I can not of course give specific details due to confidentiality and for the protection of children and families. I did have a case that convinced me that the Child Welfare System in Oklahoma was broken and at times evil.
I was assigned a case of a 17/1/2 year old child that had been taken to a facility and abandoned there by a “responsible” adult. First of all I was put off by the fact this child was barely a child under the State Guidelines. The second thing this case was given a Priority One status due to the fact she was without adult supervision not because she was in clear and present risk, the risk they gave me was if she was taken to the hospital or needed emergency treatment she could not sign consent for it. Bare in mind too that if there was a really serious emergency i.e. with risk of loss of life that doctor’s can bypass the consent issue.
This adult/ child had a previous history with Child Welfare about two years prior to this case. But her whole childhood was unfortunate. First of all she had been living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. She and another girl was adopted by a local couple several years earlier. No other previous Child Welfare history except for that earlier case. It was reported that the adopted father of these girls had developed an interest in candid photography with the girls when they were showering. Oh but that case was closed by Child Welfare due to failure to locate the adopted parents. The former worker must of tried very hard oh and I was able to locate the adopted parents with a little investigative work. And there was at the time of my case still an active police investigation of that matter. However when I tried contacting the police to give them my updated information I was told that that officer was on vacation and they would have the officer contact me. They never did.
So what happened to the girls after this report? My client went to live with a classmate and her mother, and the sister of the client also moved to a classmate and friend of her and the mother. Okay I am confused why didn’t Child Welfare consider these children to be without care of a responsible adult then? So my client moved in with this classmate. Okay my client was not an angel. She was reported to be using marijuana for non medical reasons, and drinking, and smoking and cursed like a sailor and argued with the “responsible” adult she lived with. Also it was reported my client was seeing an older man. My client was a senior at a local high school. She had a part time job at a local fast food type place and had been accepted to a State College. So she had some idea as to what her future would be.
But the problem child was too much of a problem for this family so the “responsible” adult took the kid to this place where adolescents can go to get help to compose themselves. But also a child who was 17 could sign themselves out of this place. So I eventually go to this place only to find my client had signed herself out the night before and it was an older man that came and picked her up. Okay this older man did turn out to be 20. So I went back to work and gave my supervisor an update. I was told to contact the school and I did leave a message with an administrator as it was after school had let out.
* The rule for a Priority One case is the worker must make three documented attempts to contact the child during that day and one attempt every day afterwards until the child is found. My first attempt was to go to the place that had the child, my second attempt was leaving a message with the school,my third attempt was contacting the former household of the child.
Okay so I am thinking this may not be a big deal. Maybe the child is with that older man. All that was known was a probably first name of the guy. The next day the school called back and said that my client had not shown up to school that day. However later that day I got a call from a woman saying that my client had contacted her for a place to stay and that she was inquiring about perhaps getting some help in the matter. So later that day I met my client for the first time. She told me her story, and about her life’s goals etc. One thing she did tell me is that if Child Welfare took her into custody she would elope. I again consulted with my supervisor and told her I thought that we should work with this family. I talked about helping the girl with emancipation. However I knew that my supervisor was hellbent on making this child a ward of the State. But left for the weekend trying to forget about this case.
Of course when I returned to the office the next Monday, the first message I had was from this new family reporting to me that my client had caused problems there and no longer lived there. When this information came out I was told by my supervisor to start the custody process. In front of the judge, I did present the information including the fact that this client had said she would elope if put into custody. The judge did talk about emancipation but ultimately awarded the State custody of this near adult. Her high school also made contact. Here was the plan I would go with another worker (since she had threatened to elope) to the school the next day. The administrator would call her to the office for some reason then we would snatch this baby up. You could tell by the look in my client’s eyes she knew what was up but was not defeated. She went quietly with us. I signed her in the shelter that day. It would be the last time I ever would see this client.
So the shelter takes the kids to the school. Basically they go on a bus and are dropped off and picked up. When they took my client to school that day she acted like she was going to school and when the bus left she circled around and was gone. Of course this was reported and as it turned out according to protocol I had to make some more attempts to contact her. It was a bet she would not show back up to school and that she probably was with this mysterious older man that we did not know anything about except a first name. My client had talked a little about this guy, not giving up too much locating information just said he was friend from church, She told me she did not love him and had him wrapped around her finger. Okay the case was over right? Yea pretty much. But I was able to find out a good deal more. Remember the previous case had been dismissed due to failure to locate the parents. I did go by the house only to find it with a For Sale Realtor sign. I contacted that agent and found out the couple had relocated to another state and had moved from that house quickly and only contacted the agent via email. The father had contacted the responsible adults of both girls via email only. Oh yes and that the father also had a temporary residence in this area as he was attending a local school which was known world wide for its aviation training. My break in the case came when I got a call from a couple in another county west of my area. Yes my client was on the move. And then I could close the case as she know was in the jurisdiction of another county and she was their headache now.
So I got dizzy etc went to the hospital, I did return to work for one day, and in clearing my phone calls I had a message from a lawyer’s office a few states west that they were calling with concerns about this client.
So what happened was that we had a young adult that was almost nearing completion of high school. She had been without real adult supervision and she was not perfect but was using what she had to get through life. She was not able to go back to school. Once the school found out she did not have a responsible adult they dismissed her. She was on the move to the state where her former adopted parents lived. There is so much more to the story but it ruined me knowing I did not help this young lady out. In fact my involvement lead her to a live of running.