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Elaine Willey

Dubuque, IA

I am writing to give you my story, a story that resounds around our great state. A story that is sad because our Department of Human Services is tearing apart loving, stable homes and using taxpayer’s money to do it. Here is my story, I apologize I could not make it shorter:

1. Families are being founded for abuse, although unsupported by the facts. Due to the founded abuse, the family is denied placement of their children, grandchildren, niece, nephew, etc.

The system is just about worthless for appealing a founded child abuse system. It is the State of Iowa – DHS workers – that make the founded report. Something the State of Iowa – juvenile court – is involved with a CINA case due to the founded report. It is then appealed to the State of Iowa - an administrative law judge. Then it can be appealed (assuming there is money to keep appealing) to the State of Iowa – district courts. Most of the evidence supporting the case comes from the State of Iowa – DHS workers, contract workers, Title 19 providers. It is hard to imagine the amount of evidence needed to overturn a founded child abuse assessment. This cost is great, which many Iowans cannot afford. Because of the concern for children’s welfare, the standard to show the children were not in fact hurt is almost unreachable. This is particularly true when little to no evidence supports the alleged abuse, but perhaps only a simply statement from a young child that fears repercussions from a coaching parent that was adequately founded for abuse.

For me…my story includes Cheyenne, Sierra, and Lauren. I adopted Cheyenne in 2011. She was not my biological granddaughter, but a step granddaughter that was severely beaten by her father and my daughter. Cheyenne was severely beaten by my daughter, and the other girls observed this. Once Cheyenne was gone, Sierra was the next child to be abused, way beyond any form of physical “discipline.” DHS KNEW I wanted to keep my 3 granddaughters together more than anything. There were allegations of the girls inappropriate touching each other in my care and their mother’s care. I was founded for abuse – failure to supervise – when it was alleged to have happened the second time in my care, 16 months later. I fought this on appeal of the founded assessment and in juvenile court in my quest for placement of my granddaughters. I had a forensic psychologist testify as to the documented and overwhelming evidence that nothing physical supported these allegations, that the statements were the only evidence and ONLY came after contact with the mother, the mother hated me and sought revenge, that the mother has a documented history in court orders of coaching the girls, the mother had repeatedly beaten my granddaughters, and the girls were terrified of their mother. Yet, this evidence was ignored in light of testimony from social workers and licensed mental health counselors that if a child says something, it is true. On such unsupported evidence, I am on the child abuse registry, my granddaughters are torn from each other, and my two of my granddaughters have been lost to me and my family. I have voluminous documents that I will share from my court proceedings, including the transcript, to aid in the reform of Iowa’s laws.

Since I was on the child abuse registry, DHS refused to consider me as a placement option for Sierra and Lauren. This is the case even though I had taken Cheyenne into my home. In the beginning, Cheyenne had the most struggles, but with my continuing love and guidance, she blossomed. It was Sierra and Lauren that truly began to suffer by returning to their mother and becoming the focus of abuse with Cheyenne gone and then the multiple, unnecessary placement attempts, even though I was ready and willing to take them. DHS adoption specialist, Betty Kilburg, testified that she NEVER considered me. She further testified that their normal policy is to have a staffing where both homes are examined and rated for the best placement choice. Ms. Kilburg admitted that DHS never held this staffing and compared homes due to my founded child abuse report.

2. Children are being adopted by foster families; they are cut off from their biological families, and end up with more loss and uncertainty in their lives.

Once DHS located a foster-adopt home, Cheyenne and I were denied contact with Sierra and Lauren. The reason given was that the girls “needed to settle in.” After 3 months, this was still the excuse. It took a court order for visits to occur, then DHS tried to restrict me from attending the court-ordered “sibling visits” with Cheyenne. That was a fight over the next few months as Cheyenne was too distrustful of DHS to stay without me. They showed love, hugs, and kisses, although it decreased over time as they remained with the foster-adopt family. I raised concerns over the girls’ changes to DHS, but that feel on deaf ears. At the last “sibling visit,” Sierra told me, “I will find you and you can always call me Sierra.”

When I attended a foster care review board with my attorney, the girls were present. I was unaware of this until arrival and the foster family was unaware of my attendance. For a brief few minutes, the girls grabbed and hugged me, asked immediately for Cheyenne, before they were whisked away. The girls were locked away from me in a bathroom and then an automobile. I brought this terrible treatment of me in front of the girls to DHS, but it again feel on deaf ears – claiming the foster parents got to choose my contact. But, the children were not adopted at that time, and DHS was still the case manager.

I sent cards (birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentines, 4th of July, and other times about every 3 weeks) to the girls, but every one of them is returned, unopened. I attended their church one weekend after almost a year without contact, only to have the girls run from me with fear.


