The Cabinet takes a stand for the “best interest of the child (umm – no) . . . Cabinet/Worker”

I try to take at least 24 hours to calm down over a topic before I write a post about it. This time I took about 96 hours. I recently had a conversation with Cabinet worker’s in Fayette County. The topic was reunification services to a parent whose child was removed by the Cabinet a few months back and where the child was placed in the temporary custody of the other parent. Even though the removing worker had been giving this parent hope of reunification, it turns out that the Cabinet’s official position is that they have nothing more to do; they have achieved “permanency” for the child by recommending custody be given to the other parent. I could tell the removing worker was struggling with what the right thing to do and I respect her for being willing to struggle with it. The other worker just summary stated, without knowing the family, circumstances or issues (and frankly without even being invited into the conversation) that should such a case be “transferred to [her], she would give it 30 days and then give permanent custody to the [other parent].” She stated quite righteously that her job would be done because she would have achieved permanency for the child.

Interestingly, the Cabinet, as an executive branch agency, has achieved something quite miraculous. They have changed the law. The standard for removal and placement given in KRS 620 is whatever is in the “best interest” of the child. The Cabinet, however, has decided the only thing that really matters is permanency. It gets even more interesting. Permanency is achieved by the Cabinet not when the child has a permanent place to live (I’ve seen enough disrupted adoptions to know this isn’t really possible), but when there is a goal in place that looks like it may lead to permanency. So, what is worker number 2’s rush to give permanent custody to the other parent really all about?

I hope you noticed that she said nothing about trying to figure out the best home for the child for the long-haul. She said nothing about why the child was originally with parent 1 to being with (which might have been an indicator that something about that parent was “best” for the child at some point – and may be again). No wrestling or struggling. That is why I was angry. This worker, with the blessing of the Cabinet, had changed “best interest of the child” to “best interest of the worker’s caseload”. You see, as soon as parent 2 gets permanent custody, the worker gets to close her involvement out. Since most teams go on a strict rotation basis for assigning new cases, she gets to have a lower caseload as a result.

You may be mentally telling me that it is obvious that if the child got hurt with parent 1, then of course it is in the best interest to be with parent 2 permanently. All I can say is that is an oversimplification. You may be right often enough to justify being simple minded about it. Certainly worker 2 felt very justified in staying simple minded. This is a life-altering decision that is multi-faceted. Parent 1 may have encountered a pure accident or something else beyond their control – a one time fluke – and otherwise be a good parent. Parent 2 may have some problems that were not discovered on the Cabinet’s very cursory home evaluation. There are many factors in both KRS 620 and KRS 403 that make it clear even the legislature knows it isn’t a simple matter. Besides, occasionally the Cabinet flat gets things wrong. How can this worker take it so lighlty?

On to rant number 2 which I touched on in a previous ponderment. Worker 1 had children (and even grandchildren). Worker 2 had none and was quite young (with the air of being used to getting what she wanted – perhaps thats why she felt okay about intruding in the conversation). I won’t now be simple minded myself and say that having children equals good worker or not having children equals bad worker. What I will say is that workers without sufficient life experiences to create a level of understanding and empathy towards their clients tend to be very hard in their approach. Having children tends to promote these experiences, but it is not the only path. Worker 1 had the experience and so she struggled. Worker 2 had not and so she had more empathy for her caseload than for a parent and child relationship that is to be forever altered.

Best interest is not exactly a fool proof or specific standard, but it is sure a sight better than “permanency”. Permanency should be left where it belongs – a factor to consider in determining best interest.

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4 Responses to The Cabinet takes a stand for the “best interest of the child (umm – no) . . . Cabinet/Worker”

  1. Bonnie says:

    All I can say is, “New in town?” How is it you are just now learning the business of government is Business?

    reading so much about Congress, determined *another* answer was the way. My solution takes a little longer but is effective as the attorneys are helpful.
    Until recently, the public – and some reporters were completely unaware a family court judge represents the most intrusive form of government in our country. (Name another form of government ordering a parent when and where they can parent? What other form of government will tell a person when they can take a vacation, and with whom? Smoke? Bad news custody wise.)

