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American Family Advocacy Center exercises exclusive jurisdiction and oversight over the practice of Family Advocacy.

We do not offer Family Advocacy Services, nor provide family advocates. We provided educational and information services. Family Rights Advocacy Institute trains and supports qualified family advocates and qualified advocacy groups nationwide and provides trained and certified family advocates in limited areas.

  • If you have complaints about any person who claims to be a Family Advocate, please advise us by filling out this form.
  • If you are a Family Advocate whose practice is being thwarted by child welfare practitioners, contact us via email.

We will ask you to provide documentation of your claim, investigate the claim and attempt to contact the individual or organization who is responsible. If we find that there has been a violation, we will attempt to negotiate a reasonable solution. If the responsible person has acted improperly, and refuses to correct the wrong, we will report our findings publicly, including whether or not the responsible person responded.

Your identity will be kept confidential from the public and from the responsible persons or organizations.

What is an Independant Family Advocate?

What is an Independant Family Advocate?

Advocate Guidelines

Advocate Guidelines

Family Advocacy and Retaliation

Family Advocacy and Retaliation

What is a Certified Family Advocate?

Certified Advocates

What are the advantages of using trained & certifed advocates?

You can be sure that the strategies employed by advocates trained by Family Rights Advocacy Institute (FRAI) are tried and true, proven successful. You are not some enthusiastic amateur’s experimental guinea pig.

Trained advocates are professionals and a valuable asset to attorneys, who can rest assured that a FRAI trained advocate will perform professionally and credibly as a member of the legal team.

Trained advocates have proven to be the best way to overcome the stigma of working with self-professed advocates which has been created by professionals attempting to work with untrained amateurs who really didn’t know what they were doing. Some of our trained advocates are hired and paid by attorneys for their expert consultation services.

Trained advocates are certified by FRAI and if they act in any manner which is inconsistent with our practices, that certification will be pulled. You will have someone to take your complaint to if a trained advocate is incompetent or harms your family.

Trained advocates are subject to criminal and civil background checks and serve a one year probationary period prior to certification to insure their character, credibility, competence and practice meet FRAI standards.

Trained advocates operate under the supervision of a state leader who is under the direct supervision of Family Rights Advocacy Institute. All trained advocates certified by FRAI accept the leadership and authority of their state leader and the leadership and authority of FRAI over their advocacy practice.

Trained advocates are team players, not glory seekers. You can rest assured that when you accept the services of a trained advocate, you have accessed the skill, knowledge and experience of the entire FRAI advocacy team.

Trained advocates and state leaders receive constant support from FRAI to assist with ongoing training, case management and strategies.

Trained advocates support the entire state team, and will frequently be able to provide volunteer court watchers for your case.

The real question is. . .why would risk the future of your family by utilizing the services of an untrained Family Rights Advocate?

Where can I find a trained and certified family advocate?

Family Rights Advocacy Institute is responsible for training, certifying and supervising family advocates. Unfortunately, most of them are unwilling to practice due to the abuses they've suffered at the hands of the leadership and membership of American Family Rights Association. To see what exactly AFRA has been doing, go to Shell v. AFRA.

Until this lawsuit is resolved, your attorney may ask our director if anyone is available. She will only respond to requests from attorneys or judges. She cannot provide any assistance or advice to parents or families, because she is under a Colorado Supreme Court injunction.

Bad Information/Bad Advice Example #1

One online group member stated, "You signed a service plan, which is an admission of guilt. Think about it; if you were not lacking in any way as a parent, why would you need "services"? By signing the service plan (or case plan or whatever it's called in your state), you were admitting you need to be fixed in some way. Since you signed this, you will need to do everything it says, or risk losing your children. But you don't have to do anything not stated in the service plan. Does the service plan say, "parents must tell CPS every word she speaks to her husband"? If not, then don't talk to them about such things."

This advice is just plain wrong, and indicates the abject degree of ignorance practiced by leaders that is so pervasive in the family rights movement.
Signing a service plan is NOT an admission of guilt.

