TRAILS of Injustice

TRAILS of Injustice

From Amanda Hope

I am asking for help from anyone willing and able to help me pay the capped attorney fees for an aggressive new attorney that can request a State Level Judicial Review of my egregiously unjust DHS TRAILS case.

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This is a book! But if you don’t know what this whole thing is about and want to know, please read on.

I am asking for help because up until two years ago, I had no idea this could even happen to anyone as the result of a clear and obvious freak accident.  But now that I’ve been navigating this process for over two years, I know it can happen, and to ANYONE!

I am a licensed family child care provider in the state of Colorado and have been for 14 years. I was recently placed into the TRAILS child abuse database by he Department of Human Services for “lack of supervision”.  They claim me to be negligent because I did not physically see the moment an 11 year old child hurt himself, leaving marks on his neck, while playing in my pre-approved, fenced-in front yard with other school agers.

Despite the child being checked out at a hospital to confirm there were no internal/ serious injuries, having broken no childcare rules or parental codes and having no disgruntled parents, no child care licensing action and police closing their investigation as an accident, I was informed It was DHS’s intent that I would still be placed in this database, shared upon request with more than 6000 entities, as a child abuser.

I was told I could “settle” by agreeing to be put into the system for a lesser amount of time (4 years) or file an appeal to their finding and go before an Administrative Law Judge. (I didn’t then realize that meant going up against the Department of a Human Services being represented by the State Attorney Generals Office.) I soon found that even finding an attorney with the familiarity to even handle this situation, literally took months and only two out of the dozens of recommendations I’d spoken to had ever actually even gone to hearing, one said he’d never go back! Also, I was warned by nearly all of them that because this is not a criminal matter, only ‘preponderance’ (most likely true) of evidence would be needed at the trial and I would not have access to a jury, and of course, no legal counsel/ public defender. I could see quite obviously then why most people don’t even bother fighting these accusations.  Even IF you do have the personal conviction, time and financial means to appeal a finding, it is very immediately apparent via the lawyers themselves, how unfair and unlikely you are to win this hearing. Still, agreeing to their terms of branding me a child abuser for any length of time was not an option I could live with.

So I did eventually find an attorney and appealed.  The case went before a judge 18 months after the incident and he determined that I had NOT been negligent or violated any rules and was not responsible for this freak accident. In his initial decision, the judge ordered my case be expunged from the registry.

The department of Human Services, through and by our tax dollars and the Attorney Generals Office,  then appealed the judge’s decision in an elaborate terminology spin, siting far reaching definition to words like “supervision” and “parent” that no normal person would ever interpret them to mean. Their appeal also stated that they as an agency, ultimately didn’t actually have to follow the judge’s recommendation.  ((Up to this point, I didn’t know this and I was admittedly horrified and enraged)) So even though this IS the ONLY channel to appeal, and you can win a judge’s favor, the Department of Human Services is still above the law and essentially self regulated. There is also NO TIMELINE for them making their final decision!! So we waited....

EIGHT MONTHS LATER, my attorney was called on to become a magistrate judge and began putting more intense pressure on the agency to make their final decision before he would have to stop practicing. Finally, in early January, 2.5 years after the incident, the Agency finally gave us its “Final Decision”, which was of course, to over turn the ALJ judges decision.

I was informed now again, that I am to be placed in this TRAILS database for life. This database that essentially brands me a “child abuser” to any entity that pays a fee and asks if I am a threat to children. This prevents me from staying in the child care field I have enthusiastically been in outstanding service to for over 20 years. This registry would also prevent me in the future, from working or volunteering in/on any military base, hospital, school, church, sports team, summer camps, on and on that have to do with the care of children.  {An amazingly cruel life sentence for having actually not hurt any child.   And without any actual evidence or agreeing entities, this is currently considered acceptable ?!?}

My last attorney was a good guy and knew this would be long and treacherous road but he sympathized, rolled up his sleeves and even agreed to cap his fees at a set amount from the beginning, so that I did not end up with a never ending tab.  Loosing him is a heart breaking and devastating blow! 

I have been notified that if I still disagree with the Agency, I do have the right to request a Judicial Review, but there is a quick deadline to submit one and I don't actually have an attorney anymore. 

This whole thing is insane enough to write a book on (and I plan to), but this judicial review is terribly important since the judges doing it are NO LONGER affiliated with The Department of Human Services! The request to have one will be long and have to make the case that it is necessary.  Going forward, I absolutely MUST have a capable attorney, familiar with this process, that understands DHS and this very odd sector of the law (that desperately needs changed) and believe me, they are terribly hard to find.  But, I have found one and he even seems enthusiastic! With decades of experience and stellar reviews, I feel relief to have found him.

But friends, while he has also generously agreed to cap his fees of normally over $400 an hour to just a flat 5k,  I still DON’T HAVE ANOTHER FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!  

It is crazy what my family has already lost in income and spent financially in this situation and that THIS is considered an acceptable cost for anyone not agreeing to be scarlet-lettered a child abuser without due process. As a single mom, I have already spent many thousands out of our savings and in bank loans, not to mention the emotional costs!

So friends, for the first time since this started, I am asking for your help! This is a situation that shouldn’t even be possible but it is happening every day over a plethora of DHS opinions of abuse, where rules don’t need to be broken and common sense and over sight are not required! This absolutely can happen to anyone and it does happen often! Most will not have the strength or resources available to fight it, much less talk about it!

Since this started, I have learned of countless stories of people put into this shared-system without recourse or oversight! People who, in many cases have had to retire early, lose their jobs, can no longer be scout leaders, soccer coaches etc. All of whom did NOT get accused of, much less actually charged with any actual crime!!  And this is what I am facing.

I am vested in changing this David & Goliath system because, even as a parent and provider, my entire adult life, up to the point that I found myself IN IT, I had no idea such a thing existed! I and everyone close to me have been forever-changed by the gross injustice of this experience.  

It is my intent, that by my following the provided channels of “Appealing a TRAILS Finding”, I can easily demonstrate just how ridiculously costly, time consuming, unfair and wasteful this current system is to tax payers and definitely to those at the receiving end of these claims. But to do so, I need help!

If you feel inclined to help to any degree, please do!! 

P.S.  I didn't know of any other way to share and ask for this help but these crowd sharing platforms do take a percentage of money raised. 

THANK YOU for making it through all of this!!

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