Friday, December 26, 2014

Registration for our Parent Time Lunches in February is now OPEN!

We will be holding three CLE luncheons in February around the state and discussing how to use  Parent Time Timelines.  We hope you can join us!  You will get a fantastic lunch full of relevant information for only $5.  Invite your friends.  One hour of CLE credit pending.

Note: Make sure you click on the correct link for the city and date you want.

St. George
February 6, 2015
12:00p.m. - 1:30p.m.
Painted Pony, 2 West Saint George Boulevard #22, St. George, UT 84770
Cost: $5.00

February 20, 2015
12:00p.m. - 1:30p.m.
Sagebrush Grill, 1345 South 350 West, Richfield, UT 84701
Cost: $5.00

February 27, 2015
12:00p.m. - 1:30p.m.
Vernal Quarry, 25 South Vernal Avenue, Vernal, UT 84078
Cost: $5.00

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Motion for Standard Parent Time and Upcoming CLE Luncheons

One of the most popular posts on this blog has been the summary of a presentation from the CIP Summit on the topic of family/parent time.  You can read the original post HERE.

We have added to the Forms Library on our website a Motion for Standard Parent Time which you can download and tailor to you specific cases.

In order to continue a discussion on the topic of Parent Time the PDA will be holding three CLE luncheons in February.  We hope you can attend one:

February 6, 2015:       St. George, Utah

February 20, 2015:     Richfield, Utah

February 27, 2014:     Vernal, Utah

Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Vote for Breakfast at the Annual Conference!

I have some good news!  The PDA Annual Conference is returning to the Zermatt Resort.  We hope you are planning on joining us.

For the first time ever, the PDA is allowing its members to help choose what they eat at the annual conference.

One thing you should be aware of: as of July 1, 2013, the PDA has been required by the State of Utah to use the per diem pricing for state employees.  In the past, the PDA was not restricted in the amount it could spend on food at conferences, but now we are put on equal footing with all state employees including AGs, GALs, etc.

The use of per diem pricing limits what we can offer.  Below are the options that the Zermatt has available.  Vote for your favorite and the top two will be our choices for conference on April 23 and 24, 2015.

Friday, December 5, 2014

FREE Webinars Focusing on Immigration Issues

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is hosting a two-part webinar series exploring the complexities that arise when working with immigrant families.  The webinars are designed as a conversation and learning opportunity for child welfare personnel, legal professionals, advocates, and other community members working with immigrant populations.

Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status -- What Judicial Officers and Court Stakeholders Need to Know
Presented by Casey Family Programs, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and the NCJFCJ
Date: Monday, December 15, 2014
Time: 9am to 10am PST / Noon to 1pm EST
Cost: FREE
Register HERE
Eileen Matuszak of USCIS will give a brief description of SIJ status and respond to SIJ questions frequently asked by the courts. This presentation will provide an opportunity for judges to ask general SIJ questions of the federal agency responsible for administering the SIJ program. Additionally, Angie Junck of the ILRC will present information on newly enacted state laws addressing SIJ issues. Lastly, Elizabeth Thornton of Casey Family Programs will describe strategies and tools used to raise awareness of the SIJ program with state child welfare agencies and juvenile court judges. 

Immigrant Families -- How to Best Serve Them 
Presented by Casey Family Program, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and the NCJFCJ
Date: Thursday, December 18, 2014
Time: Noon to 1pm PST / 3pm to 4pm EST
Cost: FREE
Register HERE
Andrew Lorenzen-Strait of ICE will explain the Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities Directive  (also known as the Parental Interest Directive). Mr. Lorenzen-Strait will describe how ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) field offices handle family court cases, as well as how courts can collaborate with ICE to help facilitate participation by parents in child welfare cases. Additionally, Kevonne Small of DOJ will discuss Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its application to dependency courts and child welfare agencies, and will discuss how court and child welfare agency responses to immigrant parents may implicate this law. Lastly, Cristina Cooper of the ABA will describe steps states can take to mitigate some of the barriers faced by immigrant families involved in the child welfare system, as well as discuss what falls under the purview of the current federal and state laws. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Boot Camp for Parental Defenders is now LIVE! Plus a Discount Code

New Online CLE!  You can now view the training Juvenile Court Boot Camp for Parental Defenders.
In this video Grant Dickinson of the PDA covers the basics of a parental defense case from shelter hearing to termination with lots of tips and tricks along the way.  If you are new to parental defense or just want to brush up on the basics this video is for you.
  • Click HERE to view the program
  • 1 hour of self-study CLE available
  • $15.00 
  • Use the discount code BOOTCAMP to view it for FREE until December 31, 2014

Not Everyone Has A Right To Counsel When Their Parental Rights Are Terminated

The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC) is a coalition organized by the Public Justice Center that encourages, supports and coordinates advocacy to expand recognition and implementation of a right to counsel in civil cases--including dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings.

Most states provide a right to counsel in a dependency case or when parental rights are being terminated, but in some cases it is left to the judge's discretion or the right is qualified.  To see how the states stack up click HERE or on the map.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Motion and Memorandum to Vacate Appointments

One of the questions the Parental Defense Alliance is most frequently asked is, “under what circumstances can a party be appointed counsel?”

The statute that governs the appointment of counsel in child welfare cases is U.C.A. § 78A-6-1111

Simply it states that in order to be entitled to counsel, the case must be a state initiated Petition in which the party is indigent.  Indigent means that the party makes less than 150% of the U.S. poverty guidelines (See, or lacks the income, assets, and credit to obtain or finance counsel.

