Senator Alan Clark was featured guest presenter at the January 3, 2016 Hot Springs Village TEA Party Luncheon Program at Charlie’s Pizza Pub. Hal & Michelle Stanley and attorney Joe Churchwell were also in attendance and participated in the program.
At the request of multiple concerned constituents who contacted him, State Senator Alan Clark became reluctantly involved in looking into the facts surrounding the removal of seven children from the home of Hal & Michelle Stanley in January of 2014. Based on claims made by law enforcement and DHS officials he contacted, he initially believed that the action would likely prove justified. In his efforts to be thorough in investigating the case, however he concluded otherwise. Clark did not take well to the idea of a State Senator being stonewalled by public employees in his quest for relevant information, and in some instances even blatantly lied to. When DHS funding was held up by the State Senate in response, DHS officials become somewhat more cooperative.
Since beginning, Clark reports that he has spent literally hundreds of hours as an individual State Senator investigating the policies and practices of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police (CACD).
The agenda quickly expanded beyond the Stanley Family case as more and more citizens contacted Senator Clark as well as other State Senators and Representatives about DCFS and CACD alleged civil rights violations and other misconduct.
In addition to his individual investigation, Senator Clark has served for the past two years as the Senate Co-Chairman of the Joint Performance Review Committee (JPR) Co-chaired on the House side by Representative Kim Hammer. This joint Senate/House investigative body has served as a powerful tool in compelling public testimony under oath from officials, whether voluntarily or in response to a subpoena.
During Senator Clark’s two-year JPR co-chairmanship ending December 2016, there have been approximately two dozen JPR hearings related to DCFS & CACD legislation, policy and practices, The range of testimony at these hearings has included aggrieved parents & grandparents, various public employees including top DHS, DCFS & State Police officials, experts in various related fields, DHS legal counsels, other lawyers, and at the last December 2016 meeting, circuit judges and an Arkansas Supreme Justice all testifying under oath!
Senator Clark shared about his 2014-2016 JPR experience. Some questions he spoke to included:
- Institutional policy improvements ALREADY being made by DHS without new legislation?
- Related issues to be addressed legislatively in the upcoming 2017 session by the Arkansas House & Senate?
- Needed reforms that he considers highest priority?
Specific reforms being called for by some, include:
- An institutional acknowledgement (within DHS-Division of Children and Family Services) of the civil rights of Arkansas families, including respect for the 4th Amendment prohibition against warrantless home intrusions and seizures.
- Miranda Warnings to parents by DCFS investigators.
- Body-cams on child-welfare workers in their interactions with parents and children.
- Referrals for criminal prosecution of those who knowingly make false and malicious child-abuse reports by hotline or otherwise.
- End the use of “case confidentiality” to protect child-welfare workers who trample on civil rights and otherwise violate the law.
- Strengthen legislation and agency policy prioritizing placement of children removed from parents with caring extended family members, including grandparents, as the preferred option when possible, rather than with strangers.
- Change the “Kangaroo Court” system by which investigators can make what they call “true findings” about alleged misconduct of parents in secret proceedings, without the due process afforded citizens for criminal charges, and as a consequence have names added to the State’s Child Central Maltreatment Registry which can result in loss of employment, ineligibility for other employment, social stigma, and other negative consequences.
- Improve the current anemic system with it’s inherent conflicts-of-interest that inadequately provides accused parents legal representation … when any is provided at all.
- When serious criminal child maltreatment is alleged, officials should file criminal charges as applicable, employing the criminal justice system so that defendants will be entitled to all their civil rights afforded in the U.S. Constitution, rather than be denied those rights in secret civil proceedings. This would include public trial, the right to face accusers, and right to a jury.