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Sacramento CPS says bias against birth mother may have contributed to foster child’s abuse

Bias against the birth mother of Amariana Crenshaw led Sacramento County Child Protective Services workers to “discount” her concerns that Amariana was being abused in her foster home, according to an internal review released by CPS Thursday.

Amariana was taken from her parents, only to die under mysterious circumstances in a foster home with a long history of serious problems.

That is the lead that should have begun the Sacramento Bee’s story today about the release of CPS’ internal investigation into Amariana’s death.

But that would contradict the birth parent-bashing “master narrative” that has dominated child welfare coverage in the Bee (as is discussed in this previous post). So not only is this not the lead, this information does not appear in the Bee’s story at all.

Nor is there a link to the full report on the Bee website. So I requested the report from Sacramento County CPS, which promptly provided it. Since the Bee failed to do it, I’ve now posted the report on the NCCPR website.

According to Finding #5:

Evident in this review was the belief that all reports of alleged maltreatment [of Amariana while in foster care] emanated from the mother and were driven not by her concern for her children, but by her anger at Ms. Dossman [the foster mother].
• Numerous allegations appear to have been discounted based upon a bias in favor of the foster parent and against the credibility of the reporting party.
• This bias also contributed to unresolved discrepancies in findings among oversight agencies which were further exacerbated by a lack of inter-agency communication.

Since the bias within the agency is so similar to the bias in the Bee newsroom, Finding #5 never made it into the Bee’s story. So give CPS credit for this much: Unlike the Bee, at least in this one case, CPS acknowledged the bias.

But CPS failed to acknowledge that the bias permeates Sacramento County child welfare. And that may explain why none of the “Action Items” in the report addresses this problem. Instead, the solutions tend to be bureaucratic, involving more forms to fill out, more boxes to check off on each form and more “consultation” and “coordination.”

The paperwork is not meaningless. The solutions do, in fact, make sense – and if they could be implemented successfully they would help a little around the edges.

But in the real world of Sacramento County child welfare, they will increase the workload for frontline staff who already lack the time to do their jobs. And that, of course, is because Sacramento County, the child removal capital of California, overloads its workers with false allegations, trivial cases and children who never needed to be taken away in the first place. This also tempts workers to overcrowd foster homes and lower standards for foster parents.

That is the elephant in the room, and CPS’ review of Amariana’s death pretends it isn’t there. There are no recommendations to deal with the problem of wrongful removal, which drives everything else.

So what will cause the next tragedy? Quite possibly some overwhelmed caseworker who didn’t do everything she was supposed to do – because she was too busy complying with one of the new procedures put in place in response to this tragedy.

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