Parents Investigated for Child Abuse Six Times, Thanks to Fake Calls from Crafty Neighbor

.

“They threw their child against the wall!”

That’s what the anonymous caller told Kentucky’s Child Protective Services about Corey Chaney, 25, and April Rogers, 23, the sixth time she called. How horrifying! But not the way you think.

While the parents had been reported five times in about as many months for crimes that included dangling their baby over a balcony, they were cleared each time. What was going on?

A reign of terror using the state as torturers. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

A rogue social worker who  lived downstairs from Chaney and Rogers in Elizabethtown, KY, knew exactly how CPS works and had it in for her upstairs neighbors. It was so simple! All she had to do was pick up the phone and call the child abuse hotline. After all, callers can remain anonymous, but the police rush right in. As the Courier-Journal reports:

The first time it happened, on April 1, the young couple thought it must be an April Fool’s joke.

Several Elizabethtown Police officers appeared at the door around 10 p.m. to check on them and their baby — asleep in her crib — following an anonymous report the couple, one of them holding the girl, had engaged in a drunken fight outside.

Corey Chaney, 25, and April Rodgers, 23, who are engaged, were dumbfounded, having spent a quiet evening at home having dinner with friends.

“We asked if it was an April Fool’s joke,” Chaney said. “Then we realized it was serious.”

Even worse, it was the first of a series of such calls — all false and all late at night, repeatedly sending police and state social workers to the couple’s Elizabethown apartment, disrupting their lives and leaving them panicked that the state might try to take their baby.

By the third time police were summoned to the home, they were getting suspicious not of the couple — of the caller. But that doesn’t mean they could refuse to investigate. In fact, they were required too. That’s what makes the system so easy to use as a weapon. And the caller, Beth A. Bond, knew this only too well — because she was a CPS worker herself. As the couple’s lawyer, Barry Sullivan, said:

“The bottom line is that there was a social worker allowed to run amok because there’s a system in place to protect anonymous callers.” …

Sullivan, who said he has years of experience in family law in Kentucky including cases of alleged abuse and neglect, said officials at the Hardin County social service office brushed him off when he asked them to look into the unusual nature of the calls against the couple. Officials told him they were just following policy and procedure by investigating each call, he said.

Rodgers said the couple pleaded with workers with Child Protective Services to consider whether someone was making false calls.

“We asked CPS, how many calls are you going to take before you realize this isn’t true,” Chaney said. “They said, ‘Oh, we have to respond to every call.’ ”

It wasn’t until the couple themselves hatched a plan to catch the neighbor at her tricks that finally the tables were turned:

Each time a case against them was about to be closed as unsubstantiated, [the couple knew that] a call with new allegations would come into the CPS hotline, triggering a new investigation. Knowing a current case was about to be closed, and anticipating a new hotline call, Chaney and Rodgers took their daughter and left their home to stay with Chaney’s parents.

The couple alerted Elizabethtown police about their plans.

The first night they were away, May 22, a call came into the abuse hotline reporting that Chaney had become violent and thrown the baby against the wall. Another call followed on May 23, alleging a disturbance at the couple’s apartment. Police went to the apartment but found no one home.

A few days later, police charged Bond and [her fiance Joseph] Applegate with six misdemeanor offenses involving the false reports.

Rodgers said she wept “tears of joy” at the news after weeks of fearing she might lose custody of her baby over false allegations.

“We were so scared that someone was going to take her away,” Rodgers said.

Chaney said he’s relieved by the arrest but disappointed it’s just a minor offense.

“You can tear someone’s family apart and it’s a misdemeanor,” he said.

Exactly. And sometimes, there’s no misdemeanor at all. Anyone with a grudge can call the CPS hotline and open an investigation on an ex-girlfriend, a despised relative, an annoying neighbor, and suddenly that target is guilty until proven innocent.

Diane Redleaf is founder of the Family Defense Center, a non-profit that fights CPS overreach. As she notes, “‘Garbage in/garbage out’ is a term we hear a lot about computers and data entry, but it applies to child welfare even more clearly. The problems with our overloaded child welfare system start with a child abuse hotline that doesn’t check the bona fides of the people who are calling it.”

Redleaf says that anonymous calls should be scrutinized closely, to see if they are simply vindictive. Too often they are, and CPS becomes the atom bomb these callers drop on their targets. Says Redleaf, “Hotline reform at both the state and the national level to tailor calls to children truly in danger is urgently needed.”

Maybe it’s time to end the anonymous hotline all together. – L.

.

How to drop an atom bomb on your neighbor? Just call CPS!

How to drop an atom bomb on your neighbor? Just call CPS! It’s easy! It’s free! It’s anonymous! 

.

, , , , , , , , ,

118 Responses to Parents Investigated for Child Abuse Six Times, Thanks to Fake Calls from Crafty Neighbor

  1. Derek M August 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    This isn’t just an issue with CPS. I had a similar issue with a neighbor reporting me to the buildings department for violations in my home that didn’t exist.
    The root of the problem is anonymous reporting. We should be able to look our accusers in the eye. Technically, this is in the constitution after all.
    Yes, there are times when this is difficult, and the current anonymous reporting laws are there for scenarios where reprisal is likely, but there has to be a better way.

  2. Kimberly August 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    The current system in place at CPS is ripe for abuse. However, I can image the difficulties in implementing changes that could be detrimental to the system.

    On the one hand, you want a system that encourages the everyday person to call in and report suspected child abuse. An anonymous reporting system does just that. The reporting party can file a report and not worry that the other party will become aware of who it was that made the claim and potentially become the target for retribution. This is especially true in situations where the parties are known to each other because of social circles, work, or family.

    On the other hand, an anonymous system allows ANYONE to call and abuse the system due to motives that have nothing to do with the safety or well being of a child.

    There have been many possible solutions tossed around in this debate and yet drawbacks can be seen for all of them. Keeping the names of reporting parties confidential is one, but names have a way of becoming leaked both intentionally and unintentionally.

    No matter how you slice it though, the system needs to be adjusted to help prevent against this type of emotional assault while protecting the integrity of the system. I don’t think there is any one solution that will completely fix the problem while having no negative effects, but something has got to be better than what we have now.

    I also think that maybe it’s time that our law makers take a look at the laws we have in place regarding this type of systematic abuse. While I believe that due to basic human nature laws are retributive rather than discouraging bad/illegal behavior, maybe that’s what we need. Heighten the penalties for filing a knowingly false report to a government organization like CPS.

  3. Jessica August 18, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    I’ve called CPS before and given them my name, phone number, and address, as well as my relationship to the person and why I’m calling. I understand anonymity when there really is a problem and the possible reprisal, but the person calling should not be anonymous to CPS or the police. Then, if there is an established pattern of false calls, action can be taken against the person making them. This will also allow for the accused, when the target of such defamatory action, to be able to pursue legal options against the person.

  4. John August 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    What? Six (6) MISDEMEANORS?????? You have got to be kidding me???? You know, the 9th Commandment reads, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” and people have been sued for slander and for libel but when it comes slandering parents by launching false child abuse allegations, it’s just a misdemeanor??? {{{sigh}}}…..like I’ve always said, in the United States when there is any suspicion of child abuse, the Constitution does not seem to apply because a person is ALWAYS guilty until proven innocent.

    I certainly hope Ms. Bond was fired from her job at CPS over these false allegations but quite frankly, I doubt it. In fact, she was probably given a promotion.

  5. Ozymandias August 18, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    I’m not typically a fan of prosecutorial overreach but it seems like there’s a case for a kidnapping related statute here. Attempted kidnapping perhaps? Because that’s what was really at risk here.

  6. theresa hall August 18, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    and she couldn’t talk to them work this out before she started calling help kid in danger. by the way why did the cops go to the home when they had been told nobody was going be home at that time?

  7. KC August 18, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    I think doing away with anonymous reporting would be worst-first thinking. Sure, some minuscule percentage of anonymous CPS calls are fraudulent, but the vast majority of them are not. Having to give identifying information when reporting has a chilling effect, potentially leaving kids in genuinely dangerous situations. If fraudulent calls were prevalent (are they? is there evidence?) a change might be in order, but even then increasing the penalties for fraud would make more sense than doing away with anonymity.

