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November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Justice Department Selects Four Courts to Identify Promising Practices in Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases
Courts in Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and Oregon to Work with National Experts to Improve Child Custody and Visitation Decision-making

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), announces the selection of four courts to participate in the Family Court Enhancement Project (FCEP) to improve custody and visitation decision-making for families who have experienced domestic violence.  The four courts selected are: Circuit Court of Cook County in Chicago, Ill.; Family Court of the State of Delaware; Hennepin County Family Justice Center in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Multnomah County Family Court in Portland, Ore.

“In order to maintain safety for the entire family, it is crucial that judges weigh the dynamics of domestic violence and its impact on both adults and children when making custody and visitation decisions,” said OVW Acting Director Bea Hanson.  “Ensuring the safety of domestic violence victims and their children during and after court proceedings is an essential component of the FCEP.  This project will provide guidance to courts around the country in implementing proven procedures and practices that keep victims and children safe.”

The FCEP, a collaborative project of NCJFCJ, OVW, the Battered Women’s Justice Project, and the National Institute for Justice, is designed to determine what family court procedures, practices and structures related to custody and visitation can help keep victims of domestic violence and their children safe from further violence and trauma.  The four courts chosen for the FCEP applied to an open call for concept papers that was issued by NCJFCJ.  OVW, NCJFCJ and BWJP reviewed the concept papers based on the criteria set forth in the call.

OVW experts have identified, from a series of roundtable discussions and extensive research, challenges that affect the safety of domestic violence victims and their children involved in custody proceedings.  These challenges include: failure to identify and understand domestic violence in court and in third-party assessments; structural and procedural barriers; limited legal and advocacy resources; and the effects of race, class, and gender biases on outcomes.

Over the next two years, the FCEP and the selected courts will work closely with national domestic violence and court improvement experts to implement better approaches for keeping domestic violence victims and their children safe through and beyond court proceedings.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice will lead efforts on data collection and assisting each site in measuring the impacts of their systems change.

According to the CDC, women experience two million injuries from domestic violence each year and approximately one third of all incidents involving female victims take place in homes in which children ages twelve and under reside.  More than 15 million American children are exposed to domestic violence each year.  Many domestic violence victims and their children will come before a family court, and these courts make custody, visitation and other decisions that will have a significant long-term effect on these children and adults.

OVW, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and subsequent legislation.  Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  In addition to overseeing 22 federal grant programs, OVW often undertakes initiatives in response to special needs identified by communities facing acute challenges.  More information is available atwww.ovw.usdoj.gov.

SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMENT aboutMaine Rules for Guardians Ad Litem

November 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

 

COME ONE COME ALL THIS BY FAR HAS A WORST APPEARANCE THEN ILLINOIS COOK I MEAN CROOK COUNTY .

COMENT AND ……

STATE OF MAINE

  • SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMENT

Proposed Amendments to Maine Rules for Guardians Ad Litem

Comments due on or before Monday, December 2, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court invites comments on proposed amendments to the Maine Rules for Guardians ad Litem. The proposed amendments are available on the Court’s website at http://www.courts.state.me.us/ rules_adminorders/rules/proposed/gal/proposed_amends_mr_gals_2013-11-13.pdf.

Any comments should be filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court by Monday, December 2, 2013, at 4:00 p.m. Comments in writing should be mailed to the address below. Comments sent via email may be in the text of an email or in an attachment to an email, addressed to lawcourt.clerk@courts.maine.gov. If the comments are in an attachment, the attachment must be a document in portable document format (.pdf). The Clerk’s Office will acknowledge receipt of the e-mail via a reply e-mail.

All comments must contain (1) the name, mailing address, and telephone number of the individual submitting the comments; and (2) the name, mailing address, and primary telephone number of the organization (if any) on whose behalf the comments are submitted. An individual need not be an attorney to submit comments on behalf of an organization.

Dated: November 13, 2013

Matthew Pollack
Executive Clerk
Maine Supreme Judicial Court 205 Newbury Street Room 139 Portland, Maine 04112-0368 (207) 822-4146

LETS PROTECT THE APPEARANCE OF THE ABUSERS

STATE OF MAINE
SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO
THE MAINE RULES FOR GUARDIANS AD LITEM

1. The Maine Rules for Guardians Ad Litem, which were last amended in March 2001, are repealed upon approval of this amendment.

