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!
Friday, May 23, 2008
"Child Protective Services has notified the Texas Supreme Court that the state plans to appeal a ruling that it had no right to seize hundreds of children from a polygamous religious sect, a court spokesman said today.
"As I understand it, CPS called and said they were giving advance notice they'd be filing something today," said spokesman Osler McCarthy. He said the call came this morning.
CPS spokesmen didn't immediately return telephone calls today.
Thursday's decision by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin halted custody hearings in San Angelo and raised the possibility of family reunions.
The 3rd Court ruled a San Angelo judge exceeded her authority in ordering into foster care every child residing at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, not just the teen girls who Texas Child Protective Services said were at risk of being married to older men.
"The department (CPS) did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty," the order by a three-judge panel of the appeals court said in part. About half of the more than 460 children placed in protective custody were babies or toddlers."
By Terri Langford & Lisa Sandberg, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News Link to Article (last visited 5-23-08 NVS)
Friday, January 11, 2008
A recent report by two research institutions, the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School and the Center for an Urban Future reports that the New York Family Court system has been “overwhelmed” by a flood of abuse and neglect cases in the last two years. The report “Against the Clock: The Struggle to Move Kids Into Permanent Homes,” notes that abuse and neglect allegation have increased by 150% in the past two years and that more children are spending longer periods in foster care. "Despite the Permanency Law of 2005 — which aimed to get children out of foster care faster — kids in New York City are staying in foster care longer. For children in foster care for the first time, the median length of stay before returning home rose from 8.2 months in fiscal year 2005 to 11.5 months in fiscal year 2007."
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that the state's Child Abuse Reporting Act does not create a private cause of action against mandatory reporters for failure to report suspected child abuse to authorities. The court thus affirmed the district court's dismissal of this count of the plaintiff's claim. However, the plaintiffs had also pled a common law negligence claim. While the district court did not strike that claim, it did exclude all evidence related to the hospital's responsibility to report suspected child abuse to outside authorities. The supreme court held that this was error because the plaintiffs presented a prima facie case that the ordinary skill and care expected in the medical profession required the hospital to report a child with suspicious injuries as a victim of suspected child abuse. Two dissenting judges would have affirmed the district court's exclusion of
evidence as well, reasoning that the plaintiffs had failed to make a sufficient offer of proof.
Becker v. Mayo Found., 2007 Minn. LEXIS 455 (Minnesota Supreme Court August 16, 2007)
Opinion online (last visited August 18, 2007 bgf)
Thursday, August 9, 2007
A controversial law effectively banning parents from smacking their children has been passed by New Zealand's parliament. The legislation closes a legal loophole that allowed parents to use "reasonable force" to discipline their child. However, the new bill allows the police to use discretion over whether a parent should be prosecuted or not.
Read the BBC article (last visited August 10, 2007 bgf)
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The 18th Annual Kids Count Data Book is now available from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The data book provides national and state-by-state information and statistical trends on the conditions of America’s children and families. Among the key indicators the data book tracks are infant, child and teen deaths; low-birthweight babies, teen births, high school dropout, teens not in school and not working, children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment; children living in single-parent families, and percentage of children in poverty.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
"Fifteen states get failing grades on a first-of-its-kind report card assessing the legal representation provided to abused and neglected children as courts make potentially fateful decisions about whether to separate them from their families.
The report, being released at a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday by the Washington-based child advocacy group First Star, is sharply critical of states which do not require all children in these proceedings to be represented by their own attorneys.
It also says more states should join the 17 that require lawyers in these cases to represent the child's expressed wishes and ensure that those preferences are heard in court.
''In these proceedings the family of a child can be created and or destroyed based on the determination by the court,'' the report says. ''And too often, the child, although most impacted by the court, has the least amount of input.''
Since 1974, Congress has required states to appoint a representative -- often known as a guardian ad litem -- for any child involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. However, states have interpreted the federal law in varying ways; the First Star report said 16 do not have statutes requiring that these children be represented by their own attorneys in all child-protection proceedings." Associate Press, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-24-97 NVS)
Sunday, April 1, 2007
To most Texans, the West Texas State School here is the troubled institution at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the state’s juvenile detention system.
But to the residents of this town of 129 and the neighboring communities, it is a source of badly needed jobs.
That is why about 200 people gathered outside the county courthouse in Monahans on Tuesday to oppose a state auditor’s recommendation to close the school, and why nine residents made the 750-mile round trip drive to Austin this week to address legislators on the matter.
“This facility has been a part of the community since 1965,” said Donna Garcia, community relations coordinator at the school. “It feels like a personal vendetta against this community. We feel like the Legislature needs somebody to blame this on.”
In February, news accounts reported that from 2003 to 2005 two officials at West Texas State had had late-night sexual encounters with incarcerated boys and then were allowed to resign without facing criminal charges. Responding to the disclosure, and to pressure from the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry forced the resignation of the Texas Youth Commission board and ordered a review of all of its facilities.
The agency is currently investigating 1,200 complaints against juvenile facilities around the state.
“Obviously, we’re outraged at the kind of things that are alleged,” Judge Greg Holly of the
By Barbara Novovitch, N.Y. Times Link to Article (Last visited 4-1-07 NVS)