Failure to Protect
homelogan marrcaseworker fileschild policydiscussion
photo of logan marrphoto of maine dhs buildingphoto of brian being carried to the car
join the discussion: What are your views on the difficulties facing the child welfare system in determining the best interests of a child?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your program misses a few key points. The "Best Interest" standard that governs the actions against parents is extended by Judges who tend to err in favor of the state. It often becomes a situation where the burden of proof is placed upon loving parents to prove that something didn't happen and whose every word is discounted. The subject families are usually made up of uneducated persons of limited means. This scenario reeks of unfairness. Couple this with a solution of foster care where a child wil go from a situation where he or she has a blood, familial connection to a home that is unfamilier and is most likely lacking in love. In this whole process, the Constitution and the intent of our founding fathers is discarded. The family court system is out of control. The Supreme Court has a stated policy of not hearing family issues. These things are contributing to the total destruction of the American family. PBS should do a documentary on the disintegration of the American family keeping in mind that great societies can fall.

William Zahn
fort worth, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I sat down to watch tonights special with an open mind. Soon I found myself feeling angry at the state. Several things made me angry, the first being the lack of compassion that Mellissa ... showed when discussing and going about the process of removing Shirley's kids from her home. She showed no compassion, no concern for the feelings of those who might be involved. It doesn't matter whether the mother was guilty or not, that situation, all such situations demand some kind of compassion from the people in "power".

Shaley, on the other hand showed compassion. She questioned herself and worried about making the right decision. You could tell from her expression that she was worried about the consequences of her actions. People like Shaley are the kind of people who need to be making decisions related to the ripping apart of peoples homes (regardless of how unhealthy the home is).

As I continued to watch, my opinion about State of Maine DHS only got worse. It wasn't that the people shown deserved or did not deserve to keep their kids, it was how DHS went about it. Condescending and patronizing are two words that come to mind. I tried to imagine myself in a situation where DHS would come to my home to decide if I was fit enough to be a parent. My immediate reaction would be anger and insult. As soon as one of those social workers opened their mouth and started being judgemental and speaking down to me my anger would turn to rage. I'd give them all that they needed to prove what they already believed. I'm sure there are many situations where that is how things happen. I wonder how they'd respond if the roles were reversed. Perhaps they should try to imagine themselves in that situation before they take an action. I'm sure some do, but your program showed to me that many don't-it's just a job.

Here's the kicker! My wife works for DHS here in Maine(not in the capacity to be involved in removing children). We both sat through your program shaking our heads at the Maine system. Neither of us liked what we saw.

dexter, maine


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a caseworker in the foster care division of the 2nd largest county in the state. One point missed in this story is that child protection does not operate in a vacuum. Each time a child is removed from her home, the matter goes to court and must be reviewed by a Family Court judge. The child is represented by an attorney, as are the parents and the department. Due to confidentiality policies, Maine DSS could not respond to producers. None of this diminshes the tragedy of Logan's death, however what was presented should be taken with a grain of salt.

buffalo, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

What horrible crime did Christy Marr commit? The fact that she herself had a difficult childhood and no emotional or finacial support from family or friends did not prevent her from loving her children. Yes, she made poor choices but all that was needed was a compassionate, supportive case worker to help guide her to programmes and services while maintaining her dignity and self respect and for governments on all levels to adequately fund early years programmes.

st. catharines, ontario


Dear FRONTLINE,

Watching the show last night and reading the various transcripts of conversations with Sally makes me want to go into a thrashing rage just like Logan. Sally's trained jargon/ psycho-babble is totally enraging--her condescending talk of "choices" and "giving the words" and controlling Lindy's body parts is studied junk. I have kids around this age & it would drive them crazy(and rightfully so!)if I treated them like this. What Sally so clearly lacked & all of her training & little workshops could never give such a coarse person as her is empathy & sensitivity. Whereas, Christy, although clearly a mess, clearly had love & empathy for her daughters. It's too bad she didn't get the help her family needed.

Lindy Caramor

nyc, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

My husband and I sat shocked while watching the show last night. I know how the foster mother felt, I have been there and lived through all that she has. The system is a mess but until we address the fact that a high percentage of children in the system are facing attachment issue, we will continue to be in denial. Children no matter what the conditions are when removed from their home have attachment issues. Our nation does not want to open that can of worms. We want to sit back and look the other way. We are raising a nation full of children that are not attached!!!!!! We were foster parents and we have adopted three children. One of our children came from abusive backgrounds but was left with the mother for 4 years. The stage had been set! A child that does not attach by the age of 2 or 3 is at very high risk of never attaching in their life!!! That means these children grow up with no conscience. A child with no conscience can destroy a family. We easily could have been the foster parent in your program. The system needs to be fixed and parents need to be taught how to parent.


carl junction, mo


Dear FRONTLINE,

Iwas appalled to see Sally S.'s lack of compassion and understanding regarding Logan's "rages".It was so obvious the removal from her mother was the cause.Also apalling were the disapprovig nods and looks the supervisor gave Christy (during the supervised visits) regarding Christy talking to her child about the statements Logan made about Sally S. hurting her.Where was the follow-up about the allegations Logan made about Sally? Logan and Bailey should have NEVER been removed from their mother. Sally S. should have NEVER worked for DHS! Sally S. was more concerned about her baby being away from her than the fact that she killed Logan.

