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In Los Angeles County, the number of children in foster care increased from 42,894 in 1986 to approximately 75,000 in 2003.

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Just Who's Abusing Whom?

By: Annette M. Hall

Today in America, 935 children were forcibly removed from their home and entered the national foster care system. Admittedly, some of these children may actually be helped by the system on some level. What about those children who get caught in the web unjustifiably?

Did you know that 20% of all children in California are in foster care. I wanted to bring you the actual numbers, so you can see for yourself just how tragic the situation is. However the way the numbers are tabulated, showing exact numbers of children and families affected by current child welfare laws is nearly impossible.

Our federal government relies on voluntary participation by each state, in any given year; only 30 to 35 states actually report the number of children being held in state custody. Further exacerbating the problem of accurate tabulation is that states only report the number of children actually in care on September 30th of each year.

It would be easy to return a large number of children to their parents, in early September to skew the numbers just enough to cover up the immensity of the problem. I have uncovered no actual data to prove such a plan is in action, but it is a plausible one.

The federal government reports skew the actual number of children affected even more by including adults from the age of 18 to 21. Generally, the only time a child is retained in custody past their 18th birth date is when they are being held on probation by a juvenile court because of past criminal activity, until they reach the age of 21. However, by including these children among those in foster care, it increases the population statistics, making it appear that far fewer children are affected on a percentage basis, creating a false picture.

We can get an idea of the enormity of the problem, simply by viewing the financial records made available to the public.

In 1989, the federal government spent $1.2 billion dollars on reimbursing state spending on foster care. It was estimated at that time that by 2004, federal spending on foster care would reach $6.2 billion dollars, an increase of over 420% within 15 years. Actual spending far surpassed those estimates and topped $22.2 billion in child welfare activity spending in 2002.

This is an industry, which has grown by huge proportions and must be reined in. The Gestapo type tactics currently being used by state agencies, to increase revenue from federal sources may provide jobs today for the local economy but is having a negative impact on many levels.

When individuals no longer have faith in the rule of law, there is a breakdown in society that will not recover quickly, if at all. The family has long been recognized as the fabric of society, strong families make for strong communities and laws govern a civilized nation. Millions have been unjustly targeted by state policies, under the guise of the rule of law, turning formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals, who are fearful of retaliation by their own government and who will never again look at the state in the same way again.

The children, who have been removed from loving homes, forced to live with strangers, are often used as slave labor and certainly not nurtured in the way a parent would, will grow up fearful, unattached and insecure. These young ones will bear the brunt of the wounds inflicted upon them, the emotional scars will last a lifetime.

The downward spiral of our society will continue unabated until drastic changes are enacted, which actually provides protections for not only the children involved but also the family as a unit. A strong family is the backbone of this nation, current policies and trends in family law and child protective services have hit the family hard, touching the lives of untold millions.

When a family is unjustly targetted by child protection workers for an "investigation", whether the children are removed or not, the entire family is affected. Resources that should have been used to provide the necessities such as food and shelter get diverted to attorney fees, transportation and various doctors to cover the cost of supplying the court with reports.

If the children are removed from the home more funds are diverted for the cost of supervised visitation, psychological evaluations, more attorney fees and expert witnesses. If the family in question was being held together by peanut butter and jelly as many are in todays economic times. The family now under distress many be forced to sell off their belongings, take out an equity line of credit, a home loan, be forced to give up their transportation or even sacrifice their home all together, the very one they need in order to prove to the court that they can care for their own children.

A recent ruling in the Pennsylvania Superior Court is a step in the right direction toward securing fourth amendment rights for families. The case involved Susquehanna County parents Robert and Susan Gauthier, who refused a caseworker's demand to enter their home to investigate an allegation, only to be subjected to a search, when the county Services for Children and Youth agency got a court order forcing them to open their door.

The Superior Court found that caseworkers requesting court orders to enter homes must show probable cause, the type of standard required of police seeking search warrants.

Family courts are required to uphold the law of the land and ensure the constitutional rights of those who fall under its jurisdiction. However, it's up to an informed citizenry to actually demand constitutional protections. This is the crux of the problem. It takes money and lots of it to obtain justice and today's court system targets the impoverished that are unable to obtain justice. After all, we only receive as much justice as we can afford.

The struggle for family justice will be a tough one, however more officials are slowly beginning to realize the enormity of the problem and are beginning to act. The process will be painfully slow and take several years to accomplish any meaningful changes in current laws and policy.

If you have not already done so, contact your legislators and educate them on the plight of the family. Encourage them to enact meaningful changes to protect not only the children but the family unit. Parenting children in today's world is not an easy task, parents deserve the benefit of the doubt and a right to protect and raise their children in a manner consistent with their beliefs. Our government does not have the right to usurp a parents authority, unless that child is in clear and present danger.

There isn't a court in the world that will ever convince me that 20% of all the children within the state of California are being or have been abused. That would mean that 1 child in every 5 has been removed from their parents because of abuse. It's just not so.

Posted: June 7, 2005