They also take the blame for those who slip through the cracks.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced on June 12 changes to the Atlanta Division of Family and Children Services after numerous child deaths occurred during DFCS’ involvement. Deal hired a new head of DFCS, Bobby Cagle, and also said DFCS would no longer report to the Department of Human Services, but to him directly.
Similar problems confront state leaders across the U.S.
Arizona’s Child Protective Services made headlines in November 2013 for its part in reports that more than 6,500 abuse cases had to be reinvestigated.
In April 2014, five workers were fired for closing hundreds of cases that they deemed less important. They said they did so because they were instructed by superiors to cut back on the influx of cases.
The problem was underfunding for the child welfare program in Arizona, the workers claimed.
Funding cuts, understaffing and difficulty finding appropriate foster and adoptive parents have made it hard to place children into safe homes, they said. But that is still not considered an excuse for negligent behavior.
Gov. Jan Brewer said improving CPS in Arizona is her top priority. A new Department of Child Safety will replace the old Child Protective Services Department, and the Arizona Senate gave initial approval of $63 million to fund better services, which will soon come to a vote in the state House.
Arizona leaders hope the plan will pass and become a model for other states.
Atlanta recently saw a high-profile abuse case in November 2013, where a 10-year-old girl was starved, poisoned and burned by her father and stepmother, even after repeated child abuse reports were sent to the Division of Family and Children Services. The accusations of abuse in the household were continuously reviewed and closed up until the child’s death. Two other cases of child abuse led DFCS workers in Atlanta to be fired.
In Georgia’s 2015 Fiscal Year Human Services Budget, officials proposed that Child Protective Services will have $7.4 million more than in 2014, and 175 additional workers will be hired. This could help improve child care in Georgia.
What should be expected from Child Protective Services agencies nationwide had been questioned by former Georgia State Sen. Nancy Schaefer, whose widely publicized dismay for the nationwide organization caused a lot of controversy.
In December 2007, Schaefer reported in The Corrupt Business of Child Protective Services, that CPS organizations nationwide were dysfunctional and she tried to warn parents and families of the dangers before she and her husband were found dead in their home on March 26, 2010. Several conspiracy theories of foul play were discussed, but investigators concluded that Bruce Schaefer, Nancy’s husband, shot her once in the back, and himself in the chest.
Schaefer said in the report, “Child Protective Services has become a ‘protected empire’ built on taking children and separating families.”
She said that parents are victimized by “the system” that makes a profit from holding children longer and receives “bonuses” for not returning their children.
The report claimed that CPS is causing children and parents to get caught up in legal kidnapping, ineffective policies. It also charged that children enduring torment and abuse were not removed from danger by the Department of Family and Children Services.
Schaefer cited the example of DFCS’ failure to remove six severely abused children from their home. One child was beaten with a baseball bat and stitched up with red thread by the father who beat him before the child was removed from the home.
“The egregious acts and abhorrent behavior of officials who are supposed to protect children can no longer be tolerated,” Schaefer said in the report. “Children deserve better. Families deserve better. It’s time to pull back the curtain and set our children and families free.”
Author Brenda Scott is among others who have criticized CPS. In her 1994 book Out of Control: Who’s Watching Our Child Protection Agencies, she went so far as to say that insufficient checks and balances have caused the very system designed to protect children to become the greatest perpetrator of harm.
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1998 also reported that six times as many children died in foster care than in the general public and that once removed to official “safety,” these children were far more likely than the general population to suffer abuse, including sexual molestation.
Child Protective Services and other child service agencies nationwide have struggled with criticism from the media for decades, and in 2014, still have major setbacks as more child abuse cases continue to unravel.