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.

  • Richard Wexler

    Apologies for the error in the headline.

  • Casey Kirk

    Headline fixed. Thanks for your story Richard!

    Also, please feel free to email or call our office at 916-443-5403 should you need a headline error fixed or have any other questions in the future. We will try to take care of it as soon as possible.

  • Richard Wexler

    UPDATE: A later story in the Bee does include a brief mention of CPS’ bias against the birth mother – it gets two sentences in the 14th paragraph, far less space than the Bee devotes to congratulating itself for its reporting on the case. This story also includes a link to the full report.

  • Do you think that maybe in a future story they might report on the elephant in the room?

  • Richard Wexler

    Only if the Bee puts a new reporter on the child welfare beat.

  • Ken White

    On a related note, my bias against child protective services will cause me to believe any horrific thing said about them. No public relations campaign they may wage will ever change that.

    My grandmother ran a childcare service in Midtown Sacramento for so long that children she had once watched were then bringing their own new children to her for care.
    Of a set of twins, one (who had been to some regressive psycho therapy) believed my grandfather had molested her. Though her twin and her Mother both said it was impossible – and all earthly evidence proved otherwise (there was no such room in the house as she described, my grandfather was out of the country during the time she described) the CPS still pre-emptively shut down her business and ruined them financially over the course of 4 years of ridiculous deliberation.

    • Cps in Wisconsin (Waupaca County) has many issues like this this accused me of neglect of my 4 month old at the time and allowed a registered sex offender strip my little girl and illegally took her and the jude told me I had to shut up and I wasn’t allowed to talk and say anything. I was appointed an attorney who practiced legal malpractice and I’m still currently looking fo a lawyer to sue not only the cps agency but the county as well and the attorney.;

  • Richard Wexler

    Mr. White, I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to your family.

    You don’t say when this happened. But, as I’m sure you know, a wave of hysteria over supposed “mass molestation” usually said to have happened in day care centers, swept over the country from the early 1980s until the mid-1990s. Hundreds of lives were ruined, – not least the lives of very young children who were persuaded that they’d been abused when nothing had happened. It’s discussed in a chapter of my Book, Wounded Innocents, published in 1990 and updated in 1995.

    There were several such cases in California, in Kern County, San Diego, and the most notorious: The McMartin Preschool in Los Angeles.

    Ultimately, former Los Angeles Times media critic David Shaw won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories exposing the failure of media to view the allegations with more skepticism.

    But such lessons are quickly forgotten – including at the Los Angeles Times, not to mention the Sacramento Bee. Today, I can no longer simply say “McMartin” and expect a young reporter to know what I’m talking about.

    But I also have to disagree with you in one respect:

    My first post on these issues ( was followed by a spirited debate with a reader who also had a profound personal experience.

    But it was the opposite of yours. It became apparent that either he, or someone close to him, had suffered severe abuse at the hands of a parent or relative and CPS had failed to come to the rescue. As a result, he disagreed with everything I said, and no amount of data would persuade him. He said nothing was more important than personal experience.

    So even though your experience reinforces my point of view, I have to repeat here what I said to that other reader: The problem with personal experience is – it’s personal, and when anecdotes collide, it’s time to look at the data.

    I, too, will never believe a PR campaign from a CPS agency. But if, say, two years from now, using the same methodology I used in NCCPR’s California Rate of Removal Index (on our website here: I find that Sacramento County is taking away significantly fewer children, and the child safety indicators are the same or better – then I *will* believe things have gotten better.

    • Ken White

      Of course I understand, technically, that anecdotal evidence is just that – and I would not, as you say your former commenter did, rely merely on my personal experience.
      What I said was said in anger, and though I mean it (that no PR campaign of CPS would sway me) if you say the data trends well for them, I’m glad to hear it.
      The things that went on during that time (yes our case was early nineties) was an outrage.

  • Yes personal experience does cloud all of our lives perceptions. However, I do believe the one fact in this article, that personal bias against the parents of children removed by social workers and placed in foster care, clouds what should be warning signs for anyone who knows anything about children’s growth and development and changes in their personalities and behaviour. Unfortunately, I speak from another personal experience with Spaulding here in Michigan. My niece’s safety was compromised by the social worker. She ignored the mother’s, as well as another foster mother who heard the abusers conversations in the facility waiting room, concerns. The 2 year old is now safe, with “fictin” family, and returning to her old self. This is a BIG elephant and gets no recognition.

  • The simple reason for the bias is accountability. The CPS system will go to great lengths to cover themselves and document only what they want the public to see. The real parents (who love and fought to keep their kids) and often the children are labeled “not credible” over and over and if you can get a copy of their computer files, you will see the mountains of caseworker documents making the paper trail to substantiate the state’s case. They are as crafty as Satan himself!!!! This is happening to hundreds of thousands of children daily. This is the reason the Indian Child Welfare Act passed because of massive “unexplained” deaths, slavery, missing children and profiteering. The only difference now is the children are white, black or Hispanic. One thing for sure, the state and county do no like it when the parents picket on their weekly court day, when all the judges, DHS caseworkers and lawyers, and yes the parent counsel lawyers too, get together and take away children en masse. Try it in your county courthouse – that may end up in the paper or the local news.

