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Compelling stories from parents and grandparents about problems with placement and removal of children

By   /   December 4, 2009  /   77 Comments

State Rep Mike Kiegerl (R-Olathe), Chair, Joint Committee on Children's Issues

State Rep Mike Kiegerl, Chair, Joint Committee on Children's Issues

Compelling stories told by parents and grandparents in Topeka on Monday need to be heard outside the hearing room of the Joint Committee on Children’s Issues.   Kansas has some serious problems with the placement and removal of children from homes, and the legislature needs to fix the problems.

Listen to the audio clips of these parents and grandparents below.  Read through the selected quotations if listening takes too much time for you.  In some of the cases, the prepared statements are also included below, if you want even more details.

Earlier this week the Kansas Watchdog reported about parents and grandparents asking why children were removed from homes and this blog posting extends that coverage. 

Listen to opening remarks by State Rep Mike Kiegerl (R-Olathe), Chair of the Joint Committee :

 


SRS Secretary Don Jordan explains policies

SRS Secretary Don Jordan explains policies

Kiegerl asked SRS Secretary Don Jordan to describe policies, procedures, practices that deal with foster care placement, child removal, adoption and family restoration. 

“This is by far … the most sensitive and emotional area in which we deal.”

Jordan’s comments here are limited to what he said about the removal of children from the home (his full comments were about an hour long):

 

 Kiegerl gave this introduction for the remaining speakers:

“The Committee has been contacted by about 60 individuals, parents, grandparents, foster care givers, and guardians ad litem, who experienced substantial problems in how children were removed, placed, and handled. Some of these people will testify today, and some of their assertions will be troublesome and critical. They will be highly critical of the delivery system as it is currently in place. Indeed, some of these stories are hard to believe.”   …

“The stories we are going to hear today that are troubling — there’s always two sides to each story.”

Chair Kiegerl asked SRS Secretary Jordan to look one more time at these cases and respond to the committee so both sides of the story may be known.

Chair Kiegerl asked those testifying to stay with factual information and avoid opinions not supported by facts:

“Explain your experience. Tell us what happened. And what response you got to your inquiries. Or, whether you did get a response. Do not mention case workers’ names, do not mention supervisors’ names, do not mention SRS employee names, … do not mention the contractors’ name. … This is a fact finding mission, where we need to find out what has gone wrong in these particular cases and to prevent that type of situation to recur for the children’s sake. for the sake of the Agency, for the sake of society as a whole.”

The entries below are listed in chronological order from the presentations on Monday


“Valros”

Valorie Rosproy: "because I reported the abuse I got my children taken from me and they were sent back to their abuser"

Valros: "because I reported the abuse I got my children taken from me and they were sent back to their abuser"

I went to file for a divorce to get out of a domestic violence situation … to get me and my kids out of a domestic violence situation … “

“… because I reported the abuse — I didn’t report it my son did — I got my children taken from me and they were sent back to their abuser … Now they’re in SRS custody …”

Chair Kiegerl:  “What went wrong?”

Valros:  “I think it began with the case manager having too much authority in this case. She was able to write court orders … There was never a 72-hour hearing. “

Kiegerl: “… If I understand you correctly, the breakdown occurred mainly in the judicial administration…?”

Licensed Master Social Worker Debbie Wilson testifed in support of Valorie Rosproy

Licensed Master Social Worker, Debbie Wilson, testifed in support of Valros

Debbie Wilson:  “… It’s almost as if they want to brush everything under the rug …”

“… All I know is what didn’t happen…”

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita): “It says that Valorie could not report abuse or neglect of the boys to the school. What was the reason … ?

Wilson: “I think at that point they felt she was leading the boys, but I don’t know how the case manger came to that conclusion. It wasn’t just Valorie making those reports. It was an independent therapist …”

“You’re talking about two little boys who have told and told and told … and no one has done anything about it.”

Kiegerl: “… The system has broken down and really hurt these little boys. It’s something we just need to make sure never happens again.”

Listen to ValRos:

 

Listen to Debbie Wilson:


Marilyn Dilley

Read details in written statement.

“A three year old boy was placed in our home …”

“In the winter of 2009, our agency lost the contract with the state of Kansas to provide foster care services.”

“A case worker at the new agency was assigned ….”

“… we realized that … [the] caseworker lied to the judge …”

“She lied to us & she lied to this 4 year old boy.”

