of questionable neglect charges, such as "failure to provide adequate supervision," or "failure to
provide an adequate home environment."
As Denise Plunkett of the Chicago Columbus-Maryville Children's Reception Center explains, the risk of losing children
to the state is something of an occupational hazard for poor mothers: "The finding neglect on a mother's part is just
another word for impoverished. Amongst the other terrors a poor family faces, the state could take your kid."
Brenda Austin-Thomas is one such single mother. She lost her four children largely because social workers determined that
they needed "discipline, structure, routine, a sense of limits." Among Brenda's other alleged shortcomings was that she failed
to fully avail herself of the "services" offered to her by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.
"You're not a bad mother, but you could have avoided all this by working with us," the social worker told her after taking
Brenda insisted she was doing a good job as a single mother of four active children: "I can't be everywhere, see everything."
Brenda's situation is by no means unique. According to the Massachusetts Research, Evaluation and Planning Unit Annual
Report, in 1990, of all supported abuse investigations in Boston and Brookline, 72 percent involved neglect. In other areas
of the state about 65 percent involved neglect. The majority of the cases in Boston involved single-parent families.
Single foster parents are not all single woman, nor is financial gain necessarily the only incentive for taking children
into care. In 1995, a 24-year-old man described as an "unemployed bachelor" was indicted for raping one of his foster sons.
Raul Vasquez, along with his mother, had served as a foster parent since 1992 to 51 children. The Massachusetts Department
of Social Services had somehow managed to overlook the fact that nine of these children had run away from their foster home.
The problems associated with foster care placement are by no means unique to homes with single foster parents. And, in
some cases, the payments made to foster parents may indeed be well deserved.
Foster mother Doris Marshall received $85,879 from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services in 1994. She cares for
eight needy foster and adoptive children. One of her foster children has only the stem of a brain, cannot move and needs to
be fed through a tube. Another has a rare chromosome disorder and, at the age of 5, cannot speak or walk. A third child has
Down's syndrome. A fourth child was born drug addicted, and with a bone disorder.
This is the finest face of foster care. These children have true special needs, and they apparently are in a loving home
with a foster mother who truly gives of herself for the benefit of the children in her care. And, the payments to foster parents
are often much lower than the payments made to group homes or "therapeutic" facilities would be.
It must be emphasized that there are many caring and dedicated foster parents in the system. But, just as there is extreme
variability to be found among caseworkers, managers, judges, and the many other actors in the child welfare system, there
is extreme variability in the quality of foster care homes.
"Foster care is like Russian Roulette," explained a former New York City child protective caseworker, adding that any given
foster home could well be "100 percent worse" than the home from which a child had been removed.
Standng in contrast to the ideal image of foster mother Doris Marshall, a Boston Globe review of payments made to
foster parents in 1994 included accounts of these troubling cases:
Hazel and Pierre Cetoute, in whose home 3-year-old Gage Guillen died under mysterious circumstances, received
$26,510 in fiscal year 1994, according to Department of Social Services records. At the time of the incident, the family was
caring for four foster children and two adopted children.
Barbara and Michael Ohanian of Medway, in whose home a foster baby died of heat stroke after being left in the
family car, received $24,837 in fiscal year 1994. The family had four foster children with medical problems, as well as four
birth children at the time of the incident.
Carmen Torres, in whose home 13-month-old Luis Perez was apparently scalded so severely by an older foster child
that he later died of complications, received $8,510 from the Department in fiscal year 1994. Torres had five foster children
in her care at the time of the accident.
Raul Vasquez, the 24-year-old "unemployed bachelor" accused of raping one of his foster sons, was, along with
his mother, receiving $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year, to care for 10 boys in two adjoining apartments.
Massachusetts state Senator Therese Murray (D-Plymouth), vice chairwoman of the Senate Post Audit
and Oversight Committee, explains that "in certain towns," foster care "is a cottage industry." But the foster parents she
knows, she adds, "are not in it for the money. They deserve more money."
As former Congressman Mario Biaggi, who held a lengthy series of hearings investigating the foster care industry in New
York City during the 1970s explained: "The fact is that foster care parents, to a large extent, take the children to make
money, pure and simple. They may have with it a desire--a love for children, but that doesn't always necessarily follow."
A California Grand Jury investigating Nevada County's foster care system came to a strikingly similar conclusion:
Some adults become foster parents for no other incentive than the money to be derived from foster-child payments.
This is a known fact and accepted by CPS and the State."Once these families receive their monthly payments,"
the Jury explains, "no accounting for how the funds are used is actually required in most cases."
In California, a San Diego County Grand Jury interviewed attorneys, physicians, specialists in child development, caseworkers
and investigators, all of whom worked with foster children in one capacity or another.
The Grand Jury determined that by all accounts, "the most troublesome problem for the system is foster parents screening
children for the 'right' one to adopt." It found that some foster parents who hope to adopt may "sift" through a number of
children until they find the one they want.
In one case the Jury examined, legal counsel informed the Jury that the foster mother admitted that she was holding her
foster care license only until the family found a "baby sister." The Hispanic natural mother of the baby girl who was placed
in this home tried to visit her baby, but the foster mother frustrated the visitation efforts, instructing the caseworker
not to transport the mother to the foster home.
In another case with what the Grand Jury described as "a bizarre twist," the foster parents believed the foster child was
"too white to be Hispanic," and changed the baby's name to an English one as part of the process of making this child a permanent
part of the family.
Another California Grand Jury, based in Santa Clara, examined the "Fost-adopt" program, reaching the same conclusions as
its counterpart in San Diego:
One of the most controversial programs in the Social Services Agency involving child welfare services is the Fost-adopt
Program. There is even controversy as to which children are selected for the program. These children are referred to as "marketable
children," meaning they are young and cute. One case reviewed by the Jury involved a parent who worked, against
all odds, to complete satisfactorily her reunification plan. Had it not been for the tenacity of a very strong, highly principled
and sensitive social worker and her supervisor, a child would have been adopted by fost-adopt parents even though the birth
parent had met all of the reunification goals.
"The social worker put her job in jeopardy and refused to be intimidated by administrators within the department, the court-appointed
evaluator, and the district attorney's office," notes the report.
"It was obvious that DFCS managers and members of a private family agency intended to circumvent the positive reunification
results and to allow the fost-adopt parents to adopt the child. This was only one of several instances in which the integrity
of the department and adherence to its mission appear to be questionable."
In another case, a San Diego County social worker had discussed a particular child with her own sister before the child
was even born.
Some time after the child's birth, social worker Debbie Reid steered the girl into her sister's home, even though--contrary
to court order--she wasn't even licensed to provide foster care. The pair had obtained an "emergency certificate" to accept
the child, getting the formal license later.
The girl's natural mother had herself been raised in the foster care system, and Debbie Reid was her social worker. County
officials were aware of all this, but kept it from the court for almost two years.
The father, determined to get his daughter back, over the course of about 18 months managed successfully to complete his
mandated reunification plan. His attorney, a veteran of 260 juvenile court cases, said he'd never had a client comply so fully.
The legal battle that developed dragged on into late 1989, when a court finally declared a mistrial. In March of 1990,
a second Juvenile Court referee ruled that the girl, by then 3, should live with her natural father.
Around this point, allegations of sexual abuse were raised against the father. These allegations were determined to be
The father's attorney, enraged by the efforts of the County to prevent the reunification of father and daughter, called
it a case of government-sanctioned child-stealing, and he tried to get the show "60 Minutes" to investigate the case.
A year later, apparently not yet content with the harm it had done, the County petitioned for yet another hearing. A third
referee this time ruled that the girl should be returned to her foster parents.
The father was forced to appeal. The Court of Appeal sided with him, saying that the girl's bonding with the foster family
cannot override the constitutional rights of her father.
The foster parents were apparently dissatisfied with this outcome. They asked the state Supreme Court to intervene to stop
the girl's return to her father. Joining in the appeal was the County, the girl's court-appointed attorney, and Voices for
Children, an advocacy group which typically supports the rights of prospective adoptive parents over the rights of natural
parents in such cases.
By this time, the girl was six years old, and in therapy to help her deal with the uncertainty with which she was living.
She could have been spared much of this needless trauma had the County followed its mandate and returned her to her father
at the first avalable opportunity.
The problem is not isolated to California.
A Washington state legislative study of the Division of Children and Family Services found that "most individual foster
families will accept only children meeting their specific criteria. DCFS personnel estimate that 50 percent of licensed foster
families are interested in serving only a specific child or sibling group. Others have a primary interest in adoptive children."
In Nebraska, Jasmine Petty left her baby in the care of a friend's sister to pick up her boyfriend in Kansas City, Missouri.
She was to return home four days later, but the car she was driving broke down in Omaha on the way home. As she had no
money with her, it took her about a week to get home.
Her judgement in leaving baby Angelaura behind proved to be sound. "I didn't want to endanger my daughter's life by taking
her with me to Kansas City," she said. "The car I took wasn't in real good condition; so to be safe, I left her with my friend's
For unknown reasons, rather than calling Jasmine's mother as directed, the babysitter instead took Angelaura to the Hall
County Sheriff's Department. Angelaura was in turn handed over to the state Department of Social Services in Grand Island,
and placed with an unlicensed foster parent who happened to be an employee of the Department of Social Services.
