Thanks to Child Protective Services for sponsoring the Aug. 30 town hall highlighting Manatee County's drug epidemic and its effect on our youth. Manatee removes three times the number of children of other Florida counties. The need for the community to come together to strategize and execute solutions such as respite, mentoring, babysitting and more foster homes is essential.
But a town hall by its nature allows for input from citizens. Unfortunately, CPS displayed its usual bureaucratic self-serving, self-protective small mindedness by not allowing audience discussion. One person brought up the highly publicized Janiya Thomas case. He was told to stay on topic. My suggestion to study child removal rates, which could reduce childhood trauma from placement and the number of foster homes required, was greeted with an immediate (and somewhat defensive?) denial from Ms. Keehen. In the late 1970s, King County which includes Seattle, Wash. (in a more progressive and generous state than Florida) did just that, as well as hired master level social workers as investigators, which reduced both placements and complaints against the agency.
After the meeting, I spoke with Ms. Keehen about trauma perpetrated upon children who are removed from their families. She suggested families get their own lawyers and deal with it in court. When I pointed out this can take months while the child is emotionally damaged languishing in care; she said the lawyer should get this expedited. This still takes months. When asked if she realized how damaging this is for a child, she replied, “I know trauma.”
While the town hall meeting was a brave and useful endeavor and is appreciated, CPS should stop concentrating on protecting itself and be open-minded, wise and creative in its quest to protect our children.
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Constance E. Russell