First of all, this isn't about guilty or innocent. Only criminal cases involve the concept of guilt or innocence. Child welfare cases are civil in nature, not criminal, and there is no finding or admission of guilt associated with child welfare cases.

Second, the only time a respondent parent makes an admission is when they formally admit to the petition filed by the state agency, admitting that their children were abused or neglected. Most court-appointed attorneys will advise the parents to admit to the petition, thereby waiving their right to an adjudicatory hearing. If the parent does not admit to the petition, there will be a court hearing into the matters presented in the petition. If the children are found to be abused or neglected and in need of services, this is called an adjudication. The adjudication happens if the parents admit to the petition or if the court holds a hearing and subsequently finds the children are abused or neglected and in need of services.

Third, signing the case plan is a requirement imposed by Congress designed to indicate that the parent participated in the formation of the case plan, and that the parent agrees with the components of the case plan. The Federal government requires this signature as part of the process for the agency to receive federal funds for foster care and child welfare. The parent's signature does not denote any admission of guilt or an admission to the petition filed by the agency. The case plan is considered part of the dispositional process, which occurs after the children are adjudicated dependent and in need of services.

There is a right way and a wrong way to go about the issue of not signing the case plan. There is a right reason and a wrong reason not to sign it. But one must first know the legal basis for the requirement that a parent sign the case plan. If a parent refuses to sign and cannot articulate an accurate reason why, it will only hurt their chances of getting their children back. The agency will tell the court that the parents are refusing to cooperate, and should, therefore, not be reunified with their children.

Bad Information/Bad Advice Example #2

CPS Watch leader stated,
"GAL's are appointed to represent your child's best interests, not wishes. You can hire an attorney for your child to represent his/her wishes, but you aren't entitled to an appointed attorney for that purpose."

This person is correct that the GAL only represents the child's best interests, in the subjective opinion of the respective GAL. However, knowing that much is only part of the dynamic associated with the representation of children in child welfare cases.

By way of background, some states require the GAL to be a licensed attorney.

Some states don't require the GAL to be a licensed attorney, and will appoint an attorney to represent the GAL in the child welfare proceedings. (Yeah, it's weird, why would the GAL require legal representation when a child doesn't?)

In some states, the GAL is not a licensed attorney and is not represented by counsel.

In any event, this advice is wrong. Courts have universally resisted attempts by the parent to hire an attorney to represent their children in a child welfare case where the child already has been appointed a GAL. The courts considers the child's immaturity as a barrier to having their wishes or their legal interests represented in a child welfare proceeding, and also view the parent's attempts to hire an attorney as inappropriately trying to tip the balance of the case. Courts will categorically deny any attorney hired by the parents the ability to enter an appearance in a child welfare proceeding to represent the child's legal interests. However, this restriction can be circumvented, if one knows what to do. But just hiring an attorney for the child will fail to have the desired effect.

Furthermore, contrary to the CPS Watch leader's dismal advice, American Family Advocacy Center has been successful in having the court appoint an attorney to represent a minor child in a dependency proceeding even though the child already was appointed a GAL. The attorney represented the child's legal interests, and the GAL represented the child's best interests.

The success of this strategy involves a very specific series of carefully crafted steps which forces the court to acquiesce to the demand for the child to be represented by a GAL and an attorney at the state's expense. Clearly, CPS Watch leader's advice is, once again, wrong.

There are several scenarios under which a parent can successfully insure their child is represented by an attorney who will represent the child's legal interests in addition to the child's best interests as represented by the GAL. Only American Family Advocacy Center has devised and implemented these strategies successfully. These strategies are part of the propriety business methods of AFAC, and are not for public dissemination. Parties desiring this information must have their attorney contact AFAC to consult on the case.

Bad Information/Bad Advice Example #3

CPS Watch leader advises, "
In all states, fleeing to avoid an investigation is grounds to seek an emergency removal order. Additionally, you can be placed in jail until you reveal where your child is. Leaving the area or sending your children out of the area only leads to more problems. Stay in your home and request a court order. Videotape."

And another CPS Watch leader,
"Fleeing or otherwise eluding an investigation can be grounds for an exparte [sic] shelter order.  In Florida, they will order you to produce the child and will put you in jail for contempt if you don’t comply once ordered."

