Monday, August 31, 2015

Should Children Stay with their Homeless Parents?

Hawaii News Now recently shared a story about children and homelessness.  You can find the story HERE, which includes a video.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Come Hear Neil Skousen Argue before the Utah Supreme Court

As many of you might remember at the Annual Conference, we had a session on how the American with Disabilities Act intersected with Child Welfare.  Neil Skousen shared some comments about a pending appeal on the topic with the Utah Court of Appeals and subsequently shared his brief.  His case has since been certified to the Utah Supreme Court.

This is a hot topic across the country as the DOJ and DHHS recently released a technical assistance to assist child welfare agencies.

If you are interested in hearing the oral arguments they have been scheduled for the time and date below.  You might also be able to hear the argument live using the court's link HERE.  Good luck Neil!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015
9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court of Utah
Matheson Courthouse
450 South State Street, SLC, UT

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Technical Assistance from HHS and DOJ on Parents' with Disabilities

In the wake of the finding by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that the Massachusetts Department of Children of Families had violated a mother's rights under the American with Disabilities Act, the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the DOJ have issued a joint 18-page technical assistance to helps child welfare agencies and courts ensure that the rights of parents' with disabilities are protected.

The recommendations in the technical assistance include the following principles:
Individualized treatment.  Individuals with disabilities must be treated on a case-by-case basis consistent with facts and objective evidence.  Persons with disabilities may not be treated on the bases of generalizations or stereotypes.  For example, prohibited treatment would include the removal of a child from a parent with a disability based on the stereotypical belief, unsupported by an individual assessment, that people with disabilities are unable to safely parent their children.  Another example would be denying a person with a disability the opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent based on stereotypical beliefs about how the disability may affect the individual's ability to provide appropriate care for a child. 
Full and equal opportunity.  Individuals with disabilities must be provided opportunities to benefit from or participate in child welfare programs, services, and activities that are equal to those extended to individuals without disabilities.  This principle can require the provision of aids, benefits, and services different from those provided to other parents and prospective parents where necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to obtain the same result or gain the same benefit, such as family reunification.

The Parental Defense Alliance recommends that are parental defense attorneys familiarize themselves with the substance of this report so that they can seek the necessary accommodations for their clients in the appropriate circumstances.

You can read the full technical assistance HERE.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The PDA is Looking for New Board Members

In an effort to improve the organizational structure and communication with parental defense attorneys state-wide, the Parental Defense Alliance of Utah (PDA) has decided to open up additional board member positions.

The Parental Defense Alliance has divided the 8 judicial districts into 5 regions.  Each region is to be represented by a board member.  The regions are as follows:

Region Name
Judicial Districts
Current Board Member Representative
1 and 2
Carol Mortensen
Salt Lake
David Boyer
Grant Dickinson
5 and 6
7 and 8


As a representative of a region, each board member fulfills the following duties:

1.     Liaison with Members.  The PDA seeks to keep in contact with those attorneys who represent parents in Utah’s juvenile courts.  We recognize that there is occasionally some turnover, or individual attorneys encounter circumstances in which they would like some input.  A PDA board member will be the contact person for members within their region to help members find answers and resources for their cases.

2.     Liaison with Court Clerks.  Each PDA board member will also work to stay in contact with the Court Clerks in their judicial districts.  As problems and issues arise or new contract attorneys are hired, the board member can help the PDA stay abreast of changes within each judicial district.

3.     Lunch CLEs.  Each board member in encouraged to assist in the planning of at least one lunch CLE for their region per year.  The PDA Executive Director will provide all the resources and help of the PDA in setting up registration, accreditation and hosting of each event.  Board members should help find topics, recruit speakers and promote the events.

4.     Observe court.  Board members are encouraged to observe the court rooms of the judges in their region and provide feedback to the PDA on problems or ideas that can be shared with all parental defense attorneys.  Through observation, board members will be able to identify topics for trainings that can benefit all members around the state.

5.     Blog.  Board members should contribute a blog post on a topic of interest at least once a month.  Blog posts are not intended as law review articles, but short synopsis of topics and resources that are available on state and national levels.  Such topics can include:

·       Legal, legislative, case law updates
·       Best practices for parents attorneys
·       Available services in the community
·       Local and national news items in child welfare
·       Practice tips and tricks


The following are the benefits provided to PDA board members.

1.     Free entry to all PDA events including CLE hours
2.     Up to five hours per month in compensation for time spent on PDA duties at $80 per hour
3.     Reimbursement for miles traveled on PDA business
4.     Rub shoulders with parental defense attorneys from around the state
5.     Help improve the practice of child welfare law in Utah

If you are interested in serving in one of the open board member positions please contact Kate Hansen at  Applications will be accepted until AUGUST 31, 2015.


1.     Do I need to live in a region in order to be the board member representative for that region?  No.  But preference will be given to those who live in the region.

2.     How long do board members serve?  We anticipate that board members will serve from September 2015 to September 2016.  At that time we will either keep the current board or have everyone reapply.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Legislation In Washington Could Help Keep Families Together

New legislation has been introduced in Washington by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, that would allow states to use foster care money to keep kids at home rather than in the system.  The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act (the "Act"), would allow states more flexibility in using Title IV-E funds for family support services to help keep families together. 

You can read as summary of the proposal, as well as, what Utah's Senator Orrin Hatch and Ann Williamson of the Utah Department of Human Services had to say about the Act HERE.  Additional coverage of the Act can be found HERE and HERE.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Webinar: "Pot, Parenting, and Government Intervention"

For those of you who might be interested, there is a webinar available through the ABA called "Pot, Parenting, and Government Intervention."  The webinar was originally held on May 18, 2015, but you can download and listen HERE.

The following is a summary description of the broadcast:

This webinar was offered on May 18, 2015. While marijuana cultivation, sale, and use remains illegal under federal law, there seems to be forward momentum to de-criminalize marijuana in a number of states (from de-criminalization down to parking violation level offenses, to legalized medical or even recreational use), the experience of front-line lawyers and advocates for children and parents involved in the child welfare system suggests that for the populations they serve (poor and disproportionately of color), marijuana use by parents still triggers drastic government intervention, including the removal of children and even the possible termination of parental rights. Why has a seeming broader tolerance for marijuana not translated to these systems? What are the equal justice issues involved? Is this reflective of the "criminalization of poverty"? What are the social and economic costs? The panelists for this webinar address these questions as well as many of the practical issues regarding marijuana and the child welfare system, both in states that have de-criminalized marijuana and in states where it is still illegal.