'Failure to Protect:
The Taking of Logan Marr'
With Rachel Dretzin
Friday, Jan. 31, 2003; 11 a.m. ET
In January 2001, 5-year-old Logan Marr was found dead in the basement of her foster mother's home in Chelsea, Maine. The foster mother, Sally Schofield, was a highly respected former caseworker for Maine's Department of Human Services. FRONTLINE's "Failure to Protect: The Taking of Logan Marr," airing Thursday, Jan. 30, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), examines the girl's short, troubled life and asks a series of tough questions: Why was a little girl who had never been abused taken from her birth mother? Was her mother given a real opportunity to regain custody? And did the state miss significant clues that she was in danger?
Producer Rachel Dretzin was online on Friday, Jan. 31, to talk about the case.
The story continues with a look at Maine's Department of Human Services on Thursday, Feb. 6, with the one-hour documentary "Failure to Protect: The Caseworker Files," followed by a one-hour socratic dialogue co-produced by The Fred Friendly Seminars in collaboration with the Institute for Child and Family Policy at Columbia University. Producer Barak Goodman will discuss the film on Feb. 7.
Dretzin and her husband, Barak Goodman, co-own 10/20 Productions. Together, they produced the Peabody award-winning FRONTLINE documentary "The Lost Children of Rockdale County," (1999), about teenagers in an affluent Atlanta suburb, and the loneliness and disconnection that led to a syphilis outbreak. In 2001, they produced "The Merchants of Cool," also for FRONTLINE, about the American marketing machine and its focus on teenage consumers. Independently, Barak Goodman produced and directed the Academy-award nominated and Emmy award-winning documentary "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy" for PBS's American Experience series, as well as the Emmy-nominated "Daley: the Last Boss," also for American Experience, and also co-produced "Rollover: The Hidden History of the SUV" for FRONTLINE. Dretzin has produced numerous documentaries for FRONTLINE, including "Hillary's Class," "The Search for Satan," "Betting on the Market," and "The High Price of Health."
The transcript follows.
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washingtonpost.com: Good morning, Rachel, and thanks for joining us. There are so many questions from readers about Sally Schofield and the caseworker, but let's start with Christy Marr. Your interview with her about re-marrying and her being angry with the situation was particularly interesting. How did she view her actions and motivations throughout the case, and how does she see them now? How is she doing?
Rachel Dretzin: Let's start with how she's doing. Christy has remarried about a year ago, and she seems to be very stable. She has Bailey, here youngest daughter, living with her. We've had sporadic contact with her, but our sense is that she's in very good shape. Our sense is that she has matured immensely as a result of the last five years. At the time, she acknowledges that she made many mistakes, she was overwhelmed and immature, and she was very angry and defiant. The combination led to choices which the state perceived as being dangerous for her children. Some of those choices Christy acknowledges were wrong; others she still defends.
Morristown, N.J.: Where was the court in all this? There should have been reviews in front of a juvenile or family court judge who would have reviewed the whole situation. The birth mother should have had a lawyer to present her case. The caseworker is not usually the only person involved, when a child is taken without consent into custody. This program only presented part of the picture. Why was there no mention of the court system?
Rachel Dretzin: First of all, Christy did in fact have an attorney. She had two attorneys as a matter of fact -- the first one she ended up letting go of right after Logan died. We attempted to speak with her first attorney, the one who was involved with the period the film covers, but he did not want to speak with us. And in terms of the court system, there are mentions of court decisions. Every time the children were removed from Christy's care, a judge had to sign an order allowing it. If that wasn't clear in this program, it certainly will be clear in next week's installment that the court is involved in this process.
Crystal Springs, Miss.: Why was Logan taken from her mother's custody?
Rachel Dretzin: Logan was taken twice -- the first time when she was 2 1/2, the second time when she was around 4. There was never one reason, but in both cases there was a trigger event. In the first removal, the trigger event was Christy leaving Logan with a babysitter at her mother's house when the state had warned her against exposing her daughter to her mother's husband. At the time, he was not living in the home. Christy says that he had no idea that he would show up there. He did show up, a neighbor spotted him, called DHS. In the second removal, there were two primary triggers. The first was Christy had taken Logan and Bailey to Florida to stay with her father. This is a man who Christy had accused of molesting her in the past, and the state had warned her against allowing her children to have contact with him. When Christy returned to Maine, she met a man and I believe became engaged to him, who had a record -- not for sexual assault, but for other smaller crimes. The state received a tip that he had hit Christy in front of Logan. That's when they moved in and decided to remove the children. But in both cases, it was these trigger events, combined with a history that the state viewed as being uncooperative and irresponsible, that were taken into account when the decision was made.
