Guest MINDSETTER™ Anne Grant: Fix DCYF Dysfunction and Stop Family Law Malpractice
Sunday, August 09, 2015
After I came to Rhode Island in 1988 to head a nonprofit serving battered women and their children, we examined our program’s successes and failures in order to develop a long-range plan and expand our mission. In a state where domestic violence and child sex abuse are litigated in civil court and seldom prosecuted as crimes, victims must raise money for their own defense. A coterie of well-connected lawyers and clinicians enrich themselves until children turn 18, often working hand-in-glove with DCYF’s legal department.
A current example: a DCYF investigator came to a home on a Friday night in March to remove three children, ages 3, 7, and 13, due to a mistaken police tip that their mother, whom I will call “Joan”, was dealing drugs. She was not, though she says she had abused drugs until her first pregnancy.
She completed a drug program at Women and Infants Hospital in 2002 and has worked with a counselor since to stay clean. Her husband died three years ago, making her children especially attractive to DCYF for their Social Security benefits.
A month of desperate phone calls brought no response from her DCYF caseworker when Joan discovered my email online. I went to her home and scanned her documents, including her handwritten appeal to DCYF. She thought she needed her attorney’s approval before submitting it, but he, too, did not return her calls.
At the police station, I learned that a detective had mistakenly identified Joan as a probation-violator. After my inquiry, he wrote a supplemental report to correct the mistake, and I immediately emailed that to Joan and her attorney.
Her attorney remained hard to reach. By the time I finally spoke with him at the courthouse, Joan’s children had come home after three months of trauma. But DCYF had canceled their medical insurance and siphoned off their SSI payments. Joan feared losing their home and car.
Joan’s lawyer patronized her: “It’s wonderful when clients do everything they’re supposed to.”
My jaw dropped. “What about lawyers who don’t do anything they’re supposed to?” I thought, biting my tongue.
My mind was full of questions I was afraid to ask. Why had he forced Joan into debt for a retainer of $2,500 (his fee: $300 an hour) if she was eligible for a public defender? Why didn’t he return her phone calls? Why didn’t he instantly appeal her children’s removal? Why didn’t he bring an emergency motion with the false police report? Why didn’t he stop DCYF from seizing the children’s SSI payments? Why did DCYF fail to investigate the homes where they placed the children? Why had a strange man walked her daughter to school and told the girl he had been arrested several times and just got out of prison?
Why had a foster mother arranged for dental surgery and removed the youngest child’s four front teeth without consulting their own dentist or mother?
My mind was full of questions, but I asked only one: “Will you sue DCYF?”
“No.” Then our conversation took a bizarre turn as he tried to recall a movie, “Frankly, my dear….” He caught himself.
In the courtroom, the caseworker told the judge that Joan was doing everything required to keep her children. The judge continued the case until November for her decision.
Emerging from the courtroom, Joan’s lawyer was still trying to recall the movie. He asked a colleague in the corridor (who, ironically, a few years ago, had been briefly suspended from the public defenders’ list for indigent clients when the court found him billing the fund for more than twenty hours a day, more than $220,000 in two years.) He knew the answer.
“Gone With the Wind. Of course.”
Joan’s lawyer happily mulled over Clark Gable’s deeply satisfying words to a desperate woman: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Anne Grant (ParentingProject@verizon.net) writes occasionally about family law malpractice.
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Jeff Deckman: Greece and RI - Independence Back into Bondage
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Heather Tow-Yick, Kelsey Lucas: What Rhode Islanders Need in ESEA Reauthorization
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Don Grebien: McCoy Stadium, Where History Still Lives
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Sen. James C. Sheehan: RI’s Most Business Friendly Budget in Decades
- Guest MINDSETTER Joel Hellmann: What PARCC Doesn’t Measure
- Guest MINDSETTER™ John Turbitt: Our Own Worst Enemy
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Chace Baptista: Rhode Island Might be Different
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Joe Almeida: Charleston Massacre “Abominable”
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Chris Westerkamp: Providence Recreation - What’s The Matter With Youth Soccer?
- Guest MINDSETTER™ David Norton: PawSox Owners Trying to Buy Support
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: The Real Costs of Running a Fire Dept.
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Diana Chekrallah: Dramatic Increase in Heroin Use Should be a Wake-Up Call
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Ed Renehan: Rhode Island Needs to Get Real
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: Looking Back at Nixon’s Resignation 41 Years Ago
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ John Loughlin: National Security is Embedded in the Arctic
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Tom Kenney: Show Me the Money! Show Me the Savings!
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: Repairing and Replacing RI’s Structurally Deficient Bridges
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ John Loughlin: PawSox Listening Tour? Listen to This!
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Rep. Gregg Amore: A 33 % Raise is Not a Good Idea
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Nick Cicchitelli: For Ploutus, Mt. Olympus
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: How to Legalize Marijuana in RI
- Guest MINDSETTER™ Audra McPhillips: Helping Families Adapt to Common Core Math
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: Solving Problems Using Public and Private Relationships
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Walter S. Felag, Jr: RI Senate’s Ongoing Commitment to RI Veterans
- Guest MINDSETTER ™ Berwick: The Best Deal for RI Taxpayers is to Keep PawSox in Pawtucket