Social Workers must be Accountable

DSS Social Workers Must Be


Legislature Told: DSS Covers Up Its Own Child Abuse

By Ed Oliver
March 6, 2002

The legislature was told yesterday by many people that DSS covers up its own child abuse and that social workers must be punished when they do so.

Nev Moore said children who are taken from their parents and placed into DSS facilities are often subject to brutal restraint techniques as evidenced by bruises, rug burns, and hand-marks on their arms and necks.
Nobody from DSS showed up at the hearing to testify before the the Criminal Justice Committee.

Nev Moore, Executive Director of the parent rights group, Justice for Families, told the committee there is “one segment of the population that has carte blanche to abuse children, and they are confident under a cloak of protection that is impenetrable. That is the Department of Social Services and their contracted foster parents and residentials.”

Moore said the bill, H4896, seeks accountability from DSS.

According to Moore, DSS “screens out” and ignores reports of child abuse that take place in the agency’s own foster homes and roughly 300 contracted residential facilities. She said children who are taken from their parents and placed into DSS facilities are often subject to brutal restraint techniques as evidenced by bruises, rug burns, and hand-marks on their arms and necks.

“Obviously if the parents did this, they’d be in jail,” said Moore. “My feeling is that DSS employees should refer abuse complaints about their own foster homes and institutions to the state police as an independent and external source of investigation.”

Moore said she envisions the formation of a specialized task force that would investigate the abuse and death of children in DSS care.

Support from Visiting Nurses

She submitted as evidence a thick report compiled by her non-profit organization, as well as a letter in support of the bill written by an official from the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod.

In the letter, Ann-Marie Peckham, Director of Operations-West, wrote:

“It has been my unfortunate experience to witness the “screening out” of some significant 51a’s that staff and I have filed — full well knowing that the complaints were valid, and witnessed by multiple reliable and credible healthcare workers. Some of the complaints were also supported by concrete and irrefutable medical documentation — i.e. lab work.

“Why should a child in a DSS foster home have less constitutional rights than a child

in his or her own family home??? The foster child, and especially one who has been

placed under the guardianship of the foster parent, is denied the right of access to due process of a legal nature and an objective investigation overseen by our law enforcement agencie.”

Rep. David Linsky spoke up during the hearing to say that even if DSS ignores a 51A filed against one of the department’s people, a person can go directly to law enforcement. But Rep. Linsky obviously was not listening to the testimony, because several people already told the committee that law enforcement simply refers the abuse charge back to DSS who ignore the complaint.

Moore testified that a state police official once looked for a regulation on the matter and could not find one. He told her that the practice of referring an abuse complaint against a DSS foster home or facility back to DSS must have just “evolved.”

Parents Testify

One parent, who testified, Heidi Palanza, said she called the police more than once to report DSS facilities that physically harmed her young daughter. Her daughter suffered a head injury, restraints and finger marks from a man’s vice-like grip bruised into her daughter’s arm. The abuse reports from those incidents were screened out by DSS and not acted upon by police.

Among those who testified was an upset Springfield father, who said that his daughter was gang raped in DSS custody, and they did nothing. “I want to say to you, and you can listen to me or you can throw what I have to say out the door, because everybody else has. For every one of us that are here, there’s at least ten thousand silent people out there in the community, and there is a revolution brewing!”

Rep. Stephen Tobin Annoyed at Parents

The committee chairman, Rep. Stephen Tobin, was visibly annoyed at the father’s emotional testimony and lectured him. “Bear in mind that I understand that there are an awful lot of issues and baggage that you bring into this hearing room. You should understand that we don’t want to sit here and be your psychologist. If you feel better venting, trust me, you are not helping your cause.”

The Springfield man answered that he only wanted DSS to be held accountable.

Rep. Tobin was absent during most of the testimony in support of the bill and had even scheduled the DSS bill to be heard at the end of the day after all other bills were heard and the room was virtually empty.

Committeewoman Rep.Anne Paulsen spoke up to say she had already heard a lot of testimony about problems with DSS on another committee, and they should be very careful about giving criminal liability to a DSS employee who screens out a 51A report. She said she does not think the problems at DSS can be solved with legislation.

