I represent parents from the removal all the way up to termination of their parental rights, and everything in between. Lots of interesting things happen along the way.

Kids come into care for all sorts of reasons - drugs, mental health, domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse.

A lot of people don't understand where these people are coming from, so maybe I can give you a small glimpse at what it looks like from a parent's side.

Comments: 149 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

ZZucho24 karma

I was removed from my mother twice and placed into the Washington State foster care system. Each time I was removed, it was due to her drug addiction and neglectful qualities that often are associated with addiction. My mother wasn't present in my twin brother and my life much. I can remember times when we were both much younger, that she was around and very cheerful and loving. However, once she started doing meth and drinking very regularly, she hardly had the ability to care for us appropriately.

The first time we were removed from her care, it was due to her inability to care for us while visiting a local lake. She was drinking and drugging with her friends while my brother and I did our own thing. At age five, this wasn't a very good thing. I remember one of her friends, most likely on drugs, swinging me around in circles by my hands and dislocating my shoulder. My mother was so high and drunk, that another person enjoying their time at the lake grew concerned and offered to let us spend the night. This woman claimed she was a friend of my mother's sister, but I guess anything can be believable while intoxicated. My mother allowed it and long story short, the woman took us to her home, fed us, bathed us, and allowed us to play video games. Once we fell asleep, the woman called the police who came and took us to a foster home.

This foster home, in my opinion, was very mentally abusive. They had their own children (no harm in that), but they clearly treated their foster children very differently in the ways they fed, punished, etc. Having been without food, many times that I could remember, my brother and I would hoard food. Rather than allow us to eat more during meal times, they would lock us in our bedroom at night and even went so far as to place an alarm on our door if we were to get it open. This made my brother and I have to find other ways to relieve ourselves when it came to going to the bathroom. We'd poop out the window and pee in the corner of the bedroom, which we were severely punished for, even spanked to the point where we developed bruises on our backsides. Long story short, we were in this family's care for three or four months while my mother got her act together. Once my mother was deemed as a fit parent again, we were released back into her care, though, the care she provided was not much better than the foster family we were placed with.

My brother and I lived with my mother again for the next four years. In that time, my mom had two more children. The first, being my oldest sister. There was a custody battle between her father and my mother, resulting in the father taking custody of the child. To make matters worse, my mother decided it would be good idea to have another child with the same man, who before took custody of my sister, her father.

My youngest sister was born with Cystic Fibrosis. I don't know what happened but my mother had been dabbling with drugs and drinking here and there. When my youngest sister was born, times got tough for her I guess and she reverted to full on craziness.

My brother and I were eight when my youngest sister was born. My mother, never being around, basically left us to care for her. We changed her diapers, dispensed her cystic fibrosis medications and treatments, fed her, etc. My brother and I would go door to door asking to do chores to make money to buy the diapers and formula. The pharmacy would allow us to pick up her medications. Taking care of anybody with cystic fibrosis is very tough, let alone children. We often missed school because my mother was never around to care for my sister. Going to school would mean my infant sister was all alone at home and we couldn't let that happen.

Eventually the police got involved and revoked custody privileges from my mother and my brother and I were placed in the care of our non-biological grandmother while my mother, again, could clean up her act. My younger sister was placed into the care of her father.

My grandma was abusive physically and mentally. She would not allow us to eat, would have us pick blackberry bushes every day, seriously, every day. She lived on a lot of acreage and we lived with her for two and a half years.

One morning, my grandmother wrapped a belt around my neck and tried to choke me because I took a slice of bread from the kitchen. I ran away for the day and came back later that evening only to find her vehicle not there. I snuck inside through a window and began making myself something to eat and of course, my grandma comes home. She comes in screaming and yelling at me, asking me where I've been. I start running towards the phone to call the police and she takes a sharp knife from the kitchen and begins to chase me. I carried the phone with me as long as I could until the cord couldn't reach anymore. She cut the damn phone line. Luckily, she had another line in her closet, which she connected and proceeded to call the police herself, on me. She claimed I was crazy. The officers, having been to her property before, knew she was a little off so they took me into custody and put me into a group home. My brother was on a fishing trip with my cousin, so lucky for him, he wasn't home at the time of the incident. Unlucky for him, after telling the police he was gone but would be coming back, the police did nothing. My brother was placed into foster care six months later only after my grandmother beat him in the head with a cast iron fireplace shovel.

My brother and I aged out of the foster care system after living with three separate families and a couple of different group homes. Long story short, I had never met my biological father at that point though he was paying court ordered child support the entire time. He had his own family, now has two children of his own, a beautiful house, is very well off, in perspective. My brother and I aged out of the foster care system.

I guess my question is, is why do you think my brother and I never placed with my biological father, although he knew we existed and paid child support? He didn't have issues with drugs or alcohol and had his ducks in a row. Can a biological father, who has no interest in his kids, just allow them to be wards of the state though he would be perfectly capable of caring for them?

I hope this isn't too long winded. I tried providing a back story for understanding.

TLDR; Myself and my brother were in many different abusive situations as children and placed into foster care at two different times. Biological father knew we existed but we never met him. I am curious as to why we were never placed into his care.

Parentrepthrowaway12 karma

I'm sorry to hear about what you went through... I can't imagine life as a foster child in relatively stable homes, let alone in the mess you and your brother had to go through. Even though my job is to represent parents, I often find myself talking to clients about what we can advocate for their children for their best interest.

There is no easy answer for why your bio-dad was not involved. That is a question for him. If you were aging out of the system, you likely had a hand in what was going on and at least a little aware of what your bio-dad was doing to regain custody. In other words, I'm sure you remember if he was making motions or requesting placement. It doesn't sound like he was.

