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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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Whitman's CPS War: Dividing the Family

What would you do if someone threatened to take your kids away unless you dumped your significant other? If you were anything like Los Gatos resident Charlie Whitman, you'd tell them to back off.

Whitman's CPS War: Dividing the Family

'Til Death Do Us Part?

But that's been easier said than done for Whitman, who's still waging a six-year-plus legal battle against Santa Clara County for allegedly violating his First Amendment right to associate with whomever he wants.

In 2000, Whitman and his fiance Kelly Lynn Tucker got entangled with the county's Child Protective Services when they sought counseling for one of Tucker's kids (to deal with an issue they say had nothing to do with their parenting skills). We'll spare you the complicated details for the time being and get to the part that swayed a federal judge: a county social worker threatened Tucker's custody of four children if she continued to see Whitman, essentially forcing her to leave him.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2004 that Whitman's First Amendment rights may very well have been violated, and now the case is headed to trial in federal district court.

Whitman, who has no history of drug abuse, violence or crime, says he was baffled and hurt. Once a mild-mannered geologist, this whole mess has turned him into an outspoken advocated for CPS reform. He's now out to prove that county social workers engage in a rampant practice of telling parents who they can't hang out with.

So far, he says he has 21 witnesses who've allegedly been bullied in the same way. With his attorney Bob Powell, he's seeking more people willing to testify.

County Counsel Ann Ravel defends the social workers at CPS. "People are human," she said. "When there's an emphasis on protecting children, there are bound to be some decisions that maybe in hindsight aren't the best, but there isn't any evidence of a widespread problem in the department."

A district court judge, however, decided there was enough evidence of a bigger problem to try the case when he denied the county's request for summary judgment in February. A court date has been set for March of next year, although Ravel says the parties might resolve the matter sooner. "We are absolutely willing to discuss a settlement," she said.

Did Child Protective Services
Divide Your Family Too?

In [2000] 1999, Charlie was engaged to Lynn, and very excited about his first marriage. But Charlie & Lynn made the mistake of calling Santa Clara County Mental Health Services (who then called CPS of Santa Clara) to seek professional help for their children for issues that developed. They were seeking assistance as to how to deal with the situation in the best way possible.

Neither had done a thing to harm Lynn's four children. Charlie and Lynn had no drug issues, violence issues, or criminal record of any kind, yet CPS social workers dictated to Lynn that if she did not leave Charlie (after he had become an open advocate for CPS reform), she would not be reunited with her children.

What choice did she have?

She left; Charlie cried. The children loved Charlie too, like a father. All the children were eventually taken, the youngest adopted away from Lynn forever.

Charlie wasn't happy.

He sued Santa Clara County (Wittman v. Saenz, U.S.D.C. Northern Dist. S.F. #C02-02893) for a violation of his First Amendment Rights of association with his fiancé.

He needs to prove at trial that the kind of draconian threats and [Hobson's choice], visited upon he and Lynn are, and have been, a custom of CPS for many years. Twenty-one witnesses names have been collected thus far, with twenty-one social workers accused of this behavior over a period of time from 1992 through August of this year.

Charlie has obtained a protective order from the federal judge in his case, designed to protect those who are even now in the system, from retaliation. Of course, we can make no promises about that, and only the brave should respond to this ad.

We are seeking others involved with CPS, in the past ten years, who heard any version of the following from a CPS social worker, all of which start with words to the effect of, "I will not recommend you be reunited with your kids," or, "You'll never get your kids back," and;

  • Example 1 - "if you continue having any contact with X."
  • Example 2 - "if you do not separate (and/or divorce) X."

Another common theme has been, "If I even learn that you have had contact with X after the case is dismissed, I will take your children."

If you have experienced this treatment, Please call (866) 478-3277, immediately.

(Blocked Caller ID Calls Are Not Accepted)

About Charlie Whitman

Charlie Wittman is the Director of Advocates for Children and Families (TheACF). Mr. Whitman also serves on the Board of Directors for American Family Rights Association (AFRA). He is a long-time family rights advocate.

Contact Charlie Whitman,
PO Box 10,
Los Gatos, CA 95031
ACF Hotline (408) 395-6999

Recommended Links

This article originally ran in the Silicon Valley Metro Active.
Reprinted here with permission.

Posted: September 10, 2006