  8. Warren August 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    theresa,

    It is because the police were informed the family would not be there, is exactly why they responded. This way they have an incident report verifying the family’s absence from home. Otherwise it is only a matter of the family’s word.

  9. Alex August 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    This is a difficult situation. I’m not even sure what reforms should be made, but hopefully something can be done.

  10. E August 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    This is a sick individual. The fact that they’d subject another person/family to the calls is obviously sick. It’s also curious that they had to know that the fabrications could never be corroborated because she was making it up completely.

    There might be problems with CPS reporting/systems, but this doesn’t prove it. This person is warped.

  11. MichaelF August 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    Any system is ripe for abuse, the sad part is when a system in place to prevent abuse of children is thusly abused we have lost sight of the purpose. When it becomes a bureaucracy, a la Brazil (the movie) then the system is overburdened and useless for its intent.

    Recently in Massachusetts two children who were put in foster care were found with one dead and one in serious condition, its these situations that make me wonder who exactly is DYS protecting? If you follow their logic, then all kids under their protection should be taken about because “what if” this situation happens to another child under their care?!

  12. Anna August 18, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    “I certainly hope Ms. Bond was fired from her job at CPS” – me too! I would hope that at least should happen. Whatever can or can’t be proven against her, since CPS workers are in the position to make judgment calls against parents without benefit of due process, surely they should be able to be dismissed without due process in such circumstances.

  13. Jill August 18, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    The caller is no longer a CPS worker. That’s a relief. I’d love to know what made her so vindictive against her neighbors in the first place and whether she still resides in the same building as her victims. That would make for some awkward moments.

  14. E August 18, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/17/rogue-social-worker-targeted-neighbors-with-fake-calls-to-child-protective-services/

    This article states that the person resigned and the agency said she would have faced action if she had not.

    The article also points out that anonymous reporting allows people to report real issue w/o the fear of retribution. And if you are dealing with people that are unstable enough to abuse their children, I suspect that fear can be understood.

  15. Lihtox August 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    What if a mayor or police chief or rich person, someone with power, were abusing their children, and people were afraid to report out of fear of retribution? Anonymity in general sounds good to me. Now clearly there’s a bug in the system; but bugs can be patched.

    For instance, you could have a system where reports are anonymous UNLESS the reported person is flagged as being the victim of X false accusations (where X=2 or 3 or whatever), in which case the reports become confidential. It leaves the vast majority of cases alone, but prevents situations like the above.

  16. SKL August 18, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Tough one, because there are still too many cases of kids being murdered despite multiple CPS calls.

    I understand the reasoning behind investigating every call.

    However, there should not be a case opened, or whatever they call it, if there is no evidence. It should not count against a parent that some anonymous person made an unsubstantiated accusation. The burden of proof should be on the state to prove abuse/neglect, just like with every other crime.

    I also think they should investigate serial unsubstantiated reports, like they did in this case.

    I heard of another CPS agent who played some really dirty tricks because she wanted to adopt the child in question. The child was so traumatized by the disruption that she had behavior problems, and the adoptive mom beat her to death.

    Yes, CPS has too much power, and too much power is going to be abused sooner or later.

  17. MichaelF August 18, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    “The burden of proof should be on the state to prove abuse/neglect, just like with every other crime.”

    I completely agree with this, but with the worst first thinking, and the “protect the children” mantra of CPS that will not happen.

    This happens Socially as well, whenever someone is accused of something bad with children they are immediately presumed guilty, and if they are ever considered innocent there is relatively little urge to promote that aspect after the fanfare of abuse charges.

  18. bsolar August 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    @Jil: from the article on the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/17/rogue-social-worker-targeted-neighbors-with-fake-calls-to-child-protective-services/

    “Chaney and Rodgers have since moved with their daughter to a new home after the ordeal”

    About the accusers, from this article: http://www.kentuckynewera.com/news/article_2e0e9cfa-41ea-11e5-8578-e3380e61f19a.html

    “Beth A. Bond, 37, and Joseph W. Applegate, 42, of Elizabethtown, each face six Class A misdemeanor charges. They face up to one year in prison on each count if convicted. As of Wednesday afternoon, neither person has been arrested.”

  19. BDK August 18, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    We should find Beth Bond on social media and bombard here accounts with comments. Make her so recognized on social media that no one would ever hire her ever again. She needs to be put in her place!

  20. Jessica August 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    Maybe that’s part of the problem is that as soon as a call is made, a case is opened. Would it be better if a file could be opened but not necessarily a case, so CPS could track calls made about a person/family, but if the report is found to be unsubstantiated, a case wouldn’t need to be opened but a note could be made that they were reported and it was unfounded. This could track trends without sacrificing anonymity and without expending limited resources having obviously innocent people investigated. The cops saw that it was ridiculous and I’m sure the CPS worker did too, but they still had to do something, which was a waste of everyone’s time.

  21. Anna August 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    I was re-reading the story, and realized the neighbor must have been using her position at CPS to do this – she kept re-reporting them whenever a complaint was dismissed, which would not be public knowledge. There really should be a way to string her up for that, even though she has already resigned. A person should not be able to abuse arbitrary power like that with impunity.

  22. theresa hall August 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    warren your answer doesn’t make sense to me. If I tell you a going to be gone at such and such time why would you waste your time coming over to my place just to see that duh I’m not home. cps should have the names of those that call but they don’t have to tell unless needed. that way it still unknown in some ways the reporter’s name yet the law that say you can face your accuser gets followed.

  23. deltaflute August 18, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

    This is happening in Arizona too. It’s so bad that the media (news and radio) have been warning people about the repercussions of making a false report. The news said that about 12-24 percent are legit calls (meaning someone was abusing a child or had a reasonable suspicion of abuse).

    Found this all out the hard way on Friday. I was walking with my youngest to go pick his brother up from school when some lady pulls over and starts asking weird questions like do I know what the temperature is and what is the wagon I was pulling made out of. I decided it would be better to walk away so I did. We got to the school and we’re sitting under the over hang cooling off when the Sheriff’s department officer walks up. Apparently she called the police to tell them that I was beating my child. He took my statement and left. It’s really ridiculous that people are using the system and wasting value time because they are so petty.

  24. Alicia August 18, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    As a foster parent, I see both sides of this & will be the first to admit I don’t know the solution. There has to be a system in place to protect kids who really need it. However, it does make it too easy for people to use the system for revenge. My husband and his ex have a very turbulent relationship. The week before we adopted our 3 boys, she called in an investigation based on complete lies in an effort to prevent the adoption, just to get back at him. Thankfully, we had a reasonable caseworker who did a perfunctory investigation and cleared us of all charges. But the emotional component was absolutely terrifying!

  25. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    “by the way why did the cops go to the home when they had been told nobody was going be home at that time?”

    Sometimes, people being investigated by the police are less than fully truthful when they talk to the police. Sometimes plans change.

  26. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    This is when you unleash the lawyers.

    They have a case against the caller, for slander. They may or may not have a case against the caller’s employer, for negligent supervision. They have a case against the local CPS agency, for not training the staff well enough to recognize false claims.

    The six counts of making a false statement should be bolstered by some counts of official misconduct… how did the caller know that a case was about to close unless she was looking it up at work? If that’s proven, that opens up the door to a federal civil-rights lawsuit.

    Yes, it is unfortunate that the taxpayers of the state will wind up covering paying for the offenses of the one rogue employee. This is why government agencies have so many rules about which employee can do what.

  27. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    “However, there should not be a case opened, or whatever they call it, if there is no evidence.”

    No, you want a case file that says “investigated such and such an accusation. No supporting evidence found.” This will come in very handy when the parents present their argument that they’re being harassed.

    “The burden of proof should be on the state to prove abuse/neglect, just like with every other crime.”
    Which is why it is.

    I would guess that the majority of false abuse charges arise from contested custody, and second place (a distant second) would be from honest disagreements about what is and what is not abuse. I doubt that malicious reports from strangers who are intentionally making false claims account for a substantial number.