Once again, this advice is just plain wrong. This group has been giving this erroneous advice for years, during which time American Family Advocacy Center has been successfully implementing strategies involving parents fleeing with their children to prevent their seizure by the state, including Florida. Done correctly, this results in the case being closed without a petition being filed. It has never resulted in the agency seeking or obtaining an emergency removal order against any of our clients. This outcome can hardly be considered as causing more problems.

Again, it is important to emphasize that there is a right way and a wrong way to implement this strategy. CPS Watch leader is correct in observing that people who just take the child and run can end up causing more problems, but this is not due to the act of fleeing, but due to the way the parent's fled.

Depending on the situation, there are several methods of safely removing the children from the reaches of the child welfare agency successfully. Each situation must be analyzed individually to determine what method would work for the family. The point of this strategy is to insure the agency does not inappropriately seize the children without sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect consistent with the statutes. As a tool to preventing removal, our clients who have employed this strategy have reported relief and satisfaction at the outcomes.

We have used this method to prevent newborns from being seized at birth when their siblings were in foster care, and to prevent children who were already questioned in school from being seized at their parent's home. We've even had a child leave the school during the interview and call her father who picked her up at the school while the caseworker was in the principal's office. They disappeared for a week until the issue was resolved. The bottom line is, if the court does not have jurisdiction over the children, sometimes the best course of action is to flee with the child until the situation can be properly resolved. Resolving the situation does involve that specific action be taken by the parents. You can't just take the child and run and expect that will solve the problem. It doesn't always work that way.

Bad Information/Bad Advice Example #4

AFRA leaders have advised, "
Personally I would FIRE that attorney and file a complaint with your state BAR."

This was in response to a member stating, "T
he lawyer refused to enter anything, he said all of it was hearsay and the judge would throw it out."

Telling a parent to fire their court-appointed attorney is really bad advice, just about the worst advice given by well-intentioned but incompetent advocates.

In the first place, the lawyer is probably right. What the parent wanted to file was the sworn affidavit that AFRA advises all parents to file. ("The short story is- YOU have to write up your version of history in your Sworn Affidavit and FILE it ON THE RECOR
D with the court clerk.  A lawyer can't and won't do that for you"). This document has been proven to harm cases. It is also nothing but hearsay, as the lawyer observed, and the court would throw it out. But AFRA has duped consumers into believing this document is the best available tool for parents, when it's probably the worst thing they could do in their case. The lawyer was doing his job correctly, but he was probably being an arrogant ass in the process.

There is a right way and a wrong way to get your facts on the record, and a right way and a wrong way to get your attorney to vigorously represent you. Doing an end-run around him by filing your own documents is not the right way.

And firing your court-appointed attorney for refusing to file your disastrous affidavit of facts is about as stupid a thing as any parent could do. If you fire him, you must represent yourself. If you fire him, the court is not obligated to provide another attorney, and generally won't provide another one. Even if you attorney tries to withdraw and you don't object to his withdrawal, the court does not have to appoint you another attorney.

We have never seen a parent, much less many attorneys, who were knowledgeable and capable enough to properly make their own case in dependency proceedings. Parents NEED an attorney, and a bad attorney is better than no attorney, because there are remedies available when an attorney screws up that are not available when the pro se parent screws up. It is far better to work with the attorney than against him, he's all you've got, and you have to make it work.

American Family Advocacy Center has developed methods and strategies designed to insure the record accurately and adequately reflects the parents's and the children's facts, evidence and legal interests without alienating your attorney or compromising your case. These strategies do not include affidavits of fact, or firing your attorney, or acting behind your attorney's back.

Bad Information/Bad Advice Example #5

A Georgia AFRA leader advises,
"I'm going to explain how I do things, and how the advocates I have trained do things. First and foremost a Family Advocate must be certified as a minister. There are easy and cheap ways to do this over the Net. It can even be from a diploma mill - all that matters is the protection this gives to client families. That provides for the confidential relationship needed between the advocate and the client family."