This conflicts with Utah Rule of Juvenile Procedure 37(d) which states that “Counsel may be appointed by the court for an indigent respondent who is a parent, guardian or custodian of the child…”  Counties are entitled to notice of all appointments and the county is entitled to a hearing.

We have recently added to our Forms bank a Motion and Memorandum to Vacate Appointments.

Being diligent in reviewing the applications for appointment of counsel will allow public defenders to serve that portion of the population that truly qualify for the assistance to decrease the strain on our public defenders.

If you feel as if an application for appointed counsel was inappropriately granted speak with your contract administrator or County Clerk to determine if they would like challenge the appointment.  As a note, it is the County that has the right to challenge the appointment, not the individual attorney and as such you must have your county’s authorization to represent them, or they must have their county attorney’s office challenge the matter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Resources for Parents With Trauma Histories

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has fantastic resources for children who experience trauma and recognizes that parents involved in the child welfare system have also likely experienced their own trauma.  Check out their webpage dedicated to Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System.

The following is an introduction to one of their pamphlets, Birth parents with trauma histories and the child welfare system: A guide for judges and attorneys (link available below):
Judges and attorneys who work in the child welfare system are well aware that many of the children in the system have experienced trauma; less well recognized is that the birth parents of these children often have their own histories of childhood and adult trauma. For example, research indicates that 30-60% of maltreated children have caretakers who have experienced domestic violence themselves. Past or present experiences of trauma can affect a parent’s confidence and ability to keep children safe, work effectively with child welfare staff, and respond to the requirements of the courts. Fortunately, trauma-informed services are increasingly available for both parents and children who need them. Trauma-informed services include mental health services offered by trained professionals that address specific reactions to traumatic events. By recognizing the potential impact of trauma on parenting, judges and attorneys can more easily connect parents with those services.   
If you are looking for additional resources for parents who experience trauma.  Below are some of the pamphlets available:

For Parents
For Child Welfare Staff
For Judges and Attorneys
For Mental Health Professionals
For Resource Parents
For Court-Based Child Advocates and Guardian ad Litem

Monday, November 17, 2014

Would You Like to Become Certified in Child Welfare Law?

As some of you may be aware the National Association of Counsel for Children offers a certification in Child Welfare law.  You can find more information about the certification HERE.

The Parental Defense Alliance is interested in bringing the NACC out to Utah to conduct a full day exam preparation training at little or no cost to our members.  This is an expensive training.  In addition, those interested must meet certain criteria, and pay $300 to apply, plus $350 to sit for the test.  The PDA is also interested in helping to defray the cost of these fees. 

Due to the large financial commitment, we would like to get a head count of those who are interested in becoming certified and participating in the training, which would most likely take place the Wednesday before the annual conference on April 22, 2015.

In order to sit for the exam you must meet the following criteria:
  • 3 or more year practicing law
  • 30% or more of the last three years involved in child welfare law
  • 36 hours of CLE within the last three years in courses relevant to child welfare law
  • A writing sample drafted within the last three years that demonstrates legal analysis of child welfare law.  This can be a pleading.
If you can meet these criteria and are interested in the exam preparation training, please email me at by November 30, 2014.

Angela Fonnesbeck's Report on the NCADRC Conference

During my recent attendance at the National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center’s 17th Annual International Conference I was reminded of the ethical considerations and concerns that must be confronted in all matters involving abuse.

Each morning of the conference opened with a presentation on ethics, highlighting the importance of our ethical responsibilities to clients as we later sort through the facts and laws of the case at hand.

Throughout these presentations three areas in particular stood out as deserving of our attention,

  1. The fully informed client:  A client is entitled to full disclosure from their attorney – whether appointed or privately hired.  This is our duty as lawyers.  The client has the right to know all the positive aspects of their case, as well as the pitfalls of their case.  The client has a right to know what happens next and the potential consequences of all legal options.  Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.4, requires that a lawyer, among other things, promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance requiring their informed consent, keep the client informed about the status of the matter and promptly comply with requests for information.  Most of the presenters at this conference believe that a fully informed client had the right to know whether the attorney representing them will have any moral objections to the issues.  For example, if your client has been convicted of viewing child pornography will you be able to professionally represent them regardless of a personal bias? Utah Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 6.2, dealing with the acceptance of appointments, specifically indicates that a lawyer should not avoid appointment unless the “client or the cause is so repugnant to the lawyer as to be likely to impair the client-lawyer relationship.                                                                                                               
  2. Who can/should be present during attorney-client meetings:  If anyone is present during any meeting with your client, confidentiality is waived.   This is especially important when representing children whose parents are paying the legal fees.  While parents may want to sit in on meetings with the client, to allow them to do so would waive confidentiality and should be avoided.  The presenters believed that these exclusions from attorney-client meetings were critical, as the person paying the fee often believes they have control over the case – which they do not.   Also, the presenters believed an attorney was less likely to get the “whole truth” out of a client, especially a minor, if the parents were present.                                                       
  3. It is our responsible conduct complete discovery:  As the legal expert in a case our clients are relying on us to fully and completely engage in discovery. This includes: (i) understanding all of the facts, including the facts from our client’s perspective and how we may prove those facts to be true; (ii) subpoenaing all medical records (labs, consults, follow-up visits), reading them to determine what is there and what is missing, and understanding them; and (iii) hiring experts.

