Photo Courtesy of Redoubt News-Montana

By Tim Ravndal

On multiple occasions there is a need for “Child Protective Services” (CPS) to intervene in a family home to protect children from abuse or neglect. There are certain factors that trigger domestic abuse including but not limited to child endangerment needing intervention. There are times when stress or other factors result in making poor decisions, placing the family unit in less than desirable conditions.

In July 2019 a rally was held that opened the door to the need for transparency within Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS). “Citizens are being threatened with jail for openly questioning Child Protective Services”

In August 2019 family members rallied to bring awareness to a situation with CPS where concerns were openly disclosed. “Parents fighting for their children are facing a structure that works to protect the system at the expense of the family.”

A very disturbing side of this was exposed back in early 2020 when we heard Montana Vietnam War Veteran John Walton crying for help. Mr. Walton wished to intervene in a family issue that placed his grandchildren in danger. CPS took policy authority given under DPHHS and removed John Walton’s grandchildren without due process.

Mr. Walton openly cried foul against officials within DPHHS. Being a Montana citizen that witnessed real human tragedy in the war, Mr. Walton was not concerned about being over assertive in his quest to protect his grandchildren, and that was used against him.

CPS retaliated against Mr. Walton for making claims of abuse by the system against his grandchildren. Eventually, the system usurped power over Mr. Walton’s rights, and had him placed in Jail. There was no process for resolution afforded by CPS, and the judicial branch gave full deference to the department without question.

In another case, a woman that was in trouble when she was young, found her record dating back 30 years earlier was held against her in caring for her grandchildren in her home without due process. A grandmother in good standing in the community was targeted leaving her without the ability to care for her grandchildren. There was no process for resolution afforded by CPS.

Another well respected citizen of Montana with a stellar record of providing an open door to helping people in need is fighting for his life and his daughter. In this case, multiple facts have been brought forward in a divorce custody battle. Both the father and child have been put in harms way by a system that is working to justify actions taken by the department. There was no process for resolution afforded by CPS.

Clear documentation introduced in Montana District Court reveals a side of this story that is horrific. When a child is placed in a tug-o-war between conflicting parents by a system that refuses to look beyond assumptions, the father and his child lose. This case is still pending and privacy is paramount to protecting this young girl, so we cannot divulge any further facts at this time. There is no process for resolution afforded by CPS still to this date.

One more case that we have seen that deserves mention is where a disgruntled child in school cried foul alleging child abuse at home. Based on this complaint, the child was removed from the home placing a major conflict between the Mother and Father resulting in a family torn apart without a process of resolution. Two siblings are not allowed contact and their lives have been turned upside down. There was no process for resolution afforded by CPS.

Multiple other citizens have come forward with calls for help. Claims of forced compliance with policy directives are being made. Several of these claims are considered retaliatory against mothers and fathers wishing to re-unite their families.

A few weeks ago, we covered a public hearing before three legislators in Great Falls. The hearing was organized by Mrs. JoAnne Malone who owns Seeking Recovery in Great Falls. Seeking Recovery, provides counseling services and employs a full accredited staff to provide help for families in need across Montana. After 6+ hours of testimony the picture of corruption continued to get more evident.

JoAnne Malone Testifies Before Elected Officials

Mrs. Malone has been targeted with alleged claims against her services and is now at ground zero in the quest for accountability within Montana DPHHS Family Services.

CPS is tasked with monitoring and providing help to those in need under Montana law. What we found in Great Falls, is there is a deep connection to corruption within the system. Internal policies and supervisory authority has provided for the usurpation of power that appears to be beyond legal authority. The question of abusing the Constitutional rights of the people of Montana is front and center.

Mrs. Malone began calling foul on certain CPS employees engaged in less than honorable practices. These documented practices show a trend of placing families in harm including but not limited to legal challenges against them. The need for control is well documented by decisions made by supervisors and contract employees within the family services division of DPHHS.

These calls for accountability by Mrs. Malone very quickly escalated to retaliatory actions taken by case workers and supervisors within the department. According to Mrs. Malone, these officials are using arbitrarily usurped authority and control against Seeking Recovery and Mrs. Malone personally.

Another discovery made in this circle of CPS corruption is a business deal between CPS and Re Family Services. There is documentation and testimony that shows Re Family Services is currently being exposed as a front that brings forward allegations of possible collusion and fraud.

A former associate of Re Family Services brought forward documents that show an alleged pyramid that accommodates a financial manipulation of DPHHS funds. Experts in the field are hearing about forced placement of children with Re Family Services even when allegations of abuse in that facility are brought to CPS for resolution.

A former employee of DPHHS also has come forward with information showing a trend of favoritism and even connections where nepotism potentially is involved in expenditures within the DPHHS budget. Many documents and testimony have been turned over to the Inspector General’s office for review.

The questions that are being asked are not limited to a small segment within DPHHS, but rather a trend of questionable practices are being exposed across Montana. A party bus service in Billings that has received funding from the department for social assistance, is raising even more questions to where taxpayer funds are being distributed. These funds are being distributed under a program within the department of “Social Assistance.” This begs the question of what is a party bus paid for by the taxpayers used for in the duty of social assistance?

Clients of Seeking Recovery that are receiving help allegedly began to receive threats from CPS to terminate doing business with Seeking Recovery. Failure to comply with CPS provisions/orders impact the quest to reunite the family. In the hearing previously held, there were many mothers and fathers testified to the fact that there is a problem within the system.

According to multiple cases we looked at, the administrative process under supervisory control appears to be exceeding authority. This supervisory control that allegedly violates the rights of the citizens is causing a hostile environment where DPHHS chooses to ignore the facts. The process that is currently under scruitiny, has prompted Mrs. Malone to acquire a huge file of correspondence that provides a full trail of deceptive practices by DPHHS. These documents have been turned over for legal review.

Marti Vining, who was in the center of the administrative process in Great Falls, was moved up to a high level administrative position in Helena. Marti has been repeatedly notified about irregularities from multiple outside sources that raise concerns about abuse within the system. Allegations including threats and intimidation to claims of racism against the department were submitted through this official. To this date, there are several complaints that have never even been acknowledged into the system by Marti Vining. The past director of DPHHS Sheila Hogan continually disregarded calls for transparency.

Several citizens we spoke to are very concerned about the policies and process for filing a complaint that would bring forward a full investigation of internal actions and decisions made within DPHHS. It is readily available within DPHHS to find contact information to report abuse and/or neglect of children and adults whenever a concern is raised. However, we could find no way for a citizen of Montana to open the door to filing a complaint against the system.

In April 2017, Montana signed into law HB303 that created a review commission. The commission represents law enforcement, the judiciary, foster parents, health care providers, Montana Indian Tribes, the Legislature, and others. The catch in holding DPHHS accountable to the people, is DPHHS is the responsible entity for overseeing the Commission. The fox is guarding the hen house according to Mrs. Malone and others. The form to file a complaint against the system is no longer available on the DPHHS web site.

Stay Tuned as the swamp in the District of Corruption known as Montana DPHHS is deep.

Editors Note: This article includes links to earlier articles about corruption within Montana DPHHS published by Redoubt News. Tim Ravndal is editor for Redoubt News-Montana and is networking with other conservative news outlets across Montana.

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