Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program Guest Lecture by Deborah Dentler “Child Welfare: Foster Care System Reform”

Watch the video recorded lecture “Child Welfare: Foster Care System Reform” by Deborah Dentler on February 8th, 2018.

Click on the title for a link to the video and more details.

Guest speakers include Deborah Dentler, Attorney, Law Office of Deborah Dentler, Garrett Therolf, Senior Investigative Reporter, University of California, Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program and Common Sense Media, and Mark Hamlin, HLS ’16, Associate Attorney, Baker Botts LLP.

Advocates for Foster Children Announce Victory in Landmark Lawsuit Against Troubled Child Welfare System in Los Angeles

Settlement Will Correct Systemic Wrongdoing by DCFS

A judgment was entered today, October 19, 2017, in Los Angeles Superior Court in a landmark lawsuit filed by three former foster parents and the nonprofit organization Advokids. Filed in November 2014, the lawsuit, titled Advokids et al. v. Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Read the petition here.

(Case # BS150163) alleges that for many years Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) routinely failed to comply with the law in providing foster parents with written notices of court hearings concerning the children in their care and written notices and an opportunity to object and be heard when foster children are removed from their homes. The judgment will require a number of reforms in how DCFS communicates with foster parents and other caregivers.

One of Plaintiffs attorneys, Robert Jacobs, said, “It took a 3-year fight to get to this day but at long last, foster families will get respect they are entitled to by law. Our evidence was overwhelming that foster parents and grandparents raising kids were routinely deprived of their rights while foster kids frequently bounced from home to home or went without needed services. ”

The judgment was entered as part of a settlement approved unanimously by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on October 3, 2017, and signed today by Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobe). The stipulated judgment requires that in the future DCFS employees use a particular computer program designed to ensure that hearing notices and other forms will be sent to current caregivers and Foster Family Agencies, informing them about upcoming court hearings involving foster children in their care. The judgment also requires that DCFS employees use another specified computer program to ensure that foster parents receive seven-day advance notice of the agency’s plan to remove a foster child unless DCFS has documented lawful reasons for not sending such notice.

Another of plaintiffs’ attorneys, Robert Newman, explained that, “if we are going to attract good people to do the difficult work of helping children heal, and keeping them safe until they can be reunited with their families, we must treat foster parents with respect. That means recognizing their legal rights.”

DCFS supervises over 20,000 neglected, abused, abandoned and orphaned children. Los Angeles could be called the nation’s foster care capital city. One-fifth of the nation’s foster children reside in the state, the majority of them in L.A. County. These children are cared for at taxpayer expense by relatives and nearly 6,500 foster parents.

Deborah Dentler, another of plaintiffs’ attorneys, said “the foster parent community and several wonderful social workers” kept in touch with her for years, anxiously awaiting implementation of reforms expected to occur as a result of the lawsuit.

Advokids Executive Director Margaret Coyne said the lawsuit was initiated after a little girl’s death in 2011 galvanized the caregiver community. “Foster parents said ‘enough, this has to stop!’ Since that terrible tragedy, my organization has continued to hear of cases where judges make decisions in the dark, unaware the child has a knowledgeable caregiver with valuable information to give, who didn’t receive notice or was told to stay outside the courthouse door.” Coyne explained that “Advokids tried for years to bring about reforms at DCFS through discussion, letter-writing, and meetings…to no avail. ”

The lawsuit sought an injunction and other court orders requiring DCFS to comply with its legal duties to caregivers of the County’s foster children.

Representatives from Advokids and the individual foster parents and adoptive parents participating in the lawsuit, Heather Whelan, Carrie Chung, and Patrick J. Guske, are available to the media on request. Advokids operates the only free telephone hotline in California (877.238.4543) providing free legal information and support to anyone concerned about the well-being of a child in foster care or at risk of entering foster care. The organization is committed to protecting children from abuse, neglect and trauma by improving access to the juvenile courts and making sure that potentially life-saving information about children at risk is brought to the court’s attention. For more information, visit Advokids.org.

Attorneys Dan Stormer, Robert Newman, Robert Jacobs, Deborah Dentler are the lawyers handling the case and may be reached at the contact information shown above. Advokids founder, Janet G.