Even if as attorneys we believe we fully understand our ethical responsibilities to our clients, these presenters served as a reminder that it should be a focus of our practice and representation.   It is a duty we owe our clients who put their faith and trust in us as legal professionals.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Information Regarding Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

The following was an email sent out by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service:

Dear Stakeholder:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is providing an email address for juvenile courts and child welfare professionals to submit general questions about the Special Immigrant Juvenile Program. You can also submit requests for a USCIS representative to talk to your organization about the program. The address is:

Note: Please do not submit case-specific inquiries to this email address. For inquiries about specific cases, call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283. The TTY number (for deaf or hard of hearing) is 1-800-767-1833.


Some foreign-born children present in the United States may qualify for humanitarian immigration protection because they have been abused, abandoned or neglected by a parent. Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status is a classification that may allow a vulnerable child to immediately apply for status as a lawful permanent resident.

SIJ classification is unique in that specific state court findings are required in order for USCIS to determine eligibility. The juvenile court makes factual findings (based on state law) concerning the care, custody and best interests of the child.

Additional Resources

The following information and resources about SIJ status are available at

*        Immigration Relief for Abused Children: Information for Juvenile Court Judges, Child Welfare Workers, and Others Working with Abused Children  (Brochure)

*        Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Information for Child Welfare Workers  (Flier)

*        Special Immigrant Juvenile Status: Information for Juvenile Courts  (Flier)

Kind Regards,

USCIS Public Engagement Division

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FREE Online Training from

The National Drug Court Online Learning System has a great FREE online learning tool.  The courses that are offered relate to drug courts but the information on drug testing and addiction can be relevant to child welfare cases.

You can sign up by at and by following these instructions.

If you try out any of the courses let us know what you think!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Video Introduction to Child Welfare Mediation for Parents

Did you know that there is a video produced by the Utah State Courts that explains the Child Welfare Mediation Program to parents?  Have you used it in your practice?

If not, parent's can easily view it on YouTube below or get a copy on CD from the Mediation Office.  If you want a hard copy let us know and we will help connect you to get one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Utah Supreme Court Denies Biological Father's Appeal for Child Custody

On November 4, 2014, the Utah Supreme Court issued an opinion in Boulden v. Doe, denying a biological father's petition to intervene in the adoption proceedings of his now three-year-old child for "failing to preserve his legal rights as a father by filing a paternity affidavit within the time prescribed by Utah Code section 78B6-121(3)."

You can read the entire opinion HERE. also reported the story HERE.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Robert Latham's Report on the NCADRC Conference

National Child Abuse Defense & Resource Center 2014 Conference Report

“General acceptance” is not a necessary precondition to the admissibility of scientific evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence, but the Rules of Evidence -- especially Rule 702 -- do assign to the trial judge the task of ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand. Pertinent evidence based on scientifically valid principles will satisfy those demands.

--Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993) (emphasis supplied); see also Utah Rule of Evidence 702 and Advisory Committee Note.

The Daubert case involved an allegation supported by expert testimony that a controlled substance caused a birth defect, and thus relates to many child abuse claims underlying child welfare cases. The National Child Abuse Defense & Resource Center (, a non-profit volunteer organization, has been organizing conferences every two years to help legal professionals confront and debunk “junk science” presented in support of child abuse allegations.

The NCADRC assembled an impressive lineup of speakers, some of whom have been so successful in frustrating the efforts of state attorneys to traumatize innocent children and families with false allegations of child abuse that they have been maligned at a National District Attorneys Association conference as members of an “axis of evil.”

Did a child witness correctly recount an incident? Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D. and Maggie Bruck, Ph.D. may have valuable insights calling into question the reliability of and influences that can impact the witnesses’ memory. Was the Reid Technique of interviewing and interrogation used to question your parent client? The work of Richard Ofshe, Ph.D. may explain how your client was coerced into a false confession.

How can the trier of fact distinguish between a non-accidental injury suggesting child abuse, or a differential diagnosis or “mimic” -- a medical condition that can often be misdiagnosed as child abuse and neglect? Patrick Barnes, M.D. offers his insights as a pediatric radiologist in this era of evidence-based medicine to explain the difference. Is a child’s failure to thrive evidence of parental neglect, or caused by an inborn error of metabolism, such as fructose intolerance, galactosemia, or phenylketonuria? The expertise of Piero Rinaldo, M.D. can inform the inquiry.

Counsel appointed to represent indigent parents facing allegations of child abuse should consider retaining experts to respond to the state’s experts. Counsel may apply for reimbursement of the expert from the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah and the Office of Child Welfare and Parental Defense.

I am grateful to the PDA of Utah for sponsoring my attendance at this conference, and strongly recommend that other parental defenders contact the NCADRC to receive notice of its future conferences, which convene every two years.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards

The following is a press release from the ABA:
The American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Generations United and the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) are thrilled to announce the release of Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards.
 Our partnership has been working for several years on these comprehensive pre-placement licensing standards that, for the first time, help ensure children in foster care are safe while also establishing a reasonable, common-sense pathway to enable more relatives and non-related caregivers to become licensed foster parents.
While we acknowledge that not all states will be able to implement this model in its entirety without any modifications, we challenge all states to use the Model to assess and align their own standards.
The package of materials includes:
  • Purpose statement
  • 10 guiding principles
  • The Model Standards
  • An Interpretative Guide, which summarizes the purpose of each standard and  provides instructions for compliance determinations
  • A crosswalk tool, which is designed to assist states and counties in comparing and aligning their current standards with the Model      
We are committed to assisting states and counties in implementing this Model.  Attorneys at Generations United and the ABA Center on Children and the Law are available to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions seeking to align their current rules, policies and practices with the Model Family Foster Home Licensing Standards.  This technical assistance is available free of charge thanks to support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Contact Ana Beltran at  or Heidi Redlich Epstein at .   Licensing experts are also available through NARA to provide agencies with in-depth consulting services.  
The standards are posted on or are available HERE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The ACE Study: How Childhood Trauma Can Affect Your Health