While Department procedures require that placement with a relative should be considered, the Department refused requests
by Jasmine's mother and some other relatives to place Angelaura with them, even though the relatives held valid foster care
Jasmine and others met with DSS Director Don Leuenberger in Lincoln to discuss the case. Leuenberger admitted that a case
worker had made errors in the placement of Angelaura, but said there was little he could do--that it was now up to the courts
The case was investigated by officials of the Nebraska Department of Social Services. The state Foster Care Review Board
also examined the case, finding that some violations of departmental policy had, indeed, taken place.
After two years of struggling to get her baby back, her parental rights to Angelaura were terminated in April of 1995 by
a Hall County Court judge.
According to an article in the Omaha World-Herald, eight cases were reported in Nebraska in which a child has been
turned over to a foster parent who also was an employee of DSS.
Jasmine's case has received a great deal of media attention. She said she doesn't mind being pointed out as an example
of a mother whose child was taken and placed with a DSS employee.
"But that still doesn't help me," Jasmine told reporters. "I just want my baby back."
SPECIAL NEEDS CASES
While the definition of "special-needs" is as unclear as are the definitions of child abuse and neglect, the term generally
includes a child born to a drug addicted mother, one who lacked prenatal care, or a child with a physical or psychological
handicap. The term may also include a child that is difficult to place, for reasons of age, handicap or ethnicity.
The rates for special-needs children can be a high as $2000 per child, according to Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin
and Upper Michigan. At these rates, foster parents with two such children in the home can expect approximately $48,000 of
annual tax-free income.
The 1991-92 San Diego Grand Jury confirmed that: "some foster parents improperly claim that a child needs special care
in order to increase the amount of money coming into the home."
The Grand Jury found that some foster parents would claim that children needed treatment or therapy to obtain these increased
payments, and that these payments were often retained by some foster parents who provided only marginal care for these children.
But there is another side to this story as well. The San Diego Union-Tribune describes the conditions found in the
Hillcrest Receiving Home in 1994. Such facilities are paid substantially higher rates than are foster parents who provide
The cramped conditions at Hillcrest Receiving Home, which temporarily houses abused and neglected children who
have been removed from their homes, are deplorable. That a facility designed for 39 has had as many as 82 children, many sleeping
in cribs lining the hallways, is a sad commentary.
Notes the Union-Tribune: "Prisoners are released early due to overcrowded conditions, yet when it comes to abused
children, our community shows far less compassion. Unlike jails, there isn't even a court-set cap on the capacity of children's
To one child, the cramped conditions were so traumatic a court order was obtained to remove her from Hillcrest to a relative's
home. And many foster parents were arguing that additional payments for children with true special needs were becoming more
difficult to obtain, while children piled up in such facilities.
In South Carolina, a recent audit reveals similar trends. The audit identified discrepancies in "accelerated board payments"
to foster parents. These are payments in addition to regular rates paid to foster parents with a child who has special behavioral
or medical needs.
It was found that these accelerated payments to foster parents, once started, may continue for years. The auditors felt
that agencies found it difficult to terminate these payments to foster parents with whom the agencies work closely.
It was also determined that the Department of Social Services has inadequate controls to ensure that accelerated board
rate payments are appropriate, and, in the majority of the cases reviewed, it was found that the amount requested by the county
was equal to the maximum amount granted by the state.
But there is another side to this story as well. In South Carolina, 73 percent of foster care children are in regular foster
homes, yet these placements consume only 15 percent of the foster care budget. The audit found that 85 percent of foster care
expenditures went to cover the costs of the special need placements in therapeutic and residential treatment centers.
The audit reported that these residential treatment centers can cost more than $10,000 per month. The auditors determined
that at least 15% of these placements were questionable or inappropriate. It was also determined that children are often placed
in such facilities by county agencies because there is a shortage of "regular" foster homes available.
A significant percentage of these special care placements will result in children being labeled as emotionally disturbed
throughout their lifetimes, yet the audit found that at least 11% of the children placed in these treatment centers had no
emotional problems, and that they had been so classified for purposes of placement in these facilities.
While it may be true, as the San Diego report would suggest, that some foster parents may know how to navigate the system
for additional payments, and that some foster parents are considered as "favored" by some agencies, a disproportionate amount
of expenditures continue to be provided to private foster care agencies.
