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A Bump, A Panic, Two Babies Torn From Home

On the Thursday before Labor Day, while Julianna Caplan was changing the diaper on one of her twins, she heard a dull thud. She turned around to see her other 8-month-old trying to push herself up from the floor, where she'd been playing, and knock her head.

There were no bumps or bruises, but over the next few hours, the little girl acted fussy, then altogether out of sorts. After she began throwing up and drifting off to sleep, her parents grew concerned, called the doctor and ended up at Children's Hospital.

The baby recovered fully within 24 hours, but almost six months later, Caplan and her husband, Greg, remain trapped in the District's frightening child-abuse system. It is a quicksand of bureaucratic paralysis, a warped mirror image of the indifference that permitted Banita Jacks's four girls to die in Southeast last year.

The city took both Caplan twins away from home and placed them in foster care for a time. The parents are still on the city's child-abuse registry, even though a court and police have found no evidence of abuse.

After Mayor Adrian Fenty fired six Child and Family Services Agency workers because they "just didn't do their job" in the Jacks case, social workers predicted that the pendulum would swing to the point that the slightest whisper of possible abuse would result in knee-jerk reactions against parents.

The Caplans' ordeal started before the horror of the Jacks case, but the Georgetown couple is convinced that their names are not being removed from the city's child protection registry largely because of the District's embarrassment over the Jacks case.

The parents believe the city was right to suspect abuse, right to investigate, right to run tests. But they say the case went off the rails when city lawyers continued to press abuse allegations even after the judge found no cause to proceed.

The twists in the case fill hundreds of pages of reports, but the bottom line is: The baby suffered retinal hemorrhaging, sometimes a sign of child abuse. When a doctor noted that, Child and Family Services intervened.

Because it was a holiday, the hospital had to wait several days to conduct tests to see if the baby had been abused. Those tests would find no reason to believe abuse had occurred. The police investigator would write that "all five examining physicians made no medical diagnoses or cause to support physical abuse." And D.C. Magistrate Judge Mary Grace Rook would find that "there are not reasonable grounds to believe that [the baby] was abused."

But Child and Family Services neither waited nor investigated. With lights flashing and four police officers on hand, social workers arrived at the Caplan house at midnight on the night after the baby entered the hospital. They took the infant's uninjured sister out of her father's embrace and put her in foster care in Prince George's County.

It was the first night she had ever spent away from her parents and her sister. It would not be the last.

She was forced to spend nearly two weeks at the foster care facility in Hyattsville. The injured sister, after her recovery, was kept in the hospital awaiting test results. Afterward, she was in foster care for five days. Both sisters were then reunited at home under their grandmothers' care, but on condition that the Caplans move out of their own house.

At a hearing, the city sought to keep the children separated from their parents, but the court rejected the abuse allegations, and the family was allowed back together.

"If they had had their way, we would have been out of our house for months," says Julianna, a former CNN publicist who now works from home as a freelancer. Greg is a manager for Lockheed Martin. They wiped out their savings and borrowed from relatives to raise $75,000 for legal help.

Just as disturbing as the agency's rush to judgment was their fixation on the Caplans because of their class, or, as CFSA head Sharlynn Bobo put it, their "privilege."

"This family is privileged and able to marshal significant resources to accomplish its goals and fight the allegations," Bobo wrote to her staff in September. "I believe that we made the right decision" to take the girls away from their parents.

Even after the court found for the Caplans, the city offered to end its investigation only if the parents submitted to counseling, anger management classes and unannounced visits from social workers. The Caplans declined the deal.

"It was like, what is the price of our morals?" Julianna says. "Do we lie and say someone abused our daughters to make this go away?"

Not everyone at CFSA was comfortable with what happened. In an e-mail to one of the children's grandparents, Deputy Director Roque Gerald criticized "defensive child welfare. In our attempt to protect, we have also lost the ability of balance for fear of retribution." Neither Gerald nor Bobo returned my calls.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles says the city was right not to give the Caplans special treatment. "I am not going to treat you differently because you are an attractive, articulate couple," he says. "I'm not saying I would have done this the same way, but I see the law working its way."

Nickles says the Caplans may appeal to a neutral party -- an outside expert -- to be removed from the registry, which means they are automatic suspects if their children are injured and need care.

"They treat us with contempt because we fought back," Julianna says. "Who would not sell every stitch of clothing off their backs to fight for their children?"

Two days before the Jacks case broke, Nickles, then the mayor's legal adviser, met with the Caplans after Greg called Fenty on WAMU's "Kojo Nnamdi Show." Nickles then described the couple's ordeal as "Kafkaesque." But after the Jacks story broke, city leaders changed their tune.

Nickles denies any shift in his attitude. "It may very well be that the weight of the evidence supports the Caplans' position," he said. "But the law is skewed properly toward the protection of the child."

He says he agonized over the Caplan case, in part because one of his own children once fell out of a crib and was taken to the hospital. But he concluded that "the city was not overly aggressive."

Taking the girls from their parents was "traumatic, but this is a very law-driven process that can have very unsatisfying results. If this had been shaken-baby syndrome and something had happened to the second child, the public would have come down hard on us, quite appropriately."

Fenty says he "would rather err on the side of getting too many calls about abuse. That's exactly what we want to have happen."

The Caplans reject the idea that the city is only doing its job well by being on hair-trigger alert. "Do you believe innocent families have to get caught up in this?" Greg asks. "This is a false choice. What has to happen is not overreaction, but competence."

The Caplans plan to sue the District, seeking reforms in the child welfare system and reimbursement of what they spent fighting the allegations. The twins are happy and playful children now, but the daughter who spent two weeks in foster care "freaks out if I leave the room," Julianna says. "Before, she would let anyone hold her. Now, she screams."

