Legally Kidnapped

Shattering Your Child Welfare Delusions Since 2007

Friday, January 28, 2011

Advanced Systemsuckology: Zen and the Art of Public Misconception in the State of Maine

Part 1

The Wex has recently published three articles to his blog regarding child welfare reforms in the State of Maine. One was a letter written by Dean Crocker the Ombudsman for the state. Here, Mr. Crocker outlines a few of the significant benefits to the children and families of Maine that reforms to the system have brought about since 2003.

GUEST BLOG: Foster care in Maine: More on one state’s transformation

Apparently, however some system sucks in Maine disagree with the Wex's interpretation of the issue as can be seen in this letter.
MAINE COMPASS: Child victims of abuse need equal protection under Maine law

As a licensed professional working with children, I am concerned about the safety of children in this state.
Of course we're all concerned for the safety of children in any state, Maine being no exception. This is why so many of us fight to keep them out of foster care in the first place and safe in their own homes. Regardless, there are still going to be the occasional cases that fall through the cracks. No matter how hard they try, they will never save every child, they will never prove every case, and until we have at least some system in place such as they did in the movie Minority Report, they never will.

There will also always be people crying out for the system to do more to protect children, and who do not see the unrealistic goal of protecting every child as an impossibility, but rather them simply not doing enough to protect children.

The letter concluces with its author's claim to expertise, which of course would be much more credible IMO, without the last sentence which I see as a testament to her emotionally biased opinion on the subject matter:
Patricia Warner is a guardian ad litem advocating for children in Maine district courts and volunteers as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) in child welfare cases. She has a master of science in social work and master of science in criminal justice. She is also the grandmother of a young victim whose case was not prosecuted because of the age of the child.
Based on my understanding of human nature, emotion will cloud the judgement of even the most seasoned of professionals. There are no exceptions to this rule. When one becomes emotionally involved they tend to see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear and act according to their own beliefs on how things should be done.

Fortunately however, the opinions of System Suck CASA Puppets such as Patricia Warner here haven't dampened the significant progress that the State of Maine has made in reforming its child welfare system... As of yet anyway.

Sadly, I believe that's about to change.

Part 2

There is another view that is prevalent and gaining ground in Maine these days. This view, I believe, may significantly hamper progress that has been made in Child Welfare Reform. I'll get into that in a minute.

First you need to understand some of the basics that made such reforms in the state possible.

One of these basics is the services that are provided to the families which have been affectionately termed as Family Preservation Services, AND which in many, many cases have helped to keep the child safe in their own homes. Another is the needed change in the cultural belief and understanding that went from parents being monsters to people in need of help. The prior understanding was that maltreated children were better off in foster care. This belief has been proven false, as studies have shown that children tend to do better in their own homes, and that the foster care success story tends to be the exception and not the rule. (And again I refer you to Wexler, as I'm really not trying to re-invent the wheel here, or even argue against him.)

Now here lies the problem.

The word "Welfare" has been demonized in our society, thus bringing about the stereotypical view of the Welfare Mom with 5 different kids from 5 different fathers living like a queen off of TANF and the Tramp Stamps. Nowhere has such a view gained ground than it has ever so recently in the State of Maine, resulting in the election of none other than Governor Paul "kiss my butt" LePage, who was elected with the full support of the Tea Partie's Anti-Welfare agenda.
In one of his first acts as the recently-elected Governor of Maine, Paul LePage rescinded an executive order by former Governor John Baldacci that had turned Maine into a partial sanctuary state for illegal aliens. (The Portland Press Herald, Jan. 18, 2011) Specifically, the rescinded order prevented state employees – other than state law enforcement officers – from inquiring or disclosing information relating to an individual’s immigration status except for under limited circumstances. (See Executive Order 34 FY 04/05, Feb. 2005)
Now LePage, after winning with 38% of the vote, has vowed "significant changes" to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, especially regarding "Welfare."