2. The following Maine Rules for Guardians Ad Litem are adopted to read as follows:

RULE 1. AUTHORITY, SCOPE, GOALS, AND DEFINITIONS

(a) Authority and Scope. These Rules are adopted pursuant to 4 M.R.S. §§ 1551 to 1557, 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112, 19-A M.R.S. § 1507, and 22 M.R.S. § 4005, to address practice and performance of guardians ad litem in the District Court, the Superior Court, and the Probate Court. They govern the qualifications for guardians ad litem, standards of conduct for guardians ad litem, appointment of guardians ad litem, and placement of guardians ad litem on, and removal of guardians ad litem from, the guardian ad litem Roster.

(b) Goals. These Rules are designed to govern and define the services provided by guardians ad litem to the court and to promote the best interests of the children whose interests they are appointed to represent. These Rules shall be construed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action. When appointed pursuant to these Rules, a guardian ad litem is a quasi-judicial officer of the court, primarily subject to and governed by the court in the individual proceeding and by the guardian ad litem oversight process more generally. A guardian ad litem must tailor his or her work to the particular needs and circumstances of each case, as identified in the court order appointing the guardian ad litem, but, in general, a guardian ad litem shall

(1) represent consistently the best interests of the child and provide information to the court that assists the court in determining the best interests of the child;

(2) understand and uphold the law and court orders related to the guardian ad litem’s appointment;

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(3) maintain the highest standards of professionalism, cultural sensitivity, and ethics;

(4) recognize that timely resolution of each matter serves the best interests of the child and the child’s need for stability;

(5) within the scope of authority defined by statute or court order, plan, carry out, document, and complete thorough, appropriate, and fair investigations in a timely fashion;

(6) communicate in a developmentally appropriate way with the child;

(7) make well-reasoned and factually based recommendations regarding the best interests of the child as directed by the order of appointment;

(8) pursuant to the order of appointment, include parties in the investigation, use effective communication techniques, recognize limitations that may be imposed by the financial resources of the parties as applicable, and be aware of the cultural and socioeconomic status of the parties; and

(9) Complete assignments and written reports in a timely manner and communicate effectively with the court in motions, reports, recommendations and testimony.

(c) Definitions. As used in these Rules, the following terms have the following definitions:

(1) CASA or CASA Program. “CASA” means a court appointed special advocate, and “CASA Program” means the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program established in Title 4, Chapter 31.

(2) Chief Judge. “Chief Judge” means the Chief Judge of the District Court or the Chief Judge’s designee.

(3) Judge or Court. “Judge” or “Court” means a Justice of the Superior Court, a Judge of the District Court, a Judge of the Probate Court, or a Family Law Magistrate.

(4) Roster. “Roster” means the roster of guardians ad litem maintained by the Chief Judge that separately identifies CASAs and individuals approved to serve

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As guardians ad litem in Title 18-A proceedings, Title 19-A proceedings, and/or Title 22 proceedings.

RULE 2. GUARDIANS AD LITEM (a) Appointment.

(1) Title 18-A and 19-A Proceedings. In Title 18-A and Title 19-A proceedings a judge may appoint, without any findings, any person listed on the Roster. In addition, when a suitable guardian ad litem included on the roster is not available for appointment, a court may, for good cause shown and after consultation with the parties, appoint an attorney admitted to practice in this State who, after consideration by the court of all of the circumstances of the particular case, in the opinion of the appointing court has the necessary skills and experience to serve as a guardian ad litem. For the purposes of this paragraph, good cause may include the appointment of a guardian ad litem on a pro bono basis.

(2) Child Protection Proceedings. Guardians ad litem appointed in child protection proceedings pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4005 shall be either a CASA or an attorney listed on the Roster. If neither a CASA nor a rostered attorney is available, the court may appoint another attorney.

(b) Application, Selection, and Placement of Guardians ad Litem on Roster.

(1) Application.
(A) Form. Roster applications shall be submitted on the official

form that can be obtained from the Family Division of the Maine District Court. The Chief Judge may accept an application filed on a substitute form if the Chief Judge determines that substantially all of the information required by the official form has been furnished. The Chief Judge may reject an application that is incomplete or does not meet applicable criteria, or the Chief Judge may require an applicant to provide additional information or explanation.

