Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review of our January CLE Events--Helping Incarcerated Parents

In January, the new directors of the Parental Defense Alliance-Grant Dickinson and David Boyer-traveled to Brigham City and to Cedar City for two lunch CLE events.  They were able to connect with the regional Parental Defense attorneys and provide some information about representing incarcerated parents.  

The most important thing to remember when representing incarcerated parents is to educate the Court of its heightened responsibilities to incarcerated parents and to ask for services.  The only reason services can be denied is if the Court finds that the services would be detrimental to the child.  

We have posted the slideshow below for your review.  (It is also available on the website HERE).  We also anticipate making the entire training available online at a future date.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spotlight Contest! Enter to Win an iPad Mini

The Parental Defense Alliance would like to get to know its members a little better, so we are holding a contest.  We will be drawing one of your names for an iPad Mini at the Annual Conference.  (You do not need to be present to win).  Here’s how to enter:

Using your phone (or other recording device) create a video profile of yourself OR create the profile in writing and include a photo.

Each profile should include:

1.  Your name,
2.  Where you practice,
3.  Whether you have a county contract or not, and
4.  At least two of the following:
          a.  Something you love about being a parental defender, 
          b.  a case where you were able to successfully advocate a good outcome for a client, or
          c.  A tip or trick in practicing parental defense law that could benefit others.       

Email your submission to Kate Hansen at kate@parentaldefense.org on or before April 3, 2014.  [Note: If your file is too big to email, let Kate know and she can make other arrangements for the submission such as a google doc or dropbox folder.]

We will hold a random drawing at the Annual Conference for the iPad Mini.  Following the conference we will highlight each profile on the blog, thus giving us all a chance to get to know the parental defenders from around the state.

We look forward to your submissions!  

The Contest is open to all parental defense attorneys practicing in the State of Utah.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Report on The Effects of the ICPC on Kids in Foster Care

A new report called Foster Kids in Limbo: The Effects of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children on the Permanency of Children in Foster Care has been issued to the Annie E. Casey Foundation by Professor Vivek S. Sankaran of the University Michigan Law School.

The report highlights the major problems with the ICPC, finding that
Despite its good intentions, the ICPC has become unworkable.  It contains no specific deadlines for the completion of interstate home studies.  It does not set clear standards for how child welfare agencies must evaluate potential placements.  It allows child welfare agencies to deny placements with parents and relatives for seemingly arbitrary reasons.  And it prohibits courts from reviewing placement denials yet fails to provide administrative procedures for parents and relatives seeking an independent review of a denial.  
The results are not very surprising, but raise some interesting constitutional questions when it is a birth parent whose request is being denied:
The Constitution demands that parents be accorded a presumption of fitness absent a judicial finding to the contrary. That a state agency, without any judicial finding of unfitness, could summarily declare a parent unfit to care for his or her child is a serious constitutional problem; that it apparently happens so frequently without any administrative or judicial review is evidence that the ICPC system is in serious need of reform. 
You can check out the information gathered and see some of the specific cases highlighted in a full copy of the Report, which is available HERE.

Have any of you had difficulty navigating the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children?  We'd love to know.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Assisting Parents with Disabilities

As Parental Defense Attorneys there are times when our clients have difficulties beyond the average case.  Those difficulties can include cognitive disabilities and impairments.  There are times when our clients’ difficulties affect their case and their ability to complete reunification services.   As their attorneys it is our responsibilities to make sure their rights are protected.

In order to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients we need to determine if they have special needs beyond the normal case.  We should review the circumstances of the case and our clients’ abilities to determine if we need to ask for additional services.

If necessary, we can refer the court and DCFS to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).    Title II prohibits discrimination by public entities against individuals by reason of disability.  It further prohibits exclusion from participation or denial of benefits.  It requires “reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures . . . when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability."  It applies to “all services, programs and activities provided or made available by public entities."  28 CFR §35.102(a) and §35.130(b)(7).

This may mean that DCFS would be required to provide reasonable accommodations to assist disabled parents in order to meet their burden of providing reasonable efforts (or active efforts under ICWA).

Here are some additional resources to assist you in representing parents with disabilities.