This week, seven year old Amber Nicklas was taken away from the only family she’s ever known by California police and placed back with the California Department of Children and Family Services. As someone who dealt with the California Department of Social Services’ Children and Family Services Division (CFS), while working in an organization for the homeless, all I can say is “God help Amber Nicklas”.
In fact, even though Amber Nicklas was kidnapped from a foster home at the age of only one year, it appears her life with her ‘fake parents’ was better than anything California CFS will ever be able to offer her.
The story starts when, at the age of one, Amber Nicklas was taken away from her grandmother and placed with CFS. A few months later, she was kidnapped by three teenage aunts from a foster care family she had been placed with. Amber disappeared and, even though two of the aunts were arrested, none of the three ever said where she was. Then this week, she turned up living with a Romanian couple in Phoenix. Amber knew the couple as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ and they called her Sandra. Police removed her from the couple’s care, and flew her back to California where she now remains in the custody of CFS.
As just about anyone knows who’s had any dealings with the California Children and Family Services (CFS) Division of the Department of Social Services will tell you, they are just about the most overworked, understaffed and inefficient agency in the industry. With tens of thousands of children going through the system every year, it’s just about impossible for CFS to track the care (or lack of care) each individual child is receiving, or follow up on the many reports of abuse. Mistakes happen all the time within the department. Children are not taken away from parents who are abusing them and taken away from parents who aren’t. Much of this happens simply because social workers don’t have the resources they need to help them do the job correctly.
In fact, the foster care system in California is so severely broken, most foster families are not getting the funding they’re supposed to, resulting in foster children not getting the care they need. There’s currently a lawsuit filed against CFS by a California non-profit, who is suing CFS for not providing sufficient funding for the care and shelter of foster children. The suit states there’s no way foster parents or group homes can give the children in their care what they need with the small amount of money they’re paid.This is the system Amber Nicklas has just been thrown back into.
Now, what sense does it make to take Amber Nicklas away from the only family she’s ever known? A family that was taking care of her (even police reports said she was happy and well taken care of) and that obviously loved her, and kick her back into a broken foster care system that will never give this child the care she needs. Even if fostered by another family, who does take care of her, Amber Nicklas’ short little life has already been uprooted and traumatized. Something she may never recover from. Take this from someone who’s seen first-hand how the foster care system works in California – it doesn’t work.
If it’s determined the Romanian family who was taking care of her had no part in the kidnapping, as they say they didn’t, Amber Nicklas would be better served by being returned to them to continue with her normal life. CFS can continue to monitor Amber and the family from there, to ensure she truly is being taken care of and loved. If Amber Nicklas was my child I’d choose that for her a thousand times over before I’d subject her to one more day in the ‘care’ of California’s Children and Family Services, because that kind of care is no care at all.
Lawsuit filed against California CFS – The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Police focus on couple who raised abducted girl – Yahoo News