On October 15, 2014 David Boyer of the PDA attended a Health and Resilience Symposium entitled “Growing a Trauma-Informed Community.”  Here is his response:

The principle concept behind the expert presentations at the symposium was Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and their impact, after the fact, on that individual’s life.
As an interesting side note, during a break, I was approached by an individual whom I didn’t know. He stopped in front of me and looked for an extended time at my name tag which, identified me as a representative of “The Parental Defense Alliance.”  He pulled his eyes up from my tag and without further introduction, commented that “the best way to prevent child abuse was to prosecute the responsible parents and put them in jail.” End of story.  I have had persons in the past make comments insinuating that I was “evil” for defending those accused of abuse or neglect of children, but this was the first time I had been directly confronted by a “professional” therapist in the community.  
I personally, am proud of the job each of us does in the defense of our clients. Though our valiant efforts, those who are innocent of the charges waged against them find relief from wrongful prosecution.  Equally important, through our efforts, those clients who truly struggle with parenting, mental and physical health and substance abuse can be directed to those professionals and programs that can help them overcome those challenges. 
Later in the symposium I was impressed that the results of the ACE study are being used to develop therapy techniques to reduce the negative effects of ACE’s on the individual and in so doing, reduce the “cycle of abuse” which we, as parental defense attorney’s are all aware exists.  
"The ACE Study is ongoing collaborative research between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA, and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, CA. With over 17,000 Kaiser patients participating in the study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.  From 1995 to 1997, the Kaiser participants  underwent a comprehensive physical examinations, and chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. See and

Knowing your ACE Score might make information you read about the Study's findings more relevant for you.
Use The ACE Score Calculator at to find out!  The ACE Score attributes one point for each category of exposure to child abuse and/or neglect included in the Study.  Add up the points for a Score of 0 to 10.  
The higher the score, the greater the exposure, and therefore the greater the risk of negative consequences.  These consequences are discussed throughout the publications available for download.
The ACE Score Calculator will not reflect all forms of abuse, neglect, and trauma that can be experienced during childhood, only those included in the ACE Study.  
Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which are termed adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common.  Almost two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. 
The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems:
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Fetal death
Health-related quality of life
Illicit drug use
Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
Liver disease
Risk for intimate partner violence
Multiple sexual partners
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Suicide attempts
Unintended pregnancies
Early initiation of smoking
Early initiation of sexual activity
Adolescent pregnancy
It is interesting that adverse childhood events can have such a strong impact on our overall health.  The higher the ACE score the larger the impact.  For additional information see:'ve%20got%20your%20score.pdf

Monday, October 13, 2014

DCFS Responds to the Supreme Court's Denial of Cert. in the Same-Sex Marriage Cases

On Monday, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States denied all seven petitions that arose from challenges to various state bans on same-sex marriage, including that belonging to Utah.

Brent Platt, the director of the Division of Child and Family Services, sent out the following guidance to case workers regarding how the division would respond to the court decision:

As promised, this is a follow up to offer guidance regarding Monday's Supreme Court decision as it relates to our work at DCFS.
1.  DCFS recognizes all legally married couples and individuals who meet the Licensing and DCFS criteria for preliminary, kinship, foster care, and adoptive placements.
2.  When placement decisions are being made, we must always consider what's in the best interest of the child(ren).
3.  In order to comply with the Supreme Court decision and Governor Gary R. Herbert's directive, we will be updating Practice Guidelines immediately.
Please direct any questions to our State Office Program Administrators:
Foster Care - Tanya Albornoz, 801-646-4866
Adoption - Marty Shannon, 801-540-0833
Thank you for your hard work and commitment to Utah's children and families. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

VIDEO: Child and Family Law Courts Meet Brain Science

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has produced a video about using brain science and trauma informed practices can improve outcomes for those involved in the juvenile court system.  It's worth watching.

For additional information on brain science and the promising solutions it offers you can visit the following website:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Case Loads for Utah's Juvenile Courts


Voluntary Relinquishment shows an increase of 7.6% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  642
2013-  691

Termination of Parental Rights shows an increase of 15% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  661
2014-  761

Child Welfare Proceedings shows an increase of 1.2% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  3,465
2013-  3,508

Status Hearing Proceedings shows a decrease of -3% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  4,172
2013-  4,042

Contempt Hearing Proceedings shows a decrease of -3.3% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  6,303
2013-  6,093

Infraction Hearing Proceedings shows a decrease of -4.9% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  1,060
2013-  1,008

Misdemeanor Hearing Proceedings shows a decrease of -13.91% from 2012 to 2013
2012-  20,397
2013-  17,559

Felony Hearing Proceedings shows a decrease of  -4.6% from 2013-2013
2012-  2,121
2013-  2,023

Based on the above statistics: Child Welfare hearings are on the rise, and Juvenile Delinquency hearings are decreasing in number.