By Marc Fisher |  February 24, 2008; 2:51 AM ET
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Comments

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Was it our esteemed President who spoke of the "bigotry of low expectations?"

That's what I see here. A middle-class family gets the full governmental interrogation because they "could" be hiding something. Their use of resources is taken as a sign of their guilt.

A poor family like the Jack's is ignored and lost because they're poor and not educated. What could they be hiding - they're just like all the other poor and dumb people in this world. Poorer and dumber than the oh-so-knowing social workers and governmental employees who look at their situation and see nothing worth saving.

I sat through a dinner the other day where a teacher told us that NCLB encourages schools to put resources into low-performers and ignores the smart kids. I don't know if the system does that or not, but I'm not happy that my public servants are making that value judgment.

Looks to me like this is a public servant problem across all jurisdictions. My heart goes out to this family.

Posted by: RoseG | February 24, 2008 8:44 AM

"This family is privileged and able to marshal significant resources to accomplish its goals and fight the allegations," Bobo wrote to her staff in September. "I believe that we made the right decision" to take the girls away from their parents.

This quote along with the events surrounding the Jacks case shows who Fenty should have let go at CFSA. Not six social workers, but their insensitive and aloof leader, Ms. Bobo. Based on her testimony at the hearings, she is a self-important elitist who refuses to recognize that she is capable of error. She has proven to residents of the District that, whether you are rich or poor, the facts on the ground are unimportant, she is always right. If you have resources to fight her ineptitude, you are privileged and to be made an example of, if you lack those resources you aren't worth her time to investigate. So we end up with either broken families or dead children. What leadership!

The fact that a call to the CFSA hotline by mandated reporters will differ in result for the same case depending on who is answering the phone that day shows that there is no consistency from the top down. Even her Deputy Director seems to think a mistake was made. Does she listen to anyone? The police? The doctors? The Magistrate? Her Deputy Director? CFSA is over whelmed because of the flood of calls after the Jacks case. Had there been an efficient system in place prior to that tragedy, this would not be the case. Protecting our children should neither be a Kafkaesque experience nor a whimsical trip down the rabbit hole that leads to no result. Instead of a system that works, what we have under Ms. Bobo's "leadership" is one that either erroneously punishes or ignores.

She needs to go, and fast.

Posted by: eor11 | February 24, 2008 8:55 AM

Good grief. Ms. Bobo sounds like the kind of person who thinks it is OK to stick it to apparently well-off folks. Is it resentment? Then too, it is easier to fight well-off folks because they have generally been taught to be civilized. Why go into what might be perceived as a bad neighborhood and risk injury when one can make an example of the genteel folk -- even if the complaint is not valid?
She is the 1200 lb gorilla as in: where can a 1200-lb. gorilla sit? Anywhere he darn well wants to.
And the Peter Nickles quote is equally ridiculous. As stated in the article:
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles says the city was right not to give the Caplans special treatment. "I am not going to treat you differently because you are an attractive, articulate couple," he says.
So Mr. Nickes is another 1200-lb. gorilla. They treat tax-payers with disdain because their defense is that the law is on their side. Well, where has the law been in other cases where the young, the old, the infirm have been killed? Where was it in cases where millions of dollars disappeared?
From the Bobo and Nickles quotes, it seems that they think the law only applies in dealing with "privileged, attractive, articulate" tax-paying citizens. They are a disgrace to D.C.

Posted by: Margaret | February 24, 2008 10:18 AM

Bobo is aptly named. The End.

Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2008 10:26 AM

Years ago, when my son was very small, he burned himself by touching the oven door when my husband opened it. He went to daycare that Monday with a blister on the tip of two fingers.

The following week, he fell and scraped himself on the face when in his walker (the type with wheels). Thank goodness for the judgment of the childcare folks...they believed us that these were two unrelated incidents. Of course, today, we know better than to use walkers with wheels, but at the time they were still very much in use.

My son had the usual childhood bumps and bruises, but never anything too serious.
Most children have such incidents, and some are in fact quite serious. It doesn't mean there is abuse involved.

I would think that the city of Washington should be able to discern the difference between a pattern of abuse and an accident!

This (the Caplans situation) is a case of racism and classism in the reverse.

Posted by: Reader | February 24, 2008 10:31 AM

"Privilege". Sounds like code for white and middle class.

Sounds like the child services folks were determined to make an example of this couple because they were middle class and white.

They should sue DC senseless, and include a nice charge of race discrimination in there as well.

Suing DC senseless is the only way to get our city to actually treat it's residents with basic respect and fairness.

Posted by: Hillman | February 24, 2008 10:46 AM

Wow, this was a sad and frightening story. I really feel for these parents, and am concerned about the invisible harm done to the childrens' psyche when they were unnecessarily put in the care of strangers.In the setting of retinal hemorrhages, I understand the need to investigate for abuse, and possibly remove the kids temporarily from the home for a few days while the investigation is being done, but why didn't the investigation and accusations stop when the appropriate people (doctors, judges) indicated no evidence of abuse? It's a rhetorical question, of course.

Posted by: ars | February 24, 2008 11:32 AM

What is wrong with these Child Welfare employees??? Do they have any education? If so than it is NOT enough!!! Regardless of what class, race or whatever difference the DC Child Welfare staff would like to use, to be incorrectly accused of child-abuse is horrible. Worse, to loose your children because of it.

There should be massive education on the employees who make such determinations. This education should also be funneled down to the school level.

As you can tell, my family has been wrongfully accused of child-abuse. It is frustrating because these people making the assumptions WON'T listen to the people who know best, the MEDICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL experts.

Set an example for the rest of the states to follow...SUE DC FOR EVERYTHING YOU CAN!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 11:40 AM

An officer of the judiciary, a Judge, found no reason to believe that child abuse had occured, apparently based at least in part on the unanimous conclusions of FIVE different examining physicians.

