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Lukes Dad's picture
on Thu, 06/07/2012 - 10:09
Fight Child Protection Department Corruption: 

state lawyers giving beshear bad advice

In a column appearing in Kentucky newspapers, Gov. Steve Beshear is defending the idea of maintaining state secrecy about circumstances surrounding children who have died after citizens reported suspected child abuse to state officials. He said he is fighting alongside the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and its lawyers and seeks to justify the state's appeal of judicial rulings of the Franklin Circuit Court.

In January, that court ordered the cabinet to disclose information about cases where children died after complaints of child abuse were made to state authorities. I urge the governor to reconsider his allegiance to the cabinet on this issue and to see the bigger picture of what is in the best interest of the people of Kentucky.

The publicity surrounding recent tragic deaths of children in Kentucky, and the now public shenanigans of the cabinet — caught lying about what it knew and when it knew it — have triggered a rare public anger. The death of 9-year-old Amy Dye of Todd County has become a focal point of statewide anger about the senseless deaths of children and a symbol of state incompetence. People seem eager to find out what went wrong and want to fix the problem. They feel that the safety of children is at stake and secrecy stands in the way.

Openness should always be the rule where government is involved. I have come to believe that secrecy in courts of law should be eliminated in every adversarial action initiated by any agency of the state. Non-adversarial actions, such as private uncontested adoptions or adoptions after parental rights have previously been terminated, should remain confidential.

I have been a circuit judge in western Kentucky for 17 years. Before that, I served as district judge. Judges have a front-row seat to every variety of real-life struggle involving children and families in confidential cases initiated by the cabinet. Over the years, I have observed an infrequent, but persistent, pattern of bizarre actions by lawyers and high-level cabinet officials that occur almost exclusively in confidential cases such as juvenile cases, termination of parental rights and involuntarily hospitalizations. Secrecy allows people to do things in ways that they would not dare do in a public setting.

For example, in 2008 one of the lawyers, with full knowledge of the cabinet secretary, intentionally fought to release a committed patient from a state psychiatric hospital even though the lawyer openly admitted that, in the opinion of the state's physicians, the patient was still likely to harm himself or another person upon release. The lawyer argued in this secret court setting that the state owed no duty to protect the mentally ill person or to protect others he might harm when released.

This was done because the patient was troublesome to the state employees and hospital administrators who then put pressure on the cabinet to get the patient out of the hospital. This is how the cabinet protects citizens when secrecy prevails. This same lawyer is now working alongside the governor to maintain cabinet secrecy.

The cabinet is consumed with a bureaucratic mentality and an institutional incompetence. Cabinet leadership is greatly influenced by a small group of senior lawyers. Cabinet employees are directed to blindly follow its own internally created guidelines, ignoring all else. Reason, pleading, common sense and sometimes not even a court order can dissuade a supervisor from strictly following these guidelines. The cabinet has become a law unto itself.

Confidentiality is more often used to hide state incompetence or misconduct than to protect citizens. Do not be misled. The cabinet's appeal of the Franklin Circuit Court ruling is not a high-minded effort to protect the privacy of persons who report child abuse. It is to protect the cabinet.

While we can always find some downside to open government, the consequences of government secrecy are far worse. We need only look to the courts and governments of totalitarian regimes such as China, North Korea, Iran or Cuba.

As for the governor's concern that releasing the names of people who report child abuse will cause people to be afraid to report it, I believe, in the long run, we will protect more children if we get the cabinet to respond to the reports made. Full disclosure is the only way the public can know whether reports of abuse have been ignored.

The people of Todd County are painfully aware of the likelihood that a multitude of reports of suspected abuse were made by teachers and school officials about Amy Dye in the years before her death, several of which may have been mishandled or misplaced. I seriously doubt any of those who made reports would have allowed fear for their personal safety to keep them from speaking out. Their fear was for Amy.

I urge Beshear to stop listening to the Cabinet's lawyers and to start battling for the people of Kentucky. Our children deserve an open and accountable government.