The most likely answer was that he did not want to get involved, as terrible as that may sound or as hard as it may be. It sounds like he had his family and didn't want to reach out for your brother and you. The state cannot force a parent to take custody of their children. If a parent admits they are not a parenting resource for any reason, good or bad, the most the state can do is offer some sort of service to help them get there. If they aren't interested in that, there is little or nothing else they can do.

I am sorry for what you went through and I hope you have spoken with someone or are speaking with someone to get the most out of it. This sounds dumb, but you probably have something going right for you if you can write that on reddit. For the other questions, you'll need to ask bio-dad what he did to take care of you and why he might not have tried to do more.

bobthebobd18 karma

Did you ever have a case where children clearly should not have been removed from household in the first place?

Parentrepthrowaway24 karma

All the time. The state has an obligation to try to offer services before they attempt to remove a child. That is one of my biggest arguments at the 72-hour pick up hearing - leave the kid in the house, let the parent comply with services, and keep an eye on the situation.

Probably the worst cases where there shouldn't be removal are with medical neglect cases. Kids have complicated medical needs, and social workers aren't always the best at identifying when there was issues. One kid of a client reportedly had scabies, but they were at the doctor two days before the removal and the doctor didn't note it. But the kid was removed anyway even though they had been getting on-going medical care for her.

CrankthatOldjaboy10 karma

What's the worst parenting job you've ever seen? Also, have you ever seen such an unfair trial that you were upset by it?

Parentrepthrowaway22 karma

Hmmm.... tough to say. I think some of the worst have been people who live in houses with tons of people running around, doing drugs, and making drama are pretty situations to figure out are unsafe. One family was grandparents with adult children and other children. The adult children had kids. Everyone was doing meth together. Every kid in that house, regardless of parent, got removed.

Having 13 kids is rough, too. Pretty impossible to parent that many kids in a city and being in poverty.

But probably the worst was a delusional schitzophrenic. The kid was almost ten, couldn't do buttons or a zipper, and was convinced his mom was a terrorist. Like a real terrorist.

As for trials, you'd be surprised how few the issues are contested and trials happen. But I lost one and the decision was basically because my guy hadn't parented before. I thought "you can say that about any first time parent!!"

Citponys7 karma

could you elaborate on that one ? It seems abviously idiotic to render a decision based on that argument.

Parentrepthrowaway5 karma

The case is on appeal right now, so we will see what a higher court has to say!

The problem was that this case went to trial and the state did a terrible job proving its case. There were allegations my client had other issues - for example, the mother said that they did drugs together.

Rules of evidence applied at the trial and I used that to my advantage. The only witnesses called were my client (no 5th amendment rights like in criminal cases because it is a civil, not criminal, proceeding) and the social worker. I knew the social worker hadn't done any work on the case and would be near worthless.

So the only testimony that meant anything was what my guy said on the stand. He didn't admit to having any issues.

But the judge knew there were other allegations and didn't feel comfortable, in her gut, to place a baby girl with a middle age dude who chopped wood for a living that she knew nothing about. So, she made her decision on what she wanted and tried to work through the evidence to get there.

But the state put on such a bad case that she had to make a very weak decision.

CapAnson10 karma

What percentage of kids being removed would you say are valid and how many are due to an overreaching nanny government? I'd be paranoid about this if I had kids.

Parentrepthrowaway22 karma

You should be paranoid. It can happen and go downhill a lot easier than it does.

But most are pretty valid. The line is usually where children should be removed or not. A lot of the time, the argument is "keep these kids in the home, make a safety plan, have the parents engage in corrective services, and see what happens." The issue isn't that the allegations are bogus (most of the time) - it is that removal from the home is a much more drastic remedy then is necessary.

The problem is that most removals happen ex parte, or without a parent having a right to respond to until after the pick-up happens. And once a child is removed, it becomes much harder to put them back.

CapAnson9 karma

Well in that case I think you have a valuable job.

Parentrepthrowaway7 karma

Check out this one, too. It gives an example of a case where removal was not necessary.


anal_floss2 karma

I was in the foster care system for a period of under 1 year. (In Canada) Basically, in my youth, I could be a little shithead at times. Reprimands, punishments ranged from common spanking (bare handed), spankings with a round wooden stick about a half inch diameter and 18-24" long and then finally a 1/4" piece of leather.

I guess word got out this was happening.

The RCMP were dispatched to our elementary school to pick us up. Myself, my brother and sister. I was not at school that day (can't recall reasoning) . My parents caught wind that this was happening and met up with the RCMP at the school. They were then brought to the RCMP detachment with threats of arrest if they did not give me up.

I received the phone call. Basically, I was left with the option to turn myself in (I was 12 at the time) or have my parents held in a cell. After much thought, I decided that my parents had a much better chance of working this out while outside of a cell and turned myself in.

I find it interesting that you mention that it is far more difficult to have the kids return home when they are picked up. But, it does not seem that much option is given at the time. Personally, I think in this particular case, the system had overreacted. Sure, intervention would have been warranted. But, for what was going on in our household, I think the actions were over the top.

With that being said, I have had no access to my file or have the faintest clue what was in it. (Perhaps what information it had contained painted a different picture)

I understand that these services do have their place, but I do become nervous at the thought of my siblings and their children, and how easy it is to fall under this type of situation.

How would such a situation be best handled? What safeguards are in place to help avoid separating a family prematurely?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

I think the first thing any family can do (and should do no matter what) is have a plan for where kids go if parents are unavailable. In terms of child services, these people need to have no relevant criminal history or CPS history and be ready to provide housing for children. They can be family or family friends, but getting kids in a familiar home and not in licensed care should be a huge priority. That way, if things go sour, you know where your kids should end up.

The next step is being a good parent. No outrageous drugs, keep your mental health in check, be careful of the people you bring around your kids. Kids misbehave, and everyone knows that. If you need help making sure they behave, seek it out. There are resources. Even for older kids, if they aren't behaving, there are generally programs through the courts where a judge supervises and you can try to get them help. Don't let it get to the point where a parent is no longer in control.

