Investigators: Family says it’s target of DSHS retaliation
10:25 AM PDT on Friday, May 1, 2009
By SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News
The KING 5 Investigators continue their investigation into the handling of a case by the Department of Social and Health Services. This story raises the question – is the state practicing good social work or retaliation against foster parents who speak up for their children?
The Langleys are set to lose Poca, the child they consider their daughter after Child Protective Services reported they’d neglected a different child.
Poca has struggled from day one. She was born a very sick preemie, weighing just 2 pounds, 4 ounces, with neurological problems.
This is a very fragile child, a child with special needs with a very serious beginning to her life who needed more than the usual amount of consistency, love and support,” said her pediatric neurologist, Dr. Stephen Glass.
CPS didn’t think Poca would get that at home. Her parents had a history of trouble. The dad is a convicted felon for selling meth. The mother had a prior baby die after testing positive for meth at birth.
So the state placed Poca, as an infant, with foster parents Amy and Dick Langley.
That was nearly four years ago. To Poca, the Langleys’ home is her home, and the state’s about to take her away from it.
“We love her more than anything,” Amy Langley said. “I tell her every day I love her with all of my heart and I will love her forever.”
The Langleys are not afraid to speak up when problems have come up in the case. Social workers, trying to reunite Poca with her birthparents, withheld negative information about them from the judge.
The child’s former court-appointed advocate wrote DSHS “concealed information” and “denied information existed.” He quit in protest when his case manager told him to alter reports to the judge. When he refused, Lindsay said the manager changed his reports for him.
Langleys complained when social workers kept telling the judge Poca’s visits with her biological parents were going well.
That’s not true. Her pediatrician reports they’ve been “traumatic” and have cuased “stress.”
Her neurologist says he has seen firsthand in his office a regression since Poca started overnight visits four months ago. “She will go downhill if she is moved. She has gone downhill with weekend visitations,” said Dr. Glass. “She will come back irritable, disconsolate, unable to feed, unable to self-soothe; taking days to recover back to her baseline.”
The Langleys complained when state workers discounted a slew of medical providers who wrote Poca should stay with them, given her bonding and special needs.
“The decision to remove this child from their care is unconscionable,” Dr. Glass said.
“She doesn’t understand DNA or genetics or family trees,” Dick Langley said. “The only thing she understands is that we’re the only family she knows.”
When no one listened, they complained outside the system.
They’ve testified before legislative committees.
“We are told over and over and over again, we can’t help you,” Amy Langley said. “You’re foster parents, you have no rights.”
They’ve written every single legislator, the attorney general, the state ombudsman for children, Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge and the governor.
“All trying to get somebody to understand that this is an injustice, this is wrong,” Amy Langley said.
Speaking up backfired.
After all that complaining they got a letter in the mail. DSHS intended to revoke their foster license.
CPS found them guilty of neglecting their 6-year-old-son Taylor.
Without a foster license, Poca would have to go.
“It’s horrible, it’s feels like someone has ripped your heart out,” Amy Langley said.”Because this is your life.
This is a child. This is a child, and somebody’s going to take her away, and what is that going to do to her?”
Dick and Amy Langley adopted Taylor as a baby. He was born addicted to heroin and as he got older, the Langleys say he became aggressive and dangerous.
“He attacked everybody,” Amy Langley said. “It didn’t matter who you were, how big you were.”
Two years ago the Langleys decided they couldn’t do it anymore. They wanted Taylor out and sent him to live on a farm with a family friend.
Some people might question that decision. But the Langleys have a lot of experience with special needs children. For nearly 10 years the state has been entrusting them with medically fragile foster children like Poca. They’ve cared for 20 different foster kids over the years, including drug-affected babies, a blind baby, and developmentally delayed children.
The Langleys say Taylor was a very different case.
By age 6, he’d broken Amy’s nose, set fires, strangled animals, pulled a screwdriver on a friend and attacked their younger children.
They say they made the decision to protect their other kids, including four daughters and Poca, their foster child.
“I don’t know what else we could have done,” Dick Langley said.
A few months into the stay, CPS got a call that Taylor could be in trouble. A farm visitor said the Langleys had “pawned off” a son who was being exposed to an “illegal nightclub” run in the barn. CPS investigated, finding them guilty of neglect.
“We removed him because that was in the best interest for him and for our family,” Amy Langley said. “So how is that neglect?”
KING 5 looked into the state’s investigation. CPS said the Langleys “abandoned” Taylor and didn’t care what he was doing. But we found the CPS investigator never interviewed his caregiver, the farm owner Jeff Schock.
“I’ve never been asked anything about Taylor,” Schock said.
Schock said the Langleys checked on their son all the time.
“They would bring food in boxes all the time,” he said. “They were here constantly.”
CPS found the Langleys didn’t care that their son was exposed to “strippers” at drunken barn parties.
KING 5 obtained video from those parties – concerts held on weekends. Many people told us these were family friendly events that didn’t feature nude dancers.
CPS also said the Langleys must be exaggerating Taylor’s dangerous nature because he behaved just fine in school.
But KING 5 obtained a letter from his teacher showing the opposite. She writes he was difficult, and one day he “pinched a girl’s back, stomped on her feet, and twisted another girl’s arm.” They almost “called the police.”
The Langleys believe they’re targets of retaliation by DSHS, pegged as troublemakers for complaining about Poca’s case.
“We have been threatened many times, if you aren’t quiet, you will lose your license, you will be sued, you will lose your foster child, and that is exactly what they’ve done,” Amy Langley said.
DSHS official Sandy Kinney says their goal is what’s best for children – not to punish the people who care for them.
KING 5 Investigator Susannah Frame asked her: “From where you sit does the department retaliate against foster parents who complain?”
