Seems that the 'system' is working its powers once again. I am sorry that your friend has to deal with the idiots that are in charge of the safety and welbeing of these kids. First of all, your friends need to realize that the system has failed, countless times over. Hence the increase in youth violence, crime including murder and teen runaways. The 'system' has been in hotwater on thousands of occasions, and is just using your friends' livelyhood as a scapegoat. The people that are suppose to be looking out for these children's best interest haven't the slightest clue about children other than what they read in school, heck, half of them aren't even married, never mind have children of thier own.
What your friends need to do, is to stop, take a deep breath, and then start playing the 'systems' game. First of all, the only reason these people are being harassed is because of the nagativity the 'system' has earned for themselves. They need all the brownie points in the spotlight they can.
I think it's time that your friends start to fight fire with fire.
First of all, your friends need to collect any information they can pertaining to the species of animals that they have in thier care. The goods and the bads on each of them. The 'system' doesn't like dealing with facts. They seem to have a hard time toeing the line when being put on the spot.
Depending on how long your friends have been foster parents, they need to find proof somehow of when they began collecting herps, in comparison to when they became fosterparents. They need to have this especially to prove to the worker that she is in fact mistaken about the reptiles being in the home when the children were placed with your friend. They need to catch this worker in her own mistakes. If the reptiles were in fact in the home before these children were placed with your friend, and the system has rules pretaining to reptiles being in homes, then she would herself be in hot water, as she was supposeably the one who did the home check before the children moved in. She was the one that made the house 'safe' with her manditory housecheck.
Your friends also need to have documentation of how they keep these animals, and what precautions they take to ensure that they are unaccessable to the children in question. They need to have all documentation for any interaction these children may have with the reptiles. They will need city bylaws and CITIES documentation on each and every animal in thier possession.
And to fight the fire with fire, your friends need to think about contacting the media. Whether it be newspaper or tv, no matter. The 'system' hates the negative spotlight. It seems that the only time they are in the news is when they have once again screwed up. With all this information that they have gathered they need to give the facts to someone that is bias....ie, the public. With the workers and the 'system' being asked to show the public the harm that these children are in, they are either going to give fact or fiction. And trust me, the public knows the difference between the two.
Your friends have to realize that in the end of all of thier battle here, the children may infact be pulled from thier home. Are they willing to have this happen? They are more than likely going to have to seek legal help. Are they willing to do this? They are also going to have to leave thier emotions aside throughout this and stick to the facts. There is nothing the 'system' uses more than preying on the feelings of those in question. Your friends are going to have dirt spilled on them, both good and bad, and they need to remain calm to support this.
I hope in the end, your friends see through this with positive results. They need to know that they aren't the first ones that the 'system' has tried to make an example of, and certainly not the last.
This is just my personal honest opinion, and I hope that all goes good in the end. Tell your friends happy herping and don't give up on what they love to do.....both with the kids and the herps.
All the best to your friends and thier family.