Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Logo
On an August afternoon in 2008, Hickman County, TN resident Robert Andrews was working on a trailer in his yard when two deputy sheriffs pulled up in front of his house, along with three caseworkers from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. They approached Mr. Andrews and asked permission to go inside his home. They did not have any kind of warrant or court order, so Andrews told them they did not have permission to enter his home.
Despite his refusal, all three caseworkers and one of the deputies entered the home and searched the place. They also took each of his four children aside for interviews out of his earshot. Then the officials left. Neither Andrews nor his wife, Patti, was ever accused of a crime in connection with the visit. They were not afforded the opportunity to contact a lawyer or have a lawyer present for the interrogations of the children. At no time before or since that incident was any member of the Andrews family ever accused of any crime in connection with that visit.
In March 2002, a police officer in Cuyahoga County, Ohio kicked in Nancy Kovacic’s door, allowing caseworkers to enter her home and seize her two children. The children were placed in foster care, where they stayed 10 months. There were no criminal charges of any kind against Nancy Kovacic. Her attorney, Jay Crook, told reporters, “Caseworkers can’t just make a judgment call and say, ‘Well, I don’t like this, and with the power of the state, I’m taking these children,’ “
The children are now grown and were part of the lawsuit. They report being abused while in foster care. They have been in therapy for several years due to the trauma of being removed from their mother. Mr. Crook added, “Without that neutral arbiter, that magistrate, that judge; even over the phone, you have lost all your due process safeguards.”
Those events at the Andrews home led to a lawsuit against the caseworkers. There was also a similar lawsuit from another family in Ohio. Both cases ended up in front of the Sixth Circuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit used the cases to specify that caseworkers, like police, are agents of the State, and therefore controlled by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. This is the first time a Federal appeals court has specified that caseworkers from children’s services departments must abide by the Constitution.
More over the flip, including the full text of both Sixth Circuit decisions.
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