GAO Issues Report — "Children's Mental Health: Concerns Remain about Appropriate Services for Children in Medicaid and Foster Care"
The Government Accounting Office undertook a study to address concerns that children with mental health conditions do not always receive appropriate treatment. The report notes that HHS's Administration for Children and Families (ACF) reported that 18 percent of foster children were taking psychotropic medications at the time they were surveyed (utilization varied widely by the child's living arrangement). ACF also reported that 30 percent of foster children who may have needed mental health services did not receive them in the previous 12 months. To read the report click here.
Hon. John J. Specia, Jr. (Ret.) is the new Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Judge Specia was a founding member of the Texas Supreme Court Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families. He also served as a Jurist in Residence for the Commission. To view further information about Judge Specia's background,
On October 12, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court reversed a termination of parental rights, which was based in part on the deportation of the parent, and remanded it to the trial court. In this case, In re E.N.C., No. 11-0713, 2012 Tex. LEXIS 866 (Tex. Oct. 12, 2012), the Court said that deportation itself is not sufficient to prove endangering conduct. The father had been convicted, prior to the children's birth, of sexual conduct with a minor in Wisconsin. He left while on probation, went to Texas, married, and had children. When he applied for a green card, the probation violation was spotted, and he was deported. The Court said the Department had offered insufficient evidence of the unlawful act (i.e., it could have been two minors having sex; not known if the act would have been unlawful in Texas; etc.), and mere deportation is not sufficient. The father had had contact with the children and provided support. The Court said the Department should have looked into whether the children could live with him in Mexico, and no service plan had been offered. The Court also found the best interest evidence to be insufficient. To view the Court's opinion,
On September 17, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., the Texas House of Representatives' Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing (with invited and public testimony) on the implementation of foster care redesign. This hearing will be particularly important in light of DFPS' recent announcement that contract negotiations for foster care redesign in DFPS Region 11 (Corpus Christi & the Valley) have been halted due to the suspension of placement of foster children with Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSSS), which was the entity under consideration for the contract to privatize foster care in Region 11. The hearing will be conducted in Room E2.026 of the Capitol Extension. To view the hearing on the House of Representatives' website, click here.
On Aug. 13, 2012, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the Department of Family and Protective Services suspended new placements of foster children with Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSSS) due to dozens of safety violations, including child abuse and neglect, at foster homes supervised by three LSSS offices -- Garland, Richardson, and Laredo. In addition, LSSS lost its bid to be one of two organizations chosen to participate in the new program to privatize foster care services. To view the article, click here. To view the letter sent from DFPS to LSSS, citing dozens of violations, click here. For an overview of the foster care redesign project that includes privatization, click here.
On August 7, 2012, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging attorneys and judges, bar associations, and law school clinical programs "to help identify and respond effectively to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in children and adults, through training to enhance awareness of FASD and its impact on individuals in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and adult criminal justice
systems and the value of collaboration with medical, mental health, and disability experts." The resolution further urges "the passage of laws, and adoption of
policies at all levels of government, that acknowledge and treat the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure
and better assist individuals with FASD." To view the resolution, click here.
On July 6, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court held that a parent whose rights have been terminated cannot be restricted to a six-month deadline to attack the judgment if citation by publication was constitutionally inadequate to provide notice to the parent. (Mother had filed a petition for bill of review within two years of the date of judgment.) In In re E.R., No. 11-0282, 2012 Tex. LEXIS 582 (Tex. July 6, 2012), the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had served a mother by publication, having told the trial court of the many unsuccessful steps taken to locate her. In fact, however, the Department's caseworker had been in touch with the mother, and the mother had met with the caseworker and had visited her children at the Department's office during the time the caseworker had said she was performing a search for the mother. The caseworker had a telephone number and address for the mother but told the court that the mother had said she was moving. The caseworker also had the maternal grandmother's address and telephone number but did not use either to locate the mother for service. The Court said that the validity of citation by publication is measured by the quality of the diligent search, not the quantity of actions performed. The court of appeals' judgment affirming termination was reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine if the mother had unreasonably delayed seeking relief after learning of the judgment. To read the opinion,
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is generously providing a limited number of scholarships for Texas attorneys to attend the 35th National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference sponsored by the National Association of Counsel for Children, which will be held from Aug. 13 - 16, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is the close of business on Thursday, June 28. The scholarship covers registration only and does not include expenses for travel or lodging. To view the requirements to be eligible to apply and to access the application form, click here.
The Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families is providing a limited number of scholarships for Texas attorneys to attend the one-day Child Abuse and Neglect Workshop at the State Bar's Advanced Family Law Conference on Aug. 8, 2012, in Houston, or for the video replays in S. Padre Island on Oct. 19 and in Dallas on Oct. 26. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is Wednesday, June 6. The scholarship covers registration for the one-day workshop only and does not include expenses for travel or lodging. To access the application form, click here. To view the conference brochure, click here.
The Children's Justice Act Project is seeking applications for grants to fund the following types of programs to help abused children: mulitdisciplinary team coordination and response, access to quality victim advocacy and mental health services; multidisciplinary response to child maltreatment victims with disabilities; multidisciplinary response to child maltreatment-related fatalities, recognition and response by the education system to suspected maltreatment, and access to quality medical assessment for child maltreatment victims. The deadline for submitting an application is Friday, June 29th. To view the application form, click here.
The Education Committee of the Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families has issued a seminal report -- The Texas Blueprint: Transforming Education Outcomes for Children & Youth in Foster Care. The report is the collaborative effort of over 100 individuals from across Texas, who worked over 18 months to draft this compilation of extensive and very innovative recommendations for jurisdictions to use as a framework for reform. Under the leadership of Chair Hon. Patricia Macias (El Paso) and Vice-Chair Hon. Cheryl Shannon (Dallas), the Education Committee has recommended strategies concerning judicial practices; data and information sharing; multidisciplinary training; school readiness; school stability and transitions; school experience, supports, and advocacy; and post-secondary education. The report includes suggested statutory changes, practical guidance for judicial leadership, and specific ideas for expanded duties of children's attorneys and guardians ad litem -- all with the goal of improving education outcomes for children and youth in foster care. The Education Committee's far-reaching recommendations impact three systems -- the courts, the child welfare system, and the education system -- and set Texas apart as the first state to create such an expansive blueprint for education reform. To view the report, click here.
On March 23, 2012, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decertified the class represented by nine foster children/youth who filed a class action suit on behalf of all children in the permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the State of Texas to redress alleged deficiencies in administration of the State's PMC. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court's certification order "failed to perform the 'rigorous analysis' that is required in order to find that the proposed class" satisfies the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Click here to view the Fifth Circuit's opinion.
In March 2012, Generations United and the ABA Center on Children and the Law issued a report, entitled "Improving Foster Care Licensing Standards around the United States: Using Research Findings to Effect Change," summarizing all 50 states' foster care licensing standards and recommending changes to make standards and their application more uniform. The project was supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report looks at state statutes and regulations with regard to standards such as eligibility (age, citizenship, education, income, etc.), physical and mental health, living environment, transportation, training requirements, home studies, and background checks, as well as different standards for relatives. Recommendations include development of model core standards for all states. To view the report, click here.
On March 6, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court's Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families (Children's Commission) issued a report concerning a Round Table discussion the Children's Commission co-hosted on November 14, 2011, in collaboration with Casey Family Programs and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), regarding the FY 2012-2013 Child Protective Services budget and its effect on services to children and families. The Center for Public Policy Priorities facilitated the discussion among multiple stakeholders, including members of the judiciary, DFPS executive leadership, legislative staff, the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, parent advocates, parents, and relative caregivers. Click here to view the report concerning the Round Table discussion.
TLC is pleased to announce that it has replicated its Online Legal Resource and Communication Center for Alabama. The Alabama Online Center is called "Child Defend" and is the showpiece of the new Juvenile and Family Justice Center at the University of North Alabama in Florence. The project is being operated in collaboration with Alabama's Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention. Click here to view an article from the press conference announcing Alabama's new Online Center. TLC will also soon be replicating its Online Center for Florida. In December 2008, TLC replicated its Online Center for California in collaboration with California's Center for Children, Families and the Courts, which is part of California's Administrative Office of the Courts.
In the middle of trial, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $158 million to settle Texas' claims that the drug manufacturer had fraudulently marketed the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal by promoting it for uses not approved by the FDA, including use for children with psychiatric disorders. Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., who works with abused and neglected children, testified, as an expert for the State, that young people "are more vulnerable" to the side effects of anti-psychotic drugs, including weight gain, drowsiness, and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms. Another expert testified that Johnson & Johnson hid three studies that showed that Risperdal causes diabetes in some patients. One study showed that Risperdal causes
"medically serious weight gain" that leads patients to develop diabetes. To view an article about the settlement,
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 ongoing 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 13, 2012. Click here to view the nomination form.