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CPS's Failure To Protect My Stepdaughter
I am writing because I feel that the Wilkes County Department of Social Services has failed in its duty to protect my step-daughter, herein after known as "Belinda". I have listed the reasons for this complaint as follows:
My husband and I made the initial report to the Wilkes County Department of Social Services on August 15, 2006 and for the first two-months they did nothing, even though our report concerned unexplained bruises and dental neglect. The worker assigned to the case, did not go to the residence of my step-daughters mother until the last week of October. Two months after of initial report. I supplied CPS with pictures of my Belinda's teeth taken by the dentist and a statement written by him, stating that it was neglect.
Weekend Visitation Conflict
After our initial report was made I spoke with our social workers supervisor (supervisor 1), who asked why my husband hadn't taken his daughter to the dentist if we first noticed the cavities on December 17, 2005, I explained to her that my husband has standard visitation, he has his daughter every other weekend, dentist offices are not normally open on weekends and that he had informed her mother several times of the condition of the child's teeth.
The first time that we had her on a week day we took her to the dentist. (June 27, 2006) I also explained to the supervisor that my husband was told that if he tried to take his daughter before then, on a date that was not scheduled for visitation, that he would be arrested. The mother did not take the child to the dentist although we carry dental insurance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, effective date 7/05, the mother carries dental insurance Delta Dental, effective date 11/05 and the child was on North Carolina Medicaid until July 31, 2006, this to me is willful neglect on the mother's part.
Abuse Reported and Ignored
On August 21, 2006, I called the social worker and informed her that on my Belinda's weekend visitation with us I had noticed small round bruises on her back in the vicinity of the waist line of her jeans. The social worker told me that the next time the child had bruises to get pictures, yet she still did not go to the residence and conduct an investigation.
On August 27, 2006, I met with the social worker at the Wilkes County Department of Social Services at 10:00 a.m. I took with me the pictures of my Belinda's teeth and a videotape of her in our care and footage of our home dated August 4, 2006 to present.
On October 14, 2006, I noticed that my Belinda had a bruise on her right side, on her stomach, dime sized and turning brown, so I looked her over and discovered more bruises on her. One on the back of her right leg right below her butt, it was dark quarter sized and another on the inside of her left upper thigh, this one looked like fingers, not finger prints, but full finger, three to be exact. These were not welts or red marks but actual bruises. I took pictures, as I had been advised by the social worker to do; I also videotaped the bruises in case the pictures did not come out. Plus, it could not be disputed that it was truly my Belinda that way. While I was videotaping the bruises on the upper part of her body, she leaned over rubbed the front of her shin and said, "These are normal bruises." I took that to mean that the ones I was videotaping were not "normal".
Unmanned Emergency Number
I then called the Wilkes County Department of Social Services emergency number, but was greeted by the message, "This phone is not answered and these messages are not listened to." I was, at this point, at a complete loss of what to do next, so I called the Surry County Sheriff's Department who informed me that it was not their jurisdiction because the bruises occurred in Wilkes County at the child's mother's home.
On Sunday, October 15, 2006, I found the social worker's home phone number in the phone book and called her at home. I informed her of the bruises, that I had taken pictures and videotaped the bruises and asked her what to do. She advised me to call the Wilkes County Sheriff's Department and make a report with the worker on call. The social worker did not come to our home, even though she was the assigned worker, she did not do anything. This social worker, aware of the bruises, did not go to the child's school to check on her, until five days after I informed her of these bruises nor would she return my calls on October 16, 2006 when I tried to get the videotape to her.
I called the worker on call at the Wilkes County Sheriff's Department; I specifically described the appearance and location of the bruises. I explained to the worker on call that we hadn't noticed the bruises October 13, 2005, because we went to the haunted trail and did not get home until late. The worker on call said that she had to call her supervisor to see if this was urgent enough to send some one out to our house at that time, but called later and said that they declined to investigate it. The call was screened out because of an error that the intake worker made.
Raleigh Office Refuses to Act
On October 23, 2006, I called the main office in Raleigh and complained about the way that the social worker and the Wilkes County Department of Social Services were handling this case. I was directed to someone else.
On October 24, 2006, I received a letter from the Wilkes County Department of Social Services dated October 15, 2005, that thanked me for my report of suspected child abuse..."The report was not accepted for investigation because the child is nine years old and is not stating that anything adverse has happened to her." Now I fail to see how this report could have been screened out because the child did not state that anything adverse had happened to her when no one even spoke to her on October 15, 2006.
It was also stated during my phone contact with Wilkes County Department of Social Services that the child fell at the haunted trail and that was how she received the bruises. I informed them that her daddy carried her through the whole trail because she was scared, that she never fell and that if she had it still would not explain how she got bruises on such a diverse area of her body. I was treated like a liar.
