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False Accusation

January 6, 2008 permalink

In a Kentucky case a family was impacted because child protectors found the mother, Tammy Carpenter, had a criminal record and a violent husband. After nearly a year, it was found that child protectors were slamming her with the record of another woman with a similar name.



Garrard mom gets favorable ruling on custody decision

LANCASTER - A Garrard County mother who claimed she was treated unjustly when her teenage daughter was placed in foster care has records to prove that information about another person with the same name was being used against her.

Tammy Carpenter first contacted The Advocate-Messenger last year after beginning what she describes as a bitter battle with the Department for Community Based Services in Lancaster.

Carpenter provided records to the newspaper that had been used as evidence during an October hearing in Garrard Family Court. A state forensic psychologist told the judge he received the information from DCBS showing Carpenter had been married to an abusive man in 2002.

"Abuse apparently substantiated against (Carpenter) regarding her now ex-husband, Christopher," was included in the psychologist's report. Carpenter said she has never been married to anyone named Christopher.

The evidence also showed that Carpenter had an extensive criminal background and several complaints against her through DCBS.

Carpenter and her husband, Kimberlyn, have been married since 2001, and she says her record consists of three cold check charges when she was 18 and a DUI at age 21.

After the October hearing, she discovered records from the DCBS office that contained her name, but the middle initial and Social Security number were incorrect. She eventually learned that her records were confused with a woman of the same name in another part of the state.

She said the incorrect information was relayed to the forensic psychologist by DCBS before he did a court-ordered evaluation of her daughter.

Carpenter returned to court Friday with a new order that removes the family from any court-ordered case plans. The family also will no longer have to endure home visits by DCBS staff, and Carpenter will have weekend visitation with her daughter for three weekends every month. The order also removed any requirement that the family be evaluated by a psychologist.

Cabinet rules against local office

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in a ruling dated Dec. 17, also found in favor of Carpenter regarding a disagreement over visitation privileges.

Carpenter claimed that Supervisor Karen Tomlin had on several occasions unfairly changed the visitation status set for Carpenter and her child. A hearing on the issue was conducted Oct. 24.

The girl, now 17, was taken from her mother's custody May 19 following an altercation in the home. The police were called, and the teenager was charged with assault and violating her probation. Carpenter immediately asked for help for the child in the form of counseling and therapy. But she got more than she asked for.

Carpenter said the events that followed had her and her family reeling in confusion and desperation. An emergency protection order was issued, and the child has remained in a foster home ever since. The family has been in and out of family court in Garrard County several times. On one occasion, Carpenter was told she would be charged with mental neglect, a felony, if she did not turn over custody of the child to the state. She was told she could lose her children and her career.

Since then Carpenter has been able to visit her daughter by meeting her at the DCBS office. At first, the visits were unsupervised and the two could even leave the premises for the two-hour period.

Incident set off fireworks

But one day in late June, the two signed out and traveled to Nicholasville to eat and go shopping. After this visit, Tomlin and Carpenter had a heated confrontation over the trip and the visitation rights were changed to require the visits to be supervised, a move Carpenter alleged was improper.

The Cabinet agreed. According to the "findings of fact" section of its ruling, the June incident " ... set off fireworks."

"It is clear that the (DCBS) failed to follow its own policies regarding visitation and overstepped the limit set forth by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, Kentucky Administrative Regulations and Standard of Practice in regard to the authority of the local office supervisor regarding visitation," the ruling states.

"A preponderance of evidence showed that the (DCBS) was incorrect in its actions. Documentary evidence showed that the visits were to be unsupervised. The Agency's Standard of Practice clearly states that visits are to be held anywhere else than the local office, and if the local office is used, then the SRA must approve it. Tomlin and, in her direction, (an employee) have not abided by the very documents that they helped create as well as their own policies."

Carpenter said that even though the past seven months can't be changed, she hopes her efforts to expose flaws in the system will encourage more transparency in child neglect and dependency hearings.

"I never want to see anyone else go through this," she said.

Tomlin relayed a comment back to The Advocate through Garrard County Attorney Jeff Moss. Tomlin said the ruling Carpenter received from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services is a "confidential report" and she is not allowed to speak about it.

Source: Advocate-Messenger (Danville Kentucky)