Child Protective Services and the Business of Taking Your Children

Across the country, children are being taken from loving homes by government agencies collectively known as Child Protective Services. Although these agencies are supposed to protect children, they are actually the engine that drives a multi-billion dollar industry.

shutterstock_200879036-750x400.jpgThis industry, which includes social workers, psychologists,  lawyers, judges, the police, and foster care, revolves around governmental management of children and families. It profits every time a new child is placed into the system. And its survival requires a constant supply of fresh children.

To feed the machine, CPS has become increasingly intrusive to the point where your child might be taken away from you for something as small as asking a doctor for a second opinion.

Medical Kidnapping

Consider the case of Baby Sammy Nikolayev.

Anna and Alex Nikolayev took their 5-month old baby, Sammy, to Sutter Memorial Hospital for treatment of flu-like symptoms. But, after seeing the staff in action, they didn’t like the care that Sammy was receiving:

At one point, Anna questioned the antibiotics Sammy was being given and was alarmed that the nurse administering the treatment didn’t know why the child was receiving them. Anna claims that a doctor later said that Sammy should not have been receiving the medication.

When the doctors started telling the Nikolayev’s that Sammy needed heart surgery, they decided they wanted to get a second opinion:

Anna argued with doctors about getting a second opinion. Without a proper discharge, she finally took Sammy out of the hospital to get a second opinion at Kaiser Permanente.

The doctor at Kaiser examined the baby and concluded that it was perfectly fine for him to go home with his parents. But, the doctors at Sutter disagreed. They contacted CPS, who sent out a social worker. That social worker contacted the police.

The day after Sammy was cleared by the Kaiser doctor and sent home with his parents, police raided the Nikolayev’s house and abducted 5-month old Sammy. When Anna Nikolayev heard the police coming, she set up a camera. On the tape, one of the officers can be heard saying:

I’m going to grab your baby, and don’t resist, and don’t fight me ok?

The entire incident can be seen here:

"They Kidnapped Our Child": Why CPS Needs Transparency Now

The officers that took Baby Sammy had no warrant. But, Sacramento CPS department head Sherri Heller said they didn’t need one:

The law is clear that it is appropriate for the agency to act without a court warrant if children are in imminent danger of physical harm.

But was baby Sammy really in imminent danger of physical harm?

  • Sammy had just been examined and cleared by a doctor from Kaiser Permanente.
  • When the police kidnapped him, he was safe at home with his parents and in his mother’s arms.
  • Sammy’s parents took him to two different hospitals, not to harm him, but to make sure he got the best care possible.

The fact is, there was no imminent danger. And yet, CPS was willing to order the removal of a 5 month old baby from his family. And the cops -“Just Doing My Job!” – were willing to take him, no questions asked.

Then there is the case of Jodie and Scott Ferris.

Jodi and Scott wanted to have a home birth, but:

After going into labor early and given the distance to the nearest hospital, Jodi and her husband Scott were advised by their midwife to call an ambulance and get to the hospital. Jodi and Scott’s baby girl was born in the ambulance in the parking lot of Hershey Medical Center.

Their daughter, Annie Ferris, was born a healthy baby girl. But, when Jodi and Scott did not give the hospital permission to administer the Hepatitis B vaccine, the hospital got scared.

According to a lawsuit filed by the Ferris’s, the hospital’s department of Risk Management was worried about getting sued if they released baby Annie without the Hep B shot. So, they tried to force the family into administering it.

They told the family they would have to stay in the hospital for 48-72 hours for observation. At first, they said that the law required it. But when pressed, they said it was a Risk Management policy. When the family continued to protest, staff from Hershey Medical Center contacted Dauphin County Social Services, aka CPS, and asked for a social worker to intervene.

The Ferris’s complaint states that social worker Angelica Lopez-Heagy arrived and tried to get them to sign a “safety plan” that would allow the hospital to do whatever it wanted to the newborn, including administer the Hep B shot. But, when Jodi objected to signing the document,  Lopez-Heagy said, “if you don’t sign the safety plan, I’m calling the police and having them take custody of the baby.”

