Nov. 5, 2012
To the editor:
Why is it you cannot talk to five people in this town without encountering someone involved with the state Office of Children’s Services, either indirectly or who has had their children taken from them? Without divulging private information, I can say I’ve sat in on adjudication hearings and permanency hearings, and have seen OCS officials violate a judge’s order immediately after it was issued. I’ve known families who were excluded from meetings or not even notified of court hearings where it was ultimately decided to pursue custody of children by the state.
I’ve known parents and foster parents who cannot get phone calls returned by OCS. I myself once called a caseworker in January, only for the voicemail to inform me that said caseworker would not be returning to the office until November of the previous year. One caseworker even showed up for a home visit with a hickey visible on her neck. When I addressed a complaint to OCS personally, a complaint that was supposed to be addressed within three days, I didn’t get a call back for two weeks.
The OCS office in Fairbanks even ignores state laws that call for reasonable measures to place siblings together in foster care. It will not grant parents regularly scheduled visitation with their children. In one instance I know of, a veteran caseworker was caught misreading a urine analysis as positive — it was later proven negative by the accused party. Go ahead, ask five people you know, and you’re likely to find at least one who has had involvement with OCS.
Undoubtedly, there are cases of abuse and neglect that call for OCS intervention, but even in those cases all parties should be kept informed of and involved in the process. And then there are cases where OCS has undeniably overstepped its bounds, taking children from parents who had already placed their children safely with family. The way OCS performs its duty leaves you the impression that its objective is a sneaky one aimed at preserving the same bottom line corporations have to, and not its stated objective of reunifying families.