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Posts Tagged ‘Foster Care Scam’

Children’s Rights Challenges Tennessee Law Unconstitutionally Interfering with Children’s Juvenile Court Hearings — Children’s Rights

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, child abuse, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Foster Care, Foster CAre Abuse, Foster Care Scam, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, kidnapped children, Marriage, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parentectomy, Parents rights on September 11, 2009 at 6:34 pm

NASHVILLE, TN — Challenging the constitutionality of a new Tennessee law aimed at pressuring local judges to reduce the number of children they commit to foster care — and asserting that the law endangers the safety of abused and neglected kids — the national advocacy organization Children’s Rights today asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the law’s implementation.

The law, which was proposed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS), passed as an amendment to the omnibus budget bill that took effect in July. It establishes fiscal penalties for counties whose judges commit more than a prescribed number of children to state custody (300 percent of the state average commitment rate) — and fails to take into account the local circumstances influencing foster care placements in each county and the unique facts of each child’s case.

In a motion (PDF) filed today with the U.S. District Court in Nashville, lawyers at Children’s Rights and their co-counsel in Tennessee asserted that the clear intent of the law was to save state funds by influencing judges’ commitment decisions with the threat of fiscal penalties to their counties. At hearings about the legislation, DCS officials have stated publicly that the goal was never to collect money from the counties, but to reduce the number of children placed in foster care.

“This law is unconstitutional and very dangerous to children who have already suffered abuse or neglect,” said Children’s Rights Associate Director Ira Lustbader. “These children have the right to have their cases heard by judges who will decide how best to keep them safe based only on the facts of their individual cases, not whether their counties are in danger of getting fined for exceeding an arbitrary limit on foster care commitments.”

Before the law was passed, the executive committee of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges unanimously passed a resolution opposing it, and, after it was enacted, “expressed great concern about the Legislative Branch telling the Judicial Branch how many kids they can or cannot commit to state custody.”

The new law violates the 2001 settlement of a federal class action brought by Children’s Rights and co-counsel to reform the Tennessee child welfare system, which requires that judges make safety decisions based on the facts before them and that children’s constitutional rights are protected at all hearings in juvenile courts. Furthermore, say attorneys, the law violates children’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection by preventing those who live in counties with high foster care placement rates from receiving fair hearings.

“The express purpose of this law is to make judges think about the number of commitments in their counties each time they decide whether to place a child in state custody,” said David L. Raybin, an attorney with Hollins, Wagster, Weatherly & Raybin in Nashville serving as co-counsel on the case. “If you’re a child facing abuse or neglect at home, and you happen to live in a county where foster care placements are running high, this law ensures that you’ll be treated differently than you would if your county’s placements were low. That’s a clear violation of children’s constitutional rights.”

Today’s challenge to the new law notes that Anderson County, an undisputed target of the law, leads the state in both the number of methamphetamine lab seizures and the number of children committed to state custody due to parental substance abuse. In measuring individual counties’ foster care placements against a statewide average without considering such unique local circumstances, the law “is completely disconnected from these realities,” the motion says.

Additionally, lawyers at Children’s Rights assert that the state has other, lawful means of reducing foster care placements, including appealing individual judges’ decisions it believes to be unfounded and, most important, increasing family preservation services where necessary to keep vulnerable families together.

“Tennessee could achieve its goal of minimizing foster care commitments by enhancing the support and services it provides to help families stay together, which would be absolutely the right thing to do,” Lustbader said. “Instead, this law seeks to influence judges’ decisions in individual children’s cases, which is unfair and dangerous.”

Children’s Rights and a team of Tennessee attorneys have represented all children in Tennessee foster care since 2000, when they filed a class action against the state seeking the comprehensive reform of the state-run child welfare system. Agreements negotiated by attorneys at Children’s Rights to settle the case established court-enforceable reform plans that have produced major improvements — including increases in the number of children moved out of foster care and into permanent homes and reductions in the number of foster children housed in institutions, separated from their siblings, and placed in foster homes far away from their own communities.