The problem with children's services and police is everything is very subjective. Different cop, different social worker, different division will take things very differently. It is tough to plan for every possible event. But if you try to be the best parent, and have a back-up, you are off to a decent start.

anal_floss2 karma

Thank you for your reply.

Typically, how difficult is it to arrange an alternate guardian within the family in these cases? It seemed that we were not given the opportunity... How would one go about doing this?

You have mentioned that an alternate guardian should have no prior relevant cps history. Does "history" include being a ward of cps? For example, I currently lead a stable life with my wife. Aside from the prior history outlined in my previous post, does this exempt myself from providing care for other family members?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

I can't speak for Canada or other jurisdictions, but in my county, it depends on a lot of factors.

Once CPS files to have a child removed here, the juvenile court gets exclusive jurisdiction. It is now out of the parents' and families' hands on getting an alternative custody arrangement. The judge has to sign off on trying to get one, let alone actually getting.

If it is before the case is filed, it would be relatively easy if the parties are all in agreement with the issues. (no pun intended).

But once a case begins, it is hard. If the children are older - meaning people won't want to adopt them - it is much easier. But if they are young and adoptable, it is generally tough, at least in this county, to get the state and/or the judge to sign off on alternative custody arrangements. I'm sure it is easier in other jurisdictions.

CPS history should not include being a foster child. Only reports or findings of abuse or neglect.

Hypergnostic10 karma

Do you believe that people have the right to (unlimited) reproduction?

Parentrepthrowaway24 karma

Woah boy. Didn't know I would get tough questions like this.

I'm going to say yes. And I am not coming from a place where I think everyone should be able to have 30 kids and do what they want - I have seen first hand what that does to families.

My problem is the other side - slippery slope and enforcement. Who decides when people stop having children? What is the criteria? How do you make sure that happens? I think the world has seen where this heads when the government intervenes with these decisions, and it isn't pretty.

Choralone6 karma

I think we can agree that people themselves are in a better position to judge how many kids they want than, say, the government ever could be.

CanIhaveGasCash1 karma

It shouldn't be how many kids you want, it should be how many kids you can support.

Parentrepthrowaway26 karma

Isn't that just saying poor people shouldn't be allowed to have children?

Karissa367 karma

The foster care system has a duty to try to reunite families. Don't you think it is a conflict of interest for them to be placing children with foster parents who desperately want to adopt? Those foster parents obviously have no reason to support reunification and every reason to try to subvert it. The bio-parents also face an additional up hill battle when experts come in and testify that the child will be harmed by removal from the foster parents with whom they have bonded. The decision then naturally, (even if no one admits it), turns on which is the better parent, not whether or not the bio-parents are fit parents.

Parentrepthrowaway4 karma

Yes and no. Absolutely there is a conflict and it comes up all the time. The social worker is the person who has that conflict. Often times, they promise foster families the child (they are not supposed to at all). The foster parents should know what they are getting into.

And there is a comparison because there has to be. The law, very eloquently in some cases, states that you cannot compare a foster home to a child living with their actual parents. But as much as the law says that, it would be impossible to not that at any level.

But in order for foster parents to adopt, you need to prove that there are current parental deficiencies and they haven't been fixed. The foster home is not particularly relevant in that trial (at least the details - the fact it exists is), and theoretically, if there is nothing wrong left with the bio-parent, they should get their kid back.

The problem to me is not so much the law itself, except for maybe that huge conflict you mentioned at the beginning, but the way it is applied.

Karissa364 karma

But in order for foster parents to adopt, you need to prove that there are current parental deficiencies and they haven't been fixed.

Legally this is true, but I have seen some astoundingly liberal interpretations of that, especially when healthy infants and toddlers are involved. What about the experts testifying about bonding with the foster parents? I have seen that referenced in many decisions. This is totally irrelevant to whether or not the bio-parents are fit, which should be the only issue. Have you ever tried to exclude that testimony on relevancy grounds? What was the result?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

I think these issues would vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I can only speak about what I know in mine.

The issue where I can picture this being most problematic would be with a relative placement. For example, a client wants their child placed with a grandparent. The state and/or CASA would come in a say "this child has been with these foster parents since birth and is very bonded to them and should not be removed." The parent would say "the grandparent has known the child for a long time and is a suitable placement, and its family."

That's a tough position to put a judge in - family vs. continuity. Easy situation for a parent/grandparent to lose in.

In my jurisdiction, evidence rules only loosely apply in motions and non-trial hearings. The other side can talk about bond with foster parents all they want. But if a parent doesn't have issues anymore, the other sides will need to FIND an issue if they don't want the kid returned. And they do that all the time. They nitpick on issues that aren't big deals (a parent needs to be minimally adequate, essentially a D grade) so they can get what they want and keep the kid there. That is infuriating.

At trial, evidence rules applies. A foster parent's bond, at least to me, would be irrelevant to the issue of termination and whether a parent has corrected or can soon correct their deficiencies. It is only relevant to the issue that continuation of a parent/child relationship hurts a child's chance for permanence. But even there, only the existence of a potentially adoptive home is important, not how great that home is. I would fight hard to make sure that material was not part of the record.

Eternally656 karma

Do you ever have qualms about trying to get a child who was sexually or physically abused by the parents given back to the parents? I'm talking about cases where you are convinced they were abusive - does it bother you?

Parentrepthrowaway9 karma

Never. I've never lost sleep over getting something done for a client. Only for maybe not doing enough (but I always try my best).

Its hard to get kids back after physical abuse. Nearly impossible with sexual abuse. If they get their kids back, at least in my jurisdiction, they worked their ass off.

penguin_dust7 karma

How would a parent work hard to get their kid back after abuse/sexual abuse? Have you worked a case where that happened?

