Monday, May 3, 2010
From the Chicago Tribune:
DCFS has increasingly diverted
families with issues of neglect or abandonment to probate court, a system
typically reserved for guardianship cases that are less complex, according to a
Tribune review of court documents and interviews with judges and lawyers.
Some judges and advocates said DCFS has steered these cases away in order to reduce its caseloads. Child-welfare officials, however, said they advise families to go to probate court only when their custody cases can be safely handled outside of an overburdened state system. But even DCFS director Erwin McEwen concedes that some cases are going to the wrong court.
The Tribune examined court records from dozens of cases and found a handful of examples where prospective guardians said they were pressured to go through probate court. In one case, relatives seeking custody said child welfare workers warned them that if they didn't take the probate route, the children might be taken away and placed them with strangers. In another case, a grandmother said caseworkers implied that her grandchild would be placed in a state facility if she did not seek guardianship in probate court.
A juvenile court judge can order home visits to monitor the children's safety, offer support services such as counseling to families and establish safeguards to ensure that children are not returned to parents who continue to neglect or abuse them. In general, a probate court judge does none of those things.
Read more here.