Monday, April 7, 2014

Do financial incentives for adoption out of foster care disqualify CPS agencies from prosecuting child neglect proceedings?

When a Child Protective Agency prosecutes a child abuse or neglect proceeding in New York (probably, as in any other state), it has power to remove the child or seek from the court removal of the child from parents care.

If removed, the child is placed either into family placement, or, far more often, into foster care.

The legal custodian of children in foster care is the local Child Protective Agency, the petitioner in child neglect and abuse proceedings.

The U.S. government gives to "incentive-eligible states" financial incentives for speedier adoption out of foster care:


42 USC 673b
(d) Adoption incentive payment
(1) In general
Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3), the adoption incentive payment payable to a State for a fiscal year under this section shall be equal to the sum of
(A) $4,000, multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of foster child adoptions in the State during the fiscal year exceeds the base number of foster child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year;
(B) $4,000, multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of special needs adoptions that are not older child adoptions in the State during the fiscal year exceeds the base number of special needs adoptions that are not older child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year; and
(C) $8,000, multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of older child adoptions in the State during the fiscal year exceeds the base number of older child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year.


Let's translate it into how the above scenario works on a hypothetical situation.

Let's say that the base number of foster child adoptions in a state during a fiscal year is 100.  Let's say that the State exceeded that number by 50.  That means that the State exceeded the "base number" by 50 (or by additional 50%), but because of increase by an additional 50% the state will receive an increase in "financial incentive" by a multiplier of 50:   100 x 50 = 5000, or by 4900%.

With older children, the State gets double the incentive it gets for younger children.

My numbers are hypothetical, but the calculations and percentages involved are based on the real statute quoted above.  This may be an enticement too difficult to turn down, and family reunification with birth parents be damned, the state has too much of a financial incentive to get that money to adopt children out of foster care, while declaring all along that its goal is to reunify the children with their families.

New York State law requires CPS to have as an official permanency goal for the child in foster care reunification with the child's parents.

If both the financial incentive and the legal burden are directed at the same agency, isn't it a conflict of interest, and wouldn't such financial incentives disqualify the CPS agency from investigating, prosecuting and removing children out of the care of the child's parents and placing the child in the custody of the agency that is financially rewarded for severing the child's ties to his parents and adopting the child to foster care?

My efforts to verify through Freedom of Information requests the channels through which federal money trickles down to the county child protective services were blocked by Delaware County officials on the alleged grounds on privacy.

Yet, I have noticed that in many child neglect cases it is fairly impossible to qualify for a "family resource" for CPS where a child who is likely adoptable and eligible for a high monetary incentive is placed in the CPS' foster care.

Many tricks are employed by the CPS to prevent return of the child.  The parent is either coerced into months, potentially, years of "services" by the CPS including involuntary release of private medical information, random searches of the home, random drug tests, whether the initial charges of neglect involved mental health problems or drug use or problems with the home or not.  Maintaining "services" at a certain level helps maintain and expand CPS budget.

If parents insist on their constitutional right, are stubborn and refuse to budge to CPS in agreeing to months of humiliation and forfeiture of rights, and if family members step forward to act as alternative placements for the child, those family members are usually rejected by CPS for pretextual reasons.  Placement with family members does not generate money for CPS for "services" to the parents described above, and thus placement with family members is not as financially lucrative to CPS.

The most lucrative scenario is placement in foster care, with subsequent adoption, and family members who volunteered as alternative placement resources for children are often rejected by Social Services for a  variety of reasons.

"Indicated reports" never known to family members that volunteer as an alternative placement for the child are unearthed, court-ordered investigations and home studies of such volunteers are stalled or delayed,  mountains out of molehills are created to disqualify the volunteer's home from placing the children there, family members who volunteered for a resource are harassed and threatened that their own children will be removed until they withdraw as a resource for alternative placement to foster care.

What is also interesting to mention is that, at least judging by the cases where I represented clients in child neglect proceedings and where children were removed to foster care, foster parents and potential adoptive parents often had ties to the local government, often neglected children in their care to the point of removal of children because they were in danger in their foster home, but the politically affiliated foster parents were, upon information and belief, never punished. 

My inquiries under FOIL requests as to number of foster homes, names of foster parents, reports against the homes for child neglect or failure to comply with regulations were denied to me for "privacy" reasons. 

It is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The cloak of secrecy under which financial incentives for adoptions out of foster care are distributed does not breed confidence in the integrity of child welfare process where CPS agencies, representative of counties, may be receiving financial incentives from the U.S. government, without supervision from the public, for separating families and for having children adopted out of foster care, even though such a goal directly contradicts the goal required by the state law in child protective proceedings. 

Such incentives are not made public, the numbers of adoption, the "base numbers of adoption" for states "per fiscal year" are not made public, the policies defining those "base numbers" are not made public, and such agencies fight tooth and claw not to reveal such information through FOIL request claiming that revealing such information will somehow hurt the children and affect their privacy.  I believe, children are hurt more when public does not know about the secret web of financial incentives underpinning adoption process and potentially undermining integrity of child neglect proceedings.

I believe that such information must be made public.

At this time, I am attempting to get, through a FOIL request, information from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services as to the "base adoption numbers" pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 673B(d) which define the multipliers for the financial incentives for adoptions out of foster care per given year.

I will end this post with a quote from the site of New York State Office of Family and Children's Services:

"New York State continues to be a leader in finding permanent safe and nurturing homes for our children. The number of children in foster care in New York State has decreased from 53,902 children in 1995 to 20,539 as of December 31, 2012, a significant reversal of trends from the 1980s and early 1990s. There have been tremendous strides made in bringing families together across New York State."

I doubt that children are removed to foster care less in 2012 than they were in 1995.  I wonder how much the glorious trend (above) reported by NYS OFCS has been caused by the money trickle from the federal government under 42 U.S.C. 673B and similar legislation.

It is good to find permanent homes for children.  Yet, it is bad to separate children with their birth parents for money.

Since the money incentives for CPS do exist, it is a question whether CPS can serve as good faith and impartial investigators and prosecutors of child neglect and abuse proceedings and obtain placement of children into foster care out of which they can be adopted out, for money in which CPS may be sharing.

Would you like to have a public investigator and/or prosecutor financially gaining from investigating or prosecuting you?  Wouldn't it be too much of incentive to pass to prevent abuse of power and corruption?  What if your own child's fate is involved?  Will money issue overrun issues of the child's welfare and of the child's right to a "safe and permanent home" with his own birth parents and not with strangers?

I will report on this blog my luck (or lack thereof) as to obtaining answers from New York State Office of Families and Children Services and New York State Comptroller as to:

1/ what are the "base numbers" of adoptions of children out of foster care for New York state for the years 1995 to date.

2/ what are the numbers by which New York state exceeded the "base numbers" in years 1995 to date.

3/ whether local county CPS agencies receive any portions of the incentive money under 42 U.S.C. 673B, and numbers by counties and by years of such money received.

1 comment:

  1. My housemate is dealing with this right now. A judge awarded both her (the child's grandmother) and the child's mother joint custody in Nov. 2018. The mother had the child at another residence, messed up, and CPS told my housemate they were removing the child to my housemate's custody. The mother brought the child to my housemate and left him with her. 4 days later, CPS showed up and removed the child without any orders or paperwork "to protect him from his mother". The next day, in court, they claimed they "had to" remove him into Foster Care because they had gotten "allegations" of neglect and abuse from "someone" regarding my housemates (and me) which they said they were investigating. Now, a week later, they are claiming their information came from a "hotline tip". And we still don't have the child back from Foster Care, despite the judge's strong words to them.