There needs to be a system that is nonthreatening to help mothers such as Christy.The only thing "wrong" with Christy is that she did not have the positive support system that she needed to raise her child. This is a sad testament to our society that we give a govt agency the right to remove a child from her mother rather than give the mother the tools and support she needs to do her best to raise her child. Raising a child is not always easy even under the best of circumstances.

Jackie Conner
snellville, ga


Dear FRONTLINE,

Everyone who was presumably in charge of Logan?s welfare was at fault here. All it would have taken was one competent adult and Logan would be alive. But she had no one competent to look out for her.

Birth mother, Christy, was obviously far too immature and had too many problems to be having a family when she did. Worse, there was no extended family of any substance to help Christy or Logan. It was selfish of Christy to have children under such circumstances and this is where she fell down in her responsibility to her children. Logan might be alive today if Christy had faced the truth about her inability to adequately care for her children and put them up for adoption in the first place.

The foster mother, Sally, was terribly wrong, too. Logan was clearly a difficult child and Sally just did not know what to do to help her. Sally tried to get help through counseling and through the case worker, but she didn?t get the help both she and Logan so desperately needed. Still, no effort on Sally's part can excuse her responsibility in Logan?s death. We may never know exactly what happened to Logan that day, but the evidence seems to show that Sally was at least extremely careless with regard to Logan?s welfare.

And the DHS, the multi-million dollar system that is designed to take care of children like Logan, was horribly wrong, too. A huge government bureaucracy cannot possibly attend to the needs of individuals, as we have seen again and again with government bureaucracies. Their policies are meant for large, general masses of people, not for troubled individuals like Logan who need special care. It is no surprise that the needs of an individual child were so hideously ignored that that child ended up dead. The surprise is that it doesn?t happen more often.

Government has no business nosing around in people?s personal lives. The DHS should be disbanded and American people should be allowed to work out, or suffer from, their own individual problems in their own individual ways. We don't need an incompetent "big brother" like the DHS looking over our shoulders, meddling in our lives and making our problems worse than they need to be.

Hillary Wilkes
los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

It hurts to hear about stories such as Logan. It hurts so much that crying is the only thing that helps console me. My siblings and I were once victimized by an abusive mother and over-protective father. I can remember acts of violence in the home when we were as young as 8 years old. The beatings, slaps in the face, pulling hair, punching, kicking and scratching my mother did to us was unbelievable. We went to school counselors who contacted CPS workers and we would ALWAYS end up back in the hands of an angrier parent. I have asked my self over the years, "Why does it HURT so bad?" Seeing Logan's story tonight only helped me to relive the pain I know she felt as she tried to speak out and was shunned. The State of Michigan has over 300 children missing from its foster care system. I have written letters to Michigan's state representative and leaders within the FIA & CPS services.

The response I got back totally avoided the situation and never once addressed the concerns in the letter. That is the PROBLEM, its easier to avoid the problem than to use your education,experience, and acquired professional knowledge to come to a resolution. The State of Michigan, like most other states has a serious problem of hiring state workers in CPS & Foster care services who are not qualified individuals.

A BSW, MSW, or degree in any field does not make a state worker. A state worker should possess the ability to demonstrate that he/she is equip to perform at a high level of achievement in doing social work at some point in their career. However, this is too often NOT the case. It is due to the lack of skilled, professional, and academically trained state workers that children and youth are slowly dying at the hand of angry parents & parental figures. How many more "Logan's" will have to become martyr's before something is done.

detroit, mi


Dear FRONTLINE,

As a child who grew up in an abousive home, I wonder where these people were when my Mother was beating me? Where were they when she threw me down two flights of stairs? where were they when she chocked me, and a neighbor had to make her stop? Where were they when she tried to drown me? I am sorry that a child died in the care of a foster parent, but I grew up with a sick set of parents to say the least, I could tell you stories that would make your hair go grey, and it was things done to me and brothers and sisters by our parents!! The system fails, and so do parents. One child was lost and thats one too many, but how many were saved from their parents? I wish that my parents had been caught in their crimes against their children, the abuse was so bad I called CPS myself at the age of 12. Nothing was ever done, my parents got out of it, but its sad that a child could or would call for help and not get any.

