Services – An American Evil - Continued
By James Donahue
I was working in the
White Mountains as a news reporter in December, 1997, when I came across a story about a couple in Show Low, Arizona,
making a public plea to get their children back.
It seems that the parents
had a problem with alcohol and consequently, after neighbors complained about some loud nights and a couple of nasty arguments,
Child Protective Services got involved. The children were removed from the home.
I went in the home with
a photographer at my side and interviewed the couple in their mobile home. It was a sad pre-Christmas story. It seems that
the grandparents, who lived in a nice home a few blocks away, were given custody of the children. So we interviewed the grandparents,
and also the children.
The CPS agents involved
refused to comment. They pointed out that everything they did was a private matter between themselves and the families involved,
and that their operations were protected by law.
What was sad for the
entire family was that Juvenile Court would not allow visitation except once each week and under guarded conditions, in a
special room assigned by the court. The family could not consider being together for the holidays.
There was no indication
that the children were ever harmed. In fact, the children wanted to go home. They missed their mother. Everybody in this family
was visibly shaken by what was happening to them.
I wrote a tear-jerking
Christmas story about this family, complete with pictures of the people involved. It caused a big reaction in the community,
but not what you might expect.
Not only were people
angry about what Child Protective Services did to this family, I began getting calls and letters from numerous other families
who wanted to tell me their sad stories about losing their children.
The more I dug the more
sordid the story became. It was not long before I had a state senator, who was clearly opposed to the abuses generated by
that agency, contacting me with more stories from all over Arizona.
I was even visited by
a delegation of members of an organization of parents against Child Protective Services that was very active in Phoenix. They supplied me with volumes of information and legal documents
showing that there was an agency in that state that was running amok.
Through all of this,
the state Child Protective Services agency was keeping a lid on its actions. I communicated regularly with a public relations
person in Phoenix who was skilled at political double-talk.
What I began to discover
is that there is big money to be made in foster care, and Child Protective Services and the juvenile courts are right in the
thick of it.
I was fortunate enough
in those days to have the support of a courageous publisher in a small newspaper chain that got behind me and published these
stories. Even though we didn’t have a circulation beyond Apache and Navajo
Counties, from Show Low East to St. Joseph and up
to the New Mexico County
line, the stories had an impact.
The most intense moment
came when high officials for Child Protective Services met me in St. Joseph,
at the county building, for an all-day meeting with the parents in the original case, and stacks of documentation that they
claimed proved their case for removing the children. I spent the day reading every single page, and going over it with the
family. In the end, we found nothing to substantiate the legal action that was taken against that family. We said so in our
newspaper the following day.
We presented the good
side of the story with the bad. The parents admitted to excessive alcoholism, and they admitted to public scenes during some
of their drinking bouts. But there was no proof that the children were ever harmed, or that they were not being well cared
for. And the parents joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and claimed to have been sober for months at the time of our report.
We didn’t do it
in time for the Christmas holidays, but before I left that newspaper, I had the thrill of seeing that Show Low family reunited
with their children. The children were returned to their rightful home.
Unfortunately, I was
unable to help a growing list of other tortured families that appeared equally abused by this agency that legally operates
behind closed doors.
As far as I know, Child
Protective Services or agencies like it exist in every state in the union today. There is an obvious reason for this agency’s
existence, since child abuse is a growing phenomenon all over the country. But there also is abuse within and it involves
money. Someone needs to be a watchdog, making sure the agents operating inside
the secret walls of CPS know and understand the difference.