Matt Brown at the Chander Criminal Defense blog had a client who was accused of hurting her child, but the prosecutor dropped the charges. Nevertheless, Arizona Child Protective Services apparently ignored all that and conducted their own investigation. Brown blogged his account of their interview with his client.
It’s one of the most chilling things I’ve ever read.
The meeting was conducted by a woman who proclaimed herself the “facilitator.” She used the term “facilitator” with the kind of frequency I commonly encounter when a person using a word doesn’t quite know what it means and thinks repeating it will make him or her appear smart. She also said things like “matter-of-factly” and “irregardlessly.”
My client, my client’s mother, the assigned CPS caseworker, and I were all in attendance. We each filled out little name cards. The back of the cards featured a list of ground rules. The last one was “no blaming or shaming.” …
The facilitator, who at times did a fair job of pretending to be impartial, generally undertook the role of grand inquisitress with zeal that would make Mike Nifong blush. When she first started attacking my client, no one seemed to notice my comment that it sounded an awful lot to me like some prohibited “blaming or shaming” was taking place. I don’t think the facilitator thought the back of the name cards applied to her.
I don’t know anything about the mother, and so for all I know, the child really does need to be taken away from her. I realize that you can’t always wait for a criminal conviction to protect a child. But there’s a difference between a measured response to a child welfare emergency and the Stalinist show trial Brown describes:
The facilitator clearly didn’t listen to anything my client said. My client said she’d do anything for her kids, and the facilitator responded with “so you’re unwilling and unable to care for them?” “No,” my client said, “I will do anything.” The caseworker and facilitator stared at my client like she just said “take my kids, I don’t care and won’t do anything to help them.” It was like watching two different conversations.
When it suited the facilitator’s preconceptions, she mixed up the facts. She exaggerated the length of CPS’s involvement, the amount of time it took my client to get services for her daughter, the number of days of notice they’d given, and the severity of the alleged conduct underlying the scratched criminal charges. She was wholly incapable of wrapping her head around the fact my client did not assault her daughter. The caseworker claimed she saw choke marks on my client’s daughter, which the facilitator agreed proved my client assaulted her. I found that very strange considering that the alleged assault was supposedly just three punches.
It all ends about how you’d expect:
After what I can honestly say was the most farcical proceeding I’ve ever witnessed, the facilitator and caseworker decided to take both of my client’s children away. In a meeting they said lawyers never attended (and which most lawyers told me they never attended), CPS decided to take not just the child involved in the criminal case, but the child who had nothing to do with anything.
Here comes that special little touch that made me think of Communist show trials:
As my client cried her eyes out, the facilitator handed her a pamphlet entitled “Icebreakers” to help her prepare for when she next gets to see her children. The facilitator described CPS’s programs to my client as if she expected my client to give her a hug and thank her.
Somehow I know, just know, that at some point in Brown’s client’s rehabilitation or treatment or counseling, she’s going to be put in a situation where the only way she can get her children back is to “take responsibility for what she did”—admit to abusing here daughter—even if she never did any such thing.
Personally, I’m still in shock. I can’t believe what I saw. I can’t believe CPS can take kids based on nothing, can’t believe the facilitator and the caseworker could do something like that to a family, and can’t believe that any human being could be so willing to make a life-changing decision so callously. It’s the kind of thing I’m going to have nightmares about for years to come.
I was getting angry just reading Matt Brown’s account of all this. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in the room while it was happening and not be able to do anything about it. By the time I finished reading this post, I almost expected Matt to reveal that the meeting ended when he and his client beat the facilitator to death.