Paulsen said almost all social workers at DSS are “very well intentioned, work very, very hard. They also have a large number of cases they are dealing with.” She said she is certainly willing to talk to the DSS commissioner about problems she has heard about on the Health and Human Services Committee, but does not think legislation is the answer.

Tobin leaped on that statement and added that most of the problems seem to be with policy and procedure, and the only reason this bill is before the committee is because it is asking for criminal penalties. Tobin told Paulsen she could kind of take the lead on this issue for the committee with her Human Services experience.

Tobin Interested in TV Lights

In contrast to his lack of interest in child abuse committed by DSS employees, Tobin displayed a deep concern and interest in Senator Marian Walsh’s child abuse bill, S 2266. He put her on at the beginning of the hearing when all the television cameras and reporters were present because of the interest in the Catholic priest pedophile scandal. He even said they would go to executive session later to move on it because it was so urgent.

Walsh’s bill seeks to criminalize any employer who remains silent if he knows or should know about an employee who sexually abuses, assaults, kidnaps or stalks a child. The law would also apply to supervisors of volunteers, such as a librarian or a manager at a non-profit, according to Walsh.

Although interest in the law is fueled by the priest scandal, DSS and its contractors may end up having the law applied to them also, if certain provisions are not gutted from the bill.

Walsh’s bill includes in the definition of employer, “…The commonwealth, its political subdivisions, authorities, boards departments and commissions thereof, and shall include any person acting in the interest of an employer, directly or indirectly.”

MassNews asked Sen. Walsh if her proposed law would indeed apply to DSS, which is sacrosanct.

“Every setting,” answered Walsh.

A drawback to Walsh’s bill, however, could be where it targets an employer who “should know” about the abusive activities of an employee. Already, feminists from Jane Doe Inc., eager to expand the war on domestic violence, were testifying approvingly about the proposed law and how organizations such as theirs can help employers “predict” employees’ future violence.

It is the use by social workers of such “predictions” of possible future abuse, say family advocates, that has led to the wholesale destruction of children and families by state agencies. By employing a checklist of arbitrary and judgmental “risk factors,” extremist, feminist social workers at DSS justify snatching children from their parents to allegedly prevent abuse. They use similar psychobabble, say critics, to brand all men as batterers, in order to separate them from their children in divorce and custody battles.

The state ignores however, say DSS critics such as Nev Moore, the extreme trauma a child endures when he is snatched from his parents’ arms at gunpoint and placed in a succession of abusive DSS approved foster homes or DSS facilities that drug and beat the child.

Mental Health Worker Favors Bill

Christopher Garrison, director of the “Massachusetts Commission on Human Rights,” a group that works to clean up the field of mental health from human rights abuses, also testified in favor of Nev Moore’s bill.

Garrison said he operates an abuse hotline and gets many complaints and affidavits from parents about DSS. “It seems like in many cases the treatment given by DSS is more abusive to the children being taken care of than any kind of treatment they would receive in their homes.”

Garrison submitted an affidavit from of a Fitchburg parent who witnessed two young boys at a DSS contracted residential center slammed facedown to the floor, screaming, with adults on their backs twisting their arms.

The name of the facility was Hillcrest Educational Center, of Lenox, MA.

According to Garrison’s report about one boy, “While on the ground, the parent witnessed the Hillcrest employee on top of this boy about 9-years-old yelling, ”˜So you don’t like grilled cheese, so you don’t like grilled cheese.’ The boy was crying out that he couldn’t breathe which is not dissimilar to the way hundreds of deaths through restraints to children have occurred throughout the U.S.”

A DSS worker also witnessed the assault, according to the affidavit, but the incident was not reported to the police.

According to Garrison, per a Dept. of Education review, Hillcrest performed 7,700 incidents of restraints from September 1999 to October 2000 — an average of 592 per month. And that is only one DSS facility.

Nev Moore can be reached at Justice for Families, PO Box 1560 Cotuit, MA 02635.

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