Monday, February 2, 2009
Completing a process begun in 2001, the Supreme Court of Ohio has adopted new rules governing the requirements for guardians ad litem in juvenile and domestic child custody cases. The new rule 48 provides that courts must enter an order appointing either a GAL or a GAL and attorney advocate for the child. The rule includes a broad range of responsibilities for Guardians ad Litem, which are mandated unless impracticable or inadvisable. These responsibilities include interviewing the parents and child and visiting the child in his or her residence. All GALs are required to file a written, final report at least seven days before a final hearing.
Read the new rule 48 here (as a word document).
The new rule follows an extensive study of the Ohio GAL system which examined GAL services provided to abused and neglected children throughout the state. The data for the study was collected through surveying guardians ad litem, juvenile/family court judges and through information contained in a sample of local court records. Many of the recommendations from that report have found their way into the new rule. Read the Ohio CASA/GAL Study Committee's Final Report: In the Interest of Abused and Neglected Children. (last visited Feb. 2, 2009 bgf)
Friday, January 30, 2009
In response to U.S. District Judge Weinstein's findings in Nicholson v. Williams, 203 F.Supp.2d 153 (E.D.N.Y. 2002), the New York State legislature will consider Bill A01440, designed to "prevent further trauma to a child whose custodial parent is a victim of domestic violence [by] establish[ing] a presumption of fitness on the part of the battered custodial parent to prevent the unnecessary removal of the child from the battered parent."
According to the "memo" describing Bill A01440, "Many child psychologists agree that the removal of children from their abused mothers actually harms children, who according to the Nicholson decision, 'are particularly sensitive to being separated from the non-abusive parent.' Often these children blame themselves for their placement into foster care. By establishing a presumption in favor of the battered parent, this legislation seeks to prevent routine and unnecessary removals of children from their custodial parent."
Bill A01440 has been referred to the New York State Assembly Children and Families Committee.
Drugs, Pregnancy and Parenting:
What the Experts in Medicine, Social Work and the Law Have to Say
Wednesday, February 11, 2009, New York City
People working in the field of criminal law, family law, and child welfare often have cases that involve issues of drug use. These lawyers, social workers, counselors, advocates and investigators, however, are often trying to do their jobs without the benefit of evidence-based research or access to experts knowledgeable about drugs, drug treatment and the relationship between drug use, pregnancy and parenting. Drugs, Pregnancy and Parenting: What the Experts in Medicine, Social Work and the Law Have to Say will provide a unique opportunity to meet and learn from the experts. Register at: http://napwtraining.eventbrite.com/
This dynamic program features nationally and internationally renowned medical, social work, and legal experts as well as people with direct experience who will help distinguish myth from fact, evidence-based information from media hype and provide meaningful tools for improved advocacy, representation, care and treatment. Panelists will discuss current research on marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, as well as other areas of research regarding drug use, prenatal exposure to drugs, recovery, treatment and parenting. This research is critical for effective representation and care.
Discussion points will include:
• What does a positive drug test predict about future neglect and abuse?
• What tools can I use to distinguish between myth and fact regarding the effect of drugs and other claims made about drug use and drug users? Is there such a thing as a "crack baby"?
• Is there a difference between drug use and abuse? Can a person parent and be a drug user?
• How should social workers, lawyers, counselors, advocates and judges use and interpret drug tests?
• How do we determine what, if any, treatment should be required and how do we measure its success?
• What is the relationship between drug use, abstinence, relapse and recovery?
• What does evidence-based research tell us about the effectiveness of different kinds of drug treatment?
• How can we implement safety plans that keep families together?
• How can I best advocate for/ help my client when drug use is an issue?
No matter what kind of work you do or practice you have, this course will challenge your assumptions, identify valuable resources and generate hope about families where drug use is an issue.
When: Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 9am to 6pm.
Where: NYU School of Law, 40 Washington Square South, Manhattan
Registration: The fee is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Breakfast, lunch and beverages will be provided. Financial aid is available. Please register at: http://napwtraining.eventbrite.com/
This program was developed in consultation with representatives from all aspects of New York City 's child welfare system. It is co-sponsored by National Advocates for Pregnant Women, New York University School of Law, and the New York University Silver School of Social Work.
Continuing Legal Education, (7 NY-CLE Credits: 5 Areas of Professional Practice, 2 Skills), Social Work (8 Credits) and CASAC (NYS OASAS 7.5 clock hours approved for CASAC, CPP and/or CPS initial credentialing and/or renewal credits) for full or partial day program available for New York. This program is appropriate for practitioners at all levels. Students are welcome.