3. That DHS placed children in an abusive home. The girls were not taken to a dentist the whole year they were in Foster Care with Susie & Dean Dickerson’s, yet no one cared. Therapy rarely, if ever occurred, although their mental health needs were documented to be great. Susie Dickerson took the girls off medication without doctor’s approval, so DHS had to intervene to continue the medication until a doctor ordered otherwise. On the few observations, I had of the Dickerson’s and my granddaughters, the relationships lacked affection. DHS did not realize the mother was gone from the home working two jobs! The in-home visits by the assigned worker made calls instead of visiting the home. DHS and the guardian ad litem for the children also made contacts when the children were in Dubuque, instead of making any visits to the home. This foster adopt home knew the distance kept all involved away, so they were not monitored.

At court, Lauren and Sierra’s statements related them wanting to stay with their pony – what child would not cave to that, if the statements were even true. Sierra was 9 years old at the last visit. She told me “Grandma, I am going to find you.” She also told me she would be able to find “Dr. Darcy” (her aunt, an internal medicine doctor) and Uncle Jason – owning his own physical therapist business.

When Ms. Kilburg was asked during court about why a child placed with the Dickerson for guardianship was removed, DHS never found out! See Kilburg testimony pg. 556-57. My private investigator has learned it was due to physical abuse and torture that that child ran away. I have signed statements of the abuse to provide for anyone – the child suffered broken nose X 2, smacking her in the face, biting, pulling hair, cold showers, little food for days, whippings with boards, whippings with saddle straps, tied with leashes, choking, and drug around by her hair to name a few. This scares me tremendously when my granddaughters already suffered more abuse in their lives than they should ever have to even know about. I cannot get an appropriate investigation, because any investigation is completed by the State of Iowa, namely DHS, who has to be concerned over their own actions in placing girls for adoption into an abusive home. To my knowledge, the girls remain in this abusive home.

The girls are now homeschooled and their only activities are with the church. I have deep concerns that they are practically in a cult. My private investigator, Melissa Ruhlow, Third Party Services, PO Box 3266, Iowa City, IA 52244, 319.430.4369,also learned that Dean Dickerson has used his social security number under 10 different person’s names and 5 versions of his own name, at 25 different addresses, and in 7 different states. I have signed statements from James Dickerson (brother to Dean Dickerson), Leslie Hale, and Audra Barnhart, all providing their concerns and abuse of children at the hands of Susie and Dean Dickerson. Retired Pastor Larry Brown was the former pastor at the Marion Avenue Baptist Church. He would no longer allow Susie Dickerson to be part of the church for stealing from the church. When he retired and his son took over, Susie Dickerson was once again allowed to attend the church. Yet, DHS believe these folks to be appropriate for providing a safe and loving home for my previously wounded granddaughters!

It was very evident to me to me the Dickerson’s were doing Foster Care for the MONEY, and DHS helped them take state money and did not require them to provide loving, safe homes for Iowa’s children. I would have provided them all a safe home without any subsidy! Money for children brings corruption and ulterior motives.

4. The State of Iowa saves money if placing children with relatives. When children are placed with relatives in Iowa, it is without payment to those relatives. This only changes when a termination is approaching. Then, DHS requires the “relatives” to become “foster-adopt” relatives to qualify to adopt. Once the “relatives” are now “foster-adopt relatives,” they are then given a monthly subsidy. This increases when a child is determined to be special needs, which most are. For my granddaughter that I adopted, I get $31.89 per day. This is $956.70 for a 30-day month or $11,480 per year. I would have adopted her without this benefit, as she is my step-granddaughter, and I wanted nothing more than to have her in my home.

I also wanted her two sisters to reside with us. However, I was denied that due to a founded child abuse allegation that I was unable to overturn in our faulty system. Those two girls were adopted by a foster family. That likely costs the state $31 per day for each girl, or $1,860 per month, or $22,320 per year.

When combined these figures, the State of Iowa is paying $33,480 PER YEAR for my 3 grandchildren, all of whom I would have raised without any state funding.

5. That DHS funding is tied to inappropriate statistics. That Title IV-E funds are federal funds paid to state governments. For children who are removed from parental right and IV-E eligibility and reimbursabilty requirements, the federal government will share in the cost of 3 areas for states:

a) Maintenance: room and board, applicable childcare costs, supervision costs for foster care, treatment foster care, shelter care, group home care, and residential care centers at approximately 58%.

b) Administrative services: services for working with the child, the child’s family, the care provider, and overall case managing of children removed from their homes at the federal share of administrative costs at 50%, with the administrative reimbursement rate pro-rated by the percentage of children in out-of-home care who are IV-E eligible.

c) Training: trainings for caseworkers, foster parents, and facility staff who work with children at the federal share of 75%, with the training reimbursement rate also pro-rated by the IV-E penetration rate.

In essence, the more children placed in foster care over families, the more money a state gets. This is not money just for maintenance of the child, but also administrative and training reimbursement that increases as more children are removed from parents.

I thank you for your time and attention to this serious problem that Iowans are facing. I hope you can find the time in your busy schedules to take action on these very important, very basic rights. If I can do or provide anything more, please contact me at the above number.