“We still want to adopt him”

Listen to Marilyn Dilley:


Amanda Coppenbarger

Kids of abused mom Amanda Coppenbarger are now in foster care

Kids of abused mom Amanda Coppenbarger are now in foster care

“My daughter [said] my stepfather had sexually molested her”

“My husband choked me … I told him to leave and filed for divorce”

“I kept in contact with Child Protection Services and followed their recommendations”

“My kids were taken into protective custody based on a report … that my ex-husband and two stepsons made allegations that I coached them about the sexual abuse”

“I have not received a 30 day deposition hearing and reintegration plan”

My 11 year old daughter “asked to talk to the judge when she was 10 and she was denied”

Chair Kiegerl: “Was he [your husband] arrested as a consequence of his actions?”

Coppenbarger: “I didn’t file a police report — I was scared.”

Earlier “I did file a police report, it was dropped. Regardless of the bruises on my back, the scar on my leg, they dropped it.”

Vice Chair Sen. Julia Lynn (R-Olathe): “You believe the ball was dropped by the DA’s office?”

Coppenbarger: “It was”

Kiegerl: “Where are your children now?”

Coppenbarger: “They’re in foster care”

Listen to Amanda Coppenbarger:


Clarence Wonsetler

Clarence Wonsetler spent $10,000 on legal bills to get his granddaughter back

Clarence Wonsetler spent $10,000 on legal bills to get his granddaughter back

Read details in written statement.

“We believe SRS and CPS Private Contractor have violated our civil and constitutional rights”

“Even though my wife and I were approved for placement of my granddaughter, agencies in Kansas place her in approximately 8 different foster homes”

“We were told that we could not have our granddaughter because we were too old”

“We were finally able to get [her] back into the home but only after having to payout approximately $10,000 in legal fees”

“These are crimes against humanity and should be stopped and changed so it never happens to another family”

“Our case is no longer in court, but we … are here to bear witness to the atrocities that continue to occur to thousands of children in the state of Kansas”

 

Listen to Clarence Wonsetler:


 Cecillia Arnold

Cecillia Arnold lost her parental rights.  Wants her kids back.

Abused mom Cecillia Arnold lost her parental rights. She wants her kids back.

“I did all court orders and my girls were placed back home with me”

“The case workers changed many times. I couldn’t get through to them sometimes.”

“The reintegration itself … was going well”

“I had stability. I had a home. I had a job. I had everything that they would ask someone to do for reintegration to occur.”

“My abuser … was going to jail at the time at the time the girls were removed from home. He was incarcerated for, I think, it was two years for the crime he committed against me.”

“The girls were removed from home for the second time.”

“The assistant [Sedgwick County] DA … filed a petition for termination [of parental rights], and after … the trial termination was granted.”

“As of now I have not seen my children since March of this year”

“During the trial I had testimony from different people — the foster care parents … — their testimony was overlooked.”

“… bad experiences with DCCA …”

“They said the reason for termination was … me not following the reintegration plan. That was not true.”

“… the ball got dropped on me from the Agency that was contracted through the courts … They didn’t do the job that they were supposed to do, which resulted in my girls being removed from home”

Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau: “Her parents are in the audience … They have been denied custody of their grandchildren, too, and told there were too old; they were too sick.”

State Rep Bill Otto (R-LeRoy): “Your rights are severed?”

Arnold: “My rights have been terminated … I have no rights to my children. I have not seen them since March. I filed an appeal that didn’t go anywhere. I’m here today because I want my children back.” …

Otto: “Where was your lawyer?” …

Arnold: “I had court-appointed attorneys … I feel I could have done a better job representing myself” ..

Otto: “This should not happen to anybody … I’m so sorry.” …

Chair Kiegerl: “Your problem mainly is with the courts, although, I’m sure, the agency’s testimony was instrumental in the decision. … My heart goes out to you …I wish there were a magic wand that … we could use to solve your problem.”

Arnold left in tears.

Listen to Cecillia Arnold:

Watch this Kansas Watchdog YouTube Video of Arnold explaining her case.


Sadie Carpenter

 

 Read details in written statement.

“Our great granddaughter …”

“Her mother was arrested for prostitution and child abandonment and put in jail. [She] was turned over to SRS, who placed her into foster care.”

“Facts about the foster woman:

* She is in her late sixties

* She has no visible means of support, other than caring for foster children

* She is a long time smoker, and is an oxygen user”

[She] is being denied the right to grow up with her blood relatives.”

Senator Roger Reitz (R-Manhattan): “This one should not be here. The others were so complicated.”

Secretary Don Jordan: “We’ll look at it right away.”

