By Maureen Welch, Volunteer Activist
All Content is my own, protected under the
First Amendment of the Constitution
They simply do not want to believe it. I share real world experiences, from the community. For months, and for some boards, years, I keep coming back. No matter how unpleasant those "chosen" voting members make it, I return. Why? They are more committed to believing their version of "truth" than reality. My comments contradict their version of the truth, which is threatening.
Systems, like state government and their privatized sevice subcontractors- only want well behaved stakeholders who "know their place" and after voicing their concerns, they nod in agreement in group think and go away, to never return.
When stakeholders present information which threatens or questions the systems, they are are treated disrespectfully, scolded for sharing new information, and their time is cut short when others are allowed to go on for twenty minutes. Regardless of this patronizing, dismissive and discriminatory treatment, I will keep showing up and speaking out.
Yes, we need adult protective services to protect the most vulnerable. Sadly there are many real cases of abuse, neglect and exploitation. However there is a need for guardrails to avoid unintended consequences.
The content of my public comment threatens many, because I share reports from the community which trigger a defensive, emotional response because these challenge what they believe is the "truth".
My testimony is direct, an untethered independent voice with clear "asks" to increase process, transparency, accountability and justice.
I work with many, many families to voluntarily guide them, free of charge, to get what they need and to which they are entitled. This activism covers many silos: school systems, medicaid/waiver benefits, Social Security Administration, local mill levy funding and more recently, Adult Protective Services. Many comment that I am much more helpful than the paid people supposedly there to help.
My facts are based on my interactions with individuals and their families who live with disabilities. People trust me with their most disturbing experiences.
It continues to amaze me that few impacted members of the public participate, but after being treated poorly, I am reminded that most would not subject themselves to these negative experiences.
Ultimately, it threatens the status quo and people in positions of power prefer to dismiss us as "a couple of advocates" rather than care enough to welcome, listen and respond.
May 2018 State Board of Human Services
1. On May 4th, 2018, during the board meeting, State Board Member Bernie Buescher, waged an attack and criticism of my Newsletter that compared Adult Protective Services operations as "Gestapo like". His feeling of being offended was more important to share than the violations of rights of the At Risk Adults that I highlighted.
2. During this same May State Board meeting, after Bernie's scolding my newsletter, per first amendment right to free speech, no one else at the table, neither the Board Chair David Ervin or CDHS Executive Director Reggie Bicha, a governor appointee, said anything to support a stakeholder in exercising their right to free expression. This makes the entire board culpable to discouraging a member of the public from sharing real experiences from the community.
3. Cognitive Dissonance is systemic at State Board of Human Services (CDHS).
How does this injustice happen with Adult Protective Services (APS)?
APS is an administrative program. They do not rise to criminal justice standards of "beyond a reasonable doubt". Yet judges overwhelmingly defer to their recommendations regarding guardianships based on questionable "investigations".
Be aware that per Colorado Rules and Regulations, APS can investigate anyone, without them being aware because notifications are only made after a substantiation.
APS often tries to pulls in everyone for interviews, from other family members, providers, neighbors, friends and case managers. This can even be distant people, remember that they are looking for anything that can be twisted or interpreted to validate their position.
All this information gathered by County APS is required to be recorded in a data base called the CAPS system (for Colorado Adult Protective Services). They have a similar data base for Child Welfare called TRAILS.
The information in the data base can remain, in perpetuity, without anyone's knowledge.
Local Counties run the APS operations, with State supervision. APS training of investigators is minimal. The APS "investigators" are trained with an online Pre Academy (PAW) workbook, which is based in elder research. Then they eventually attend a 5 day training "Academy" (sounds like pseudo- law enforcement) hosted by the State APS staff (to be expanded to 7 days), and then receive laterally by coworkers in on the job training. The state declined to provide much detail as to the content of this APS "Academy" besides a short basic outline.