Today’s motion — and a complete archive of documents related to Children’s Rights’ efforts to reform Tennessee child welfare — can be found at www.childrensrights.org/tennessee.

Related Press

Child advocacy group wants Tennessee’s new foster-care law blocked (Tennessean, Sept. 10, 2009)

Advocates Ask Judge To Block Limits On Foster Care (AP, via NewsChannel 5 Nashville)

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Children’s Rights Challenges Tennessee Law Unconstitutionally Interfering with Children’s Juvenile Court Hearings — Children’s Rights.

Federal Government Freezes County Title IV-E Funds – News Story – WJAC Johnstown

In children legal status, Childrens Rights, CPS, cps fraud, Department of Social Servies, Foster Care, Foster CAre Abuse, Foster Care Scam on August 30, 2009 at 1:23 am

Blair County Commissioners announced Tuesday that they will have to figure out how to survive without $571,000 from the federal government.

The commissioners were hoping the money would carry them through the next few months, especially since there’s no state budget.Officials have frozen the Federal Title IV-E Funds that allow states to apply for and receive federal matching funds to aid with juvenile probation and child welfare activities.

Those activities include adoption assistance, foster care maintenance payments, training and administrative expenses.”They’re alleging that our Pennsylvania state government isn’t managing those funds properly,” Commissioner Terry Tomasetti said. “It has to do with record keeping.”

Blair County is not the only county being affected. Every county in the state has had their funding deferred.Bedford County may lose $348,000. Elk County is looking at a loss of $55,860.Tomasetti added not only will the county lose the federal funding, they may even have to pay back funds if there was indeed problems with state records.

Copyright 2009 by WJACTV.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Federal Government Freezes County Title IV-E Funds – News Story – WJAC Johnstown.

NCCPR Child Welfare Blog: The myth of the underpaid foster parent

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Family Rights, Foster Care, Foster CAre Abuse, Foster Care Scam, kidnapped children, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parental Rights Amendment on August 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The myth of the underpaid foster parent

The photo dominated the front page of The Arizona Republic Tuesday. Mom, Dad, their two kids sitting around the table saying a prayer before family dinner. The only nonwhite person at the table (seen from the back): One of the family’s foster children.

The huge headline above the photo: “Slashed foster payments make it HARDER TO HELP”

All the usual clichés followed – swipes at birth parents, the incredible nobility of the foster parents who rescued the children – and how it all might be in jeopardy because Arizona’s budget deficit prompted legislators to impose a 20 percent cut in payments to foster parents.

Then, the story officially certifies this a “crisis,” the reporter declaring that “Foster care advocates worry that the crisis has erased years of improvements to the foster care system.”

They can stop worrying. First of all, with one tiny, recent exception, unrelated to foster parent pay, there haven’t been any improvements to the foster care system in Arizona. On the contrary, it’s one of the nation’s most regressive. NCCPR issued a report on Arizona child welfare two years ago and, if anything, it’s only gotten worse.

But also, no great harm is done by cutting payment rates that were, in fact, the second highest in the entire country – rates vastly above the national average. Even with the cuts, Arizona still is paying foster parents far more than most states.

According to the story, before the cuts, the average monthly payment to an Arizona foster parent was $910 per child. That’s not including special allowances for clothing books education and other expenses. Now, with the cuts, it’s a mere $728 per month per child. The extra allowances have been cut back, but they’re still on top of that $728.

That was in the story. Not in the story: The money is tax free. And foster children’s health insurance is covered by Medicaid.

The story did mention Arizona’s second-highest-in-the-nation status, but the reporter got spun, big time, thanks to a study by guess who? Yep – the group that so arrogantly calls itself Children’s Rights. (And yes, it is depressing that over and over this once progressive group reveals itself to have become one of the most regressive forces in American child welfare.)