Advising advocates to become a diploma mill minister is bizarre and absurd.

First of all, it undermines their credibility. Buying a diploma mill certification as a minister is a cheap trick. As one observer put it, "
f a member of the 'clergy' were put on the stand, they would first be questioned as to where they got their credentials. It isn't just a 'minister'...there's ordination as well and there are certain places who give it. Someone getting on the stand and testifying they went to Moody Bible School for 6 years, then was ordained, etc. compared to someone who has no high school diploma (Cygan) and was given a piece of paper for $25.00 (Blair, Kiefer, Kernaghan-Baez) over the Internet....that person would be disqualified. If the court was really pissed off, they could go after them...obstruction, contempt, etc."

Second, it doesn't protect confidentiality in a child welfare case. The law has progressed to the point where ministers are now mandated reporters and confidentiality not only can be, but will be breached.

Third, it will not protect the "minister" from being charged with unauthorized practice of law, if they give legal advice to the client. In fact, the state will prosecute the UPL as willful, because of the ruse of clergy being employed.

A family advocate does not need to resort to tricks or deceptions to practice. There are enough protections in the existing law so that a family advocate can be considered a contributing member of the treatment team. Other family rights groups with advocates take such an adversarial posture that is so off-putting, that nobody wants to deal with the disruption. Adding tricks to the adversarial posture is enough to cost the parents their children. If any advocate must resort to trickery, they are not competent or qualified to practice.

Why does AFAC exercise jurisdiction and oversight over advocates?

American Family Advocacy Center created the idea and practice of the family advocate. As the creator of this practice, we feel a certain responsibility to insure the credibility and quality of this practice.

This idea was so popular with aggrieved families that participants in the family rights movement copied the idea and began offering advocacy services to families involved with child welfare agencies.

The fact that other groups and individuals copied the idea was not a problem. But, some self-professed family advocates were unqualified to provide advocacy services for any number of reasons.

Some still had open cases with their child welfare agency. Some never got their children back due to following bad advice, the same bad advice they proceeded to disseminate to their client families, resulting in those families losing their children forever. Most were really ignorant of the law and the procedures associated with these cases. Some were mentally or emotionally unstable. Some are just plain con artists or thieves. And some, sadly, really are abusers.

In 2003, when these problems began to surface, AFAC decided this practice needed to be policed internally or the government could step in do it for us, rendering it ineffective. We conferred with leadership of American Family Rights Association (AFRA) as to how to prevent harm to the consumers. AFRA declined to exercise oversight, and acquiesced to AFAC exercising oversight over the practice of family advocates. AFRA subsequently changed its posture and vigorously opposed any oversight over the practice of family advocacy, and offered no viable alternative to protect consumers.

While we have no express authority to sanction or otherwise reign in incompetent, abusive or unqualified self-professed family advocates, we can attempt to broker a resolution of the issues between the aggrieved client and the advocate, to the extent the accused advocate will cooperate. If the advocate is uncooperative or refuses to resolve the issue, we will maintain a record of the grievance and can provide information about any specific advocate to anyone seeking it.

I am an advocate and I refuse to submit to your oversight. . .

. . .and I do not recognize your jurisdiction over my family advocacy practice.

Our response.


As long as we receive no complaints that you harm client families, we take no position on your advocacy practice.

If you do harm client families and we learn of it, your refusal to recognize our oversight or jurisdiction will have no effect on our investigation and record-keeping. However, your response--including the tenor of that response, cooperation--or lack thereof, threats, retaliation and your participation or refusal to resolve the issue will be duly documented.

As long as you conduct yourself as an ethical, competent, skillful professional, you have nothing to worry about.

Will you testify about family advocates?

If we are properly subpoenaed to testify as to our investigations and findings, we will appear and provide all requested information. We will waive personal service on certain subpoenas. The issuing party can contact us for details of this waiver, but we do require a subpoena and costs to appear in any court hearing.

I demand you prove your claims!

Our records are confidential to protect our sources--some of the accused advocates are really nasty and vindictive and have retaliated against anyone they think exposed them. We will not provide our documentation to anyone for any reason.

