THE STORY OF TIFFANY AND DAVID
Tiffany and David (not their real names) were properly taken from their mother under an order of temporary custody (OTC) in December, 2009. DCF had prior involvement with the mother, who was given several chances, but utterly failed to satisfy her court-ordered requirements. The court ordered the kids taken, and they were placed with a good foster family.
That same month, mother’s sister Rebecca (not her real name) advised DCF that she would be a placement resource for the kids. Rebecca lives in upstate New York and has a husband, four kids, and a good home. She and her kids are bonded to Tiffany and David. It seemed like a no-brainer.
In January, 2010, DCF properly notified Rebecca that an interstate compact for the placement of children (ICPC) would have to be completed with New York, and DCF had to initiate the paperwork. This is all according to the law.
However, DCF failed to initiate ICPC paperwork with New York State.
The reason is that DCF had promised the foster parents that they would get to adopt the kids. This, of course, is a tragedy of its own. DCF makes promises for which it has no authority, and innocent and good foster parents are hoodwinked and embittered. There is, at present, no reasonable way to prevent DCF from engaging in these tactics.
And thus, DCF stalled Rebecca.
Rebecca was somewhat hotheaded, but her repeated complaints to DCF got nowhere. Finally, she had the good sense to contact our office.
We ensured that Rebecca intervened as a party in the Juvenile Court case.
We got DCF to start the New York ICPC paperwork.
We filed a Court motion to place the kids with Rebecca. The mother, fortunately, supported that motion. The kids’ lawyer did also.
But DCF remained implacable. It filed a permanency plan calling for termination of parental rights and adoption.
The court also ordered DCF to notify all lawyers when Rebecca was licensed.
New York approved Rebecca’s home in June, 2010. Rebecca sought DCF’s help in obtaining an expedited foster care license, but DCF of course refused.
On November 30, 2010, nearly one year after the OTC was issued; Rebecca got her foster care license from New York State.
The Judge put it thus in his decision: “The timetable related to the handling of [Rebecca’s] request to be a placement resource for these children is egregious.”
Note that the Judge did not call for an investigation of DCF. The Judge knows that DCF is a law unto itself, and that change will take some time. Atty. Agranoff provided DCF senior management with the details of this case, and hoped that it would take appropriate disciplinary action against the persons responsible. He has no idea if that happened or not; DCF will never tell.
It must be clear that the social worker herself was unlikely to have been at fault. In nearly all cases, social workers do what supervisors and managers tell them to do.
In other words, social workers take the heat for supervisors and managers who make decisions without even meeting the parties in the case. It is bureaucracy at its worst.
The Judge’s ruled, in March, 2011, that guardianship of Tiffany and David would be transferred to Rebecca, and that the kids would be transferred to her in 15 days.
The Judge’s ruling detailed Rebecca’s good family, her good history, and the glowing reports on her family from the New York authorities. Of course, all of this was long available to DCF. Yet, as the Judge put it, “This exhaustive report from New York is not acceptable to DCF.” DCF offered several reasons, all of which the Judge recognized as ridiculous, but the Judge was too polite to state the real reason: DCF had already promised adoption to another couple.
The Judge lectured DCF on the law, which it should have already known:
[T]here shall be a rebuttable presumption that an award of legal guardianship…by any relative who is licensed as a foster parent…shall be in the best interests of the child…and that such relative is a suitable and worthy person to assume legal guardianship…”
The Judge then made the obvious finding that Rebecca and her family were a suitable placement resource, and ordered transfer of guardianship.
The Judge stated that the foster parents had had the kids for 14 months, were good people, and were bonded to the kids. The heartache endured by these foster parents is unimaginable. And all was avoidable, had DCF followed the law. As the Judge stated:
“The court cannot find that placement with [Rebecca] would not be in [the children’s] best interests but for the current bond with foster parents which developed during unnecessary delays in the handling of the case. The court cannot find that the children would not be able to develop the same bond with their aunt and her family. And the court cannot reason that because it would be difficult for the children to make the transition to their family it should not happen. The children can make that transition…. [W]here the legislature has spoken, especially with the clarity enunciated in [C.G.S.] Section 46b-129(j) [preference for relative placement], the court [has no other] option.”
It took about 16 months, but the aunt and her family got justice.