Hartland, N.B., Canada: How does this happen? Not just in Maine but everywhere? My mother couldn't raise the five children she had, and we weren't taken from home, we had to run away and ended up in a perfectly GREAT foster home. This foster mom's license got taken away because she smacked a child, not her own. Then my mother who was the worst in the world, I can tell you -- married three times and NO role model, subjecting us to physical and emotional abuses, was given the wonderful privilege of becoming a foster mother when all her children were gone from home?! Stories like this one of Logan Marr, with a mother who NEVER should have been interfered with, makes me so sad, and fills me with questions about social services everywhere and reiterates what I feel that they just cannot be trusted to do the right thing under ANY circumstance!
Rachel Dretzin: I think, first of all, that you are taking away a valuable message from the program, which isn't about foster care always being bad, or birth parents always being good. In fact, it's about a system that's overwhelmed and in many cases unable to make the decisions (whether it's to leave children with their parents or to put them in foster care) that are best for the child. Your positive experience in foster care is shared by many others, and certainly there are many instances where it is appropriate to remove children from their birth parents.
Topeka, Kan.: I work as the coordinator of a Citizen Review Board by which community volunteers review Child in Need of Care cases for our Judicial District. I e-mailed my volunteers to watch this and next week's Frontline shows. I am sure that many discussions will evolve from the material covered.
My question is whether Maine or any states are prosecuting Protective Child workers when egregious work is discovered?
After six years involved with CINC cases, I believe that the parent must have a social work team that works as diligently to provide them services as the child receives. Have you come across any process with that approach?
Reintegration is not always the appropriate plan, but somehow the playing field needs to be level, not full of holes and barriers.
Rachel Dretzin: I can't speak to the first part of your question, but I can address part of it. It's been striking to us, in reporting these programs, how little advocacy exists for birth parents in the system. Clearly, something needs to be done to address the powerlessness of birth parents whose children are removed by the state, and what you're doing sounds like a terrific effort in that direction.
St. Joesph, Mo.: How carefully are foster parents screened before they are allowed to care for children?
Rachel Dretzin: The answer is not carefully enough. There is a national shortage of good foster homes, in part because foster parents aren't paid enough to attract the appropriate kind of people. And caseworkers are too desperately in need of beds for the children in their custody to go through the kind of exhaustive checking of foster parents that really should be happening.
Concord, Calif.: An excellent story of the tragic life of this beautiful little girl.
Why did not Sally give her up when she saw she could not handle the girl? Or at least seek professional help?
When was Sally interviewed for the story if she is doing 20 years in jail. The young mother deserves some compensation from the state for their incompetence in taking the girl away from her.
Rachel Dretzin: I can't be sure exactly why Sally didn't give Logan up, but I can guess. Sally is someone who has gone through life feeling extremely competent in dealing with children. She's had extensive training in social work, and worked for many years as a caseworker, in addition to being the mother of two sons. I think it was very difficult for Sally to accept the idea that Logan was too much for her. And her pride may have stood in the way of her giving up. But that's only my opinion.
We did not interview Sally after the trial, when she went to prison. We interviewed her twice before the trial when she was out on bail (she had already arrested and charged).
In fact, Christy did sue the state of Maine as well as individuals in the state's child protective system and Sally. However, as far as I know, that case has been dropped.
Buffalo, N.Y.: There was no mention of Sally Schofield's husband, Dean. Was he or 16-year-old Derek willing or able to provide any information on Sally Schofield's "questionable techniques" such as the blanket wrap/roll, restraints or pinching that Logan mentioned? Her interview with the police makes it sound like restraining Logan in the chair was a not big deal (and therefore not a new thing) to Sally Schofield.
Rachel Dretzin: The answer is that we did meet Sally's husband, Dean, and attempted to talk to him about the case, but his attorney advised him against it. We felt it was best not to pursue an interview with Sally's son, who was attempting to build a life for himself, and he's still a minor.
