Monday, May 21, 2007

In the criminal justice system...

...foster care-based offenses aren't really considered especially heinous.
(Can you tell what TV show we watch all the time?)

We got the results of the investigation against us in the mail the other day. It was worse than we thought. They've been lying to us for over a month (act shocked, I dare you!)
They told us, over the phone, that we were found "indicated" due to "lack of supervision". Basically that we should have been hovering over Joy's crib all night long so she didn't hurt herself. Instead, they found us indicated due to that and ALSO indicated due to "bruising".

They think we hurt her on purpose. Or, at least, they think it's a possibility. So they're covering their bases.

Either we hit her OR she hurt herself while we weren't watching. They can't have it both ways. It's f'ed up. Also, I really think that, if they think we hit the kid, that it should be a criminal matter. If I hit an adult, I'd be arrested for assault. But hit a foster kid? Eh, just put 'em on a list. Doubly f'ed up, says me.

Anyhow, this new information makes it a much more serious case and much harder to prove our innocence. At least according to our lawyer.

Yep, we have to hire a lawyer. We met with him yesterday for 2 hours. Fortunately, he's a fellow foster parent. Unfortunately, his firm won't take us on pro-bono (because it's not a criminal case - see above). He's going to do this as cheaply as possible, but we have to give him $1000 retainer. ONE THOUSAND F*CKING DOLLARS. To clear our names. To fix what the bitch evil case worker has done.
Can we afford it? Nope. fostermama and I both work part-time, by choice, so we don't have to put Squeak in daycare. We're frugal and budget well. We have savings. We have no consumer debt. But we just paid for an adoption. and, face it, who has $1000 just sitting around collecting dust?

I just find it so unfair. We make around $40,000/year between the 2 of us. If this were a criminal matter, we'd each be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer. But since this is extra-judicial, then we have to pay.

So this Friend-The-Lawyer (FTL) says the next step is the administrative review. We're allowed to submit a letter and whatever supporting material we have. FTL is going to write the letter for us. He's also going to talk to our Placement Worker (who has worked with us since MAPP class) and write a letter for her to sign. He will probably take statements from Niblet's daycare worker and Niblet's OT, and write letters for them to sign, as well.
Our $1000 covers all this. If we're not cleared in this step, and we have to go on to an in-court hearing, then we'll have to sign a new contract and pay additional money.
Here's crossing our fingers that he writes good, convincing letters, cuz all this money's coming out of our small savings and we were planning on using that to, ya know, de-lead paint our porches and good stuff like that.

On the upside, a friend of ours made a very good point that might win our case for us. He said that the fact that, the same day that the daycare person mentioned the bruises to me, I not only went straight to a visit with Joy's mom, but then happily allowed her to go change Joy's diaper, means that I didn't have anything to hide. I could have easily said "oh, you're 9 months pregnant, let me change her for you!" and she never would have seen the bruises. But I didn't know they were there, and had no reason to keep her mom from changing her.
Really, why would we have pushed for visits and allowed the mom to see the bruises if we were beating Joy? We wouldn't have, is the answer. Case closed.

I hope.


Innocent Observer said...

I wish it were that simple. People who hurt babies don't always care that the marks show because they don't always think they did anything wrong. Ugh. This is my biggest fear, and we have a horrible CW right now. She hasn't accused us of anything quite so serious yet, thank goodness.

They told us that 98% of accusations against FP are unfounded, if that makes you feel any better. I don't think it will though. I'm sorry that you are going through this crap. Thankfully you have your Squeak and a clear concious.

Beth said...

Have you talked about your concerns about Niblet with the lawyer? I'm just worried that, God forbid, Niblet's bruises get attributed to you as well. That would be even more horrible.

I bet people who read your blog would want to contribute money if they could. Is there a way you could make that possible? It could happen to any foster parent, and as you said no one has a thousand dollars lying around. But some of us might have $25.

FosterMommy said...

Beth, I'd like to say "oh, thanks for the kind offer, but no, really, we couldn't possibly..."