  28. Emily Morris August 18, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    I truly believe that if you care that much about a problem you can leave your name.

  29. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    “I truly believe that if you care that much about a problem you can leave your name.”

    And what happens when the (possibly, but not proven) abusive parents find out that grandma turned them in? Or a daycare employee? Or the across-the-street-neighbor? Which of these turns out well for the children (whether the parents are, or are not, abusive?)

  30. Juluho August 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    I don’t understand, it’s my understanding that a mandatory reporter can be charged for not reporting suspected abuse, then why is it difficult for the law to charge people who falsely report abuse?
    I understand the need for some anonymity, but certainly there should be some record of who called.
    Why doesn’t the state file charges regarding the lost man hours? I’ve read a million times caseworkers are overloaded, why not ‘go after’ those making false reports? Especially in this case?
    No one has been arrested yet?! It boggles the mind.
    I’ve read slander/libel cases are hard to prove and take a long time. I don’t know if that’s true but my guess is two twenty year olds living in an apartment with a baby don’t have the means to pay for a lawyer for this kind of case.

    Out of curiosity what happens to this crazy CPS worker’s past cases? If she resigned because of scandal wouldn’t one think they should all be reopened?

  31. Warren August 18, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    theresa,

    If the police did not go to the home to verify that no one was there, then there would be no witnesses to state in a report or in court, that on the night of the call the home was empty. Courts are not just going to take the word of the accused.

    There is a big difference between these two statements.
    1. John Doe told us he would not be home.
    and
    2. John Doe told us he would not be home, and when the call came in, we verified that indeed John Doe was not present at the time.

  32. Anna August 18, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    ‘“I truly believe that if you care that much about a problem you can leave your name.”

    And what happens when the (possibly, but not proven) abusive parents find out that grandma turned them in? Or a daycare employee? Or the across-the-street-neighbor? Which of these turns out well for the children (whether the parents are, or are not, abusive?)’

    Yes, obviously that’s the rationale for anonymous, no-consequence reporting, but its seems to me that it’s high time to ask which is causing more harm: fear of repercussions for reporting, or out-of-control reports and responses to them by CPS. And if the answer is the latter, it would be appropriate to modify the current laws – perhaps, as some have suggested, by making reports confidential rather than anonymous, and making mischievous reports a crime with stiff penalties.

  33. Brooke August 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

    Isn’t there something in the Bill of Rights that says you have the right to face your accuser? It seems that this kind of anonymous reporting violates that liberty and starts criminal investigations not because of probable cause by an actual police officer but because of “probable cause” by a citizen who isn’t likely to be held accountable for wasting the time & money of our justice system if the report turns out to be false.

  34. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    “it’s high time to ask which is causing more harm: fear of repercussions for reporting, or out-of-control reports and responses to them by CPS.”

    It seems to me that if the immediate case represents nearly the worst-case scenario… then logic favors keeping anonymous reporting. CPS investigated, found nothing wrong in the home (correctly), the fears that the child would be removed were unfounded, and the guilty person is facing charges. People were unduly harassed. That’s bad. But what happened to them is rare, and doesn’t justify changing the way our society operates.

    Let’s look at what actually went wrong here. First, CPS hired somebody who was a terrible person. Can we improve the hiring practices? Second, it seems that the local CPS and police were initially unwilling to consider the possibility that the reports were both false and malicious. Do we need a change in training protocol? Finally, Do we need to consider possibly making a pattern of making false child abuse claims rise to a felony offense? (And, do we need to tweak the official misconduct statute? At a minimum abuse of this scope should create not just a termination offence, but a forfeiture of pension, as well.)

  35. Warren August 18, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    Brooke,

    Donna, not James, but the real deal attorney, could probably better explain this. I was under the impression that the police can have a difficult time securing a search warrant based on just an anonymous tip. Cps on the other hand seem to have broader powers when it comes to acting on such information. Though one would think that both should be held to the same standard.

  36. Warren August 18, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    One thing that this case proves is that all those people that say “If you have nothing to hide you don’t need an attorney. It only makes you look guilty.”, are wrong. This is a perfect example of why you need to “lawyer up”.

  37. James Pollock August 18, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    “Isn’t there something in the Bill of Rights that says you have the right to face your accuser?”

    Yes, and no. You have a Constitutional right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you. That said, there is no right at all to face “your accuser”. Police need probable cause to obtain a search warrant. They do not need probable cause to open, or pursue, an investigation. If they reach the point where they arrest you, it is because the investigation has produced evidence sufficient to constitute probable cause.

    So… how does this play out?
    Let’s try the first scenario. A neighbor drops a dime on a parent, claiming that they heard the parent screaming that they were going to put the child’s head through the wall, followed by a loud thump, followed by silence. Police respond to the scene. Do they have probable cause to make an arrest? No. Can they ask to be let into the house? Sure. (are there “exigent circumstances” that might let them enter without permission? Not on the bare facts provided so far, but it wouldn’t take much. Let’s invent some now… the police hear the child moaning or otherwise audibly in pain. That gets the cops in the house without a warrant, legally.)
    So… the cops come in. There’s a hole in the wall, about head-high to the child. Blood is present, on both the wall and the child’s head. The police ask the child what happened; he says he can’t remember. The police ask the parent what happened, the parent wisely suggests that he (or she) would like a lawyer present before answering any questions. Prompt medical attention for the child seems appropriate; and paramedics are summoned. The child has a significant injury.
    Is there probable cause to make an arrest? Yes. If the case goes to trial, who will testify? The police officer will testify as to what they saw: Hole, blood, injured child. The paramedic will testify as to what they saw… extent of injury. An expert on childhood injury will testify that the injury is of a type that would not be expected to occur accidentally. The defense will be allowed to cross-examine these witnesses.
    The anonymous tipster will NOT be allowed to testify. They cannot testify as to the words they heard, because they are hearsay. (if the prosecutor REALLY wants to try to get them into evidence, they may try to find a hearsay exception… which might apply… but probably would not even try.)
    Donna can give you a better idea of what the defense might try to do to win an acquittal.

    Now, the second version. Let’s keep the police arriving at the door in response to an anonymous tip that the parent said “I’ll put your head through the wall, maybe that’ll knock some sense into you!” The police ask to come inside, and the parent lets them come in. There is no hole in the wall, nor any mark on the wall at all. The child is clearly uninjured and says nothing interesting happened in the last half-hour or so. Is there probable cause to make an arrest? No. Sorry to bother you, here’s my card. In the event a prosecutor took these facts and tried to file charges, a properly-functioning grand jury returns no true bill. Since, alas, grand juries do not always function properly, it’s possible that an indictment is returned. The defense asks for a conference with the judge, asks for a dismissal, and gets it. (Not really. There’s paperwork involved. There’s always paperwork involved. But the prosecutor doesn’t like it when this happens, and tends to avoid cases that are unwinnable, because prosecutors like to win, and they like to have a really high conviction rate, and bringing charges on facts like these doesn’t lead to convictions.

  38. Mike in Sweden August 19, 2015 at 2:53 am #

    For the record, the Sixth Amendment states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to… be confronted with the witnesses against him.” I.E. no anonymous testimony is permitted at trial.

  39. hineata August 19, 2015 at 3:37 am #

    I see our resident ‘IT administrator. …or something like that, can’t be bothered keeping track…is again dispensing information on the American legal system.

    In other news, I, as a primary school teacher in the Southern hemisphere, would like to explain moose hunting to the Canadian and US hunter types among you. Using a Mad Max type off road vehicle complete with rocket launchers and attractive hippie types armed with bazooka will guarantee a successful hunting trip. You may end up sinking into the nearest quicksand or icy river, but you’ll have great fun on the way….

  40. John C. Randolph August 19, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    If we had a functioning justice system in this country, Beth Bond would be rendered destitute, and would starve to death on the streets as a pariah.

