|THE TRIVIALIZING OF REAL CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
THE FIA GAME
Michigan Department of
Family Independence Agency
Subject: Stealing Children
THE FIA GAME
By Janet M. Frederick Attorney and Counselor at Law*
On October 24, 1999, I learned that this absorbing article and Frederick's CV,
both of which are below, have been on the Net at http://www.cardina.net/~khieber/TheFIAGame.htm
Many citizens in our great State of Michigan are unaware of Michigan's dirty little secret that falls under the guise of the Child Abuse and Child Welfare Protection Laws. The advertisements and literature surrounding this area seem to be doing a magnificent thing for the children of our state. We have been led to believe that the State of Michigan is saving thousands of children from severe physical abuse and neglect. This is far from the truth.
The truth is that this campaign is a giant money machine fueled by abuse of power of supervisors and case service workers employed by the Michigan Department of Family Independence Agency and private agencies that have contracted with FIA that we the tax payers are paying dearly for through our hard earned tax dollars. Basically it is "make work by creating a case and keep your job or contract with the state government." The current campaign to save the children is doing just the opposite. Parents and children are being permanently separated and families are being permanently destroyed under this new plan as a result of abuse of power in the name of more state and federal funding.
I have been working extensively in this area of law for approximately two (2) years. All of the cases that I am working on do not involve children suffering from broken bones, bruises or starvation. In fact most of the cases that I am involved in regard parents that merely spanked their children by giving the children one or two swats on the clothed behind, parents who have physically defended themselves from a physically violent teenager, parents who argued in front of their children, recently divorced single parents, parents with low incomes, parents who have failed to take their child to a doctor for mere cold symptoms such as sniffles and mild congestion, or parents who owned pornographic materials stored in a safe place where the children broke into and viewed the materials.
According to FIA, the present state of law is that:
1) Parents cannot spank their child. Spanking, even with clothes covering the bottom, is severe physical abuse. Parents are only to use time out, reasoning and loss of privileges.
2) Parents cannot engage in physical self defense to protect themselves from a physically hostile teenager. An act of self defense by a parent is severe physical and emotional abuse. Parents are to use reasoning, time out and loss of privileges only and must sacrifice their physical safety for their violent teenager's safety.
3) Parents cannot argue or talk about adult subjects, such as family finances, in front of their children. These are subjects that the child has no control over and creates extreme emotional distress in the child. FIA has classified this area as emotional or environmental abuse and/or neglect of the child.
4) Parents with low income are neglecting their children's basic needs.
Low income parents cannot provide for the proper medical, physical or emotional needs of their children due to their limited income. The parents' failure to obtain middle income jobs means environmental, medical and emotional neglect.
5) Parents that fail to take their child to the family physician for colds, flu, sniffles and mild congestion, or parents who fail to obtain a family pediatrician are neglecting the medical needs of their children. FIA has classified this as medical neglect.
6) Parents who own pornographic materials, such as magazines, books, video tapes, and conceal such materials from their children have created environmental and emotional neglect of their children. Parents who own and hide such material run the risk that children will find these material and view them causing emotional harm to their children. FIA has classified this as environmental neglect.
7) Divorced, single parent families seem to be targeted by FIA as high risk environments for emotional and environmental neglect. Most single parent families are low income and of course, according to FIA, cannot provide for the basic needs of the children as measured against middle income standards.
Single parents work outside of the home, leaving their children unattended or with "inappropriate care takers" (neighbors, older siblings, grandparents, relatives) causing environmental and emotional neglect of the child. Single working parents are unable to clean their homes "appropriately" and leave their homes cluttered, disorganized, and untidy (i.e. beds unmade, dirty clothes on floors or hampers, dirty dishes in the sink from breakfast, unswept or unvacuumed floors and carpets, etc.) which the family must return to in the afternoon or evening that is classified as environmental neglect.
Basically, single parents tend more to their needs (i.e. working outside of the home) that to the needs of their children which is classified as emotional and environmental neglect.
Ironically, FIA complies a list of single parent households from the Friend of the Court, sends prevention workers to the homes of such families and initially offers the families free, voluntary services through their prevention program. Such services include free parenting classes, free nutrition programs, free household budgeting programs, free employment training programs, and WIC.
The social workers in these programs compile information on the family and home for FIA. Basically, when you allow these workers to enter your lives and your home, you are allowing FIA to build a PS (Protective Services) record against you for child neglect which leads to further child protective proceedings in the Probate/Family Court which will ultimately result in the removal of your children and the children being placed in foster care. These workers are not hired to help you, they are hired to make a case of child neglect against you.