1-           C W have increased (1.2%) from 2012 to 2013, and
2-           J D have decreased (-13.91% misdemeanor, -4.6% felony) from 2012 to 2013
Although the number of Delinquency proceedings is decreasing and the number of Child Welfare proceedings are increasing; Juvenile Delinquency cases still make up approximately 83% of the total number of Juvenile Court’s case loads and Child Welfare cases comprise only 12% of the Juvenile Court’s case load.

It is interesting to note that from 2012 to 2013 even though there were approximately 6.5 times the number of Delinquency cases as Child Welfare cases, Child Welfare case take up, proportionately, far more of the court’s time than Delinquency cases do. Child Welfare cases occupy 43% of the court’s time, compared to 50% of the court’s time being occupied by Juvenile Delinquency Cases.

When comparing statewide Juvenile court cases from physical year 2012-2013 with  total filings of 37,789 cases, to physical year 2013-2014 with total filings of 36,078, cases Utah’s Juvenile Court caseload has decreased by -4.5%.  

As per the numbers submitted from 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, the number of Juvenile Delinquency case filings has decreased, but the number of Child Welfare filings has increased.  Nevertheless, Utah’s courts have not seen a decrease in time spent in court because, as noted previously Child Welfare cases, on a per case basis, take more of the courts time, than delinquency cases do and the number of Child Welfare cases being filed is increasing.

You can find a break down of cases filed in juvenile court by county for the Fiscal Year by clicking HERE.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Judge's Panel: Mistakes Attorneys Make in Juvenile Court

We had a great turnout for the Judge's Panel on Friday, September 19, 2014.  Judge Jim Michie, Judge Sharon Sipes and retired Judge Kay Lindsay each spoke on Mistakes Attorneys Make in Juvenile Court and answered audience questions.

Judge Michie identified three mistakes he sees and offered the following advice.  First, tone down the adversarial process and focus on helping families.  Second, don't gloss over "squishy words" or those phrases that are hard to define, such as, "reasonable efforts" and "best interest of the child."  These should be argued and advocated in the court room.  Third, file motions.  Don't wait for the next court appearance to ask for things that will help your client and move the case along.

Judge Lindsay's advice was to make sure that your client knows you care.  Cases are much more successful when an attorney cares about their client.  She also discussed the importance of mediation and attending family team meetings.

Judge Sipes noted that attorneys can benefit from an expanded vantage point.  By considering and anticipating what other courtroom players might do next can help you make a game plan to benefit your client.  Judge Sipes also stressed the importance of the rules of civil procedure.  "Yes, the rules of civil procedure apply in juvenile court," she reminded us.

If you missed the panel and would still like to see what the judge's had to say, stay tuned.  It should be available on our website in the next month or so.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Which Came First, the Substance Abuse or the Domestic Violence?

Here is another summary from David Boyer of a presentation from the annual conference if the Utah Association for Domestic Violence Treatment that was held in Provo, Utah on October 10-12, 2014.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 
How does substance abuse affect domestic violence? 

Mr. Lewis E. Galway, M.Ed., CMHC, AADC, is the founder and director of ABC-Advanced Behavioral Counseling.

Correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence.

  • In 75% of domestic violence cases between men and women, alcohol and or drugs are involved. Of these domestic violence cases involving alcohol, if the victim (man or woman) has been drinking the victim’s injuries will be more sever than if they had not been drinking.
  • A study by Gondolf (1998) found that the only correlative predictor of recidivism (DV) was the use of alcohol. He found that drinkers were three times more likely to recidivate than non-drinkers.
  • A Salt Lake County sheriff commented “in my experience alcohol is involved in 95% of the DV cases I am called to respond to.” He further stated. “In every case I can remember where the DV resulted in death, alcohol or drugs was involved.” 

Who are the Victims:

  • The victim of DV is usually a cohabitant female. Victims of DV are usually killed at night. The killer is over the age of thirty and in ½ of the cases alcohol was involved.

Treatment Program That Treats Both Substance Abuse and DV Simultaneously 

Treatment of domestic violence and substance abuse should go hand-in-hand and occur simultaneously in order for the results to be effective.

Kent McDonald’s treatment program is one of the only treatment programs this presenter is aware of in SLC area, that treats both substance abuse and DV at the same time.  His contact information is:

Kent D. McDonald / Sandy Counseling Centers, L.M.F.T., M.S
Sandy Counseling Centers
8184 So. Highland Dr., C-8, Sandy, Utah 84093

Specialty/Specialties: Family, Relationship Issues, Child and Adolescent Issues, Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], Substance Abuse, Domestic Abuse/Violence, Loss/Grief, Parenting, Marriage

DUAL FOCUS - Domestic Violence with related Substance Abuse issues (26 weeks).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Assessing Risk and Lethality in Intimate Partner Violence

Another topic addressed the the Annual Conference of the Utah Association for Domestic Violence Treatment held in Provo, Utah on September 10-12 was how to assess the risk and lethality of intimate partner violence.  David Boyer, who attended the conference, brings us the following:

As a parent’s attorney, I was appointed to represent the parent from whom custody of the children had been removed. Often, my client’s were women. Many, many of my clients were victims of domestic violence. For this reason the lecture given by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell held special interest for me. Below are my notes, taken from her presentation and from the website,
In 1985, Dr. Campbell created the Danger Assessment, one of the first risk assessment instruments for battered women. The following is a synopsis of her recent presentation: Assessment of Dangerousness in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence: What Practitioners Need to Know, along with data from her study Assessment of Dangerousness: Brief Overview of Risk Assessment in General and Evaluation of the Danger Assessment Instrument.
Homicide in Battering Relationships
  • 40 to 58% of US women killed, are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or ex-husband or boyfriend. This is 9 times higher than women who are killed by strangers. This is in comparison of 5-8% of men who are killed by their wives, girlfriends or ex’s.
  • Homicide is the number two cause of death amount young African American woman and 3rd amount Asian or Native American women 15-34 years old.
  • At least 2/3 of women killed were battered before their murder. 
  • The number one risk factor of DV homicide is prior domestic violence against the female. 
  • Women are more at risk when they are in the process of leaving or have left. The first three months to year are the greatest risk . (Wilson & Daly, ’93; Campbell ’01; Websdale ’99). Although leaving a relationship is risky it is still better to leave than stay, the women will be safer.
  • There are between 2 to 4 million women abused each year in the United States.
  • At least in NYC, immigrant women are more at risk. (Frye, Wild ’10)
  • In 20060-06 there were 8,000 women killed as a result of domestic violence in the United States. By comparison there were 3,500 soldiers and 1,200 law enforcement killed in the line of duty during the same time period. Data provide by Brian Vallee, The War on Women (2007)
  • Women are far more likely to become victims of homicide-suicide (29%+ vs .1% male) (NVDRS 2014).
  • Most DV homicides following separation occur at the work place. That is where the perpetrator know he/she can find them.
  • DV homicides are decreasing in cities and are increasing in rural communities.
  • homicide is now the leading cause of maternal death (woman killed while pregnant or within 1 year of giving birth).
  • In approximately 8-19% of “intimate partner” IP homicides children were also killed (Websdale ’99; Smith et al NVDRS’14).
  • For every completed femicide, there are 8-9 attempted femicides
  • In approximately 79% of cases where a woman is killed by DV, the children are present. In these cases the child either witnesses femicide or is the first to find the body. Less than 60% of these children received any counseling and many only one time.
  • When a woman is killed by children’s father a custody battle most often occurs over the surviving children. The children are most often split up: 40% go to the mother’s kin/ 12% to the father’s (killer) kin; 5% split between mother’s and father’s kin; 14% are placed with non-kin.
  • “He killed mommy” Lewandowski, Campbell et. Al., J of Family Violence ’04; Hardesty, Campbell et al ’08. J of Family Issues ‘08
  • In 8% of cases where a female with children is killed by DV, there was prior reported child abuse.


  • Get the guns out of the house and away from batterers. Judges need to be educated so that they issue search warrants specifying each gun he has access to, and police need education as to the importance of the guns. Alternately, if she is still with him, he has not been convicted of a domestic violence crime, and she does not have a Protective Order, give her a gun storage safety. Risk and Lethality Assessment in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence Page 9 pamphlet (available from health departments) to take home and talk to him about keeping the guns locked up to keep the kids safer.
  • If she plans to leave him, work hard to get her to agree NOT to tell him in person, especially if she has another partner. She can leave a note, or leave and call him from a safe place.
  • Try to get women in severe danger to shelters. Use the Danger Assessment to help persuade her of her risk.
  • If she left him to get him to go to batterers’ treatment, suggest to her that she stay separated from him until he completes and then work with the system to monitor his completion.
  • Use stalking laws to get him arrested if possible, or use protective orders against stalking.
  • If she is minimizing her risk, mention her children. Most battered women are good mothers and very concerned about their children. Use language like “Let’s talk about things you can do to help keep you and the children safe.”
  • Help her engage her support systems.
  • Encourage her to start putting money aside, even if only a little bit.
  • Be alert for the depressed batterer. If it sounds like he is depressed and desperate and suicidal, she may be able to get him mandated for a suicide assessment and mental health hospitalization. Risk and Lethality Assessment in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence Page 10.
Below is a copy of the Danger Assessment developed be Dr. Campbell.  She has allowed us to share the Danger Assessment with you and more information can be found at  Click on the picture to download a copy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Limited Space for the Salt Lake Health and Resilience Symposium: Growing a Trauma Informed Community

On October 15th, local and national experts will be speaking at the University of Utah Goodwill Humanitarian Building for the College of Social Work on the topic of Growing A Trauma Informed Community.

This FREE one day conference is a fabulous opportunity to participate in a discussion regarding the long-term effects of trauma across the life span.

You can find out more by downloading the flyers.  Just click on the images below.

Space is Limited so register soon by clicking HERE.

The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale

David Boyer, one of our directors, was at the second annual conference of the Utah Association for Domestic Violence Treatment which was held in Provo on September 10-13, 2014.  This year's theme was "Safe Families, Peaceful Communities: Treatment for Victims, Children, and Offenders."  David brings us the following from the conference:

