Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spokane Paper: Ombudsman's Report Of Colville CPS Wrongdoings

May 7, 2009 in City

Reports fault Colville child services
Separate reviews agree on some issues
Kevin Graman
Staff writer

Tags: Children and Family Services Child welfare Colville

Two separate reports, both critical of the state’s child welfare system in northeastern Washington, were released Wednesday by agencies investigating an unusually high number of complaints against the Colville office of the Washington Division of Children and Family Services.

A 10-month investigation by the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman has found “a widespread crisis of confidence by the community in the child welfare system … that puts children and families at risk of harm.”

The Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration released its own report, which agreed with the ombudsman’s finding on a number of issues, but focused on a “systemic lack of communication and cooperation among all parties involved” in the welfare of dependent children.

The nearly simultaneous release of the two documents was apparently coincidence, said Mary Meinig, director of the ombudsman’s office, which is an independent watchdog over government agencies that have responsibility for child welfare.

Last June, Meinig’s office was asked by DSHS to review child welfare practices in the Colville office in response to concerns raised by state Rep. Joel Kretz and the advocacy group Washington Families United.

The Colville office covers Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties, where residents, including a grandparents’ support group, complained about child placement decisions.

Then, in March, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen wrote to Gov. Chris Gregoire and other state officials to state his concerns about alleged misconduct and corruption in the Colville office of the Division of Children and Family Services.

Rasmussen’s letter included allegations that Child Protective Services workers attempted to keep children from contacting their court-appointed advocates and “shopped” for health care and mental health care providers who would support their objectives in child placement.

Relatives were not notified or considered for placement of children, the prosecutor wrote. Other relatives had children taken from them and placed in foster care.

The ombudsman’s report supports some of these allegations.

Between Jan. 1, 2007, and March 31, 2009, the ombudsman’s office received 62 complaints regarding practices in the Colville office, of which 44 investigations have been completed. Of these the ombudsman found 16 adverse findings against the office, including violations of law, policy, procedure, “or simply poor social work practice.”

“These complaints had merit,” Meinig said. “Children were removed from placement for less than child abuse and neglect, which raises questions about how we are looking at relative placement.”

A Washington Families United spokeswoman said the problems cited in the ombudsman’s report in regard to the Colville office are present throughout the state.

“There is no one to hold these people accountable,” families advocate Linda Harris said.

In its report, Meinig’s office made several recommendations, including:

•That an outside professional mediation service address issues needing repair in the Colville area.

•That a diverse community board advises the Division of Children and Family Services.

•That the judiciary take leadership in addressing accountability, particularly in the appointment of mutually agreed-upon care providers.

The report also stressed the importance of keeping children with relatives in the absence of abuse or neglect, a clear violation of a court order, or imminent risk
of harm.

Children’s Administration concurred with many of the ombudsman’s recommendations. But while Meinig’s office laid much of the responsibility with the child welfare agency, the Children’s Administration report focused largely on the strained relationship between the Colville office and the Stevens County Court Appointed Special Advocate Office.

“Both reviews identified similar areas needing improvement and provides an opportunity,” said Randy Hart, Children’s Administration interim assistant secretary. “We will work with our partners to implement the recommendations as appropriate.”

Contact Kevin Graman at or (509) 459-5433.


Anonymous said...

So does this mean there's a chance some of these kids will be returning to their family?!?!?!
Sound's least someone realizes theres some serious problems!

Anonymous said...

Pam, I was at the senate hearing when Mr. Rasmussen addressed the panel on his concerns in colville dshs. What Mr. Rasmussen was discribing is no different then what is happening on the west side of our state as well. The system is a FAILURE in a whole. There is way to much greed and coruption within this organization to fix it. It's a cancer that has consumed all of dshs/cps. This agency needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.

Anonymous said...

Well it's about damn time! Now return those children.

Lovingfitfather said...

It is difficult to overstate the negative impact of a corrupt judiciary: it erodes the ability of the international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism; it diminishes trade, economic growth and human development; and, most importantly, it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with (neighbors) or the authorities. When the latter occurs, corrupt judiciaries fracture and divide communities by keeping alive the sense of injury created by unjust treatment and mediation. Judicial systems debased by bribery undermine confidence in governance by facilitating corruption across all sectors of government, starting at the helm of power. In so doing they send a blunt message to the people: in this country corruption is tolerated.
Child Welfare could not operate with impunity without the participation and cooperation of our courts.

Anonymous said...

I live in Colville and I advocate for children and families. I have never seen a more vicious bunch than those in the courthouse, at DSHS, CPS, CASA the whoe bunch. What they totally forget is the reason they are there. The Children. Don't you think its interesting that the word Family is taken out of DSHS??