State’s Child Protection Agencies Collude with Judges to Defraud Federal Government
© Nev Moore Jan. ’02
In 1974 Walter Mondale initiated CAPTA (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act), the legislation that began feeding federal funding into the state’s child welfare agencies. With remarkable foresight Mondale expressed concerns that the legislation could lead to systemic abuse in that the state agencies might over-process children into the system unnecessarily to keep, and increase, the flow of federal dollars. Shortly after CAPTA was enacted there was a dramatic increase in the number of children in foster care, peaking at around 500,000 during the mid-70′s. George Miller, the Chairman of the federal Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, initiated an intensive investigation of the nation’s foster care system after the effects of CAPTA started to become apparent by the soaring numbers of children who were being placed in foster care. An official at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare admitted to Miller that the government had no idea where many of the nation’s 500,000 foster children where living, what services they were receiving, if any, or if any efforts were being made to reunite them with their families.
To address the obvious free-for-all snatching of children that CAPTA had stimulated, the Committee crafted new federal legislation with the intent of creating accountability and clearer guidelines for the states child welfare agencies. During the crafting of P.L. 96-272 Chairman Miller’s concern was that the federal government was footing the bill for warehousing children in institutions and inappropriate settings without accountability. In 1980 the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, P.L. 96-272, was enacted. The act included provisions that “reasonable efforts” be made to prevent children from being unnecessarily removed from their homes and placed in foster care. Although CPS has always tried to buffalo the media and the public that they are involved with families due to some sort of horrific child abuse or neglect, there has never been any debate among national policy makers, researchers, and federal agencies that the vast majority of CPS cases are due to poverty or frivolous/social reasons and do not contain elements of real child abuse. If the cases did actually involve acts of abuse they would be criminal, identified and investigated by law enforcement, rather than social workers, and would be prosecuted as such. P.L. 96-272 came into effect partly because Congress determined that a large number of children were being unnecessarily removed from their homes, and, once removed, they were lost in the limbo of foster care for years, many until they just grew too old, when they were then put on the streets at the age of 18.
The Child Welfare League of America testified before a senate subcommittee: “In fact, there were many instances then, as now, of children being removed unnecessarily from their families. It is important to recognize that children are almost always traumatized by removal from their own families.” So, accountability from each states child protection agency was also written in. To receive the federal money the states would have to submit an annual report to the federal government, known as an AFCARS report, that specifically accounts for each child in state care. ACLU Children’s Rights Project attorney, Marcia Robinson Lowry, explained in her testimony to Congress: “As a condition of federal funding, states must have a reasonable information system to identify children in federally-funded state custody.” These requirements were implemented in 1980. Up until 1999 some states were still not filing their federally required AFCARS report to the federal government. According to Jeffrey Locke, former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, the excuse to the legislature was that they “couldn’t figure out how to
work their computer system.”
When I called Senator Therese Murray in 1998 to ask how many children had died in foster care in Massachusetts, her aide replied: “We don’t have those statistics.” At that time Senator Murray was the Senate Chair of the Committee on Health & Elderly Affairs, and therefore responsible to oversee the collection and filing of AFCARS data.
The “reasonable efforts” requirements were designed to address these issues by requiring the states child welfare agencies to have specific investigation and assessment policies to minimize frivolous removals, to provide “services” to address and ameliorate conditions that were detrimental to the child’s well-being; to place children with relatives when removal from the home was absolutely necessary; and make efforts to reunite families in a timely fashion. Methods to audit and track compliance with federal requirements were also built in. The states were to establish “citizen review panels” comprised of a specifically designated representation of the population which would include not only members of collateral professional communities involved in child protection, but “parents, foster parents, and former foster children.” Each state was to have at least three citizen review panels. The panels would essentially act as a standing jury of peers and would review CPS cases. Twenty years after P.L. 96- 272 went into effect the citizen review panels have never been established in most states.
Another means of creating accountability was to have the federal authority, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, conduct compliance audits, which are known as Section 427 reviews. The method of enforcement that Congress devised to ensure that the states followed the federal law was to provide incentive funds to the states that documented their compliance with the federal regulations. The states would self-certify compliance, but could be subjected to “periodic” 427 reviews by the Dept. of Health & Human Services. Were the states to find themselves in non-compliance they would simply return the incentive funds. It would seem that providing cash to agencies that are allowed to self-document compliance is a somewhat less than intelligent system. It would be interesting to track down exactly how much money the states child “protective” agencies have returned to the government because they found themselves in non-compliance. Gee, maybe this is rocket science.
Like CAPTA, P.L. 96-272 could only have worked if the federal government demanded compliance and meticulous accountability, and them imposed sanctions for non-compliance. Even better – criminal charges for racketeering for intentional fraud. Mark Soler, director of the National Youth Law Center in California explained:
“The Department of Health & Human Services has failed to promulgate meaningful regulations to implement the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. It has applied even the minimal federal regulations that were developed in an inconsistent and arbitrary manner, and only token implementation of the laws protecting children.’
Even when HHS finds overwhelming evidence of lack of compliance during 427 reviews, no sanctions are imposed and they continue to keep the fed $$$ pouring in – in violation of their own regulations. Not so much as a slap on the hand or even token admonishment. Certainly explains how CPS developed their arrogance and contempt for any authority – because there is none. Their confidence that they are free from the feds insisting on compliance with the law is well illustrated by the foster care numbers which increased dramatically after CAPTA began feeding federal dollars into the states child protection agencies, then dropped equally dramatically after the enactment of P.L.96-272, which was supposed to create more specific federal regulation and accountability. However, once the state agencies saw that the federal government was not enforcing compliance, the foster care numbers soared once again.
