Arkansas DCFS in Sebastian County, AR

The news source, "The City Wire" published the story below. It seems that Arkansas DCFS has been allowed, once again, to justify working in their "shade of gray" that is above the law and under the radar of public knowledge. Thank you, Sebastian County CASA for bringing this to our attention. Dia Sawyer

CASA alleges state workers ‘misappropriated’ Christmas gifts for children


Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) officials in Sebastian County and Arkansas are angry about Christmas gifts they purchased for children being allegedly “misappropriated” by state employees of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

Late Wednesday (Jan. 5) afternoon, The City Wire received an e-mail documenting the allegations and demands by CASA officials to correct the situation.

CASA is a volunteer program created in 1977 to ensure that abused and neglected children have a voice in court. CASA volunteer advocates search for information, review records, and talk with parents, relatives, teachers, health care workers, and the child whose case they are assigned. They identify needed services, available resources and placement options. It doesn’t just stop there. They monitor the court-ordered services to see that they are carried out in a timely manner. They must also appear in court at each hearing with a report outlining concerns and recommendations to help the judge make decisions in the best interest of the child.

On Jan. 4, Sebastian County CASA Executive Director Glenda Evans learned that some CASA children did not receive all the gifts that volunteers purchased and trusted that DCFS — a department of the Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services — would deliver.

When Evans asked DCFS employee Tonya Prickett about the gifts that weren’t delivered, Prickett provided this response: “It ended up going to another child in need. We did not feel that this was a gift that was appropriate for him in his current placement.”

After receiving Prickett’s response, Evans noted in an e-mail to other CASA officials: “Keep in mind, my volunteers bought these gifts with their own money specifically for their CASA child. And we did check with their placements to make sure they were ok with it and they were. DHS wanted us to bring all our presents to them unwrapped, where they could be ‘logged in.’ I am livid! We have been doing this for years, but this is the first time I actually checked on it.”

Evans wouldn’t comment on the situation, but did refer The City Wire to Julian Holloway, director of the Arkansas State CASA Association. Holloway confirmed that information in the e-mail received by The City Wire was accurate, but said she is waiting on a response from DCFS before commenting. Holloway advised The City Wire to call to DCFS Director Cecile Blucker. Around 4:15 p.m., a receptionist in Blucker’s office said Blucker was on the phone but would return the call before the end of the working day. Blucker did not call. (The City Wire will update this story or post a second story when and if Blucker returns the call and explains the DHS and DCFS perspective on the issue.)

On Jan. 5, Holloway sent the following message to Blucker.
“Cecile, this is simply not acceptable.

“The CASA advocates from Sebastian County purchased gifts for the children they advocate for, with their own money. They checked with the placements, who determined that the gifts the children asked for were acceptable and they were deemed appropriate.

“It is unclear to me how and why your staff would make the decision that a gift purchased for a particular kid with someone else's money, was ‘inappropriate in his current placement,’ when it had already been cleared with the placement.

“Upon reviewing DHS policy, I find no language which indicates DCFS staff members may sift through gifts given to children in foster care, who may then determine whether the gift should end out ‘going to another child in need.’ Is this also the case with birthday gifts, or any other presents given to kids in care?

“At the very least, I would think your staff would consult with the CASAs on this decision.

“My expectation is that the CASA volunteers whose gifts were misappropriated will be reimbursed in full immediately. I will ask Glenda Evans to provide me a list of each gift purchased by the advocates and to whom each gift was supposed to go. My hope is that this isn't DCFS's normal practice and that the gifts purchased for specific children were given to those children. Should this be the case with other advocates' gifts, I will expect that they be fully reimbursed, as well.

“As a professional courtesy, I am advising you that unless there is immediate restitution and a reasonable explanation for this, CASA will file a formal complaint against those involved in this decision. Please also know I will be advising our programs to make other arrangements for distribution of gifts to children in foster care, as this, coupled with the recent misappropriation of Christmas gift cards by other DCFS staff, is terribly troubling.

“Please call me to discuss this.”

Evans’ note to local CASA volunteers noted: “I am not sure where these presents have gone to, but it seems that the gifts missing are the expensive ones. I can assure you that I will never send any sort of gift to dhs to deliver to our kids. I am so sorry this has happened and will continue to have the dept. make it right with our kids. I cannot imagine anything lower than taking away a Christmas present from our children that have nothing else.”


Dia said...

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Authentic Arkansan said...

Thank you for what you are doing. You and your family are in my prayers!

Tamara said...

As a former DCFS worker from Sebastian Co. who actually helped in the distribution of Christmas presents, I am appalled by this lack of responsibility these workers have shown. Shame on them!!

valerie said...

OMG with all their dirty work this doesn't surprise me at all