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In 1998 in the New York child welfare system, 64 percent of children had at least one sibling in out-of-home care.

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You can't take my sissy...So there!

Family Court:
What Was I thinking?

by: Annette M. Hall

The system is rigged and unless you have more money than God, you can't win against the state. They have deep pockets - thanks to our generous legislators, who have seen fit to pour good money after bad into the family courts and the Department of Health & Human Services. The deck is stacked and children are the losers.

This scene is repeated daily in family court...

No one wants to be here. We shuffle in like zombies and try to avoid eye contact with anyone loitering in the hall. We sit. We Wait.

Our case is called. Only the parents and the court appointed attorney - whom we just met is allowed into court.

Amid the shuffling of papers and scuffing of feet...

Teens Write About
Family Court

The Judge is thinking:

  • I can't wait until lunch. I'm starving.
  • How will I get through this entire caseload before lunch?
  • I hope I turned the coffee pot off before I left the house this morning.
  • I wonder how long I'll have to be here in family court before I finally get the promotion I deserve.

The Parents are thinking:

  • I don't know how I'm going to get home the car is on empty and I've got $2.00 in my pocket.
  • What can I say to make them believe me?
  • Maybe I could just grab my child and run out the door? How far could I get? Where would I go?
  • When will this nightmare ever end?

The Child is thinking:

  • Why can't I just go home?
  • Where will I attend school?
  • Where are they sending me?
  • Why won't they just let me come home? I'm sorry I was bad.
  • Maybe they will let me come home if I promise to be good.

Who is thinking about the child - removed from everything familiar - alone and scared?

These so-called professionals have an obligation to follow the laws set forth. The judge, lawyers and social workers have a duty to put each and every child's needs first, if they are going to act like God and determine what is in that child's best interest, then they need to take that responsibility seriously.

Judge Has Lasting Impact

If the judge would only take a moment and realize that his/her actions have the power to impact this child into adulthood. This is not just another case to be handled, this is a child who needs protecting and regardless of the circumstance that same child needs his or her parents.

The Judge should have been thinking:

  • How can I best serve this family?
  • What is in the best interest of this child?
  • What would it take to put this family back on track and provide the best outcome to this case?

Certainly all parents are not unfit! All judges are not above reproach, nor are all caseworkers honest, diligent workers slaving altruistically for the children in their care. Judges, lawyers, social workers and psychologists receive a paycheck from the state, just as foster care workers do. They do their job - diligently or not, for pay, not for love.

Parents Lose it All

Parents are not paid to love their children, nor are they reimbursed by the state when they are hauled into court, justifiable or not for attorney fees and court costs. Untold hundreds of thousands of parents have lost everything to the state, in efforts - too often failed - to keep their children or have them returned home.

Even if a family is successful in fighting false allegations and are able to see their children returned home, life could never been the same for this family. Often the children are gripped with fear; every knock at the door sends a shock of terror through their little bodies. If the family was struggling financially prior to being hauled into family court, the problem is now compounded because the state does not reimburse parents who have been found to be without fault, after spending thousands for attorney fees.

If parents were given only a portion of the services and funding, which is currently allotted to foster parents, the cost to taxpayers would be greatly reduced, more families could be kept in tact and children's lives improved by leaps and bounds.

Health & Human Services Funding

2004 - Child Welfare Request to Double Funding

...President's request to increase funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Title I basic state grant funding from $22 million in FY04 to $42 million in FY05 and for CAPTA Title II Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect funding from $33 million in FY2004 to $65 million in FY2005.

2005 - Child Welfare Request for Additional Funding

Current funding levels did not meet the President's proposed budget for FY2005, which we urge for the FY2006 appropriations, increasing CAPTA basic state funding from $27.3 million in FY2005 to $42 million in FY2006 and CAPTA Title II community-based prevention grants funding from $42.9 million in FY2005 to $66 million in FY2006. In addition, we urge funding for the CAPTA discretionary research and demonstration grants at the authorized level of $35 million.

2004 - GAO: Child and Family Service Reviews

To help states investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, provide placements to children outside their homes, and deliver services to help keep families together, the federal government provides approximately $7 billion dollars to states annually.

The Parents should have been thinking:

  • What can I do to best help get my child back home?
  • Does my child have everything he or she needs?
  • Is my lawyer representing me and my families interest or the states interest?
  • What does the law require? Are caseworkers following the law and doing their job to the best of their ability?

Homelessness and Child Removal

Many families have lost their children do to homelessness - where is the funding for affordable housing, help with renters deposits? The help often is too little, too late. Welfare payments generally do not provide enough money for a family to live on, which leads many parents to turn to selling drugs, just to keep a roof over their heads.

Drug dealing leads to using and using leads to child removal. Parents who attempt to get out of cycle are penalized by the state. Any extra money that is earned through legal channels gets deducted from their welfare check and/or food stamps.

What is wrong with this picture? I'm not an advocate for handouts but this is simply wrong. The money that is currently being spent on foster care, in the billions of dollars, should be going to assist those drug-addicted parents, in getting help.

The city of Chicago alone has hundreds of boarded up apartment buildings, where cops chase off the homeless. An article, which ran a couple years ago, stated that the number of homeless people in Chicago alone was well above 200,000.

For a few thousand dollars these old buildings could be fixed up and turned into rooms or apartments for the homeless. Small apartments could be used for families to help get them back on their feet providing job counseling, drug treatment and childcare - in order to provide a safe-haven for children.