These local APS investigators are making recommendations on their judgement of cognition and competency (which is actually a separate legal process in a court proceeding) without appropriate credentials.
APS investigators are also conducting "interviews" of complex individuals with IDD. They are not trained in the complexities of such forensic interviewing, usually done by a licensed psychologist with special endorsements. They fail to offer ADA accommodations and denied individuals the right to counsel, stating those with IDD do not have capacity to select legal representation. APS interview operations are wholly inappropriate for this IDD population. One local psychologist shared that he now is treating patients with IDD for the trauma from these APS interrogations.
Once all this information from questionable interviews are entered in the CAPS data syste,, they can and will use this past information to assist with fabricating their false narrative.
Then APS waits, ready to pounce when they see an opportunity. Common situations include: treatment in an Emergency room for routine interventions, a hospital admission, a filing for voluntary guardianship by a family member or a short term voluntary respite stay. they seen an entry point. They file for emergency guardianship and the judges seem to believe them and rarely consider or engage the person with IDD or their families in courtrooms. If one doesn't have funds for an attorney to fight for their loved one, they are at a huge disadvantage.
After July 1, 2018 there will be a registry of substantiated "perpetrators". Family caregivers/members and seventeen year olds are not excluded. Employers can submit names for cross check with this Registry to check an applicant.
Clearly there are many abuse, neglect and exploitation cases which are quite real and valid, worthy of substantiation. However I am hearing more and more cases where APS had pulled adults from their own family home, to have County APS get guardianship awarded by a judge, based on mistruths.
Then County APS as guardian becomes their captors, dictating in which host home they reside, change their service plans/day programs, restrict or forbid contact with others, and monitor phone and visitor conversations. The person with IDD loses all their rights, their dignity and their right to privacy.
From cases shared with me, APS appears to targets those struggling with cost of living, often single parents, and those they know will be unable to hire legal representation.
Emergency Guardianship is supposed to be life-threatening situations, but County APS is being granted this for much less.
Guardianship by statute is only supposed to be over placement (where they live) and medical per statute.
Yet APS is taking over all aspects of their "ward's" life: including restricting visitation, concocting charges against family members to keep them away from their family member with Intellectual Disabilities and not informing family members where their loved one even lives!
Wards in guardianships DO HAVE RIGHTS. By statute they have a right to have their preferences considered regarding who is their Guardian and who is their lawyer.
Yet many judges fail to listen to ward or their family at all. They all default to the local APS staff and county attorney. This is so wrong and unjust.
Advice about APS:
Information is power. Protect it. Tell those close to you to be wise and to share as little as necessary. Assume there is no privacy. Know that what you tell one person in a system will likely get to another, breaking confidentiality. (IE some Providers, CCB to APS to HCPF to CDHS to Judicial Branch).
It does not help cases to cooperate with APS once they have set their machine into motion.
Never sign anything. Tell your loved one with IDD and people close to him/her, to never sign anything. Also practice saying "I do not to talk to anyone alone, and I want a lawyer."
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) applies for accommodations during APS proceedings. Ask for the accommodations needed due to disability status.
It does help to refuse to talk to APS until your lawyer is present. Yes, even if you have done nothing wrong.
The person with IDD has rights even if there is a guardian, including legal counsel and input to their guardian appointment. Cases stopped in tracks were those who got an attorney for the person with IDD before any interview occurred, and was told he was to be contacted for anything related to his client.
Lawyer up. Don't talk. Information can be twisted and can be used against you.
Contact me. I have an intake form to help you organize your case, create a timeline. I also have list of attorneys and also can help you with free options.
A free option is a Colorado Civil Rights Division complaint, free and forces the parties to a table in mediation. The Division can subpoena documents (note APS information limited to court orders for access), individuals and make award "adjudicatory powers". This is done fast, over the phone and computer. Mediation is free, gets both parties to the table within weeks and their staff is most helpful. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dora/civil-rights