GAO Issues Report on Deaths and Abuse in Schools and Treatment Centers from Use of Seclusion and Restraint
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report to the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor on the use of seclusion and restraint in public and private schools and treatment centers in order to provide an overview of laws concerning use of these methods, to verify whether allegations of abuse and death from such methods are widespread, and to examine the facts of cases where students died or suffered abuse as a result of being secluded or restrained. The GAO found that no federal laws restrict the use of seclusion and restraint in schools and that state laws vary widely. While the GAO could not determine if allegations of abuse and death are widespread, it did find hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death due to use of restraint and seclusion methods. One theme the GAO mentioned is that children with disabilities are sometimes restrained or secluded even without parental consent. To read the report, including the details of cases and state and federal laws, click here.
Sexually exploited teens, Tiffany Rivera and Nadeyah Shereff, who had been locked in detention facilities through the juvenile justice system under charges of prostitution, testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee about their experiences. Tiffany recounted being the victim of continuous rape and commercial sexual exploitation and the trauma she endured in detention.
Click here to view a portion of their testimony.
The mother of three young daughters is challenging a law that allows parents to show children pornography. The mother said that the children's father awoke two of the daughters during the night to show them pornography on his computer and that the girls later told a counselor, who reported it to authorities. The DA concluded that he was unable to prosecute the father due to Texas' public-indecency law. To read more about the situation and the conflicting opinions about the law, click here.
From December 1-4, 2009, The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is sponsoring "Designing Your Juvenile Drug Court," an intensive workshop for juvenile drug court judges and coordinators. Travel and lodging scholarships are available for three members of your team and are awarded on a first come, first served basis. Click here for more information about the workshop and to learn how to apply for a scholarship.
On Monday, October 26, in Eldorado, Texas, the first criminal trial against a member of the Eldorado FLDS sect began with jury selection. Raymond Merrill Jessop is accused of sexually assaulting an underage girl whom he allegedly took as his wife. The original jury call affected the small town of Eldorado, causing some offices to close for the day. The pool of potential jurors included members of the FLDS sect. Voir dire began Monday afternoon. Click here to read a local newspaper article about the trial. Click here to read about the impact on the town, and here to read about the status of the jury selection process.
Every Child Matters has determined that from 2001-2007 at least 10,440 children died in the U.S. from child abuse and neglect, more than in any other wealthy nation. Their new report details the number of deaths in each state, the amount of money each state spends to protect children, and the costs of child abuse. Texas ranks number one in child abuse deaths and 44th on per capita spending on child welfare. Click here to read the full report.
TLC is pleased to announce the launch of a new email network, "Colleague Connection--Drug Court Judges." This secure, private email network is being provided to assist any Texas judge presiding over a family drug treatment court and judges who are considering developing a family drug treatment court. Judges can seek colleagues' expertise on questions of interest and discuss best practices in drug court issues and policies. Participation is strictly limited to active Texas judges. TLC thanks Hon. Gil Jones for graciously agreeing to serve as the moderator for this email network. To enroll, judges who are already registered for the TLC website's services can simply go to "Communication Tools" on the blue menu bar above; then click on "Colleague Connection Email Networks" on the resulting drop-down. You will then be able to click on "Join list" for Colleague Connection--Drug Court Judges. Be sure to enroll today so you don't miss out on the first messages! You are always welcome to call TLC's Help Desk at 800-993-5TLC (5852) if you have any questions regarding signing up for this new, free service. For more information about family drug treatment courts, please see Section 264.801 of the Texas Family Code.