Parentrepthrowaway4 karma

Services. Everything is about services.

I have had parents get kids back after physical abuse. Either you prove that the allegation isn't true, or it is and the person engages in services. Anger management, domestic violence treatment, more serious mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, parenting classes, or any combination of those. Once they show they are committed to making a change in their life, you start to move slowly back towards reunification with less restrictive visitation and movement towards a full return home. They have to prove themselves to be safe and appropriate at each level of supervision.

None for me after sexual abuse. If sexual abuse is proven, there often will be criminal charges, and a lot of the time the person can end up going to jail or prison for a long enough time to make them not relevant to getting their kid back (for reasons more complicated than I am going to get into, parents have about 1-2.5 years to show they fixed there problems). It would be up to the other parent to show they can be safe. If its not proven, it is a contested issue and makes it complicated. The parent needs experts to sign off that they are safe.

ohiocat5 karma

What would you say was your most shocking "these parents are getting screwed, and they don't deserve it" case/moment?

Ideally, I'd like to hear a story about total bullshit and complete tomfoolery, but I'll settle for less.

Also, could you tell me what your favorite type of bagel is? (Personally, as long as it's covered in cream cheese, I could care less what type of bagel it is.)

Parentrepthrowaway9 karma

Oh, boy. There are so many. I was shocked when I first started doing the work. I think one of the biggest shockers was relative placement issues. When kids first come into care, the preference is for them to be with relatives, usually grandparents, but it can range to cousins and far out.

But the state has a list of things that disqualify people. If someone has a shoplifting charge from like 10 years ago, the state can't put them as a relative placement. The judge can order it, and does sometimes, but very often doesn't go against the state.

But I have a new outrage every week. When I first came into this, parents, regardless of their issue of the child's age, would get two hours of supervised visitation of week. If someone physically abused there 13 year old, two hours per week. If a mother was a serious victim of domestic violence and was too afraid or not yet ready to leave her abuser, and spent every waking hour with her 15 month old daughter, it was two hours per week.

This was supposedly based on budge constraints by the state (they have to pay for supervision). But they had no proof of it, and they could pay for expensive evaluations from psychologists which did little but push their own agenda. I worked to get parents more visits, and now have moved our county to a whopping four hours per week average.

It seems menial, but to me that was a huge victory. Twice as much.

The other one was a trial I did recently. The state wrote my client off a long time ago. They have an obligation to provide her with corrective services, and they barely tried. Then they tried to terminate her parental rights, and I got a pretty good victory with that case.

ohiocat3 karma

two hours of supervised visitation of week.... This was supposedly based on budge constraints by the state (they have to pay for supervision).

Interesting. Is this the kind of thing that you'd say privatization of some sort might be capable of improving, or due to the nature of the work, would you say the budget increases/reallocations are the only practical solutions?

Parentrepthrowaway6 karma

It is privatized. The social workers usually don't supervise visits themselves. They contract it out to professional supervisors.

pinkelephant31 karma

False I work for a private agency and we supervise all of our visits (case workers, secondary workers, and interns)

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Oooo good! You can answer some of the other questions about non-state parties filing petitions!

ohiocat1 karma


Thank you for this answer!

Is it then regulation which is causing these problems, or lack of regulations, which in turn lead to the implementation of "less risky" policies?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Maybe. Its hard to "regulate" these situations - each is incredibly case specific. And you can take ten judges and ten social workers and have twenty opinions.

It is a balance between taking a conservative approach to ensure safety vs. moving things forward and giving people a chance to prove themselves. And you just can't write that into rules.

ohiocat1 karma

Good info.

Glad you're doing this IAMA.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Thanks! Me too. I wanted to for a while, and figured it was good timing with the front page.

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

There are two real solutions in my eyes without budget increases - one, stop paying for services which are redundant or excessive. Not every single person needs a psychological evaluation. Second, decrease the extent of supervision. Not every one needs supervised visits (eyes on/ears on the entire time). If someone has a drug problem and thats it, monitored (checking in every few minutes) is fine. Its pretty unlikely they will pull out and use their drugs right there unless they are in a reaaallly bad position. And these people's only danger issue is drug use, not even abuse or neglect.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

I can't speak for other jurisdictions, but mine can have "private foster care" or whatever you want to call it. In other words, a private entity can file for a child to be removed just like the state can.

They aren't in a better position to do it. They have to take care of the kid, make sure the placement is funded and appropriate, provide the parents with services, provide on-going case support, provide visitation, pay for attorneys. And that is starters. It takes a TON of resources to "prosecute" or file one of these cases, whatever you want to call it.

Profit companies would not make enough money and be too conflicted (moving towards adoption); not-for-profits would never have enough money. The government is really the only one, at least for now, in a position to pursue these cases.

Choralone2 karma

Can you elaborate on the "private foster care" part? if I'm reading this right - some rich guy could, for instance, file to have a kid removed as long as he was willing ot pay al the associated costs?

Is that just a by-product of the legislation, or is there a specific historical reason for it?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Yep! You nailed it. Unfortunately, I don't know the history of it.

But in my state, anyone can file a petition for out-of-home care for a child. And I don't mean alternative custody like a guardianship. I mean a full blown out movement towards termination of parental rights.

But practically, only the state files it. I have heard about private adoption agencies filing them previously on infants, but I haven't seen that personally.

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

Oh yeah. Sesame. I ate them tons as a child growing up. With butter or cream cheese.

ohiocat1 karma

With butter or cream cheese.


Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Oh nooooo. Not at the same time. Just one or the other.

censoredandagain2 karma

Presuming, obviously, I'm a 'good' parent, but somehow child protective services or such shows up, what's the best response?

Just clam up and call a lawyer?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

If you can afford it. Get someone who works in the field, like providing indigent defense (I know this is bias and that's what I do!). It is a specialized field - criminal attorneys don't know the procedure because it is civil, not criminal, procedure; family law attorneys don't understand the difference between a parent trying to change custody and the state.

