Report: Michigan relies too much on foster care
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- Family justice: the secret state that steals our children
- Holistic Approach Needed to Foster Care, Experts Say
- Bias alleged in state foster care
By Robin Erb
February 18, 2009 / Free Press.com
Michigan’s child welfare system needlessly rips children from their parents and its bureaucracy keeps those families apart, according to a report released this morning by a nationally known advocate for child welfare reform.
In the worst cases, children die in foster care when they should never have been taken from their parents in the first place, said Richard Wexler, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR).
“The more you take children needlessly away from their families … the more you overload the system. And the more you overload the system, the more mistakes caseworkers are going to make,” Wexler said Tuesday in a meeting with the Free Press editorial board in advance of the report's release.
• PDF: Download a summary of the report
The Michigan Department of Human Services released a statement saying it will not compromise the safety of Michigan’s children while it continues to make improvements to the system.
The department works to maintain the connections between children and their families, but also must weigh that against ensuring the safety of those children. “If we err, it will be on the side of protecting children,” the statement read.
Released today, NCCPR’s 81-page report “Cycle of Failure” intertwines case histories in several Michigan cases with national data and other reports to underscore what Wexler has repeatedly called the “take-the-child-and-run” mentality of child welfare systems.The report also contends that Michigan's child welfare system is tainted by bias against African Americans and poor families and is overwhelmed by the number of cases.
Bureaucratic inertia, the way the system is funded, a lack of time and fear of mistakes -- the combination means caseworkers more often resort to removing a child rather than working at keeping families intact, Wexler said.
• SPECIAL REPORT: See the boys of Christ Child House, a foster home in Detroit
Moreover, cumbersome licensing requirements prevent children from being placed with grandparents, the common-sense placement for children who have been taken from their parents, Wexler said.
Michigan’s Department of Human Services is undergoing major reforms. A settlement last year in a federal lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights mandated that DHS lower its worker caseload and put in place programs to move children more quickly toward permanency -- through reunification with their own families, placement with relatives or adoption.
It also puts in place a court monitor who will oversee the changes, and a task force of nonprofit groups, legislators, former foster youth and parents is putting together its recommendations on how to go about the overhaul.
Wexler’s will be among many voices who may contribute to the task force’s final recommendations.
The Michigan Department of Human Services must weigh reunification with families against ensuring the safety of Michigan’s children, said Kathryne O’Grady, deputy director for children services.
Plus, as the department continues to hire more caseworkers, it’s reducing their caseloads, and fewer children are in foster care today -- 17,388 compared to in 2004 when the numbers topped 19,000, she said.
Carol Goss, of the Skillman Foundation, co-chairs that task force, and Skillman helped fund Wexler’s review of the Michigan system. Skillman officials did not immediately comment on the report.
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It is probably not coincidental NCCPR now comes with this report about Michigan. Early October the Michigan Department of Human Services reached an agreement with Children's Rights that had filed a class action suit demanding reform of the Michigan foster care system. It's no secret that Children's Rights and NCCPR are not the best of friends. Children's Rights usually takes a more pro-adoption stance, while NCCPR strongly focuses on family preservation.
Personally I tend to prefer the direction NCCPR takes. Some of the criticism I had related to the latest reform efforts seems to coincide with what NCCPR is saying.
I was looking into
the case in Virginia where the 13 year old girls was dumped into the creek by her adoptive mom.... Alexis Glover (is the girl I think) and she had by most reports austim and sickle cell....
however a foster care agency that provide care for her at least some of the time between being removed from her parents home placed for adoption is saying the child had no disability but mild symptoms of reactive attachment disorder... people reporting this are not really qualified mental health providers, but just they are not licensed as LCSW, psychologist, anything... but push RAD....
one has to really wonder if this child had been properly diagnosed and treated (for her sickle cell and autism... ) if she could not have been returned home to her birth parents... if these people were not out making money off these kids, maybe they could have gotten the help to stay home (and in some cases if they even needed help)
you see a lot of that with the push for adoption.... it is a sad side effect...
Michigan touts improvements to child welfare system
Michigan touts improvements to child welfare system
The Detroit News
Michigan has made significant improvements in its child welfare system, state officials said Monday.
