Vol. 7, No. 1• November 2002

False Allegations: One Foster Parent's Story

In many ways, foster parent Carol Nixon’s experience of being investigated for child abuse is classic. It began with misinformation: when a brother and sister were placed in her home by another county DSS, she asked that agency if the children had a history of sexual abuse, and she was told they did not. She later learned that they had both been severely sexually abused.

After the boy moved from her home to a pre-adoptive placement he claimed, possibly as an attempt to sabotage the adoption, that he had raped Nixon’s 3-year-old foster son while staying at her home. When the boy’s therapist called to tell her about this allegation, Nixon knew it was impossible based on the details in the boy’s story. Despite this, she had the 3-year-old examined by a doctor, who found no evidence of abuse. To keep them fully informed, Nixon told her county DSS of the older boy’s allegations.

Soon after, she received a letter informing her that because she and her husband may have allowed this sexual assault to happen they would be investigated for child neglect. When she called her DSS to find out what was going on, her licensing worker, the person she was closest to at the agency, told her she could not speak with her about the case. The worker explained later that, based on its interpretation of State policy, her county DSS prohibited licensing workers from having contact with foster parents undergoing CPS investigation.

Nixon and her husband felt powerless, confused, and uninformed about the investigative process. “Worst of all,” she says, “the people at my county DSS didn’t tell me they were going to abandon me. I was left with no support.”

In keeping with State policy, the CPS unit from another county DSS conducted the investigation. “It was pure hell, what we went through,” Nixon says. “I was crying all the time for months. We knew we had done nothing wrong, but we felt like bad parents.”

It was some comfort, Nixon says, that the CPS worker was gracious and kind. When the investigator left she told Nixon, “You have nothing to worry about.” It also seemed a positive sign that, during the investigation, her agency did not remove the foster children from her home.

Though the investigation, which took months to complete, cleared Nixon and her husband of child neglect, she was still very angry with her county DSS. “I was so angry I couldn’t even look at them—it was eating me alive. I seriously considered not fostering anymore.” She was upset that she was denied access to the final report that cleared her name. The thing she was most angry about, though, “was the fact that I was completely abandoned by the agency when I needed support the most, and that I had not been told this would happen if an investigation occurred.”

In the end Nixon decided to continue fostering on the condition that all future MAPP training in her county strongly emphasized the risks of false allegations foster parents face and the procedure agencies must follow when a report against a foster home has been accepted. Her agency eagerly accepted this condition, going so far as to invite Nixon to speak during this part of one MAPP training event. Her agency also continues to place children in her home.

During this ordeal Carol Nixon had virtually no one to whom she could turn for support. If you or another North Carolina foster or adoptive parent you know is going through a CPS investigation and needs support, Ms. Nixon invites you to contact her via e-mail at <nixons@pinehurst.net>.

Copyright 2002 Jordan Institute for Families