Last Updated on April 14, 2020
(UPDATE: Since NATIONAL FILE broke this story, the parents in question have had multiple short video visits with their daughter)
A Child Protective Services (CPS) worker in Oklahoma used the Coronavirus outbreak to cut off a mother and father’s visits with their 20-month old daughter, even though the Department of Human Services, the state agency that oversees CPS, claims to be keeping parental visits open.
“DHS statewide has suspended all visitations due to the virus so after today’s visit, we cannot approve any more visitations until it is reinstated,” said CPS permanency worker Danelle Dillman in a Friday morning text message to Andrew Ritter regarding his 20-month old daughter, who was seized by the government for “Failure To Thrive” due to low infant birth weight after the girl’s mother chose to breastfeed her. Ritter and his wife said they preferred not to place their daughter on a particular appetite enhancer due to perceived conflict with the girl’s Zyrtec Antihistemine.
An Oklahoma DHS official told National File in a confusing, defensive interview that the state agency does not have a policy in place to suspend all visitations at this time, but rather to continue visitations using technology like Skype and FaceTime. But the official does not know if visitations are actually still occurring. Ritter and his wife never received an offer to hold a cyber-visit. Here is the text that permanency worker Dillman sent to Ritter:
When National File called up the headquarters for Oklahoma DHS, a woman who answered the phone told us that parental visits were indeed “suspended” for the time being, “until they get this virus under control.” The woman refused to give us her name.
But Keeley McEwan, head of the Oklahoma DHS communications office, told National File that “We have not suspended visitation across the board in any way.” She pointed to the agency’s daily guidance for case workers, which she noted is “fluid” and “changes day to day.”
“As of today we are highly encouraging continuing visitation” utilizing iphones and programs including Skype and FaceTime. “Whether a visitation is cancelled is on a case by case basis.”
She did not know whether any visitations have been recently held since the Coronavirus outbreak using Skype or FaceTime. Permanency worker Danelle Dillman did not respond to repeated requests for comment. McEwan did not confirm whether or not she spoke to Dillman or Dillman’s superviser following our conversation.
I have been reporting on the nationwide scourge of CPS removing children from parents’ homes for highly disputable reasons or no reason at all, which many parents feel is due to the for-profit nature of the government’s child removal industry.
“Parents blame legislation signed by Bill Clinton for the rash of Child Protective Services (CPS) corruption and abuse claims cropping up all over the country.
On Oct. 1, President Donald Trump’s Family First Prevention Services Act—which he passed by attaching it to a February 2018 spending bill—goes into effect. Trump’s law seeks to reverse some of the damage caused by the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which President Clinton signed in 1997.
Critics say Clinton’s law created financial incentives to remove children from their homes and place them in foster care, thus sparking a lucrative government-run business of child removal.
The ASFA created a program in which the federal government cuts checks to states, courtesy of Social Security, for every child adopted out of foster care. The ASFA also requires the termination of most parents’ custodial rights after a child has spent 15 out of the past 22 months in foster care. Then-First Lady Hillary Clinton spearheaded the push to pass the ASFA through Congress.
“After the passage of that legislation, foster adoptions increased 64% nationwide from 31,030 the year the law passed to 51,000 last year,” Hillary Clinton wrote in the introduction to the 2006 edition of her book, “It Takes a Village.”
ASFA was drafted in response to what was perceived as a failure in the previous legal framework for caring for foster children.
“The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted in 1997 in response to concerns that many children were remaining in foster care for long periods or experiencing multiple placements. This landmark legislation requires timely permanency planning for children and emphasizes that the child’s safety is the paramount concern,” states a Health and Human Services government training website.
‘Ready for Adoption’
Parents affected by the ASFA say it gives the government a blank check to traffic children.
“As soon as you hit the 15-month period, you automatically get your rights terminated,” Jeremy Powell of Oklahoma told The Epoch Times on Sept. 24, immediately after losing any chance of getting back his four children, all under the age of 10. “They [CPS] were ready for adoption day one. They didn’t help us in any way.”
“I have 30 days to appeal,” said Powell, a former Chili’s cook who entered the CPS system when the cleanliness of his house declined, due to a health episode at work that led to his firing. Powell said his manager, who is an illegal immigrant, chose to fire him rather than file an official report that might have led to the manager’s deportation.
“I looked at Trump’s law about returning kids to their families, compared to Bill Clinton’s law. Trump’s law is on our side,” Powell said.
“The law should be stretched out for people in poverty because they only give you three months. … Even if you make it by the 90-day mark, they still ignore because you’re too poor to carry on. The jurors, the lawyers, everything. There has to be an extension of time for poor people to catch up,” Powell said.
“One of our kids has already been through six different fosters. They say they care about the children. They’re torturing them! As long as CPS can get a child’s parents to the 15-month line, they get a kickback for the kid,” Powell said. “It’s like the kids are cattle.”
“One of my reports said because I have a problem with the church, my kids shouldn’t be returned. So I have no First Amendment rights. I don’t know why I’m still in America, because I have to pay these taxes and I don’t have any family or any rights,” Powell said.
