An Arizona judge’s order was all it took for a SWAT team to enter a private Chandler home in March, take a child and deliver that child into the custody of the Department of Child Safety (DCS).
The raid is an example of something that has come to be known as “medical kidnapping,” which has raised eyebrows nationally but seems to be especially prevalent in Arizona.
Medical kidnapping is the phenomenon of the state taking children away from their parents and putting them into foster care, “simply because the parents did not agree with a doctor regarding their prescribed medical treatment for the family,” according to the book, “Medical Kidnapping: A Threat to Every American Today.”
Members of the group Arizona DCS Oversight Group (ADOG), a watchdog of Arizona’s DCS, say the SWAT team raid is one of many in which Arizona DCS “legally kidnaps,” or takes children for no good reason.
Worse yet, federal funding streams may be motivating these child renditions.
The most notorious case of alleged medical kidnapping nationally involved Justina Pelletier, who had a rare mitochondrial disease. When doctors at one hospital determined it was psychosomatic, her parents tried to send her to a different hospital. The first hospital called in Massachusetts Department of Child Welfare case workers, and a judge’s order kept Pelletier away from her parents for 16 months.
The most notorious case of medical kidnapping in Arizona was Melissa Diegel.
Diegel was accused of something very similar to Munchhausen by proxy, a condition in which a caregiver makes up, or causes “an illness or injury in a person under his or her care, such as a child, an elderly adult, or a person who has a disability,” according to the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
Except she didn’t have Munchausen, said Sherwyn.
Diegel told The Daily Caller that she has not seen her two children since 2016; she said she has spoken to numerous parents who have had their children taken in similar fashion by Arizona DCS.
The potential to use of Munchausen by proxy as legal leverage may be a national phenomenon. In California, attorney Shawn McMillan has won multiple lawsuits after child welfare in California took children illegally, accusing the mother of Munchausen.
The Funding Streams
Arizona stands out as especially bad when it comes to this sort of child snatching, but the funding streams that incentivize it are a national problem, said Connie Reguli, a Tennessee attorney noted for taking on Child Protective Services (CPS), in an interview with the Caller.
She said the problem started in 1974 with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), a brainchild of Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter’s vice president.
CAPTA is primarily controlled with funds from Social Security Title IV (parts B and E). Social Security Title IV provides grants to states for aid to dependent children. Title IV E provides incentives to place and keep kids in foster homes, while Title IV B provides funds for family reunification.
Reguli said that the problem is that Title IV E incentives dwarf Title IV B, by about an order of magnitude, she said. This creates an incentive to snatch kids.
She said another problem is the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which provides extra financial incentives for kids in foster care to then be adopted out.
This amounts to “double dipping,” according to Nancy Schaefer, the former Georgia Republican State Senator who in 2008 produced “The Corrupt Business of CPS.”
“There is funding for foster care then when a child is placed with a new family, then ‘adoption bonus funds’ are available,” Schaefer said. “Tax dollars are being used to keep this gigantic system afloat, yet the victims, parents, grandparents, guardians and especially the children, are charged for the system’s services.”
Both ASFA and the Social Security Title IV funding were introduced during the Presidency of Bill Clinton.
After several high-profile incidents, then Republican Governor Jan Brewer shut down Arizona CPS in 2014.
At the time, Arizona CPS was an agency within Department of Economic Security; Brewer created the Department of Child Safety, with a cabinet level head.
Still, the Arizona foster system reached an all-time high of 19,044 children in 2016, according to Darren DaRonco, a public information officer for Arizona DCS, in correspondence with The Daily Caller.
Martin Lynch, a member of ADOG, estimates that ninety percent of Arizona children in foster care are there unnecessarily.
Things got so bad that a record number of kids were sleeping in Arizona DCS offices, according to a 2015 story.
DaRonco said many things have improved since 2014. There are currently less than 14,000 children in foster care. Backlogs, caseloads, and hold times at the child abuse hotline, were all reduced since 2014.
DaRonco provided eleven improvements since 2014.