    -jcr

  41. Ally August 19, 2015 at 4:55 am #

    Thats pathetic that they have cleared 5 times in many months

  42. Marilynn August 19, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    My Ex-husband would do this to me. Any time we would start litigating about child custody/support, all the sudden I would have CPS knocking on my door. It seems pretty easy to abuse this system. On the other hand, he was actually abusing our daughter and was investigated and was only ordered to go to anger management classes. He still continued to abuse her because he knew not much was going to happen to him especially after he started coaching her with what to say and got better at not leaving tell tale bruising. I suppose it didn’t hurt that he was an upper middle class white male with a nice house. If they lived in squalor or something they’d probably investigate a little harder.

  43. Steve S August 19, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    Eliminating anonymous reporting entirely may not be the best option, but getting rid of the administrative requirement that every ‘tip’ be investigated would be a good start. I don’t know if this is still the case, but in my state, only credible reports required some kind of investigation.

    I also think that prosecuting people for false claims would help. That being said, it is very rare and most prosecutors don’t seem very interested in going after these people. The same holds true for people that lie to get a PPO.

    I hope this couple files a civil claim against this social worker. There are any number of claims they could make.

  44. Emily August 19, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    Actually, I think threatening to throw a child (or an adult, for that matter) against a wall is abuse, if it’s done seriously. I know that adults sometimes make dark jokes, like in the movie “Take This Waltz,” where the man and the woman say things like “I love you so much I could [eat you up/put you in a meat grinder/whatever].” With children, there’s less leeway that way, because they’re generally more literal than adults. As for neglect, I think that’s what reallt needs to be looked at. I think there should be some “wiggle room” for different parenting styles, so that parents who let their kids play outside, walk to school without an adult, stay home alone or babysit once they’re twelve or so, et cetera. Those things aren’t “abuse,” they’re age-appropriate freedoms, and I believe that denying or unreasonably delaying those freedoms for young people can be more detrimental than allowing them at the appropriate ages. The trouble is, society’s idea of “appropriate ages” seems to keep creeping up, and the time between “total supervision” and “total freedom” (university drop-off, or whenever the child moves out), keeps getting shorter, so kids don’t have enough time to practice small amounts of independence before they’re given total independence.

  45. Callie August 19, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    I’ve been suffering through the same thing. Anytime I make someone mad they’d callie CPS. They told me after 4 calls they had to take my kids even after cooperating just because some one kept calling. They substantiated one case just because my neighbor s who didnt know me judged me based on my appearance. After that the decided they could take my kids whenever they feel like it. I don’t know what to do or how to get it to stop.

  46. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    ” I don’t know what to do or how to get it to stop.”

    Get a lawyer. Either you keep getting referred to CPS because you are doing something that CPS needs to take an interest in, or you are being harassed. Either way, you need a lawyer.

  47. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    “I, as a primary school teacher in the Southern hemisphere, would like to explain moose hunting to the Canadian and US hunter types among you.”

    It’s much easier to shoot the moose from a helicopter. This also helps avoid problems like when your Mad-Max style off-road vehicle must navigate low-clearance obstacles like overpasses and overhanging power lines.

  48. CrazyCatLady August 19, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    My friend had her ex’s girl friend call and say that my friend left her kids (toddler and baby) in a hot car at the supermarket in CA. (Where kids must be 12 to sit in the car.) Fortunately for my friend, and unfortunately for the girlfriend, the call came into CPS at the same time that my friend was sitting in there with a case worker who was going to set up supervised visitation for the kids and the dad. (Kids were there too.) The call got transferred to the caseworker, who took all the information about how long my friend was supposed to have been in the store, condition of the kids, and the name of the store.

    Then, the caseworker told off the girlfriend for making a false report and told her if it happened again the police would be called on her. After getting off the phone, the caseworker and my friend had a good laugh. My friend got her supervised visitation, something that she was not sure would happen when she walked into CPS that day.

  49. Buffy August 19, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    Someone earlier stated that a minuscule percentage of anonymous CPS calls were fraudulent, but the vast majority of them are real. Any citation or link for that?

    I don’t know why the caller can’t remain anonymous to the “suspects” but known to CPS and possibly police. That person can then be interviewed about what they heard/saw prior to the investigation, and the name redacted out of any reports.

  50. Denise August 19, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    No, it’s never time to end the anonymous hotline. Not unless you want family members who are too afraid of known evil people attaching their names to reports of flat out evil deeds.

    Another case I can think of- neighbors who knew the mother was mentally ill and violent called to report the baby being left along for 12 hours at a time. Anonymous saved that child life.

    Yes, there are abuses- but it’s one thing to report on nothing but the abuses and not be in a situation to see the good that the hotline does.

  51. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    “I don’t know why the caller can’t remain anonymous to the “suspects” but known to CPS and possibly police.”
    Because if they don’t give their names to CPS or to the police, then CPS and the police don’t know who they are. You’re responding as if the people who take these calls don’t even try to “de-anonymize” them.

    “That person can then be interviewed about what they heard/saw prior to the investigation, and the name redacted out of any reports.”
    How many resources do you want to divert to tracking down anonymous reporters?

  52. AB August 19, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Problem is you must be anonymous at times because the person you’re calling the CPS might as well be a violent person who will retaliate for you calling. Once I had to call on a neighbor who was physically and sexually abusing his son, and somehow one of his friends found out who called and I got threatened by the friend before he went to get the neighbor out of jail on bond. I had to move in with relatives until the neighbor was evicted as other neighbors were being threatened as they called the police due to the guy having hookers and drug dealers in his apartment while his son was there. It scared me that someone told his friend as it turned out these guys were gang members and would have probably killed some people as the calling of the CPS opened them up to scrutiny by the cops.

  53. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    @CrazyCatLady

    Actually, the law in CA, as it is written, is that a child 6 and under cannot be left alone in a car without a person 12 and over if 1) the keys are in the ignition and the car is on and 2) if conditions pose a probable risk to the child(ren).

    I remember being very excited when my oldest turned 6. I would leave her and her (then) 3 year old brother in the car when I ran quick errands. I never had an issue. She’s 14 now and to this day, she hates coming in with me to run errands. People must think she’s crazy because she’ll sit in the car, windows up, jacket on, in 100 degree heat. It doesn’t bother her and we joke about her being Satan’s Spawn.

  54. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    The fact is, information gets released — whether it’s confidential or not, on purpose or not. Mistakes happen. But it isn’t just violent people that create an atmosphere of wariness when calling CPS. There’s emotional retribution as well. How many of us on here can list off a number of people that we know of who have the “psycho ex” who will withhold visitation because of some perceived slight? Imagine being a grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc., who is afraid that they will never get to see their grandchild if the parent finds out they were the one who called?

  55. Anne Huddleston August 19, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    This seems easy enough to resolve. Require the caller to identify themselves but make that information known to the accused only under certain conditions. That way, legitimate callers who fear reprisal will know their anonymity is protected, but false callers will be too afraid to release their name to the authorities. This seems like a ridiculously simple fix. Am I missing something?

  56. Havva August 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    My father-in-law has part time duty working a hot line. There are certain callers they refer to as “frequent fliers” a small handful of people who are known by voice. And these people call at least weekly, often daily, and almost always their claims are B.S. sometimes literally (calling in a foul aroma coming from a farm). They will try to spin them into some heinous story of animal abuse or illegal dumping. The day I went with him to see his office the hotline operator reported nothing but frequent fliers that day, and dismissed my father-in-law to enjoy a long lunch with family.

    I’ve heard a similar ‘frequent flier’ story when discussing the Meitivs at a party. A lady told me how her brother (a cop) got dispatched every single day for ‘kids in danger’ reports from the same crazy lady. Supposedly kids were playing unsupervised on a construction site. And every day the police had to send someone to investigate. And each time the kids were playing ball, or chase, in the grass, at the park *outside* the fenced in construction area. Never once did he find a kid in or on the fence, nor of an age too young to be unsupervised.

    Some people are crazy and anything that could empower them needs to be prepared to deal with the determined insanity of such people, hopefully without traumatizing innocent people.

