Friday, September 21, 2018

National Attention to In re. BTB

Hello PDA Members-

We wanted to make you aware of the fact that the ripples from In re. BTB are being felt across the country!

Viven Sankaran (who many of you will remember was one of our keynote speakers at last year's annual conference, and a great friend and ally of the PDA) recently wrote a short piece for the Chronicle of Social Change giving a shout out to In re. BTB. And if any of you are on the ABA listserv for parents' attorneys, you will have noticed it pop up there, too! You can read the article in its entirety here:

Even better- at our next training event on Friday, October 12, 2018 from 10-12, Rob Latham, the attorney who successfully argued the case, and Sara Pfrommer, former PDA Appellate Defender of the Year, will be presenting on In re. BTB! Spots are filling up fast, so you'll want to register soon. And as always, FREE LUNCH is included with our fall CLE event. 

If you'd like to register for this training opportunity (which will also include an hour of training on the intersection between immigration and parental defense work), please click here

Looking forward to seeing many of you soon!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

New FREE Resource Launched by ABA Center on Children and the Law

Hello PDA Members-

Those of you already on the ABA Parents' Attorney listserv may have seen this exciting announcement already, but here it is again for those of you who have not:

Child Law Practice (CLP) Today, published by the ABA Center on Children and the Law<>, is a free online resource for child law practitioners. Practical articles tied to the ABA Center on Children and the Law's primary areas of work, and the work of our partners in the field, will be shared as they are published and may be accessed at<>
For the first time, content published in the parent publication, ABA Child Law Practice, from 2000 to 2017, including many articles related to parent representation may also be viewed for free at<>.<>
To sign up for CLP Alerts, send an email to<>.

The ABA, and particularly Child Law Practice Today, publish some of the most important scholarly research done in the country on the topic of child welfare laws and policies. It's fantastic to have this resource at our fingertips, and now to have it for FREE!

We hope this aids you in your practice.

PDA Board of Directors

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Article: A Child Abuse Prediction Model Fails Poor Families

For those of you who read the New York Times piece on Allegheny County's child abuse prediction model tool, this article is an important companion piece, and offers some insight into why the use of these tools actually doubles down on bias, instead of freeing the referral process from biases against poverty, race, and other factors. It's an important read. The excerpt below is especially telling about the problems with the Allegheny model, as well as with reliance on algorithms in child welfare referral decision making generally:

"The AFST’s predictive variables are drawn from a limited universe of data that includes only information on public resources. The choice to accept such limited data reflects the human discretion embedded in the model—and an assumption that middle-class families deserve more privacy than poor families."

You can read the article in its entirety here

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

General Registration for the Annual Conference is NOW OPEN!

General Registration for ALL MEMBERS of the PDA is NOW OPEN! Please click here to register. If you do not have a current contract (or conflict contract) with your county, you do NOT need any codes to register.

We look forward to seeing you in April!

NY Times Article re. Using Algorithms and Data Analysis Programs to Make Referral Decisions

Many of you may have already seen this article making the rounds on various parents' attorneys listservs. But if you haven't, it's a fascinating read. Allegheny County (which contains the city of Pittsburgh) experienced a rash of child abuse related deaths a couple of years ago. The reaction to those experiences was to implement the use of a data analytics tools to essentially double-check all referral decisions. While removal decisions are not being made by these tools (yet), it does represent what might be an unavoidable national trend, with both good and bad implications. Similar tools are already being considered in Utah, with the possibility of algorithm-based decision making models to be used in initial detention decisions in criminal cases in the next year (though as demonstrated here, approval of these tools hasn't been universal, and the Utah Legislature has some concerns).

THis is definitely a topic that parental defenders should keep their eyes on as it develops.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Priority Registration for PDA Members with Public Defense Contracts is Now Open!

As a reminder, Priority Registration for PDA members with current defense contracts (including conflict contracts) is now open! Detailed registration instructions can be found in the email blast sent out on January 3, 2018, but here are a few important items:

  • The Conference will be held Thursday, April 19, 2018 - Friday, April 20, 2018
  • It will be held at the Grand Summit Hotel in Park City, UT
  • The cost to attend is $125 for those with current contracts and $150 for those without.
  • General Registration for those without current contracts will open on January 17, 2018.
  • In order to successfully register during Priority Registration, you will need a password which you must obtain by contacting your local area representative on the PDA Board of Directors

Judicial Districts
Current Board Member Representative
Contact Email
1 and 2
Carol Mortensen
Jordan Putnam
Margaret Lindsay
5 and 6
Michael Rawson
7 and 8
Mark Tanner
Floating Representative
Grant Dickinson

If you would like to utilize Priority Registration, you can do so by clicking here.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact your local area board representative, or email We look forward to seeing you all in April!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Announcement of PDA Annual Conference Keynote Speakers

Hello Parental Defenders-

We are incredibly excited to announce that the keynote speakers for this year's Annual Conference will be Vivek Sankaran, J.D., and Christopher Church, J.D., M.S. The title of their presentation will be "Sparking a Revolution of Values: How Family Defense Lawyers Can Use Data, Stories, and Advocacy to Change the Child Welfare System's Approach to Families."

The work both Professor Sankaran and Mr. Church do to advance the cause of parental and family rights on a national scale is nothing short of inspiring. In order to give you an insight into the quality and tenor of their work, I'm attaching a link to an impressive article they recently co-authored, entitled "Easy Come, Easy Go: The Plight of Children who Spend Less Than 30 Days in Foster Care." You can find the article here. It explores the real and lasting harm inflicted on children who are removed from their parents for less than 30 days, while critically examining the data associated with these removals. The ultimate conclusion reached by Professor Sankaran and Mr. Church is that too many children are being subject to this extreme intervention, resulting in exposing those children to unnecessary harm.

Thoughtfully, Mr. Church has provided the following updated data demonstrating how Utah compares to national averages for short term foster care stays:

For children removed during 2016 FFY (Oct 1 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016),*
  • Just over 23K were discharged within 30 days of their removal, which is 9% of all children removed
    • In Utah, it was about 210 kids, which is 10% of all children removed in Utah (so slightly above the national rate)
  • Most of those kids (71.5%) were placed in an unfamiliar environment, with 19.3% placed in a congregate setting (shelter, group home, etc.)
    • In Utah, it was only 55% placed in an unfamiliar environment, with very little reliance on congregate settings
  • Nearly all (91%) of these children are discharged to a family member after their brief stay in care.  That is similarly true in Utah (81%).

There are a few counties that seem to have higher rates of short stayers (Cache at 18%, Uintah at 25%), but most are right in line with state rate (Salt Lake, e.g. at 11%). 

We strongly recommend you take an opportunity to review the full article. Having command of this data can help us all more clearly articulate arguments on our clients' behalves and be more effective advocates. 

Registration for the Annual Conference will open soon! Priority registration for those with current contracts will open on January 3, 2018, and General Registration will open on January 17, 2018. We look forward to seeing many of you in April!

*Data utilized in this article were made available by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), Cornell University, Ithaca NY; and have been used with permission. Data from the AFCARS dataset are originally collected by the state’s child welfare agency pursuant to federal reporting requirements. Staff at Fostering Court Improvement have analyzed the data and analyses are on file with them. Neither the collector of the original data, the funder, the Archive, Cornell University, or its agents or employees bear any responsibility for the analysis or interpretations.