    And, as media continues to ignore the busiest court in the nation; the spoils, (children) go to the victor. The attorneys, therapists, and supervised visitation specialists.

    And, although family court is the busiest court in the nation; the public a reporters alike have no idea the Constitution is left at the door; and perjury is Never prosecuted. (it’s better for business that way.)

    Much litigation. Never mind the fake attorneys and therapists operating in the Family Court arena, Known to judges, who mostly don’t care.

    (no attorney would believe this part – so I was happy it’s documented)

    The good news; and yes there is some – is that everyone now has an option previously unavailable. It builds to election day. Attorneys and individuals can make a report on judges, which bypasses the usually worthless state commissions on judicial misconduct.

    Reports are verified at (so others needn’t repeat the pattern) and are available to the media or anyone else so that come election day, voters can make an Informed choice.

    Separately, it should come as no surprise that judges really don’t much like Open Courts. Regrettably in the example below of a client of mine, the reporter (Boomgard) failed his duty by answering Judge Cooper in the below transcript, instead of telling him he was not part of the proceeding or revealing how he got there. So much for the watchdog press.

    (Page 10 Line 5)

    and Page 13 Line 3)

    Judge Cooper’s take on the press, wasn’t taken well. Judge Cooper added,

    “But I do say up front that this tactic on your part speaks highly of manipulation.”

    The reality? Judge Cooper was angry his little plan to go along with the AG’s maneuver, was exposed. However, once Judge Cooper realized he was being watched, he acted judiciously.

    Last summer, on behalf of, I was invited by the American College of Trial Lawyers to speak at a judicial conference comprised of 5 states. I addressed the role of Judicial Commissions; and first previewed the below, “Web 2.0 – “The Machine is Us” (better with your speakers on)

    then announced to the group, nicely – times up! It’s a new dynamic because the old way of dealing with judicial misconduct simply not viable. Following my thirty minute presentation I participated in a panel discussion with two other judges, identifying systemic problems with the courts. Was quick to mention it wasn’t all bad news; and included solutions for jurists under fire. An appellate judge also on the panel agreed with me. Out loud. He likewise agreed the judiciary currently does not relate well to the public, and backed my suggestions to better effect a more positive change.

    During my talk I was particularly critical of media. Sadly, in family court a lack of coverage means media misses covering the options presents to the people. Opposite many anonymous sites, reports made at – reference case numbers, opposing counsel, outside experts. Texas attorneys were first to recognize the impact these reports could make during an election year; and indeed, already helped one judge on the bench eight years and running for reelection, return to private practice, instead.

    Interestingly, because reports made at are verified, we unearth many instances of the press doesn’t have time to explore.

    In the case of Nebraska criminal court Judge Kristine Cecava, who refused to send an admitted child molester to prison because he was, short; (upheld on appeal)

    I mentioned went a step beyond traditional media, which likewise did not report Judge Cecava was no maverick judge. It was discovered Judge Cecava served as past president of the Nebraska Judges Association and, making her sentence stranger still; on the ‘Task Force’ to Protect Children –

    Or, I asked conference attendees;

    “Protect children from whom? Her?”

    But the good news is victims of judicial abuse now have a way to bring their own accountability. Perhaps this explains the lack of coverage, as the legal judicial lobby is significant and opposed to

    But for a mere $45.00 attorneys and individuals are the solution. For $150.00 anyone can buy a report on a judge which involves a separate investigation.

    Reports are made on a good judge too. Surprisingly, we also have those. Either way, come election time the reports are made available to the press and watchdog groups; and then voters can decide whether to keep them in office or not. No longer are people chained to attorney backed, or police backed lobbyists.

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