Those include moving a high percentage of children languishing in foster care into permanent homes, and creating investigative units for child abuse and neglect allegations, officials said.
The boasts came at a press conference in Lansing on Monday from officials at the Department of Human Services, one day before a monitor was scheduled to release a report on the status of ongoing child welfare reforms following a lawsuit against the state.
"All children deserve a permanent, loving home," said Ismael Ahmed, director of the human services department, in a statement.
"For the past year, our department and our partners have undertaken significant reforms to make sure we're doing our part to make that happen for the children in Michigan's foster care system."
Among the improvements:
Child welfare observers suggested the improvements announced Monday don't show the entire picture.
"Child welfare reforms are always most vulnerable in their early stages, and we have some serious concerns about Michigan's progress at this point," said Sara Bartosz, senior staff attorney for Children's Rights and the lead attorney on Michigan's case. She added that the independent report, scheduled for release today, will offer a more detailed assessment.
This afternoon, court-appointed monitor Kevin Ryan of New Jersey-based Public Catalyst Group is scheduled to deliver to U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit the second progress update since the state signed in 2008 a settlement agreement with Children's Rights, a New York-based advocacy group that had sued the state, charging it with endangering the lives of children.
The first update was made in October 2009.
That report found that the state had met some targets for reform, such as reducing worker caseloads and backlogs of children awaiting placement, but had missed other benchmarks on getting children awaiting adoption for more than a year into permanent homes.
Only 17 percent of them got into permanent homes. Lack of funding threatened to further thwart progress, the report stated.
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American Foster Kids Hold out Hope - CBS News
(CBS) The Brantwood Children's Home in Montgomery, Ala., is a place for kids from families broken beyond repair. They're all between 10 and 21 years old. All are available for adoption and looking for a loving home.
Will's a fifth-grader in his seventh school. He wonders what kind of family will adopt him, and how it will happen.
Too often, it doesn't.
CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports there haven't been any adoptions at Brantwood in the past four years.
Brantwood Children's Home
"It pierces your heart," says Kim Herbert, the executive director of Brantwood. "That's what we want for them."
Adoption awareness has been heightened by the Haiti earthquake -- which created thousands of new orphans. In the last eight weeks, more than 1,000 of them have come to America for adoption -- more than the last three years combined.
It's a new chance many Brantwood kids will never get.
"It's been too long for them, and that hope is gone," Herbert said. "They count on themselves."
Child Welfare League of America
Adopt Us Kids
In 2008, America's foster care system had 123,000 kids available for adoption. Just 45 percent -- 55,000 -- of them were adopted.
Typically the older they get, the worse their chances it will ever happen. Many children are also battling the scars of mental or physical abuse.
Many states and agencies post albums of available children.
"Meet these kids," Herbert said, "and learn their hearts. See their needs and what they're after."
Jack's after a second chance. At 13, he's the baby in a fractured family of nine. He says he's praying for a home of his own.
They all are praying for a family - and so far that is just a dream.
Hold out hope?
"Foster care children hope to be adopted one day"
Foster care children hope to receive better care.
Foster care children hope never to be raped, beaten, or neglected AGAIN.
Foster care children hope, (maybe, just maybe), an adoptive home will be much different.
Sadly, our abuse case pages prove more people need to re-think just how safe and great... how much better... many an adoptive home really is. [Read each story, and weep... weep for the children who once dared to hope and believe in the goodness found and associated with "home" and "family".]
If adopted children in pre-screened/pre-approved homes are still being raped, beaten and/or neglected, how much hope in humanity can a child really have??
What articles like above are missing is this simple message: Whether fostered or adopted, children deserve far far better than what child protective services keeps providing. Period.
Without Hope we have nothing
Kerry, for those children in that news cast my heart aches for them. They so long to have a family to call "theirs" is that wrong? I think you miss the jest of the story, it was a poke at these a**ho** Americans that travel 4,000 miles - pay a high fee for a child or baby.
It was a call for Americans to re evaluate their moral compass. That as Americans we have a responsibility to our children too.
Grant you in a perfect world we wouldn't have orphans or foster care and we wouldn't have to screen good families out just so a wealther family can buy their way into adopting only to abuse the child emotionally or physicially.