Somewhere, USA: I just finished watching your program about Logan and her death in a foster home. Being a foster parent to two young boys who are in their fifth home. I feel that she acted extreme and was glad that legal action did take place. Sally (foster mother) hit the nail right on the head with the comment, you have no idea what it is like to raise these children in your home, there is no amount of education or text books could help with the well being of these children. As s society we need to change the system now, the failure toward these kids will only hurt us in the future!
Rachel Dretzin: I commend you for doing what you're doing. I commend you for taking on these children. It's heroic, and there are too few qualified people willing to do so. The voice of foster parents, many of whom feel as you do, that there is no way to prepare for the level of difficulty they encounter when they take these children in, needs to be listened to and addressed.
San Antonio, Tex.: Do you suppose that the status of Maine's DHS is reflective of all other states? What state has the "best" system and which state has the "worst" system?
Rachel Dretzin: Maine's system is comparably one of the better child protective systems in the country. It's smaller than the large urban systems of Chicago, Los Angeles or New York. Proportionally, caseworkers are less overloaded (although still very overloaded). Because Maine is a very poor state, Maine's system is also not one of the best in the country, and is only now beginning to embark on reform efforts designed to improve it.
Portersville, Pa.: You hear of children being moved from foster home to foster home. After we have fostered for as many years as we have, I can honestly say that it takes a lot to call your caseworker and say that you can no longer provide adequate care for a child because of an inability to deal with a specific behavior. Sally should have realized she wasn't helping the child, and left her pride on the doorstep and asked for Logan to be moved. I feel like with her background, she couldn't admit to her former co-workers that the situation had gone bad.
Rachel Dretzin: You hit the nail on the head. I have a feeling that that's exactly what happened.
Vancouver, BC, Canada: We would like to know about the fathers of the children involved. Where were the fathers of Logan and her sister? Where was the husband of the social worker/foster mother and why weren't his children placed with him? In this province, as elsewhere, we seem to have the child protection service placing itself as second after the mother; fathers are not considered for placement. What training did the social workers have for dealing with men and fathers? Your story. as with child protection services, also excludes fathers.
Rachel Dretzin: Logan's father was considered, I believe on more than one occasion, as a potential placement, but was deemed unsuitable. Because he did not participate in the program, we did not get into any details about his involvement in the case. (He was not present at Logan's birth, and only erratically involved in her life after that.)
San Marcos, Tex.: I saw the piece on the "Today" show this morning, and made it a point to watch the program this evening. I am a case manager for a child placing agency in Texas. Most of the children we work with have been removed from the custody of their birth parents. I was appalled by the circumstances of this child's death and cried for almost the entire hour. I intend to purchase the video of the program from PBS for training the foster parents in my agency, with your consent. I think what disgusted me the most was the behavior of the caseworker mentioned in the program who was assigned to work with Christy. The whole time, I kept thinking she must not have kids. I frequently work with caseworkers in the child protective system and know how overworked they are. I also know how inexperienced they are, for most this is their first job out of college. The first time I meet a caseworker, I usually find myself thinking, "gosh, she was young." I am always dumbfounded when I realize how many of these young women have not started their own families yet. When I was a young social worker, I thought I knew how it would feel to have your kids taken away, but not until I had my own children did I realize how truly terrifying that thought was. I know this sounds silly to some, but I think that it should be a requirement that caseworkers have their own children before they are given the responsibility of taking away other people's children. As disturbing as I found your program, I am struck by how important it is. It should be required viewing for every caseworker, foster parent, and administrator in the system. Thank you so much for finally telling it from the biological families point of view. Foster parents, and caseworkers are often lauded as the heroes in these stories, and I know from experience that is just usually not the case. Thanks again.
Rachel Dretzin: Thank you for your valuable comments, and I agree that the inexperience, both personal and professional, of caseworkers, is a big part of why there isn't more constructive work being done with birth parents.
Galesburg, Ill.: When will "Failure to protect: The Taking of Logan Marr" be shown again? Several people who were really interested were unable to see it until the very last moments. I had been watching our PBS channels since 6 p.m. and changed because I did not know the program would be on at 9 p.m. I'd had an out-of-town call this morning telling me that it would be aired at 7 p.m.
washingtonpost.com: On the Frontline Web site, you can find out if the show will re-air in your area. Click "schedule" on the left-hand side of the page and type in your ZIP code.