  57. Havva August 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    @Kimberly, and… this is happening even with anonymous reporting. It would seem the issue isn’t the security of the caller’s identity. I would suggest that this has less to do with info getting and and more to do with abusers knowing what they are accused of. If CPS is at your door all of a sudden, clearly someone reported you for child abuse. If you have been abusing your kid without report until grandma came to visit. Then clearly grandma reported the abuse. If you get reported sort of out of the blue but the neighbor saw something and looked disapproving, send your gang banger buddy after the neighbor and see if they run scared. If the cop/CPS worker starts by looking at the kids’ head go after the person who saw you knock their head into a brick wall. If the cop/CPS worker first examines their burned arm… the person who saw you put a cigarette out on the arm.

    The thing is, if the parents had actually thrown the kid against a wall the list of who might have seen or heard something and reported it would be dreadfully short. They were only in the dark because they didn’t actually throw the kid against a wall.

    I’m in favor strict confidentiality rules. Perhaps going so far as attaching an ID number, but not a name to the files, and having very limited access to the info linking ID numbers to names. But not anonymity, and much better prosecution than this for blatant abuse of the system.

  58. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Havva, I totally agree.

  59. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    A little off subject, but speaking of CPS and over-reach:

    https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/military-mom-returns-from-war-to-discover-she-must-127011236577.html

    Anyone read this article? Horrifying.

  60. EricS August 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Typical abuse of authority. I think every person applying or working for the CPS and other positions of authority like it (positions that make decisions that would greatly affect individual’s or family’s lives), should go through a through psyche evaluation. People like Bitch A. Bond have mental issues, and would get flagged if assessed properly. Stop the ignorance before it can start.

    And the system definitely needs to be overhauled. No more vagueness, more transparency and accountability. CPS hired these people, they should be responsible for their actions as well. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not a fan of litigious acts. But if constant suing of places and people like this will make them start thinking twice, then so be it. Like many other rules and laws created because of fear of litigation, why wouldn’t it work for fixing those same flawed rules and laws.

  61. Reziac August 19, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    CPS isn’t the only such bomb. Animal control is regularly used as an anonymous bomb against dog breeders and livestock producers, but in most cases the report is completely false. Remember this next time you hear some tale of horrific animal abuse … chances are it was false or fabricated, just like this one.

    But that won’t stop news media from reporting either as true, because nothing glues outraged eyeballs to the screen like a tale of abuse of the helpless. Truth? Not required.

  62. EricS August 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    @Havva: I can’t see why the hotline couldn’t put a system in place to recognize “frequent fliers” right away, and ignore them. They have voice recognition software out there that can identify voice patterns, if if the caller tries to mask their voice. Voice patterns are like finger prints, you can muffle the receiver, lower or raise the pitch of your voice, and it will still tell if it’s the same voice or not. The only way to actually mask a voice pattern, is to digitally manipulate it. And if one were to go through that extreme just to cover up their voice, you know they are up to no good.

    If these frequent fliers call often, and they are usually bogus calls, they can be ignored. I’m also sure their numbers can be traced as well. I can’t see a reason why frequent fliers can’t be criminally investigated. False claims, waste of valuable resources, defamatory acts.

  63. Dean Whinery August 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    Derek M. is right. Vindictive and prejudiced neighbors use the phone to harass those with whom the have a perceived problem. The build department inspector and I got to first-name basis after so many calls about “something wrong in your house”. He finally told me at the door, “I’ll just report that I was here because there’s really nothing wrong.”
    We both knew who was making the calls. A neighbor who objected to me renting part of my home to a family that happened to be of Mexican descent and we were “obviously talking about them” when using Spanish. They had told me they would continue reporting building discrepancies and child abuse until I got rid of my renters.

  64. Warren August 19, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

    As for identifying frequent callers/fliers it cannot be difficult. Hell my cellphone does it automatically. Someone calls and when I am done, with a touch of the screen the complete history of that numbers calls to me is shown. Date, time and duration all with the touch of a screen. If the police, cps and whatever other agencies are not tracking calls like this, it is unacceptable.

  65. Beth August 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    Hey James, when you’ve been a 911 dispatcher for 17 years (and I’m SURE you’ll tell me you have), you can talk about efforts to “de-anonymize” callers. Not til then.

  66. Buffy August 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    @Anne Huddleston, I’m sure James Pollack will show up fairly soon to tell you, in great and exacting detail, what you’re missing.

  67. Donna August 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    “Isn’t there something in the Bill of Rights that says you have the right to face your accuser?”

    For the manyth time, CPS investigations are CIVIL, the 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments are criminal rights. Criminal rights don’t apply in civil proceedings.

    “I was under the impression that the police can have a difficult time securing a search warrant based on just an anonymous tip.”

    Depends on the information given in the anonymous tip. If a tipster calls and says nothing more than “Warren is selling drugs,” the police can’t get a search warrant. If the tipster calls and says “Warren is selling drugs. He gets a shipment via Fed Ex every Wednesday from James in Seattle and then Hineata comes by in a blue sedan, stays 10 minutes and leaves with the Fed Ex box,” they are going to be able to get a warrant if they can confirm portions of that – they actually see a Fed Ex package arrive and a blue sedan come a few minutes later and leave with said package – despite the fact that the things they viewed personally are not illegal in anyway.

    However, the police are always free to knock on your door and ask you to answer questions. If a tipster calls and says nothing more than “Warren is selling drugs,” the police can knock on Warren’s door and ask to come in to talk to him. Warren can say no, but unfortunately people in Warren’s position (in this story) often say yes.

    “Cps on the other hand seem to have broader powers when it comes to acting on such information.”

    As a government entity, CPS has to have a warrant to enter a home uninvited and it would require the same level of information to get the warrant. Just like police, they can ask to come in anytime they want. The difference is that since CPS is a civil proceeding, your refusal to allow them into your home and make a statement can be used as evidence against you. CPS can actually argue in a removal hearing that the children need to be removed because you are refusing to allow them to inspect your house. The judge absolutely cannot order you to allow CPS to inspect your house, but he can remove your children because you are refusing.

    I also don’t think that the exclusionary rule extends to civil cases. The exclusionary rule is the enforcer of your rights. It prevents illegally seized evidence from being used against you in court. What that means is CPS can violate your rights all day and the only recourse you have is to sue CPS. The judge can still consider the illegally seized evidence in making his/her decisions.

    “Though one would think that both should be held to the same standard.”

    They are held to the same standard. The Court’s use of the information gathered is different because different rules apply. The reason that CPS cases are civil rather than criminal is that there is no criminal penalty involved. The parents are not being punished. The Court’s role is solely to protect the children, not to teach the parents a lesson. The Court can’t send the parents to jail or put them on probation or give them a fine. They can’t force the parents do anything at all actually.

  68. MattB August 19, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    It seems there are roughly 3 classes of reports.

    1. Legit. There is an interest in protecting the reporter.

    2. Well-meaning but misguided. This one is touchy. Could have seen poorly, maybe a different standard, but non-anonymity to the police allows them to teach how to distinguish a real problem. Dual databases with the ID number referencing the actual identity, accessible only with a court order would likely do.

    3. Vindictive scum. The legal system needs to have a minimum misdemeanor penalty, but the maximum penalty needs to be set one classification higher for the class, but all possible penalties doubled what they lied about reporting. Report child abuse worth up to 5 years? You get 10 automatically. And I’m normally against outrage mobs, but I’m OK with destroying their lives through the power of publicly outing them as abusers of the system. As the SWAT teams attacking people home alone show, it’s not just harassment, it’s dangerous.

  69. GRS August 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    Chaney and Rogers should make an appointment with a lawyer. Given 6 phone calls and the history, especially if there is a misdemeanor conviction with it, there may be enough ground to sue for civil damages. A punitive damages award in the middle 5-digits could be very effective. If they do sue, they should insist on no confidential settlement, so as to allow the case to serve as a public deterrent.

  70. Peter August 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    by the way why did the cops go to the home when they had been told nobody was going be home at that time?

    Because they have to. It’s the law.