No family is withouth their flaws, to say these kids have a chance of finding a "perfect" mom and dad would be kidding ourselves. But to these children they will take an average family as theirs, they want to belong - be apart of a loving family unit.
How do you think those older kids feel turning on the news seeing all of these Americans scrambling and fighting to get one of the Haitian orphans? There is no easy solution to this but we must make it right and improve the American system for these kids.
Frankly, the facilitiy they live in looks very nice and the woman running it seem very sincere. Maybe their best choice at this time is at the home for orphans they live in. Meanwhile they still have hope that someone will love them one day. Is that wrong?
It is wrong?
I understand that... as I was one of those babies, from another country "languishing" in poor care, and as every AP would like to think "wishing" I were adopted (especially by an American!). I was one of those babies used to help complete a family that had room for one more. I was one of those babies placed in a home "more fit".... I am one of those adults living with those horrific memories.... memories that revolve around people who should never have reproduced, let alone adopt.
It IS amazing to me how so many Americans can and will find the resources to import a child from another country (to fulfil his/her own needs), but NOT help the local children living on the streets or living with child abusing foster parasites. All of this distorted sense of caring brings us to this point -- if a country can't find the funds or interests to care for its own, what happenes? Prostitution, drugs, crime, death? Those children "lucky enough" to be on the waiting list of a salary-producing adoption agency still have hope... they can be exported to an even more foreign home.... IF they are lucky.
So yes, I find it very disturbing that Americans struggling with a recession and joblessness would still prefer to send enormous sums of humanitarian funds to other countries, than help improve local foster care so American foster kids do NOT have to face the fear of being exported to the Netherlands (or any other country really hungry to adopt). It's retarded to me that Americans can't provide a sense of "family" or home" to so many locals stuck in poor-care, but they can pay tens of thousands of dollars to an adoption agency and adopt from poor/struggling foreign countries. (Where is the sanity in all of this?)
<calming deep breath....>
Sometimes deportation works well for the child. Other times, well....
Agreed. Of course, I don't think children ask for perfection.... improvement, yes, but not perfection. [Seems to me it's the parents/adults who require perfection... far more than the children do.]
When it comes to hope, I really think a child who has been put in-care simply hopes not to be abandoned, raped, beaten and neglected, again.... especially by those who like to claim they (and their type of care) are "much better".
why adoption from foster care?
In most countries in Europe, adoption from foster care simply doesn't exist, and I have never heard any of them ask to be adopted. When I see news casts of American children asking to be adopted, I always wonder who makes them say so.
I don't believe the problems in the foster care system can be solved by simply outsourcing the problem to adoptive familiies, either in the US, or, as is getting more and more popular, to foreign countries.
If safety cannot be provided in foster care, and a loving environment is too much to ask for in foster families, how can we expect safety and a loving environment in adoptive families, when all monitoring stops once the adoption is finalized?
While the abuse cases we cover receive most attention when related to inter-country adoptions (mostly because PAP's are afraid their program may close), the majority of abuse cases in our archive relate to adoption from foster care.
Apart from saving the state money, I wonder if there really are other benefits to adoption over long term foster care.
Keep Hope Alive
No, it's not wrong for foster kids to hold onto hope that someone will love them one day, whether that "someone" is a biological parent seeking reunification, a long term foster placement, legal guardian, or an adult mentor of some kind.
It is wrong to hope for an adoptive family though, it seems. There ya go.
Keeping hope, and a better future, alive
I don't want to always read like the keeper of doom, but there is a darkness and doubt many fostered/adopted people keep secret because it's just much safer that way. [This is why certain topics are kept private and more personal/sensitive issues get discussed far away, in much smaller groups.]
Why does that someone have to be an AP, and only an AP? [This rhetorical question is directed towards the adoption industry, not any specific parents, here.] In spite of the suggestion that with each adoption, there comes a relieved sense of "permanency", don't we all grow-up and eventually leave the nest made for us, anyway? Hell, I know many adoptees who couldn't WAIT to get the hell out of their carefully chosen "permanent" homes and away from the freaks they were force to call family... the greatest sense of relief being, "Thank God I don't share any of their genetic material!!" [Making it quite sad and much worse for the kids adopted by freak family members]
I know only a few really confident adoptees who felt strongly loved and deeply appreciated by their AP's. Even so, each of these adoptees have had very difficult dating/marital relationships and each struggled with real honest intimacy. The way I see it, because the fear of not being loved or lovable, (the fear of angry rejection), goes so deep, many of us given away by a parent will do anything and everything just to keep even the most dysfunctional relationship alive.
