Thursday, June 23, 2016

Protection from child protection

Let’s take a trip into the near future. Just a couple of years.

Child Protective Services has just received a child maltreatment report concerning a father of five. With a few keystrokes, CPS workers find out the following about him:

He’s married, but the family lives in deep poverty. He has a criminal record, a misdemeanor conviction. He and his wife also had the children taken away from them; they were returned after six months.

These data immediately are entered into a computer programmed with the latest predictive analytics software. And quicker than you can say “danger, Will Robinson!” the computer warns CPS that this guy is high-risk.

When the caseworker gets to the home, she knows the risk score is high, so if she leaves those children at home and something goes wrong, she’ll have even more than usual to answer for.

No matter what the actual report – since in this new modern age of “pre-crime” making determinations based on what actually may have happened is so passe – those children are likely to be taken away, again.

So, now let’s return to the present and meet the family at the center of the actual case on which this hypothetical is based:  In the hypothetical, I changed two things about this story. First, the story mentions no criminal charges, and, in fact, panhandling is illegal only in some parts of Houston. But predictive analytics tends not to factor in Anatole France’s famous observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

So had there been a criminal conviction, or even a charge, it almost certainly would have added to the risk score.

And second, I’m assuming Dennison and his wife actually will get their children back. In fact, there’s no telling what will happen, and the family is under the impression that CPS is pursuing termination of parental rights.

What we do know is that in the brave new world of predictive analytics, if Dennison’s children ever are returned, and if Dennison ever is reported again, the children are likely to be removed again. And, what with it then being the second time and all, they’re more likely to stay removed forever.

For now, the parents don’t know where their children are. But given that this is Texas foster care we’re talking about, odds are it’s nowhere good.

I can hear the predictive analytics evangelists now: “You don’t understand,” they’ll say. “We would just use this tool to help people like Dennison and his family.”

And yes, there are a very few enlightened child protective services agencies that would do that. But when Houston CPS encountered the Dennison family that’s not what they did. They did not offer emergency cash assistance. They did not offer assistance to Dennison to find another job, or train for a new one.

They took the children and ran. Just as Houston CPS did in another case, where they rushed to confuse poverty with neglect.

An algorithm won’t make these decisions any better.  They’ll just make it easier to take the child and run.

While other parents play with their kids in this park this couple can only wonder where their 5 kids are right now.

“Just that thought it’s indescribable,” said father-of-5 Anthony Dennison.

In this document Child Protective Services states the reason for taking the couple’s children is “failure to provide a safe environment.”

Dennison says he’s between jobs.

On March 22 CPS was contacted after Dennison was seen standing at this intersection with a sign that read 'dad laid off anything’s a blessing'.

“Basically they were hanging out there while dad was trying to do what dad could do,” Dennison said.

Was he trying to use the kids to panhandle?

“No sir,” Dennison said. “I was out there by myself, the kids, and my wife were standing at the side in a safe secluded area.”

Anthony’s wife Rita Joshua also says the kids were not being used to panhandle but she says that’s the picture CPS painted in court.

Their oldest child is 8. Then they have a 2-year-old a 1-year-old and 6-week-old twins. All are now in CPS custody.

“It really hurts me I was breast feeding and they just took them away and they’re not trying to hear anything I have to say in court,” Joshua said.

The couple admits to having a hard time financially.They are living with relatives but say they are keeping a roof over their kids heads and keeping them fed and clothed. But that’s not good enough they say for CPS.

“Yea they want to terminate my parental rights,” said Joshua.

Although neither parent has been accused of mistreating the kids, and if CPS gets its way, they will never live with their parents or any relatives ever again.

“If I wasn’t a responsible parent I wouldn’t even feel so bad,” Dennison said. “But I know that I do the best I can every day to make sure they’re ok.”

Here’s all CPS would say to us about this case.

“The children were not returned to the parents because CPS believed they would not be safe with the parents and the judge agreed.”

The couple is scheduled to return to court in late May.


  1. A Michigan family which had dreams of camping during the summer in the great outdoors was horrified when state officials seized their six children simply because they were temporarily living in tents, Off The Grid News has learned.

    The nightmare experience for Christopher and Antonia Hernandez began May 19 when Otsego County sheriff deputies and a CPS official took their children, and ended June 10 when their children were returned after the parents won a court ruling based on the fact the mother and children are eligible for enrollment in the Tlingit Native American tribe. The federal Indian Child Welfare Act makes it more difficult for state officials to separate Native American families. Michigan has a similar state law.

    If the family had not had the Tlingit link, the case still would be ongoing, with the children still in foster care.

    But the removal never should have taken place, Christopher and Antonia told Off The Grid News, which has read the court documents – one of which criticizes the family for not having electricity or a water source. The family was near a state park and had purchased a pass to shower and bathe there. The parents also had a generator.

    They had been living in the tents for nine days when police arrived.

    “The government has tried to standardize what a home is and what a home must have, without consideration for if the children’s needs are being met or not,” Christopher and Antonia said in a joint statement. “This was not a case of neglect, but a case of the government telling us how we have to raise our children — that we must have running water, we must have electricity and we can’t stay in a tent for the summer. To the government it makes no difference if the children are happy and healthy. We need to conform to their idea of normal or they can take your children away.”

  2. Juda Myers of Choices4Life calls her a “Hero Mom.” A 14 year old Alabama girl became pregnant from a rape, but she courageously chose life for the baby that was conceived. She refused to consider the option of abortion, and told her grandparents, who are her legal guardians, that if they would help her, she would raise and love this baby.

    Instead of celebrating her as a hero, Alabama child protective services – DHR – came into the hospital yesterday and seized her newborn baby, leaving a devastated young mother and her family in their wake.

    Juda Myers and I were there to witness the trampling of every Constitutional and moral right of this young mother, and we are shocked and devastated at what we saw. There is no legal or moral justification for what we saw happen at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Alabama, on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

    There was no court order, no warrant, and no sign of imminent (or any other) danger, yet hospital social worker Jamilia literally ripped 51 hour-old Braelon from his mother’s arms right after he finished breastfeeding, under the direction of DHR supervisor Ahzshaka Evans, with the approval of 3 Alabaster police officers, led by shift supervisor Officer Edmunson, Detective Raugh, 2 security personnel, and hospital Director of Risk Management/Compliance Ashley Cole-Tyson.

    By all accounts of the nursing and medical staff, the young mother was doing an amazing job of mothering her baby son Braelon. She loves and adores her baby. Even though he was conceived in rape, it is clear that this is HER baby...

    We were told by Jamilia, the hospital social worker, that DHR was notified after the baby’s birth. When grandmother Dee Prince asked why they were called, she was told that this was “protocol.”...

    The mother had a place all set up at the home she lives in with her custodial grandparents, complete with bassinet and all the necessary things for her baby. But her baby hasn’t seen any of it. The family wonders if he ever will...

    I find this incredulous because the social workers had already made a determination on several occasions with this particular family that they were in fact safe, that their home was safe, their living environment was safe, and have approved these grandparents to care for these children. Furthermore, the court has found these parents are grandparents to be safe caretakers. In fact, grandfather is a retired police officer. If the social workers feel there is danger that rises to be considered imminent danger to justify the seizure of this infant, a court order is necessary. They have no authority or training to legally seize this child without a court order...

    We were floored.


    There was no reason given while we were in the room. There was no history of drug or alcohol abuse by the mother whose only “crime” was that she was a rape victim. The mother’s plans were to go home with her custodial grandparents, who had approval from the state to take care of her and her siblings.