The Department of Children and Family Services in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, is in hot water after it was discovered that children who were taken from their parents are living in DCFS offices. Channel 5 News in Cleveland broke the story.
Kids are living inside of a Cuyahoga County office building. Cuyahoga County’s Department of Children and Family Services calls it a “last resort.” A child advocacy group calls it concerning. Both agree something needs to change in Ohio’s foster care system.
News 5 Investigators discovered a 17-year-old boy has been living at Cuyahoga County’s DCFS headquarters for more than a month and waiting for foster care placement.
The county confirms the teen came to the Jane Edna Hunter Building May 28. Since then, social workers said they have not been able to find care that meets his needs.
That means for more than a month, he’s eaten, slept, bathed, and lived at the building.
Unbelievably, DCFS leadership thinks this is an acceptable arrangement for children without foster homes. Deputy Director Jackie McCray called it a “last resort” and claimed that they “exhaust all options and for whatever reason, the caregivers or the providers are unable to meet their individual needs.”
That kind of talk is maddening for people who have been caught up in child welfare and report that DCFS doesn’t even consider placing the children with family first even though it’s the law. Roz McCallister, a family advocate with Ohio Family Rights, says the county regularly denies kinship care. “The problem with kinship placement is long-standing in Cuyahoga County,” she told PJ Media. “As a 23-year advocate, I have heard about it over and over.”
But hardship stories of others aren’t the only way McCallister knows about the DCFS corruption because it happened to her. “In my own family, when I applied to take my grandchildren, I was told that the radiator in my living room was a furnace and fire hazard!” she said. “And since I was a whistleblower about 18 months prior, I was even accused of being mentally ill.”
Because of the accusation, McCallister was turned down for care. Instead, her daughter (aunt to the children) tried to apply. “It took two months to complete a background check that the sheriff’s department does in 20 minutes,” said McCallister. During those two months, the children were placed in a foster home where the son of the foster mother was shot in the front yard. After the shooting, McCallister managed to get the children placed with her daughter.
McCallister said the reasons the county gives for skipping kinship placement are false and illegal.
The reasons I have heard time and time again are:
We can’t place the children out of the area (WRONG! Federal regulation mandates the children to be placed even out of area.)
You had a felony. (The federal regulations state 5 years clear)
You had a case with DCFS on your own children. (If you got your kids back, then you are rehabilitated.) Many times the case was investigated and nothing found.
You aren’t a blood relative. (Federal regulations define kinship care as anyone known to the children.)
DCFS is supposed to place children with relatives first
McCallister’s claims are right. According to Social Security law Title IV Section E (emphasis added),
IN GENERAL.—Subject to the succeeding provisions of this subsection, the Secretary may make a payment to a State for providing the following services or programs for a child described in paragraph (2) and the parents or kin caregivers of the child when the need of the child, such a parent, or such a caregiver for the services or programs are directly related to the safety, permanence, or well-being of the child or to preventing the child from entering foster care…
(2) CHILD DESCRIBED.—For purposes of paragraph (1), a child described in this paragraph is the following:
(A) A child who is a candidate for foster care (as defined in section 475(13)) but can remain safely at home or in a kinship placement with receipt of services or programs specified in paragraph (1).
Prevention of foster placement is supposed to be the goal of DCFS
In the case of a child who is a candidate for foster care described in paragraph (2)(A), the prevention plan shall—
(I) identify the foster care prevention strategy for the child so that the child may remain safely at home, live temporarily with a kin caregiver until reunification can be safely achieved, or live permanently with a kin caregiver;
But according to parents all over the country, not just Cuyahoga County, child “welfare” services go out of their way to keep children away from relatives and instead choose strangers in the foster system as their guardians. This happened to Cyndi Abcug whose child was given to an unknown foster family when she had two adult sons who volunteered to take custody of him. That battle is still ongoing, and Douglas County, Colorado, is still holding the child away from all his blood relatives after a year in custody and allegations of abuse while in foster care.
Rachel Bruno was forced to move out of her house after being falsely accused of child abuse in order for her children to stay with her husband. California CPS put one child in a foster care group home and held her newborn in the hospital until she found another place to stay away from her home. Bruno ended up winning over a million dollars in damages from CPS and the hospital involved in the illegal removal of her children from her custody.
Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, recently put together a task force with the first lady, Melania Trump, to reform Ohio’s child welfare system. It’s good to see the first lady involved in this. Maybe she will figure out that the problem is nationwide and it’s a serious and deep problem. The State Department put out a report on sex trafficking in 2019 that showed the link to foster care.
Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the United States Institute Against Human Trafficking, commented on the report saying, “So there are tremendous numbers of kids, a multitude of kids that are being sold as sex slaves today in America. These are American kids, American-born, 50 percent to 60 percent of them coming out of the foster care industry.”
➡ @FranDeWine and I were honored to talk with @FLOTUS Melania Trump via video conference this afternoon about the work of Ohio’s Children Services Transformation Advisory Council — which I convened last fall to conduct a top-down review of #Ohio’s foster care system. pic.twitter.com/zHbTaIGTaj
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) June 30, 2020
Knowing what we know about sex traffickers targeting the foster care system for victims, is there any excuse for a county child welfare department to allow children to be housed in an unsafe county office building rather than find relatives for them to live with? What about keeping them with their parents with extra services or support to help them through whatever trouble is going on at home? That is truly their mandate. So why do they do everything they can to keep kids away from their parents and relatives including house them in cubicles?
It wouldn’t be unheard of for child welfare officers to be working with sex traffickers and child prostitution rings. It was just discovered that Germany has been trafficking kids to pedophiles for thirty years. Italy has a similar scandal. Is that happening here? And why isn’t anyone breaking down the doors of Cuyahoga County’s DCFS to find out?