I called a different supervisor (supervisor 2) on October 24, 2006 and complained about the fact that the report was screened out on October 15, 2006. He suggested that I file a new report with the Wilkes County Department of Social Services that would be assigned to a different team. I did file a new report on this date. I listed specific dates that my Belinda had shown up with bruises, the exact placement and size of the bruises. I also stated that her dental care had been neglected to the point that when we took her to the dentist on July 3, 2006 she had to have teeth I and J extracted. The new report was accepted and assigned to a new social worker (social worker 2), as of this date, February 27, 2007, I still haven't heard from her.
On October 25, 2006, I talked to the social worker, who asked us to come in to her office on October 27, 2006 because she was now investigating us, although at the time of our phone conversation she did not tell us that there had been a report made against us. The social worker also asked why I hadn't told her that my husband had only been seeing his daughter regularly for a year, I told her that I did tell her that he hadn't seen her for four years because her mother wouldn't let him. I informed her that we had recorded phone calls between ourselves and the mother where my husband beg to see his daughter and told her I would bring her those tapes the 27th because the mother had not been truthful with her about the situation.
Video Taped Evidence
My husband and I met with the social worker on October 27, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.; it was at this time that we gave her the videotape from October 14, 2006. She viewed the tape at that time, did not really comment on the bruises and did not state that it was improper or show any concern over my videotaping the bruises on my Belinda. The social worker had in her possession a report that had been made against us that contained things like... We had poison Ivy in our yard, trees growing in our gutters, dirty dishes in the sink, that we make the child sleep on the floor, eight children living in our home, the child had woke up with a rat on her chest, my daughter had left a bruise on child's arm...
I asked the social worker when this report was made and all she would say was that it was old, really old. I didn't understand why she was even investigating it, the stuff contained in it was stupid and the social worker had already seen videotape of the inside of our home, dated August 4, 2006 and on up. Furthermore, why didn't she come to our home and investigate it? Isn't that the statutory requirement?
The social worker voiced concern and informed me specifically that no recording devices were allowed in the interview room. She also stated that she was covering her ass in case the District Attorney's office became involved in our case, when we question why the DA would become involved she never answered the question. The social worker also stated that she had finally had a home visit at the mother's home and the place was immaculate. I stated, "Yea but what about the trailer that she was living in two months ago when we made our report." The mother had moved by the time a home visit was done. The social worker also did not want to hear the tapes that proved that the mother was lying to her. The social worker restated at this meeting for us to get pictures of the bruises.
On October 30, 2006, I spoke with the Director of the Wilkes County Department of Social Services and voiced my concerns about the way this case was being handled. I was scheduled to met with the Director, October 31, 2006, but when I arrived I found out that I would be by myself in a room with not just the Director, but supervisors 1, 2 and 3, I felt that this was an intimidation tactic on their part, but I am not easily intimidated so I again voiced my concerns about the handling of this case.
I was told that since the child was not disclosing their hands were tied to which I replied, "So when she's older and all messed up from being abused are you going to tell her that if she would have disclosed you could have helped her, lay all the responsibility of the abuse on her shoulders, her fault you couldn't help." I also told them that abused children do not always disclose and when they can't speak for themselves because they're scared and intimidated by the abuser, someone else needs to step in and be a voice for them. That's what I am trying to do.
At the meeting on October 31, 2006 one of the supervisors, (supervisor 3) asked if my husband and I would be willing to come in for mediation with the mother. I said that we would, but voiced a concern about mediating abuse. North Carolina court doesn't even allow mediation where there is suspected domestic or child abuse, so I failed to comprehend how Child Protective Services could.
Face-to-face Meeting without the Face
On November 6, 2006, my husband and I showed up for the scheduled mediation, we were the only ones who showed up. (Supervisor 3) was supposed to be there, but had an emergency with her son. The mother had apparently never been contacted about the date and time of the mediation. The social worker made excuses about why we were not called and notified that the mediation would not occur. We had to drive for forty five minutes to make this appointment, it was also my son's fourteenth birthday, but we made it a priority to make this appointment.
According to supervisor 3 when I spoke with her November 7, 2006 the social worker was supposed to have called us and informed us that the mediation would need to be rescheduled, but she never did. The mediation was rescheduled for November 8, 2006, but my husband had to work that day and we could not attend. Furthermore, by this time we were so frustrated with, what our opinion appeared to be gross incompetence that we had developed a trust issue with the Wilkes County Department of Social Services and their ability to investigate this case.
