by Monica Mears
Health Impact News
A fight is raging across Arizona – parents, foster parents, activists, lawyers and even the Arizona Republic are refusing to back down against the state’s apathetic resistance to real, meaningful solutions for its outrageous record as the top state in the nation for child removals.
Arizona has taken children out of their homes at a rate far higher than any other state in the country. And Phoenix (Maricopa county) ranks as the city with the highest rate of child removals by CPS – higher than New York, L.A., or any other major U.S. city. (Source.)
The state’s shameful record goes back a decade or more, and frequently opposition has been disconnected or silenced. More and more families have been destroyed, children lost, and lives broken.
But no more – activists, legislators and local media are gaining strength and momentum.
Battle for Warrants and Parents’ 4th Amendment Rights
The fight for warrants to protect parents’ fourth amendment constitutional rights is one skirmish among several. That’s right – in the surreal world of child protective services, it does not even require a judge’s order to remove a child from their home. Hearsay and subjective opinion are all that are needed to destroy a family.
This past February, Arizona HB 2507 was proposed to require Arizona DCS to obtain a warrant prior to removing children from their families.
State representative Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) introduced the bill, which was then killed by House Health Committee Chairwoman Heather Carter, who refused to bring it up for discussion.
No explanation was given.
Representative Townsend spoke out on her Facebook page:
I cannot tell you how much this breaks my heart. The trauma of a dirty home versus the trauma of removing a child from their parents and placing them in a broken foster system carries no comparison.
The permanent damage done to children who are really not in danger but in a situation that does not measure up to our expectation as a society is permanent. We tried to prevent trauma to children and in the process we inflicted harm deeper than any dirty house could ever begin to. These children who are placed into our system are now at risk of lifelong issues.
Furthermore, at what point are we going to start respecting the Fourth Amendment that requires a warrant? We have surrendered our rights at the airport and apparently in the home. I’m hopeful we are moving in the right direction, but my heart is faint.
Lies, Cover-up and Months of Separation from Family are the Norm for Arizona Stealing Kids
One activist has experienced very personally Arizona DCS’ arrogance and destructive actions.
Del McArdle walked into Arizona’s Durango court house in 2015 to file what he assumed was routine paperwork.
On his way in, he noticed two ladies protesting. Del had agreed to become the non-contested guardian of his 15-year-old nephew, who had already been living with him for several years.
There was no legal reason for any involvement by DCS.
But that day, the ladies protesting at DCS offices warned him that DCS was not the benign protector of children that most citizens assumed, and cautioned him not to come to the department’s attention, even for something as simple as filing a non-contested guardianship.
“I thought they were crazy,” Del says. It sounded like a paranoid conspiracy theory to him, since he was following the law and it was an uncontested case.
Several months passed, as the legal process and papers wound through the system.
Then one day last January, Del answered a call from his brother, who had just gotten a text from his nephew.
He said DCS had taken him from his high school and that he was not being allowed to contact me directly.
The case worker had claimed to the judge that Del was being difficult to schedule a home visit and that she never met his nephew.
This was allegedly an outright lie. Del states:
I can prove perjury as I have the sign-in log from my nephew’s high school and the seizing worker interviewed my nephew several times – which she lies about in her report.
This is a recording at the DCS central office in Phoenix, where Del raced minutes after he learned his nephew was seized.
The case worker purportedly misunderstood the judge dismissing my case to mean she should seize my nephew from his high school. I explained I still had guardianship and they ran out of the room after they understood.
The DCS staff speaking in the video is Melissa Zeller.
The judge, angered by the case worker’s blatant lie, dismissed McArdle’s case for permanent guardianship.
“My temporary guardianship wasn’t impacted and my sister still had all her legal rights,” he says. “Commissioner Garfinkel affirmed my guardianship for DCS days after this.”
This relief was short-lived for Del.
Despite clear evidence that there was no wrong doing of any kind, and that in fact the case worker had lied:
They still held my nephew for 142 days after and made contrived allegations against my nephew, sister, and me to cover their behinds before a new judge dismissed the case again.