Gov. Paul LePage has named a prominent former hospital lobbyist as his choice to lead Maine's largest state agency: the Department of Health and Human Services. Mary Mayhew, who until recently was advising LePage on health care issues, says she is eager to began the process of evaluating dozens of state programs that she says assist nearly one in three Mainers.
And thus, the battle over welfare has begun in Maine.
Study: Facts Don't Support Claims of Welfare Abuse in Maine

Advocates for one of the state's most critical welfare programs are rallying to encourage lawmakers not to make any cuts until they've had a chance to review a new study on who benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program. The study's findings refute some perceptions of TANF's critics, who claim that the program encourages people to enroll for long periods of time. The Maine Women's Lobby maintains that, instead, the median length of time a Mainer benefits from the program is 18 months.
Advocates: TANF debate must be based on facts, not fiction

Advocates for women and the poor said Wednesday, Jan. 26, that the debate over welfare programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families must be based on facts, not on hearsay or anecdotes.
So Maine is going to be an interesting state to watch in the coming months.

I should also notify you that the State of Maine has quite the hefty debt in regards to MaineCare, the states Medicaid system, which LePage is hell bent on dealing with.
With supplemental budget, LePage seeks to pay hospital, MaineCare debt

Health and medical services for 300,000 Mainers would be preserved and the state would pay down a major portion of its debt to hospitals if the Legislature approves a budget revision unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Paul LePage.
Through a state appropriation of nearly $70 million, Maine will be able to access enough federal matching money to reduce a nearly $400 million debt owed to hospitals for Medicaid services by $248 million.
Which, of course, was because of the states incompetence and budgetary mismanagement resulting in the loss of federal funding for the program, which as you can see has resulted in a loss of services to the poor.

Part 3

In Part 1 we see the reforms that the State of Maine has achieved in regards to Child Welfare, as well as the fact that not everybody agrees that Maine has achieved the ultimate goal of protecting children from abuse and neglect while keeping them in their homes. Then in Part 2, we see the challenges that Maine is currently facing in regards to welfare in general, which may very well ultimately have an adverse effect on the services provided to families that help to keep children in their homes.

It all looks complicated enough if we could leave it at that, but unfortunately we can't.

You see folks, the purpose of welfare was originally designed to ensure the health and well being of the poor, who would otherwise become even more of a burden on society. Welfare has helped to keep crime levels down, as people who can't afford food, for example, would otherwise starve or resort to theft or robbery in order to survive. Medicaid programs help to ensure the health of the poor by providing preventative care to people who can't afford it, and would otherwise become sicker quicker, and in many cases die without a way to pay the bills. Then doctors wouldn't get paid for the work they do, and would be forced to close their practices, or refuse services to those without insurance.

Then you gotta take into consideration that we are thrown into a world which simply doesn't give a hoot about the poor. In Maine, this is becoming ever more the case as everybody seems to be struggling to make ends meet. People are struggling to keep their homes out of foreclosure just as much as they are in any other part of the country, small business owners are struggling to keep their businesses out of the red. Not an easy task in what Forbes Magazine rated as the 50th Best State in USA for doing business. People on welfare who would otherwise have jobs are lucky to get a part time retail position in a large company who has eliminated full time positions in order to avoid paying for benefits. And all of these people who are barely keeping their heads above water are blaming the welfare recipients for their high taxes, when there simply aren't enough good paying jobs out there.

Yet the same people who are crying out against welfare are the same people who cry out against Child Protective Services for not doing enough to protect that one child, whenever a case of child abuse hits the headlines. All of them acting on emotion rather than factually based arguments on either side of the issue which they really have no understanding of either way.

So as you can see we have quite the mess brewing in Maine these days. It will be really sad to see Governor LePage ruin the reforms that has, according to Wexler, made Maine a national model in regards to keeping children safe in their homes, (although still plagued with problems) and it is a shame that the people of Maine don't even recognize the progress that has been made in the state and how much cheaper it is to help a family rather than to destroy one simply because they've been misled to believe in the myth that cutting off somebodies welfare benefits is the solution to their high tax burdens when in fact it will result in higher costs to society when they're dealing with sick and starving children, higher homeless rates, and increased crime.

There really are no simple solutions to this. First the economic problems would have to be dealt with so that the state has the infrastructure to keep people off of welfare in first place, by providing enough good paying jobs in order to lower the poverty rate, (considering that poverty is the #1 reason that children are removed from their parents). Then the people would have to overcome the misconceptions about child abuse, welfare, and simple economics so that the normals aren't crying out against that which they don't understand and are led to believe by public misconception.

And all I can do is offer my own two cents, and try to educate the public as to what the issues really are. That's my solution. I just hope it's good enough for some of my critics who accuse me of not offering any solutions.

Not that I really care what they think, because they're all wrong anyway.

Peace Love and Flowers


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