On November 10, 2006, my Belinda came home for weekend visitation with a huge bruise on the inside/front of her right thigh that appeared to be a handprint, I did videotape this bruise. During this video she is making excuses for the bruise, "I usually get them from running into windows", "I threw a bouncy ball and it came back and hit me in the leg", "I must have got it from being kicked in Karate". I again informed the social worker of the bruise and that I had videotaped it, although I waited until Monday to do so, because honestly what was the point of calling before then, they wouldn't have responded anyway.
Change of Custody Petition
November 14, 2006, we went to court on our petition for change of custody filed in June 2006. This hearing was postponed until the Wilkes County Department of Social Services finished the investigation that we initiated. The Judge also issued an order that DSS submit their findings to him.
On November 20, 2006, I delivered a copy of the videotape to supervisor 3, when I spoke with supervisor 3 on November 22, 2006 she stated that she could see prints on the child and that she was concerned by what she saw. She did not state any concerns about my videotaping the bruises.
On November 27, 2006, I spoke with supervisor 3 who was now stating that the video was not very clear and jumped around, speeding up and down. I told her at points in the video I had recorded for her that I paused it and slowed it down so that she could see the bruises. I also believe that it was on this occasion that concern was voiced over my videotaping bruises on my Belinda.
I made an appointment to meet with supervisor 3 on December 5, 2006 at 4:30 p.m. Also somewhere around this date is when Wilkes County Department of Social Services stated that they couldn't tell who was "telling the truth" and decided to send all parties for a physiological evaluation.
On November 30, 2006, I spoke with the social worker who on this date, for the first time, voiced a concern over the videotaping. I told her that she was the one who told me to get her pictures and proof of the bruises and that was what I had done. She stated get pictures.
Caseworker Complaint Ignored
December 1, 2006, I faxed a letter to social worker, I also faxed a written complaint to the Director asking that the social worker be removed from our case and requesting that our case be moved to a different county. As of this date, February 27, 2007, I have not received a response from him regarding this request and complaint. In this complaint I stated my concerns about the handling of this case, that we believed there to be some kind of bias, coercion, or other unethical behavior occurring in this case, because we could not understand how given the demographics and evidence that we had submitted in this case WCDSS couldn't see what was going on.
I think I need to mention that we are not the only ones who filed a report of abuse and neglect against the mother. The mother's other daughter's, dad and step mom filed a report August 10, 2006 alleging, among other things neglect and physical abuse. They have pictures of bruises on his daughter, but Wilkes Department of Social Services has never contacted them about their report, or viewed the pictures. They are participating in the physiological evaluation as is this daughter. They have major complaints against the Wilkes County Department of Social Services too.
I met with supervisor 3 and supervisor 1 on December 5, 2006; at this time they voiced concern over my videotaping the bruises. They also made what I felt was inappropriate comments, such as saying that the father and mother didn't even act human during the pick up and drop offs, how close could the child and her little brother be since they never see each other...(we schedule their visits together if we can.) I was even criticized for saying that children need hugs and that normal families hug and show affection.
Modest Child Videotaped
During my meeting with supervisor 3 and supervisor 1, they stated that the child was clearly uncomfortable during the videotaping. First if you see the video, she is uncomfortable, as am I. She doesn't want her underwear to show and she is afraid that someone will come in, but she is also joking around and talking. In the second video she is trying to prevent me from recording the bruises and making excuses but she is joking around and playing as well. Plus she wore the same clothes the rest of the night (T-shirt and panties). I don't think it is so much the fact that I am recording her, but the fact that I am recording the bruises that makes her uncomfortable.
I asked supervisor 3 and supervisor 1 at this meeting if they thought the child would have been any more comfortable if someone from Social Services had took pictures of the bruises and they stated that she would not have been. I also tried to explain to them that the mother is so verbally abusive to my husband that he can not communicate with her that is why they don't talk. If he says the slightest thing to her during the pick up and drop offs she causes a scene in front of their daughter and she does not need to see that. I also tried to explain to them that my Belinda will not even acknowledge us when her mother is present because she is so scared of her. Supervisor 1's reply was, "Why should she have to?" I could not get her to understand that the child is perfectly fine, comfortable, and happy with us when her mother isn't around, but when her mom is around she becomes wooden.
After my meeting with supervisor 3 and supervisor 1 On December 5th, I felt completely helpless and defeated. I was also angry because of the bias nature of their comments about my husband. It was at this point that we realized that we were not going to be listened to.
On December 9, 2006, the social worker came to our house as part of her investigation, almost four months after the report was filed. We were found to have a safe home, which means that the report against us should have been found unsubstantiated, but as of this date February 27, 2007 it has not.
December 11, 2006, I spoke with the social worker about the date of the physiological evaluation, it was scheduled to begin January 5, 2007. On December 12, 2006 the social worker called and stated that she needed my husband to come in and sign papers giving his permission for his daughter to do the physiological evaluation. The social worker also informed me during this phone call that I should sit on the Child Abuse Prevention Team in Wilkes County.
