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.