February 25th, 2008
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Categories: Abuse

In a previous blog,I was asked to explain about what happens after an abuse allegation.

Well, it does depend on the ruling.

Here in Wisconsin, there can be three different rulings.

Unsubstantiated, which is what ours was. This is supposed to mean that the parents have a clean record. Our legal record is clear, but the previous worker handling Sammy’s case was very adamant that we were guilty, regardless of what the ruling was, and has used to this to try and block our adoption of Hannah, but I’ll get to that later.

Unsubstantiated but likely to have occurred. This means that there was the suspicion that abuse occurred but could not be proven in a court of law. This is not SUPPOSED to have any effect on a parent or their ability to gain a job in the child care field, but we all know it does.

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Substantiated, which means that abuse was proven. This is the only one that can legally prevent anyone from getting a job in a child oriented field or from adopting again. Depending on whether or not there were legal charges filed, this may or may not show up on a criminal record. In our case we were being charged in family court, not criminal court. If you pull up my legal history, none of it shows up.

However, even if you are not criminally charged and the abuse is substantiated, it will show up on your “court record.” This is somewhat new. Many states are putting their court records out on the internet. This allows you to see any time a person has been to court or “charged” with something, even if it is not a criminal case. It shows everything from speeding tickets, to foreclosures, to all criminal offenses.

Here is how it will appear on the court website (depending on your state’s website of course)

Count No. Statute Description Severity Disposition
1 948.21(1) Neglecting a Child Misd. A Guilty / No Contest

This record is available for all employers, or the general public to access.

If you pull up my record, you will not see anything because it was handled in family court, and family court records are closed, plus we were ruled unsubstantiated. The person above was actually found guilty of neglect.

Now, to how our investigation affected us even though our ruling was unsubstantiated. As I said, Sammy’s previous worker did not like me, and did not think we should ever have another child in our home, and we had already been approved to adopt from foster care again. She worked quite hard to prevent Hannah from coming to our home. We had two different adoption agencies call to ask for references and clearance. We could not use our approved home study because Hannah is considered a private adoption. This worker blatantly told the agencies that we had been investigated, that it was ruled substantiated but then reversed on a technicality. This is simply not true, but this is what she told the agency, so the agencies refused to even come out and meet us.

Hannah is still not actually adopted, but hopefully things will be going through shortly. We have talked with Sammy’s new worker and he is not going to oppose our adoption. He has seen that Sammy’s issues are not a result of bad parenting, which was the opinion of the previous worker.

What this all boils down to is that a finding of unsubstantiated SHOULD NOT affect you in the future, but it is always the ugly elephant in the room. I am now very upfront with people that might pull my record, such as adoption agencies, and tell them that we have been through an abuse investigation so they are not surprised by what they may find, or what another worker may tell them. So, in some respects, I do still wear that scarlet A.

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2 Responses to “After effects of abuse allegations”

  1. MamaS says:

    Thank you Kelly.
    It is much the same here in Georgia. I saw two good foster/adopt homes torn apart when preteen foster children claimed “abuse” and all children were pulled from the home during the DCS investigations. When the dust settled the preteens were moved (which is what they wanted) but the baby boys who WERE to be adopted by their foster families were not returned. Instead they were given for adoption to the families where they had been placed during the investigation. One family moved to another state and adopted. The other was eventually able to adopt but it was SIX YEARS before they got an adoption placement from DCS.
    As a school counselor for 30 years I probably made over 500 referrals. I was a mandated reporter and if any child who came to me and alleged any abuse I HAD TO report it. I hope what I did helped children. But I KNOW that in at least ten cases the allegation was a flat lie (out of spite or anger) and by the time it was proved untrue marriages had disrupted, families were divided and careers were damaged. I have been told “1 out of 50″ isnn’t bad, but it WAS bad for them.
    I would NEVER say “Don’t report”. Any allegation of abuse MUST BE reported. But I do urge everyone to think about the families — even where there is guilt, there are some innocent parties who are going to be hurt.

  2. xxsurroundedbyxy says:

    Kelly~
    Thank you so much for telling more of your story and clarifying things for me. I have not had those experiences nor have the people I know that were investigated. But like everything else in fostering, I guess each place/state is different. I certainly don’t want anyone considering fostering to be scared away but they need to know the possibilities I suppose. Thank you MamaS for trying to get the word out.

    Kim

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