More than 9,000 reports of child abuse and neglect were recorded for Lubbock last year. But we found out by looking at the 2006 data book that over half of those cases, 5,300 of them, were ruled as unconfirmed cases. That means staff either couldn't find enough evidence a child was in danger or that staff was unable to complete its investigation. Could that mean there are children falling through the cracks of the system?
Four-year-old David loves to do a lot of things. He loves to show off his truck, play with Matchbox cars and thinks goldfish are pretty interesting. But beneath his smile, you would never know he is a little boy caught up in a system his grandparents feel is failing him.
"Every child deserves to be raised in a good and decent home," said Melinda Raymer, David's Step-Grandmother.
Melinda and Ronnie Raymer have custody of their grandson. They have spent most of their time and money in and out of the court system. They were hoping CPS could help them, but Melinda says it is only adding to her frustration.
"I'm a little concerned about some discrepancies that we've come across since then," said Melinda.
Two years ago, Melinda made a report to CPS about the filthy living conditions at David's parent's house in Littlefield. A Littlefield caseworker was assigned and found the risk at the house to have a, "significant history but all cases have been ruled out." But another report in Lubbock said something completely different.
"The Lubbock case states, two different places in there we found where they said there were risk factors for the children to be at home and there was a risk factor with him not having supervision, that it was neglectful," said Melinda, "But at the end of the report it says no risk factors assessed. To me, that's confusing," she added.
To add to the confusion, Melinda's Littlefield caseworker would not be testifying at a scheduled court hearing. Last year, David was attacked by his parents' pit bull. He still has the eight staples in his head where the dog bit him. Melinda wanted David's visits to his parent's house changed to supervised visits to Lubbock. But the caseworker who had been employed with the agency 14 years no longer works for CPS.
"We asked what happens now because that was very vital to our case. She said, well, I don't know. They're having another caseworker look at it. They haven't been able to find all the notes. That really threw us for a loop because it's like wait a minute, this is a government agency. Those notes should be accessible by anyone, her supervisor, anyone," said Melinda.
There are other cases like the Raymer's. "I think it's become more about the system," said a concerned foster parent, resulting in the same frustration.
"They aren't always truthful about the status of a child when you're asked to accept a child into your home," said this woman.
She is a foster parent for CPS ready to adopt her foster child. She requested we conceal her identity. She's upset with CPS because she was told her foster child would soon be available to adopt.
"(The) parental rights were just about to get terminated and we would get to immediately adopt. We kept seeing there were problems and why hasn't it happened yet? Then months later, it was if we never had the conversations about adopting that child," said the woman.
Now, she says her foster child may have to go back with his biological parents. That raises more questions for this woman.
"I know CPS's goal is reunification. That's what we were told during our training. But we never thought they would reunify when there are still questions of safety. What we're seeing is that this list of requirements they give parents to do doesn't have to be completed," she said.
Both families you've just heard from feel the system is not working for the best interest of the children. They're concerned if other families are being treated this way, a child is going to either get hurt or return to a home that is potentially dangerous.
"I know we're not the only case. I know that. I know they say they're overworked, but to us this is very important. One child that falls through the cracks is one too many," said Melinda.
CPS spokesman Greg Cunningham says they know they're not perfect and they make mistakes. But while CPS is trying to continue improving the system, they want to hear from people having difficulty with the system. Call the Offices of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-720-7777. You can also make (online) complaints.
NewsChannel 11 called Representative Carl Isett's office and found out the entire Department of Family Protective Services is up for a review in two years. That is a time when state lawmakers take every complaint they receive and decide if the department needs to be revamped.
If you feel like your complaint is serious and CPS is not listening to your concerns, call your state representatives.
KCBD viewers have also called us to complain about the Report Abuse Hotline availability.
CPS says they have 282 people answering phone calls. In April 2006, they answered 38,430 calls to the hotline. This April, the calls significantly increased to 46,788.
CPS says they have asked for 92 more positions to help with the answering calls. They say the average waiting time is 12.4 minutes. Their busiest hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is a 24-hour hotline.
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