(B) Application Periods. The Chief Judge will accept applications and will review them periodically.

(2) Selection, Qualifications. The Chief Judge shall screen applications utilizing the criteria set forth in this section.

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(3) Criteria for Initial Listing on the Roster. To become listed on the Roster an applicant must demonstrate

(A) Credentials.

(i) A current valid license to practice law in the State of Maine;

(ii) A current valid license to practice as an LCSW, LPC, LCPC, LMSW, LMFT, LPaC, psychologist or psychiatrist in the State of Maine; or

(iii) A Certification of Qualification by the Director of the CASA program, provided that a CASA Certification qualified individual may be appointed a guardian ad litem only pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4005.

(B) Core Training. Attendance at a guardian ad litem training with a curriculum of at least 18 hours for Title 18-A and/or 19-A rostering and 23 hours for Title 22 rostering that has been approved by the Chief Judge satisfies this requirement. The curriculum must include specified learning outcomes and activities designed to meet these outcomes, and must cover Titles 18-A, 19-A, and 22; dynamics of domestic abuse and its effect on children; dynamics of separation and divorce and its effect on children; child development; timing and impact of court related events from a child’s perspective; the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma on children; substance abuse; mental health; family finance and the impact of separation and divorce; legal issues and processes; professionalism as a guardian ad litem; the duties and obligations of the guardian ad litem as an agent of the court; and interviewing techniques.

For a guardian ad litem acting under the auspices of the CASA program, successful completion of CASA training satisfies this requirement. CASA guardians ad litem who accept appointment in non-CASA cases must complete the core training requirements.

(C) Good Character. The applicant must demonstrate to the Chief Judge that he or she is presently of good character and fitness to serve as a guardian ad litem.

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(4) Placement on Roster. The Chief Judge shall notify applicants of the results of the application screening process. Applicants who pass application screening are conditionally accepted, and shall complete a release authorizing the Administrative Office of the Courts to conduct a background check consisting of: (A) a criminal history information check, (B) a child protective services information check, and (C) a certificate of good standing from the licensing authority for the Applicant’s profession, which must include disclosure of any disciplinary action taken regarding the applicant in the 10 years preceding the date of the application.

Applicants whose background check results are satisfactory to the Chief Judge will be finally accepted and placed on the roster. Applicants whose background check results are not satisfactory to the Chief Judge shall not be finally accepted and placed on the roster.

Applicants whose initial checks indicate a material problem may be disqualified or asked for additional information or releases.

The requirements for initial rostering must be maintained in order for a guardian ad litem to remain in good standing and included on the roster.

The decision of the Chief Judge is final and not subject to appeal.

(5) Continuing Education Requirements. Unless these requirements are waived by the Chief Judge, a guardian ad litem shall attend and complete any continuing professional education events or seminars designated as mandatory by the Chief Judge. In addition, in each 12-month period, a guardian ad litem must annually participate in a total of at least 6 hours of continuing professional education programs applicable to one or more of the issues identified as core training issues in Rule 2(b)(3)(B). At least one credit hour shall be primarily concerned with professionalism education. Qualifying professionalism education topics include professional responsibility as a guardian ad litem; legal ethics related to guardian ad litem work; conflicts of interest; diversity awareness in the legal profession; confidentiality of guardian ad litem records in Title 18-A, 19-A, and/or 22 cases; communication with parents involved in Title 18-A, 19-A, and/or 22 cases and their children; and complaint avoidance topics such as file management and billing practices.

Completion of the specified training hours shall be demonstrated by filing a statement, on a form approved by the Chief Judge, by August 31 of each year. A

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guardian ad litem who does not file the statement of completion of the requisite number of training hours by August 31 of each year shall be subject to sanctions, which could include permanent removal from the roster.

(6) Acceptance of Court Referrals. A guardian ad litem should anticipate being asked to accept at least one Title 19-A pro bono or reduced fee referral from the Judicial Branch per calendar year, other than Title 22 cases, and should do so to the extent consistent with the guardian ad litem’s other professional, personal, and other public interest service.