That’s exactly what happened.

Angelica Lopez-Heagy called the cops. And the cops – “Just Doing My Job!” – took Annie Ferris, a newborn infant, into custody. The excuse? Imminent danger:

… based on the allegations of the social worker, Officer Bell concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe the child [A.F.] is suffering from illness or injury, or is in imminent danger from her surroundings, and that her removal is necessary.”

It was just like what happened to Sammy Nikolayev. In fact, the practice has become so common, it even has its own name – medical kidnapping.

But disagreeing with doctors is only one of the ways you can lose your child.

Medical Marijuana

Shawnee Anderson and Aaron Hillyer lost their 11-month old son Sage because they had legal prescriptions for medical marijuana. Despite medical marijuana being legal in California, the police – “Just Doing My Job!” – put Aaron into handcuffs and took Sage from his parents.

After handing the baby to CPS, Sage was placed in foster care, away from the parents who loved him and into the arms of the system.

In Michigan, another state where medical marijuana is legal, 6-month old Baby Bree was taken from her family by CPS agents because her parents supposedly “exposed her to marijuana”. On FreeBabyBree.com, her mother wrote:

On Friday, September 13, my child was kidnapped by armed gunmen.

And sadly, I couldn’t call law enforcement to intervene and stop this horrific tragedy! Why? Because the armed gunmen in this case, were the police, along with other government officials from the State of Michigan.

The same thing happened with Scott and Sara Rolick. They lost their five year old daughter Stevie because of marijuana. But unlike the previous cases, the Rolicks didn’t use marijuana. Their crime was that they allowed Stevie’s grandfather to live with them:

…totally unbeknownst to them, Granddad sold illicit drugs miles away. Both Rolicks were investigated and tested for drug use and both were found to be clean and free of any allegation of child abuse or neglect. They also removed his father from their house.

It didn’t matter. CPS still took their daughter and, for her own protection, threw her into the system.


Alexandra Hill

Perhaps the most tragic marijuana related story was the story of Alexandria Hill:

The girl’s biological father, Joshua Hill, told KVUE-TV that he and Alexandria’s mother lost full custody of their daughter last November after the DFPS accused them of “neglectful supervision.” Mr. Hill said the agency made that determination “because her mother and I smoked pot at the time.” According to the father, the parents only smoked while their daughter was asleep

But that was enough for DFPS to act in the best interest of the child and have 2-year old Alexandra removed from her home and placed into foster care.

While in foster care, Alexandra was abused, causing CPS to move her from one foster home to another. But the second home was no better, and the abuse continued. On July 29, 2013:

…paramedics rushed 2-year-old Alexandria Hill to a hospital with severe head injuries. She slipped into a coma, and died two days later after her birth parents decided to remove life support.

Taking children away from parents that love them, especially at such an early age, is the worst thing you can do to a child or a family.

But that is exactly what CPS does, and has to do, in order to survive.

And in their quest to control more and more kids, they are starting investigations for increasingly trivial things.

When I was a child, we played in the park until dark and walked home from school alone every day. Today, playing in the park and walking home without your parents could result in CPS taking your kids.

What could make a system set up to protect children motivate it to take them away from their families instead?

Money. Lots and lots of money.

The Business of Child Theft

As it turns out, breaking up families is big business. In 2010, the US spent $29.4 billion dollars on child welfare services.  Just think of all the people whose jobs depend on the state having children in the system:

There are state employees, lawyers, court investigators, court personnel, and judges. There are psychologists, and psychiatrists, counselors, caseworkers, therapists, foster parents, adoptive parents, and on and on.

All those people depend on the system for their livelihoods. And the system depends on kids. Because of that, CPS can be thought of as the engine that drives the entire thing. Without a constant supply of fresh kids, the entire system would collapse.