 Listen to Sadie Carpenter:


Claudine Dombrowski 

Claudine Dombrowski:  An abused mom victimized again by the Kansas Courts

Claudine Dombrowski: An abused mom victimized again by the Kansas Courts

Read details in written statement.

This is an truly incredible story that should never have happened in America. 

Parts of the Kansas Judicial system should be disciplined for how it has victimized Ms. Dombrowski, who was an abused mom.

Instead of quotes from the audio, please consult these pages that document Dombrowski’s long and difficult battle to protect her daughter:

As you view these photos keep in mind that the court awarded FULL CUSTODY of their daughter to the “man” who did this to Claudine.

State Rep Bill Otto: “No crime? You haven’t been guilty of anything? This is a court order that says you can’t go to any school functions?”

“I was under court order till 2004 to not even call the police after I was being beaten because … I was not ‘co-parenting'”

Dombrowski: “These friends of the court make recommendations to the judge. The parents … don’t have a right to see these documents. They do this behind closed doors.”

Otto: (To Secretary Jordan): “You have no rights as a parent …?”

Secretary Don Jordan: “This would be something extreme … I’m not familiar with the situation.”

Otto: “Can a judge do that? … Is that legal… ?”

Jordan: “Under the right circumstances … I hesitate to speculate.”

Sen. Roger Reitz: “This is something that only … the judicial system can really answer … It would be helpful … to have someone … representing the judicial system … to give us some ideas how this could happen.”

Dombrowski: “When you are a victim of domestic violence, and suddenly there’s a child involved, the typical …. power of control is that ‘I’ll take your children from you’. They will and they can the way the laws are setup.” …

“I was told that I’m not to talk to my daughter about the violence. That’s why I don’t see her. That’s why I see her supervised. He was criminally convicted. “

“When women try to get away from people who hurt them … I heard somebody say it’s really hard to believe you won’t call the police … I tell people not to contact the police, because as soon as you walk into court with a DV (domestic violence) and children, you’re already cutting your throat. You will lose your children. That’s the way it is right now.”

“… on the 16th of this month I’ll probably go to jail for breaking the gag order and talking about [being the victim of] violence as it relates to my case.”

Reitz: “… someone ought to be able to deal with this in a way that would address her problem. It doesn’t seem like we’ve done the right thing with regards to this little niche of the law.”

Dombrowski: “The criminal convictions are completely tossed aside and they don’t have any bearing on the family court … The eight criminal convictions that my ex had before getting custody of my daughter were completely dropped [in family court]“

Chair Kiegerl: “I cannot believe that abuse is totally ignored. I cannot believe you can prohibit a person from speaking about their own case.”

“The one thing [where] … I disagree with you is abuse should always be reported.”

State Rep Peggy Mast (R-Emporia): “Domestic violence is a control issue. Sexual abuse is a control issue. Is there any correlation between domestic violence and sexual abuse? Why is that not something that is considered when we take someone to [family] court that has a history of domestic violence?”

Dombrowski: “Yes. That is something I’ve asked myself for 16 years. … It comes back to the family court that has a veil of immunity. … They don’t fully understand the impact of the violence. What battered women have … if they report the abuse, then they’re failing to protect their child … if they don’t report the abuse, they’re still failing to protect their child. So, both ways, they’re going to lose their children …”

For anybody who abuses their wife … [from] a 1996 presidential task force … there is a 70% increase that those children will be abused and/or sexually abused after there’s been battery with the mother.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudea: “In 2004 …. I talked with the homicide department in Sedgwick County…. During that time there had been 21 homicides in Sedgwick County and 18 were due to domestic violence …”

“A lot of women do make those phone calls and unfortunately, sometimes it ends in their death.” …

“I want to apologize to you for being treated like a pedophile … not being able to go to a music concert.”

“I commend you for what you’re doing.”

Dombrowski: “I have not talked to my daughter in 10 years [except] for the confines of supervised visits. I’m not allowed to talk to her about anything. All she knows is what her dad has told her.”

See this video:  Abused Mom Wants Unsupervised Visits with Daughter

Listen to Claudine Dombrowski:


 Larry Sneary

“There is significant evidence that my daughter has been abused. This has been downplayed by the courts.”

“Professionals in this case … have used hearsay of one side”

“I feel the main reason my daughter was taken from me was because I reported abuse, my wife reported abuse. My daughter herself reported abuse.”

“My wife and I had to complete psychological evaluations … these evaluations proved my wife and I have no mental illness precluding us from being fit parents.”

“The courts determined that my psychological issues make me an unfit parent and granted guardianship to the maternal grandmother.”