The first speaker addressed suicide assessment and prevention. As a parental defense attorney, I have had many experiences where I questioned whether my client was suicidal. The following information was very helpful in providing me with information I can use to asses and prevent suicide.
Please note that at the end of these comments, I have included the website address where the C-SSRS information sheet and other forms can be obtained. 
The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) 
The ongoing national and international tragedy of suicide has spurred substantial prevention efforts. Lack of effective screening and identification of persons at risk is an obstacle to effective prevention. An evidence-supported, low-burden solution is The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), a screening tool developed by multiple institutions, including Columbia University, with NIMH support has predicted suicide attempts—one of the foremost national priorities for prevention. 
Key Points: 
  • Demonstrated ability to predict suicide attempts in suicidal and non-suicidal individuals (which is a national priority for prevention).
  • The CDC adopted Columbia definitions of suicidal ideation and behavior; link to C- SSRS in CDC document.
  • Field-use ready; mental health training not required to administer; Chaplains to first responders.
  • Gathers key data to help direct limited resources to persons most in need.
  • Track record of many millions of administrations.
  • Available in 103 languages.
  • Electronic self-report is available and widely used (e-CSSRS)
  • The C-SSRS is used extensively in primary care, clinical practice, surveillance, research, and institutional settings. It is part of a national and international public health initiative involving the assessment of suicidal risk and behavior. Numerous states and countries have moved towards system-wide implementation. Use includes general medical and psychiatric emergency departments, hospital systems, managed care organizations, behavioral health organizations, medical homes, community mental health agencies, primary care, clergy, hospices, schools, college campuses, military, frontline responders (police, fire department, EMTs), crisis hotlines, substance abuse treatment centers, prisons, jails, juvenile justice systems, and judges. More reliable and valid risk assessment is likely to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, so that limited resources may be targeted to those who most need them.
  • The C-SSRS has been associated with decreased burden by reducing unnecessary interventions and redirecting limited resources; In the Rhode Island Senate Commission hearing on ER overuse and diversion, state senators discussed use of the C-SSRS by EMS or police in the community to address ER overuse and ER diversion.
  • The C-SSRS is a key component of the strategy to develop and disseminate tools to enable better prediction of suicidal risk and more efficient allocation of limited healthcare resources.. In the past, typical screening has only identified suicide attempts, omitting some of the most important behaviors that are critical for risk assessment and prevention (e.g. collecting pills, buying a gun). The C- SSRS is the only evidence-based screening tool that assesses the full range of clinically important ideation and behavior, with criteria for next steps (e.g. referral to mental health professionals); thus, the C-SSRS can be exceptionally useful in initial screenings.
Copies of the C-SSRS can be downloaded from the center's website: Training can be completed on the C-SSRS Training Campus website: For larger scale or systemic implementation, we are available to discuss optimal implementation and training strategies.
Kelly Posner, PhD 
Director, Center for Suicide Risk Assessment Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute 1051 Riverside Drive, Box 78
New York, NY 10032
direct: 212-543-5504
mobile: 646-286-7439
fax: 212-543-5344

Monday, September 8, 2014

Save the Date for the Annual Conference!

Mark you calendars for the next Annual Conference of the Parental Defense Alliance.  As we have in years past, we are scheduling the PDA Annual Conference to coincide with the Judge's Conference so that there won't be any court conflicts.  The judge's conference dates were recently announced, which means our conference will be:

April 23-24, 2015

More details to come.  See you next spring!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Identifying Bias in Caseworker Assessments

Linda Wininger of DCFS presented a short Ignite talk at the Court Improvement Summit on the implementation of the Structured Decision Making (SDM) Program recently adopted by DCFS.  You can find a full set of the slides she used HERE.

One of the effects of SDM is that decisions will be more uniform as workers adhere to the SDM practices.  The goal of SDM is to have similar outcomes among cases with similar facts, but with different CPS workers.

There are a number of factors that a case worker considers when determining whether children should be removed from a home.  Some of these factors influence the case outcome even if they are unrelated to the case.

The first set of factors described by Ms. Wininger were Case Factors.  These include the type of maltreatment experienced by the child, whether there is a pattern of maltreatment, the risk of continued harm, the safety of the child, as well as, the specific characteristics of the child and the family.

The next set of factors that can impact a case is Organization Factors.  These factors are centered on DCFS administration: the resources available, the size of the caseload of the worker, the support a caseworker might get from a supervisor or from a work team, the Policy and Practice expectations, as well as, Bureaucratic distractions.

The third set of factors that can influence decision making and thus outcomes are centered on the person making the decision, a.k.a. the caseworker.  These are Decision Maker Factors and can include past experiences, skills, values, how comfortable they are with casework and their predilection towards protection children or preserving families. 

The final set of factors that affect the outcomes of cases are External Factors.  These can be the law and the courts, perhaps even the judge, the engagement of the community, the resources available, as well as, critical events and funding.

In deciding whether to remove a child from the home, the caseworker will complete the SDM Assessments.  An Assessment will fall somewhere on the spectrum between a high and a low level of concern.

In addition to the Assessment, each caseworker will have a Threshold of what they think is appropriate or what they can tolerate in a given situation.  This Threshold will also fall on the spectrum between a low and a high level of concern.

If the Assessment indicates a higher level of concern than a caseworker’s threshold, then the child will be removed.  If the Assessment is below the caseworker’s level of concern then removal will not take place.  Differences in outcomes can result when caseworkers have different thresholds.

It is important to recognize which factors influence the Assessment and which influence the Threshold.  Only the Case Factors will influence the Assessment.  All other factors—the Organization Factors, the Decision Maker Factors, and the External Factors—affect the Threshold.  Even when the Case Factors are identical and result in identical Assessments, the factors influencing a caseworkers threshold can produce different outcomes.

Ms. Wininger acknowledged that workers don’t share the same values and depending on personal biases, in cases that are factually similar, one worker might remove when another might not.  It is important to acknowledge and consider the biases that might affect case outcomes.

MsWininger spoke to the attendants at the conference which included DCFS workers and encouraged them before making a final decision on removal to consider what factors are affecting their decision and consider alternative perspectives on the facts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Should DCFS Workers be profiled?

