The Other Side of the Coin… Mr Rasmussen

The other side of the Coin… Tim Rasmussen

The other side of the Coin… Tim Rasmussen

In all sides of a story there are different
aspects, although it doesn’t excuse some of Mr Rasmussen’s own behavior I must point out the Good he has done. In investigating him further I found that he seems to be THE ONLY PERSON IN THIS STATE that can get a handle on CPS, all the politicians are commenting after the fact about “how worried they are” but not a single one of them has done ANYTHING about it, except for Mr Rasmussen.

 

Now why in the world would I write a
complimentary piece about him? Why wouldn’t I? I am not trying to destroy the man I am very preturbed with him for malicious prosecutions, & for for turning a blind eye to other crimes, but in order to fully understand what power
he holds, you should see all sides of him. It is also a lesson in what power can produce, the Good & the Bad. The problem is this was all there was to it, nothing else was done, it was good for election time news but it all just went away once the votes were in. Do I believe it is because HE gave up on it? Do I believe HE only did this for election purposes? Nope. I believe in spite of what my personal opinion is he still cares deeply for children.

 

April 17, 2009 in City

Child Protective Services denounced

Lawmakers hold meeting on agency’s practices
Richard Roesler Staff writer

RICHARD ROESLER photo

Collen Beimer, of Bonney Lake, Wash., attended a meeting about
Child Protective Services workers, who were called heavy- handed. “My
grandbabies are gone,” she said.
OLYMPIA – Lawmakers, parents and an
Eastern Washington prosecutor on Thursday blasted state child-protection
officials, saying the state is too quick to remove children from
their families. “The system is broken. The children are forgotten,” said
Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen. He said he found “a culture of deceit
and deception” among Child Protective Services workers in Colville. The
standing-room-only crowd, numbering about 100, was full of parents and
grandparents, some holding photographs of children. Thursday’s meeting was
called by state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who’s been critical of state officials
for months in a case involving a couple’s efforts to get custody of their
3-year-old granddaughter. “Lies are put on desks,” Roach said on the Senate
floor later in the day. “Children are being hurt.” A spokeswoman for the
Department of Social and Health Services said officials take such allegations
seriously. “If someone believes that any of our staff have been dishonest,
falsified documents or have retaliated against families, we ask that people
report this to the Children’s Administration or Office of the Family and
Children’s Ombudsman,” Sherry Hill said. “The first priority of the
Children’s Administration is the safety of children,” she said. “Our goal is to
keep children in their home as long as they are safe.” Of the child abuse
and neglect cases investigated, she said, fewer than 20 percent result in the
children being placed in foster care. And when that does happen, Hill said, “we
then work toward reunification with the family if that is possible.” Still,
it’s clear that many lawmakers are concerned. About a dozen attended. State
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he’s heard an “incredible” number of
complaints from credible people. “The agency self-investigates. They write
their own reports,” he said. “You can imagine what those
look like.”

State Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, said she’s worried about reports that
social workers retaliate against parents and relatives trying to keep or gain
custody of children. “I am deeply troubled at what I am finding in
falsification of documents by social workers,” she said. And Kretz, Roach
and Rasmussen raised concerns that social workers “target” certain children for
removal from a home. That includes young kids, children who haven’t been
molested, and those who come from families that weren’t involved in drugs.
“Completely untrue,” Hill said afterward. Social workers cannot remove children
from a home without a superior court order, she said. (Police and some medical
providers, she added, can authorize removal without a court order.) It’s
true that sometimes the workers may make mistakes or that some may violate
rules, Hill said. But if so, she said, the department wants to hear about it and
will investigate it.

Washington ranks third highest among states for the percentage of children
placed with relatives, she said. Some 38 percent of those taken or given up by a
parent live with relatives, she said, up from 30 percent nine years ago.
Rasmussen said courts need more authority to review and control child
placements. He and Roach are also calling for more opening of the court and
agency files involving such decisions. “You have the power to change this
and you should,” Rasmussen told lawmakers. It’s unclear, however, whether
there will be any changes. Lawmakers took no action Thursday, except to urge the
audience to organize and lobby the rest of the Legislature for changes. There
are no bills to make changes, and this year’s legislative session is scheduled
to end April 26. As for Rasmussen’s allegations about the Colville office,
DSHS defends its workers. Randy Hart, interim assistant secretary of the
Children’s Administration, said recent case reviews showed that “the staff in
Colville are committed to working with families and children in the community
and helping them get the services they need.”  He also said the agency
is investigating the allegations raised by Rasmussen. He said the prosecutor
didn’t ask the Children’s Administration for any documents or records, nor ask
to speak with any supervisor or manager about specific cases. Prompted by a
letter from Kretz last summer, Hart said, DSHS asked a state ombudsman to do an
independent review of the Colville office. The review, he said, should be done
by early May.  “Staff have been open to scrutiny,” he said, and have
worked with families, foster parents and others in critical
family decisions.

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360) 664-2598 or at richr@spokesman.com. For more news from
Olympia, please see www.eyeonolympia.com.

Trouble in Colville, WA: Child Protective Services In
The Crosshairs

To paraphrase Shakespeare, something is rotten in the remote northeast corner
of Washington  State. It’s the child welfare system. A new Ombudsman report
finds a  “serious crisis of confidence” that’s putting children and
families at risk. The report seems to confirm what community leaders have been
saying for months. Correspondent Austin Jenkins recently visited Colville, WA
and filed this story. It’s a spring evening in Colville. Leigh Roubideaux’s
daughters – ages 7 and 4 – are playing on their swing set in their front yard.

Roubideaux
 Leigh Roubideaux’s daughters were taken by CPS in
2008

It was a very different picture last August. That’s when Roubideaux’s kids
strayed into the busy street in front of their house.