  71. Agent0013 August 19, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    Anonymous calls are used by the police and and other government organizations to perform illegal investigations and not have to use the illegal evidence in the court. They even have a term they use for it called parallel construction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_construction

    They can perform an illegal warrant-less wiretap and make an anonymous call to others at the station telling them to pull over a certain vehicle at a certain location. The officers pulling them over then find any reason at all to inspect the vehicle and find the drugs they knew would be there. Perhaps we do need to get rid of anonymous calls to stop this, but I don’t see the people in power giving up something they use so effectively.

  72. Donna August 19, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    “The anonymous tipster will NOT be allowed to testify.”

    Sure he will if he has been identified somehow. The only thing that generally prevents anonymous tipsters from testifying in court is the lack of knowledge as to who they are.

    Even if he has not been identified, the 911 call (assuming that is how the tipster contacted the police) can be played at the trial. That is a business record and fully admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the rules of evidence of many states. There would be some debate as to some of the information contained in it, but it would likely all be admissible under various hearsay exceptions.

    “They cannot testify as to the words they heard, because they are hearsay.”

    Again, sure they can. I would object, but I’m not sure it is even hearsay, and if it is, it meets several hearsay exceptions.

  73. Warren August 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

    Donna,
    Thanks for taking the time to explain and clarify things.

  74. Anna August 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    “The Court’s use of the information gathered is different because different rules apply. The reason that CPS cases are civil rather than criminal is that there is no criminal penalty involved. The parents are not being punished. The Court’s role is solely to protect the children, not to teach the parents a lesson.”

    This seems to be the crux of the problem. Sure, technically it’s not a punishment, but in real human terms, for any parent, having their kids taken away is a punishment of a severity comparable to or worse than a prison sentence. Probably seems the same way to the kids, for that matter. All the more so if the foster parents are abusive, but even if they’re not, losing your family and not knowing if you’ll get them back is a huge trauma.

    Which is I think why we all find the low standard of evidence and due process for CPS so disturbing, because whether it’s legally punishment or not, what’s being done to the family is so bad that CPS should be held to the very highest standards before they can act. Every CPS agent should be going about their job with a vivid awareness that what they do to families is in itself very cruel and destructive, and they need to be damn sure it’s justified. I don’t know what legal changes could help make that happen, but I think something needs to change.

  75. JP Merzetti August 19, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    How about this disclaimer:
    “Certianly ma’am – we’d be happy to take your complaint, but for security purposes the police will require your true and legal identity, in the event that this call has been made for purposes of foul or malicious intent. If this proves not to be the case, your identity will remain protected – by the police. If, on the other hand, it proves otherwise, you are liable to full proceedings under the law.”

    If I can be nailed to the tune of 5 G’s for having a cigarette in an illegal place……………….
    then what in the Sam Hill all creation should be the penalty for tearing apart a family, and causing that kind of fear, terror and disruption to otherwise innocent people?

    Including of course, the precious child in question.
    That’s always my favorite part.

    Talk about vicious predatory boogey-persons we need to protect our children from.
    Not imaginary at all.
    Rather, large as life.

    I say lock ’em up and throw away the key.

    Seriously.
    There are an awful lot of parents out there, growing very…….big………teeth.
    One day, they’re gonna bite back.
    (pass the oyster sauce, please?)

  76. Emily August 19, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

    @MattB–I like the idea of false reporting in theory, but really vindictive people could either use a fake name, or worse yet, use another person’s real name, thereby screwing two people over in one go. Let’s say that Helga Helicopter has a bone to pick with Frieda Free-Range, because she (Frieda) allows her kids to play outside unsupervised. Maybe she’s really concerned, or maybe the normal childhood noise just disturbs her during her Internet-mandated meditation time that’s supposed to make up for a lifestyle of sedentary activity and instant food; we don’t know. So anyway, Helga finds out about this new law, calls the police anyway, and assumes the identity of Petunia Pinterest, her arch-nemesis from the PTA. Now she’s destroyed the life of both Frieda Free-Range, for allowing her kids to exist independently outside the house, AND Petunia Pinterest, because Petunia’s watermelon fruit salad basket went over better at the back-to-school picnic than Helga’s boring regular fruit salad in a bowl. But, nobody could possibly suspect Helga Helicopter, because her kids are in ballet, soccer, swimming, oboe, kara-TAY (just like in the car commercial), so surely that means that Helga is a good parent, and a good citizen, and Frieda’s kids must all be drug dealers, because they’re not constantly supervised by an adult. If I can think of this, and I have no desire to sabotage anyone, then I wouldn’t put it past a truly vindictive person.

  77. Emily August 19, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    P.S., MattB, I meant to say that I like the idea of PENALTIES for false reporting, in theory.

  78. JR August 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    As a former “mandatory reporter,” I wonder if it would make sense to have a “three-strikes” or similar rule about this. It could be similar to the way we treat points on a license.

    For example, the first time you report suspected child abuse on a specific family, the case is taken at face value and investigated fully. If it is validated, then good on you for knowing when to call CPS. But if it isn’t validated, you’ve earned points against your reputation as a reporter.

    The second time you accuse the same family, the case goes into the “maybe” file and is investigated accordingly.

    The third time you accuse the same family, the case goes into the “check it out later” file. If the case is unsubstantiated again, you’ve lost your credibility points as a reporter until you take a class on when and when not to report to CPS, much like a defensive driving class.

  79. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    @Eric

    There is no way any organization can ignore “frequent fliers”,no matter how much they would like to. Anyone who has ever worked in an ER knows all to well how irritating FF’s are and how much time they take away from patients who truly are in dire need of help. Unfortunately, if they are ignored and it’s that one time something IS wrong, then the hospital has a lawsuit on their hands. It’s happened. Are the doctors and nurses at their beck-and-call? No, but they are required to do a basic examination and any tests that might be required to rule out what ever their complaints are.

    You see the same thing in restaurants now. People come in all the time and claim they have celiac disease or an allergy to eggs, or nuts, or whatever. The server spends a considerable amount of time walking them through any modifications or questions, then spends even more time explaining to the kitchen about the allergy and ensuring that there is no cross-contamination only to watch said allergy person sharing food or nibbling off a plate that would put them into anaphylactic shock ten ways to Sunday. Clearly, they don’t have an allergy, they just didn’t want the carbs. Servers get pretty good at identifying these people, but they have to jump through all the same hoops — just in case.

  80. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    “The third time you accuse the same family, the case goes into the “check it out later” file. If the case is unsubstantiated again, you’ve lost your credibility points as a reporter until you take a class on when and when not to report to CPS, much like a defensive driving class.”

    Who will get crucified publicly when it turns out that, although the first two cases were unsubstantiated, the third one was of a real and immediate threat?

  81. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    “Hey James, when you’ve been a 911 dispatcher for 17 years (and I’m SURE you’ll tell me you have), you can talk about efforts to “de-anonymize” callers. Not til then.

    Oh, hell no… i would HATE that job.

    So YOU tell us… do you ask people to identify themselves, or not?

  82. Margot August 19, 2015 at 8:01 pm #

    i am one of these oft-maligned CPS worker, albeit not in the US. I can tell you that malicious reports are not common, but we do get them from time to time. Generally they stick out like a sore thumb and we don’t even need to investigate. We just close without investigation and move on. (Don’t forget that we are social workers and psychologists, and we are trained to understand human behaviour. and often have years of experience doing so.) If we do have to investigate and the report is indeed malicious, then generally the family can identify exactly who reported and why (we never confirm the identity of the reporter, of course). If the family is denying the abuse, then we need to see corroborating evidence of the abuse; an injury, a disclosure from the child, another witness to the event. Without this, we would never get the case up in court anyway.
    i certainly appreciate that the people were traumatised by the whole process, and unfortunately these cases do happen, but they’re rare, and it does sound like there was ever an actual threat that they would lose care of their child. What is more often the case with malicious reporting is that there is some very real reason that the reporter is targeting the family; a drug deal gone wrong, gambling debts, a borderline personality disorder causing the parent to get everyone off side. The substance of the allegation may be untrue or wildly exaggerated, but there are nevertheless serious issues in the family.