Given the stress, burnout and turnover of Child Protective Services ("CPS") workers across the country, Daniel Pollack of Yeshiva University and Khaya Eisenberg have posited that using profiling in the hiring of CPS workers may help reduce these problems.  Their article The Need for a Child Protective Services Investigator Psychological Profile was recently published in the Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal.  In the article they use law enforcement hiring practices as an analogy and consider the personality traits of an ideal CPS worker.

What do you think?  Should CPS workers be profiled?

Have You Seen A Risk ReAssessment?

Most of you are probably familiar with the Structured Decision Making ("SDM") Safety and Risk Assessments that DCFS is using to determine whether to remove kids from their home.  (If you aren't you can take the training HERE.)

What about the Risk ReAssessment?  Have you seen one of these in your cases?  No?  There may be a reason.

At the Court Improvement Summit Linda Wininger from DCFS shared the following slide that shows the number of SDM Assessments completed by caseworkers as of August 5, 2014.
See the difference?  Very few Risk ReAssessments have been completed compared to the Safety and Risk Assessments.  I was curious about why this might be the case and so contacted Ms. Wininger.  Here is what I found out.

Ms. Wininger let me know that DCFS was also wondering about the discrepancy in numbers.  They plan on additional follow up to determine the low number, but the have some idea why it may be.

1.  The Risk ReAssessment is only used in In Home cases.  There are significantly more CPS/removal cases than In Home cases.
2.  The Safety and Risk Assessments can be done in any type of case.
3.  The Safety and Risk Assessments are required before a CPS case can be closed.  While the Risk ReAssessment is required by DCFS policy, it is not required by the SAFE System.

Ms. Wininger also let me know that the Risk ReAssessment was intended to be completed at least every 6 month usually to correspond with an update to the Child and Family Plan or a court review hearing or progress summary.  It can be completed sooner if there are new circumstances or new information that would affect the risk factors.  The Risk ReAssessment can set a new risk level and change the contact standards.  A parent's attorney could certainly ask for one to be done and discuss it at a Child and Family Team meeting.

So if you haven't see a Risk ReAssessment in you In Home cases and you think it would be appropriate and helpful, ask for one to be completed.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do You Have The Structured Decision Making Manual?

Good news!  DCFS has provided the PDA with a digital copy of the Structured Decision Making ("SDM") manual.  They have allowed us to share this with our members for FREE!  The only catch?  You have to take the Structured Decision Making training before we can send you the copy.

Since we want this manual in the hands of every parental defender in the state we are offering the online SDM training for FREE with this code:  SDMMANUAL.  The code will be good until the end of September.  You will get three hours of self-study CLE and will be able to watch it at your convenience.  Use the link below.

Once you complete the training (Don't forget to enter the codes that show up in the video) just email me for a copy of your manual.  For those of you who have already taking the training and would like a copy, just email me!

Friday, August 22, 2014

VIDEO: I Hope My Judge Sees the Good In Me - Experiences of Parents with Infants in Foster Care

Rise Infant Parent from Planning and Cooperation on Vimeo.

Above is a video produced by Rise Magazine which is a resource for parents and by parents with children in the child welfare system.  The video was also produced in partnership with the Center for the Study of Social Policy and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child.  It is intended to sensitize child welfare staff, lawyers, judges and policymakers on the experience of parents with infants in foster care.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finding Family Across Borders

The Keynote Address at the Court Improvement Summit last week was Dr. Felicity Sackville Northcott, the Director of External Partnerships and International Services with International Social Service-USA (ISS-USA).  Dr. Northcott spoke about the importance of finding family for children in state custody even when that means going outside of the United States.

The ISS-USA is great resource if you need some helping looking for a kinship placement outside the United States or need to have a home assessment done.  Below is a flyer with their various services or you can check out their website.

Do you have many cross-border cases?  Would a training on best practices for international child welfare cases be valuable?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fostering Connections Through Meaningful Family Time

One of the speakers at the CIP Summit was the Honorable R. Michael Key of Troup County Georgia.  You can see a copy of the slides from his presentation HERE.

Judge Key presented the Troup County model of Family Time in removal cases.  He noted that those parents and children who have meaningful family time are ten times more likely to be reunified.

He reinforced that when parents spend time with children it is not visitation, but instead should be called Parent Time or Family.  He stated that Family Time should be based on the unique facts of every case, however, here are the guiding principles:

1. Family Time should take place within 5 days of removal.
2. A Family Time plan should be in place within 30 days.
3. Family Time is presumed to be unsupervised.  (This is in agreement with U.C.A. § 30-3-4.5)
a. Although Parents may not be capable full-time parenting, Family Time is not full time parenting.
4. Decreasing Family Time should never be used as a threat or form of discipline (particularly with children) and shall not be reduced without a hearing and Court order.
5. The plan should include clear milestones with incremental increases in Family Time upon completion of those milestones.

The State’s failure to comply with the foregoing, may be a failure to provide reasonable efforts.
Family Time Order should adhere to the following minimums:

Birth to 6 months:  30 to 60 minutes 3 times a week (child psychologists recommend contact every day)
Frequency with young children is more important than duration
6 to 18 months: 1 hour 3 days a week
18 months to 3 yrs: 1.5 hours 2 times per week
3-5 years: 2 hours or more 1 time per week
5-12: 2 or more hours once per week
12-18: No specific recommendations, but should be maximized to child’s tolerance and schedule

The PDA is interested in working with attorneys to implement these suggestions in the various judicial districts around the state.  If you would like to help, let us know.