In fact, one of my favorite stories came from a very loved, very very smart and successful (never abused) adoptee who, in his early twenties, continued to date a girl who was so insane with jealousy, she boiled his dog. [The dog lived, but remained scarred.] Even after the dog-boiling incident, he stayed with her for a few months longer. He was afraid his honesty would make her do something worse. Of course, the "nice guy" he was raised to be told me he didn't immediately break-up with her because he didn't want to make her feel bad, or make her feel like she was being rejected. Instead, he endured psycho relationship after psycho relationship, until he finally decided it was time to stop dating (he was in his mid-thirties) and married a woman he confessed, should probably never have children. Crazy, isn't it?
Still, there is good news. I know many adoptees like myself, (hurt, rejected and convinced no adult could ever love us like we need to be loved.... accepted like we need to be accepted), trying to find a way to make peace, and finding it through a simple belief: we are very good, kind loving people, worthy of a second chance. We are not victims; we are victors, just trying to figure this whole "family", "home", "love" crap out, hoping we don't find ourselves in yet another house where there is a controlling or dismissing adult, cutting-off the air we need to breathe.
This is where, in some cases, giving birth changes everything... (with birth, comes new life, and new beginnings... a future worth having and keeping.)
I'm amazed how many adult adoptees found real true love, for the very first time, when they held their own babies. Only then did the notions "real family", love for another human being, and personal responsibility really kick in. [One male adoptee, (whose Amother killed herself, and Afather used to abuse him), told me, "I held my son and I honestly could not understand how she could do it. How could she just give me away? I held my son, and it changed me. It made me want to be the very best parent I could be, only now I'm terrified because all I seem to do is make mistakes."] It took him a few years to get strong and confident, but when he did, he divorced the woman he never loved, and found the girl of his dreams... together they are raising a family and no longer is he suffering, silently. He found love, and it wasn't from an AP.
Many of us... the ones who have been adopted, and then used, abused and ignored... really don't know what love is, so we simply follow patterns that feel comfortable/familiar because we are (scared) creatures of habit. We know/recognize selfish behavior, and we know how to hurt/control someone else... or avoid any/all conflict, but love... really love? WOW... that can get very tricky, especially if no one is willing to demonstrate how love really is, or what love really does. So what we're talking about here is NOT the great adoption story so many want to hope for and believe, but the reality so many have and will experience because there are more adoption agencies that suck than do any real good.... leaving a child/teen with very little hope/belief that kindness and goodness can be found in complete strangers.
That being my perspective, please don't think I'm always out to bad-mouth the good AP's who can SHOW/demonstrate children how love really does work... what they offer and provide is amazing, but it should never be assumed such care and concern is an automatic given, and it should not be assumed such life-love lessons can come only from an AP. I'm here reminding readers as often as I can, only a fool believes ALL adoptive parents teach a child how love acts, feels or behaves, and only a fool believes ALL adoption agencies are good, and without serious flaw. [This is where I have to add, my favorite AP's are the ones who have grown sick of the shit many of these adoption agencies are trying to do, all at the expense of children's lives/futures... and my least favorite AP's are the angry defensive ones who want to diminish anything an angry adoptee has to say!!]
The adoption myth that all are better-off after adoption is just that -- a myth. Truth is, (and this kills those who so strongly want to believe only adoption can save a child's life and future...) there is hope outside an adoptive home.... that hope comes from within, and it is inspired by and through good teachers, good friends, good mentors and good patient employers ... people who don't need to own/possess you to show they really care. [I was blessed, in that one sense.... I was gifted by some really great teachers... teachers who showed faith in me.... a year here, and year there... those years made a huge difference! ]
Like it or not, even if a child in-care NEVER gets an adoptive parent to call his/her own, all hope for love and a better future (with a family) is NOT lost.
With that, I'd like to share something sent to me, (in a private email), by a male adoptee who was abused by his adoptive owners and has seen and done things I can't even begin to imagine. He comes-off as a hard-ass, who hates just about everyone and thing, but a purity exists... one that gives him (and people like me) hope :
Because of his own kids, (the love he found), he keeps trying to become a better man.