Carol Rhodes, former CPS insider and author of Friend of Court, Enemy of Family, described the system like this:

  • The federal government gives CPS agencies money for each case that they enforce.
  • The primary focus of CPS is to get the most federal and state tax dollars it can
  • Workers are rated based on how much money they bring in
  • So there are direct financial incentives to create as many cases as possible

Former Senator Nancy Schaefer viewed this system as fraudulent and strongly condemned CPS. She believed that “Child Protective Services nationwide had become corrupt and that the entire system was broken almost beyond repair.” And she wanted to warn parents and families about the dangers.

Like Rhodes, Schaefer believed that:

  • CPS needed to take children to survive
  • The longer CPS kept a child, the more money it got
  • Bonuses were awarded for not returning children to their families
  • Local governments became dependent on the money generated by CPS

Sschaefer also said:

  • CPS workers lied and destroyed evidence to keep children in the system and away from their families

The decision in the landmark case, Fogarty–Hardwick v. County of Orange, seemed to bear her accusations out. 

After divorcing her abusive husband, Deanna Fogarty was awarded custody of her two daughters. But after having a “personality clash” with her CPS case workers, Marcie Vreeken and Helen Dwojak, things went bad.

According to Fogarty:

Vreeken threatened that if Fogarty-Hardwick did not “submit” to her will, she would never see her children again.

She said the social workers threatened to take her kids away if she did not sign a document admitting that she was a bad parent. But when that didn’t work, she said they took things a step further and started lying in open court. She said that Marcie Vreeken and Helen Dwojak:

…fabricated evidence and withheld evidence from the juvenile court to obtain orders allowing the removal of her daughters.

In the end, Deanna Fogarty’s daughters were confiscated by the police and thrown into foster care.  It took her 6 1/2 years to get them back.

For violating her Constitutional rights, Fogarty (now Fogarty-Hardwick) sued Orange County and won. When it was all said and done, the taxpayers of Orange County were forced to pay $10.6 million dollars. And Marcie Vreeken, one of the social workers at the heart of this case? She was promoted to supervisor and charged with training new social workers.

In his opinion on the case, Justice William Bedworth of the Fourth District Court of Appeals said:

The evidence adduced at trial obviously caused both the jury and the judge to conclude not only that something seriously wrong was done to Fogarty-Hardwick in this case, but also that the wrongful conduct was not an isolated incident. [emphasis added]

Indeed, incidents of widespread CPS misconduct are starting make news around the country. In Arizona:

Five senior Arizona child welfare employees were fired Wednesday for orchestrating a plan that led to more than 6,500 Arizona child abuse and neglect cases being closed without investigations, officials said.

These women covered up six-thousand-five-hundred reported incidents of neglect and abuse to reduce staff workload and improve their agency’s numbers.

The Iron Rule of Bureaucracies

Was covering up thousands of cases of abuse an act of evil? Yes. But it wasn’t evil in the exciting, supervillain sense. It was evil in the banal, bureaucratic manner that occurs when lives become nothing more than numbers on a page.

The Iron Rule of Bureaucracy states that:

In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

  •  Those who are devoted to the goals of the organization.
  • And those dedicated to the organization itself.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization.

That is what has happened to CPS.

The people dedicated to helping children are being controlled by those dedicated to helping CPS itself. And those people – like the ones in Arizona – don’t care about kids, they care about numbers.

CPS workers are evaluated based on the number of dollars they collect. Budget is determined by the number of kids they protect. In order to grow, CPS must feed the system a steady diet of children.

But how can you ensure a constant supply?

You can’t make people abuse kids. But what you can do is reclassify things to make them seem like abuse. Things like asking for a second opinion. Things like questioning a vaccination. Things like taking prescription drugs. Things like playing in the park or walking home alone.

And, that is exactly what CPS has done.

CPS has created a system in which children can be removed from loving homes for almost any reason. So, if you want to keep your child safe, make sure that you love them in the government prescribed fashion. Because child protective agencies are watching, and they have $24.9 billion reasons to take your child away.


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Rob Hustle

Rob is an artist, writer and activist.


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