We, the undersigned, are against child abuse and neglect and believe our children should be protected.
However, there are increased numbers of false allegations of abuse and/or neglect being lodged against good, fit, caring mothers and children are being unjustly removed from their custody and placed in the Foster Care system. Anyone with a grudge such as a bitter ex-spouse or an angry neighbor, can make a false allegation of abuse/neglect to Child Protective Services with no fear of reprisal under our current laws.
Single, low-income mothers are "soft targets" as they cannot afford to privately retain good legal representation to adequately defend them against these false allegations and are often legally underserved by public defenders. Homes are broken up, families destroyed, and children are placed in the foster care system where statistics indicate children are ten times more likely to be at risk of abuse than in their natural family homes.
There is an increase in abusive fathers who are using Child Protective Services as a weapon in child custody wars by lodging false allegations of abuse/neglect about their former spouses (victims) to Child Protective System in order to gain custody of the children to "punish" their former victims, to negate their financial obligations, and/or to coerce their former victims into returning to the batterer in order to be able to be with their children.
The social service agencies that take these children are corrupt and unjust in their dealings with families. Constitutional violations and denials of due process are common. There are financial incentives for taking the children into foster care for the state and children are being taken unjustly on false, or trivial and exaggerated allegations.
There are areas, in West Virginia as well as throughout the United States, where Domestic Violence and Abuse is still treated as a "dirty little secret" and/or is not acknowledged/treated with the seriousness it deserves. The presumption in West Virginia of "equal parenting" where each parent have an equal chance of gaining custody is harming women and children particularly in cases involving Domestic Violence and Abuse. Typically the Batterer earns far more than their former victims do, and can therefore afford much better legal representation which puts the victims at a very serious disadvantage from the start. Please see http://www.lundybancroft.com/pages/articles_sub/CUSTODY.htm UNDERSTANDING THE BATTERER IN CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES by R. Lundy Bancroft. Other extremely relevant articles involving these issues can be found on http://www.lundybancroft.com/pages/articles.html .
The children who are being unjustly, unnecessarily, and severely traumatized by being taken and placed in the foster care system and subjected to abuse again by being placed with their abusive fathers are not just someone else's problem. These children, if they survive, are our future, will be members of our society and will have an impact on our society, and we will have to deal with these children in the future.
Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse may contact West Virginia Legal Services, if they become aware of that agency, only to find that legal representation will not be provided for issues involving custody, visitation, or child support.
An extremely good solution to some of these problems and for the protection of children is through PREVENTION. Clearly funding must be allocated to legal service agencies to provide good legal representation for low income persons for matters of child custody, visitation, and child support disputes, particularly in cases where Domestic Violence and Abuse are involved and extremely good legal services are a necessity for false allegations of child abuse/neglect.
Our social services agencies must begin to be held accountable, and the practice of violating low-income person's constutional rights and ignoring family preservation measures must end.
Please let us know how you can help us to protect our children.
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