Friday, January 2, 2009

Sacramento County child protection woes extend into management, critics say

Jahmaurae Allen's mother and her boyfriend face charges in his death
Published: Friday, Jan. 02, 2009 Page 1A

Within days of 4-year-old Jahmaurae Allen's beating death last summer, the leadership of Sacramento County's Child Protective Services laid the blame for the troubled investigation on a single social worker who operated "in isolation."

Her work was described by top CPS management as "shoddy" and "totally inadequate," according to internal e-mails obtained by The Bee.

But those documents and recent interviews reveal a broader failure of the county's child protection system that reached into CPS management ranks – before and after the boy's July 21 death.

CPS officials, responding to questions from The Bee, recently acknowledged that a supervisor of social worker Adriane Miles did not scrutinize Miles' work in June as required, even though the original abuse complaint involving the boy was classified as an emergency.

The supervisor did not review any case documentation until the boy was dead – five weeks after the emergency referral.

And, at least two CPS supervisors went into the boy's case file after his death and altered the records before they were publicly released, a violation of the government code and Child Protective Services' written policy.

The CPS investigation into Jahmaurae's household was so cursory that the agency's top four managers debated by e-mail three days after the child's death how to massage the case file to more closely reflect reality.

Those e-mails, initially withheld from The Bee in August as "confidential," were released last month after the newspaper independently obtained them from a source.

"It sounds as though CPS – instead of taking top-level responsibility for the systemic, stubborn and ongoing failures of its supervisors and leadership – has adopted a policy of trying to throw individual social workers under a bus," said Ed Howard, senior counsel for the Children's Advocacy Institute.

A worker's inexperience also was blamed in 2006 death

The death of Jahmaurae – along with other children who died despite the agency's intervention – graphically illustrates why the agency needs massive internal changes, said Howard and Robert Wilson, executive director of Sacramento Child Advocates.

The two said they are especially upset by the string of child-abuse deaths that followed the July 2006 death of 12-year-old Daelynn Foreman of Orangevale, who withered to 23 pounds and allegedly starved to death under CPS' watch. The agency, which received six referrals about the child with cerebral palsy, blamed the fiasco on an inexperienced social worker.

"The Board of Supervisors needs to take an active role and do the job they were elected to do," said Wilson, whose attorneys represent Sacramento children in dependency court. "They need to hold those in (CPS) leadership accountable for a pattern of mismanagement and unfortunate deaths."

CPS Director Laura Coulthard told The Bee earlier this year – before the newspaper published an investigation in June about weaknesses and lack of accountability within the agency – that CPS had a rigorous "checks-and-balances" system of oversight.

A cornerstone of that oversight, Coulthard said, was careful case review by supervisors.

That didn't happen for Jahmaurae Allen, whose mother's boyfriend, Jonathan Perry, was arrested and charged with murder and child endangerment in his death. The mother, Tiffany Lacy, also was arrested in November on felony child endangerment charges related to the boy's death.

"We didn't do what we should have done for this child," said Lynn Frank, director of the county's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS. "And that child died."

Unidentified supervisor got 'verbal update only' on case

Through interviews and internal documents, The Bee pieced together a disturbing picture of how the agency responded in the 34 days between the first report of suspected abuse June 17 and Jahmaurae's death July 21.

As previously reported, emergency response worker Miles made a series of missteps – from a six-day delay in meeting the family to her failure to consult with a doctor who had first phoned CPS on June 17 with suspicions about a bruise the size of an adult fist on the boy's chest.


Anonymous said...

The CPS experience we have had has indicated to me that the social workers never follow the rules or the law. They do not investigate to reunify the child with the family immediately. They do not provide the information to the parents immediately as required. They do not offer services to reunify the family before the family is split up. They do not provide any notice before any hearing of what is being alleged. They do not investigate to determine whether anything alleged is true, they just write down whatever is detrimental to the family staying together and ignore anything positive. They only interview those who have something harmful to say about anyone in the family, and do not check the accuracy of the statements made. They deliberately ignore whatever positive evidence they find and exclude that evidence from their reports. They are completely irresponsible about destructive efforts to damage the family unit involved, and act as if the only important thing is to be sure the power of the social worker is respected and enforced. They do not keep any parent informed, and often switch the case to another social worker so that they can not be held responsible for the words of the other social workers. This allows them to lie to a parent, then say, I never said that to you. They are very lax about following the judge's orders, and routinely deprive parents and other relations of court ordered visitation.

In view of all of this, and in view of the fact that the lawyers who work in this system know that the system works this way, it is especially horrible that the judges simply rubber stamp what the social workers say. This means that all lawyers who appear before these courts are terrified to advocate for any client, knowing that the judge will act punitively toward all clients they represent.

oranglevale said...

I lost my children in 1999 to Sacramento county children protective services.At that time i was in the process of divorcing my husband at that time .He continue to harass and stock me until he had almost killed me .He raped and continued to harass me i feld for my live to weave only to be mistreated by the staff that was to be my support i went back home only to stocked and abuse .I lost my kids in the process of trying to find my way out .I fought for my kids two years and i did every that cps wanted me to do to get my children back the door was slammed in my face .cps kept my children 7 years .When i got my kids back they had been rapped and abused .My children returned to my care very violent confuse hurt wounded and betray by and angency who said that we meaning Sacramento county Cps can take better care of your children .I hate to see Cps take families children and hurt them .I have never seen so much dyfunction in children .by the way during my process of getting my kids back the staff and workers were very abusive to Me and my children .I could see my self supporting a system that is all about the healthy of the children .Cps is a joke and what they do .Because they say what they dont mean and they always do the opposite of what the program was intended for .I was blamed for what the police failed to do catch a criminal and keep him away from me .I tought when my kids came home things would be better because I've changed but i was worse because I had a whole set of behavior problems I had to deal with only a minimum of sevrices were offered.

Louise Uccio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Louise Uccio said...

I am so sorry for what they've done to your families!

This is why I'll never stop fighting them in any and every state!

Follow the money for the answers to why they do this!

Title IV federal Funding is the answer!