If you can't afford it, clam up anyway. Don't make admissions or talk about the allegations. But work with the social worker and state to engage in services.

For example - they say you have a drug problem. Don't say "hey, i did crank last week!". But agree to do a drug and alcohol evaluation to see if you need treatment.

Clamming up goes even further for physical abuse. They will say you changed your story if you ever give one.

That's the general advice I would give in my state. Of course, talk to an attorney if you can because they can give you specifics about the situation.

lannister802 karma

Get someone who works in the field, like providing indigent defense

I'm confused...what does indigent defense have to do with trying to keep your child?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

I'll use criminal cases as an example of why I think it is particularly important in this field.

In criminal cases, if you meet the income qualifications, you will get appointed an attorney. A public defender, or an attorney who represents indigent clients by appointment of the court. If you can afford an attorney, you can hire a private criminal attorney at your own expense.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. A public defender probably deals with your type of case all the time. They know the prosecutors personally and deal with them all the time. They know the judges and how they make decisions. But, generally, they have a high case load and cannot devote as much time to each individual as a person might like.

A private attorney likely does less cases than a public defender. They generally specialize in one area, usually DUIs or maybe DV, where their typical clientele may have money. They likely deal with the prosecutors and judges not nearly as much as a public defender. But they will be able to provide you more time than a public defender and may have more opportunities to present time-consuming issues and motions.

In this field, it is hard to find an attorney who specializes specifically in children being removed from care. Most are due to mental illness and drugs. It is rare that a person can afford an attorney at all. And because these cases can be multiple years long, practically no one can afford it.

In other words, while a private criminal attorney may have the expertise to defend you in a criminal case, you will be hard pressed to find a parent's representative attorney in the private field who has worthwhile experience. You might be able to get a private criminal or family law attorney, but they won't be familiar with the judges or the state's attorney.

You want to have someone who knows the field, and the only people who do are the attorney's appointed to indigent defense.

enokeenu2 karma

How do we keep these agencies out of our lives?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

I think almost everyone has an anonymous intake line that anyone can call and report potential issues.

If no one calls in and says you are abusive, neglectful, or unable to parent, they won't bother you. The trick is not bothering people or doing a crappy job being a parent so someone calls in on you.

packetOFfries2 karma

What is the best lawyer joke you know?

Parentrepthrowaway13 karma

The only "joke" joke I can't get out of my head is an old jewish joke.

An rich, old man is on his death bed and has no family to leave his money to. Instead, he brings in his priest, his doctor, and his lawyer, and says "I am going to leave my money with you. I want to take it with me into the after life, and you are the only people I can trust. When my casket goes down in the ground, you'll need to put your share in there with me."

At the funeral, each places their sum in the casket. At the reception, the three are talking. The priest breaks down and says "I'm sorry! I have to admit something. I didn't think I was fair for him to keep all his money. I have been building an orphanage in the inner city, and it desperately needed money, so I took $200,000 out of my share to pay for it. I feel terrible, but the money shouldn't just sit in the ground with him!"

The doctor says "oh thank god you said something. I have been feeling so awful. I took $400,000 and put it into an inner city medical clinic I have been working on. It where that money really belongs, but it has been eating at me!"

The lawyer looks at the two others with disgust and says "I can't believe the audacity of you two. I placed a personal check in there with him for the entire amount!"

My favorite real life attorney joke has to do with a parrot who was trained to call social workers nasty names, and an attorney objected to the parrot's testimony as hearsay.

12chachacha2 karma

I'm curious as to your opinion of CASA. I just became a volunteer, but haven't gotten a case yet.

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

I guess I will first elaborate that I am a CASA. Just so people know, these are Court Appointed Special Advocates. Their job is to go into court to represent the best interest of the child. Their job is to be an objective party that investigates and reports to the court.

That said, parent's attorneys and even social workers don't usually have the best opinion of them, at least in my county. The CASA program and the CASAs in general are seen as upper middle class, white, privileged, middle aged, generally-bored women who have little or no connection to the parents or families involved in the system. They typically adovcate for foster care parents, are incredibly critical of families, and even more critical of parents.

It completely depends on the particular CASA, though. Some understand what it is like to grow up in a poor, underprivileged environment. They support families and relative placements that the state may not support. They help parents get into services that a social worker didn't help with. They look out for children and make sure their needs are being met.

But most do very little work and rarely see the parents. They are only passively involved in the case and follow the state or social worker's recommendation. It ends up being the CASA program who makes a decision for them, and because their background is privileged, middle aged, white women with grow or older kids, the program's decision is inevitably conservative.

My advice for you as a CASA is to follow your heart and make up your mind on what you think it right. Don't let someone who is "more experienced" in the system persuade you one way or the other. And most importantly, get to know the people you are working with AS PEOPLE and not just on a sheet of paper. You would be surprised how you feel about someone, even a fuck-up, when you start to look at them as a human being.

12chachacha1 karma

Ah, it seems that my area has a decent opinion of the organization, but the type of volunteer certainly makes a difference- although we have our fair share of exactly what you described. For the record, I am both white and female, but I would be stretching it to consider myself even lower middle-class, and I'm 21. Hopefully that will help. I intend to treat this as a part-time job, at least when the case(s) require that of me.

Thank you for your advice. I spent some time as a victim's advocate, and you are so right. Everyone has their problems. Just talk to them like you would anybody else.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Don't get me wrong - our organization here has a good reputation. Just not with the parent's attorneys and some social workers.

You'll do great :) Not everything is black-and-white, and working in DV definitely teaches you that very quickly. And coming from a humble background will help you make the right decisions, too.

EightAsterisk2 karma

I'm a social worker, and although I don't work with CPS/DFS, I have a lot of friends that do. In your opinion, what can we do, as a community of social workers, to improve the treatment parents and children receive when we're brought into these situations?

