Public Enemy Number One

She went after CPS -- but now the state may be coming after her

Robin Scoins is the perfect face for the argument against Arizona Child Protective Services. And she believes that's exactly why she's drawn the ire of state representative Pete Hershberger.

Three years ago, Scoins lost her newborn son to CPS custody. The agency claimed, falsely, that she'd tested positive for crystal meth; it took nine months to sort out what proved to be a sloppy mistake and get her little boy out of foster care.

Today, Scoins devotes her time to parenting her four kids — and to fighting CPS. As the founder, executive director, and sole staffer of the Arizona Family Rights Advocacy Institute, she helps families with their custody battles, inveighs against legislative efforts to increase CPS funding, and pushes for laws that increase parental rights.

Robin Scoins got involved fighting CPS after her son was taken from her in 2003.
Martha Strachan
Robin Scoins got involved fighting CPS after her son was taken from her in 2003.

Details

E-mail Sarah Fenske, or call 602-440-1130.

She's had some victories. Typically, the Legislature will renew an agency's mandate for 10 years; with Scoins on the attack last year, CPS's parent agency, the Department of Economic Security, was renewed for only two. She was also able to draw attention to social workers who raised complaints about the agency's operations in Kingman (see "Suffer the Children," October 26, 2006).

And Scoins knows how to work the bully pulpit. If nothing else, her story provides great political cover for CPS critics like Senator Karen Johnson, a Mesa Republican. It can be difficult, politically, to criticize an agency that fights child abuse. It's a lot easier when you have an example of a non-abusive mom, like Scoins, caught in its bureaucratic net.

But despite her success at the Capitol, and despite the fancy title, Robin Scoins is no Jack Abramoff. She lives on Social Security and does her advocacy work from the bedroom of her Section 8 apartment — because, as she explains, "I don't even have a kitchen table." She has no funding, not even from the families she advocates for, although sometimes they'll help out by babysitting. She's never wined or dined a legislator in her life.

But is she a lobbyist? That's the question that could cost her up to $1,000 or even a misdemeanor conviction.

Under Arizona law, lobbyists must register every two years and pay a $25 registration fee. They must also file annual reports.

Scoins never did any of that. And last month, Representative Pete Hershberger, a Republican from Tucson, wrote the secretary of state to request that the office investigate whether Scoins is "properly registered for the activities she is undertaking." He then forwarded the letter to the attorney general and Maricopa County attorney.

Hershberger chairs the House's Human Services Committee and is one of the Legislature's most outspoken CPS supporters. While many Republicans harshly criticized the agency's Napolitano-era mandate to prioritize child safety above family preservation, Hershberger applauded it. When Napolitano asked for $34 million for the agency in 2003's landmark "CPS reform" special session, House Republicans countered with $1.7 million. Hershberger crafted the compromise that got CPS $17 million instead.

As Hershberger pointed out in his letter, Scoins has signed in at committee meetings as a representative of her family rights institute. The secretary of state's "lobbyist handbook" suggests that could be enough, in and of itself, to trigger a violation, although an actual penalty would require Scoins to have "knowingly" failed to follow the rules.

Joseph Kanefield, the state election director for Secretary of State Jan Brewer, acknowledges that complaints like Hershberger's are highly unusual. "I can tell you that it's the first one we've gotten this session," he says. It'll be up to his office to determine whether there's "reasonable cause" to suspect that a violation occurred. If there is, he says, the case would go to Goddard.

Kanefield sent a letter to Scoins on March 8 with two questions: Was she paid by the family advocacy institute to lobby the Legislature? And had she spent any money to woo legislators — say, buying them lunch?

Scoins has done neither, as she explained in her reply to Kanefield last week.

"At no time have I ever presented myself as a lobbyist, and in fact stated in public hearings, that I am NOT a lobbyist and I am not paid by anyone to speak in support of or in opposition of any bill," she wrote. "I have not been paid to provide testimony at the request of a legislator as a citizen expert on CPS issues. I am a mother, who volunteers time to help others exercising my right to participate in government processes."

