Former HHS worker blows whistle on HHS tactics
|This picture is mine. It was NOT included in the news article.|
by Mark Young
The North Platte Telegraph
NORTH PLATTE - Tawnie Stewart was a caseworker for the state Child Protective Service but left the organization when, she claims, she was told to lie in court about one of her cases.
"That's when I quit," said Stewart, a caseworker for Health and Human Services from 1996-97. "I didn't like anything about it. I was supposed to be working for these mothers to help them get their children back, but I was being told to work against them. I worked with a case plan supervisor who wasn't familiar with cases, but would tell me what to put in it. But the last straw was when I was told I would have to lie on the stand."
Now Stewart is working with a mother who is locked in a battle with the Nebraska Health and Human Service Department to get her children back.
May Lynn Branson, a mother of two children ages 8 and 9, is locked in a dispute to determine if a foster mother in Broken Bow should get guardianship of Branson's children - a decision that could determine if Branson is allowed to see her children in the future.
Branson is supposed to have nightly telephone calls to her children, but phone records indicate the calls are completed only about six times per month. Branson said she is told by the foster mother that she has cell phone issues in her area, yet a check with the phone company indicates full coverage where the foster mom lives. The cell phone company states that no such issues should exist.
When the calls do go through, the foster mother listens on speakerphone. In one recorded conversation, Branson is heard to ask, "You have me on speakerphone again?" at which time the foster mother's voice rings out, "If you don't like, we can cut you off."
Child Protective Services came into Branson's life after a bruise was spotted on one of the children's legs at school. Investigators showed up at her doorstep and Branson, who has a mental disability, agreed to cooperate with requests to temporarily hand over her children.
Stewart said this is a standard practice.
"That's where they get you," said Stewart. "That's their tactics. They are told to tell parents like May Lynn that if they cooperate, things will go better, if not they will file criminal charges. Most people would be afraid at that point and the voluntary cooperation sounds easier, but in fact, it's better if you force them to pursue criminal actions. That way, they at least have to prove what they are saying. Otherwise, they can do what they want."
Workers trained to pressure parents, says whistleblower
Stewart said as part of her initial training, she was told, "Parents don't know their rights and you should take advantage of that by walking all over them," she said.
The Telegraph contacted the Health and Human Services Communications and Legislative Services Director Kathie Osterman for a response to Branson's case. Osterman was provided with these same details and after saying HHS would respond to what they could, did not meet a one-week deadline to provide a response.
Like Brandi Knutson's case (detailed in Saturday's story on the front page of the Telegraph), Branson was given a case plan to follow, but each time the goals of the case plan were met, the goals were changed, according to copies of the case plans. Branson has dealt with 10 different caseworkers over the last several months.
The children too have had a lack of stability, living with different foster families in different cities.
The final case plan written by Branson's current caseworker in December states, "Fair progress is being made to alleviate the causes of out-of-home placement."
Yet in the next paragraph, the caseworker recommends adoption.
Branson admits she needs to improve her living conditions. She said she is making progress with Stewart's help. She wants an opportunity to reunite with her daughters and fears a decision that could take them from her life until they turn 18.
Stewart has offered to become a guardian for the children and wants Branson to live with her and her husband. Branson's outcome will be determined by the court, but whether she has custody or not is the issue for Stewart, who said Branson certainly hasn't done anything to lose a relationship with her children.
"I've known these kids and May Lynn for a long time," said Stewart. "I have a relationship with all of them. She doesn't deserve to not have a relationship with her children. This has to stop. She hasn't done anything to deserve to have those ties to her children broken."
NOTES: All of the above was copied from The Lexington Clipper Herald article posted [here] from a link on Yahoo News, which I found here. I am sharing this article by posting it unaltered based on that permission to share is presumed because of the 9 buttons provided on the page and the 1 email link offering even easier methods to share it with. Anything posted below this a statement is from me and it is mine. I do not offer full sharing privileges for my own writing. You may share this page to be viewed by any method you desire as long as it is either on this page and viewed in its entirety or if it is emailed in full body context, with nothing added to or removed from this text portion. You may not break apart or separate any portion of this to assemble into another text body for any reason without prior authorization being granted from me before doing so.
This is not me gloating or bragging that what I have been saying to has finally come out to light. I actually would have preferred that the situation had never come to the point that the D.H.H.S. or our local government or our legal system would feel the need to deceive us or manipulate our families using our children and with slander and with lies.
I'm sure that there was no great grandfather who planed for things to come to this by starting a political policy agenda generations ago. I am saying though that it has come to this and it did start generations ago. Part of the evolution process of any society is the ability to separate from the wrongs within it, to address that that needs to be dealt with as no longer working or as has been abused to the point that it now is causing us harm. I am very sure that the core of the regulations began with noble intentions and that at the time they were a step in the right direction towards helping families find help, but then came the feeding frenzy. What was once good and designed to provide for those in actual need of was now being used by those with no need for it and those people sought ways to bring those policies further toward their desires to the point that they had begun now to use that safety net designed to help those in need instead into a trap that they now had full control of and now through their molestation of the process it has become a burden to all, including them. That is why I believe that they now feel that they must defend their tactics and usage of these policies with lies and corruption.
I am not happy over have seen any aspect of this because to me and in my head this too is a weight. I have the impulse to look away and ignore all of the traps and scandals, but I also have the God given responsibilities to educate the next generation in the best way available to me. In attempting to do so I am not allowed to simply look away, odd thing too is I am also not allowed to fight it. Any capitulation or involvement in these affairs would make me a willing partner to it in one form or another and guilt is non-proportional, there is no slightly gray area. If you have been a part of something, you yourself have chosen to become a part of a whole, in doing that you share the guilt of every other consenting partner to it. All I can do is teach from it, use the reflection of it as an example of it's function and the cause of it's outcome, with the hope that someone will be less inclined to play a future part in this kind of B.S. later on and eventually the situation will become exposed enough to the point that those who listened and learned will now have a say in a new beginning and an end to the old.
I know I was rambling, that's just me I guess.
Anyway, I have been sharing on this subject for about 6 years now in specific to The State of Nebraska, call it 32+ years if you want to include other related area's like The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I began my challenges with the birth of my son David King Rice around and about the year 1979 in a court battle seeking only visitation privileges with him, but through the lies and manipulations of the legal system and Department of Welfare System in Massachusetts I had to learn how to fight back against the Probate Court and the Social Workers and found no help in doing so. After being threatened with jail and other methods of discouragements I continued to fight to see my son and in the end I won full custody of him from both the Welfare System and his mother. The results of this were that I was the very first father to gain custody of a child out of wedlock in that state and following that court case tens of thousands of other fathers followed suit and based on my results received parental sharing rights that before my case were not even considered an option.
The reason I shared that with you is not as you would think it was intended. I also wanted to point out that during this whole process I was offered to join up with the already pending legal proceedings and work with them within that system of functioning reasonment. I opted out of that 100%, I told them that I would have no part in their priorly influenced actions, that this was my action to and not my reaction to anything they had already initiated. Still they offered and asked and pleaded, even to the point that they offered me a winning side of their situation. I laughed and told them to keep their stuff, because they owned it. After saying that I proved it too and that is how I think things need to be done. Meeting anything half way is also accepting half of the responsibilities for the situation. Accept None, unless you want to yourself become one within it.
For 6 years here in Nebraska I have shared a few things on here about the D.H.H.S. and policies. Here are some other links for you to look at if you are interested...
After looking at the others, I decided that they are not related directly, but look around because there are others on here somewhere that are...