(7) Guardian ad Litem Resignation or Leave of Absence. A guardian ad litem may resign from the Roster at any time. A guardian ad litem may request a leave of absence from the Roster from the Chief Judge, who may accept the request, reject it, or condition acceptance on such terms as the Chief Judge believes are in the best interests of the Judicial Branch.

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[Reserved.*]

RULE 3. GUARDIAN OVERSIGHT

RULE 4. IMMUNITY

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Pursuant to 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112(f), 19-A M.R.S. § 1507(6), 22 M.R.S. § 4005(1)(G), and these Rules, guardians ad litem are entitled to quasi-judicial immunity from liability for actions undertaken pursuant to their appointments and these Rules.

RULE 5. COURT APPOINTMENT AND DUTIES
(a) Appointment to a Case. An individual shall act in a case as a guardian

ad litem only as authorized by

(1) a limited purpose appointment order issued pursuant to Rule 5(b)(5), 4 M.R.S. § 1555, and either 19-A M.R.S. § 1507 or 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112;

(2) a standard appointment order issued pursuant to Rule 5(b)(6), 4 M.R.S. § 1555, and either 19-A M.R.S. § 1507 or 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112;

* This Rule is the focus of work by the Task Force chaired by Justice Silver.

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(3) an expanded appointment order issued pursuant to Rule 5(b)(7), 4 M.R.S. § 1555, and either 19-A M.R.S. § 1507 or 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112; or

(4) an appointment order issued pursuant to Rule 5(c), 4 M.R.S. § 1556, and 22 M.R.S. § 4005.

(b) Title 18-A and 19-A Appointments.

(1) Consideration of Appointment. In proceedings to determine parental rights and responsibilities and guardianship of a minor pursuant to Title 18-A and in contested proceedings pursuant to Title 19-A, section 904, 1653, or 1803 in which a minor child is involved, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child when the court has reason for special concern as to the welfare of a minor child. A guardian ad litem may be appointed by agreement of the parties, or on motion by one of the parties, or by the court, acting on its own motion.

(2) Timing of Motion for Appointment. In a Title 19-A proceeding, any motion or request to the court for appointment of a guardian ad litem shall be filed no later than the conference with the court following the first scheduled mediation session or 60 days after the first conference with the court, if mediation is waived. A motion or request for appointment of a guardian ad litem may be considered at a later time only if the court finds that

  1. (A)  there is good cause for the late motion;
  2. (B)  the reasons for the late motion could not have been anticipated

at a point when a timely motion could have been filed; and

(C) the appointment will not unreasonably delay resolution of the matter or harm the best interest of the child in achieving clarity in parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

(3) Factors to Consider. In determining whether an appointment must be made, the court shall consider

  1. (A)  The wishes of the parties;
  2. (B)  The age of the child;

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(C) The nature of the proceeding, including the contentiousness of the hearing;

  1. (D)  The financial resources of the parties;
  2. (E)  The extent to which a guardian ad litem may assist in providing

information concerning the best interest of the child;

(F) Whether the family has experienced a history of domestic abuse;

  1. (G)  Alleged abuse of the child by one of the parties; and
  2. (H)  Other factors the court determines relevant.

(4) Contents of Appointment Order. The appointment shall be by court order, which shall be a limited purpose appointment order, a standard appointment order, or an expanded appointment order. The appointment order, which must be written on the court-approved form, shall

(A) Specify the guardian ad litem’s length of appointment; duties, including the filing of a written report pursuant to 4 M.R.S. § 1555(6) and either 19-A M.R.S. § 1507(5) or 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112(e); and fee arrangements, including hourly rates, timing of payments to be made by the parties, and the maximum amount of fees that may be charged for the case without further order of the court. The guardian ad litem may not perform and shall not be expected to perform any duties beyond those specified in the appointment order, unless subsequently ordered to do so by the court.

(B) If, in order to perform any specified duties, the guardian ad litem needs information concerning the child or parents, the court may order the parents to sign an authorization form allowing the release of the necessary information. The court order may specify that the guardian ad litem must be allowed access to the child by caretakers of the child, whether the caretakers are individuals, authorized agencies, or childcare providers.

(C) In Title 18-A proceedings, the court shall specify who is responsible for payment of the guardian ad litem’s fees. In Title 19-A proceedings, the order shall specify that payment for the services of the guardian ad litem is the responsibility of the parties pursuant to 19-A M.R.S.