Preservation of the Family Unit

Society has a stake in ensuring that CPS exercises its authority responsibly and fairly - providing adequate protection for children without unduly interfering with a families' right to raise their children free of unwarranted government intervention - such as permanent removal and the breaking of all family ties. Every effort should be made to place a child within the extended family - not cut the child off from those who love and care for them.

CPS agencies receive federal, state, and a small amount of local funding. The federal dollars primarily pay for the costs of foster care and other out-of-home placements, while the state dollars fund the bulk of staffing costs.

Lack of affordable housing: The gap between the number of affordable housing units and the number of people who need them are the largest on record - 5.4 million units.

Reporting rates have risen from 4 per 1,000 children in 1975 to 31 per 1,000 in 1985 and 47 per 1,000 in 1994. In the state of California alone, 20% of the children have been or are in foster care. The trend toward removal has escalated such that the very fabric of our nation is being torn from us.

The family unit must be preserved or we will find ourselves living in a broken society with no hope for a happy future. I've known adults who have spent years searching for their natural parents; many have spent thousands of dollars doing so.

It is a criminal action for the state to remove a child from parents who are struggling, only to adopt that child out or allow the child to languish in foster care for years without making an honest attempt to rectify the family problems that led to the removal in the first place.

The Child should have been thinking:

  • I hope I pass my math test tomorrow.
  • I can't wait to play baseball tomorrow, maybe I'll get a home run.
  • I'm so happy I get to go home and sleep in my own bed tonight.
  • The judge and the caseworker have been very nice and helpful - mom and dad are finally getting the help they need.
  • I want to be a judge when I grow up and help children.

On a Personal Level

Over the years I have received many pleas for assistance from overwrought parents who have either lost their child (or children) or are in danger of doing so. My heart goes out to the parents and the children because I know firsthand how heartbreaking the separation can be.

I spent a couple of years in foster care myself, before I was molested by a foster father, then falsely accused of lying (by his wife and the social worker. I ran away at the age of 14 and I've been pretty much on my own since that time. I worked wherever I could get work, lied about my age, ate out of garbage cans, lived under a bridge and stole - just to survive. I'm not proud of these things but desperate times call for desperate measures and at times I was very desperate, hungry and cold.

I was not allowed to call home and was placed apart from my two sisters, we were allowed only one phone call during the entire ordeal, which lasted about 18-months.

I simply don't have the heart to work as an advocate because all those feelings just come flooding back to me. Much of my own childhood is a haze, but those days when I was alone and scared often feel like they were yesterday, even though it's been over 30 years ago.

This is not out of the ordinary. Family court workers consistently show no regard for close grandparent ties, siblings or other family members, with whom the children have developed close ties.

Just Another Broken Family

In one young family, the mother has children from two different marriages. The father of the two youngest children has made horrible false accusations against the older sibling. Even though the child was subjected to a polygraph test, psychologic testing and examined extensively, everyone agrees the accusations are false, yet the courts have done everything to keep the children apart. This case has continued for over three years and the family will suffer the consequences of the courts actions for many years to come. The damage has been done.

Reform: Minimal Threshold Requirements Sought

My goal is to help change the laws in this country that continually allows this injustice to flourish. Every courtroom in this country needs to be open to the public by abolishing those nasty confidentiality clauses.

If a child is removed from their home, there had better be a very thick file, which includes a court order and criminal charges filed against the parents. If criminal charges can't be filed, apparently no law was broken.

Until these laws are changed my best advice to parents who are wrongfully accused of abuse is to leave the county. I don't care if you have to live in your car and leave all your possessions behind. Even if you have to replace everything you own, find new jobs and a new place to live, you will still be further ahead that losing everything you own - including your children - to the state to pay for attorney fees and try to comply with ridiculous mandates by corrupt judges and crooked caseworkers.

The system is rigged against you and unless you have more money than God, you can't win when fighting the state. They have unlimited pockets thanks to our generous legislators, who have seen fit to pour good money after bad into the family courts and the Department of Health & Human Services. The deck is stacked and the children are the losers.

You can choose to ignore my advice but you do so at your own and your children's peril.

Parent/Child Liaison

I've been asked by several families to serve as a contact between them and the children they have lost to the system. Our website has been up for 8-years and it will remain online, God willing, so long as there is breath in my body. I intend to start a database for families in the near future. My husband Shawn and I have purchased a new domain called KidJacked.com, where we will eventually be moving all of my CPS pages - it's currently a work in progress.

Note to Parents:

If you are a parent who has lost a child to the foster care system or to adoption, please contact me with your name, location and contact number. I will keep this information confidential, on file and notify your child of your whereabouts should they contact me and assist them in locating you.

Note to Children:

If you are a child who has been stolen from your parents, please know that I am here for you and I am willing to help you locate your parents and/or family members. Please know that you are not alone or forgotten, there are many people who care about what has happened to you.

Stop Suffering In Silence:

Lastly, if you are a parent or a child and wish to share your story with the world, please write to me. Send me your story in a text only format via e-mail. Please write using sentence case (upper and lower case - not ALL CAPS), include as many facts as possible, keep it clean - no foul language please. Include your name, city and state, along with a permission to publish statement. After you have written the first draft, please re-read your letter and edit it for clarity.

If you are unsure of your writing skills, ask a friend to review your article before submitting it. I am willing to do some editing, however, that will delay the posting process.

If these pages have touched you, please share them with friends and family members. We must continue to get the word out, so the world will know that we won't stand by and allow children to be ripped from the arms of their mothers and fathers.

Annette M. Hall
P.O. Box 1645
Twain Harte, CA 95383

Updated July 12, 2008