For more information, contact Allison Guttu, NAPW Equal Justice Works Staff Attorney, at 212-255-9252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RR (thanks to Maria Arias)
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Center for the Study of Social Policy has issued a report describing pervasive racial disproportionality and disparity in Michigan's child welfare system. Titled "Race Equity Review: Findings From A Qualitative Analysis of Racial Disproportionality and Disparity for African American Children and Families in Michigan's Child Welfare System," the report was the subject of a Detroit News story and analysis by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In the current issue of Families In Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, see "Matched Comparison of Children in Kinship Care and Foster Care on Child Welfare Outcomes," by Winokur, Crawford, Longobardi, and Valentine:
"The documented growth of kinship care has boldly thrust this topic into the forefront of child welfare practice. This study compares the permanency, safety, and stability outcomes for a matched group of children placed in kinship care and foster care. After controlling for demographic and placement characteristics, children in kinship care had significantly fewer placements than did children in foster care, and they were less likely to still be in care, have a new allegation of institutional abuse or neglect, be involved with the juvenile justice system, and achieve reunification. These findings call for a greater commitment by child welfare professionals, policy makers, and researchers to make kinship care a viable out-of-home placement option for children and families."
Monday, January 5, 2009
The National Project to Improve Representation of Parents in the Child Welfare System and the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law will offer the first National Parent Attorney Conference in Washington, D.C. on May 13 - 14th, 2009. Here is a link to the Project's website, including the call for workshops for the conference.
Monday, December 1, 2008
According to the Children's Bureau of the federal Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families:
"On October 7, 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law H.R. 6893, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The new law, Public Law (P.L.) 110-351, generally amends titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act to provide support to some relative caregivers, provide for Tribal foster care and adoption access, and improve incentives to promote adoption.
Major provisions of the Act include:
- Extending and expanding adoption incentives through Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2013
- Creating an option to provide kinship guardianship assistance payments
- Creating an option to extend eligibility for title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship guardianship payments to age 21 beginning in FFY 2011
- Phasing in the de-linking of adoption assistance from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility beginning in FFY 2011
- Providing federally recognized Indian Tribes or consortia with the option to operate a title IV-E program beginning in FFY 2010"
This is a link to the Children's Bureau Express, which includes links to the new law and the Children's Bureau's guidance.
Friday, November 14, 2008
At last count 34 children have been left at Nebraska hospitals under the state's safe haven law. While the legislature is meeting in special session today to amend the law to put an age limit in place, family law professors are likely facing a number of questions by students about the law. Here's a quick crib sheet with links to references. (all sites last visited November 14, 2008 bgf)
Q. What is this law and do other states have it?
A. According to the National Safe Haven Alliance :"Safe Haven laws have been passed in all 50 states since 1999. At that time a movement arose to combat increasing cases of infant abandonments across the U.S. In many cases these infants would perish from exposure to the elements, starvation or dehydration. Safe Haven laws were created to allow an adult to anonymously relinquish a baby into the hands of a responsible adult, in most cases at hospitals, police stations or fire stations, without fear of reprisal or prosecution."
Q. What children are being reliquished under these laws?
The difference between the Nebraska law and these other laws is all other states have an age limit - ranging from 3 days to 1 year old. See The National Center of States Courts Safe Haven Legislation Chart (2003). In the first two months of the Nebraska law, the majority of children abandoned were teenagers, 90% of whome were previously involved in some type of mental health services and over half of which were at one time, or currently are wards of the state. See more statistics about the children from this report from Nebraska station KOLN/KGIN's website.
Q. Why were these laws passed?
A. The laws were passed to prevent newborns from being killed or abandoned in unsafe conditions. "The advocates of these laws believe that lives will be saved, crimes will be prevented from occurring, and more infants will be available for adoption. Others have argued that these laws may not work, because the women who commit neonaticide often deny or conceal that they are pregnant, and do not arrange for the birthing process or for the care of the child after the birth. [Other researchers] have argued that women who commit neonaticide usually do so in a state of panic and fear, so it is unlikely that they will be sufficiently calm to consider dropping off their newborn in a designated safe place. National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center, Discarded Infants and Neonaticide: A Review of the Literature 9 (2004)(citations omitted)
Q. What happens to the parents who have abandoned their children under these laws?
A. All safe haven laws provide some form of anonymity for the relinquishing parent and so no authorities make no attempt to identify or locate that person, though some states do allow authorities to ask for medical information from the relinquishing parent. Most states do require verification that the infant has not been reported as a missing child, and some states require a public notice or a search for the non-relinquishing parent (nearly always the father). All safe haven laws also provide some form of defense or immunity from criminal prosecution.