Comments

Lukes Dad's picture

Child removal must be a last resort. It is absolutely necessary in cases of child abuse.

Domestic Violence does not warrant the necessity to remove a child. Victims are victims through experience and pain. Not by choice. Domestic Violence isolates individuals from society. Perpetrators know all too well how to isolate a victim and 'make them feel like they are to blame'.

There are many emotions and self destructive thoughts as well as beliefs that keep a victim in the cycle. The DoCS systematic approach to victims has been growing progressively worse. The case workers blatantly ignore evidence presented and the victim's efforts of survival. They discredit the victims attempts to remove themselves and their children from danger. In addition, they disregard their parenting skills. These factors are critical in determining whether child removal is necessary. Addressing the case in light of these factors prevents the victim esculating into a deeper, darker more isolating cycle of destruction.

Anger is a motor response of the individual to the world. It involves a lash out at someone who has hurt or disappointed you. Whilst each individual is responsible and accountable for their own actions,in the case of child removal, an angry word is understandable. There is no excuse for physical violence but equally so, it is critical that case workers validate victims and commend them for their positive actions. This is a critical element ofthe foundation of 'family focused' case work.

Child removal is not always necessary. A victim, who has come out of the dark and of their own accord informed the caseworker about what has taken place, has to be given credit. A brief cooling off period in which debriefing is of paramount importance may benefit the famiy greatly. In this case, respite care may be of benefit.Failure to acknowledge a victim is a sure way to exasperate their emotional condition and is basically asking for them to respond to the case worker in a rude, abrupt manner. Even the animal kingdom has a response mechanism that comes into play when their young are put in danger.

Empathy is a sensory function of the world to you. It involves the ability to emotionally understand and experience another person's feelings. Victims may not be aware of their lack of empathy. They have often endured so much heartache and abuse that they cannot see beyond their own trauma. It does not mean the individual is not capable of empathy, it simply means they are so traumatized that they cannot see beyond their own pain. Casework must be focused upon debriefing and acknowledging the individual. Therapy that involves dealing with flashbacks and triggers is of paramount importance. Without such intervention, it can only naturally be e xpected that the individual will go deeper into themselves and be subjected to a deeper and darker hole in which all they know is their trauma.

Anger and empathy cannot exist in the same place simultaneously. If casework and therapy are focused upon addressing the abuse endured and subsequent traumatic responses, a committed individual will recover.

PTSD develops in stages. The first stage is referred to as Acute Stress Disorder. Individuals in this stage have been exposed to trauma that is 'beyond their comprehension' and has overwhelmed the individual's ability to cope. It is of paramount importance to debrief a victim after they have been exposed to trauma. Failure to do so is a sure way to esculate the condition rendering catastrophic consequences.

A PTSD diagnosis can have a major impact on an individual's emotions. People with PTSD often experience very strong feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt and/or shame (to name a few). In addition, when all these feelings occur close in time to one another, it can be very difficult to decipher exactly what is being felt. Validation of the individual is critcal.Efficient therapy is vital.

Knowing what is being felt helps the individual to feel better. Therapy must address the trauma and emotions attached to it. This is the only way to eliminate confusion and restore clarity. At this initial stage,failure to provide adequate services and debriefing is a sure way to paralyse the victim in their prison. DoCS failure to validate victims sends them the message that it is their fault and that the situation is hopeless. Punishing victims for 'exposing their children to the trauma' is dangerous ground. The trauma is often inflicted by an outside source such as a destabalized, abusive partner. The victim must not be punished for the abusers actions. Rather, a case plan of unification and agreement must be worked on by the case worker and the victim. Involvement of the client in this process is empowering as it aims to validate and commend the wounded indiidual.

Individuals with a diagnosis of PTSD are often used to giving help and feel uncomfortable admitting they need it. Case workers must acknowledge this as a symptom of the disorder and not the nature of the individual. Gentle, supportive casework is the only way in which this dynamic can be addressed.