Yet an executive department of the D.C. Government won't let it drop, places this couple on its "child abuse registry" and insists on the right to conduct unannounced visits to, and inspections of, the familial home.

Suppose this had been a case of an alleged sex crime by a Defendant who was acquitted by the Court of the alleged crime? That Defendant would not be included on the National Sex Offender Registry. And law enforcement and the prosecutor would be precluded from entering and searching the home of the Defendant in the future absent a warrant issued by the judiciary supported under oath with facts justifying such an intrusion on one's property and privacy.

So why should the judicial determination in this case be any different?

D.C. thinks it deserves to be a State? Here's a suggestion: How about it learn a little bit about the fundamental concepts of the U.S. Constitution first.

My thoughts.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | February 24, 2008 11:43 AM

Oh my goodness, what a nightmare!! Caplan family, we would have done the same thing. DC Gov't: Get a clue!! DC is a wonderful city, but it is so racially polorized and hot that getting city services when you are not black is torture. The services are invariably administered by African Americans that resent non-blacks and use their positions of authority to make life far more difficult than necessary.

Posted by: SJK | February 24, 2008 11:54 AM

I love it. Everyone is upset because DC was too aggressive in their investigation of this family. In this case, one child had a small head trauma, which became the basis for the investigation.

However, you all are the same people upset because DC was not aggressive enough with the Jacks family. In the Jacks family case, there was NO basis for investigation. That is, there was no evidence for any physical trauma.

So, as a society, you all need to make a choice: Do you want a more intrusive, less trusting, more aggressive CFSA? Or do you want the more trusting, less intrusive, less aggressive CFSA?

Right now, you all engaging in hindsight judgment. But, if you're the CFSA, you don't have that luxury. So, you need to choose: Which do you want? To be clear, whichever way you go, you will have times where you wish the CFSA had more/less aggressive. But this is the kind of judgment principle that we, as a society, need to agree on. We simply cannot blame CFSA every time that a parent does or doesn't do something wrong.

I'll tell you were I sit, though. I would prefer the less aggressive, less intrusive CFSA. Unfortunately, that means that parents who do a good job of evading detection will be able to hurt their children, but it also means that parents won't have their kids taken away for no good reason and have to spend $75,000 just to show that they did NOT hurt their kids.

Anyway, that's what the discussion on here should be. You have to choose: Aggressive or trusting.

Posted by: Ryan | February 24, 2008 12:00 PM

While I don't agree with Bobo's or Nickle's comments (which are not in context), I do not doubt there's more to this story than reported. For CPS workers, the 'devil is in the details'. Just because the court determined there was not sufficient evidence of abuse, does not mean abuse did not occur. A child doesn't get retinal hemorrhaging just from bumping her head on the floor. And I doubt CFSA would demand counseling and anger management if they believed the injury to be accidental. I do know one thing -- if that family was black and poor, those babies would still be in foster care and the parents would be in counseling and anger management.

I'm glad the Caplan family has the resources to fight being treated as if they were black and poor. Must feel awfully insulting to them. Wish all families had those resources. There'd be fewer kids in foster care. In any case, I don't envy CPS workers -- they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. We've got a lot of armchair social workers doing the Monday morning quarterbacking -- too bad they can't take the time to check in on their neighbors or work down at CPS during the game.

Posted by: Reader2 | February 24, 2008 12:24 PM

Ryan: Your comments are well-taken, but you miss a few fundamental differences between this case and the Jacks case, and I am not talking about the color of their respective skin or economic status.

First:

In the instant case a child suffered an injury, the parents called their doctor and took the child to the hospital for treatment, [which is what responsible parents would do], after which CFSA initiated an investigation. Was that office overly-aggresive in removing all 3 of those children from their home? Don't know, and I think you hit the nail on the head in the respect that CFSA are sort of damned if they do and damned if they don't in that regard. But that's really not the point, I believe, of this article.

In the Jacks case, despite repeated impassioned pleas from a school counselor to CFSA to investigate the welfare of the children, CFSA basically dropped the ball.

Second:

In the instant case, there was a court determination based upon apparently overwhelming professional opinions that this was not a case of child abuse, but even after that judicial determination, CFSA refused to recognize that and appears to have engaged in a mission to harass this couple; when that agency's resources could well have been devoted to other matters deserving of more attention,

Such as
the Jacks case, where children were apparently murdered and left to rot for months before anyone knew about, and then not through the efforts of CFSA, but rather by happenstance when the mother was to be evicted.

Whether CFSA agreed with or not the Court's determination in the instant case, then it was time for them to move on. Perhaps if they had not utilized their resources in trying to paint this couple as child abusers when a court determined they were not, CFSA could have better used their resources for the benefit and protection of other children who are in harm's way.

Posted by: LAWPOOL | February 24, 2008 12:46 PM

the hell with context. Sharon Bobo needs to go. She can't tell an abuser from a nonabuser.

Posted by: Tracey | February 24, 2008 3:38 PM

I wonder if this incident will deter people from getting medical treatment for their children in case of an accident. If I lived in DC, I would seriously consider driving over the border to get medical treatment for my kids after reading this.

Someone will have to explain to me why CFSA is continuing the investigation even though the courts have ruled in favor of the family. Can CFSA just do whatever it wants? Is it not answerable to a higher authority?

Posted by: Nova | February 24, 2008 3:42 PM

Bobo is nothing more than the monkey for which she is named.

Posted by: Bill | February 24, 2008 4:35 PM

This reportage sounds like sabotage journalism. It's written carefully and conveniently in a way that skews time elements. The second baby was removed the same night the first baby was taken to the hospital and was determined BY A DOCTOR to have retinal hemorrhaging which is an indicator of 'shaken baby syndrome' -- not to mention the LACK of bruises, fussiness, and throwing up. A bruise or bump would have been more consistent with the baby bumping her head. I guess CFSA should have just left the second baby home with that knowledge in hand. Then we'd be saying these parents got off because of their 'privilege'. The follow-up by other docs was delayed by 5 days after which time the baby had recovered.

Second, I get the sense from this "skillfully" written article that the parents are contesting their names remaining on the child abuse registry, not CFSA continuing to investigate after the court's finding that abuse was not supported by the evidence. Again, that doesn't mean abuse did not occur -- only that there was not enough evidence to support abuse. It is SOP for an inconclusive finding to remain on the Child Abuse registry so that if a family is reported again at a later date, the previous inconclusive report is available as background information. Sounds like a good precautionary measure to me.

And yet, here you all go -- Mr. Fisher with the power of the media behind him -- pointing fingers at CFSA as the monstrous 'baby snatchers'. Would Mr. Fisher have written about children 'torn from home' about any family in Southeast. This same stuff happens there every month.

Mr. Fisher, I believe there's an opening at the NY Times for you. They need more writers on the McCain story.

Posted by: Reader2 | February 24, 2008 4:55 PM

Bill,

While I am critical of Bobo, I do not support your racist remark. She needs to go, and so do you. It would be best if idiots like you stayed out of the conversation, since you have nothing to add.

Please help by report Bill for being a racist.

And Bill, try and grow up. There are plenty of "White Power" web sites for you to visit.

Posted by: eor11 | February 24, 2008 4:58 PM

Two sister's fighting for the return of their children taken fraudelently by CPS.

My two daughter's children were taken illegally by CPS. There were hidden medical record's, court-appointed lawyer's who would not file appeal's or motion's.

My oldest daughter walked into a Nashua Hospital with her daughter and was accused of being intoxicated. She was arrested and her two children taken. Blood test's were done on her that night, yet there were no lab report's in her medical file. They had mysteriously disappeared until month's later and showed no alcohol in her system. By this time the Judge admitted the children were taken illegally, but said too bad, she didn't file an appeal, which was up to her lawyer, not her. She is still fighting for her children's return.There is much more to this story, including fraudelent act's by CPS that I could write a book.

My other daughter was given a morphine IV for nineteen hour's in labor, as her daughter was placenta-previa and should have been born by C-section, at the same hospital. She was never told. Toxicology test's were done on the baby, which showed morphine. They took the baby, claiming my daughter used heroin the day before the baby was born.

The court, nor her lawyer ever got her prenatal medical record's, which show my daughter had a high risk pregnancy and a myriad of illnesses while pregnant. She was never told about any of them and now suffer's from Sheehan syndrome and can't have any more children. The record's appeared six month's after the baby was taken. The same Judge told her the same thing he told her sister. Her right's have since been terminated even though she had the burden of proof in Probate Court. They terminated her right's because she didn't file appeal's. Her Lawyer refused to file them and the Attorney Discpline Office won't do a thing. The CPS worker's as well as other lawyer's, have told us the Judge does whatever CPS want's. It's true. He does. We are still fighting for the baby's return. My daughter is now filing a complaint in Federal District Court and then the Court of appeal's, if need be.

I have been fighting for my grandchildren's return for over two years now. This fight is really taking it's toll on the family and people need to see what CPS is all about. We have the proof of everything. Our government gave CPS the power to do whatever they want. They don't try to help family's. All they do is harm.

I am hoping to get their whole story published, somewhere, somehow. The problem is court-appointed puppet's, that the Judge won't allow them to fire, along with the fraudelent practice's by CPS.

My daughter is filing a Federal lawsuit herself, as we don't have the money for a Real Lawyer.
I would also like to add, both daughter's are disabled. Under TitleIV-E "reasonable effort's", DCYF is required by Federal Law to provide the disabled mother with any services needed to keep the child in the home. Whether disabled or not, children are being immediately removed from their parent's with no services given or even offered.
Police and Government official's are held responsible for their mis-deed's. Why isn't CPS held accountable? Are they better than anyone else? Not in my book!



Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 5:13 PM

It seems that we are supposed that the author wants us to automatically assume that this couple is innocent because they have well-paying jobs. Talk about stereotypes...

Posted by: Laurel, MD | February 24, 2008 5:47 PM

It's clear to me that the Caplan's are innocent of child abuse. And having the law determine that should have been the end of it.

But fellow Americans...that is not the way it works anymore. See, Judges no longer have any authority when it comes to child welfare. Child protective services do what they want and how they want, as evidenced in this and many, many other cases.

Child protective services now run the country, and hide behind the veil of "confidentiality" to do so.

Folks, you have to understand the way the system is designed in order to understand why these babies were taken. And why thousands and thousands of others are taken every year!

First, for EVERY child that comes into Foster care, there are federal dollars that are paid to the state in which the child lives!

Second, twin baby girls are in high demand in the adoption market! Did you know that the federal government pays huge dollars to each state for every adoption that Child Protective Services handles?

Yep, that's right...our states are financially rewarded for destroying our families and selling our American children on the adoption market. It's called legal child trafficking.

States receive upwards of $10,000.00 per adoption!

Of course this is on top of the money they are paid to keep the child in foster care. And if the caseworker places the child with a family that is not a "good fit" and the child has to be moved to another foster home, the state then receives more money for the disrupted placement.

There are no financial incentives for states to keep families together...only for tearing them apart.

When this child protective system was first put in place, it's mission was to "preserve, strengthen and unify" families that needed help.

Families are suppose to be offered services that will help keep their families together. But it rarely happens.

In fact, Federal law requires that for states to receive funding, the states must have a plan to help strengthen and unify these families. But....the supreme court has determined that "states need to have a plan, BUT they DONT need to use it!"

No, I'm not misquoting anything. This is real people.

And guess what?? If you dont know your rights, it is likely at some point you also could face losing your children.

Learn your rights now, before they come to your door.....who knows, they may come at midnight like they did to the Caplan family. And thousands of other families also.

It makes me sick to read and hear of the gross constitutional violations against our American freedoms that are happening every day.

What is it going to take for us to wake up and realize we are losing more ground everyday.

Get vocal people...and dont ever stop fighting CPS. They want our kids... It is on the backs of American children that these folks are making their living!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 5:50 PM

This is why DC folks need the right to keep and bear arms. Government isn't so excited to kick in people's doors and yank their kids when people are armed.

Also, look at the attitude of this Bobo woman. Who the hell is she to determine that people who work hard and raise their kids are "privileged".

The real issue here is not overprotective vs. underprotective or aggressive or not aggressive. Whether racist people like Bobo like it or not, we have rights in this country, one of which, and it is of constitutional moment is the right not to have the parental relationship interfered with absent cause. And guess what, "cause" means that there has to be evidence, and here there is none. And without evidence, you cannot do this.

Posted by: MPO | February 24, 2008 6:24 PM

Between a school system rotted to the core, WASA unable to fix the lead in the water, and now this, why would anyone who didn't have to want to raise children in this city?

Posted by: Georgetwoner | February 24, 2008 6:41 PM

It's clear to me that the writer identifies with the parents and bought into their story without reservation. I agree with those who asserted that it is unlikely for a baby to suffer retinal bleeding after falling while playing on the floor. The city was right to take the case as seriously as it did.

Posted by: carrie | February 24, 2008 6:50 PM

It's clear to me that the writer identifies with the parents and bought into their story without reservation. I agree with those who asserted that it is unlikely for a baby to suffer retinal bleeding after falling while playing on the floor. The city was right to take the case as seriously as it did.

Posted by: carrie | February 24, 2008 6:53 PM

No matter rich, middle class or poor, The stats, figures and facts show that nationwide Child protective Services are removing children at an alarming number. It has nothing to do with their fear of being damed if they do or damned if they dont. It has to do with title IV social security funding and the fact they CPS nationwide made 20 billion dollars in funding in 2005 thru foster/adopt incentives. Ladies and gentleman can you say Black market? This is not just happening in DC but everywhere. Do the research, look at the stats, read the articles. There are hundreds of Organizations and groups now fighting the Government for a redress of grievences and a solid reform bill to stop CPS from terrorizing innocent families, and to make them accountable for actions such as unlawful search and seizure, keeping children away from parents and providing no real reasonable efforts to reunite children with their rightful families. CPS is the only agency in our nation that is exempt from following the guidelines of our constitution. Our children are being stolen and sold while society sits idly by and lets our government take away more and more of our constitutional rights.

Posted by: s.c. | February 24, 2008 7:15 PM

Open the doors of family court and the public will get information and see EXACTLY what goes on in the court room. Most would be disgusted and shocked.

Check out this link..see what a news organization uncovered: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAnjp7OnxNM

Here's another by the same news station:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHw_kbsAZ6A

Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 7:43 PM

People like Laurel and Carrie clearly missed the parts of the story about the unbiased third parties finding no evidence of abuse. They belong in the same boat as the idiot hack Bobo.

Posted by: Spectator2 | February 24, 2008 7:54 PM

Ms. Boobo and the rest of the staff are idiots and incompetent and need to be fired. That goes for a good 40% of the people who work for the DC Government. If Fenty want's to do any good he should fire them all!!!!!

Posted by: Angela | February 24, 2008 8:32 PM

Reader2 - You deliberately slanted Fisher's story. You also didn't read the story carefully. The second toddler was taken from the home the night AFTER the first was taken to the hospital. Second, the child DID throw up on the night in question. You didn't bother to read the article with any care. Come to think of it, that sounds like the agency you defend.

If the children had been taken into protective custody and returned once there was no further evidence, you might have a leg to stand on. Aggressive action, but leavened with caution. However, the article describes an agency hellbent on taking these children from their parents. Rather than rethinking the initial assessment, the director disparaged the parents for fighting as hard as they could for their kids.

The only evidence was an injury that could be consistent with abuse. A single incident. I have twin toddlers of my own and know how easy it would be for one to get hurt while I deal with the second. There but for the grace of God go I.

One further comment. Being able to scrape together $75k doesn't make one privileged in this area. Given home prices, many families could scare up that kind of money by refinancing. [Well, until recently.] The article makes it clear that the couple exhausted their savings AND borrowed money from family.

I'm not one to champion lawsuits (and commend Fisher for his excellent work on the pants suit), but this is a clear case of abuse of power. They have every right to sue the, urrrm, pants off of DC.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 24, 2008 9:09 PM

To Reader2 and those who made similar comments re: retinal hemorrhaging -- I agree! I have an advanced degree in social work and have worked in child welfare (not in the District) for several years. Of course I don't know the facts and wouldn't presume to judge the Caplans. However, it does sound like a case of "parents explanation doesn't match the injury." A baby doesn't get retinal hemorrhaging from bumping his/her head on the floor! Just saying I can see why workers were suspicious...

Posted by: SocWkr | February 24, 2008 11:11 PM

I need help with a problem I have with the Virginia Department of Child Enforcement (DCSE). My ex-wife, Patricia Mast told DCSE that I owed her $130,000.00 in back child support, which was false. My counsel Ted Kavrukov of Arlington Virginia (703-465-1500), provided documentation to DCSE of over 60 pages of copies of cancelled check, money orders, cashiers checks that proved Mast was lying to the agency.

DCSE ignored my documentation. They ignored my calls and requests for a hearing. Instead they quickly notified the three major credit bureaus that I owed $130,000.00 in back support. My credit (my life) was destroyed over night at the same time my wife and I were starting our Real Estate business. DCSE also notified the State Department. As a result my passport was denied forcing me and my wife to cancel (lost the deposit) several planned trips to Central America on behalf of our church.

Then to top it off DCSE seized my State and Federal income tax refunds due my wife and myself from joint filings. Of course my wife never owed Mast a cent. repeated phone calls from Mr. Kavrokov and me to DCSE have been ignored. Finally on October 11, 2005, I asked the Stafford County Juvenile and Domestic Court , which had issued the original support order, to determine how much if anything I owed. Using the identical documentation provided to DCSE, Judge Gerald F. Dalton ruled that not only did I not owe Mast anything, but I had overpaid her about $14,000.00 . Judge Dalton issued a judgment against Mast (who was never present in court) in my favor for the amount of overpayment.

DCSE was present in the courtroom when Judge Dalton ruled. My credit has been ruined! I was forced into the sell of my own home because DCSE ruined my credit while I was re-financing my home to start our new business. the anguish that my wife and I have been through can not be put into words. can you imagine being forced to sell your home! our tax refunds seized all by an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia without a hearing. Anything you can do for us will be ever so appreciated. I expect DCSE will ignore you also.


Blessings,
Christopher J. DiNapoli









Posted by: Christopher J. DiNapoli | February 25, 2008 12:09 AM

Who do you think is better equipped to determine abuse? Five (5!) different doctors who actually observed the child and parents, plus a sitting jugde, or a few bloggers and social workers who think that a fall can't cause retinal hemorrhaging?

Personally, I tend to think the 5 doctors and the judge might have an interest in protecting the children and have some experience in this arena.

The rest of you are speculating based on a several paragraph report. Not the best science or medical practice, in my humble opinion.

And there is a world of difference in a CPS office that can't interview a mother after repeated pleas to protect her children (the Jacks case) and a CPS who ignores the legal determination of a judge and doctors. BIG difference.

Posted by: Hillmannic | February 25, 2008 12:50 AM

Hi BB at the Fairlington Blade:

You must be a journalist as well. You misread Fisher's article and my post. The second baby was removed after the doc said there was retinal hemorrhaging -- midnight the night after the fist baby entered the hospital -- and before the subsequent docs said no evidence of abuse -- 5 days later. The lack of bruises, the presence of fussiness, and the presence of vomiting following a head injury are consistent with shaken baby, not with an accidental head bump. For all I know, it could have been an accident. My point is that the details and timelines of these cases are critical in the decisions made by CPS. The way Mr. Fisher writes the story -- the details and the timelines are, at best, very muddy. This case started back in SEPTEMBER! How come Fisher's only writing about it now. I wonder when this family contacted Fisher? Can you say Banita Jacks?

Posted by: Reader2 | February 25, 2008 12:58 AM

It is surprising to me that we could lose our children by taking them to the emergency room. It seems that there should be rule protecting parents from the CFSA when the court rules in favor of the parents. It seems that there is a systemic problem with DC's hiring / employment program if this Bobo who has presided over these vastly different cases (one where child abuse was repeatedly reported and ignored resulting in the children's death and the other where concerned parents who sought emergency medical care and were exonerated by the court system are pursued relentlessly. Why can't our Mayor take steps to remove the incompetent Bobo and hire a talented professional to put the agency in the right direction?

Mayor Fenty's position is likely to create a big mess. "[We] would rather err on the side of getting too many calls about abuse. That's exactly what we want to have happen." ???? Would we really??? The CFSA and DC should be able to rely on the judge's opinion to close the case. At the point the judge weighed in on the matter, the CFSA was clearly off the hook. Its not like the CFSA needs more work. Why can't they focus on the obvious cases of abuse / neglect where there is a consensus between the court and the CFSA that an intervention has to occur? How can a parent responsibly decide to live in a community where taking a hurt child to an emergency room could result in such a ridiculous mess?

Mayor Fenty - please create an environment that rewards competent decision making. Mayor Fenty - your comment belies an attitude that accepts poor performance, attracts poor performers, dodges accountability, engenders an environment that accepts incompetence as inevitable. Mayor Fenty - you still have a real chance to make a difference here by adjusting the direction to put leaders in place that will enable and demand that the CFSA make correct decisions. Mayor Fenty - Please get to the bottom of this case and put people in place that have the strength and capability to bring about the changes necessary. Mayor Fenty -please use this opportunity to make a difference for DC. I don't want to raise my children in a city where the mayor sets an expectation that it is ok to rip children away from caring parents when the real neglect is allowed to occur. Mayor Fenty - please do what it takes to make an adjustment and take care of the good parents in your city! Mayor Fenty - It is NOT ok to mistakenly remove children from good parents. Please understand that is NOT acceptable and it does NOT enable the CFSA to be more effective. Yes, the CFSA and social workers do need to held to high standard. Yes, the CFSA and social workers do have a very, very difficult job but that does not mean that its ok to traumatize innocent families. Mayor Fenty - Please do good work to take care of good, innocent families.

Mayor Fenty - I am a Scared Parent. Please take care of our good families. Please require and enable CFSA to be competent. Please honor the checks and balances provided by the judiciary. To the extent legislative change is required to fully allow a judge to remove a case from the CFSA caseload, please make it happen.

Mayor Fenty - I, along with a large number of other concerned parents are concerned. We are watching this issue very closely. Please use your high office to make important changes to take care of the innocent families of Washington DC.

Posted by: Scared Parent | February 25, 2008 1:50 AM

It is unfortunate that the discussion here is based on the same type of journalism we now get from the NY Times. This is not about truth or about responsible journalism, this ios about thrashing and sensationalism and unfortunately readers commenting around not discerning but willing receptacles of this mediocre journalism. A responsible journalist would have look at the details including what does DC Code prescribe regarding decisons the agency can and cannot make independent of judges who only decide should a child be "in foster care" that is, is the probable cause for further injury to the child. The courts do not make findings of maltreatment. All this journalist would have had to do is ask any child welfare expert nationally or respected proffesionals in the field. But no, there is not time for such responsible journalism. In addition the laws regarding "inconclusive" findings come from DC Elected Officials, the very same ones these readers elected into office from Ward Three and Wards west of 16th street. These elected officials voted in "child protection" laws that were overly presctive and what you do when there is "unexplained injury". At least the Caplans were able to testify to this in the city council hearings. Even they understood, although misguided in their anger at the agency, that the current DC Code has to be reviewed in the context of cases like this. It is never ok, for innocent children to be separated from their parents. However, every day hospitals like Children's National Medical Center and Georgetown see parents who have injured their kids in frustration (shaken baby) which does not mean they are horrible parents but no less abusers. There are some underlying racist attitudes prevailing indicating that if a parent respobsily takes the child to the doctor, how could they be seen in a suspicious way? I doubt that any of the 5 doctors indicated that "No Abuse" occurred, if so why were they not interviewed for this article. The Cap[lans are the ones now hiding behind confidentiality. IF there arguement is so strong why not give permission to the doctors to openly discuss this with the writer. But I doubt Marc Fisher wants truth, it does not sell newspapers...

Posted by: DC Citizen | February 25, 2008 5:07 AM

Excuse me DC Citizen but what part of the following excerpt from Mr. Fischer's article don't you understand?

"The police investigator would write that "all five examining physicians made no medical diagnoses or cause to support physical abuse." And D.C. Magistrate Judge Mary Grace Rook would find that "there are not reasonable grounds to believe that [the baby] was abused."

Those are the FACTS of the case. It's no more complicated than that.

The judge after considering ALL of the evidence, INCLUDING all of the doctor's testimony REJECTED THE ALLEGATIONS.

These are the same officials who are responsible for LEADING the CFSA who failed to act in the JACKS case.

THE MAYOR NEEDS TO CLEAN HOUSE and as DC CITIZEN points out the LEGISLATION needs to be UPDATED!

The system is BROKEN - it is attacking innocent parents and leaving neglected children to die without responding to cries for help.

Did the New York Times kill the Jacks children?

THE MAYOR NEEDS TO CLEAN HOUSE and the LEGISLATION needs to be UPDATED!

MAYOR - please put an infrastructure that takes care of the children AND the good parents of this community.

Thanks!

SCARED PARENT

Posted by: Scared Parent | February 25, 2008 6:36 AM

Just points out the continued poor decision-making in the Fenty administration. Too many hasty decisions!

Posted by: Barbara | February 25, 2008 9:19 AM

When CFSA demonstrates that they will disproportionately respond to any suspicion of abuse, the children of DC are LESS safe. It is frightening that the parents of DC may now be hesitant in getting their children needed medical treatment for accidental or innocent injuries for fear of losing their children. By misdirecting resources to persecute innocent families and demonstrating that families seeking treatment for their children's injuries will be treated with utmost suspicion and hostility, CFSA is creating more risk for DC's children, not less.

Posted by: Kat | February 25, 2008 11:05 AM

Reader2 - Not a journalist. I disputed several points in your post, which I put in quotation marks. You wrote:

"The second baby was removed the same night the first baby was taken to the hospital"

"not to mention the LACK of bruises, fussiness, and throwing up."

As you acknowledged in your later post, the second baby was removed the following night. The article specifically stated that the parents took the baby to the hospital after she started throwing up and was sleepy. Your second post never admits that you were wrong in the first place.

With regards to the actions of the agency, I stated that the agency could be considered overly cautious for briefly taking a child out of the home. That isn't the grounds for the story. Since that time, the agency has circled the wagons and continued to attack this family.

Like yourself, they refuse to acknowledge a mistake.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | February 25, 2008 11:38 AM

Reader2 - I misread one part of your post and apologize for the mischaracterization. I read lack of a,b, and c to mean the lack of all three. Although I think your statement was ambiguous, you did get it right. [If you will, saying fussiness and throwing up combined with a lack of bruises is clearer.] However, anyone who has parented a small child fully understands that fussiness after a nasty spill is normal and not indicative of abuse.

While I think that taking the second child away was overly aggressive, it can be understood. It is the continued harrassment of this family that is the abuse of power. Once it was made clear that this was a single incident, the agency should have backed off.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | February 25, 2008 11:49 AM

All I want to know is what can I do to contribute to a legal defense fund for the Caplans? If I've ever heard of a worse case of abuse of government power, I can't remember it now.

This is precisely why I don't live in the District.

Posted by: Outraged reader | February 25, 2008 1:00 PM

This case merely brings ONE case of CPS deliberate misconduct to the attention of District of Columbia residents.

CPS incompetence and malfeasance is PANDEMIC in every state of the United States and every "westernized" country in the world.

Nobody seems to "get it" that CPS daily commits FEDERAL CAPITAL CRIMES.
http://familyrights.us/bin/CPS_violates_these_every_case.htm

If you would care to further acquaint yourself to THE PROBLEM, you are invited to see the American Family Rights Association website at-

http://familyrights.us

Posted by: AFRA | February 25, 2008 2:34 PM

Amen to that! And like I always tell people...."Just follow the money".....it's all about money, people. Plain and simple.

And the American public just lays down and watches it happen...until it happens to them or someone they care about. Then they are outraged and want to know how this can happen.

It's going to be worse before it gets better.

The time for parents to get educated about their rights is now. Dont wait.

And unless they have a warrant, you dont ever have to let them in your house.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 10:46 PM

Oh, a social worker is competent to determine the source of a medical injury. Give me a break. Take your stupid pumped up worthless degree and shove it.

Someone should seriously dump all the incompetents.

Posted by: Stupid social workers | February 26, 2008 10:00 AM

After reading the article and comments I feel compelled to add my own. As a family member I have witnessed and been involved firsthand.

When I learned that the twins were taken away after Greg and Julianna did the right thing in taking the one to the hospital I was shocked. Knowing that there was no way that any abuse took place I assumed they would be able to explain the suspicious injuries and the whole matter would be over. However what happened was horrific and unimaginable.

As has been stated and enthusiastically supported, we all understand the initial action on behalf of the children. What is at issue here is the inappropriate handling of this case from that point on, which was outside of the welfare of the children. And for government agencies to hide behind children to defend their incompetence is reprehensible.

The fact that "they" can just come and take your babies is scary enough. Add to that overreaction predicated on assumed guilt prior to investigation, bureaucratic obstacles preventing the children from returning home to family during the investigation, and a system that doesn't automatically clear the parents once no guilt is found, and what should have been at best an overnight separation became an emotionally wrenching, costly, drawn out nightmare of incompetent bureaucracy unchecked and out of control.

Family immediately rallied. The initial objective was to get the children back. Grandparents and others, including myself, a DC area resident in suburban Maryland, were ready to do anything required, including moving into the house to take care of the twins while the CFSA investigated what turned out to be an "inconclusive" case. However, requirements such as city residency and what can only be described as a social worker with an unjustified, predisposed ax to grind, prevented that from happening. The result was children left for WEEKS outside the home, away from family and loved ones, without just cause, and at taxpayer expense I presume.

During this time the inconsolable parents put the rest of their lives on hold; other family members dropped everything and came to town to help, and this disrupted, worried and affected the entire family. We spent days sitting for hours at DC Family Court waiting for the opportunity to attest to Greg and Julianna's character and offer ourselves to the court as familial custodians for the children.

As the article reveals, in addition to the emotional stress and turmoil, the ordeal has cost the Caplans more money than a lot of people make in a year, money they themselves didn't have, just to get their children back and defend themselves against something they didn't do. Of course they are fortunate to have a supportive family with resources. Throughout this nightmare their "privilege" has been acknowledged humbly and gratefully along with the recognition that there are those without such means to defend their innocence. Regardless of the outcome of this unfinished story the Caplans have expressed their hope that by bringing it to light other innocent families, especially those who lack their resources, might never have to face something like this.

What is most disturbing is the attitude of the DC government. The Caplans were castigated for having the resources to defend themselves against a government agency that clearly blew this and wasn't willing to admit it and let it go. The CFSA and the mayor's office defend their inappropriate reactions in this case because they have come under fire for the Jacks. But defending their over the top reaction to the Caplans only makes them look worse. It doesn't address their mistakes, correct them and of course it doesn't bring children back who were lost in part as a result of CFSA's equal but opposite incompetence in the Jacks's case.

The suggestion that the Caplans are somehow looking to circumvent the system in order to clear their name in the face of an inconclusive verdict is misguided and incorrect. The point is when a mistake is made it should be admitted, an apology and an attempt to reverse damages should be made with the same zeal with which the CFSA pursued their case to begin with. "Inconclusive" is a cop out and weak face saving measure whose byproduct is a shadow of suspicion left on the innocent. If "inconclusive" were taken off the table as an outcome leaving only "innocent" or "guilty," our entire judicial system is predicated on the belief that if guilt cannot be established then the accused is innocent. That innocence should be publicly proclaimed without reservation or further requirement by the accused. This shouldn't be something special done for the Caplans or anyone based on privilege, affluence or anything other than innocence. The Caplans are trying to clear their names and recover what to most of us is an outrageous amount of money they've had to essentially waste defending themselves against something they didn't do.

Posted by: scaplan | February 26, 2008 7:52 PM

>>>

So, what you are saying here is, that the "possible" physical abuse is more serious than the "absolute" emotional abuse of ripping a child from the arms of their parents?

I am sorry, but the emotional abuse placed on kids when these untrained, self-serving, egotistical, social types misjudge is something that these kids will not overcome for a long, long time. Heck, my daughter still has nightmares from 3 years ago when she was lost in the mall for 15 minutes! .

I for one do not believe that this is understandable in any way shape or form.

Posted by: Karla | February 27, 2008 12:03 PM

One of the issues in Caplan was that almost no one who suspected the abuse was willing to intervene.

How willing will people be to report suspected abuse now? Especially if they think that even if without merit, the family may lose their children.

Posted by: dc | February 27, 2008 1:39 PM

You said:

"One of the issues in Caplan was that almost no one who suspected the abuse was willing to intervene."

What does that mean? There was no abuse and as a result nothing to suspect.

Or are you suggesting that people with the CFSA could intervened on the Caplan's behalf once it was obvious or unlikely that no abuse occured?

Because otherwise it sounds like you are suggesting that all parents are suspect of abusing their children regardless of anything to indicate abuse.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2008 2:12 PM

I'm afraid to take my kids outside now--let alone a medical provider. Thanks CFSA, great job.

Posted by: reader | February 27, 2008 3:21 PM

I for one would hesitate to report suspected abuse now, unless I was 125% sure it was abuse. I couldn't live with myself if it wasn't abuse and my calling it in led to these extreme measures.

Posted by: Belac | February 28, 2008 5:41 PM

CPS agents are nothing more than child snatchers who take children and sell them into legalized slavery. Many of these children end up being sold as sex and pornography slaves.

Posted by: OmegaWolf747 | March 31, 2008 10:14 AM

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