Missouri is desperate to find untrained people to make life changing decisions for foster children, and it is upsetting to hear after the recent developments that led to the entire Eastern District Court of Missouri having to recuse themselves from a family court matter because of a leaked email and a leaked Zoom call that showed almost 40 guardian ad litems conspiring to help Elaine Pudlowski cover up fraudulent activities and child sexual abuse. (See 31 judges recuse themselves)
Maybe it would not be so upsetting if the fraudulent activities and purposeful covering up of child abuse and child sex abuse had been a one-time incident that is not expected to happen again, and again, and again. But it does happen every day, even though the caseworkers are caught falsifying reports, and the psychiatrists are caught making fraudulent diagnoses and overbilling, and everyone is lying in the courtrooms and covering up the facts that children are being horrifically abused. They even diagnose the children and the biological family members fighting for them with fraudulent diagnoses and overbill for those too. Still, they get paid and continue. Every day.
CASA volunteers claim to be advocating for children that have been taken into the horrific U.S. foster care system. Countless reports from biological family members claim that they have never met a CASA and that no one ever contacts them from CASA. Family members claim that they cannot even get a return phone calls from CASA volunteers. Yet CASA’s Missouri executive, Laura Farmer claims that the CASA workers create “stability in their lives”.
The CASA workers may create stability for someone’s lives, but it is not the foster children that are moved through several if not numerous foster care placements. Most of the time a foster care placement does not even last a month. If a child is placed in a home for any length of time, it is just because the caseworkers want the children to become attached to the foster caregiver so that they can claim that the children have become attached when they finally get to a closed secret court where the judge can agree that the child has grown attached to the strangers and is “more stable” left in that environment. Those closed secret “family courts” do not even let family members in unless the caseworkers allow them to be present. Most of the time family members are left in the hallway to listen in horror to what they can hear of what is happening to their family.
It doesn’t take a lot to become a CASA worker. CASA training is a total of 30 hours. 15 hours of studying on your own, and 15 hours of online classroom sessions that can be found on YouTube.
“You learn all about the child welfare system. You’re going to learn about how to connect with a child who has been abused or neglected. You’re going to learn about the court processes, how to write a court report, because most of our volunteers have had no experience with the child welfare system whatsoever,” brags Laura Farmer as she desperately seeks to recruit more CASA volunteers saying, “We’ve grown from 86 volunteers to 250 volunteers, and we need more”!
Identifying the problem
It is true that more and more children are entering foster care and that the children need advocates. In October 2021, Missouri’s CASA had 124 children with no CASA advocate, not even one that didn’t have time to meet with the family or return a phone call. More children are entering the foster care system because states have to meet quotas every year to receive funding. To find out more about the funding for foster care look at the child abuse prevention act (CAPTA) that was set up under the Mondale Act in 1971, and later renewed as the adoption and safe families act (ASFA) of 1997. CAPTA shows how the system is set up (with absolutely no oversight and no accountability because it falls under public health law rather than the constitutional common law), and ASFA shows how the money flows.
“To advocate for the best interest of the children we serve, our CASA volunteers play a really important role in a child’s life. They visit that child twice a month. They get to know all about the child and then they advocate for whatever that child might need,” Laura Farmer pleas although she cannot define “the best interest of the child” to anyone that asked. CASA workers define it as whatever their opinion is of the child’s situation and that is based on the reports that they get from the guardian ad litems and the caseworkers that are known for falsifying documents and passing them around as facts for the children’s cases, and what little bit of time that they may spend with the foster children.
Laura Farmer goes on to say that 10% of kids that leave foster care in Missouri end up re-entering the system within a year or two because of repeated child abuse or neglect, but that when a child has a CASA advocate that the number drops to less than 1%. Interesting, are they returning children that really do need help back to bad situations?, or are the adoptions turning out to be bad placements? The children are not going home because no one is working with the families of the children. “They play a huge role in keeping our kids safe long-term and really breaking that cycle of generational abuse and neglect,” Farmer says.
Further discussion and listening to Laura Farmer reveal that the “stability” she refers to when she talks about the benefits of foster children having a CASA worker actually means that if the CASA worker actually visits the children from foster placement to foster placement and gets involved in the foster children’s lives then the foster children have some sort of stability because they become familiar with the CASA worker that meets with them for a few minutes once or twice a month.
