Above the Law? German Agency Destroying Families

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GERMANY, FRANCE -- European Parliament members are about to investigate Germany over the conduct of its notorious youth office, the Jugendamt.

Over the past four years, CBN News has brought you the stories of several German families persecuted by the Jugendamt, often because they were homeschoolers.

Children, like Melissa Busekros, taken away in SWAT-style raids, others brought to financial ruin by huge fines, or parents simply thrown into jail.

Many homeschoolers have already fled Germany. 

Last year an American judge granted political asylum to the Romeikes, a German homeschooling family. Homeschooler Heidi Schulz and her son Wakiya have fled to France. Wakiya was taken away for three years by the Jugendamt and placed in a childrens' home and foster homes.

When a court finally returned him, Heidi and Wakiya fled Germany because they knew the Jugendamt would be back. They are hiding in France.

"We left Germany to live in peace, in freedom and in peace," Heidi said. She admitted it is possible the German government could ask France to arrest her and return her to Germany.

Above the Law

Germany's Jugendamt is so powerful, some Germans say it is above the state. It can take children from good families when it wants and ignore court rulings to return them.

Phillip Churchill, an American psychologist who has practiced in Germany for 10 years, said the Jugendamt cannot be compared to America's Child Protective Services.

"I think Americans would be a bit shocked that so much power is turned over to this Jugendamt because they tell directly judges what to do or what decisions to make," he said.

Churchill said that Jugendamt officials lie in court proceedings but cannot be prosecuted for it.

In the case of Thomas Porombka, in the Hessen town of Idstein, the Jugendamt has defied six court orders and, according to Porombka's lawyer, the agency has lied at least 12 times in court proceedings over his 24-year-old mentally disabled son, who a judge has ruled was kidnapped by the Jugendamt -- a punishable crime.

Thomas had a court order for custody of his son. The Jugendamt ignored it.

Porombka recalls thinking at the time, "Wait a minute. What's going on here? I have a court order and their taking my son away from me?"

A Rogue Agency

German parliament member Klaus-Peter Willsch told us he was stunned when he began to investigate the Porombka case.

He discovered that in Germany, which is supposed to a nation under the rule of law, there is a rogue government agency that breaks the law with impunity.

"That this was possible in Germany was really astonishing for me," Willsch told CBN News. "And I'm still working on it. The judges were on Mr. Porombka's side. But [the Jugendamt] just made their own laws."

Why does the Jugendamt take children from good families and ignore the law? One theory is money.

Some critics of the Jugendamt say the system amounts to a government-run child trafficking network in which about 80 kids per day are seized from parents and funneled to children's homes and psychiatric care. The overflow goes to foster homes.

They claim the system needs to continually take in more children to keep functioning.

CBN News was shown an ad from a German paper looking for someone with good contacts who can send more children to a children's home.

What makes it even worse for the victims of the Jugendamt is that, at the end of the day, there is no mechanism to make the Jugendamt pay for what it has done to so many families.

No Recourse for Parents

The European Parliament has received at least 120 petitions from German parents about the Jugendamt.

Previous European Parliament demands that Germany stop the abuses of the Jugendamt have been rebuffed.

Next month, European Parliament member Philippe Boulland will lead a delegation to Germany to investigate a pattern of human rights violations by the Jugendamt.

"There is neither control [of the Jugendamt] nor an obligation to amend [its errors]," Boulland told CBN News.

"There are cases where the Jugendamt refuses to accept court decisions. And the law cannot impose anything on the Jugendamt. This is absurd," he said.

"If the violations of the law turn out to be true, we will put pressure on the German authorities to put an end to them immediately," Boulland added.

Lies, Lies, Lies

Churchill, as an American psychologist who has lived in Germany for 20 years, said he believes the Jugendamt takes advantage of what he sees as a German characteristic to not challenge authority.

"We're trained as Americans to criticize everything. Germans don't act that way, generally," he explained. "It's a general characteristic. This conformist routine. It's still there."

"These things that are in the personality of a culture; you don't get that out overnight," he said.

Heidi Schulz said she and her son are trapped in limbo. They can never go back to Germany and would likely be arrested if they try to flee the European Union for America.

"The worst part is the lies, the lies of the Jugendamt, the lies of the judge," she said. "You are completely helpless against their lies. Because when you bring facts, they ignore them because they have the power."

Wakiya said he lives in constant fear the Jugendamt will find them in France.

Destroying Families

Heidi also told us her college-age daughters will need to leave Germany because once a family is in the Jugendamt's sights, the next generation may also have their children taken away.

"It's a never-ending story. I know this from other families. Then they take away the children of their children. And so on," she said.

"Sometimes in the third and fourth generation, the Jugendamt came and destroyed families. There is no ending," she said.

"They have ruined our lives," Perombka said. "I think the worst case is my son who was put into a home where he did not want to go."

'"He phones his friends and says, 'I'm in prison,'" he said. "He does not know how he can get out."

The German embassy in Washington said it could not answer our questions, but in the past has denied wrongdoing by the Jugendamt.

Members of the European Parliament will go to Germany next month to conduct their own investigation.

*Original broadcast Oct. 5, 2011

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.