Archive for September 2010
Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Article first published as Child Abuse, Lies and DCFS: A Dirty Job on Technorati.
The controversy surrounding the DCFS that last few weeks has begun to take on the form of a freedom of press issue.
Investigators suing the department (make that Trish Ploehn) for racial discrimination have been transferred after making allegations of cover-ups with regards to deaths of children who came into contact with the department.
I won’t comment on the discrimination case without access to facts, just as I won’t comment on the allegations by Elgin Baylor (who was the longest-serving general manager in the NBA) accusation of racial discrimination towards the owner of the LA Clippers. But I digress.
When one criticizes the Department of Children and Family services, it is always important to distinguish those critiques from the angry attacks by birth parents with a bone (or worse) to pick with the department.
Indeed one glance at my mail bag these days reveals an awful lot of parents who had their children taken away from them by social workers who hope I will join them on their crusade against the injustice of it all.
More than a few of these communications appear a bit unbalanced, and the writer would be much better off hiring an attorney as well as jumping through whatever hoops the county has set for them to get their children back.
Such ‘hoops’ while received with anger are usually sensible things such as providing a safe place for the children to live, the parents participation in parenting classes and therapy, and a series of clean drug tests.
The latter, in my experience, has proven especially difficult for some parents. All too often the parent’s anger is misdirected as their children, who they abused and neglected, languish for months if not years in foster care, usually going to several homes before they are finally through with the system.
Often they believe blame lies with the foster parent, the system, the social worker, the police, or anyone else beyond the reflection in the mirror. The loser of course as always is the child.
Yes there are infrequent cases of children being improperly detained or placed into inappropriate foster homes but this doesn’t negate the need to have such a system in the first place.
The argument then becomes the degree to which such detention occurs. In other words, how many children with parents or guardians suspected of abuse or neglect get properly placed into foster care while the county in its slow bureaucratic way determines the best needs of the child?
Some experts accuse the LA Times of spreading a “foster care panic,” causing DCFS to remove many more children than necessary in order to protect the county from law suits stemming from deaths or injuries when left at their homes after contact with social workers.
Other experts attempt to work with DCFS using “solution based journalism” to advocate or design policies which will help heal the deficiencies which too many of us appear so obvious.
That legitimate critique seems limited to self-serving politicians and a few bloggers seems beside the point.
A legitimate journalist can only critique “the system,” as far as presenting facts such as the deaths of abused and neglected children in foster care, or publishing the exorbitant salaries of minimally educated Foster Agency CEO’s who use an uncorrected loophole to enrich themselves at the expense of abused children.
An agency of 6,500 individuals with a budget of billions of dollars each year deserves greater scrutiny than the bleating of Ridley Thomas or Zev Yaroslovsky, the irrational sheiks of unbalanced parents, the quiet cries from the legitimately aggrieved and the road blocked efforts of a LA Times or Daily News.
When DCFS spends so much of its legal resources keeping information hidden from reporters we have a problem.
And as always the loser remains our children.
A Readers Thoughts and Criticisms Regarding the Below Piece on Medication
The Business of Child Abuse
I received a critique on my most recent piece regarding medication and foster children. Rather than include this under “comments,” I thought them important and deserving enough for their own post.
I have permission from the unnamed writer to paraphrase and combine a number of thoughts. My own answers to these succinct criticisms are in paragraphs within the piece.
The author makes a number of important points and asks a very good question regarding the suicide of Jorge Tarin, the 11-year-old who hanged himself after several contacts with DCFS and mental health workers.
Below is the combination and paraphrase of these comments.
Joshua Allen K8WGS6KDV2K8
A subject like psychotropic is quite complicated and has many, many entangled issues. Once a foster child is on a psychotropic, they are on it forever because there is very little follow-up. (Well sometimes…)
Psychotropic medication has serious side-effects that no one talks about, especially for children in which there have been no long-term follow-up studies.
If a child is depressed because he gets placed in foster care and then gets prescribed an antidepressant, how long does he stay on it? How long does a kid stay on Ritalin? These drugs and the assumptions underlying their usage dictate that one is on them forever. (Well I’m not sure about that…)
There is also the issue that ALL prescribed medications, particularly psychotropic, robs your body of nutrients and is highly acidic.
The Psychotropic Medication Desk is “manned” by a psychiatrist who reviews all requested authorization for appropriateness.
He or she then sends it to the court for approval if they feel it is appropriate, i.e., that what they put on the request makes medical sense.
If the reviewing psychiatrist approves it, the judge always approves it. You made it sound like the judge approves all psychotropic medications prescribed by a physician (psychiatrist or otherwise). (Guilty, oops)
I have seen, but only rarely, a request sent back from the Desk to the prescribing physician for clarification and–in one case–for refusal.
There is a key issue you neglected. All psychotropic medication is approved for adult use. But physicians have the privilege of ( Note from Joshua Allen: I did touch on this with regards to the psychiatrist prescribing a mixture of Seroquel and Abilify see first paragraph below) prescribing for “off-label” usage.
This is where the abuse comes in. They (psychiatrists) are experimenting with children, some as young as 2 and 3 with this stuff. And while you touched on it, most of these doctors never interview or observe the child; they just go on what an adult (social worker, foster parent, and teacher) tells them.
You also neglected to mention the mismanagement of psychotropic, the “skull and cross-bones” that have been implemented for some usage, e.g., the warning about suicide rates from prescribing antidepressants when used by teenagers.
Foster kids get moved around so much and lose their medications in their moves. Sudden stoppage brings about depression and suicidal thoughts–sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Was the kid that hanged himself (Jorge Tarin) with the jump rope on psychotropic?
(Darn good question!)
Was he prescribed them in the past? How long ago and how many times?