  83. Donna August 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    “I don’t know why the caller can’t remain anonymous to the “suspects” but known to CPS and possibly police.”

    Actually this does occur as far as CPS. Even callers known to CPS are often not revealed. IF we ask for discovery, we can get names of people who will actually testify at a hearing, but there are generally many other people that CPS talked to that we will never know.

    The police are a different story. In a criminal case, the State is REQUIRED to turn over all information that it knows. It is not allowed to hide things. The one exception is a confidential informant and even then criminal defendants can pretty readily get that information. I’ve never had a judge tell me no when I’ve requested the identity of a confidential informant.

    While it happened in this case due to a very knowledgeable person, anonymous reports are not as common as some seem to think that are. I currently have about 40 pending CPS cases. I’ve closed another 20 this year already. Not a single one involved an anonymous report. I don’t know who made the initial report in many cases, but it is clear that CPS does.

    However, I don’t become involved until after they have already removed children. It is possible that there are heaps of anonymous reports and very few of them make it to removal.

  84. M August 19, 2015 at 9:09 pm #

    A friend’s ex would call whenever she asked him to pay child support, or help cover medical expenses that he agreed to pay in the custody agreement.

    Another friend’s ex didn’t like her choice of schooling, and called CPS in order to report educational abuse. Never mind the child was well ahead of his peers.

    You wonder why this woman, who wasn’t related to the child, would go to the trouble of trying to destroy this family? Did she just hate them for neighbors?

  85. Buffy August 19, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    @JP Merzetti…love your disclaimer!

  86. jill August 19, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

    I respect the option to remain anonymous. People today are too quick to anger and retaliation and too many people think nothing of whipping out a weapon to solve their problems. However, our government “protectors” need to do a better job of noticing trends like this. How many baseless complaints do you have to receive before it occurs to you to look twice at the accuser???

    I worked for a local city councilman for many years and people would pull this same stuff on landlords that evicted them or neighbors they had a beef with – reporting building code violations that were baseless in the hopes of getting someone in trouble. You have to be analytical when you receive such complaints! Government shouldn’t be used as a tool for revenge – that’s not what our tax dollars pay for.

  87. Anna August 19, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

    “The substance of the allegation may be untrue or wildly exaggerated, but there are nevertheless serious issues in the family.”

    Serious issues somewhere, no doubt, but it doesn’t seem fair to assume they’re in the family. Isn’t it just as likely they’re in the caller? (As indeed appears to be the case in this story.)

  88. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    “Sure he will if he has been identified somehow. The only thing that generally prevents anonymous tipsters from testifying in court is the lack of knowledge as to who they are.”

    Or, as in the described case, where neither side wants to call them as a witness.

    “Even if he has not been identified, the 911 call (assuming that is how the tipster contacted the police) can be played at the trial.”
    What 911 call? There isn’t one in the hypothetical. Then, you have the same problem again… who is going to introduce this 911 call (assuming there is one) into evidence? The prosecution doesn’t need to, and the defense doesn’t want to.

    “Again, sure they can. I would object, but I’m not sure it is even hearsay,”
    You’re not sure if an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein is hearsay?

  89. James Pollock August 19, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    “Serious issues somewhere, no doubt, but it doesn’t seem fair to assume they’re in the family. Isn’t it just as likely they’re in the caller? (As indeed appears to be the case in this story.)”

    The fact that one side of an argument is wrong does not prove that the other side is not wrong, too.

  90. Donna August 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    “Or, as in the described case, where neither side wants to call them as a witness.”

    That was not described anywhere in your case. While I assumed that the defense would not want to call the tipster as their witness, you gave no indication that the State didn’t want him as a witness nor did you give any facts that would indicate that this witness has some issue that would make me conclude, without you specifically stating since you did not, that the State would not want him to testify. You simply said that he couldn’t testify which is an incorrect statement. Further, unless the tipster lacks credibility for some reason that you did not come close to stating or implying in your facts, the State absolutely would want him to testify if they could ID him.

    “What 911 call? There isn’t one in the hypothetical.”

    I have no idea what “dropped the dime” means, but I assume you meant contact the police. The vast majority of people who contact the police do so via the telephone as opposed to driving to the police station to report their neighbors in person. Of those who do call, the vast majority call 911. Emergency reports such as a child having its head bashed through a wall almost exclusively come via 911. In fact, if you call the non-emergency number of the police, the first thing you will hear is “if this is an emergency, hang up and call 911.” Just about everyone would define what you described as an emergency. However, in case you were in fact talking about the one person in a million who would not define a child’s head being pushed through a wall as an emergency or who would prefer to take the time to drive to the police station to speak them in person while a child potentially lies bleeding to death in the house, I did specifically state that I was only talking about situations where there was a 911 call.

    “Then, you have the same problem again… who is going to introduce this 911 call (assuming there is one) into evidence? The prosecution doesn’t need to, and the defense doesn’t want to.”

    Maybe you should actually practice law before you try to both contrive hypotheticals and alleged responses to them. No way in hell, unless something unusual happened that was also not given in the hypothetical, that the State is not going to introduce the 911 call if it exists. Your vast experience as a prosecutor may have caused you to conclude that they don’t need it, but even if that is true, that rarely stops the State from introducing really good evidence.

    “You’re not sure if an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein is hearsay?”

    Is it being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted or is it being offered as an explanation as to why the tipster contacted the police, however he chose to do so? Either way, it is going to be admissible.

  91. Kimberly August 19, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    It’s like watching My Cousin Vinny debating Matlock.

  92. Margot August 20, 2015 at 12:20 am #

    @ Anna. I can assure you that there is not room for assumption, only conclusions based on careful analysis of the evidence in each case. I certainly cannot comment on what happened in the particular case featured in Lenore’s blog, as I don’t have all the facts. I was just referring to a pattern I often (but certainly don’t always) see.

  93. Warren August 20, 2015 at 12:52 am #

    Margot,

    So you have seen people in the employ of CPS, that call in emergencies when the people are not even there? Holy Crap. It is more of a problem than I could have imagined.

    Margot, you are showing the jaded attitude that is part of the problem. “There has to be something” way of thinking. If you are working under this sort of logic, then it is time for you to take a long vacation, and maybe look at a career change.

  94. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 1:24 am #

    “That was not described anywhere in your case.”
    It was, in fact, the entire point of the hypothetical.

    “While I assumed that the defense would not want to call the tipster as their witness, you gave no indication that the State didn’t want him as a witness”
    I came right out and said he wouldn’t be allowed to testify. How much more blunt do you need it?

    “nor did you give any facts that would indicate that this witness has some issue that would make me conclude, without you specifically stating since you did not, that the State would not want him to testify.”
    Again, except for the big one… he’s an anonymous tipster. People tend to discredit anonymous tips over tips that come from people who identify themselves.

    “I have no idea what “dropped the dime” means”
    There’s this thing called “Google”..

    ” Just about everyone would define what you described as an emergency.”
    It’s not..

    “However, in case you were in fact talking about the one person in a million who would not define a child’s head being pushed through a wall as an emergency”
    Read it again. What child’s head being pushed through a wall? This hypothetical intentionally has no such thing in it.

    “Your vast experience as a prosecutor may have caused you to conclude that they don’t need it, but even if that is true, that rarely stops the State from introducing really good evidence. ”
    Amazing. You know that it’s really good evidence, even though there’s nothing in the hypothetical that says it even exists.

    “‘You’re not sure if an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein is hearsay?’
    Is it being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted or is it being offered as an explanation as to why the tipster contacted the police, however he chose to do so? Either way, it is going to be admissible.”

    Are you familiar with the term “moving the goalposts? Because that’s what’s happened here. You went from saying you’re not even sure an obvious case of hearsay is even hearsay, to, upon having it pointed out that it reather obviously IS hearsay, to wanting to talk about whether or not it’s “admissible”, an entirely different question and one I expressly declined to elaborate on.

    So… you invented details that weren’t in the hypothetical. You missed things that were. You made an obvious error, and tried to cover it by changing the terms you wanted to argue, and, because those weren’t enough, brought out a double heaping helping of condescension to really seal the deal. All for the point of… what, exactly?