TLC is pleased to announce that the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and the State Bar's Committee on
Child Abuse and Neglect have joined forces with TLC to recruit pro bono attorneys to assist in child abuse cases. Pro bono attorneys are available to assist you with issues that arise that may be outside your area of expertise, such as disability issues, SSI benefits, and immigration law. Attorneys with less experience can even find mentors to help with the child abuse case itself or with matters such as trial skills or preparation and appellate issues. Volunteers are also willing to serve as pro bono advocates for children/youth growing up in the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the state. In counties that provide court-appointed counsel but have children placed out of county, the child's appointed attorney can locate pro bono co-counsel in the county where the child is placed to assist in meeting with the child and his/her service providers. Appointed attorneys can find potential pro bono co-counsel in other counties by checking the list in the Pro Bono section of the TLC website and asking the court to appoint the co-counsel. In counties that do not appoint attorneys or CASA as advocates for children in the PMC of the state, judges may contact TLC and request a list of volunteer attorneys available in that county. Our purpose is to fill any void in representation and not to displace court-appointed advocates already filling this need. To volunteer for the Pro Bono Network, to learn more about the Pro Bono PMC project, or to find a volunteer to assist you in your cases, please go to "Pro Bono" on the blue menu bar above. The October 2009 issue of the Texas Bar Journal includes an article about the PMC pro bono project. Click here to read the article.
Charles Childress, a contributor and commentator for Sampson and Tindall's Texas Family Code Annotated, has graciously provided TLC with his compilation of the 2009 legislative changes of interest to judges and attorneys handling child protective services cases and child support matters. This legislative update provides a comprehensive report of substantive changes to the Texas Family Code made in the 81st legislative session, as well as changes to other statutes of interest. TLC is delighted that Mr. Childress joined TLC's team of attorneys as a Consulting Attorney this spring. Click here to view the legislative update.
The State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (the "Child Abuse Committee") honored Richard Lavallo as the recipient of its annual Fairy Davenport Rutland Award for Distinguished Service to Children and Families. The award is named after Ms. Rutland in recognition of her exceptional leadership as a founding member and chair of the Committee for over 20 years and her continuing dedication and many contributions to the field of child welfare. The current Chair of the Child Abuse Committee, Barbara Elias-Perciful, presented the award to Mr. Lavallo at the Advanced Family Law Course in August. Mr. Lavallo is the Legal Director of Advocacy, Inc. He has devoted his career of over 20 twenty years to serving people with disabilities and those who live in poverty and has enforced children's rights in numerous contexts. Click here to read the nomination letter. Click here to see a picture of the award presentation.
TLC's Director, Barbara Elias-Perciful, was honored by the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division as the Distinguished Lawyer Recipient of the 2009 Child Advocacy Award for her service on behalf of abused and neglected children. This prestigous award is based on an individual's personal achievements and impact in helping abused and neglected children. Ms. Elias-Perciful was presented with the award at a ceremony during the ABA's annual meeting in Chicago this August. Click here to view the ABA's announcement of the award. Click here for more details.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities ("CPPP") has released a paper discussing new legislation impacting Child Protective Services, which was enacted in the 81st Legislative Session. CPPP also provides its recommendations for next steps following this legislation. Click here to view the paper.
Sandra Hachem, Co-Chair of the Subcomittee on Legislation for the State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, has graciously provided TLC with her compilation of the latest updates of legislation concerning child abuse and neglect. Click here to view Ms. Hachem's update on legislation from the 81st Legislative Session.
The Center for Public Policy Priorities has released a policy paper discussing the impact of the Gates decision on Child Protective Services and making recommendations for judges and CPS. The paper states that, in practice, the Gates definition of "exigent circumstances" necessary to enter or remain in a home, transport a child for an interview, or remove a child from a parent's custody may be stricter than pre-Gates. Since the time of the Gates decision, the proportion of children interviewed at children's advocacy centers has decreased noticeably; the proportion of cases with a "ruled out" designation has increased; and a smaller proportion of cases have been opened for services. Also, removals have dropped significantly. To read the full report and recommendations, please click here.
On June 25, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona school officials violated the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches when they strip searched a teenage girl to try to find prescription-strength ibuprofen. In the 8-1 opinion, the Court held that the school's searches of the girl's backpack and outer clothes were permissible but that the school officials acted illegally when they asked to search her underwear. Justice David Souter wrote that there was no indication that the girl posed a danger to the other students, and there was no indication that the pills were in her underwear. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that the school officials in this case are immune from liability, but the Court remanded for consideration whether the school district is liable to the student. To read the opinion, please click here.