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

Great question.

1 Don't forget why you got into it. Don't stop giving a shit about the people and their families. Don't drink the kool-aid if you get into an environment that talks down clients and people; work to change it. But at the same time, don't get burnt out. Some of the best social workers want to help out so much they can't do anything after 6 months because they put way too much time in.

2 Don't stop trying to change things. Yes, the system is what it is and we need to work within it, but we all know there are issues that probably can be dealt with more efficiently. Just because you get back the bureaucratic push back doesn't mean you should stop trying to change things when you believe it is right.

3 Talk to people and get the issues out there. It is very sexy to say "I care about foster kids" and all that, but most people don't know what actually goes on. Social workers are overworked, and in my state, they won't even give them over time. These cases stagnate (see some of the other answers) because social workers have too much stuff to do. If people really cared that much, there would be more support to help move things along for kids as quickly as possible.

amw1572 karma

Would love to know your thoughts on the Justina Pelletier case in Massachusetts. I won't link any articles because I doubt I could find one that is unbiased in either direction.

I will say that I heard a (biased) radio interview of the lawyer representing Justina's family, and I personally feel the state is way overstepping its bounds in this case.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

I never heard of it until you mentioned it. It seems complicated and tough to have an opinion on it when, like you said, the articles are all pretty bias.

That said, the state usually doesn't do a better job taking care of medically fragile kids than parents do if they are fit. They aren't the best at paying close attention to what goes on with a child's medical needs the way a parent can.

stydolph1 karma

I have been to court a number of times as a foster parent, and the number of lawyers present is somewhat staggering. One for each parent, social services lawyer, GAL (might be multiple GALs if parent has a mental issue)...it seems here there were maybe 3 or 4 lawyers who represented all the parents. They would just cycle them through as each parent came up, I had to wonder how each lawyer kept up with so many cases at once?

Many times it seems that overall the course of a case is pretty much known, I have had one child's mother who insisted on being put on the stand and dispute the order to remove her child. It was a train wreck for the parent and unfortunately her child who was at an age (12 I think) and had the right to be at court so that the child was there.

One other time I saw a parent go on the stand for custody, and really the court has been fairly calm and quiet, but I was little surprised when then GAL started questioning the parent while on the stand. He really laid into the parent, once he got going he was pretty intimidating. Was an eye-opener for me.

Some of these parents have to be difficult to work with? Is there some common issues? Lack of education? Drugs? These people many times have no transportation, no money it seems, sometimes I viewed the lawyers for the parents more like baby sitters? Like you said I never had any contact with the lawyer for a parent, so I all I know is from observations in court.

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

You're right - there is a ton of attorneys and people sitting at the table for one case. One kid can have - the state attorney, the social worker, a CASA, the CASA's attorney, a kid's attorney, a mom's attorney, and potentially multiple attorneys for dads if paternity is not established for any one father. Add in multiple kids with multiple dads and it gets more complicated. Imagine my case with 13 kids in it!

Each lawyer has there own system. Where I work, the state's attorney has the most cases, but has the help of the social worker to keep there stuff organized. It may seem hard in court, but you know what cases will be on which days and you prep for that day. And even if you don't know 100% what will happen in a given case, you usually know pretty well based on the judge or the other parties. Just like you said - the course of the case is kind of known.

Being respectful to parents is huge. It really bothers me when any party, or even a judge, isn't respectful. Yes, a lot of them have done bad, even terrible things, but they are still people. Most of them know they have screwed up, or they have serious mental health issues. They have been beaten down by the system - be it children's services, criminal stuff, or just growing up - over and over and over again.

Yeah, some are difficult to work with. Mental health is the hardest - how do you show someone has moved beyond their mental health issues? How do you get someone with chronic mental health problems to go to treatment or even admit they have a problem?

There is tons of overlap - drug, mental health, and domestic violence issues often go together. And these people have tons of issues.

The role of the attorney varies from client to client. Like you said, we generally know the course of the case. Getting a parent to admit they aren't going to win is a difficult and long road. It takes finesse to convince them what the outcome will be and what the right thing to do is. But, there are parents who have made steps and should be changing the course of the case. And they need a good advocate to help try to re navigate the ship.

stydolph1 karma

I think the misconception is that you are simply showing up and trying to get these kids back home into a situation that is not good. Like you have alluded to and what I have observed these lawyers are more about getting the parents help, working their plan, make sure the parents can get visits, etc. Only in that one case did a parent and lawyer make an attempt to just get rid of everything and place the child back with the parent. (and I don't think the parental lawyer was on board with it) It could be an opportunity for the parent(s) to get their life together with social services, mental health, etc without the responsibility of a child or children, but sadly it doesn't seem to happen much.

I couldn't imagine the court room with 16 kids...sheesh.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Yep. You are absolutely right. Some attorneys aren't realistic and make ridiculous arguments.

But they way I see my job is like a restaurant sometimes. The front of the house needs to keep up appearances at all times - I make my arguments in front of the court and keep a good appearance to all parties. But in the kitchen, in the back of the house, I am usually telling the client the same thing as everyone else.

Part of being an attorney is being an objective observer and trying to convince your client of what will actually happen in their case.

vaps0tr1 karma

Thanks for what you do. I am a foster parent that adopted. The bio parents had a lawyer even though they could not be located over the whole two year process. Have you ever been in that situation? It was awkward as she wanted my son placed permanently and still had to represent the parents.

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

All the time. Those are my easiest cases. I don't have to do any work!

I'm not sure how it works from state-to-state, but it probably shouldn't have to take that long to move towards permanency for a child with a situation like that.

Here, the state needs to prove it did a diligent search, it needs to ask to serve by publication, and then it needs to move towards a default termination. The problem with time would be that the social worker needs to put in the work to declare they did a diligent search. And social workers have more important things to concentrate on that finding people.