Their “study” portrayed the exceptionally-high payments in Arizona and Washington DC as the bare minimum needed to care for a foster child – everybody else, the study said, was falling terribly short. Even a glance at the study methodology shows this is nonsense. But glancing at the methodology requires looking at a separate document called a Technical Report. Labeling something a “technical report” is like putting a great big sign on it that says HEY REPORTERS: DON’T BOTHER TO READ THIS!

And in this case, it seems to have worked like a charm. Because of all the stories written about this report, I’ve seen none that included the following information:

CR’s calculation of “minimum” requirements includes far more than food, clothing and shelter.

It includes the full cost of day care for foster children – even those who were taken from their own parents on “lack of supervision” charges because those birth parents couldn’t afford day care.

The so-called minimum also includes the increase in the foster family’s electric bill caused by foster children leaving the lights on and opening and closing the refrigerator a lot – even when the children were taken from their birth parents because those birth parents couldn’t afford a decent place to live.

The so-called minimum even includes every penny spent on movie tickets, amusement parks, games and toys.

But who in the world would want to place a child with foster parents who demanded government reimbursement every time they bought a foster child a teddy bear?

These are only some of the bizarre assumptions that make up CR’s definition of “minimum.” More are discussed in NCCPR’s report on Virginia child welfare in which we argued, unsuccessfully, against a big raise for the state’s foster parents.

I am among those who believe that the overwhelming majority of foster parents are not in it for the money. I’m sure the family in the Republic story, which is continuing to foster children in spite of the cut, deserves the praise it received. But you can’t have it both ways: You can’t say, as some others apparently do, “I’m not in it for the money, but I’ll quit if I stop getting the second highest rates in the nation and have to use my own money the next time I take my foster child to the movies.”

Similarly, you can’t say, as many foster parents do, “we can’t be in it for the money because there’s not enough money” – and then keep demanding more money. Indeed, paying too much creates the risk that the wrong people will go into fostering.

And, in fact, precisely because most foster parents do care so much about the children they take in, when they are polled on reasons for quitting, pay actually ranks quite low. (Lack of respect from child welfare agencies – in other words, being treated the same way agencies treat birth parents – ranks much higher.) And that helps explain why, even with the second highest pay rates in the nation, Arizona still claims to have a so-called shortage of foster parents.

In fact, Arizona doesn’t have a shortage of foster parents. Thanks to a take-the-child-and-run mentality that has left Arizona in a state of perennial foster care panic, Arizona has a surplus of foster children. Stop taking so many children needlessly, and the so-called shortage would disappear.

That’s also why we shouldn’t be fooled by claims that if Arizona pays foster parents at rates that are merely above average instead of second highest-in-the-nation that would force the state to throw even more children into group homes and institutions.

All these problems arise before we even reach the fundamental issue of taking so many children largely because they are poor
and then giving vastly more financial help to the strangers who take those children in.

All that said, I’m not suggesting that the cuts in pay for Arizona foster parents are a good idea. They would be a good idea if the money was going to bolster prevention and family preservation programs. But those are being cut, too. The cuts are just making one of the stingier states in the nation when it comes to helping children even stingier.

This whole issue touches on something that doesn’t get nearly as much discussion as it should: What is our “social contract” with foster parents? If foster parenting is an act of compassion, like volunteer work, done for the psychic satisfaction, is it unreasonable to ask that foster parents dip just a little into their own pockets – and shouldn’t we be concerned about those who won’t? I’ve raised that issue on this blog before, but there is a better discussion, by Maine foster and adoptive parent Mary Callahan, in this op ed column from the Los Angeles Times.

As for the one piece of good news from Arizona, that involves federal, not state money. As this story from Phoenix New Times explains, the state child welfare agency and local housing authorities in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, did an outstanding job in securing vouchers to help families in which children may be taken from their parents because of housing problems, or housing problems are preventing reunification. The vouchers also can be used for young people “aging out” of foster care. The federal program was restored, after an eight-year absence, thanks largely to the work of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (the executive director of which is a member of NCCPR’s Board of Directors). You can find out how your state and locality did by checking the NCHCW website.

NCCPR Child Welfare Blog: The myth of the underpaid foster parent.