Gary S. Malkasian
Foster Care Justice Alliance
P.O. Box 233
Woodinville, WA 98072-0233
FAX: (206) 493-2773
September 15, 2008
The Honorable Christine Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
FAX: (360) 753-4110
RE: Troubling Foster Care Cases
Dear Governor Gregoire,
I am writing to you as a foster parent, and as a representative of the Foster Care Justice Alliance, an alliance of foster parents, foster alumni, and guardians ad litem. You and I have met twice before; the first time was when you signed the bill creating the HB2156 "Sirita" Task Force, and the second was when you signed Sirita's Law.
First, let me thank you for your consistent support of foster children in our state. The reforms that have passed, plus your initiatives to shorten CPS response time and increase visitations, have made a difference that I have seen as a foster dad and as an advocate of children's rights.
I've received troubling reports from various foster parents that voicing concerns about a case plan resulted in retaliation against them by DSHS. In particular, contacting the Ombudsman's office seems to be a turning point. We can demonstrate in multiple cases that ISSPs filed prior to that point were glowing in terms of how the foster parent's contribution was described. Subsequently ISSPs describe the same foster parents as "uncooperative." This seems to be particularly true if the OFCO has sided with the foster parent. Are your two departments at war?
In two very similar cases, the department has attempted to remove special needs children from homes where they have spent many years, against the advice of the children's own medical providers.
"R." in Sequim
In one case in Sequim, the grandmother of foster child "R." has been the relative caregiver for the past three years. The boy is four years old, and autistic. The birth parents have had no contact for two years, and the case was headed for TPR. The grandmother's name is Cherie L. [edited for website] She alleged that molestation occurred during a supposedly supervised visitation. The day before a review hearing, she was told the department was going to remove R. her home. The only allegation against her is suspicion that the boy calls his father "the scary man" because of her - yet there are ample accounts that the father's behavior with the children might be scary, such as baring his teeth, throwing objects, and using the "F" word. Further, the child's specialists at Children's Hospital stated that the department attempted to pressure them to say the boy is no longer autistic, to make reunification easier.
This child has not been allowed to see his grandmother for nearly two weeks. Requests for visitation have been denied. The risk of behavioral regression and permanent psychological damage is high. Visitation must be allowed immediately - not for the sake of the grandma, but for the sake of the child. I believe 10 out of 10 people you might find walking down the street would understand this. How is it possible an MSW does not?
"S." in Everett
In another case in Everett, foster parents Amy and Dick Langley have had the 3 year old girl "S." since she was four months old. S. is medically fragile. All the siblings have been born premature with medical issues because of prenatal drug exposure. Another brother is also in foster care. Two siblings have died and one has gone missing. Again, glowing reports by the department turned hostile once the Langleys contacted OFCO. The department attempted to remove S. from their home, discounting a written recommendation by the child's neurologist warning against such a move, and against the strong objection of the GAL. At the review hearing, Judge Kurtz chided the department for discounting the advice of the neurologist, and returned the girl to the Langleys. However, Kurtz has rotated off juvenile cases and the department is now attempting to remove the child with "agreed orders" to bypass the judge. We believe that when there are serious objections by the caregivers and the OFCO, agreed orders are not appropriate.
We further believe children have suffered because of conflict between your departments. You have to fix this. We hold you personally responsible for the safety and well being of these children. These are not the first foster parents to contact us claiming to be victims of retaliation. We also wonder how many cases we don't know about that are as bad or worse than these. I have to believe that you care about these children as much as I do. Please protect these children with all possible speed.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. I am happy to provide your office, or anyone you designate, with more details about either of these cases.
Foster Care Justice Alliance