Now subjected to the foster system, McArdle’s nephew also endured an organization apparently created to deceive. He was reportedly told his uncle no longer wanted him, when in fact his uncle virtually ignored his real estate business while pouring all his resources into getting his nephew home again.
Arizona DCS kept McArdle’s nephew for almost five long months.
One simple solution might have stopped McArdle’s and his nephew’s nightmare.
The simple requirement that a case worker needed to obtain a warrant before removing a child.
“It was never the judge’s will to have my nephew seized,” Del says. “The case workers blamed it on the judge and if they were acting with warrants they would have never been able to touch him.”
The social worker involved first badly mishandled the case by removing McArdle’s nephew from his home, then stumbled through a series of blunders, then lied to the judge and ultimately kept the boy from his home for months in an elaborate cover-up.
A warrant might have stopped it from ever occurring.
The Fight for Reform in Corrupt Arizona
Once McArdle finally brought his nephew home, he began to fight for reform against DCS’ “seize-happy” removal policy, and now dedicates half of his time to the task.
Throughout the past traumatic year, McArdle kept a poster in his office with a date: January 26, 2017. It was the date his nephew had been removed last year, and it represented his goal to have warrant reform implemented by this year.
A passionate advocate with People Demanding Action and Committee Chair for Legal Justice, the grassroots non-profit group’s arm that works for DCS reform, McArdle worked to support passage of Townsend’s bill.
DCS Director Greg McCay recently instituted a policy that case workers obtain warrants before removing children, but “putting it into the law gives it teeth,” McArdle believes.
Given the department’s many transgressions and in some cases complete disregard for both its own policies as well as the law, the new DCS policy appears to be more PR window dressing than anything substantive.
He feels that Governor Ducey and DCS worked to bury Townsend’s bill, but says he thinks “there’s too much outrage” to stop the bill.
GOP Lawmakers Kill Bill that would have Protected Parents from Lies of Dishonest Social Workers
Another lawmaker stepped into the gap after Townsend’s bill was killed. SB1003, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto, sought to establish a legislative committee to oversee DCS by adding a pilot program on warrants. Townsend then added amendments defending parents right to due process and prohibits social workers from lying to parents. According to the Arizona Republic, her amendments included:
- A prohibition on DCS using any tools that analyze voice stress when conducting child-neglect investigations. This addresses a practice the agency appeared ready to embark upon until it drew media attention.
- A stipulation that the agency make quarterly reports on the number of court orders it obtained prior to taking a child.
- A prohibition on DCS staffers lying, withholding critical information, making up evidence or not disclosing evidence that would point to someone’s guilt when dealing with their supervisors or the Juvenile Court.
“Which one of you is going to vote that it’s OK for social workers to lie in order to remove a child?” the Republic records Townsend asking her colleagues. “This needs to be done. Our DCS needs to be held accountable.”
This week, the bill has effectively died. See:
California Civil Rights Attorney Sues Arizona in Federal Court
In recent years, California civil righs attorney Shawn McMillan has won millions of dollars from an array of California counties for “warrantless removals,” as they are called.
He has also won federal injunctions requiring counties to get court orders for all non-emergency cases in which a child is taken away from his or her parents.
After those injunctions, many counties saw the number of children taken away from parents fall sharply. Even as removals stayed flat in California statewide, they fell 26 percent in Orange County, 25 percent in Riverside County and 22 percent in San Joaquin County in the one or two years after each began requiring court orders for non-emergency removals, according to data from California’s Department of Social Services.
McMillan is now representing an Arizona family in a federal suit filed in 2014 against Arizona over the warrantless removal of their children. The suit, Pellerin vs. Wagner, seeks damages and an injunction requiring DCS caseworkers to seek court orders before removing children.
Health Impact News family stories on Medical Kidnappings in Arizona:
Other articles exposing the corruption in Arizona:
Comment on this article at MedicalKidnap.com.
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