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Kid in trouble, I need advice 
8th-Jan-2009 10:22 pm
I haven't been too active here lately due to my life being hectic, so I apologize for that, but I was hoping someone here might have some useful advice for an abusive situation my family is involved in.

So I'm going to try to make this as brief as possible because I really need advice more than I need to vent.
I'm hoping that someone whose been through similar situations might be in this community and be able to help us figure out what we should do.

Last year my step-daughter's biological father abruptly appeared asking for custody after having almost no contact up until that point (she was 3 at the time). There was a history of domestic violence with my wife, but it occurred when he was legally a juvenile. He also raped her once shortly after my step-daughter was born by C-section but unfortunately she was too frightened of him to report it. Long story short, they granted him a brief period of supervised visits which quickly transitioned into unsupervised visits.

My step-daughter immediately began having behavior changes which concerned us; bed-wetting (she had NEVER done that before), nightmares, complaints about monsters, and fearful complaining before visits. We brought her to a counselor and shortly thereafter she complained to us that he had poked her in her private areas.

A 45-day CPS investigation followed and I think it was sort of botched since a social worker involved had to take three days off in the middle of the investigation, but they never got a disclosure from her and they had to drop it. We went back to court and managed to at least get the visits to be supervised when they started again. The supervised visits were a big problem, he was really hostile and would keep trying to get our step-daughter out of our earshot so he could yell at her for calling me Dad, which would cause her to cry and generally freaked her out and confused her since I'd raised her and he was basically an angry stranger.

Meanwhile, my step-daughter disclosed sexual abuse to a counselor at our town's youth services office. She reported this disclosure immediately and got no response. After making *18* calls they finally acknowledged the report and reopened the case, and then the next day it was closed again by a supervisor who was unwilling to override the judgment of the previous worker. An attorney was appointed as a guardian and she was initially supportive of us, but eventually grew frustrated with the case and recommended that they give him bi-weekly overnight visits and close the case. What is really upsetting about this is that she sat in on a counseling session in which my step-daughter disclosed the abuse.

Eventually the overnight visits started happening, and predictably the old behaviors started showing up again. She disclosed *again* to her counselor who made another report to DCF, who was this time obligated to open a new case since it was a new incident. We got a new worker who started off on a bad note by dismissing the counselor's report as containing "leading" questions, and then interviewed our daughter at school where she obviously was not comfortable talking, and tried to drop the case. At this point she was coming back from the visits reporting all of kinds of crazy stuff - being hit, being left alone, sleeping with him in his bed (prohibited by the visitation order), inappropriate touching - and so we made the reports directly to her supervisor and this got us a proper interview conducted at the police station. She discloses the abuse to the social worker, she issues a safety plan stipulating absolutely no contact. We feel relieved, think it's finally over, but then two days later we have a forensic interview with a new counselor while the state police watch with a camera. They make her wait two hours and by the time she gets in there she's miserable and doesn't want to talk and just complains about him being "mean". She immediately drops the case *again* and voids the safety plan. The only stipulation she orders is that our daughter and her "father" go to counseling together, which we have to set up since he doesn't have custody.

He starts calling my wife berating her for making him miss a visit by reporting him and demands a make-up visit. She comes back from that visit two hours late and with a big "c" shaped bruise on her cheek. He offers no explanation, and she is reluctant to say anything but eventually tells me that he hit her. We document it with a photograph, bring her to the doctor for a physical and have them report it to CPS. The worker calls us back and complains that he's "getting sick of CPS involvement" and tries to reassure us by saying that he has his mother supervise the overnight visits so there's no problem. The forensic counselor has us come back so she can talk to our daughter one-on-one, and she discloses sexual abuse. The counselor also expresses serious concern that CPS hasn't acted on the allegation despite 2 disclosures and makes a call. Then we try to set up family counseling for him, but the agency refuses, feeling that it's inappropriate give the allegations. The next week we go back to the forensic counselor. She discloses again, but CPS still hasn't responded to the first disclosure.

He misses a visit because both the kids are sick, and then a few days later he shows up unexpectedly at our house and starts banging on the door and trying to force it open. Fortunately it was locked. He stays for 40 minutes before the police come and make him leave. For about a week and half we hear nothing from him, then today he calls demanding a visit tomorrow and also claiming that next week he has an appointment scheduled with her. We called the agency to verify and they'd had no contact with him.

This is where we stand right now. We can use the weather as an excuse to delay the visit tomorrow, but we're in a bad spot. Obviously, we are totally uncomfortable allowing visits, and normally in this situation CPS would have intervened on our behalf, but we have no idea what's going on with them. By not sending her we are risking contempt of a court order - granted we have a lot of stuff to bring up in our defense - but we're still taking a risk. We don't know what to do. I want to take a stand and force him and CPS to answer for all of this in court, but my wife is scared of him and scared of court. On the other hand, he's so angry now that sending her to a visit is almost certainly going to subject her to abuse.

I tried to make this short but it's hard to cut it all down, so I really appreciate any one whose read this far. If you have any relevant advice on how to manage this, we'd really appreciate it.