Adoption waiting list gets shorter
Kerry, it is good to have perspectives from everyone. I am an AP, I am all about what is right for the child. First priority is the children that live in my country USA. We have no right imposing our purchasing of a family onto other countries. It is like purchasing a product out of a catalog, ownership, slavery, I hate the notion of it. Another good perspective from the children. Neils, I believe those children were speaking from their heart about finding a loving home and family---a sense of belonging that as humans we all desire. Finding out - Who are we? Americans are re evaluating the murkey laws of International Adoption and the outlandish fees. I say let the child choose their parent, not the parent/clients choose the child.
Adoption waiting list gets shorter in Colorado
ARAPAHOE COUNTY - More Coloradans are answering the call to help kids find families. In the last five years, the number of Colorado kids waiting to be adopted had dropped by more than half.
Ford oversees the adoption and foster care programs at the Colorado Department of Human Services. She says in 2004 there were 875 children and youth in our state waiting to be adopted. This year that number is down to 365. The goal, in the next five years, is to lower that number to almost none.
Another significant reason for the improving numbers is government partnership with faith-based groups. The Radford family's story is an example of that.
"My real dream is to play for the Denver Nuggets," Darius Cowans-Radford said as he pointed to the plethora of team paraphernalia in his bedroom. In this and many other ways, he's a typical teenage boy. In other ways, he's not.
"For the first eight years of my life, I lived with my grandma. My dad wasn't all there. He had problems. He was in prison, along with my mother," Cowans-Radford said.
To see him now at 16 years old, laughing with a new family, the challenges he has faced aren't obvious.
"Around the age of 2 I was diagnosed with leukemia," Cowans-Radford said.
He beat the cancer, but was diagnosed with a different kind, Rhabdomyosarcoma, at age 12, while he was bouncing in and out of foster homes.
"I was really sick at the time, and they didn't really know how to deal with that," Cowans-Radford said about some of his foster parents.
He needed a miracle, and one arrived after his story was printed in a church bulletin.
"For us it really was a huge leap of faith. It was just knowing in our hearts that this is what was supposed to be," Celeste Radford said.
She and her husband Rowland Radford responded to the call in that bulletin at the Colorado Community Church in Aurora. The church operates an adoption program called Project 1:27 to recruit and prepare parents to take in local kids in need of new families.
When Darius moved in with the Radford family, there was an adjustment period.
"When I first got here, I wasn't sure how to handle structure, so we butted heads a little bit. But then after awhile I understood," Cowans-Radford said.
For Celeste Radford it became life's way of coming full circle. She chose to give her first child up for adoption 22 years ago when she was too young to be a mom.
"It was a really difficult time in my life. I was really conflicted," Celeste Radford said. "Here I was pregnant and not married and not living the life that I had hoped or dreamed or planned or thought."
Her family became complete just last month when Darius's adoption into the Radford family was finalized at the Arapahoe County courthouse.
"It gave me hope that not everything in my life was falling apart," Cowans-Radford said.
He now has a mom and dad and three sisters. He's cancer-free again and is planning to go to college in a couple years. His life is coming together. Finally, in many more ways, he's a typical teenage boy.
State adoption advocates want people to know that adopting a kid locally costs only hundreds of dollars, compared to thousands for international adoption. Kids adopted in the United States often get federal health care, and there are other state and county services to support adoptive families.
To learn more about adopting in Colorado, visit cdhs.state.co.us/childwelfare/Adoption.htm
To learn more about the Project 1:27 adoption program at Colorado Community Church visit www.project127.com.
you don't really get how public foster care works here... I think, no offense meant
When a child is in foster care they can be moved, at any whim of his social worker, her supervisior, the school saying something shity about the foster parent, some other kid in the home, some pet in the home, some minior incident that didn't mean a thing.... any old reason
They never let the child nor the foster parents forget this....
adoption usually at least means never getting moved at 2 am in the morning again....
I have read on many occasions that adoption is such a good thing, because the foster care system is such a mess. To me that sounds like moving into the neighbours house, because I don't feel like cleaning up my own mess.