Rachel Dretzin: Check the Web site.
Stuart, Fla.: Hi There, Desere Clabo, state director of CPS Watch, and national director of Families Best Interest.
Are you planning to continue your investigation into other states? How can we assist you in your investigation?
Rachel Dretzin: We haven't made any definite plans, but we certainly feel there is more reporting to be done on this topic, particularly on the foster care system nationally, and there's a chance that we will follow up this series with a deeper look at the national foster care picture. If so, we will gladly contact you.
Rutherfordton, N.C.: Why did they just give the foster mother 20 years? To maliciously duct tape a child in a chair and put the child in the basement is neglect, abuse and willful endangerment. She murdered the child and as far as I can see the Department of Social Services and case worker should have been charged also. The case worker is guilty of murder also because the little girl would still be alive if someone especially her had listened.
Rachel Dretzin: In this case, the judge did not convict Sally of murder because her intention had not been to kill Logan. But he did give her an extremely stiff sentence (20 years is a tough punishment for manslaughter).
Virginia Beach, Va.: I think this was the saddest case I have ever seen. Why on two occasions when the child stated in front of a case worker/supervisor that she was hurt, was no response or action taken. I believe the caseworker/supervisor in that room was in direct violation of that child's civil rights and should answer to criminal charges! Who was the voice of this beautiful little girl?
Rachel Dretzin: You're right that the state should have investigated Logan's complaints about Sally. In fact, their own policy required them to do so promptly. My best guess about why they didn't is that Sally's background as a caseworker and a trained social worker made them trust her implicitly. In addition, the caseload of most caseworkers in the agency makes it not unusual that complaints are not followed up on as closely as they're supposed to be.
Norfolk, Va.: Concerning Logan Marr. What I don't understand is why didn't the mother have the right to question the child about the blanket incident? The child told her about it during the Christmas visit and I feel that she might have been abused all along remember she was throwing tantrums for a while the blanket possibly could have been the duct tape all along, It just seems that the case worker knew that something was wrong -- why didn't she make a statement to your interview and why was the mother threaten about losing the children with the letters they gave her.
I also wonder if the grandmother feels somewhat responsible for the child's death, for starting all the bull that the daughter had to go through to this point in life where she is at now. I hope that someone investigates all of the CPS agency's so this doesn't ever happen again.
Rachel Dretzin: In general, birth parents like Christy, in Maine, are discouraged from questioning their children about the conditions of their foster care placement during supervised visitations. In fact, Christy was given a printed list of rules governing her visits with Logan. One of them was not to question her about foster care. The reason for this, according to DHS, was that it might make the children distrust their caregivers. In fact, when Christy did, on one occasion, talk to Logan about this topic, she was sent a letter from her caseworker chastising her for doing so (according to a news report).
Boca Raton, Fla.: Why wasn't the case worker taken to task for breaking the rules of reporting abuse?
What safeguards have been implemented to insure that this cannot happen again?
Rachel Dretzin: Unfortunately, DHS refused to answer any of our questions about this case, and so we don't have an answer to your question. I can tell you that one of the principal caseworkers in this case, Allison Peters, is no longer working for DHS, but I believe her resignation was voluntary.
Standish, Maine: Why is the DHS accountable to no one? They are allowed to accuse anyone of anything to gain their children.
Rachel Dretzin: You are tapping into one of the biggest problems in this country's child welfare system. Although there are "safeguards" set up supposedly to make the system more accountable (caseworkers have supervisors, judges must sign off on the major interventions the child welfare system makes), the vast majority of hearings are closed to the public because of confidentiality rules, and DHS case files are locked from public view. As a result, this is a system that is, for all intents and purposes, not accountable. If we are to improve the system, we need to find a way to balance the children's need for confidentiality against the public's right to understand the workings of one of our most powerful government agencies.
There are about 10 states that have opened up their abuse and neglect hearings to the public. As a matter of fact, the supreme court justice of Minnesota, Kathleen Blatz, who appears in the panel discussion following next week's broadcast, is one of the judges who has made this brave decision.
That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.
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