Why are families being targeted by FIA. Most people have the misconception that concerned citizens report child neglect and abuse. This is untrue! A small percentage of my cases involve reports of neglect and abuse from neighbors, family members, friends and school officials. In fact, the majority of my cases involved the family receiving some form of voluntary services from FIA, such as the free programs listed above. In the majority of cases, school officials, such as teachers and counselors, never suspected child abuse or neglect in the families that were prosecuted. Moreover, in most cases the family physicians never suspected child abuse or neglect in the families prosecuted. Families are targeted because FIA must justify its need for State and Federal grants to keep its workers employed.
Currently, FIA receives, in Federal grants, $2,000 to $4,000 per month per child in foster care and $10,000 per child adopted out into permanent homes after the parent's rights have been terminated due to neglect and abuse. The State of Michigan provides matching funds to FIA. Bill Clinton recently signed new legislation providing for an additional $2,000 to $4,000 per month per child in foster care and $10,000 for adoption. FIA is making money hand over fist through our tax dollars. FIA social workers receive bonuses for removing children from their homes and for adoption. The incentive for abuse of power is extremely high and has occurred at alarming rates.
During 1996, Clare County removed 50% of the children in the county for neglect and abuse in the home. It is very hard to comprehend that 50% of the parents in Clare County are neglecting and abusing their children. Clare County is a "demonstration county" that is a pilot county for The Binsfield Laws supported by Federal Grants. These programs involve privatizing the foster care system. The foster care program hires private industry to service the foster care needs of the county children removed from the home.
Currently, Eagle Village in Hersey, Michigan holds the foster care contract for Clare County FIA.
How does the system work? FIA initially offers families free, voluntary services through prevention services to the families on the FOC (Friend of the Court files, AFDC files, Employment Security Commission files, Social Security files, etc.) such as free parenting classes, free nutrition programs, free homemaker services, free budgeting classes, free employment training programs, etc. The prevention worker works closely with the family to coordinate these free services by meeting with the family in their home on a regular basis, once or twice per week. While working with the family, the worker identifies problems areas that put the children at risk for abuse and neglect so as to qualify the family for these free services, such as poor parenting skills, homemaker skills, budgeting skills, and employment seeking skills.
The flip side of this arrangement is that the worker is building a case of neglect and abuse against the parents. Most problems identified are lack of bonding with the children and nurturing due to the parents participation in these free programs. Basically, the parents are putting their needs before the children's needs by focusing on their problems as identified in their participation in these programs. Furthermore, workers in these programs work in tandem with FIA to identify other risk factors such as poor parenting skills, why else would a parent take a free parenting class if they themselves have admitted to having poor parenting skills. Voluntarily entering into these programs is an actual admission to poor parenting, nutrition, homemaker, budgeting, or employment seeking skills that put the child at risk for neglect and abuse that lay the foundation for child protective proceedings in the Probate/Family Court.
The Courts believe that the FIA workers are the professionals and take their word as gold. The parents cannot defend against FIA. The testimony and statements mean nothing in the Probate/Family Court. In fact the Court can issue an emergency pick up order for the children based on only FIA's statements in an ex-parte hearing conduct by the judge and the FIA worker.
The parents are not present during these hearings. The Court will issue an ex-parte emergency order allowing the FIA work to enter the home or child's school to remove the child from the parents custody. The parents do get a hearing approximately two weeks later after the removal of the child but FIA is only required to prove that probable cause exists that the children are at risk of neglect and abuse if they remain in the home.
Approximately 90 days later the parents may have a trial to determine whether by a preponderance of the evidence that the children are at risk to abuse or neglect if they are returned to the home. Most parents plea to abuse or neglect upon FIA's promise that if the parents plea and engage in services they will get their children back sooner. Most parents plea to charges that they have a temper, they have beaten their children by merely spanking them, they have failed to provide the child with medical attention when they had cold symptoms, or they are unable to provide for the basic needs of the child because they are temporarily unemployed. The Court then takes jurisdiction over the children, places them in foster care and orders the parents to follow the Parent/Agency Agreement to be drafted by FIA. FIA then engages in a lengthy and vague process of ordering the parents to engage in specific services, such as individual counseling, parenting classes again, anger management classes and counseling, psychological evaluations, drug and alcohol testing, classes and counseling, etc. Once parents complete these services, FIA informs the parents, usually during a court proceeding that they have not dealt with the proper issues in these programs that initially led to the removal of the children or the parents have not satisfactorily completed the programs because they will not or are not mentally able to comprehend their actions and the affect of their actions that have harmed their children. It is a no win situation. FIA is in complete control of the interpretation of whether the parents have successfully completed the Parent/Agency Agreement.
