Ore kids-Virginia officials mum but they offer some answers

A place to post and discuss news.

Moderators: family_man, LindaJM

User avatar
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed May 03, 2006 2:48 am

Ore kids-Virginia officials mum but they offer some answers

Postby tommixx » Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:12 pm

Virginia officials mum but they offer some answers

Ore. DHS wants answers after kids are snatched

Story Published: Mar 24, 2009 at 5:07 PM PDT

Story Updated: Mar 24, 2009 at 6:04 PM PDT
By Angelica Thornton and KATU.com Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. - For the first time, we are hearing from the Virginia Department of Social Services, which has found itself at the center of a maelstrom after two kids from Oregon were snatched and returned to Virginia, where they they had allegedly escaped abuse.

On Monday, Oregon's Department of Human Services said they were very concerned about how two children were taken by force from their older sister's home and a school and then sent back to Virginia, where their parents live.

Stephanie Johnston, 24, was acting as the children's sole parent in Oregon. She is their big sister and has cared for the two (9-year-old Tavvi and 12-year-old Conner) since they moved from Virginia to Oregon to escape alleged abuse at the hands of their parents, who reportedly had drug habits.

Without warning, Virginia Department of Social Services workers barged into the girl's fourth grade classroom at Cooper Mountain School in Beaverton and took her away. Johnston said the girl was kicking and screaming. Then, the workers took Conner from the family's Beaverton home, without even letting him get his shoes.

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, they had a deal with officials in Virginia that promised safe and orderly contact with the children.

"Unfortunately, Virginia didn't follow that agreement, so we're as concerned as everybody about the child, about the children and about this incident," said Gene Evans, Communication Officer with Oregon's Department of Human Services.

Oregon's Department of Human Services is working on getting answers to what happened. Meanwhile, outrage has grown from parents, friends and teachers, who are voicing their opinions on the Internet.

On Tuesday, we reached officials in Virginia and although we had lots of questions for them, they would only talk about their general policies and would not even confirm if this was one of their cases.

But they did answer some questions. Following are the answers we received via e-mail from Marianne S. McGhee, Director of Public Affairs with the Virginia Department of Social Services.

What is your policy when it comes to removing children from homes outside the state of Virginia?

First, to explain. Virginia is a state-supervised, and locally-administered system. There are 120 local departments of social services. So, cases are not “ours” at the Virginia Department of Social Services, they belong to the local departments. It is VDSS’ responsibility to ensure that policies and practices established at the state level are followed by local departments.

Whenever children are removed from the custody of their parents and are placed in the custody of a social services department, the presumptive goal, under law, is to reunite the children with one or both parents. If the parents are willing to participate in services, and resolve the problems that resulted in the children’s removal, the department must work, and does work, with the parents. Permanent placement of such children in the custody of relatives or others can occur only if it can be established, to the satisfaction of a court, that “reasonable efforts” have been made to return the children to the parents, and that despite those efforts such return would be “contrary” to the children’s “welfare”. The burden is on the department to prove that this is so.

Relatives are sometimes approved by a department of social services as special foster parents for children who are removed from their parents. The role of foster parents is not only to provide a stable and loving home for children who have been removed from their parents, but also to support and facilitate the effort to reunify the children with their parents, unless and until a different permanency goal for the children is approved. Any change in goal has to be approved by a court, following a hearing. When foster parents, even when they are relatives, actively undermine the effort to accomplish the approved goal, the department has to make a decision about whether the children’s placement with that relative/foster parent is in the long term best interests of the child. In addition, the department has to continually evaluate whether that relative/foster parent is meeting the developmental needs of the child, including the child’s educational needs, the child’s need for emotional stability, and the child’s need to be able to function in the broader community.

When a decision is made to move a child from one foster home to another, the normal procedure is to advise the current foster parent of the decision, and to give the foster parent and the child an opportunity to prepare for the move, including, where possible, introducing the child to the new foster parent. In the very rare case where a foster parent actively resists such a move, and encourages the child to resist, the department has to find alternative ways to carry out the change in placement that minimizes the danger of harm to the child and others.

When children are placed in the custody of a department of social services, there are court reviews of the children’s status, and the children’s interests are represented by a guardian ad litem.

Is the child given a chance to collect his/her belongings, say goodbye to foster families, friends or teachers?

Ordinarily, children are allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. However, this may change if there is concern for the child’s safety or fear that the caretaker will flee with the child. Generally, CPS staff would ask the parent/caretaker to gather the child’s personal items, or if the child is old enough, help the child pack what he or she would like to take with them.

Do you hire private firms to remove children?

In some cases. For an out-of-state placement, a local department generally hires a firm that is suggested by that state’s department of social services.

Could a child potentially be sent back to live with a family member who previously abused them or a home they were previously removed from?

A child is returned to a family only when it has been determined that the return is to a safe and nurturing environment. If evidence suggests that a return is not safe, then the child remains in care. A child does not return to a family member unless a home study is completed. The safety of the child is the priority.

Do you make agreements with DSS/DHS officials in other states on how you’ll remove the child/children?

Yes, local departments work in cooperation with other states when placing a child or receiving a child out of state.

How much contact/planning do you have with other DSS/DHS officials while removing children from homes in other states?

Virginia local departments work closely with child welfare staff from other states to develop a plan for the safe removal of a child, and as smooth a transition as possible. This may take several months of planning and collaboration.

Return to “In the News”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest