Careena Farmer, Rise contributor and child welfare system-affected parent, testified at the October 31, 2019 hearing of the General Welfare Committee.
Allowing the parent to know their rights up front and having legal representation during the investigation process will prevent the parents’ rights from being violated. Parents aren’t aware that their rights are being violated, which is causing unnecessary removal of children.
Having legal representation (lawyer and parent advocate) can:
1) help families receive the services they need to stay together to prevent unnecessary trauma which causes mental health problems in the parent and child. Being taken to foster care unnecessarily destroys the family’s bond; and
2) will prevent ACS from using intimidation tactics like calling the police to harass and enter the family’s home which violates the family’s constitutional rights. We need data on emergency removals to prevent trauma. In my experience, knocks on the door have caused my children to hide in the closet and they don’t even want to talk to ACS workers.
The family could be asking for help, but the agency will use that against them. The agency has access to the services to help the family, for example, food, clothes, furniture, homemaking services, housing, therapeutic services and also school resources for the children that will help the family thrive, which is the best for the family, instead of causing unnecessary trauma to children that they are trying to protect. I just know that passing this package of bills could change a lot for families. Having a parent advocate present during first contact will help protect the rights of the parent and ensure the safety of the child.