Additional commentary by Timothy Horrigan
(member of the House Petitions & Redress Committee)
Note from Rep. Horrigan: I redacted the names of a half-dozen Division of Children Youth & Families employees. I left in the director's name and the name of an attorney who was specifically accused of misrepresenting the law to a judge. The other workers were evidently named by Ms. Capen merely because they worked on her case.
PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCE
The Honorable House of
FROM: Petitioner Representative Robbie Parsons, Strafford 3
DATE: January 5, 2012
SUBJECT: Grievance of Bethany Capen
Your Petitioner Representative Parsons on behalf of Bethany Capen, hereinafter presents the following summary of her grievance and invokes the constitutional authority and duty of the Honorable House of Representatives pursuant to Articles 31 and 32 to bring about redress:
Grievance involving the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), specifically Maggie Bishop, [name redacted], Attorney Dennis May, [five names redacted] for engaging in illegal and possibly malicious activity, including numerous instances of failing to comply with New Hampshire statutes and administrative rules, all of which contributed to the harm of Bethany Capen and her family.
DCYF initiated an illegal and forced surrender of a minor child from his parent by repeatedly threatening to charge Bethany Capen with neglect when there were no grounds for such a charge.
DCYF purposely withheld and continues to withhold evidence demonstrating misconduct and illegal activities by its employees.
DCYF made libelous and slanderous statements against Bethany Capen with the intent to cause harm to her.
DCYF misrepresented the legal definition of child neglect to a Probate Court judge for the purpose of gaining custody of a minor child.
DCYF contacted Bethany Capen's place of employment thereby causing termination of her employment.
DCYF conspired to fabricate reasons to deny Bethany Capen her foster care license and continues, without grounds, to deny her the ability to act as a foster parent.
Wherefore, your Petitioner prays that the House of Representatives consider this proposed remedy:
Submit legislation to initiate a complete investigation of this matter, including the minor child's entry into state custody, DCYF's handling of this case, and DCYF's treatment of Bethany Capen during the course of this case, and propose appropriate legislation based on its findings.
Respectfully submitted by Petitioner Representative Parsons on Behalf of Bethany Capen.
Ms. Capen's petition had its initial hearing on February 16, 2012. It was a sad story. She lost almost everything she valued as a result of her dispute with the Division of Children, Youth and Families: she lost her son, her life savings and her career. She was heavily committed to being a foster parent, to the extent of teaching foster-parenting classes and being an official with the New Hampshire Foster and Adoptive Parent Association.
She submitted a two-page summary at her hearing. I will add that her adoptive son was born in 1997, and she has a biological child (who did not figure in her narrative at all.) Her adoptive son was 3 months old when she began fostering him, three years old when she (and her exhusband) adopted him, and he is now 14 or 15. The gist of the story is that she was forced to give up her parental rights when her adoptive son was 8 years old, supposedly so his care for severe mental illness (which is very expensive) could be paid for out of federal funds. In the interests of protecting the privacy and reputation of the individuals involved in this case (including Ms. Capen herself) I have decided to take the summary down from my website.
On July 31, 2012, the committee voted this petition "Founded," on party lines. Here are the Majority and Minority reports:
PETITION #30 grievance of Bethany Capen. (Report Filed 7/31/12)
Grievance Founded with Recommendations.
Committee Majority Findings:
The Redress of Grievances Committee heard testimony and reviewed documents supporting allegations of abuse by the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) toward the adoptive (foster care licensed) mother of a troubled child who (along with DCYF) understood might need expensive help in the future. The adoption was accompanied by DCYF assurances with the mother that such support would be forthcoming, if needed, from the agency. What the Committee finds is that when the child did indeed begin to show serious and expensive mental problems for which the normal sources of funding proved inadequate, and the only likely source of funding would be the federal government, a series of wrongful actions by DCYF took place including:
The Committee also finds that the Petitioner's written requests for review to the ombudsman and later to the Commissioner of HHS from months ago and longer remain unanswered.
The Committee agrees that because of the injuries sustained by the mother to her reputation, her financial well being and her family relationship; and because the laws of the state on various levels have been abrogated, and may be so systemically as supported by previous petitions, an investigation into this case would be wise. The inability of the Redress of Grievances Committee to gain even the most general information from DCYF without resorting to the use of subpoena powers, coupled with the problems associated with the statutorily required provision of information in this case, unfortunately invites the question of the possibility that the Division is involved in activities it does not want to have reviewed. As in previous reports this Committee believes the time has come for a government oversight committee of the House so that questions like this can be quickly and effectively reviewed and that public trust in our agencies be maintained. Aside from that approach to oversight the Committee recommends legislation making any ombudsman's office operate out of the Legislature and not the agencies themselves.
Rep. Robert Willette for the Majority of the Committee.
Committee Minority Findings:
The Minority regretfully finds Bethany Capen's petition to be unfounded.
The Petitioner was a longtime foster parent, who served on the board of the NH Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. For almost a decade, the Petitioner taught FACES (Foster and Adoption Care Essentials) courses at Granite State College.
The Petitioner and her husband adopted a special needs child whom they had been fostering since he was three months old. They divorced shortly after the adoption. Her son's needs proved to be more than she could handle as a single mother, since he needed residential care. She gave up her parental rights after a legal battle with the Department of Health and Human Services.
One of her grievances is that Attorney Dennis May (who works for DHHS) misrepresented the law to a probate court judge. The laws in question were those relating to abuse and neglect of children. The Minority does not condone any lawyers misrepresenting the law to any judge, but it is unclear that Attorney May actually did so. Even if he did misrepresent the law, a judge does not need to rely on either side's lawyers to know what the law is. Moreover, this particular case was about an area of the law which probate courts deal with all the time.
It is worth noting that the Petitioner admitted to being physically and financially unable to care for her son. She told the Committee that she feels it was improper for DHHS to accuse her of neglect because she was neither disabled nor indigent.
Her two biggest grievances are that the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) stopped using her as a foster parent and as a FACES instructor. The Minority believes that we should defer to the DCYF's judgment in both areas, even when these judgments are based in part on subjective impressions. Children should be placed in the Petitioner's home only if the DCYF feels comfortable doing so. Likewise, the Petitioner should be teaching the FACES course only if the DCYF and Granite State College feel comfortable with using her as the instructor. The Petitioner produced some emails which show that one or more officials believed that she might not teach the course the way they wanted it to be taught. Unfortunately for the Petitioner, that is a sufficient reason for hiring a different adjunct instructor.
Rep. Timothy Horrigan for the Minority of the Committee.
Other 2012 Petitions:
Official Petitions & Redress committee page (not much to see here)
Rep. Kevin Avard's "Speak Up!" videos