In other words, I'm guessing the long time was due to lack of resources more than it was a direct legal issue.

vaps0tr1 karma

Judge did not think the first search was diligent enough. Social workers changed a few times. Second search involved several states. All of this added together meant it took a long time. After the permanent separation the parents' lawyer stayed in touch and even came to court on the adoption day. Thanks for the reply.

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

Changes in social workers are the worst! They move these cases around and then when they get asked a damn question about it, they say "I don't know! I'm new!"

Its totally a tactic.

1ddqd_work1 karma

Have you ever handled a case where the parents were seperated, and one was clearly "fit" but the child still went into the system? If so, could you explain why that might happen?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

All the time. On both sides (fit and unfit parent).

Theoretically speaking, the fit parent should get the kid at the outset. In our jurisdiction, the court and the state stick around to assist the fit parent in obtaining a protective parenting plan from the unfit parent.

Practically speaking, dads get screwed a lot. A lot of the time, there is a very unstable, unsafe mother, and a father who isn't around a whole ton. This could be because they don't have enough time and are deadbeats, or it can also be because the mother kept the kid away from the dad. Even though the state makes no allegations against the dad, the kid gets removed anyway and placed in care. Its very frustrating from my point of view as an attorney - how do I fight allegations of unfitness when there aren't any? And it puts me in a position where I have to prove fitness. In other words, practically speaking, the burden gets shifted for me to prove the guy is fit.

The same happens for women, too, but not as much. It is much easier to get a child placed with a mother when there are no real allegations than the father.

Why does it happen? Because these are cases that involve children. You can find dirt on any parent, anyone, if you want it. And often times, the state makes no allegations one way or the other - good or bad. And in an abundance of caution, albeit a completely unfair one, judges remove the children to give the state more time to investigate the presumably fit parent. (Note that presumption is a legal term - any parent is preemptively fit until proven otherwise.)

Lylac_Krazy1 karma

I know of at least one state (NJ) that allows for people with mental health issues to be foster parents. I would like to hear your opinion of that.

Parentrepthrowaway5 karma

Everyone has mental health issues. You can't go around banning people with mental health issues from doing things - you wouldn't have any doctors, lawyers, teachers, nothing. Everyone has a little crazy.

But I don't know enough about NJ allowing people with mental health issues to be foster parents. That could mean a lot of things. Maybe someone meets the qualifications for SSI-disability and can't work. Does that mean they can't parent? For my clients, I say no. For foster parents, I don't know.

The criteria is important. There needs to be a test if foster parent's mental or even physical health would be unsafe for a child.

Lylac_Krazy0 karma

First, thanks for your response. I ask, as my daughter when she was 12 yrs old, lived with her mother that went through electric shock therapy. Her mom became a couch potato and required my daughter to care for her 4 foster brothers and sisters(plural) while her mom was passed out from meds on the couch. My daughter was affected by that, and not in a healthy way. The money I had to spend on therapy fixed her in the long run. I would have thought there to be a better vetting process.

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

Maybe. But you don't know what they did and didn't know.

I don't know a ton about getting foster care status, but I get the impression that it isn't TOO much upkeep (foster parents can correct me). In other words, once you make it in, they don't keep a ton of track of what is going on with you. Just my impression, though, I am probably totally wrong.

dick_wool1 karma

Why did you get into this field and have you achieved what you wanted to?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

In law school, I worked at a prosecutor's office as an intern. But I had a lot of responsibilities as a prosecutor - making deals, taking cases to trial, etc. I always had a interest in public defense and criminal law, but back then I didn't know which way I wanted to go.

After school, I ended the internship and went looking for a job.

Long story short, I needed a job and this one showed up. I liked it because even though it isn't criminal defense (the cases are technically civil), I was standing up for indigent clients, I get a ton of court time, and the issues are interesting.

_U_W0T_M8_-1 karma

Parentrepthrowaway5 karma

Have I made it?? Does this mean I made it?

Reecespieces91 karma

Has there ever been a case that you turned down?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

Our office is contracted to provide defense for indigent clients by appointment. The judge appoints us to cases. Unless there is a conflict or some really go reason to turn down a case, we can't really just turn cases down.

I have turned down private cases plenty of times. Usually because of money or I was too busy. Also, you feel bad with the private cases. These cases are very specialized and can take years to complete. Covering a case from beginning to end, if it goes all the way, can be $100,000s of dollars even without lengthy trials. Barely anyone is in a position to afford that, let alone the typical socioeconomical position of the people in these cases.

ben56471 karma

What was the toughest case you ever had to deal with and why?

Parentrepthrowaway5 karma

A couple. Tough cases aren't usually the facts - its the clients. These cases are on going for many years.

One client is a pain in the butt. She has mental health issues and yells at me. She wants everything done a particular way. She says she is doing everything, but doesn't actually listen to my advice on what to do. And once I helped stop her from getting arrested, and she later said I didn't stand up for her.

Another was where the kid, a little girl, was molested in care. I wanted her to go back to her mom so bad. I would lose sleep. But her mom's termination trial had come up, and even though she was doing way better, it wasn't enough just quite yet and she would have lost. We had to convince her to relinquish her parental rights to get an open adoption agreement. It was rough.

whatisthisstickygoo1 karma

Are the foster care homes really that bad as they are portrayed in movies and on TV ?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Depends. You'd be surprised how little I know about the homes. Its not even that common for me to even meet my client's kids. And there are lots of laws protecting foster care confidentiality.

That being said, there are some horror stories. Lots of good ones, too, though. In my experience, what is overlooked is not the foster parents - they go through rigorous tests. What is over looked is the other kids in the home. Those are the ones who are more apt for sexualized or dangerous behavior.