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§ 1507(7), with the terms of payment specified in the order. In determining the responsibility for payment, the court shall consider

(i) The income and earnings of the parties;

(ii) The marital and nonmarital assets of the parties;

(iii) The division of property made or anticipated as part of the final divorce or separation;

(iv) Which party requested appointment of a guardian ad litem; and

(v) Other factors deemed relevant by the court, which shall be stated with specificity in the appointment order.

When appointment of the guardian ad litem or the fee arrangements for payment of the guardian ad litem are not agreed to by the parties, the court shall state in the appointment order its findings, based on the criteria stated above, supporting the appointment of the guardian ad litem and the fee payment order.

Collection of payment of fees, if a collection action is necessary, shall proceed pursuant to Title 14 and shall not be pursued in the action in which the guardian ad litem is appointed.

(5) Limited Purpose Appointment Order. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a specified, limited purpose or purposes. The order must specify the duties that the guardian ad litem shall perform, the duration of the appointment, the maximum number of hours that may be spent on the case by the guardian ad litem, the hourly fee rate, and the maximum fee that may be charged by the guardian ad litem. The order shall further specify when the fee shall be paid and by whom. If the payments ordered to be made before the guardian ad litem commences the investigation, if any, are not paid as ordered, the guardian ad litem shall notify the court, and the court may vacate the appointment order or take such other action it deems appropriate under the circumstances.

(6) Standard Appointment Order. The standard appointment order shall list the duties of the guardian ad litem to be performed pursuant to the order.

(A) Those duties, in each standard appointment order, shall be:

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(i) Observing the child or children in the home or homes where the child or children regularly reside, and for each child over the age of 3, conducting a face-to-face interview with the child;

(ii) Interviewing each parent and each other adult who resides in the home or homes where the child or children regularly reside; and

(iii) Completing and filing a written report of investigations, findings, and recommendations as ordered by the court when the case is to proceed to a contested hearing, with copies of the report to each party and the court, within the time specified in the appointment order.

(B) For the performance of these duties, the appointment order shall specify a maximum fee and direct that a specified sum be paid within a set time before the guardian ad litem commences the investigation, with the remainder to be paid within 14 days after the filing of the written report. If the payments ordered to be made before the guardian ad litem commences the investigation are not paid as ordered, the guardian ad litem shall notify the court, and the court may vacate the appointment order or take such other action it deems appropriate under the circumstances.

(7) Expanded Appointment Order. The original appointment order or an amended appointment order may specify any additional duties of the guardian ad litem that shall be individually approved by the court.

(A) The additional duties may include

(i) Interviewing teachers and other people who have knowledge of the child or family;

(ii) Reviewing mental health, medical and school records of the child;

(iii) Reviewing mental health and medical records of the parents;

(iv) Having qualified people perform medical and mental evaluations of the child, within a time and at a cost to be stated in the order;

(v) Having qualified people perform medical and mental evaluations of the parents, within a time and at a cost to be stated in the order;

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(vi) Procuring counseling for the child;

(vii) Retaining an attorney to represent the guardian ad litem in the pending proceeding, with approval of the court;

(viii) Subpoenaing witnesses and documents, and examining and cross-examining witnesses;

(ix) Serving as a contact person between the parents and the child; or

(x) Other duties that the court determines necessary, including, but not limited to, filing pleadings and testifying in court.

(B) If any additional duties are ordered to be performed pursuant to the original appointment order or an amendment of that order, the timing, report preparation deadlines, fee arrangements, and maximum fee limits set in the original appointment order shall be amended to recognize the additional duties set to be performed pursuant to the appointment order.

(8) Best Interest of the child. In performance of duties in Title 18-A and Title 19-A proceedings, the guardian ad litem shall use the standard of the best interest of the child as stated in 19-A M.R.S. §1653(3).

(9) Wishes of the child. The guardian ad litem shall make the wishes of the child known to the court if the child has expressed them, regardless of the recommendation of the guardian ad litem.

(10) Written report. A guardian ad litem shall provide a copy of any required final written report to the parties and the court at least 14 days in advance of the final hearing. The report is admissible as evidence and subject to cross-examination and rebuttal, whether or not objected to by a party. Any objections to the report shall be filed at least 7 days in advance of the final hearing.