A National Issue
Powell’s story is similar to traumas suffered by parents all over the United States.
“I have at least 200 cases on file with evidence from people all over the nation,” Audra Terry of Texas told The Epoch Times, referring to whistleblowers who sent their stories to Terry through her RicoCPS.com database, which put out an open call for CPS abuse cases. “There are 10 people alleging sexual abuse.”
The RicoCPS website demands “solid evidence” be presented. Its goal is to “demand a federal RICO investigation to investigate every CPS agency nationwide for the purpose of transparency and justice.”
Terry is planning to give her information to Texas state senator Bob Hall, who is leading a push to reform CPS, and to Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, at an upcoming event.
“The incentive money is the bonus check that goes to the state. They have different classifications for it. It is strictly a bonus check. It is really hard to track,” parental rights advocate Connie Reguli told The Epoch Times, referring to the checks that the federal government sends to states for each foster care adoption. Reguli practices family law in Tennessee and is the founder of the Family Forward Project.
“The Adoption and Safe Families Act originally established incentive payments equal to $4,000 for each foster child whose adoption was finalized over a certain base level and $6,000 for each special needs adoption above the base level,” according to a 2004 Congressional Research Service report.
In fiscal year 2016, the federal government paid 47 states a total of $55.2 million in adoption incentive payments under the ASFA, according to congressional budget records. As of April 2018, the federal government had paid states a total of $613.9 million in ASFA incentive money.
Foster parents who adopt their foster children are also entitled to checks, courtesy of the ASFA.
The parents and their advocates see these financial incentives as distorting the entire system.
“They have social workers in place whose main objective is to commit perjury in the courtroom, to create a rationale for why to take the children and get paid. It’s almost like perjury is part of their job description,” Andrea Packwood, president of California Family Advocacy, told The Epoch Times, noting social workers’ proclivity to coach children about what to say in cases.
“If, for example, you have a neighbor who doesn’t like you or your politics, their allegations against you don’t even have to be substantiated. You could be the perfect parent, but if your garbageman doesn’t like you, that gets submitted as evidence,” Packwood said. “There’s a movement of people like Antifa who are using this for political motivations.”
In October 2016, lawyers for officials in California’s Orange County argued in a civil case that social workers whose lies resulted in the removal of children from their parents had the right to commit perjury in the case and were entitled to immunity. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the argument.
Expert opinion has begun to validate the parents’ complaints that there’s something wrong with ASFA’s incentives.
DeLeith Gossett, a law professor at Texas Tech University, said in a 2018 Memphis Law Review article: “The act’s financial incentives have disrupted families permanently by the speedy termination of parental rights, without the accompanying move from foster care to adoptive homes. The programs that the Adoption and Safe Families Act govern thwart its very purpose as children continue to languish in foster care waiting for permanent adoptive homes, often until they age out of the system into negative life outcomes.”
Cassie Statuto Bevan helped draft the ASFA. She told the Chronicle of Social Change: “ASFA was blamed for leaving a lot of children as orphans, and that certainly wasn’t the intention of ASFA. There has been concern we moved to permanency, but didn’t pay attention to the parents’ needs.”
The ideology of the Clinton bureaucrats who worked on the law might explain its focus.
“What happens to children depends not only on what happens in the homes, but what happens in the outside world,” Mary Jo Bane, who served as the Clinton administration Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary of children and families, said in a 1977 interview.
“We really don’t know how to raise children. If we want to talk about equality of opportunity for children, then the fact that children are raised in families means there’s no equality. It’s a dilemma. In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them.”
Calls for Reform
Thousands of parents are expected to attend a rally at the California state capitol in Sacramento on Oct. 4 calling for CPS reform, the same day the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families holds a meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, to discuss its response to the child sex trafficking crisis.
The Epoch Times recently uncovered multiple cases of alleged child sex abuse in the Contra Costa County foster care system in California. The State Department’s 2019 human trafficking report confirms that the foster care system is a breeding ground of human trafficking.
President Trump’s Family First Prevention Services Act fights back against the financial incentives that move children quickly to foster care, but parents are unsure whether Trump’s law will be enough to reverse the systemic damage.
With the Family First Prevention Services Act, states, territories, and tribes with an approved Title IV-E plan have the option to use these funds for prevention services that would allow ‘candidates for foster care’ to stay with parents or relatives. “States will be reimbursed for prevention services for up to 12 months,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“The Family First Prevention Services Act also seeks to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes. With limited exceptions, the federal government will not reimburse states for children placed in group care settings for more than two weeks,” the National Council of State Legislatures states.
“Approved settings, known as qualified residential treatment programs, must use a trauma-informed treatment model and employ registered or licensed nursing staff and other licensed clinical staff. The child must be formally assessed within 30 days of placement to determine if his or her needs can be met by family members, in a family foster home or another approved setting.”
Follow Patrick Howley on twitter: @HowleyReporter