The road to a brighter future
Children deserve so much better. The government claims that the conflict between parents and the United States government is overwhelming the judicial system and causing the children to linger in state custody longer. Children’s rights activists claim that the children’s rights are being violated. Lawyers claim that both the children’s and parental rights are being violated. The states claim protective custody of the children. The United Nations says that the United States must stop separating migrant children from parents. U.S parents say that the government is too intrusive in their lives and that the government has too much control over what happens to the United States’ own children. (see the article on family separations) The result is still that many children grow up in juvenile detention facilities, group homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes. The fact is that these children usually have lower academic scores, fewer resources, and that they struggle with depression.
Research shows that children who live with nurturing families in supportive communities achieve higher academic scores and build stronger personal connections. Reports also show the importance of confronting poverty because children need their family and the family needs children. Instead of confronting poverty though, the U.S. will instead take children from poor families under the umbrella of neglect. Data from the Casey Foundation shows that 30% of U.S. children live in households with less than a $25,000 income. One solution that may be found here is to shift the funding in a way so that the Department of Health and Human Services offers services to families that make them stronger. Stronger families build stronger communities and produce stronger children.
Protecting children through the use of the constitution may offer another solution because the children and the family’s basic human rights would be addressed. HHS is immune to common law because it operates under public health laws that are based on the idea of protecting the general public from sickness and diseases. In such case, the agency is not under oversite of any other agency and does not have to abide by common law principles. The result is that individual human rights are violated under public health policy. Adding accountability and oversight through constitutional efforts would end the closed secret family courts that often do not even allow family members in to advocate for their own family members. Opening the courts would also help identify where children’s basic human rights are being violated in the courts. They are after all, the one’s that lose their own identity, their heritage, and their constitutional rights to familial ties and family integrity.
Foster children are known for running away. Children are often a priority for homeless services systems. As a result, families with children are least likely to be unsheltered, but runaways and young people not living with their families do not receive the same access to services. It is estimated that unaccompanied youth make up 50% of the homeless youth population and they are unsheltered. 66% of all homeless people live with no shelter at all and often in places that are not meant for human habitation. Poverty is the highest risks factor that leads to homelessness. (see runaways and homelessness)
- place children with family or someone that they already know and trusts so that their lives are not disrupted any more than it has to be, and
- localize foster care so that youth do not end up in strange places with strange people far from where they know their way around. This will prevent children from being trafficked and provide more stability.
Rights of children are being violated around the world and in the United States. Recently there was an article in the news about children being imprisoned inside the United States. The article refers to immigrant children at the border but actually, there are children that are separated throughout the United States for several reasons. Sometimes children are abused or neglected. There are also the tragic cases where a child’s parents are killed in an accident or die from a fatal disease. Most Americans believe that when HHS makes a decision regarding a child’s “best interest” that the state is looking out for the individual child. However, that may or may not be true.
There is no definition for the best interest of the child, and most of HHS definitions pertaining to “family” have no reference to biological family. What is even worse is that statistically speaking, most of the American children that have been separated from their own biological families were not separated because they were abused. American children are almost always separated under the assumption of neglect, without due process, where an opinion is made under public health law, not common law, that the undefined “best interest of a child” will better be served in another setting. Most often that setting refers to a complete stranger’s home where the child loses access to his or her own family and culture. Data shows that children in state custody or non-family placements tend to drop out of high school, abuse drugs, become pregnant teens, and are incarcerated at higher rates than children who grow up with their own supportive families.
Human rights are essential to health. It is essential that policies address children rights issues. Children need loving family, safe communities, good schools, and other support services that can be provided cheaper and while making communities safer and stronger for future generations. Children from low-income families fare better when the family is given the financial opportunity to move to neighborhoods with higher social-mobility rates, better schools, services, and health care. Educational needs of parents need to be addressed so that they can obtain skills that lead to employment that will allow them to support their children. Programs also need to be created that will address parenthood, teen pregnancies, single parenthood, and the importance of extended family members. People also need skills to manage their finances and maintain housing.
Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.