“The grandmother will not allow any type of visitation, not even professionally supervised visitation. ”

“As a father, who previously took care of her from birth, this is pure agony.”

“I will keep fighting for her”

“please pass the protective parent reform bill into law”

Sen Oletha Faust-Goudeau: “There needs to be something presented … to tell him the definite factual reason why he can’t have his wonderful daughter.”

Secretary Don Jordan: “…I believe the petitions that are filed, the orders by the court, are about as specific as you can get…”

Faust-Goudeau: “Excuse me, Secretary. Seriously, I hear that the judge, and the case workers, everyone’s passing the buck.”

Jordan: “The parents should get a very clear reason ….”

Sneary’s wife, Annette: “The only reason the judge determined … because he had a couple of angry incidents. … Everyone has psychological issues. We are not mentally unfit. We are angry. We are emotional. Would you be? …”

Sneary: “No judge in his right mind is going to give custody to a drunken, drug addict. But little did I know what grandma had up her sleeve.”

Listen to Larry Sneary: 


Kathy Winters

Grandmoth Kathy Winters fights for custody of her grandchildren

Grandmother Kathy Winters fights system for custody of her grandchildren

“… daughter’s oldest child, her father wanted custody”

“He gave information to CPS. They admitted, a supervisor admitted to me, that they had helped him financially for this information. We found it was all unsubstantiated.”

“The case worker … filed charges, and took my daughter’s children away.”

“We asked them to look at my daughter’s evidence but they never did. They said they didn’t have to.”

“Two court appointed attorneys … said the judge has already made a decision. She has read the reports, which we are not allowed to see. … The GAL (guardian ad litem) had never talked to me or my daughter about her case. He had never investigated on his own.”

“The attorneys told us that she needed to plead ‘no contest’. If she pleaded ‘no contest’ she would get reunification with her children immediately.”

“My daughter plead ‘no contest’, that was three years ago, … and they have severed her rights. She never got her children back.”

“At the first of the case … the CPS worker told me I [the grandmother] would get the three youngest ones — they were involved in the same case.”

“She asked my background. She got all my information. She said we would go to court. The children would be brought to my house. If my house checked out, I would get those children.”

“The little girl … was given to a dad who was on probation for domestic violence. They didn’t even check him out.”

“And even though I was approved for placement for the two boys … they were placed in two separate foster homes. “

“I went back to court and asked for placement of those children …. I got the children out of foster homes … They were in foster care for a week.”

“I had the children for 15 months … “

“In Jan 2008 the case worker told me they were thinking about severing my daughter’s rights.”

“In two meetings the contractors stated the only reason …. was they would lose their grant. “

“To the case worker outside the court room, I said then I want to adopt my … grandsons.”

“They said you can’t because of your age and disability.”

At a mall “the authorized baby sitter had gone to the bathroom and left the two little boys with the 12 year old sister.” …

“When SRS came out to my house they said ‘no problem'”

“My dad became ill. I had to go to Arizona, so the little boys went to their aunt’s … and stayed for a week.”

“My father passed away. The day I cam back from my dad’s funeral, the contractor called me and said ‘I have bad news. We’re severing your daughter’s rights, and we’re removing the boys from your home’.”

“I said, ‘why?'”

“They said, ‘because of the mall.'”

“I said, ‘I didn’t break that safety plan.'”

“She said, ‘it’s not up for discussion. The decision has been made, we’re removing the boys.'”

Winters says she has 11 instances of mistruths under oath in the hearing.

“They took the boys”

“I have made complaints with Don Jordan’s office.”

“I have made complaints about the perjury … with supervisors, contractors, Behavior Sciences Regulatory Board, the FBI …, Office of Civil Rights …, Kansas Attorney General …, Don Jordan’s office …, Johnson County DA’s office … “

“The children have been placed in four different homes.”

Chair Kiergerl explains that Winters is one of his constituents, and he has been to her home, and does not understand why the boys were removed, and not returned, even after his investigation. “Even I couldn’t get a straight answer from the contractor, and frankly I’m disgusted with them. …. I have no reason to believe that Ms. Winters is misstating the case.”

Winters (in response to question from State Rep Bill Otto): “You’ve got to understand: With me the contractors make $0 from the federal government. From foster parents they got $2000/month.”

Sen. Julia Lynn: “This has been going on for …. years. I believe that if we didn’t push this issue, and keep pushing it and pushing it, on behalf of all the people who are here, we would still have business as usual. … I’m hoping we can find some things to solve some of these problems.”

Listen to  Kathy Winters: 


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