Sherwood, a child welfare law specialist, is also available to the media on request and can be reached at (415) 924-0587.

 

CHAMPS – Children Need Amazing Parents – Launch Communications Toolkit

CHAMPS campaign advocates for the amazing parents that help foster children recover from trauma, grow, and flourish.

This toolkit provides sample Facebook posts, social media images, tweets and a blurb for a newsletter.

Click here for a link CHAMPS Facebook page.

Click here for the communications toolkit.

Nebraska Supreme Court: Ban on Gay Foster Parents Is Indistinguishable From a “Whites Only” Sign

In 1995, Nebraska issued the notorious Memo 1-95, which prohibited same-sex couples from fostering children. The policy barred same-sex couples from adopting children as well; under state law, individuals may adopt kids from state care only if they have first been licensed as foster parents—which Memo 1-95 made impossible for “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals.”   In 2013, three same-sex couples, represented by the ACLU and Sullivan & Cromwell, filed a lawsuit alleging that the ban violated of their constitutional rights. Nebraska appealed to the state Supreme Court. On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court unanimously rejected the state’s appeal, affirming the lower court decision.

Read the complete article here.

Tax season is here!

Tax season is here! Our FAQs have been revised to help foster and adoptive parents find answers to common questions about social security numbers and tax deductions. Look under the resources tab to find the FAQs.

Breaking News: 4 L.A. County social workers to stand trial in horrific death of 8-year-old boy

When a county child welfare agency fails to protect a child like Gabriel, there is actually a legal mechanism available to all of us to challenge the county’s decision and bring a child at risk directly to the attention of the juvenile court.  His teacher could have filed a simple court form called the JV-210 and asked the juvenile court judge to review the county’s decision not to take protective action, see the form and details here.   The JV-210 form should be something every foster parent, teach, and child advocate knows how to use.  Next time a teacher’s or any child advocate’s concerns fall on deaf ears, ;et’s hope they know that they can file a JV-210 to ask the judge to review a county welfare agency decision.
Los Angeles Times
BREAKING NEWS ALERT
March 20, 2017

A Los Angeles County judge ruled today that four social workers should stand trial on charges of criminal negligence in the death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy they were charged with protecting, allowing prosecutors to push ahead with a case that has sent a chill through the ranks of child protection workers nationwide..

Read the complete article here.

Weekend Miracles: How an International Adoption Recruitment Strategy Helps Parents for Children in Foster Care

Weekend Miracles Los Angeles, now entering its second decade, offers a unique and proven approach to creating forever families and lasting connections for adolescents who are languishing in foster care in Los Angeles.  Since the program’s official launch in 2006, Weekend Miracles has been a resounding success, having recruited adopt families, legal guardians, and lasting connections for 75 percent of participating children.

Download the complete article written by Deborah Dentler here.

California Law to Close Group Homes Stresses Importance of Family for Every Foster Kid

In 2017, California’s group homes will be shutting down— or changing, at the very least — in the wake of new legislation passed in September 2015. The measure aims to move the state’s foster care system toward encouraging family-based placements for all foster children.

Critics of the bill argue that closing group homes will hurt kids in a system that already suffers from too few foster care beds, and that tough-to-place kids who may have behavioral issues but don’t meet the “clinical need” qualifications will be especially affected.  Read more here.

Foster Families Share Their Stories of Love and Loss

“Foster care changes a person,” wrote Stephanie Bennington, a former foster child from Fremont, Neb., after we asked readers to send us their foster care stories. The stories came in response to “Losing a Foster Child,” the most recent essay by Meghan Moravcik Walbert, who chronicled the time her family spent with the foster child she nicknamed BlueJay. Read the full article including comments by Deborah Dentler here.

Improving Care for Foster Children

Jessica, my first foster child, whom I last saw 14 years ago, emailed me out of the blue. She was barely nine then, and I was surprised to hear from her as I had never given her my email address.

My husband and I had thought of Jessica and her younger sister Nicole many times since they left our home in 2002 to be reunified with their family. Jessica (8 years old at time of placement) and her sister Nicole (18 months) were our first foster children, as well as the first children we ever parented. (Read more here.) Article by Shannon Hernandez, American Bar Association.