(11) Court’s agent. A person serving as a guardian ad litem pursuant to 4 M.R.S. § 1555 and either 18-A M.R.S. § 1-112 or 19-A M.R.S. § 1507 acts as the court’s agent and is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity for acts performed within the scope of the guardian ad litem’s duties.

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(c) Title 22 Appointment Order. Guardian ad litem appointment orders entered pursuant to 4 M.R.S. § 1556 and 22 M.R.S. § 4005 must be written on a court-approved form and shall specify the terms and conditions of the guardian ad litem’s appointment as stated in Title 22 and in these Rules. The guardian ad litem has no authority to perform and shall not be expected to perform any duties beyond those specified in the appointment order, unless subsequently ordered to do so by the court.

(1) Meet and Interview Child. The guardian ad litem shall be provided access to the child by any agency or person. Irrespective of the child’s age, the guardian ad litem should visit with the child as soon as possible after appointment, consistent with statutory requirements or the order of appointment, or both. Unless otherwise specified by the court, the initial meeting must take place within 7 days after appointment. The guardian ad litem should meet with the child prior to court hearings and when apprised of emergencies or significant events that are likely to have an impact on the child. Unless otherwise specified by the court, the guardian ad litem must meet with the child at least quarterly.

(2) Investigation. In pursuit of the best interests of the child, the guardian ad litem should be given access to all reports and records relevant to the case and investigate to ascertain the facts. The investigation must include, when possible

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and appropriate, (A) (B) (C) (D)

and
and other persons who have been involved in caring for or treating the child.

(3) Court filings. The guardian ad litem should file such reports, motions, responses, or objections as necessary and appropriate to the stage of the case to assist the court in identifying the best interests of the child and provide copies to all parties of record. In the event any new developments or significant changes in the child’s circumstances occur during the pendency of the court process, the guardian

the following:
Review of relevant mental health records and materials;
Review of relevant medical records;
Review of relevant school records and other pertinent materials; Interviews with the child with or without other persons present;

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(E)

Interviews with parents, foster parents, teachers, caseworkers,

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ad litem may file appropriate pleadings. Relief requested may include, but is not limited to:

  1. (A)  A mental or physical examination of a party or the child;
  2. (B)  A parenting, custody or visitation evaluation;
  3. (C)  An increase, decrease, or termination of contact, or the

imposition of conditions on contact;

  1. (D)  Restraining or enjoining a change of placement;
  2. (E)  Contempt for noncompliance with a court order;
  3. (F)  Termination of the parent-child relationship;
  4. (G)  Child support;
  5. (H)  A protective order concerning the child’s privileged

communications or tangible or intangible property;

  1. (I)  A request for services for child or family; and
  2. (J)  Dismissal of petitions or motions.

(4) Participation in Hearing. The guardian ad litem shall appear at all child protection proceedings to represent the child’s best interests, unless previously excused by order of the court, and other proceedings as ordered by the court. The guardian ad litem may present evidence and ensure that, where appropriate, witnesses are called and examined, including, but not limited to, foster parents and psychiatric, psychological, medical, or other expert witnesses. If the guardian ad litem testifies, the guardian ad litem shall be duly sworn as a witness and be subject to cross-examination.

(5) Protection of Child as Witness. The guardian ad litem shall protect the interests of the child who is a witness in any judicial proceeding relating to the case in which the guardian ad litem has been appointed. The guardian ad litem may advocate for special procedures, including, but not limited to, special procedures to protect the child witness from unnecessary psychological harm resulting from the child’s testimony, with or without the consent of other parties.

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(6) Recommendations to the Court. The guardian ad litem shall recommend appropriate services, by motion for court order if necessary, to access entitlements, to protect the child’s interests, and to implement a service plan.

For interim or preliminary protection hearings, the guardian ad litem should, except as otherwise required, appear in court and offer recommendations subject to questions by the court and parties or counsel. The guardian ad litem should present written recommendations to the parties and the court reasonably in advance of any interim or final hearing. The report shall be based on the guardian ad litem’s investigation and evaluation and provide reasons in support of these recommendations. Unless otherwise specified by the court, the guardian ad litem must make a subsequent report at least semi-annually. Whether or not the guardian ad litem’s report is objected to, the report may be reviewed by the court and is fully admissible. In addition, whether or not the guardian ad litem’s report is objected to, the guardian ad litem may offer evidence to the court.