EDIT: I've tried to use the more universal term "CPS" (child protective services), but I may have slipped and written "DCF" once or twice, which is my area's local name for the same agency.
9th-Jan-2009 05:12 am (UTC)
Have you talked to a personal lawyer? If not, a local agency might be able to recommend one. I don't really know, but some random thoughts are below:

First, make sure your daughter knows that you believe her. Also, I would be completely honest with her about what your situation is as far as trying to protect her from him. If she thinks you are accepting it, it will make it harder for her later, and it will probably get harder to talk about it. Make sure she feels as safe as is possible.

Can you get her a cell phone? Tell her to call 911 if he hits her, or touches her or makes her uncomfortable in any way. You can get phones with one-touch emergency calls, so she doesn't have to talk to anyone even.

I have never once heard of the CPS succeeding at, well, anything. I would document the police involvement and his calls to your wife and you might be able to get a protective order, which involves judges instead of councelors. restraining order might also help your wife, and if the local police know about him can you talk with someone there maybe? So next time it might not take 40 minutes?

If you are willing to deal with some publicity try calling your local representatives (including Senators), your local newspapers or anyone else who will listen to your stories about how the courts are enabling a sexual predator. Seriously, this should not happen and it is sick that it does.

The other thing is, has your daughter made a police report? Like, actually tried to get him arrested? It drags her into it, but gets it out of the CPS and into the realm of criminal proceedings where maybe they aren't such idiots.

I really hope you can come up with something.
9th-Jan-2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Yes! A restraining order might be easier to get in this case given all the issues. Most states allow for civil protective orders that you can file down at your local courthouse. It will take up an afternoon, but you could leave with an order of no contact from him to you or anyone in your family.
9th-Jan-2009 05:23 am (UTC)
One of the things that complicates this is that she's just under 5 years old. So it would be hard for her to make a police report, but even if she wanted to, in this state the police won't act until CPS finishes their investigation. You can't go around them.

By a very strange coincidence my mother is dating a man who lives across the street (it's especially weird because my mother lives an hour away from him) and I've told her to run across the street if anything happens, but I don't know what kind of control he's got over the situation when she's over there. I'm assuming he covers his bases.

We do have a lawyer, and he doesn't, which is another thing in our favor, but unfortunately she moves slowly and is only accessible in her office during business hours when she's not at court. For now we're just dodging the visits and hoping things pan out. It seems like it should be open-and-shut, he should be under arrest now, but it's not happening. Three counselors have been dumbfounded by how this has been handled.

I will look into your advice about the protective order, I don't know what the standard for that is. The cell phone might be a good idea too, if I can trust her not to call the police for fun, heh....I dunno, it's tough. Thanks for your advice though.
9th-Jan-2009 05:18 am (UTC)
I don't have much experience with this, but I want you to know I'm so sorry you, your wife, and step-daughter are having to go through with this.

I'd say keep trying to get higher and higher up in CPS. Keep a file with all the documentation of her reports of abuse, photos of injuries, etc. and show it to anyone and everyone you can. When all else fails, try contacting your local news station and see if one of their Private Investigators can shake things up (I live near Boston, and we have a PI reporter who LOVES tackling CPS debacles and getting things straight, but I'm not sure if your area has that available)

If you can't verify he's contacted the agency to schedule a visit, I don't think any judge would hold you in contempt. Document that you called to verify and that they said they had no contact with him. Tape the phone call if you have to.

I'd say to stick to your gut instincts, keep climbing up the CPS ladder until someone does something, and keep her away from him. It's obvious he's abusing her, and it's been documented. Contempt of court is easier to deal with than seeing a child abused and having no one step in to save her.

If all else fails? Move out of that office's jurisdiction and start a new case file. Anything to keep her safe, you know?
9th-Jan-2009 05:27 am (UTC)
Thanks...actually, our CPS office in CT is under a lot of fire, this branch in specific is being grilled by the legislature for all kinds of screw-ups, and I have the feeling that this plays a part in their unwillingness to admit they'd screwed up the initial investigation. But it may be worth using that. I'm thinking about whether we might need a more aggressive lawyer...ours is good but she's a small town lawyer and doesn't share our sense of urgency. I also agree that it's probably better to deal with the fallout in court rather than subject her to abuse...it's just frightening to take the risk of losing custody to him because of being in contempt (although this is very unlikely for a lot of reasons). Thank you again.
9th-Jan-2009 07:12 am (UTC)
Another thing? I'm a contract manager. Sure it's not CPS and abuse - but it's about negotiating the boundaries of agreements. And working it out when it all goes to hell.

If your CPS isn't wanting to admit fault - can you change tactics? Don't ask for an admission of fault - take a "where to forward from here" approach - practice what you'll say before going there.

Go. State the facts simply (not detail - just "we know there allegations have been substantiated by external professionals"... taht's it, if they want to know more, they can read the file)... and then ask "where do I go to from here? He's asking for visits, but how can I let that go ahead? What is an interim measure we could try for the next few weeks until this all gets sorted?"