  95. sexhysteria August 20, 2015 at 3:48 am #

    The CPS psychopath didn’t lose her job???

  96. Margot August 20, 2015 at 5:33 am #

    Sorry Warren. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I rarely do.

  97. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    “It’s like watching My Cousin Vinny debating Matlock.”

    High praise indeed, unless you’ve forgotten that Vinny wins all of his cases AND gets the hot girl at the end of the movie.

  98. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 6:29 am #

    “The CPS psychopath didn’t lose her job???”

    Not convicted of anything, yet.

  99. Warren August 20, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Margot,

    ” What is more often the case with malicious reporting is that there is some very real reason that the reporter is targeting the family; a drug deal gone wrong, gambling debts, a borderline personality disorder causing the parent to get everyone off side. The substance of the allegation may be untrue or wildly exaggerated, but there are nevertheless serious issues in the family.”

    This caller, a cps worker, called in to make allegations when the family wasn’t even home, as verified by the police. But in your jaded view, there is still something wrong. You make it sound as if not matter what you give the benefit of the doubt to the caller, not the family. That is what I am saying.

    And I am saying that approach is wrong.

  100. SOA August 20, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    I go on a lot of inlaws problems boards and CPS is a standard operating procedure for in laws to try to get you in line or get revenge or try to get grandparents rights.

  101. Red August 20, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Speaking of people reporting things in other people’s names:

    In our last neighborhood, someone called up the cops and reported something using my name and address. When the cops showed up later to try to talk to me further about the situation, I hadn’t the faintest clue what was going on.

  102. E August 20, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    @Warren — yeah, I’m not following her. I mean, sure, people have issues. In this case, the person with the issues is the caller, not the target family.

  103. Margot August 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

    I’m sorry, Warren. I mustn’t have been clear.. I am certainly not suggesting there are issues with the family in this particular case. I don’t know enough about the case, and from the information provided, there is no evidence to suggest that the family who were reported were in any way culpable. I was talking generally about cases I see in my work. And again, NOT based on either assumptions OR a jaded world view. Just an analysis of the facts.

  104. Buffy August 20, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Margot, if you’re assuming that there HAS to be something wrong with a family that is anonymously reported, and maybe it’s not as bad as the caller said but if you just dig deep enough you’ll find it, that is a jaded view. And completely unfair.

  105. MichelleB August 20, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    “What is more often the case with malicious reporting is that there is some very real reason that the reporter is targeting the family; a drug deal gone wrong, gambling debts, a borderline personality disorder causing the parent to get everyone off side. The substance of the allegation may be untrue or wildly exaggerated, but there are nevertheless serious issues in the family.”

    I don’t think that’s true.

    When we were first married, my husband and I had a downstairs neighbor who would call in false reports to the manager of the apartment building. She’d wait for me to come home from a swing shift and then call in a noise complaint as soon as I was in the door. The manager would call me about our loud television and I’d try to explain that nothing in the apartment was even ON. He finally stopped taking her calls after he came out and listened at my door himself one night. She moved on to threatening to slash my tires.

    I couldn’t figure out what this woman, who I’d barely even spoken to, had against me.

    We found out later that she had a grudge against my father’s first wife and had just enough misinformation to decide that I was my older step-sister and that she was making life rough for her enemy’s daughter. In her mind, she must’ve thought she had a reason to target me. Some people are just malicious.

  106. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    “Margot, if you’re assuming that there HAS to be something wrong with a family that is anonymously reported, and maybe it’s not as bad as the caller said but if you just dig deep enough you’ll find it, that is a jaded view. And completely unfair.”

    That’s a pretty unbalanced assessment. If you did deep, you’ll find A reason why the reporter has targeted the reportee… maybe because the reportee has done something wrong, maybe because they’ve done something that isn’t wrong but the reporter thinks it is. Maybe it’s “just” mental illness. Recognizing that this is true does not indicate anything about someone’s approach to their job. People do things for a reason. It isn’t necessarily a good reason, but if you look for it, you’ll find a reason. Sometimes, digging will reveal something the reportee wishes hadn’t come up.

    So long as the training giving to CPS workers helps them to find the truth amongst all the BS stories people tell them… it’s about the best we can do.

  107. common sense August 20, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    margot you need toremember…this is a cps worker herself…one who would testify in court and be believed..just goes to prove power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. this is a person who holds judgement over whether or not a family is torn apart..and you think she was making these calls out of goodness and concern? this should scare the crap out of all of us that she felt safe doing this and nobody at cps would even consider that one of their honest hardworking[sacarsm on high] social workers might not be god.

  108. James Pollock August 20, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    “this should scare the crap out of all of us that she felt safe doing this and nobody at cps would even consider that one of their honest hardworking[sacarsm on high] social workers might not be god.”

    You’ve, um, supplied some facts not in evidence.

  109. Buffy August 21, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    Pretty amazing that two people on this site believe that, if the meat of the initial anonymous call is unfounded, CPS and maybe the police should ruin that family’s life digging for other dirt they can use against them, on the theory that the caller wouldn’t have called unless *something* was wrong.

    Glad the two of you are perfect parents who have never, ever, ever made any parenting decisions that someone else might question. I don’t know why they let the rest of us even reproduce.

  110. James Pollock August 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    “Pretty amazing that two people on this site believe that, if the meat of the initial anonymous call is unfounded, CPS and maybe the police should ruin that family’s life digging for other dirt they can use against them, on the theory that the caller wouldn’t have called unless *something* was wrong.”

    I don’t see anyone making that argument, much less two of them. To whom are you referring?

  111. J.T. Wenting August 22, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    “I don’t see anyone making that argument, much less two of them. To whom are you referring?”

    Margot and Michelle are both claiming that there MUST be something wrong with the parents or there would have been no calls to CPS, even if the actual calls were not about valid complaints.

  112. James Pollock August 22, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    “Margot and Michelle are both claiming that there MUST be something wrong with the parents or there would have been no calls to CPS, even if the actual calls were not about valid complaints.”

    Margot said that maliciously-filed reports stick out like a sore thumb and they don’t even have to investigate those.
    http://www.freerangekids.com/parents-investigated-for-child-abuse-six-times-thanks-to-fake-calls-from-crafty-neighbor/#comment-382216
    Not quite the same thing as what was claimed.

    MicheleB (the only “Michelle” I can see in the comments for this article) certainly didn’t say anything like that.
    http://www.freerangekids.com/parents-investigated-for-child-abuse-six-times-thanks-to-fake-calls-from-crafty-neighbor/#comment-382421

    So… I guess the reason I couldn’t find anyone making such a claim is because there wasn’t anyone.

  113. EFC August 24, 2015 at 7:06 am #

    This couple should DEFINITELY file a civil suit. Their downstairs neighbor will almost certainly lose every penny she has. And deserve it.

  114. Danny August 27, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Yeah, getting multiple calls about child abuse will in fact get you investigated. Duh.

  115. Puzzled August 29, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    If the rule is you can make anonymous, no consequences calls, how exactly did this person get arrested? How did they find her, and how can she be charged if the policy is no consequences?

  116. Buffy August 29, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    Right here:

    What is more often the case with malicious reporting is that there is some very real reason that the reporter is targeting the family; a drug deal gone wrong, gambling debts, a borderline personality disorder causing the parent to get everyone off side. The substance of the allegation may be untrue or wildly exaggerated, but there are nevertheless serious issues in the family.

    And here:

    If you did deep, you’ll find A reason why the reporter has targeted the reportee…

  117. James Pollock August 29, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    “If you did deep, you’ll find A reason why the reporter has targeted the reportee…”

    =

    ““if the meat of the initial anonymous call is unfounded, CPS and maybe the police should ruin that family’s life digging for other dirt they can use against them, on the theory that the caller wouldn’t have called unless *something* was wrong.”

    ???

  118. Scott August 30, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    The Courier-Journal published an interesting follow up yesterday.

    http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/08/28/state-social-worker-troubled-career/32275565/