Important Notice about using this site

EMAIL THE AMERICAN FAMILY ADVOCACY CENTER ***  Our client lists are confidential. Please do not ask who disclosed certain information to AFAC. This information is not available to the public and will be vigorously guarded from disclosure to protect those clients whose children remain at risk of state-sanctioned kidnaping of their children.

Information included on these pages is not legal advice, we are not attorneys. You are advised to consult with an attorney on any legal matters.

Any legal documents on this site were prepared and/or drafted by attorneys or under the supervision of an attorney, or by pro se respondent parents and/or subject children and are published here with their permission. Any phone calls or other oral communications with our staff may be recorded at our discretion. Any person engaging in conversation with any of our staff is presumed to have given express consent to be recorded. ALL MATERIAL ON THESE PAGES IS COPYRIGHT 1996-2011 SUZANNE SHELL reproduction without written permission is prohibited.

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IF YOU COPY OR DISTRIBUTE ANYTHING ON THIS WEB SITE, YOU ARE ENTERING INTO A CONTRACT. You agree that the act of copying, as defined in the terms, whether you prepay any fees or not, constitutes your express intent to enter into a contract with the copyright owner as defined in COPYRIGHT NOTICE & TERMS (READ BEFORE ACCESSING THIS WEB SITE) - Copyright 1996- 2011, Suzanne Shell and individual contributors where appropriate. The content if this web site is intended to generate income, it is not free if you intend to archive, copy, print, distribute or create a derivative work of anything electronically fixed herein. Simply put, read, browse, learn freely. Copy, print, save, or distribute - get permission first or pay.

Reproduction and distribution prohibited without permission. This web site is licensed to be viewed on a computer device only while connected on the Internet connected to this web site. This license expressly does not include off-line viewing of content. Permission and limited, non-exclusive license to reproduce this web site, by any method including but not limited to magnetically, digitally, electronically or hard copy, may be purchased for $5,000 (five thousand dollars) per printed hard copy page per copy, in advance of printing. We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, check, money order or cash. WE DO NOT ACCEPT GOVERNMENT PO’S - this fee schedule applies to the general public and particularly to any state agency, employee, contractor, GAL, attorney or CPS service provider or any person listed on the Consumer Advisory.  CPS agencies and associates and our competitors have found this site to be extremely valuable, preferring the contents of this site to any other site. Hence, the premium price. Family Rights activists or advocates may obtain reduction or waiver of license fees  upon request. License and permission s expressly denied for any use in a court case or official proceeding without express written permission and prepayment of posted fees or fee waiver.

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Why is Suzanne Shell suing AFRA and CPS Watch? This is horrible. We should all be working together for families, not fighting each other!

Very good question. Since this web site was first published in 1996, Ms. Shell has worked tirelessly for family rights, building an unparalleled reputation and advancing this movement on a national scale. If you want to know why she sued the defendants, you can see reasons for the complaint at Below is an excerpt from the complaint.

But as far as CPS Watch, Cheryl Barnes has taken methods devised by Suzanne Shell, including her advice that parents document their interactions with follow-up letters and write reports to the court from a presentation given by Ms. Shell. Barnes passed it off as if she originated that strategy. Barnes did not originate that or any other viable strategy. Barnes recently even accepted a compliment from a member of her online group, who stated she was a genius for devising this strategy, and did not deny that she created it, accepting the praise for herself without giving credit to Ms. Shell as the originator of that strategy.

In fact, Barnes sought and obtained permission from Ms. Shell to include this information in a bulletin to her members, which Ms. Shell granted under the condition that Barnes not charge for this information, that she give credit to Ms. Shell and provide a link to this web site. Barnes has never given credit to Ms. Shell, and has never linked to this web site and she did charge for this information which she featured in the single booklet she has ever written on this subject.

Barnes is a con artist, building her reputation and stature on a mere two parts of Ms. Shell's extensive work, and duping the public into thinking Barnes created it. The real tragedy is that Barnes has the bare bones of this strategy, but cannot provide the balance of the information necessary to make it a powerful tool for parents involved with child welfare. If you want the rest of the story, you must come to American Family Advocacy Center to obtain it, CPS Watch doesn't have it and hasn't been able to figure it out for the past ten years.

