Additional commentary by
(member of the House Petitions & Redress Committee)
The same couple filed a similar petition in 2010. This case— like a lot of the petitioned cases— hinges around the distinction between "unfounded" and "founded" allegations. The adjective "unfounded" as used by the DCYF (i.e., the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families) means that there wasn't enough proof to pursue criminal charges.
In this case, a report which was (according to Gregory Clarkson) was deemed "unfounded" was (apparently) nevertheless forwarded from the DCYF to their counterparts in Massachusetts. Mr. Clarkson views that as malfeasance, but it is unclear if the New Hampshire DCYF could legally have refused to honor a legitimate request for that information from another state.
There is also a controversy over what happened to all the paperwork from an adoption home study. The New Hampshire authorities did the field work for that study, on behalf of their counterparts in Massachusetts. New Hampshire's copy of the file was eventually destroyed after a legal battle between the Clarkson family and the NH DCYF, but Massachusetts (not too surprisingly) continued to have their own copy.
We members of the committee are unlikely to ever know with any certainty whether or not the actions of the various officials were in fact improper. For example, it (probably) is perfectly OK for a social worker to use "unorthodox" questioning, but is it in fact legal or illegal for her to impersonate a teacher? And even if it is wrong for a social worker to impersonate a teacher, did this particular social worker actually do so?
PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCE
TO: The Honorable House of Representatives
FROM: Petitioner Representative David Welch, Rock. 8
DATE: May 9, 2011
SUBJECT: Grievance of Greg and Sarah Clarkson, Kingston, New Hampshire
Your Petitioner, Representative Welch on behalf of Greg and Sarah Clarkson, hereinafter presents the following summary of their grievance involving a dispute with a Kingston Police officer and 2 social workers with the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and invokes the constitutional authority and duty of the Honorable House of Representatives pursuant to said Articles 31 and 32 to bring about their redress:
Grievance involving a dispute with a male Kingston Police officer for performing a wellness check on an 8 year old female without a medical expert present and without a video in its entirety as described in RSA 169-C:38, V; involving a dispute with a social worker for violating the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children Home Study by misrepresenting an alleged case of abuse and neglect as founded to Massachusetts authorities, resulting in the Clarksons being denied the opportunity to adopt their niece and nephew; and involving a dispute with a social worker who represented herself as a teacher and conducted an interview with the Clarksons' son at school without parental notification and used unorthodox questioning to lead the child in answering.
Wherefore, your Petitioner prays that the House of Representatives:
Introduce legislation to amend the laws of the state to prevent further injuries of the type suffered by the Clarksons.
Submitted by Petitioner Representative Welch on Behalf of Greg and
Co-Petitioners: Rep. Itse, Rock. 9
Gregory Clarkson came to the committee on November 3, 2011. The niece and nephew were his wife's brother's children, born in 1997 and 2000. Mr. Clarkson was severely disparaging of his brother-in-law, who supposedly was a low-life from "the slums of Lynn." (Lynn, Massachusetts is an old mill town 7 miles north of downtown Boston.) The Clarksons lived not far away in Kingston, NH, a suburban community just north of the state line.
The niece and nephew were taken away from their biological parents in 2003 by the Massachusetts Division of Social Services, and placed in New Hampshire with their father's sister and brother-in-law, Sara (not Sarah with an "h" as shown on the petition) and Gregory Clarkson.
The Clarksons' understanding was that they would be able to adopt the two children, but that never happened. Supposedly the children's birth parents gave up all parental rights. (It is unclear if that really happened— and if it did happen, it is not necessarily an absolutely irrevocable decision unless and until the children are adopted by someone else.)
In September 2005 there was an ugly incident triggered by an anonymous phone call to some authority (it was unclear whether it was the police or the DCYF or someone else) with allegations that the nephew was being abused. Mr. Clarkson believes the caller was a young neighbor who had a grudge against him. The DCYF immediately took action— and a local police officer acted probably too aggressively.
The two children almost immediately ended up back in Massachusetts. Mr. Clarkson doesn't know who is caring for them now, although he did tell us about the last time he saw them: this was in 2006, when they were "back in the slums of Lynn, smelling like rotten fish." This is pure speculation on my part, but I am guessing the kids ended up back with their birth family.
(It's scary sometimes what you can find out about people you don't even know on the internet, although Sara's ex-sister-in-law has done a reasonably good job of vanishing. Her brother (the nephew's father) was easy to locate, although I personally don't plan to contact him: I will just say that he has evidently been living in the Pacific Northwest for several years. I was also able to determine that the kids have numerous relatives in the Midwest. The children may now be living hundreds— perhaps even thousands— of miles away from New Hampshire.)
Since 2006, there has (understandably) been a long-running dispute between the Clarksons and the authorities in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Clarksons have won a few rounds in the fight, but the children continue to be in Massachusetts (or at least, they are not in Kingston, NH with the Clarksons.) Legally, the Clarksons have little chance of winning the war: Massachusetts had the right to take the children back from New Hampshire at any time for any reason, and they (apparently) had good reason. The whole situation stinks like rotten fish, but as far as I can tell from what little I have seen, the authorities on both sides of the border followed the rules and acted in good faith. I am saying this based on what Gregory Clarkson told us and the documents he shared with the Redress Committee.
It will be especially hard to sort out what happened with the adoption home study, and not just because we know very little of the case beyond what Greg Clarkson told us. All adoptions require a lengthy and sometimes intrusive home study. In this case, the Clarksons had been caring for the children for a while— but (right or wrong) the standards for an adoption are higher than for a temporary placement. Even though the children were already living with the Clarkson family. a home study was still needed and its requirements still had to be met. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the birth parents were close relatives who were not actively supportive of the adoption.
There was a dispute over the home study, which culminated in March 2007 with an order by the New Hampshire Administrative Appeals Unit (part of the Department of Health & Human Services) to "vacate and destroy" it. Mr. Clarkson was quite clear about who was involved in the dispute, but not so clear about what the details of the decision were. This decision would only be binding in New Hampshire. Between 2008 and 2010 there were some court battles in Massachusetts: the home study report was (supposedly) excluded, but the Clarksons lost anwyay.
Nine months after Mr. Clarkson's testimony, a pair of reports appeared in the House Calendar on August 23, 2012:
2011 House Petitions:
Official Petitions & Redress committee page (not much to see here)