  • I applaud Richard Wexler for his dedication and expert journalism on the issue of child protection. If only there were more like him. The press can be very instrumental in helping children and families but are often reluctant to get involved. The entire country has been indoctrinated by the child savers. They are an educated, affluent, well-funded group who have invented a cause that no one can resist. It feels good to save children and everyone wants to feel good and believe that children are safe. Who better to do that than an educated, affluent, well-funded group. On the flip side, the target of child abuse investigations is almost always those who can’t afford to defend themselves. I’d like to know the story behind that. Has child protection turned into a class struggle? I know that the upper class, for the most part, could care less about the lower class. I know that the lower class outnumber the upper class and always have historically, so there is probably a certain amount of fear of them on the part of the upper class. I know that the upper class feel sorry for the lower class and feel superior to them because they have more money and are bred to be achievement-oriented. I also know that the lower class, for the most part, strive to be hard-working, solid citizens who live pretty much the same as the upper class without all the frills and luxury. Down deep we are all the same people. Some people from the lower class will climb up into the upper class and some upper class people will fall. The notion that the lower class are all child abusers or potential child abusers in need of intervention and therapeutic services is so completely absurd that it defies comprehension. Therapy is a rich man’s luxury. It’s existentialism. It’s an interesting philosophy, but it’s not something the lower class is going to embrace. They believe in God and Country, Mom and Pop and apple pie. Salt of the earth. And the upper class want to fix that? Get a grip. To any person hoping to get into saving children I would say go out, travel the world, get a glimpse of real suffering in impoverished countries and then come back and help impoverished families here in America. To those who currently work in the child saving industry I would say you can’t save children who don’t need to be saved. You are only hurting them. It’s disrespectful, it’s arrogant and it needs to be stopped because it has escalated to the level of human rights abuse. Children are being murdered in state care. I would urge you all to call for an immediate moratorium of the child protective services industry and the immediate transfer of power to a branch of law enforcement skilled in the practice of forensic criminal investigations. That what child abuse is. A violent crime.

  • Ken White

    Toughenup makes a point I hadn’t considered with regard to CPS, shrouded as my judgement is by the fact that I hate them, a lot.
    This is the same problem I have with “hate crimes” legislation – there is no need to reclassify crimes into boutique, tendy new crimes. Simply prosecute the actual crime and make the punishment stick.

  • This is absolutely correct… While I am a Canadian, the same issues permeate across the border! Traveling with Protecting Canadian Children within the Province of Ontario last month, a theme became apparent as we met with various Executive Directors in differing locales: Each attempted to persuade that stringent measures are in place; a systematic reporting mechanism that ensures complaint is heard. However, what was evident – even to them – was the fact that when real life situations were exampled, there were no reasonable responses. In a perfect world, legislation on paper mayappear to function effectively, but in the REAL world, caseworkers are overworked… some biased, others outright negligent in duties. There is a circular deflection of accountaility and children simply do not have time to wait for an authority figure to be the one who says, “Yes, it is my obligation to take notice and act.” In reality, what occurs – my personal experience – one connects with a caseworker assigned to lodge concern…. IF one is able to move past the social-worker when an issue remains unsolved, it is taken to the next level, the caseworker’s supervisor and so on… Manager, Senior Operating Officer of Child Intervention, Senior Manager of Child Intervention Specialized Services, Senior Operating Officer of Community Initiatives, Information Officer, Ministers of Child & Youth Services, Minister of Justice, Lawyers, Law Society of the Province of Alberta, Edmonton Police Services, RCMP, Ombudsman, Premier, Governor General of Canada, various Advocacy groups, Metis Child & Family Services, Medical personnel, Superintendents and Staff from 3 different schools and transportation facilitators, Office of the Child Advocate and Chief Medical Examiner… because, by the time it took for all of these offices to point to another, my daughter died.

    Direct quote from the Regional Manager, Intervention Services and Supports, Edmonton and Area Region 6: “Can we advocate for you legally? We, the Department, can’t turn around and launch legal action. Care-giving, staffing, I have authority – whether it is a foster family – can we then advocate for you, I suspect not”. “We, the department, cannot turn around and launch legal action on behalf of you against a foster parent – kind of like an employee – I don’t think you can…” And, it is here that we, citizens, must unite to ensure that promises are adhered to. Duelty in consequences for cannot be tolerated; one law for all, not “us” and “them.”

  • Incidentally, another child was not even afforded an opportunity to see her case transferred amongst one entity to another because she died within 6 days of apprehension. Where concern for a child is voiced, there must be immediate response!

  • Niveen Ismail

    Reform Child Welfare! Please sign this White House Petition and share! 100,000 ultimately needed.


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