Kanefield says it's too early to say whether Scoins must register just because she represents a group. The law is complicated; Kanefield doesn't want to comment on the merits of the complaint until his office's investigation is done.

But others are crying foul on Hershberger.

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona chapter of the ACLU, says he's waiting for the secretary of state's decision before he gets involved. But if lobbying laws are used to stop a citizen from speaking in front of a committee, even if that citizen is part of a bigger group, he believes it "would raise significant First Amendment issues."

And Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and an outspoken critic of CPS, calls Hershberger's complaint "absolutely unheard of."

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15 comments
Dorothy Knightly
Dorothy Knightly

I commend Robin Scoins for her fight against CPS. I live in N.H. and have been fighting them for the return of my grandchildren, fraudelently taken from their mother's. My husband and I were denied custody of them because I told them I would prove my daughter's innocence, which I have. The children have not been returned as the Judges only listen to CPS. They don't care that the kid's were taken illegally, as long as CPS get's what they want.CPS is the scum of the earth. In Nashua we are also living the Holocaust all over again, just as so many other cities and states are in our country. Our country fought for the Jewish, who will fight for us? The more we fight their fraudelent practice's, along with our UNJUST Justice System, the more hated we are. That's just too bad. If we don't stand up for our right's, who will? I only wish we had someone like Robin in N.H. to help us fight back. Will our Government ever listen to the truth and strip these monster's of their power? Robin, keep up the good work. We will win!

dana
dana

CPS strikes again! They terrorize not only this woman who has enough courage to stand against them and helps families fight them who desperately need her help, they ignore real abuse. I know of a 10 year old girl who was shown pictures of a naked woman and told they were her mother. When CPS was called to investigate, they informed the mother of that child that though it might be inappropriate, there was nothing illegle about it and they would not be filing a report. They then disconnected her without so much as a goodbye. The mother called them back and when she asked why it was not considered a felony to CPS when it is in the Arizona Revised Statute as such, they told her to call a local policeman and disconnected her again. So another child goes on to be abused with every action screaming of the abuse, and nothing is done. Money seems to be the only motivator.

Jan James
Jan James

You people are SO wrong!! CPS isn't this God given organization out there to protect our children. They are a terrorist organization out there to line their pockets with federal funds for kidnapping our children! Best interest of the child? No! Best interest of the "agency" is what they are going for. CPS needs to be abolished and rebuilt from the vision up!!

Jan James

Help stop the REAL terrorism in America........Child "Protective" Services

walt Plunkett
walt Plunkett

I am from Mr. Hershberger's district and two years ago sent him a letter--not asking for assistance, but how the laws are shaped that could allow CPS to act as Governor Napolitano's GESTAPO. It was a polite letter -- not like this one as I have become jaded over the exposure to the incompetence of CPS, the legislature, the courts and people like Mr. Hershberger who have no clue, no concept of the anguish created. Took REPRESENTATIVE hersberger six months to answer me- and it was with a a cheery HI__WAZZZUP? Robin Scoins has more integrety in her little finger than all of Mr. Hershbergers Bluster.

Ricky Gene Thompson
Ricky Gene Thompson

Maybe we the people of arizona should rewrite the laws on what legislaturists can do. This seems to be a conflict of interest Hershberger should not be on that committee while accepting money from companies that directly benefit from his work. H.,, who is the actual lobbist here?

Mike
Mike

I know Robin Scoins and she came to my aid also. I also know the system will do anything they can to silence her, this I have seen first hand. She like I do know the truth about CPS. They care nothing about family. There money comes from the federal government provided by the kids they steal from the poor. I tried to fight them too. I hired an lawyer maxed out all my credit cards to no avail, I will be a old man now by the time I pay all this off. Yet CPS got there federal money now. I did nothing to endanger my children, but they wanted them and went on the witch hunt. CPS is all about there federal money not family. I have not seen or talked to my children since September 1rst 2006. CPS listens to none of my concerns and there system offers NO family restoration as they claim. I have been raising children for 25 years of my life now I am even a grandfather and it only takes one intake worker (I had made a complaint on before) to destroy and twist a family. I fear mine can never be repaired now. I pray that Robin can continue to educate the public and get all the press she can to expose CPS and there over power to destroy family not restore family.

