My niece has been kidnapped by her foster family. Help us bring her home!
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My niece has been stuck living with strangers to our family for over two years now, due to CPS and Judge Powers not following the law. According to www.childwelfare.gov it is stated:
The Oklahoma Legislature recognizes that children who have been abused, who are dependent or neglected, or whose parents, for whatever reason, may be unable or unwilling to provide care for their children, are best served when they can be cared for by grandparents or other suitable relatives instead of placing those children in foster care.
When awarding custody or determining the placement of a child, a preference shall be given to relatives and persons who have a kinship relationship with the child. The department shall make diligent efforts to place the child with such persons and shall report to the court the efforts made to secure that placement. In cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act applies, the placement preferences of the act shall be followed.
The department shall consider placement with a relative without delay and shall identify relatives of the child and notify them of the need for temporary placement and the possibility of the need for a permanent out-of-home placement of the child. The relative search shall be reasonable and comprehensive in scope and may continue until a fit and willing relative is identified.
The provisions of this section shall apply to all custody or placement proceedings that concern a child alleged or adjudicated to be deprived, including, but not limited to, guardianship and adoption proceedings.
The law has not been applied to my nieces case! My brother and the mother to his children fled to Oklahoma when she was pregnant because her other four children were taken away from her due to drug use, physical abuse and neglect. The aunt of her other four children has adopted all four children. My niece was born on August 29, 2014 and tested positive for methamphetamine. CPS was called and my niece was placed in foster care in Oklahoma. The next work day, OKDHS contacted me and asked me if I would take custody of my niece. I told them, yes. Brittany, a CPS caseworker said that it could take a few months to move my niece to Texas.
My brother and the mother to his child developed a relationship with the foster family and told CPS that they were going to complete whatever they needed to complete, to keep their daughter. The foster mom allowed my brother and the mother of my niece to move into a mobile home on the foster family's property (about 50 feet from the home my niece was living in). I feel that the foster mother did this only to convince my brother and the mother of my niece to gain custody of my niece. When my brother and the mother did not complete their classes, an ICPC (The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) was ordered, completed and approved for me by Texas CPS. Texas CPS recommended that my niece be moved to Texas.
The woman that did my case study said that after the case study was received, my niece would be home within 24 hours. However, she was not returned. When I asked why, I was told that judge Rocky L. Powers (the judge over my nieces case) ordered a stop on the transfer. I asked why, and was told that the foster family was scared that my niece would be around her father if she was returned to family. I'm not sure where that makes any sense when the foster family was housing my brother and the mother on their property.
At the next court hearing, the DA announced that the foster family was filing for adoption. I stood up and asked if I was hearing that correctly. I also asked the DA why I couldn't file for adoption. The DA rep stated that she did not know I wanted to go that route. No one ever told me that I could and I didn't know that I could file for adoption. I begged Virginia from CPS to please help me because I did not have money to take the foster family to court. To date, I have raised $13,000 and paid that $13,000 to a lawyer that I feel has not even tried.
I turned in a letter from the CASA director in Texas (see letter below (I was unable to attach the original, but have it in my possession)), stating that she was stating on the record that this entire case has been faulty and that my niece should have been turned over to family immediately. It is the law! After I filed a complaint with the letter from the CASA director, Judge Powers recused himself from the case. Now, the new judge has recommended mediation with the foster family for joint custody of my niece. WHY? She should have been sent to Texas years ago and has been drug through the system with a family that is not her own; all while she has family that loves and wants her.
I have in my custody, since November 2, 2015, my now 2 year old nieces baby sister of 11 months (we will be filing for adoption of her 90 days after her parents rights are terminated in Dec 2016). My niece has missed 11 months of growing up without her baby sister. What happened to keeping family together? I'm afraid that the court and the foster family keeping my niece from coming home, is going to do more harm that good if she is not sent home to us soon. My niece has 8 brothers and sisters here in Texas. She does not have any family in Oklahoma. Studies show that it is better for children to grow up with biological family members than to grow up with foster families (even if this one is trying to adopt her). There are many children that need homes. My niece does not need the foster family's home. She needs to be home with FAMILY. The foster family and Judge Powers have already robbed her for 2 years of her life with her family that she can never get back. Please sign my petition to encourage Judge Mark Campbell to fix where the law was broken and send my niece home to us where she belongs!
Letter from the CASA Program Director in Texas:
June 22, 2016
I must confess to being totally confused about this situation regarding reunifying ******** and ****. As CASA Program Director I would like to go on the record as being very much in favor of ******** being reunited with her sibling ****. It is certainly inconceivable to me that since the state of Oklahoma requested and approved a ICPC home study back some time ago that these children have been kept separated. This is certainly not in the children's best interests. Upon receiving an approved home study, ******** should have been moved as soon as possible to family. What is even more confusing is that when the child ******** was removed from the parents and was placed in the care of the state, The Oklahoma Children's Services asked if you would take the child and you advised them at that time that you did want the child. Since there was no action on their part, this child has been literally kidnaped by her Oklahoma foster family. One can only assume that they are not concerned with "best interests” .
Unfortunately, in the pursuit of what is best for ****, which would be to be with her sister, I keep running into brick walls. I am so very sorry that I have not been able to be of more help. I will, however keep trying to "move the mountain" of bureaucracy to achieve the best results for both little girls. In Texas, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services moves heaven and earth to keep siblings together and most importantly with blood relatives. One would assume that Oklahoma would have the same directives regarding family preservation. Apparently that is not the case.
If I am able to make any progress on this "mess" I will contact you immediately. In the meantime thank you for all that you have been doing for ****. She is too young to appreciate it now but hopefully in there she will come to know how hard you have fought for her to be with her sister.
Jean E. Cate
CASA Program Director
CASA of Hood Somervell
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