By Destiny Roberts
“Mommy, will this happen to me? Mommy, he’s my age and CPS did not save him. Just like me. I told Ms. Jones that daddy had a gun and he was going to kill me while I was sleeping. Mommy, is my abuser going to do this to me?”
As I watched the news of this little 8 year boy who was killed while under the watch of Erie County CPS, it wrenched my soul. My greatest fear, as for many parents, is that my son’s abuser would seriously hurt him or even kill him in a fit of rage. How do you assure your son that this will never happen to him when he has expressed his fears to CPS in a county close to Erie County and they repeatedly ignored his cries?
My son’s story is not unique in any way. It’s a like Abdifatah Mohamud’s. It’s like Eain Brooks’. It’s like Jacob Noe’s. Various mandated reporters call in reports repeatedly to CPS after seeing visible signs of bruises on my son’s arms, legs and back after being with his abuser. My son repeatedly reaching out for help, trying to tell how he received those bruises from his abuser. My son being put in dangerous situations- by some fortune has come out of them unscathed. His abuser showing him weapons and leaving them out in the open. My son being left unsupervised and unattended in running vehicles, on playgrounds in unknown and unfamiliar surroundings, and all the while with CPS digging their feet deeper into the sand, refusing to acknowledge that we have a serious problem. The repeated calls showing the escalation of abuse, coupled with the repeated unfounded reports have left medical professionals’ heads spinning- how could this be? A system that is supposed to protect our children from further abuse and neglect is failing them terribly, yet nothing changes. The pleas of medical professionals to help this little boy before something worse happens all fall on deaf ears, and then CPS questions the mandated reporters about why they keep calling in reports.
It has been the protocol of CPS to interview my son in the presence of his abuser repeatedly. They could certainly gain access to my son without his abuser being present. My son’s abuser is advised ahead of time when they will show up, giving them ample time to program and instill fear into my son if he does not lie to CPS. The typical tactic of an abuser is to use their power and control by projecting onto an innocent child and telling them if they go to jail, it will be the child’s fault and he would never see his abuser again, so he must lie. This fear has caused so much confusion for my son. He knows what’s happening is wrong, but he fears what will happen if he doesn’t lie. My son is rewarded if he lies for his abuser. Yet when his abuser is not present, when the bruises are documented by medical professionals, my son articulates in detail what he endured and what he was told to say. Despite this, CPS still ignores the warning signs and allows this repeated abuse to happen over and over again. As a result of the ongoing abuse, my son now has been diagnosed with PTSD. A life sentence that could have been prevented had they assisted me in the Family Court system.
My son has been confronted with confusion and betrayal not only by his abuser but by the system. Repeatedly. The caseworkers assigned to my son’s cases have all promised him that their job is to protect him from further abuse and they would help him. These words have left my son hopeful that the abuse would stop. Yet he is forced to endure continual abuse due to the deceit and broken promises by CPS. As parents, we try to teach our children to trust adults such as CPS and yet these adults lie to our children, leaving them feeling all alone, helpless and without hope.
When the public hears of another CPS tragedy, they demand immediate change to protect this from happening to another child. However, when they are confronted with great opposition and little support by public officials and Office of Children and Family Services, the public is left with nowhere to turn. But for us parents, we can never stop our fight because it is our children and we live daily with the fear that this time something much worse will happen.
After Eain Brooks’ death, OCFS issued a scathing report on Erie County. As I read over the report, the same deficits that were in that report had been brought up repeatedly within the county that we are dealing with. I have letters from the County and both the Regional and the Albany Office of OCFS and OCFS stating that the county is following the statutory requirements. It’s apparent that there is lack of communication between the various offices since they do not realize that Albany has sent me documentation from Connections, a documentation program that CPS uses, which tells a different story. CPS has and continues to fall short meeting the statutory requirements of performing safety assessments within the allotted time, contacting collateral sources, applying the applicable law and closing out the cases in the required time. However, they have been allowed to continue on the path of destruction to our children and the families involved due to the lack of accountability, until a tragedy like the ones in Buffalo occurs.
As a parent, I hear “It’s our job to protect our children. What kind of parent would send their child to their abuser, knowing that they are being abused?” To the people making these comments, I can give you countless stories of where CPS has advised families to not send their children back to the abuser and defy a Court Order. These families have found while they were able to protect their children for a very short time, they ended up in jail, lost custody of their children, and were forced to turn their children over to their abusers, where the abuse continues. There are also cases where CPS advises parents to involve the Family Court and then tells the Family Court nothing is going on. They unfound the report, leaving the parent helpless in their quest to protect their child, on CPS’s own advisement.
To gain a clearer understanding why CPS continually marked my son’s reports “unfounded”, I reached out to the various caseworkers, supervisors, administrator, Directors and Commissioners asking what the definition of “credible evidence” was, and the applicable laws they used to base their decisions on. To my amazement, none of them could give me the definition of credible evidence nor point me to the area of the law that they were utilizing to base their decisions on. It was at that time per the recommendation of the Hotline to reach out to the Regional Office with my same questions and they were not able to answer me either. In fact, they ignored me.
Do we really want them to hold these positions and make decisions on our children marking reports as UNFOUNDED when they don’t know answers to our questions?
Meanwhile, I’m stuck trying to answer this one
“Mommy, am I going to die?”