CPS Watch and Barnes, as well as AFRA, have hired pro-DHS attorney Dan Slater of Fremont County to represent them in this case. Slater is one of the most anti-family Guardians ad Litem in Colorado, who has worked with Rocco Meconi to prevent American Family Advocacy Center from helping families who have been abused by child welfare agencies in Colorado and prosecute Ms. Shell for her advocacy and news gathering. Ask yourself, why would an anti-CPS group hire a pro-CPS attorney who has a reputation of trying to take down family rights activists and advocates in Colorado?
Suzanne Shell






























Unknown defendants Doe 1-15
Shell v. AFRA et al, 09cv00309, United States District Court, District of Colorado

1. This is a case of the theft of proprietary methods and copyrighted literary content developed by the Plaintiff that were so pioneering and unique, that no other similar product existed or was otherwise available to the consumer. Consumers in this market welcomed the Plaintiff’s products enthusiastically. Competitors could not compete with the comprehensiveness and undisputed quality of the Plaintiff’s products. The positive outcomes that accompanied consumer use of the Plaintiff’s products were so enticing that the Defendants began to covet, and ultimately conspired to steal Plaintiff’s unique creations.

2. Defendants stole Plaintiff’s unique and proprietary writings and methods, and are using it as the centerpiece of their marketing efforts to garner credibility, stature and the large share of the market that rightfully belongs to Plaintiff by virtue of the quality of her products and services.

4. This lawsuit seeks permanent injunctive relief to prevent the defendants from causing further harm to the Plaintiff, divestiture of their businesses, as well as damages to redress Defendants’s copyright infringement in violation of the federal copyright laws, misappropriation of Plaintiff’s trade secrets and other proprietary and confidential information, reverse-passing off under the Lanham Act, false and misleading advertising, unfair or deceptive trade practices and unfair methods of competition, breach of contract, tortious interference with Plaintiff’s contractual relations, racketeering and anti-trust.

5. As explained more fully below, Plaintiff developed a pioneering and unique method by which families involved with child welfare agencies could dramatically speed up the reunification process for their children in foster care, or even prevent their placement into foster care, prevent the state from terminating parental rights (TPR) and insure the welfare and safety of the child in the process. It also reduces the associated burdens on taxpayers, courts and state agencies. This proprietary method was treated as trade secrets and any publicly released literary content for marketing purposes was registered with the U. S. copyright office. This method and her inventory of associated original copyrighted documents gave Plaintiff a distinct market advantage over other providers of child welfare services, catapulting her into a position of national dominance in this market.

6. During the process of conspiring and stealing the Plaintiff’s writings and methods and passing it off as their own, Defendants began a campaign of stalking and terror in response to the Plaintiff’s efforts to protect her Intellectual Property (IP) rights. This campaign included libeling the Plaintiff’s profession, her business and her property on the World Wide Web, in the real world, in person, by phone and over the airwaves. They published world-wide in every location where the Plaintiff was being discussed or featured in a publication that the Plaintiff stole her work from others, that she was a convicted felon, a child abuser, a stalker, that she published kiddie porn, that her methods were nothing special, that her methods didn’t work and more. When the Plaintiff had scheduled personal appearances, events and presentations, the defendants contacted the management of the hosting facilities beguiling the managing personnel to believe that Plaintiff’s presence would damage the reputation of their facilities. Defendants even showed up physically at locations to stalk and harass the Plaintiff, her customers, associates and licensees. They respected no reasonable boundaries, and included attacks against the Plaintiff’s father, husband and in-laws, as well as involving her children.

7. At the same time, the Defendants used her misappropriated content–the same content that they were discrediting–to market their businesses, their organizations, occupations, services a d products, resulting in undeservingly enhancing their credibility, stature and market share, and eliminating the Plaintiff from competition. To add insult to injury, they made all of this misappropriated content available for free, having publicly denounced the Plaintiff for charging fees for her products.