Taking Off the Kid Gloves

Letters from the week of March 6, 2003

 Little Lives
Evaluating CPS: Thanks to Amy Silverman for another great article on child welfare ("Heaven Help the Child," February 27). She deserves a prize for helping children with her articles.

There are two important statements that will stand out to those of us advocating for system changes:

"Mang saw psychologists make biased evaluations to keep parents from getting their kids back. Often the mental health system failed both children and parents . . ." And a quote from Mang: "Look at the entire system. Don't just focus on CPS as the entire problem."

One of the most critical failures in our system, including Family Court, is use of psychological evaluators. It is a degrading system, charging people thousands of dollars and often ordered by judges. The evaluators call themselves "mental health providers" but they promote more illness than health in the system.

The "biased evaluations" seen by Ms. Mang are seen every day by distraught protective parents in the courts. CPS is not the only problem in court; the psychological evaluators are high on the list of child advocates as a bigger part of the problem. In the view of many child advocates, the worst state law ever written is the "full judicial immunity" for psychological evaluators. Last year Senators Darden Hamilton and David Peterson wrote a simple bill citing "limited immunity" for psychological evaluators if they "lie, commit a criminal act or disregard court orders." The bill failed in family service committee. The immunity law protects evaluators no matter what wrongs they commit.

Even though they don't have the same education as a judge, they are given the same immunity. Lawyers are not given immunity in court and evaluators often make more money than lawyers. The public is forced to pay their enormous fees on top of the legal bills. Some psychological evaluators can wreak as much or more havoc on the lives of children and protective parents as CPS does. Yet they enjoy absolute freedom from victim redress because of their full judicial immunity.

Virginia Chaffin

Insight from a child welfare worker: In reading Amy Silverman's story on CPS, I was impressed with the way Ms. Silverman pegged some of the main players in this statewide child welfare mess for what they actually are.

Take Laura Knaperek, for instance. Silverman didn't have to do much to show up the former legislator for what a true dysfunctional idiot she really is. Her Kafkaesque past record speaks tons of volumes for itself. I have no idea why the people in her district ever elected her in the first place. On a daily basis, Knaperek absolutely demonstrated that she is highly biased, an abuser of power, and she lives in a sort of "la la land" foisting upon us all her stark and narrow views of the world. In some states, her direct past interference with the day-to-day operations of CPS would be a felony. Also take some of the crackpot ideas she had about Model Court and how CPS does removal reviews. The fact that Model Court made things run quicker and ensured a viable time line for improvement and reunification or severance made no difference to her. The fact that the Supreme Court's Foster Care Review Board members and upper management at CPS always performed removal reviews in a timely manner did not suit her at all. Knaperek also believed the courts and the judges are incapable of deciding about the care of children in custody.

Further, Knaperek's flawed beliefs in family preservation need to be examined closely. Again, Knaperek's highly unrealistic and skewed vision of family-based issues is glaring. Truth is, family-based practice does not work. It especially does not work when CPS is not allowed to put teeth into the plans to enforce compliance. It surely does not work when the "social worker mentalities" promote enabling behavior instead of incentive to improvement.

The current Children's Cabinet committee already faces the fate of becoming a mere ineffectual debate society. It also faces a fate of becoming a breeding ground for the "attend a meeting" mentalities.

Everybody already knows what needs to be done. Why waste valuable time with useless meetings? The governor and the very able Noreen Sharp need to wade in and start kicking asses. The clock is ticking on Arizona's children.

Name withheld by request

Mind Matter
Thinking man: Two quick thoughts on the issue of pedophilia your paper raised ("Very Bad Thoughts," Susy Buchanan, February 6). First, what makes a civilization "civilized" is that its people have taken responsibility for their actions. And they have restrained their passions for the good of others. Imagine if it was "who I am" that every time someone made me mad I punched and robbed them. Now this is obviously a hyperbole, but it makes my point. Just where do we draw the line?

Part of what's "not right" in our culture is that we have rejected the standard of what is right, and everyone does what is "right" in their own eyes. And a little thought tells you where this leads Ė who determines what is right?

Second, if the gentleman in your article and anyone like him wants help, the best thing is to take up the needs of the poor and afflicted. Because what you will find is other people's needs are greater than yours and you will soon forget all about your problems. I would suggest volunteering in a nursing home or a soup kitchen.

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