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"The service that DCFS now provides is worse than the abuse that most abused children ever experienced. The trauma they inflict on ordinary children is unspeakable." ~Social worker Anthony Cavuoti

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Federal Appeals Court Finds CPS Tactic Unconstitutional (PJI)

For Immediate Release

Federal Appeals Court Finds CPS Tactic Unconstitutional

December 29, 2008

Sacramento, CA — As families gather for the holidays, a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals offers hope to hundreds of thousands of parents haunted by the nightmare of unproven child abuse allegations.

For years, attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute have warned parents that, once CPS decides to investigate them for child abuse — sometimes based on anonymous tips from neighbors or vindictive ex-spouses — their names can end up on California's Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Parents are listed on the CACI even when CPS eventually deems the charges "inconclusive" and closes its files. The CACI listing shows up on background checks for years to come and prevents parents from obtaining jobs or state licenses.

Central Index Blacklist

The Central Index functions as a blacklist of parents. Each state has their own version of the list and once a name is added parents have found it nearly impossible to have their name removed. These lists have been declared unconstitutional in a recently ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Too many people have been listed -- not on the basis of what they have done to bring harm to children, but simply on the basis of CPS caseworker opinions. Most people listed on the Central Index have never been criminally charged, have never been informed that their name appears on the list, neither have they been convicted of any kind of child abuse or neglect.

Yet, having your name appear on the list can and has led to individuals losing jobs, future employment opportunities and can follow them the rest of their lives causing irreparable harm for themselves and their families.

The Gates couple who appear in this video said they became foster-adoptive parents so they could help needy children. The Gary & Melissa Gates have spent the past 8-years and $175,000.00 trying to get their names removed from the Central Registry list in Texas. Each state has their own lists but they are shared from state to state, making it nearly impossible to lead a normal life once your name has been added.

The Gates have founded a non-profit organization — The Texas Center for Family Rights, after they saw the need for families to be protected from invasive investigations by CPS, which can be started by one malicious phone call.

In Humphries v. County of Los Angeles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sharply criticized the ease with which people are listed on the CACI and the obstacles which prevent their names from being removed. The court was also troubled by a study indicating that as many as half of the more than 800,000 individuals listed on the CACI "may have a legitimate basis for expungement." Calling the list "the reverse of the presumption of innocence in our criminal justice system," the court ordered the state to enact greater procedural safeguards.

PJI President Brad Dacus commented, "It is gratifying that the Ninth Circuit has acknowledged what we have been saying for years — that treating parents as criminals when they are never convicted of a crime is unjust. We call on the legislature to finally fix this broken system in a way that honors basic constitutional rights."

Karen Milam, who directs PJI's Southern California office, stated, "Every year, PJI is inundated with hundreds of calls from desperate parents who do not understand how they could be labeled as child abusers based solely on unproven suspicions. This ruling is an important step toward keeping CPS honest."

About The Pacific Justice Institute

Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties. Pacific Justice Institute works diligently, without charge, to provide their clients with all the legal support they need.

Pacific Justice Institute's strategy is to coordinate and oversee large numbers of concurrent court actions through a network of over 1,000 affiliate attorneys nationwide. And, according to former US Attorney General Edwin Meese, "The Institute fills a critical need for those whose civil liberties are threatened." "Through our dedicated attorneys and supporters, we defend the rights of countless individuals, families and churches... without charge."

If you are able to support PJI, please click here to contribute now or visit Pacific Justice Institute.

Pacific Justice Institute
President Brad Dacus
P.O. Box 276600
Sacramento, CA 95827-6600
Phone: (916) 857-6900