Punishing individuals for 'not asking' is cruel. It's only in the light that the darkness is exposed.

A victim who willingly asks for help has begun to address this problem on their own terms. It is crucial for case workers to give praise and acknowledge th the victims efforts. Failure to do so sends the individual a message of 'what's the point? Nobody cares anyway'. Furthermore, punishing the individual by removing the children is a sure way to lock them in their self defeating mindset. It can be expected for them to go backwards and back to the perpetrator.

The toxic effects of PTSD guilt make individuals feel like they don't deserve to call on family and friends when they are in need of help. This belief is often accompanied by a belief that the pain inflicted is deserved. As the basis of this belief is often deeply rooted in a traumatic childhood, casework and therapy must be focused upon validating, commending and directing the indiidual. This will provide the client with opportunity and insight to adjust their belief system and feel vakued as an individual. Asking for help will then no longer be an issue.

DoCS punish individuals for asking for help by using the information presented against the victim to remove the children. All too often, they are discredited as individuals and held accountable for the perpetrators actions. This has been a common response of DoCS workers for quite some time. The fact of re-victimization has spread like wildfire. Therefore, victims are increasingly trying to hide the truth in order to prevent the inevitable punishment. This is occuring because the pain and trauma has 'to go somewhere'. I believe that this has contributed to an increase in illicit and prescribed drug usage, long term abusive relationships and suicide.

PTSD ruins opportunities and relationships. Untreated, PTSD is a sentence. DoCS PANOC therapists do not address PTSD, its symptoms or it's consequences.

Individuals who suffer from PTSD are trapped in the emotion of their trauma. They are prne to being triggered as the mind has not processed the ordeal. It is illogical and inhumane to expect a victim of trauma suffering from PTSD to improve themselves without adequate therapy. Hoop jumping for DoCS is a major setback, especially when the victim's efforts are discredited.

Symptoms of PTSD commonly involve:

An exaggerated startle response

Loss of memory

Sleep disorders

Flashbacks/images of the traumatic incident that keeps coming back to haunt you

Poor concentration

Hypersensitivity

Hypervigilance

Extreme irritability

Anger over petty issues with violent outbursts

Obsessiveness

Extreme nervousness and anxiety

 Muscle aches and pains for no apparant reason

Unexplained fear

Low self-esteem

Lack of confidence

Experience a sudden numb feeling

Avoiding anything that reminds you of the experience

Punishing individuals for their symptoms is nothing short of criminal. The exasperation of symptoms becomes a matter of time, not a possibility. It cannot be emphasized enough that victims are victims through experience and pain. Not by choice. PTSD does not just 'go away'. It is worked through. Trauma is processed.

 

Individuals suffering from PTSD are commonly effected by:

Loud noise: Caseworkers who yell at or use abusive language towards their clients are intentionally exasperating their condition. It can only be expected for the individual to be startled and possibly retaliate. DoCS case workers commonly make a complaint about their clients 'reaction'. This is a form of bullying.

They cut themselves off from life and those around them: Removal of children because a victim has been abused is not satisfactory. In light of how PTSD develops and its symptoms, it can only be expected for the re-victimization process to isolate the individual. Parents who have had their children removed struggle maintaining friendships with their friends who 'have their children'. They find it increasingly more difficult to form new bonds. In addition, PTSD is not a widely understood and accepted condition. The individual is therefore subjected to cruel societal judgement and marginalising.

Prolonged periods of sadness and anger: Failure to arrest the disorder in it's early stages is a major setback. As the disorder involves so many emotions, the individual is prone to great sadness and anger. Removal of children with no validation or support locks the individual in a self defeating mindset. DoCS are likened to a perpetrator when they subjectively punish the victim for events that were beyond their control. In addition, when the perpetrators 'rights to the child' are more generous than those permitted to the victim, it creates catastrophic confusion, anger and heartache. This situation re-enforces the abuse already perpetrated by the abuser. In essence, it is likened to a game in which the abuser and DoCS inflict the victims life with a constant, re-enforced game of 'you are the victim and that's all you will ever be'.