But there are bad foster parents, too. We just got a tape of one saying she would "fucking beat the shit" out of this kid if he were her child.

whatisthisstickygoo1 karma

Thank you for the reply, now I have more insight into the foster care program.

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma


peabeepea1 karma

At what age are kids generally aware of why they are being taken away? Is there a pattern in how a specific reason would affect the way kids see their parents?

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

Its tough to say. Thats a better question for someone who works more directly with the kids, like the social worker. Like I said in another answer, I barely see my client's kids.

But its earlier than you would probably think. Kids are sharp. One time, a social worker came up to me to talk about an inactive, not participating parent. She said the kid, who was almost 5, said "I think I know what I did wrong now... I think I know what I have to fix to be back with mommy again."

So as much as they try to shield kids, they know.

metigue1 karma

Have you ever won a case and succesfully gotten a child back for a parent, where you think the child might have been better off if you had not won?

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

There have been some cases where I knew I was delaying the inevitable. Where I knew the state would get more info or that the parent was very likely to screw up and have the kid or kids removed later on.

But I've never regretted a positive outcome for my clients.

Choralone2 karma

Can I just say - I like this attitude, and I wish more people would understand this when it comes to legal representation.

Your job is to advocate for your client, right? If it's truly an unfit situation, and the kid should be in foster care, then the state should be able to prove that. That's the other attorney's job - and us laypeople can't be sure either of you did your job right unless you both do your job right.

At least that's how I see it.

Zarathustran2 karma

I think there's something pretty fucked up about helping to put a child back into an abusive home when you know that you are only "delaying the inevitable" and they will probably be abused again.

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

Let me give you an example of a scenario I was thinking of -

I had a client where the state was asking for her about 15 month old daughter to be removed from her care. Her daughter had been in her care and only her care for her whole life.

The mom had no drug issues, criminal history, or even mental health issues. Her problem was that her husband was domestically violent with her. She was actually physically a larger person than he was. He was her only support; she did not have family or friends in the area. Every few weeks, they would get in a yelling argument with each other and he would push her or hit her. Nothing drastic enough to put her in the hospital, but certainly notable enough to get the neighbor's attention. CPS had been involved for a few month and nothing had gotten better. The child had never been abused or neglected. The concern was the domestic violence between the parents.

One day before her 72 hour removal hearing, I called her to tell her to go get a no contact order against her husband. When she picked up, she was already at the court getting the order without me telling her. I walked into the hearing triumphantly and said "she got a no contact order!" and her daughter stayed with her. She continued to be with her mother instead of in a foster home, with strangers, and seeing her mom two or four hours a week.

I had a strong feeling mom was not strong enough to uphold the no contact order. I didn't know she would get caught breaking it a week later. But I definitely didn't have any qualms about getting a return home for her. She deserved that chance to comply with the rules.

How would you have handled that situation?

Brad_Wesley1 karma

Are you a dude or a chick?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma


Brad_Wesley2 karma

have any white trash mothers tried to seduce you to get you to leave them alone?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

I'm not sure what you mean by "leave them alone", but kinda. My policy is if my client doesn't give a shit about their kid, I have better things to do with my time then give a shit for them.

But I've had clients call me cute or hot to my face. Its very awkward. And some awkward facebook likes or comments on our firm page. And my coworker makes fun of me because she heard a couple of clients call me Mr. Gray or something like that. Something about the 50 Shades of Gray dude.

armorsmith424 karma

You should probably be aware that the 50 Shades of Gray dude is an abusive rapist, which is why multiple actors one-after-another slated to play him in the movie walked off the set. Professional issues aside, I'd be very careful around anyone who liked that book. "Don't stick your dick in the crazy", definitely applies to dating anyone that thinks that book is sexy or romantic.

Here, read this review of the chapter where he breaks into the main character's house and rapes her.

Parentrepthrowaway4 karma

Best. /r/Youshouldknow. Ever.

Thank you for the warning. Good thing I am not an abusive rapist. Plus, professional issues aside, the people who are saying this would not be on "go-to" list. For many reasons.

pinkelephant30 karma

You sir make my life very difficult, especially when the parents should never ever get the kids back! How difficult is it for you to work your magic in court for these parents when it's obvious they shouldn't get the kids back?

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

The first step is not taking a black and white approach. People do well to remember that every person involved in these cases is just that - a person. They should be treated like one and not have predetermined presumptions about their parenting capabilities.

Its easy from there!

armorsmith420 karma

My brother just took the LSAT and is interested in going into family law. Aside from The Illustrated Guide to the Law, what might you recommend he read?

Parentrepthrowaway2 karma

Take as many prep tests as possible. Over, and over, and over again. Get those books from Kaplan and all that. And try to take it in test-like senarios, with timers and all that.

I got a decent LSAT (I don't remember what because I can't even remember the scale) without a course. I just bought the books and practiced a bunch.

armorsmith421 karma

er, well he already took the LSAT and did very well. I mean any good things to read for deciding if he actually should go to law school and actually should go into family law.

Parentrepthrowaway1 karma

Ahhhh. My bad.

Shadow someone. Law schools are very overcrowded now because a lot of people finished school, couldn't find a job, and decided to do law/grad school. It can be tough to get a legal job.

But don't go to /r/law or they will tell you never do it. It isn't true. I have debt and it sucks but I love being a lawyer. The reason is I have a genuine interest in the law.

You have to really want to be a lawyer for law school to be worth it. Spend some time in law school before you go to see if you like the material. But more important, spend some time with an attorney you respect to see if it is something you want to do.

StLouisDiscGolf0 karma

Have you seen divorce corp? Do you agree that the family courts system need to be restructured?

Parentrepthrowaway3 karma

I have not. But I googled it really quickly to get a small idea.

Its easy to say any system needs to be restructured. They all do. Health care, education, the legal system, the government. The hard question is answering how to restructure it, how to experiment to see if that would work, and how to make the transition.