As Benjamin Wolf, director of the Children's Initiative Project of the ACLU's Roger Baldwin Foundation, which won a far-ranging
consent decree agains the Illinois child welfare system explains:
DCFS receives one billion dollars a year--how do they account for it? Foster mothers are paid $15 per day to feed
and clothe kids, but residential treatment costs $300 per day. Why is it that the guy who runs an institution is paid $150-200
per day, but a foster mother doesn't receive that much in a week to feed the child? If we paid the foster mother, we could
find adequate homes.
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A Critical Look At the Child Welfare System
The Sectarian Agencies
We have created a foster-care monster. A big business with
long tentacles and thousands of patronage
Judge Judy Sheindlin --
Supervising judge of family court in Manhattan
THE SECTARIAN AGENCIES
According to Richard Wexler, the City of New York contracts for preventive services with some of the same agencies that
derive their income from foster care. Hence, there is little incentive to provide preventive services that would lead to family
These agencies prefer placing children in foster care -- and keeping them there -- because they are paid for foster
care on a per diem basis. As soon as they do what they're supposed to do -- reunite families -- their money stops.
New York City has an unusual combination of private contractors providing child welfare services. The United States Court
of Appeals for the Second Circuit describes this arrangement with the city agency, formerly known as the Child Welfare Administration:
CWA has traditionally entered into contracts with private, nonprofit "voluntary" agencies that perform the foster
care tasks of placing children into foster boarding homes or congregate care facilities, monitoring placements, and providing
essential services specific to each child's needs. Many of these agencies are operated under sectarian auspices. In addition
to contracting with voluntary agencies, CWA itself operates foster boarding homes and congregate care programs.
The referenced case finds its roots in a 1973 action against the City of New York and the various private agencies with
which it contracts. The case found its way to settlement after years of litigation in 1984, resulting in the signing of the
"Wilder Decree," an agreement to end deeply institutionalized discrimination among the private sectarian agencies.
Nearly 22 years after the original suit, the case was once again under litigation as the City of New York and its private
agencies argued that foster children in "kinship care" arrangements were not bound by the terms of the Wilder Decree.
Another New York City suit reveals the extent to which some private agencies will go to maintain profits. In a sworn affidavit,
a social worker testified that she was told by a representative of a private agency that the agency had imposed a three-month
moratorium on sending children home "because it was not receiving sufficient referrals to fill its beds."
But there is a greater difficulty facing those children who desperately yearn to be reunited with their parents today.
As part of a recent push to reduce its tremendous foster care caseloads, in New York, the private foster-care agencies have
their caseloads reduced if they fail to meet the city's adoption goals.
This development is not unique to New York. Several states have recently turned toward legislative measures to increase
adoptions, and measures that would make it easier to terminate parental rights as means of reducing burgeoning foster care
One of New York's most prominent and outspoken jurists, Judge Judy Sheindlin, supervising judge of Family Court in Manhattan,
comments on the foster care system as it exists today:
In the long run, we have to ask ourselves the following question: When it comes to family, are we better off today
than we were 100 years ago? How did government get the idea it could intrude into the lives of families who have typically
taken care of themselves?
We have created a foster-care monster. A big business with long tentacles and thousands of patronage jobs.
OTHER SECTARIAN AGENCIES
New York is not the only state where we find social services agencies operating under sectarian auspices. Lutheran Social
Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Inc., has outservice offices and residential care programs at 199 sites in 90 communities
of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, servicing more than 100,000 people annually. Among the services provided: Adoption and foster
care, behavior health care, birth parent services, family and individual counseling, and family preservation services.
Lutheran Social Services also offers: "129 residential centers with capacity to serve more than 1,042 children and adults.
Services for neglected children, disturbed and delinquent teens, alcohol and drug abusers, criminal offenders, adolescent
sexual offenders, adolescent victims of sexual abuse, people who are developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill, elderly."
The agency, which has a staff of over 2,000 employees, is owned "by 500,000 Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Lutherans in 830
congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." Among the sources of its funding are church contributions, United
Way allocations, government contracts, client fees, gifts and grants. Its current fundraising goal? $14,000,000.
Lutheran Children and Family Service of Eastern Pennsylvania currently has over 300 children placed through its foster
Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc., is licensed to provide adoption services in the state of Texas and contracts
with other agencies in Louisiana for the service. Both the Texas and Louisiana affiliates provide foster care services.
Lutheran Social Services of New England, Inc., offers a wide array of services in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Featured among them are services such as: "Home study and licensing," "Birth
parent counseling," "Assistance in locating and coordinating out of state adoptions," and, to be sure, "Preparation of legal
documents for the termination of parental rights and for legal documents necessary to finalize an adoption."