Medical Health Evaluation Concent
My husband went and signed a consent/authorization for medical/mental health evaluation child medical evaluation program form on December 18, 2006. This form lists that the referral is made by authority of (check one) Checked is DSS Director—when acting as temporary guardian of child found abandoned or without natural guardian or when having been vested with parental rights by the adoption or termination of parental rights laws (G.S. 35A-1220). The Criteria marked does not fit this case. The parents in this case have joint legal custody of their daughter.
On January 9, 2007, a new Wilkes County Social Worker, social worker 3 called and spoke with my husband. She informed him that first social worker is no longer employed at the Wilkes County Department of Social Services and that she had been assigned the case.
January 17, 2007, social worker 3 came to our home and verified it as a safe home. I showed her the videotape of the bruises, and she asked at that time that I no longer videotape the bruises, instead we are to call her and she will come right out. I told her I had only videotaped the bruises on two occasions and had only done so because the first social worker instructed me to get her pictures.
Psychologist Files Report
On January 24, 2007, my husband and I met with the Psychologist, who informed him that a report had been filed against him. I called social worker 3 and left several messages; I also called, the head of the board, and complained about the way Wilkes County had handled this case, he advised me to call someone else, who advised me to call someone else in Raleigh, who had someone else call me.
January 30, 2007, I spoke with social worker 3 about the report against us that they had given to the Psychologist; because I do not believe it is a viable report. It does not meet the statutory definition of abuse or neglect. Social worker 3 said that the initial report had been made to and screened out by Surry County Department of Social Service on August 16, 2006. (We live in Surry County) She further stated that Wilkes County Department of Social Services received the report on August 17, 2006, she stated that she didn't understand why it was screened in by Wilkes County, but she would find out and call me back.
Social worker 3 called back about an hour later and stated that she had asked supervisor 1 why the report had been screened in and that she told her the only reason it was screen in was because of the rat on the child's chest statement. Now remember, before social worker 1 started investigating the retaliatory report, she had already seen video of our home, dated August 4, 2006 and one to the present time. She knew this was a false report.
I met with the Psychologist, February 6, 2007 who told me one of the things that Wilkes County asked to him to evaluate was whether or not my videotaping the bruises on my Belinda had any adverse effect on her. They did not inform him that I had been told by them to get pictures of the bruises.
February 7, 2007, I spoke with the Director about their failure to disclose to the Psychologist that I had been instructed by them to get pictures of the bruises; he told me that he would have supervisor 1 call me. I called supervisor 1 and asked her why they did not inform the Psychologist that I was told by social worker 1 to get her pictures of the bruises, she admitted that I was told to get pictures, but not videotape. She also stated that she would call Psychologist and inform him, but she never did. I recorded this conversation and gave a copy to the Psychologist.
I called Raleigh and complained about the Wilkes County Department of Social Services, again. It was admitted to me that in the beginning of this case they had failed in their duties, but they did not need to inform the Psychologist that they told me to get pictures and that I should trust them. I can not trust them because they have failed to protect my Belinda as they are required to do by law.
My husband and I have voiced our complaints numerous times and we do not feel that we are being listened to. We also feel that there is a whole lot of butt covering occurring in this case, at all levels. We also believe that Wilkes County Department of Social Services purposely omitted that I was told to get picture to the Psychologist so that he would find me guilty of some wrong doing to get even with our numerous complaints about their handling of this case. We also feel that there is sexual discrimination occurring in this case because the accused abuser is female while the reporter is male. There is also evidence that suggest we are being treated this way due to a conflict of interest by one of the Social Workers.
The Fight Continues
At this time we are still continuing the fight, I have been e-mailing every child abuse site I find, department of health of human services offices, federal and state, Dr. Phil, our local news, anyone that I think can help.
At this date, March 14, 2007, our complaint is supposedly being investigated by the Regional Office in Georgia, but I have not heard anything from them in almost two weeks.
Social Worker 3 was supposed to call me a week and a half ago about the Psychologist and when that would be done so we could get a court date. She was also supposed to inform me of the outcome of the retaliatory report made against us, and send me a copy of her safe home study. I have not heard from her at all.
I received a call earlier this week from the person I made our initial complaint with, she just wanted to check in and see if our complaint was being handled. I told her no. When I told her about the videotape and that DSS had asked the Psychologist to evaluate if my videotaping bruises on Belinda had an adverse effect on her, but that they did not inform him that they told me to get pictures her response was, "They tried to set you up."
Belinda is still showing up with bruises, that are now too old to document (because her mom has wised up and been "prepared" by DSS) her excuse for the bruises now is her 7 year old sister is doing it.
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