Michael Petit, Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America, stated in his testimony before Congress: “A 427 is a meaningless process for most of the states. It represents no kind of sanctions to the states whatsoever for non-compliance.” Marcia Robinson Lowry told Congress: “States are passing HHS audits with systems in which no reasonable person could consider that children are being well treated. It is virtually impossible to fail a 427 audit.”
The initial concept of “reasonable efforts” was the only conclusion that any rational person could come to: rather than disrupt children’s lives, and traumatize them by seizing them from non- abusive situations and placing them with strangers (who are often no better, and sometimes far worse), assist families in overcoming their obstacles and problems by providing support and services. The idea never worked, though, because it has always been more profitable to too many to remove children rather than keep them at home. Rather than offer support and simple, practical services to families CPS forged contracts with vendors. Now private businesses, under the guise of “service providers”, could mushroom into existence knowing that their sugar daddy, CPS, would provide a never-ending flow of coerced clients. The market potential is unlimited – potentially every mother, father, grandparent, and child in the country. Rather than offering practical, meaningful services that are germane to the families circumstances, CPS clients are ordered to engage in “services” with CPS-contracted vendors; special interest groups who are dependent on CPS for their income and profit by maintaining the levels of children in foster care, and whose interests are protected by a bureaucracy intent on securing it’s own survival and protecting unlimited growth.
The extent of which CPS is allowed to continue to operate while being so far out of compliance with the existing state and federal laws is mind boggling. It would be a challenge to find any other agency in our countries history that operated in such gross and blatant violation of the law with absolutely no intervention from the administration. Tens of millions of tax dollars are being squandered on a system that is destroying families and causing lifelong emotional ruin to children – and those are the lucky ones who live through it.
The most egregious area of outright criminal fraud is CPS’s practice of filing their federally required documentation of compliance in secrecy through the courts. The federal foster care reimbursements are channeled through the Title IV-E section of the Social Security Act. Each states child welfare agency enters into a contract with the federal government, which is referred to as their Title IV-E state plan. It is this contract that spells out the responsibilities that CPS must, by law, comply with in order to receive their federal funding. To document compliance with the fed regs CPS must file a form through the courts in each individual case. In Massachusetts these forms are referred to as a “29-C.” 42 U.S. Code, ss 672 reads:
“These requirements are not mere formalities. The Finance Committee of Congress, in preparing its summary for final passage of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, P.L. 96-272, stated; ` The Committee is aware of allegations that the judicial determination requirement (sic: that a judge makes a determination that a child needs to be removed from the home) can become a mere pro forma exercise in paper shuffling to obtain federal funding. While this could occur in some instances, the Committee is unwilling to accept as a general proposition that the judiciaries of the States would so lightly treat a responsibility placed upon them by federal statute for the protection of children.”
1980 U.S. Code Cong. and Admin. News: “A judicial determination of those efforts (reasonable efforts, as defined in the Act) serves to closely examine, in the case of each individual child, whether reasonable efforts were made to keep the family intact.” In accordance with the federal requirements the Massachusetts legislature enacted G.L. c.119 ss 29b, which requires all judges to certify that the Department of Social Services met the obligation grounded in the federal statute of making reasonable efforts to protect the child short of removing him or her from the parents, and, if the child was removed, making it possible for the child to return home in a timely manner. Rather than “closely examining”, in Massachusetts this grave responsibility is carried out by judges by rubber stamping stacks of 29c forms that simply contain three “yes” or “no” check boxes. In many instances making three check marks is even too much work for Massachusetts judges and they rubber stamp the forms while leaving them blank – never mind actually verifying that the “reasonable efforts” were made. In return for these forms DSS receives it’s federal money.
The three questions are:
1. Continuation in the home is contrary to the well being of the child?
2. Reasonable efforts have been made prior to the placement of the child to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his/her home?
3. Reasonable efforts have been made to make it possible for the child to return to his parent/guardian?
I discussed this issue a few years ago with Veronica Melendez at the Children’s Bureau (the federal authority). She told me that the federal government was under the impression that all parties were present in the court room at the time of the filing of the 29c’s, so that the parents attorneys had the opportunity to object, rebut, or verify the “reasonable efforts.” In reality, no one sees the federal forms except the judges and a representative of DSS’s main legal department. Attorneys ask us how we ever “got our hands on” the 29c forms, as we have never yet met an attorney who has seen the forms, let alone have been notified of the filing hearing. We even have forms on which the “no” boxes were checked, yet the children were still removed from their homes and federal funds collected for them.
By seizing children illegally in violation of the Title IV-E requirements, then filing false documents in secrecy through the courts to obtain federal funding, CPS is defrauding the federal government with intent. CPS should be subject to investigation and prosecution by the U.S. Attorneys Office. They should be held liable for the restitution of all illegally obtained funds, and prosecuted for perjury, obstruction of justice, and the fraudulent collection of federal funds under the False Statements and Accountability Act of 1996, P.L. 104-292 110 stat 3459, 42 U.S.C.S. 670-679a; P.L. 96-272; C.F.R. part 1356; and Title IV-E. I have discussed this issue with the Inspector Generals Office and they felt it could possible be prosecuted under RICO, yet they have also failed to act, possibly because it isn’t just CPS/DSS who is committing federal fraud, but also the judges who are signing the documents.
In 1988 George Miller, the original architect of P.L. 96-272, and Chairman of the congressionally appointed Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, recognized the fraud being committed in the name of child “protection”, and stated:
“What has been demonstrated here is that you have a system that is simply in contempt. This system has been sued and sued and orders have been issued and they just continue on their merry way. And HHS just continues to look the other way. You have a system that is not only out of control, it’s illegal at this point. What you are really engaged in is state sponsored child abuse.”