No Separation of Powers, No Accountability
Members of ADOG don’t buy the idea that things have improved, describing an incestuous relationship between the judiciary and the legislative branch, partnering with Arizona DCS to snatch kids as they chase ASFA and Title IV funds.
Sherwyn noted that every DCS placement required the rubber stamp of a judicial order.
“Juvenile Courts are run without due process. CPS presents 25 blank termination orders to a corrupt judge who promptly gives them the rubber stamp and says ‘see you tomorrow,’” Lynch said in an email.
In another notorious Arizona case, Devani was almost two years old when she was first placed in foster care with a man who ran a porn ring. After that, she was adopted by a woman who burnt eighty percent of her body with scalding water.
All the while, DCS was ignoring evidence provided by the birth mother.
The Arizona Judicial Council
On its website the Arizona Judicial Council (AJC) appears harmless, calling itself, “a policy-making body that oversees the judicial system in Arizona.”
It is also a registered lobbyist with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.
Aaron Nash, the communications director for the Arizona Supreme Court, said the AJC registered as a lobbyist only because they provide background information on the possible effects of proposed bills to the legislature.
Members of ADOG say it does far more than that.
Most recently, the AJC has been pushing a proposed bill which would give court security police power, Arizona bill SB 1064.
“Judges have great security now. SB1064 creates ‘peace officers’ with unlimited powers and authority to operate anywhere as ordered by Judges. It also allows the Courts access to any records they request. This would enable them to identify and then arrest political opponents and their friends, breaking down doors in the middle of the night,” Lynch said in an email to legislators.
While Nash acknowledged this is lobbying activity, he disagreed with the characterization of AJC as a lobbying group.
“The AJC includes court representatives and public members. Their work is conducted in public meetings and related materials are available online. The AJC can request legislative changes that are needed to carry out its directive of implementing policies and procedures and coordinating court services. The AJC votes on whether to support, oppose, or take no action on legislative proposals,” Nash said.
State Senator Kate Brophy-McGee
The judiciary and Arizona DCS have an ally in Republican State Senator Kate Brophy-McGee, the Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, say members of ADOG.
As chair, Brophy-McGee, “is in charge of all of the DCS related legislature,” Sherwyn said
One bill which Brophy-McGee sponsored is SB 1238, which reduces the standards for foster kids to graduate high school; a way, said Sherwyn, to manipulate graduation rates for foster kids.
Sherwyn also provided a recording of a conversation between the two in which Brophy-McGee said, “Judge Quigley asked if I would offer it, I did.”
Judge Quigley is Judge Kathleen Quigley, the presiding judge of the juvenile division of Puma County. Judge Quigley wrote the bill, which Brophy-McGee sponsored.
Sherwyn spends much of the rest of the conversation arguing that this relationship — Quigley writing a bill which Brophy-McGee sponsors — violates the separation of powers, an argument Brophy-McGee does not address.
Brophy-McGee helped pass Angel’s Law, which required a full background check of everyone living in the home, before kids are placed back with their parents, adding a layer of bureaucracy before reunification.
Brophy-McGee has also appropriated money to Arizona DCS. With SB 1306, she appropriated $5,000,000 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) monies to DCS for, “the costs for temporary assistance to needy families provided to kinship foster care parents,” according to the bill’s text.
TANF, also created under President Clinton, is supposed to provide financial aid to poor families. It’s not clear why foster care received those funds.
Sherwyn said that she worries these funds may be perverted and used to remove children from poor families.
Brophy-McGee did not respond to an email and phone message for comment.
SB 1539 would keep some kids in foster care until they are 21; while the bill states it is only in voluntary cases, Sherwyn said she worries this will keep kids in the system so abused by foster care that they have no better option.
Brophy-McGee has also blocked bills meant to curb judicial power.
SB 1294 would grant jury trials upon request by the parents in these cases. That bill, which was introduced in January, has languished on Brophy-McGee’s HHS Committee where it has not been scheduled for a hearing or a vote. Lynch said the AJC also opposed SB 1294.