Q. What is a parent's rights or responsibilities if they have relinquished a child under these laws?
A. Generally, the parent is presumed to have abandoned the child. Abandonment is a basis for termination of parental rights. National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center, Expediting Permanency for Abandoned Infants 7 (UC Berkeley 2007). The Nebraska law is particularly vague on the impact of a parent's abandonment under the safe haven law -- apart from providing for immunity from criminal prosecution, it's simply unclear what happens next to these children. Read more about the problem in this Wall Street Journal article.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Family Law Prof Blog previously drew your attention to an interesting op-ed by two Family Law Prof colleagues, June Carbone of University of Missouri-Kansas City and Naomi Cahn of George Washington University, in STLtoday.com, from St. Louis. (September 5, 2008).
Now The New Yorker's November 3, 2008 issue features Margaret Talbot's article, Red Sex, Blue Sex: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant, quoting from Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. Talbot writes:
Two family-law scholars, Naomi Cahn, of George Washington University, and June Carbone, of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, are writing a book on the subject, and they argue that “red families” and “blue families” are “living different lives, with different moral imperatives.” (They emphasize that the Republican-Democrat divide is less important than the higher concentration of “moral-values voters” in red states.) In 2004, the states with the highest divorce rates were Nevada, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and West Virginia (all red states in the 2004 election); those with the lowest were Illinois, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The highest teen-pregnancy rates were in Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas (all red); the lowest were in North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine (blue except for North Dakota). “The ‘blue states’ of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have lower teen birthrates, higher use of abortion, and lower percentages of teen births within marriage,” Cahn and Carbone observe. They also note that people start families earlier in red states—in part because they are more inclined to deal with an unplanned pregnancy by marrying rather than by seeking an abortion.
It's great to see Family Law Profs being part of this important conversation!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Nebraska's "safe-haven" law which allows parents to abandon children at hospitals without being prosecuted has been garnering lots of news. The reason? While other states have similar laws, other states also have an age-limit. Nebraska's law does not. So parents can abandon their teenagers - no need for a "person in need of supervision" or other proceeding.
Legislators are supposedly going to close the "loophole."
Monday, October 13, 2008
An Ohio newspaper is reporting a 15 year old girl who may be adjudicated a sex offender and who has been charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth-degree felony. Her acts? Using her cell phone to send nude photos of herself to other teenagers. The story is here.
(Thanks Feminist Philosophers blog!)
Monday, September 29, 2008
Writing on Domestic Violence? Juvenile Justice? Sex Offenses? Focused on NYC?
New York City Law Review: A Call for Papers
The Legal System’s Response to Violence in New York City
The New York City Law Review -- a student-run law journal based out of the City University of New York School of Law – is currently seeking papers for our Spring 2009 symposium on the legal system’s response to violent behavior. With a particular emphasis on violent behavior within New York City, we will critically explore the increase in criminalization, mandatory arrests, and zero tolerance policies through four panels on the areas of domestic violence, sex offenses, juvenile justice, and police brutality. We will be highlighting progressive legal responses within the present legal system, as well as ideas for new responses both within and without the legal framework.
The symposium will take place on February 13, 2009 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
If you are interested in submitting a paper, please email
by November 1, 2008 with your name, school or organizational affiliation, and an abstract of no more than 250 words describing your article. Selected authors may be invited to serve as panelists at the symposium. Selected articles will be published in the spring of 2009. All completed articles must be submitted by January 1, 2009.
(RR September 29, 2008)
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Center for Children, Law & Policy announces
Child Centered Jurisprudence and Feminist Jurisprudence: Exploring The Connections And The Tensions
Friday, November 14, 2008 @ the University of Houston Law Center
§ Prof. Annette Ruth Appell, Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs and Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law
§ Prof. Martha Albertson Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, Emory University School of Law
§ Prof. Martin Guggenheim, Fiorello LaGuardia Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law
§ Prof. Angela P. Harris, Professor of Law; Executive Committee Member, Center for Social Justice, Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley
§ Prof. Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, David H. Levin Chair in Family Law and Director of the Center on Children and Families at Levin College of Law, University of Florida
§ With Commentary by Prof. Ellen Marrus, Co-Director, Center for Children, Law & Policy, George Butler Research Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center, Prof. Laura Oren, Co-Director, Center for Children, Law & Policy, Law Foundation Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center
§ Date: Friday, November 14th, 2008
§ Location: University of Houston Law Center
§ Event Time: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
§ Registration Cost: Pre-Registration $25, after November 1st increased to $50.
§ CLE: 2.75 Hours
More details at website here.
(RR September 27, 2008).
