Blogs by Deborah K. Frontiera
2/1/2012 7:07:42 AM
The purpose of this blog is to provide updates on some of the cases I reported in my book (Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges ISBN 9-780-9800061-6-2) that had not been resolved when the book went to press, and to report other cases where CPS is not working up to par. I’d also like to hear about cases in which Child Protective Services did the right thing so those cases can serve as examples of what should be done. Occasionally, I will report helpful tips and web sites with advice on fighting CPS.
To comment on this blog, or to tell your story, email Deborah Frontiera at frontiera.fightingcps.deborah.gmail.com
From this week on, this blog will post new material every other week, instead of every week. Look for the next post Feb. 13, 2012
My apology for the delay in this post. My internet service is out at my home office and I'm "living in" starbucks.
Extra Help for Kids Who Need It
I was aware of, but did not know much about, Child Advocates in Houston for many years before we were ever involved with CPS. At one point in our case, it was mentioned that we/James should have a Child Advocate assigned to us. Thinking that might help us find someone who would really listen to our side, I called that agency only to be told that we had to have a judge’s order for an advocate to be assigned. That never happened.
Still curious, I visited their web site to learn more about them, and yes, what follows is copy/pasted from sections of the Harris County site’s FAQ section. There is MUCH more on their site and I strongly recommend that anyone interested visit the site and read thoroughly: www.childadvocates.org
There are Child Advocate groups across the country and the national site is:
What is Child Advocates, Inc.?
Child Advocates, Inc. is a private nonprofit organization that is Harris County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. We mobilize Court Appointed Advocate volunteers to break the cycle of child abuse. We speak up for abused children who are lost in the system and guide them into safe environments where they can thrive. Child Advocates volunteers serve children who have been placed in foster care because they can no longer live safely at home. Our volunteers are appointed by juvenile and family court judges to serve as a child’s “guardian ad litem,” which gives them the power to make a profound difference in that child’s life.
How does Child Advocates operate?
Our work begins after children who have experienced life-threatening abuse or neglect are removed from their home by Child Protective Services (CPS) and placed into a foster home.
Each of our volunteers has completed a 30-hour training course called Advocacy University taught by Child Advocates staff. Prominent professionals such as judges and CPS employees also teach some portions of the training sessions. After graduating from AU, clearing all background checks and being sworn in by a judge, the volunteers are assigned to a case under the supervision of one of Child Advocates' professional caseworkers, known as Advocacy Coordinators (ACs).
What does a court appointed advocate do?
Once appointed by a judge, our court appointed advocate volunteers begin a process of information gathering with the goal of guiding abused children out of the foster care system. They identify the child's needs and ensure they receive critical rehabilitative services. They act as a communications link between the child, the courts and everyone involved in the case, including parents, caregivers, relatives, caseworkers, attorneys and therapists. Volunteers gather all the pertinent information about their child's case and make recommendations to the judge based on that information.
What type of person makes a good Child Advocates volunteer?
Volunteers come from all careers, cultures, educational backgrounds, ages, and experiences - that's what makes this program work. The primary requirements for being a court appointed advocate volunteer with Child Advocates are that you have a genuine interest in the well being of children, are a proactive communicator and complete our Advocacy University training course. Court appointed advocate volunteers are objective, responsible, committed, persistent and understand the important role they have in a child's life. Both men and women are needed as volunteers and you need to be at least 21 years of age.
How much time does it take to be a Child Advocates' volunteer?
In the same amount of time you spend each week doing something ordinary, like attending a movie, you can do something extraordinary: change the life of an abused child. Volunteers average 2 to 5 hours of casework per week (8 to 20 hours per month). Most of our volunteers work full-time.
What are Child Advocates' goals and what progress has been made toward achieving those goals?
On any given day, there are more than 5,500 children in foster care in Harris County, more than any other county in Texas. In fact, Harris County has more children in foster care than at least 16 states. Yet high caseloads prevent Child Protective Services caseworkers from giving these children the individual attention they deserve.
One friend who had been involved with CASA told me the following:
“My position with CASA was short lived. I went through all of the training and then as soon as I finished, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's so I didn't take on a case with CASA. I focused on mom and then lost my interest in CASA.
“The reason I got involved with CASA to begin with was because CPS got involved with taking my great-nieces away from my niece. I NEVER liked working with CPS because my great-nieces needed to be protected from their environment and their mother and they were always hard to work with. They didn't follow up on my great-nieces like they were supposed to. I became very involved in the case and then my ex-sister-in-law took custody of my great nieces which wasn't much better. I did go to the District Attorney with pictures of my great-nieces and asked that their perpetrator be prosecuted and not settle for a plea bargain. He got 7 years for molestation.”
I know from our family’s experience that CPS caseworkers often to not have the amount of contact with children in foster care that they should, so I am all for any organization that gives children more attention and helps to keep them from being “lost in the system.”
I contacted the PR person at the Houston/Harris Co. chapter, Ashley Brocket, to ask a few questions. Because CASA works so closely with CPS, she was reluctant to say anything “on the record” (and I can understand that). She did say that CASA volunteers are always there for the child. While they hope to be on the same page as CPS, the judge in the case, and all those concerned, there are times when everyone is not in agreement.
Keep up the good fight, CASA.
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