Furthermore, if the parents elect to participate in FIA's services with their hired agencies, then the parents never successfully complete the Parent/Agency Agreement. These agencies are FIA's hired hands that build a case against the parents. If the parents elect to engage in services provided by professionals of their choice or referred by their HMO or other health care providers, then the parents must pay enormous amount of money for these services and for these professionals to come to court on their behalf to testify. More importantly, the Court views parents hired witnesses as hired hands and discounts any testimony given by these professionals as being adversarial, unbelievable and hired hands of the parents. FIA and some of the Court have gone as far as accusing the parents of failing to comply with the Parent/Agency Agreement by engaging their own professionals for service which has been deemed grounds for termination of parental rights. It is a no win situation that fails to focus on the best interest of the child.
Also, most children are placed with foster parents who intend to adopt the children. The purpose of placement is to find the children a permanent, stable and safe environment which they can live with dignity and respect. The focus in Michigan is no longer keeping families together by repair or rehabilitating parents to properly care for their children. The focus in Michigan and across the country now is to quickly place children into permanent homes. This means the pool of foster parents are usually upper middle class with financial security. The children are then introduced to the finer things in life like Reeboks, Nikes, Starter Jackets, designer clothes, and other luxuries that the average working class or middle class family cannot afford to provide for their children. The children readily associate with their new parents as being the good parents that can provide for their needs and the biological parents as being abnormal, dysfunctional, poor, and unable to meet their new basic needs. Some children do not want to come home because they cannot live the new life provided by their foster parents to which they have become accustomed to during foster care.
This system of protective services and foster care is very disturbing.
During this whole process, Department of FIA is raking in the Federal and State grants to support its preventive, protective, and foster care programs.
These are our tax dollars at work and are being misappropriated and wasted to create a foster care and adoption industry in our state. I am not arguing that there are never cases of child abuse or neglect in this state. There are real case of such that must be meet with the proper social nets. But our current system is froth with abuse of power and waste of precious tax dollars that has created false child abuse and neglect cases for the purpose of creating employment for social workers and private industries providing foster care services, counseling agencies that provide individual therapy and psychological evaluations, and community education programs that provide anger management and parenting classes. All of these agencies are funded by our tax dollars which are being wasted on parents who are only less than perfect and children who are not abused or neglected in the legal sense.
Furthermore, all parents are court ordered to pay child support to the foster parents through the Friend of Court for the care of their children while in foster care. Parents pay on an average of $25.00 to $30.00 per week per child if FIA is providing the foster care family through it county agency. Parents pay approximately $150.00 to $2,000 per month if a private agency is hired by FIA to provide foster care services. Nobody is sure where this money goes once it is paid to the Friend of the Court.
The system of FIA needs to be restructured to make it workers accountable for their actions. Presently, FIA workers have complete immunity from civil actions in the State of Michigan unless a parent can prove that a worker was grossly negligent in the performance of his or her duties. Unfortunately this is impossible to prove. If a parent pleas or the Probate Court finds that its has jurisdiction over the child for neglect and abuse, FIA continues to have jurisdiction over the child and ultimately terminates the parents rights, this will bar any suit against the FIA worker under the immunity doctrine.
Once your child is in the system, FIA and its social workers are not accountable for the worker's actions. The word is gold and the court's accept the workers word as gold. The only recourse a parent has is to appeal the Probate/Family Court's decision which is very expensive. Most of my parents send approximately $10,000 to $20,000 in defending against FIA in child protection cases, even when they plea. Most of my parents end up losing their homes, vehicles, jobs because of court appearances and engagement of professional services, and savings. Most of my parents are forced into bankruptcy.
JANET M. FREDERICK 930 MASON DEARBORN, MICHIGAN 48124 OFFICE: (313) 274-8955
EDUCATION: Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, Michigan Juris Doctor, May 1994 Board of Governors Scholarship: 1993-1994 Native American Law Student Organization: President 1993-1994, 1992-1993, Vice President 1991-1992
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude, June 1990 Major: Public Law and Government Minor: Art Outstanding Senior of the Year Outstanding Junior of the Year Dean's List: 1986-1987, 1987-1988, 1988-1989, 1989-1990 Recognition of Excellence Scholarships: 1987-1988, 1988-1989, 1989-1990 Recognition of Merit Scholarships: 1987-1988, 1988-1989, 1989-1990 Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma, Alpha, Mortar Board, Golden Key National Honor Society, Stoic Society, Outstanding College Students of America
EXPERIENCE Matt W. Zeigler & Associates, P.C., Troy, Michigan; Associate Attorney, January 2, 1996 to June 5, 1996
Crenshaw & McMahon, P.C., Detroit, Michigan; Associate Attorney, March 27, 1995 to December 31, 1995
Sarvis & Herrmann, P. C., Bingham Farms, Michigan; Law Clerk, 1992-1994
Washtenaw County Public Defenders Office, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Intern - Law Clerk, Summer 1991