One of the scariest experiences children can endure is being removed from their parents’ homes. Unfortunately, due to neglect and abuse, sometimes removing them is necessary to protect them from further harm.
But as we detailed in an earlier blog post this summer, when the state of Arizona takes custody of children from their parents, the kids sometimes wind up in far more horrifically abusive foster homes. Even sadder, the aforementioned case is hardly an outlier.
Why are Arizona authorities seizing children from loving homes?
The state of Arizona ranks number one in the United States for the number of children who have been removed from parental custody. Statewide, Phoenix heads the list of cities in the rate of Children’s Protective Services (CPS) interventions that lead to children removed from their homes.
One reason is the ease by which it can be done. Under current laws, CPS does not even need to obtain a court order to seize kids from their parents. Allegations of hearsay and a worker’s very subjective opinion are the only things necessary to shatter a child’s world and plunge the parents into a nightmare from which there may be no escape.
Approaching the matter as a violation of the parties Fourth Amendment rights, in February, a state representative from Mesa inroduced HB 2507. The proposed bill would mandate that workers with the Arizona Department of Children’s Services (DCS) get a judge to sign a warrant before they could legally take kids out of their parents’ or guardians’ homes.
The bill did not even make it to discussion, as it was immediately quashed by the chairwoman of the House Health Committee, who offered no explanation for her actions.
The problem of subjectivity in cases of removal
All child protection workers — like every individual — has his or her own idea of what constitutes an unsuitable home for children. While there are guidelines to follow, much of the decision on whether or not to remove kids from the home is based on subjective perceptions.
For instance, a worker with symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may cringe at the idea of an overly cluttered home environment. Another who was reared in an alcoholic home might put a great deal of negative weight on the fact that there was liquor in the home and the parents readily admitted to social drinking.
While messy homes and the presence of alcohol may sometimes be present in situations with abusive or neglectful parents, neither are absolute proof that a child cannot continue to live in the environment with the parents.
Cover-ups and legal kidnappings
One man became a vocal activist against Arizona DCS’ harmful and degrading policies after he experienced them firsthand in Durango during a routine custody matter involving his nephew. The boy, 15, was removed from his uncle’s home for five months and was told his uncle no longer wanted him.
The man did little else but fight the system to return his nephew to his home.
If you find yourself in an untenable position with the DCS over a custody situation, one thing is certain: You need an attorney who handles juvenile law issues to bolster your case to the judge.