A heartbreaking case in Rice County is a compelling example of how a child can get caught in a tug-of-war in the child protection system in Minnesota.
Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a juvenile court and the county coerced parents of a child apparently in need of mental health treatment to admit that the need for intervention "are (is) due to deficiencies in their parenting."
The story starts in November 2010 when the teenager ran away from home. Police brought him home but the police officer thought he'd be at risk there, so he was placed on a 72-hour emergency "hold." Rice County, through a social worker, petitioned the juvenile court to determine that he was a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS).
At a hearing last winter, a juvenile court judge told the parents, "If you want to admit that your son has special care needs and you're unable to provide those, that is not saying that you're not a good parent. That's saying (the child) has special care need and you're not ... the Mayo Clinic and you're not a psychiatrist ..."
"I am a damn good mother," the woman insisted.
The parents admitted to the petition for services, believing their son would be placed at Gerard Academy, a residential treatment facility, at county expense. Instead, their child was put in foster care. The county, according to the Appeals Court, then claimed the placement "was necessary to keep him safe from his parents."
The parents tried to withdraw their petition, but a court refused.
In a decision today, Appeals Court Judge Terri J. Stoneburner suggested the county was threatening to withhold any services unless the parents admitted to the petition, writing that "a threat to act in a manner that is not in a child's best interests constitutes a manifest injustice" in ordering the decision overturned.
In a dissent, however, Appeals Court Judge Heidi S. Schellhas said the father of the child had been charged with physical abuse and that the parents had previously told Rice County "they did not want him back in their home." And that the teen didn't want to return home after running away because he was afraid of punishment.
She said the juvenile court was clear that the parents would not be able to dictate the services their child would get once they signed the paperwork, and that the parents were free to place their child in a treatment program of their choice at their own expense instead.
"The district court considered all of the parents' argument in connection with their motions to withdraw their admission, and, in my opinion, properly rejected their arguments and denied their motions," she said.
The case settles who won the right to withdraw the petition for services. What it doesn't clear up is what happens to the teenager caught in the middle. I've placed calls to his public defender for clarification.
Find the entire opinion here.
Is that last line an intimation that the public defender was somehow to blame?
I don't see how it could be taken that way. The PD is the person who has represented him at the hearings. The other attorneys have represented the parents, and the county.
You are right Bob, it is heart- breaking to see how a system doesn't work because everyone involved in the problem is trying to cover their tracks for what they did or didn't do.
While all these people are trying to keekp their reputation, what lies in the wake of the aftermath of their dysfunction are those innocent who didin't deserve any of it and what they know so far as the total sum of their life's experience is strife. That is not fair.
That is injustice-in my opinion.
This article from the Pi-Press is quite telling as to why this is happening: http://www.startribune.com/local/east/129345548.html
...and I'm well aware of the fact that the PD advocates for the child.
If only somebody had written about that aspect of the child protection system 7 months ago.
Yes, you told us so, Bob, way back in February.
///Most of the attention has focused on its impact on state workers. Little of it has focused on whether Minnesota is adequately protecting children from abuse.
And it was clear from today's debate that few legislators knew the answer to that question, and weren't much interested in finding one, either. Most everyone agrees children should be protected, most everyone says government has a role in protecting the most vulnerable, and most everyone seems to agree that children fit that category. And yet, there's the cut in the first budget bill to go before the full Senate, rather than the last.
Committee heads refused to answer questions from senators when they were asked about the cuts today.
"This is a generous state," Rep. Geoff Michel declared. "And it will be a generous state after this bill passes."//
A generous 'state' indeed! One that pounds it's chest boasting of the fine parks, monuments, bird species and let's not forget the buildings! How 'bout that Target Field!
// Most of the attention has focused on its impact on state workers... //
Maybe in the context of how there might be fewer people to do the critical work of an agency trying to help the children?
Rice county social workers are not even real social workers. They are mostly office workers promoted from within to take on CPS jobs. It saves the county the money of hiring L.S.W.'s. They give them the label 'social worker', however, when really they are not. Rice county is the most corrupt place ever. It is by far the most bizarre place I have ever lived. I call it dystopia. That's the best way to explain it. I went through a case with CPS where they forced me to 'admit' a bunch of things that were bull, too. They don't protect who they should and over protect people they need to leave alone. Quotas are interesting, aren't they? CPS is crooked and in need of reform everywhere in this country. Nowadays if your child colors outside the lines it's because you are a bad parent. They need to get real.