“Once again it gets back to the focus and that not being the child, and getting down to the facts of the case, not the emotional aspects of the case,” Kinney said.
The timing of the Langleys’ neglect finding is suspicious. CPS investigations are supposed to take 90 days, max. This one took more than a year.
It finally wrapped up with a black mark on the Langleys record, after they repeatedly complained.
“They want us cut out of this picture completely,” Dick Langley said.
The Langleys are fighting back. Their home’s in foreclosure after spending all they have on attorneys in hopes of overturning the decision to keep Poca in the only home she’s ever known.
“We didn’t care if we lost the house,” Dick Langley said. “We didn’t care if we were living in a van by the river as long as the family was intact, and that was our goal, to keep the family intact, and she’s our family.”
Update: There’s been a major turn of events with the Langely’s neglect charge.
An appeals judge has just issued a detailed, 36-page ruling which states DSHS was wrong.
Administrative Law Judge Laura Valente has ruled the Langleys did not neglect Taylor or any other child. She’s ordered the state to restore the Langleys clean record as foster parents, immediately.
In a shocking move to the Langleys, that’s not good enough. As of tonight DSHS and the Attorney General’s Office is still forging ahead with their plan to take Poca away from the Langleys. She’s not going to her birthparents either. Just last week Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris found they are still not ready to take care of her because she suspects the biological parents may be drinking and doing drugs again and that they’ve been “lying” and “hiding information” from social workers.
The plan is to move Poca to a new foster home soon, with people she’s met only a few times. DSHS tells us their hands are tied because Judge Farris refuses to let Poca stay with the Langleys, despite the fact they’ve been exonerated after an extensive hearing before Judge Valente. In a statement to KING 5 late Thursday, DSHS says Judge Farris made the following ruling in March, which forces them to take Poca away: “Regardless of how the (appeal) hearing turns out the Langleys are not an appropriate placement, based on the court’s independent assessment of the evidence. The court remains concerned regarding return home (to biological parents), but also recognizes [the child] cannot remain with the Langleys.
The court also recognizes that it would be traumatic to place [the child] in an unknown foster home.”
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE DSHS WEBSITE:
Contact: Sherry Hill, 360-902-7892, email@example.com
April 30, 2009
DSHS releases new information on the Langley foster home case
Olympia, WA — A television news story aired Tuesday, April 28, regarding concerns expressed by foster parents Amy and Dick Langley about actions of the state involving a foster child in their care. The Department of Social and Health Services wants to ensure that anyone reporting on this story is aware of recent legal developments in this case.
The child is in the custody of DSHS pursuant to a dependency proceeding in Snohomish County Juvenile Court and her case is reviewed on an ongoing basis by a judge assigned to hear dependency cases. This judge ruled in March of this year that the foster parents in this case were “not an appropriate placement, based on the court’s independent assessment of the evidence.” The same judge ordered on Monday that the child be removed from the Langley home and placed into foster care with another family with whom the child is familiar. Children’s Administration will comply with the judge’s order.
This story reveals the complexity of family and placement issues that Children’s Administration must deal with in every case. We have the same goal with every placement – we consider what is in the best interest of the child and where the child will thrive and be safe. Children’s Administration must make reasonable efforts to reunify a child with the family if that is at all possible.
However, family problems and issues can complicate and sometimes hinder, or halt reunification, and decision’s about a child’s placement decision can be delayed or modified because of the change in circumstances.
An additional complexity to this case is that there was a parallel case involving the Langleys concerning their care of another child. Based on a finding from an investigation by Child Protective Services of the Division of Licensed Resources, the Department last year issued a from letter revoking the Langley’s foster care license. The Langleys appealed both the revocation and the finding. On Tuesday, April 28, an Administrative Law Judge determined that the report that lead to the investigation was “unfounded” and ruled that the Langley’s foster care license should not be revoked.
While this is a new development, the Snohomish County Juvenile Court judge was fully aware of the finding and licensing appeal and considered them in her March ruling.
The relevant provision of the judge’s order of March 18, 2009 is: “Regardless of how the CAPTA/licensing hearing turns out the Langleys are not an appropriate placement, based on the court’s independent assessment of the evidence. The court remains concerned regarding return home, but also recognizes [the child] cannot remain with the Langleys. The court also recognizes that it would be traumatic to place [the child] in an unknown foster home.”
The court ordered that the child was to remain in the Langleys’ care temporarily until a final determination could be made on a suitable placement for the child.
The Dependency Court judge evaluates recommendations from parties on child placement, including the child’s biological parents and their attorneys, volunteer Guardian Ad Litems, medical and other community professionals, foster parents, DSHS, etc. Although foster parents are not parties in dependency cases, DSHS is required to notify them of hearings and they have the opportunity to present information to the court regarding children in their care. It is the responsibility of the judge to weigh all of the information and recommendations and to ultimately decide the issues relating to the child’s placement and the rights of the parents.
After the March court order was issued, Children’s Administration notified the court of issues with the birth parents that prevented their scheduled reunification with the child. Complying with the March 18th court order, Children’s Administration searched for and found a suitable foster home for the child with a family with whom the child is familiar.
On Monday, April 27, 2009, the Juvenile Court judge issued the following order: “Prior orders entered in this matter shall remain in full force and effect…The child shall remain in DSHS-approved out-of-home care with the [name redacted for privacy] family.”
DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.
Honestly folks these foster parents are just finding out first hand what biological parents have known all along, CPS will go through any lengths, lie, commit perjury, forge documents, falsify records, break the law…whatever it takes to take a child…..
Furthermore, at least foster parents have some kind of law that is supposed to prevent CPS from retaliating against them…there is no such law for everyone else….