lewisville, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

I hardly know where to begin but Maines' Child Protection System sounds a lot like the one in Minnesota, specifically Goodhue County. Thanks to a certain Social Worker my abusive ex-husband was given sole legal and sole physical custody of my three sons. And at the time my ex-husband was on probation in connection with a charge of Malicious Punishment of a Child after he had beat my then 13 year old son! This happened 3 years ago. Since then all three boys have reported to Social Services that they have either been a victim of their fathers' abusive behavior or they have been a witness to it. Bruises, bumps, or the stories of the other brothers don't seem to make a bit of difference. I've always thought there has been something fishy going on here but have not able to contact the right people or organization to get the ball rollling and get to the bottom of this mess. I would love to hear from anyone who can give me some advice.


pine island, minnesota

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
You can contact either of the following organizations for help:

Children's Rights Inc.
Website: http://www.childrensrights.org/
Telephone: (212) 683-2210
Email: info@childrensrights.org

National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Website: http://www.nlada.org/
Telephone: (202) 452-0620
Email: info@nlada.org


Dear FRONTLINE,

As a case worker for my state, I have been reprimanded for trying to help 2 innocent children to remain with a family member. The state as well as the contractual foster care workers do not care about these children. They moved them from a loving home,to a crack infested neighborhood because they are vindictive. The children's aunt loves them, but because she did not do exactly as the would tell her, they punished the children by taking them illegally. I know about this case personally, because I have known this woman for over 20 years. You can probably go to every state and find these same horror stories. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of so many people. But, do you really think the case workers are going to do the same in front of your cameras, they have time limits on everything they do with these children and of course time is money! But, if this helps one child it will be worth it. Because of confidentiality and being a state employee I have been limited to what I can say or do. But, I feel in my heart these children are in danger. As so many others are.

detroit, mi


Dear FRONTLINE,

As a school teacher in the barrio neighborhoods of San Antonio, I have learned from experience many of the downfalls and shortcomings of the foster care system as well as the children who have felt the negative affects levied on them. I personally have spoken to foster parents who take children into their homes simply for the extra money it brings them. Even after reading one of your postings from a foster parent, the first thing I noticed in their response was the minimal amount of money they are given from the state in which they live that is provided for assistance with their foster children. Comments such as these should throw a "red flag" as to what the intentions of these foster parents are. In my view, foster parents should be bringing these unfortunate children into their homes because of their love of children and their concern for children of the world who are abused or neglected. The sad truth is that the number of these children vastly outnumber the families who wish to care for them out of the goodness of their hearts. This is why state human service departments have had to resort to offering financial incentives for foster parents. The sad thing is that the presence of these incentives creates a willingness in family homes to care for these children that would otherwise not exist if financial assistance is not offered. To me, this is a perpetuation of a system that does not consider the aspects of loving and caring these homes provide above all else. I don't have an answer to the many dichotomous problems these systems create; however, the death of even one child through problematic systems such as the one in Maine scream that something else needs to be done. I have learned in San Antonio that mandatory classes must be taken by candidates for foster parenting, but the sad truth is that I personally know of a number of foster families who have been allowed to care for children in their homes for months without ever having attended a single one of these classes because their is no accountability within the system. For the sake of Logan and the countless other children who have suffered or may possibly suffer in the future from a foster care system that is unquestionably lacking in its own responsibilities to parents and children who need help, please do something to improve upon these systems. These children deserve more than what is being done currently in what is supposed to be the most wonderful country on Earth.

John Witt
san antonio, texas


Dear FRONTLINE,

Your show brings to light the difficult choices that we as caseworkers must make every day. As a caseworker I must keep my supervisor intimately informed on my observations at each home visit. The choice to remove falls to the supervisors. There is nothing more difficult than to have to remove children from there parents.

I know in every removal that I have been a part of that the parent was well informed of why the removal was done and that they have the right to go in front of a judge within 72 hours to contest it. I have encouraged parents to fight for their children and to demand a hearing, yet not once have I had to go to trial.

Having said that, this show has made me more aware and conscious of my clients feelings and will make me a better caseworker for the child who is in need of help. The picture of Logan in the casket will stay with me on every home visit I do from now on. I will go to bed thinking not only of Logan but the 30 odd children that are currently on my caseload and what I can do to make sure their lives do not end the way Logan's did.

olean, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

There is not one state in this country that does not have a record of abuses by its Social Service Agencies. More money is not going to fix the problem. There has to be a completely different approach to dealing with children and families who need help. The President had the right idea when he decided to provide financial support for Christian organizations so that they can provide services for children and their families. Too many children are harmed and even killed while being dealt with by government agencies. Social Service Agencies have no one that they have to answer to, and when they get in a bind, just as the one in your story tonight, they fall back on the old protection of privacy routine. Tell me; whose privacy were they protecting after the child was dead? I hope your people who were going to follow the case workers around, spent some time in court, too. It is beyond belief what happens to children at the hands of our court systems, not to mention how their families are treated.

All the statistics on the abuse of children seem to point at family members -- where are the statistics about the abuse the suffer while under the care of the state?

Ann Toran
lakewood, ny

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