Someone called the police and soon Child Protective Services was knocking at
the door. Roubideaux – who has developmental disabilities – remembers that day
well.

Leigh Roubideaux: “I was petrified. I was in tears.”

CPS took the kids away. It took three weeks and the support of friends and
neighbors – like local businesswoman Lisa Shinn – for Roubideaux to get her
daughters back. Shinn thinks CPS discriminated against Roubideaux because of her
disability and the fact she’s Native American.

Lisa Shinn: “We would all have our children taken away if someone saw them
playing in the street everyone would have their children taken by CPS if that is
the criteria.”

This is just one example of a litany of complaints against Children and
Family Services in Northeast Washington.  Stevens County Prosecutor Tim
Rasmussen sits in an easy chair in his living room with two accordion files at
his feet. In those files are the stories of people who feel they’ve been wronged
by state child welfare officials.

Tim Rasmussen: “There’s a lot of human tragedy here. There’s a lot of tragic,
tragic situations.” For the past many months — at the request of a state
lawmaker — Rasmussen has collected accounts of what he calls a “pattern of
misconduct” by the Colville, Washington office of Children and Family Services.
In one of the more high profile cases, five children were removed from the home
of a well-known foster family. A judge later called it a “slap in the face” and
an “overreaction” that resulted in “tremendous upheaval” for the children. Some
of them were siblings who were separated from each other. Rasmussen’s theory is
that caseworkers overreacted because of something horrible that happened in
Colville back in 2005. A 7-year-old boy named Tyler DeLeon was starved to death
by his foster mother.

Tim Rasmussen: “What’s happening now is just a different chapter in the book
if you would. Tyler DeLeon is one chapter and they missed the mark in one
direction and in some of the current cases they appear to have missed the mark
in another direction.” Prosecutor Rasmussen recently wrote a letter to Governor
Chris Gregoire that says he believes there’s a “culture of deceit and deception”
within the Colville child welfare office.  He’s even considering criminal
charges against a CPS worker for violating a court order.  Rasmussen isn’t
the only one critical of Children and Family Services. Patty Markel runs the
CASA program in Stevens  County. These are the Court Appointed Special
Advocates who represent the children in child dependency cases. She alleges that
CPS caseworkers act in a “willy-nilly” fashion that’s personality driven and
motivated by a fear of lawsuits.

Patty Markel: “What I see now is more liability-driven decision making. And
that’s concerning because that’s not necessarily – this whole system is supposed
to be about the best interests of children” You hear a similar theme from Barry
Bacon – a family physician in Colville. He says CPS workers often ignore the
advice of local doctors like him. Instead, from what he’s seen, they take kids
to Spokane – 70 miles away – to see the doctor. Dr. Barry Bacon: “They would
rather continue with their opinion and destroy a child rather than admit that
they’ve made a mistake. It’s unbelievable. I mean it’s like the Wild West. They
are a law unto themselves which is one of the biggest issues we have with
them.”

The Department of Social and Health Services has reviewed the cases flagged
by Prosecutor Rasmussen and in a recent report finds no wrongdoing by
caseworkers. But in a separate investigation by state Ombudsman Mary Meinig, a
disturbing portrait of the Colville office emerges. Over the past two years, the
Ombudsman’s office has received 62 complaints regarding child welfare practices
in the Northeast corner of Washington. So far in 16 of those cases, the
Ombudsman found – in her words – “violations of law, policy, procedure; clearly
unreasonable actions; or simply poor social work practice.”  Beyond that
Meinig says her investigation revealed a “culture of pervasive distrust” between
CPS workers and other professionals in the community. But rather than pinning
all the blame on CPS, Meinig says everyone involved needs to do a better job of
working together. Mary Meinig: “Our report says the kids are at-risk and
families are at-risk because of the lack of trust, cooperation, collaboration
and communication that’s going on within the community.” The situation is so
serious, Meinig believes, that the lives of vulnerable children are on the line.
Mary Meinig: “Well if it doesn’t improve I would say it would be a matter of
time before we have an even more serious incidents – possible child fatality or
near fatality.” Like others, Meinig believes past tragedies – like the
starvation death of Tyler DeLeon – are influencing the decisions made by CPS
workers and have led to a climate of distrust.

In haunting language, she writes the “ghosts of children past…sit in the
collective conscience as reminders of where the system failed.” But Meinig’s
report is not devoid of hope. She recommends several steps to start rebuilding
trust. This includes bringing in an outside professional mediator and creating a
diverse community advisory board. How does Children and Family Services respond
to all this? Marty Butkovich, DSHS Regional Administrator: “Obviously
relationships need to be improved.” Marty Butkovich is the Administrator who
oversees the Colville CPS office. He acknowledges there’s been a breakdown in
communication. But he calls his staff “exceptional.” And he says he’s seen
nothing to suggest his employees need to be disciplined or fired.  Marty
Butkovich: “We’re not the bad guy. This is very difficult work, very emotional
work and some very difficult decisions are being made as it relates to kids and
people have strong feelings about some of those decisions and not always in
agreement.” As for whether a fear of lawsuits is driving decisions to take
children away, Butkovich admits that does weigh on caseworkers’
minds. Marty Butkovich: “Liability is something that is very obvious and
tort and being sued and deaths – all the real bad things that are out there –
can be in a social workers mind and if they’re stressed and tired and so ya it
can be there.” Department of Social and Health Services officials say they
believe relations in Northeast Washington have improved over the past year – but
there’s still work to be done. The agency plans to put a corrective action plan
into place. The problems in Colville have even reached Governor Chris Gregoire.
She said in response to the Ombudsman report  she wants the agency to –
quote – “refocus on what’s important” – the children they’re charged with
protecting.

Online:

Ombudsman report

DSHS
report
  


 

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