In Iowa, the Dubuque County Department of Human Services contracts with private agencies for the licensing of foster homes.
Four agencies license the county's foster homes, including Lutheran Social Services and Families of Northeast Iowa. Catholic
Charities, which licenses homes for adoptive replacement and Alternative Services in Cedar Rapids, is also starting to license
Dubuque County homes.
QUALITY OF CARE
How does the quality of care delivered by sectarian organizations compare to services provided by the state?
Three-year-old Steven Allen Hoffa died in a Dubuque County foster home May 18 of 1996. A grand jury indicted the foster
mother on one count of child endangerment with multiple acts, and two other counts of child endangerment against Hoffa and
his 5-year-old brother, Gary. The injuries included a fracture in his skull, and mysterious injuries on his penis and buttocks.
His brother had suffered a similar fracture, and burns on his chest.
The Iowa Department of Human Services, Lutheran Social Services of Iowa, and the Visiting Nurses Association of Dubuque
together monitored his care.
The quality of the recruitment process, it seems, is at least partly to blame.
In North Carolina, where at least 42 former prison inmates with crimes ranging from shoplifting, forgery and bribery to
cocaine trafficking, armed robbery, assault and murder were licensed as foster parents in 1994, we find foster parent Barver
Dean Hunt, who shot and killed two men during a drunken argument in 1974.
"They wanted to borrow my car, and neither one of them didn't have a license," said Hunt. "I asked them to leave. They
didn't. They had a knife and came at me. I reached in the rack and got a gun and drawed it on them. They said I didn't have
enough nerve to use it on them, and that's when I started shooting."
When Lutheran Family Services in Robeson County recruited Hunt and his wife as foster parents in 1992, they somehow failed
to discover the murder convictions.
In San Francisco, Selena Hill was removed from her parents shortly after birth. There were no allegations of abuse or neglect.
Selena was removed because of concerns that the couple may be "unfit" as parents.
Some weeks later, seven-week-old Selena Hill was admitted to Children's Hospital in Oakland with multiple skull fractures
that nearly killed her, and which may result in permanent brain damage.
Social workers had placed the infant in a foster home with a long history of domestic violence. Police had been summoned
to the home at least three times during the previous year. The home was licensed by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese
of San Francisco.
A 1993 report prepared by New York State Senator Franz S. Leichter, New York State Abandons Victims of Institutional
Child Abuse, illustrates in graphic detail the extent of physical and sexual abuse to be found in institutionalized foster
care facilities. The report describes the apparent unwillingness on the part of the Department of Social Services to validate
the abuse that often occurs in these settings.
One such case involved a seven-year-old girl who was repeatedly raped by other children at the St. Joseph's Children's
One of the cases this office claimed to be unable to substantiate involved a seven-year-old girl who was apparently
repeatedly raped last year by other children at St. Joseph's Children's Services Agency in Brooklyn. When deposed in a lawsuit
brought by the little girl's mother, the DSS investigator testified that boys at the facility had told her about their sexual
contact with the girl, staff members had admitted witnessing the abuse, and one staff member had admitted engaging in sexually
provocative behavior with the girl. In addition, medical evidence which the investigator failed to request confirmed that
the little girl had been raped since she arrived since she arrived at St. Joseph's. Nevertheless, the DSS investigator's official
finding in the case was that there was "no credible evidence" of child abuse or staff neglect. The report continues:
In the Form 2223, the investigator, in her own handwriting, directly contradicts facts she had sworn to in the
deposition only days before. She states that she found
"...no evidence of a lack of supervision."
"...no evidence of sexual abuse on behalf of staff."
of resident' sexual acts" on the part of staff.
She concludes, "We find no credible evidence to substantiate allegations of sexual abuse."
THE BEST DEFENSE?
Marcia Robinson Lowry, of the ACLU Children's Rights Project, filed the original 1973 suit that resulted in the ending
of deeply institutionalized racial discrimination among the New York City non-profit sectarian agencies. These agencies, operated
primarily by influential Jewish and Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of New York, argued for years that they
had the right to place children into their facilities based on religious and ethnic background.
The Archdiocese of New York, the largest non-profit provider of such services to the City, spent millions of dollars arguing
in support of foster care placements based on religious and ethnic criteria. Undeterred by years of litigation, the Archdiocese
announced that it would continue to provide foster care services to the City.
Critical of the reform efforts is William Donohue, a sociologist and president of the Catholic League for Religious and
Civil Rights in New York City. Incredibly, he accused attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry of attempting to destroy the Catholic
child welfare agencies when she filed the 1973 Wilder v. Bernstein suit, calling Lowry "anti-Catholic."
We have not yet begun to fight!