(7) Development of Services. The guardian ad litem should advocate for appropriate services, by motion for court order if necessary, to access entitlements, to protect the child’s interests, and to implement a service plan. These services may include, but are not limited to

  1. (A)  Family preservation prevention or reunification services;
  2. (B)  Sibling and family visitation;
  3. (C)  Child support;
  4. (D)  Domestic violence prevention, intervention, and treatment;
  5. (E)  Medical and mental health care, including residential/inpatient

and outpatient psychiatric treatment if necessary and appropriate;

  1. (F)  Drug and alcohol treatment;
  2. (G)  Parenting education;
  3. (H)  Semi-independent and independent living services;

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(I) Foster care, including therapeutic foster or group home care if necessary and appropriate;

  1. (J)  Termination of parental rights action;
  2. (K)  Adoption services;
  3. (L)  Education, including special education and related services if

necessary and appropriate;

  1. (M)  Recreational or social services;
  2. (N)  Housing; and
  3. (O)  Supplemental security income (SSI) to help support needed

services, if necessary and appropriate.

(8) Best interests of the child. In performing the duties specified in the appointment order, the guardian ad litem shall use the standard of the best interest of the child.

(9) Additional Powers. A guardian ad litem has a broad potential scope of activity and authority in Title 22 proceedings. However, in most cases completion of all activities and the exercise of all powers are not necessary and, pursuant to 4 M.R.S. § 1556(2)(B), a guardian ad litem may not perform any duties beyond those specified by court order. Accordingly, in addition to the above elements, the guardian ad litem’s investigation may, where ordered by the court, include

(A) Reviewing the court files of siblings and other family members, and other case-related records of involved social service agencies and other service providers;

(B) Contacting lawyers for other parties and other guardians ad litem in the case and in other relevant cases for background information;

(C) Obtaining necessary authorizations for the release of information;

(D) Interviewing individuals involved with the child, including school personnel, child welfare case workers, foster parents, and other

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caretakers, neighbors, relatives, coaches, clergy, mental health professionals, physicians, law enforcement officers, and potential witnesses;

(E) Reviewing relevant photographs, video or audio tapes and other evidence;

(F) Attending and participating in, where appropriate, treatment, placement, administrative hearings, other proceedings involving legal issues, and school case conferences concerning the child as needed;

(G) Assessing any physical, sexual, developmental, and/or emotional risks to or abuse of the child by utilizing risk assessment tools; evaluations, assessments, and reports; medical records; observation; and interviews with appropriate persons;

(H) Working effectively with other professionals involved in the assessment or treatment of the child and/or parties to a child’s case, to include:

(i) identifying the need for assessments related to domestic violence, abuse of a child, chemical dependency, mental health, and/or special developmental, educational, or medical needs of a child, and making referrals to appropriate specialists or treatment programs;

(ii) requesting educational testing of, or an individualized education plan for, a child;

(iii) understanding measurement tools, risk assessments, and reports related to domestic violence, abuse of a child, chemical dependence, mental health, and/or the special needs of a child; and

(iv) understanding scientific data related to paternity and/or medical needs of a child; disclosing information to other professionals, when it is in the child’s best interests to do so, in order that they can adequately perform their functions; and reviewing tentative conclusions or recommendations with them in order to test their validity or appropriateness;

(I) Participating in the development and negotiation, including mediation, of any plans or orders that affect the best interests of the child; and

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(J) Monitoring implementation of service plans and court orders, through the termination or expiration of the guardian ad litem’s appointment, to determine whether services ordered by the court are being provided in a timely manner.

(10) Appointment of Counsel for Guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem may petition the court to appoint a lawyer to represent the guardian ad litem when, in the judgment of the guardian ad litem, such appointment is necessary to protect the legitimacy of the guardian ad litem’s role. The guardian ad litem should understand that such an appointment is highly unusual, and that extraordinary cause will be necessary for such an appointment if the guardian ad litem is an attorney.

RULE 6. STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

(a) Faithfully perform duties. The guardian ad litem must maintain independent representation of the best interests of the child and perform the guardian ad litem’s duties faithfully. Upon failure of the guardian ad litem to do so, the appointing court may discharge the guardian ad litem and appoint a successor or, in Title 18-A and 19-A cases, proceed without a guardian ad litem.