On June 19, 2009, Governor Rick Perry vetoed SB 1440, despite the fact that it had passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. This bill set forth a procedure for Child Protective Services to obtain a civil warrant for investigating child abuse and neglect. To read Governor Perry's veto statement on SB 1440, please click here.
TLC is delighted to announce that Charles Childress has joined TLC's team of attorneys as a Consulting Attorney. Mr. Childress has made significant and numerous contributions to the field of child advocacy, having served as Co-Director of the Children's Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Senior Attorney at the Department of Family and Protective Services, and Chief Staff Attorney for the Fourth Court of Appeals, to name a few. He serves as a contributor and commentator for Sampson and Tindall's Texas Family Code Annotated. He was instrumental in the passage of landmark legislation that limits children's time in foster care and was named outstanding legislative liaison for the 2001 legislative session by the DFPS Office of General Counsel. Mr. Childress has devoted his career to serving children and families and was the 2008 recipient of the Fairy Davenport Rutland Award for Distinguished Service to Children and Families, given by the Texas State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. .Click here to read Mr. Childress' resume.
On Wednesday, April 8, TDFPS is encouraging all businesses, organizations, agencies, and individuals throughout Texas to wear blue to end child abuse and neglect. You can raise awareness by wearing a blue shirt, posting "Keep Kids Safe" and "Stop Child Abuse" signs, wearing blue lapel ribbons, and encouraging others to do the same. Let's all wear blue to help end child abuse and neglect! Please contact TDFPS for more information.
Prepared by over fifteen organizations, including the Children's Defense Fund and the ABA Center on Children and the Law, New Help for Children Raised by Grandparents and Other Relatives: Questions and Answers About the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 provides information, in a question and answer format, about the new act and methods for implementing the improvements for children being raised by grandparents and relatives. The Guide also provides an implementation chronology and a list of selected resources. Please click here to read the article.
The Subcommittee on Legislation of the State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (the "Committee") prepares summaries of pending legislation relating to child abuse and neglect. These summaries include comments where there are items of possible concern. TLC thanks the Committee for allowing us to share these summaries with our users. Please note that the comments do not reflect the official position of the Committee or of TLC. To view the summaries of key bills filed through February 28, 2009, click here.
The State Bar's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect is seeking nominations for its annual Fairy Davenport Rutland Award for Distinguished Service to Children and Families. The award is named after Ms. Rutland in recognition of her exceptional leadership as a founding member and chair of the Committee for over 20 years and her continuing dedication and many contributions to the field of child welfare. The award honors an attorney who has made a substantial contribution to the field of advocacy for abused and neglected children. The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2009.
Click here to view the nomination form.
On February 12, 2009, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims determined, in three cases, that thimerosal-containing vaccinations do not contribute to immune dysfunction and that the MMR vaccine does not contribute to either autism or gastrointestinal dysfunction. To read the opinions, please click here.
Children need stability and consistency in their lives, especially those in the child welfare system. Thus, the Center for Public Policy Priorities has issued a paper analyzing the high turnover rate within Texas' Child Protective Services, citing contributing factors such as the hiring process, recruiting issues, supervisor effectiveness, and failure to engage workers at the outset. The paper makes recommendations about how turnover can be reduced, such as a hiring process which includes supervisors, establising pay parity among the units, and reducing caseloads to a manageable level. Click here to read the paper.
According to a recent report by Texans Care for Children, Texas has yet to increase its national ranking on several child welfare issues. Texas children lag behind others in the country in the areas of health, economic security, and safety. Texas ranked last among states in health insurance coverage for teens, teen pregnancy prevention, and adults who complete high school. Infant mortality rates have increased, and Texas is ranked 45 of 50 states in deaths due to child abuse and neglect. More children are repeating earlier grades. On a positive note, Texas increased its ranking for child support collection and childhood vaccinations. Click here
to read the press release. Click here
to read the full report.