On a more fundamental level. If a child gets so easily removed, both from its original family and from its foster family, why is it such a good thing to finalize that with an adoption. If removal is done at the whim of a social worker or supervisor, then many children are wrongfully removed. Making those children adoptable severs further ties with their original family, where they should never have been removed from in the first place.
On top of that, authorities don't do a very good job screening prospective adoptive parents. Afterall the majority of cases in our abuse archives relate to children adopted from foster care.
The neighbor's house
Many years ago, my sister married an abusive alcoholic and they had two children within the first three years of their marriage. Over this time she slipped into a deep depression and barely functioned as a mother.
Their house was a huge mess and was clearly dangerous for her small children, especially so since they weren't receiving age appropriate supervision. Any parent can tell you, all it takes is a minute for an unsupervised toddler to fall into a swimmng pool, or to drink bleach from a jug, or to stick rat poison in their little mouths.
She hid her depression very well. She never invited family or friends over and never let anyone past her front door. A neighbor finally called Child Protective Services when her 18 month old daughter was observed playing unattended just a few feet from a busy street. I was told events like this happened multiple times before the neighbor finally took action.
Both children were removed and placed with an extended family member who was also a neighbor. My brothers and I spent almost a full week scrubbing floors, throwing out soiled mattresses, removing spoiled food from the refrigerator, burning piles of trash and clutter in the back yard, and safely securing pesticides and chemicals in their home. My sister wasn't willing or able (take your pick) to clean her own house and her husband abandoned the family during this time.
Long story short, it took an event like calling CPS to begin the path to meaningful change. My sister recovered from her depression, kicked her abusive husband to the curb, and regained custody of her children back after 6 months of therapy and family support.
Sometimes the neighbor's house is exactly what's needed.
As seen on TV
I really liked this story... so unlike anything I experienced as a child or a mother.
It's quite beautiful to see it work the way it's supposed to....family working like neighbors, neighbors working like family. It must be especially nice to see real blood-kin getting heavily involved to help preserve a family... maintain a strong family tree. Love and patience not hate and haste... that's what it takes to reach the next step in recovery.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of families that can't, don't, or won't help one another. There are a lot of areas where the closest neighbor is "down the road a piece" (a mile or two), and/or the closest neighbor is a bit odd, to say the very least. In those cases, what is a depressed young mother -- or father, for that matter -- married to a loser supposed to do? Trust in the careful judgements made by a social worker who no longer likes his/her job? (Ever work with a disgusted and disgruntled employee?)
I don't know where you live, but it reminds me of Mayberry... the fictional town where A sheriff, A deputy, and one small jail cell maintain law and order and keep the local drunk (and all of society) safe until he is sober. As quaint and sweet as that ideal may seem, it's simply not the reality so many people, even in SmallTown, USA, are facing and living with today.
There are freaks being approved to keep children, and there are idiots doing the investigations. The corruption that exists is INSANE, and priorities are not where and what they should be... but by all means, let's pretend Andy is Sheriff and Aunt B is tending to the kids, and all are minding their P's and Q's and everything is neighborly and nice.
When Family Services is done right, everyone benefits. When it's done wrong, it costs lives, and eventually, everyone pays.
On top of that, authorities don't do a very good job screening prospective adoptive parents. After all the majority of cases in our abuse archives relate to children adopted from foster care.
When comparing the relative safety of foster children in adoptive homes vs. remaining in their families of origin, it might be helpful to look outside your child-placement-only abuse archives once in a while.
When you never leave the forest, all you ever see is the trees.
comparison, what comparison?
The one comparing the relative safety of foster children in adoptive homes vs. remaining in their families of origin, is you. I didn't make that comparison. It seems to be one of your pet topics to discuss, though personally I have very little interest in it.
If you assume that I don't see, hear or read about abuse cases outside of adoptive families, you are dead wrong. In order to maintain our abuse cases section, I have to check up on nearly every abuse case that makes the news. So I am certainly aware there is horrendous abuse in original families as well, something I feel I have to keep repeating to you, since you seem to insist we claim abuse only happens in foster and adoptive families.
I am not going to repeat for the umpteenth time what this website is about. All previous attempts have failed to reach you, so I am not going to waste my time trying again to explain why we present abuse in child placement cases and not general abuse cases.
By all means, believe your version of the story, just don't expect me to respond to it anymore.