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.

CIP Summit Wrap-up

Last Thursday and Friday, August 14-15, the Parental Defense Alliance attended the Court Improvement Summit at the Radisson in downtown Salt Lake.  In attendance were child welfare professionals from various disciplines from around the state, including AGs, GALs, DCFS workers, mediators and, of course, parental defenders.  Thanks to all those who were able to attend.  The theme of this year's summit was The Fabric of Family: Reexamining the Role of Family Connections in Child Welfare.  

It was an excellent conference that looked at ways that the child welfare system can be improved.  Many of the speakers presented information that can be helpful to parent's attorneys.  We will make an effort to highlight those in the next few blog posts.

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Date for Judge's Panel

The Judge's Panel on Mistakes Attorneys Make in Juvenile Court has been postponed until

Friday, September 19, 2014

Please mark you calendars with the change.  The other details will remain the same.  Several of our Juvenile Court Judges, including Judge James R. Michie Jr. and Judge Sharon S. Sipes, will discuss how to improve juvenile court practice including the mistakes that attorneys make in court.

When:     12:00-1:30pm 
What:     Lunch with panel discussion following
Where:   Sheraton Salt Lake City
Cost:       FREE!

For those unable to attend in person we are still planing on broadcasting the event over the web at 12:30pm.  One hour of CLE will be requested from the Bar.  Registration is now open!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Law Review Article on Legal Guardianship under ASFA

Sara Katz, a former parental defender and now Professor of Law at Temple University has published an article in Michigan Law Review on the topic of Legal Guardianships and the Adoption and Safe Families Act.  Her introduction states:
This Article argues that it does not serve the interest of children or parents to prevent parents entirely from filing for custody after legal guardianship is granted. To the extent a parent's rights are not terminated as a result of her child-welfare involvement, a family's contact with the child-welfare system should not lessen the value the law places on the parent-child relationship. In short, the courthouse doors should not be closed to children and their parents by barring parents from later requesting, in appropriate circumstances, that a court determine whether it is in that child's best interests to return to the parent. Although permanency has value in the child-welfare context, permanency unto itself should not be the goal in resolving custody disputes--determining children's best interests should always be at the forefront in all custody cases, whether between private parties or between the parent and the state. This Article posits that parents should retain the right to file to vacate the guardianship and regain primary custody, but makes recommendations to the states so as to ensure children have the stability they need while promoting their best interests.
You can download a copy HERE.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Spotlight: J. Robert Latham

Although my law practice sometimes takes me throughout Utah, my home and office are located in St. George. Thus, most of my practice occurs in southern Utah. I am one of four attorneys who contract with Washington County to represent indigent parties in the two juvenile courts.
What I love about parental defense work is making a positive difference. It’s evident in the vast majority of cases in which I have participated that my advocacy and counsel yielded a better outcome for the parent than had the parent appeared without an attorney. The taxpayer benefits from resisted and reduced state interventions as well.
In a recent matter, I was directed by the court to appear at an expedited shelter hearing. (I had anticipated a quick hearing that early afternoon, so I delayed having lunch.) Three-and-a-half hours after my appointment to represent the parent, the judge ordered that the newborn child be returned to the parent’s custody, over the objection of both the AAG and GAL. The scenario reminded me of this stanza from a Paul Simon tune:

No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Practice tip/trick: The Utah Administrative Office of the Courts makes XChange available to parental defenders for searches performed in connection with contracted duties at no charge. Although C.A.R.E. is helpful, XChange hosts probable cause statements and other useful pleadings that can shed light on a client’s or related party’s companion matter(s). Greenfiling also offers a reduced rate to parental defenders for its unlimited e-filing service.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Vegas Conference Attendees Announced!

The PDA is pleased to announce the attorneys who have been selected to attend the National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center Conference in Las Vegas on October 16-18, 2014.  

Angela Fonnesbeck

Carol Mortensen

J. Robert Latham

Congratulations!  Please contact Kate for details on how to register.