 

Life is progressional. When trauma inflicts a human soul, the results are enduring. The only way to eliminate the aftershock of trauma is through event processing, lifestyle planning, structured community support and availale opportunities. DoCS grossly neglect victims in their trauma.

DoCS consistently set up situations in opposition to the client. They do this by: Creating isolation in the community; Re-enforcing the trauma through acts of re-victimization; Failing to provide structured casework and recovery programs; Providing therapy that does not address the cause and effects of the trauma.

DoCS case workers further instil deeper sensations of dissociation by not validating trauma and by treating their clients with contempt. This inturn plays havoc on the individuals motor response system, their sensory functioning and emotional wellbeing. This is dangerous. I can personally testify to the effects of this discombobulation. After the Tweed DoCS manager Liz informed me that I lost my children because I had 'made my choices', I endured a 24 hour long disconnection to myself and my surroundings. The following day I developed hives. This form of degredation is dangerous.

DoCS intentionally use familial rejection as a source of renewed violation on the victim. Some case workers have been known to play games with the victim by establishing 'piggy in the middle scenarios'. They do this by failing to validate victims whilst they empower the perpetrator/s. In addition, they routinely provide increased access to the abusers whilst regimenting and minimizing the victim's access. I have personally been a recipient of this cruelty. My ex husband who has been diagnosed with 'a burnt out brain from drug usage' is permitted to have access with the carers whilst I have endured 4 years of access supervised by Tweed DoCS psychiatrist John Trendinnick in a tiny room with baby toys.

This treatment traps the victim in the snare already prepared for by the perpetrator/s. Ultimately, it is the perpetrators intention to undermine and de-value the victim. They seek to place the weight of their own wretched selves on the victim. By obtaining further empowerment by DoCS, the perpetrator is awarded for their maltreatment of the victim. This exploitation must be stopped. Failure to do so will ensure that the viscous cycle of destruction continues. Those effected by it will continue to live a subordinate existence.

Re-victimization of victims not only inflicts a high lifestyle cost, every aspect of life is effected by unprocessed and renewed trauma. Under these conditions, the victims defence mechanisms stay on red alert. This increases anxiety levels and creates an untameable state of hyper vigilance. These individuals are severely incapacitated by a weight that cannot be lifted. DoCS know the impact they are having. That's why they do what they do. There is money to be made on misery.

Unanswered questions and phone calls, re-victimization and discrimination are common failings in DoCS casework. Together, they inflict the individual with a lethal combination.

Leaving an individual in a problem saturated picture opposes family unification. The individual is left feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. They are incapacitated in their attempts to 'build a future for themselves and their children'.

Casework must concentrate on empowering the powerless and validating the indefensible.

Many clients of DoCS spend their days engulfed in the trauma of 'how they are traeted'. This cements their earlier trauma.This 'mind lock' steals hope, opportunity and individuality.

Every individual has the innate ability to grow and learn. DoCS routinely oppose this truth by preventing opportunity for growth and restoration. This traps individuals in the symptoms of their disorder and exasperates their symptoms. Ultimately, the individual will often develop DESNOS or Chronic PTSD. Sufferers of DESNOS have problems in their belief system about self, others and their place in the world. The disorder leaves you confused about your emotions and unable to regulate them. Considering that DoCS rarely increase access and constantly re-enforce what the client did wrong, the catastrophic results of this disorder continue to steal every life giving opportunity presented to the individual. In addition, they struggle with developing healthy relationships because they are so unbalanced.

It is worth considering the correlation between the symptoms of this disorder suffered by victims of war and victims of DoCS. The two should be compared relatively. Both groups of individuals endure wounds that change them emotionally and physically.

Physically, those who suffer from PTSD are inflicted with vascular problems, an increase in physical pain, decreased energy levels, digestive problems, headaches, hives and blood pressure problems. Personally, I have developed IBS, have had severe attacks of hives at access time and suffer intensive migraines.

