Legally Kidnapped

Shattering Your Child Welfare Delusions Since 2007

Monday, June 23, 2008

Reforming DYFS: A portrait of change

Reforming DYFS: A portrait of change

Raising four boys alone on a machine technician's salary is a challenge in the best of times. But when there is nothing in the pantry save two bags of rice, a can of vegetables and a jar of peanut butter scraped clean, it can be a nightmare.

1 comment:

  1. Colleen Molok5:30 PM

    Part of this article (inserted below) is about my husbands case. We are still fighting 5 1/2 years later. The parents were NEVER convicted of crime but they have been sentenced and punished anyway. This article was published without their knowledge and the statements that are made are lies. 2 of the six children kidnapped have been returned. One 2 years ago and one coming home next Friday, WOOHOO! 3 children have been adopted and one is a KLG. They have separated these children so each one is handled individually which takes more time and more money to fight. There are some illegal statements and acts in this article also. If anyone can help us we would really appreciate it.

    Deanna Stickle's job is to look into the eyes of children, many deprived of their most basic needs, and find them a family capable of preserving their childhood.

    An adoption specialist at the DYFS office in Red Bank, Stickle gets the kids who can't live with their abusive or neglectful parents.

    One is 3-year-old Jason, whose parents fought DYFS at nearly every turn even though the evidence against them was as damning as it was tragic.

    When Jason was born, DYFS had already taken custody of his five siblings, removing them from a filthy motel room. His pregnant mother twice tested positive for cocaine at prenatal checkups ordered by counselors. He was placed with his aunt and uncle, Colleen and Michael Siegert of Point Pleasant, and their three children.

    During a February visit to the Siegert home, Stickle read aloud from a family file that was later submitted to a judge who finalized the adoption in early May.

    "In court, mom admitted to utilizing four to five grams of cocaine daily," a revelation that caused Michael Siegert to gasp. The father "loves his children, but does not put the needs of his children first."

    As Stickle read, Jason crashed his toy cars into each other on the kitchen table and played peekaboo with her. "He is a sweet, loving child, well-bonded to his adoptive family .¤.¤. the only parents he has ever known," she read from the file.

    "When he was born, we took him," Colleen Siegert said. "In the beginning, we really expected the parents to do what they needed to do to get the kids back."

    When the reform began, child advocates who sued for change demanded the state overhaul its failing adoption system. But the first solution -- dismantling adoption offices and training workers in all aspects of child protection -- proved a disaster. When adoptions plummeted, the state admitted its mistake two years ago and beefed up adoption teams.

    DYFS completed a record 1,540 adoptions in 2007. About one-third of adopted children have been placed with family members -- usually a grandparent or aunt and uncle. But there is room for improvement.

    "We have seen adoptions go up," said Maria McGowan, a director at the Office of the Child Advocate. "Yet we continue to see those kids who don't have a caring adult. This is another indicator this reform is at a critical stage."

    Stickle, 27, joined DYFS in September 2003, just as the state embarked on the reforms, which began with revamping worker training. In many ways, Stickle has the ideal resume child advocates and top managers want to see in the new child welfare system: She holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in social work and is a licensed social worker.

    The new wave of hiring is costing the state an extra $137.4 million each year. Adoption workers now have far fewer cases, so they have more time to devote to each family.

    New Jersey's reform will hit a crucial point next year, when U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler, who has monitored the effort, will expect the state to prove it is helping children and families.


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