It's about couching your questions and terms into "what can be done from here forwards" and if you keep it calm, smooth and soft... it works better. Do it in person. Give up a day's work, and go sit in their office. Don't get angry when they make you sit again and again. At three pm potter back up to the desk and say a polite "so... I'm still waiting on...." etc. Understand they are legally and policy constrained too... but that you just... won't go away.

You aren't unreasonable. You are just simply protecting the child from known abuse. And not even trying to STOP the father having access - this isn't about him - it's about protecting the child.

So... "What is my next step from here?" and "Oh... I see... sure I can write another summary for you - did you have a small meeting room and a pen and paper for me to do it now?".

Kill 'em with helpfulness. And be mindful that they are cynical because all day long they see warring parties who are being manipulative and difficult. Be honest, open and kind. It'll work wonders as an approach.
9th-Jan-2009 12:58 pm (UTC) - *trigger, past childhood abuse*
there has to be some way to go above CPS head--they have to answer to another government agency I would think. If you can figure that out, please go to them. She should in no way be seeing him.
I know all too well how messed up the system is.

When I was around 4 my half brother abused me and was eventually taken out of the home for that and all the other sh*t he was in trouble w/. Yet, even after he was taken out of the home, I was allowed to see him at his group home. I found out years later he abused at least 7 other people. He left me alone until I was around 12(he was than in prison, long story) and all of a sudden, in the prison, he started touching me again...I wasn't the first in the prison either, but was once again the first and only one to say and do something about it, which turned my life into pure hell for many reasons(once again, not up to getting into it). I did press charges, he basically got no more time(just combined w/ the time he had left), and not long after he got out he found a woman w/ a child to live w/, ended up having a child of his own, who are now both taken away from him and the mother(the older child, who is also young, had abuse allegations against him and the stupid county said he was too young so they let him off--even given his past history)
I agree w/ getting the restraining order and doing whatever you can to keep your daughter away from him and keep documenting everything. Also, I know this would be hard, has she ever had a rape kit done? Even if he doesn't rape her, it very well might show signs of sexual abuse.
9th-Jan-2009 01:37 pm (UTC) - Re: *trigger, past childhood abuse*
"they have to answer to another government agency I would think."
No, not that I'm aware of. They pretty much have carte blanche to do whatever the hell they feel like, which is how they get away with abuses of power on a frequent basis.
9th-Jan-2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
My heart goes out to you, your family and daughter. The others have already left you really good legal advice type of comments, which I can't improve upon. That said, my instinct would be to keep her away from him at any cost, even if it meant refusing the visits. That's just me though, and of course probably wouldn't help you or your daughter in the long run, not legally anyway. I wish CPS would take its head out of its ass.
9th-Jan-2009 02:50 pm (UTC) - trigger: child abuse of family member
It is neigh impossible to go over CPS's head... But you can send letters to your local newspaper, mayor, governor, what have you, not explaining what has gone on between your child and their biological father, but how you feel let down by CPS.

I called our local idiots and offered photographic evidence when my nephew was 2 or so, because he was living in a level of filth that I can barely comprehend, his mother and her numerous boyfriends were physically abusive, and she was neglectful. The agency called and made an appointment with her TWO MONTHS in advance. She managed to clean up a majority of the filth (although honestly that would have taken me an ocean of 409 and half a year) and let the bruises and the astounding diaper rashes and whatnot fade.

My nephew showed up at our house two days after the visit with a swollen shut black eye. Once again, photos were taken, and I made calls... I was 16, and couldn't take him to the doctor, and my mother wanted no part in it. The caseworker finally told me after a run-around that the case was closed. After writing many letters to our local newspaper, the mayor, the governor, and senator and CC'ing all of them to both CPS and his caseworker, it was suddenly reopened because of "new information"

In the meantime, while she can't file a police report, you have past reports available to you and a sound reason for being in fear for your daughter's safety. It might very well be a viable option to go down the path of restraining order, even a temporary one.
9th-Jan-2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
I have nothing constructive to add, but wanted to send my support and well-wishes to your family. I'm so sorry this is happening.
11th-Jan-2009 02:24 am (UTC)
First, my thoughts and prayers to you.

Second, I agree with the person who said keep this sick individual away from your stepdaughter at any cost.It is clear that our states "CPS" is like all other state agencies I am in contact with, less than effective. (I say this as a State Employee, BTW). I can think of nothing more important than sparing your stepdaughter a lifetime of hell, depression, self-hatred and self abuse - or worse- just because the powers that be cannot do their jobs.

I realize that is easy for me to say, and much harder for you to do. I'm so sorry I have nothing else to offer you except the deep belief that if you keep this person away from your daughter then you have incredible moral and ethical high ground.

And if you do spit in the face of court orders and run into trouble with the State, then take everything you have and let the press see it. Get them involved, if you can. (Again, easier to say for me than do for you, but please consider it).

Best of luck to you all, and I hope you find the strength to get through all this.
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