Friday, September 26, 2008
VIRGINIA DAVIS, National Congress of American Indians, and KEVIN K. WASHBURN, University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law have authored "Sex Offender Registration in Indian Country" forthcoming in Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. They have posted the abstract on SSRN:
Congress was first confronted with the issue of sex offender registration following an incident at a BIA Indian school on the Hopi reservation after a BIA school teacher was convicted of molesting 142 Indian boys during a six-year period in the 1980s. The case, which resulted in a criminal conviction and a $50 million civil settlement, left a scar on the national consciousness. Despite this history, Congress all but ignored the needs of Indian victims and Indian tribes when it enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act as part of the Adam Walsh Act, mandating sex offender registration nationally. This essay criticizes this legislation and the undeliberative and unconsultative process that produced it. It concludes that the legislation might have been far more effective in dealing with sex crimes victimization on Indian reservations if Congress had embraced tribes as equal partners with states in implementing the law's provisions. In the end, the law is likely to help least the very people who suffer from sex crimes the most. This tragedy could have been averted with a more thoughtful approach and greater recognition of the nuances of jurisdiction and insititutional capacity in Indian country.
(RR September 26, 2008).
Monday, September 15, 2008
Texas FLDS Update: Ongoing Problems for State, Amidst Widespread Discovery Violations and Dismissal of "More Than Half" of Seized Children's Cases
Texas Child Protective Services "wants a do-over," according to the Deseret News. Employing a metaphor from the world of golf, a Texas Child Protective Services attorney admitted that the State had failed to provide discovery materials to lawyers for parents involved in the remaining cases, and asked the Court to grant the state a "mulligan." The News also reported that as of September 5, Texas authorities had dismissed "more than half" of the dependency cases of children seized from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Yearning For Zion ranch. (last visited by MIF 09-15-08)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Plaintiffs in LaShawn A. v. Fenty, the long-running federal court class-action case involving the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency, have filed a contempt motion, alleging widespread violations of the Court's 1993 modified Final Order and 2007 Amended Implementation Plan. Read the Motion and other case documents here and the District's opposition to the motion here: Download d_c_response_to_contempt_motion.pdf (last visited MIF 09-13-08)
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Advocates for Children and Youth (Maryland), reports here that "African-American children in Maryland are in out-of-home
placement at 5.3 times the rate of white children, more than 50 percent
higher than the national gap. African-American children are being
removed from their homes at 3.5 times the rate of white children. These
disparities exist despite no evidence of any difference in actual
A substantial body of research has demonstrated nationwide that African-American children and families are treated worse at every stage of the child welfare process than whites. African-Americans parents are the subject of a disproportionate number of unsubstantiated reports of child abuse and neglect, African-American children are removed at greater rates than white children, receive worse treatment and endure longer stays in foster care, and are adopted at lower rates than white children. Much of the earliest research is described in Dorothy Roberts' chilling, classic 2001 book, Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare.
For more recent state-by-state data, see Appendix 2 to this July 2007 U.S. Government Accounting Office report.
The Government Accounting Office submitted this July 31, 2008 testimony for a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support.
The Center for the Study of Social Policy has been a leader in bringing attention to this issue via the Annie E. Casey Foundation-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. See Robert Hill's 2007 report for CSSP synthesizing research on racial disproportionality in child welfare, and CSSP's fact sheet.
(all links last visited 08-24-08 MIF)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Brooke Adams of the Salt Lake Tribune reports today that on Friday, August 22, Texas dropped 49 child abuse allegations involving children from the FLDS ranch. Texas now has asked for the dismissal of 150 cases, with 290 remaining pending. According to Adams, of the 440 children taken by the state from the Yearning for Zion ranch and later ordered returned by the state Supreme Court, one child has been returned to state custody. (last visited 08-23-08 MIF)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform Releases "Due Process Agenda for Children and Families"
On August 11, 2008, The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform released "Civil Liberties Without Exception: NCCPR's Due Process Agenda for Children and Families". Setting forth sixteen recommendations, the report urges states to "enact . . . meaningful due process protections for families." NCCPR recommends elimination of the "secretive, insular" culture of child welfare in which most agency records and court hearings are shielded from the public. NCCPR's recommendations also include significant improvement in the screening of reports telephoned to child abuse and neglect hotlines and improved legal representation of parents in child welfare cases. (August 20, 2008 MIF)
Friday, August 15, 2008
From FEMINIST PHILOSOPHERS BLOG:
"The Feral Child is an object of fascination for many theorists. The very idea of one raises speculations about what the human being apart from civilization would be like. But the actuality can be horrible, tragic, sickening. Florida’s St. Petersburg Times recently published a long story on a child who seems to have had little social contact for the first five or six years of her life."
Feminist Philosophers Blog also provided this link to more on the story, including audio and other links: here (last visited August 11, 2008 RR).
Thanks Feminist Philosophers!