Instead, I say thank you so much for the kind offer, and if you or anyone else would like to help us fight the evil CPS powers by donating to our lawyer costs, you can do so using the handy little paypal button on our homepage.

This shouldn't be happening to us, but sh*t happens to good people everyday and I am touched that anyone would want to help us out of this fiasco.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. THere's no reason for it. None.

I remember finding my baby cousin awake in his crib once with both legs stuck through the slats of the crib (it was an old crib)= he was about 10 months old at the time... and yeah- he had a couple bruises to show for it.

Sheesh.... that SW needs to have her head examined.


Lo said...

Oh, man, that is just f'ed up all around.

Co said...

You're right. They shouldn't be able to have it both ways. Ugh!

I don't think the fact that you let Joy's mom change her will win the case for you, sadly.

I'm no lawyer. But who is the burden of proof on here? They can't prove you hit Joy. The type of bruises Joy had don't prove that.

I think what should win the case for you (not that I know anything, but IMO) is that (a) you can offer a plausible explanation of how the bruises happened and why you weren't aware that she might respond badly to being put in a crib, and (b) once the bruises were brought to your attention, you immediately acted to deal with the problem by talking to FC about taking her to a doctor, which is all responsible parents can do sometimes--REACT. It'd be great if parents or foster parents could always be pro-active, but it's not realistic and it's not fair to charge neglect if parents or foster parents aren't able to be pro-active 100% of the time.

It's just so stupid. If it were your legal child with the bruises, no one would be treating you like this, b/c you'd be the legal parents. The FC system might be investigating you in someone reported bruises, but probably not making an overly big deal of anything and even if they found evidence of issues, they'd then proceed to try to help you and get you to a point where you could have your kid back. They would be HELPING you if you were indicated. But because you're FPs, people who they NEED to care for children brought into their system, they treat you like crap, accuse you unfairly, and make you spend money you don't have clearing your names, all because they want to cover their butts. I'm so sorry about the money. That's insane and it sucks. I hope $1000 and letters make this go away, but it still sucks.

You guys don't deserve this and you don't need this stress. Hugs.

FosterMommy said...

The burden of proof on the first go-round was 51%. So basically if they could show that it was kinda likely that we had something to do with it, then we're "indicated". So that was pretty easy for them to do - especially with the ER doc saying it was "consistant with spanking".

The administrative review, the burden is a little higher. Our FTL was explaining it to us, but I don't remember all the details. It definitely sounded favorable. But there isn't a judge reviewing it, it's an administrator. and who knows if they'll be fair?

Boo said...

We recently had our annual foster parent training and this is the kind of situation they warned us about - again. It made me very happy NOT to deal with bio family.

Hang in the best you can.

fostermama said...

FosterMommy had it wrong on the burden of proof. Can't imagine why, considering I talked to the lawyer the first time and then the 2nd time when he was explaining it again to both of us she was comforting a screaming Squeak. :)

The burden of proof for the investigation was "some credible evidence." So there being *any* reason to think we actually did what we were accused of was enough for us to be "indicated." The burden of proof this time (administrative review) is "preponderance of the evidence" which is 51%. Still not a very high standard.

If it goes to a hearing, it doesn't sound like there is a specific burden of proof. Rather, it's who wins over the judge. I think it's the judge looking at all the evidence and actually interviewing both sides, and then just deciding what they think. At least that's my impression from non-specific things the lawyer has said.

WyldJoker said...

Fostermomma & fostermommy,

I'm sorry you are going through all this. I know exactly where you are going, how you feel and about the whole process. We were stripped of our foster parenting license last year due to false accusations that were upheld by pictures of questionable brusies. Statements from an older foster child contradicted the acusations and would of proven us innocent as well, but sloppy investigative work and determination to see what they wanted to see lead to us being named abusive parents on our state's registry for the next 18 years. It's good you could afford a lawyer for your case. We couldn't and had to represent ourselves in the administrative review. Sigh! I pray that your fight turns out to be more successful against such a monsterous agency then ours did.

You can read about our struggle at ...just know that during this process that you are not alone in what you're going through and will be in this family's thoughts and prayers..