Removing a child unnecssarily increases the risk of that child developing PTSD. AS identity is a major factor in the ability to create a wholesome lifestyle and maintain healthy relationships, it is logical to expect that these individuals are put at high risk for problems within these areas.

 

Abused and Murdered Baby Angels's picture

Great article.  Very informative.  Reading this part especially disgusted me, how cruel can these monsters be?  What satisfaction can they possibly get from seeing parents strive so hard to achieve the goals so they can get their children back, only to be turned away and denied that very right? :

"Every individual has the innate ability to grow and learn. DoCS routinely oppose this truth by preventing opportunity for growth and restoration. This traps individuals in the symptoms of their disorder and exasperates their symptoms. Ultimately, the individual will often develop DESNOS or Chronic PTSD. Sufferers of DESNOS have problems in their belief system about self, others and their place in the world. The disorder leaves you confused about your emotions and unable to regulate them. Considering that DoCS rarely increase access and constantly re-enforce what the client did wrong, the catastrophic results of this disorder continue to steal every life giving opportunity presented to the individual. In addition, they struggle with developing healthy relationships because they are so unbalanced ."

Abused and Murdered Baby Angels's picture

This is so sad, but true.  And it happens in many states, as was stated in the article, not for the sake of privacy for the minors, but instead to cover up mistakes and purposeful manipulation of the laws.  This Governor is exactly what we do NOT need. And the worst part is, it is the State of Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services!!! 

Lukes Dad's picture

State child welfare officials must publicly release records of child abuse cases resulting in death or serious injuries, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Monday, dealing yet another blow to state officials’ attempts to restrict access to those records.

The ruling upholds a judge’s decision last year that The Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader should be allowed access to internal reviews of cases in which children died or were seriously injured from abuse or neglect.

In December, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, following a judge’s ruling that the cases are available through the open records law, the cabinet provided 85 such reports from 2009 and 2010. But those records deleted significant amounts of information, including names of victims, perpetrators, family members, counties, hospitals and even the police departments involved in the cases.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the redactions were overly broad, making it impossible for anyone reading the reports to assess how effectively the cabinet did its job protecting children from abuse and neglect.

The judge issued a ruling in January that spelled out acceptable redactions and ordered the cabinet to provide a log of why each redaction was made so that the newspapers could challenge them.

The cabinet successfully sought a stay, saying that providing that information could hurt their cases. The decision by the appeals court lifts the stay, saying the public’s interest in knowing how the cabinet performs outweighed the cabinet’s failed attempts to show concrete injury from releasing the files.

The cabinet has been releasing some redacted copies of cases at the rate of about two per week, including reasons for the redactions. But the court’s ruling on Monday requires the process be faster.

Asked whether the Cabinet would appeal the ruling or when additional documents would be released, spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said officials were reviewing the ruling late Monday afternoon and would not have any immediate comment.

Monday’s ruling is the latest in a lengthy court fight by The Courier-Journal and the Herald-Leader to get the records after several high-profile cases involving children’s deaths. Throughout the legal process, Shepherd has ruled multiple times that there is “no legal basis” for withholding the records.

Jon Fleischaker, attorney for The Courier-Journal, said the pending appeal could take several more years to resolve, but Monday’s ruling at least lets the newspaper move forward with getting records in the interim.

“This is a big step forward,” he said. “It’s a victory. But it’s an interim victory.”

The legal fight comes in the wake of a 2009 Courier-Journal investigation that found nearly 270 Kentucky children had died of abuse or neglect during the past decade — more than half in cases in which state officials knew of or suspected problems.

Questions about the cabinet’s work continued to arise in the wake of other more high-profile cases, including the Feb. 4, 2011 death of Amy Dye, a 9-year-old Todd County girl who was fatally beaten by her adoptive brother. In files released after a separate lawsuit showed that the cabinet had ignored or dismissed as unfounded repeated reports from school officials who suspected Amy was being abused at home.

Reporter Jessie Halladay

courier-journal.com