Mike & Kaylee edwards
Mike & Kaylee edwards

Robin has and her group were a great source of support and hope during one of the most difficult times of my life.She never gave up on me and never let me give up fighting for what was right,the return of my daughter kaylee. I truly believe that things would have ended diffrent if Robin and her friends hadn't been there.I am proud to say that Robin is a friend of mine.

Georgia
Georgia

This is an outrage and is never covered by the mainstream press! I know Robin Scoins, she is a tireless worker and helps manypeople for free.I am glad to see that someone cares enough to tell her story.Please check the April 2, 2007 article in azstarnet.com byRichard Wexler and know that he did an hour program on NPRtell how "broken" CPS is nationwide. Don't kid yourself. Itis a "growth business". That growth depends on taking kidsand completing adoptions in order to get the federal money.

William Marro
William Marro

The enemy is CPS! It is tier war agaist traditional familys that is the problem. Robin Scoins is a person who has more caring in her little finger than the whole of CPS.The people who are trying to discredit her have NO honor!I for one support her efforts!To use your power as a legislator to silence any one who opposes you is corrupt at best.

Ther should be more repots of, CPS failure and the legislators failure to do anything about it!!!!!

EndGame
EndGame

or every Child Child Protective Services actually Helps out of a Bad situation they Harm or Destroy Several Dozen Good and Innocent Low income Families and the Statistics Support This, THEIR OWN STATISTICS....

Child Protective Services makes no distinction between poverty and neglect, Most of the children in arizona foster care right now, were removed from their home for (neglect) something that Might Happen ( if left in a messy home they might get Sick.)"MESSY HOUSE SYNDROME" ( basically the lack of a dishwasher). Instead of something that did Happen, like physical or emotional abuse or not having enough to eat and the statistics showthat the children removed from their home for neglect would be far safer if you simply left them alone, then they would be in foster care or adopted out to someone where they are for more likely to be raped, murdered, physically abused or go hungry then in their own home...

Why doesn't governor Janet Napolitano do anything about what's happening? In my opinion it's because the State of Arizona makes a Fortune off the Federal Dollars given to the State for each child in foster care, and even more moneyfor every child adopted out of foster care basically [ YOUR CHILDREN FOR SALE ]

Lisa
Lisa

Leave the lady alone. She is taking care of her children.

EndGame
EndGame

I am sick and tired of listening to Janet Napolitano Praise Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King jr. out of one side of her face while knowingly making a mockery of everything he stood for out of the other side, By allowing Arizona's Child Protective Services to violate every Constitutional and Civil Right low-income Families have without putting a stop to it,

The Civil Rights Martin Luther King jr. and others fought so long and hard for are meaningless in the eyes of the current administration if you are Poor...

Everybody talks about how the NSA/CIA is violating your civil rights by listening in on your communications. But nobody is talking about Arizona's Hidden Holocaust, the Destruction of Hundreds of Good and Innocent Low-Income Families by Child Protective Services...

Currently Child Protective Services violates more civil rights on a daily basis then all other agencies combined, Including the NSA/CIA wiretaping program...

Personally, I Do Not appreciate Arizona's Child Protective Services using the Constitution of the United States as Toilet Paper in a Time of War, while the Good Men and Women of our Armed Forces are Fighting and Dying for It.

AudBall
AudBall

Yet again, the "Man" takes his power to silence the good. This person is trying to make a difference in a system that doesn't always work. She is a solo activist... I bet even non profit, too.

Wake Up America, your voices are being taken away! So much for freedom of speech.......

Carolynn
Carolynn

In reading this story, I see yet one more attempt to issolate the general public from it's government and continuing to strengthen and support a great wall between the government and its' people. I could see if this woman was being paid, drawing a paycheck or receiving financial dispensations for her advocacy and lobbying. But, to go after this woman merely because she is in support of a position that is contrary to one held by a government official only serves to widden the gap between the government and its' people. (a little revolution is a good thing, every now and again)

 
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