(b) Court’s agent. As a quasi-judicial officer, the guardian ad litem shall exercise his or her independent judgment on behalf of the child in all relevant matters, respecting the court’s obligation under Canon 3(B)(8) of the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct to “dispose of all judicial matters promptly, efficiently, and fairly.”

(c) Develop Understanding of Litigation. Commencing upon appointment, the guardian ad litem should, to the extent reasonably possible, considering the resources authorized for the guardian ad litem:

(1) Obtain copies of all relevant pleadings and notices;

(2) In Title 22 cases, unless excused by the court, and in Title 18-A and 19-A cases, when directed by the court, participate in depositions, negotiations, and discovery that are relevant to the child’s best interests, and participate in all case management, pretrial or other conferences, and hearings, unless excused by the court;

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(3) Confirm with the Court Clerk that he or she has been appointed. The Clerk shall send copies of all subsequent notices and orders to the guardian ad litem. Parties and their counsel are on notice that the guardian ad litem is entitled to copies of all pleadings and correspondence with the court and is entitled to reasonable notification prior to case conferences, changes of placement, and other changes of circumstances affecting the child and the child’s family;

(4) Not cause case delays and attempt to reduce case delays. If unnecessary delays are encountered, the guardian ad litem should remind the court or its staff of the need to speedily resolve children’s issues;

(5) Include parties in the investigation, employ effective communication techniques, and be sensitive to the culture and socio-economic status of the parties.

(d) Explanation of Court Process. The guardian ad litem shall explain, when appropriate, the court process and the role of the guardian ad litem to the child. The guardian ad litem will assure, when necessary, that the child is informed of the purpose of court proceeding.

(e) Advocate for Clear Court Orders. The guardian ad litem should request orders that are clear, specific, and, where appropriate in Title 22 cases, include a time line for the assessment, services, placement, treatment, and evaluation of the child and the child’s family.

(f) Mandated Reporting. Pursuant to 22 M.R.S. § 4011-A, while acting in their professional capacity as guardians ad litem, guardians ad litem are mandated reporters, and if a guardian ad litem knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected, the guardian ad litem must make an immediate report to the Department of Health and Human Services.

(g) Confidentiality. A guardian ad litem shall observe all statutes, rules and regulations concerning confidentiality. A guardian ad litem shall not disclose information or participate in the disclosure of information relating to a case to any person who is not a party to the case, except as necessary to perform the guardian ad litem’s duties, or as may be specifically provided by law or by these Rules. Communications made to a guardian ad litem, including those made to a guardian ad litem by a child, are not privileged and may or may not be disclosed to the parties, to the court, or to professionals providing services to the child or the family based on the guardian ad litem’s evaluation of the best interests of the child. A guardian ad litem’s notes and work papers are privileged and shall not be disclosed

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to any person. A court may review a guardian ad litem’s decision not to disclose information after an in-camera examination of the information in question. If the guardian ad litem is an attorney, she or he acts in his capacity as a guardian ad litem, rather than as an attorney, and information he or she receives is not subject to the attorney-client privilege.

A guardian ad litem may, when it is in the best interests of a child, initiate or participate in ex parte communications with the court about a particular case pursuant to Canon 3(B)(7)(C) of the Maine Code of Judicial Conduct. However, as a matter of due process and fundamental fairness, the guardian ad litem or the court must promptly disclose the nature of the communication to the parties or their counsel, unless such disclosure is likely to present a risk of harm to the child or a party, in which case the court will take such steps as are necessary to alleviate the potential for harm, and when the danger of harm has passed, disclose the nature of the communication to the parties or their counsel.

(h) Conflicts. If a guardian ad litem determines that there is a conflict of interest requiring withdrawal, the guardian ad litem should continue to perform as the guardian ad litem and seek permission from the court to withdraw. The guardian ad litem should request appointment of a successor guardian ad litem without revealing the details of the conflict, unless the guardian ad litem determines that it is in the child’s best interests to disclose the details.

If a guardian ad litem is appointed for siblings, a conflict for one child may also be a conflict that could require that the guardian ad litem seek to withdraw from representing all of the children.

(i) Withdrawal. A guardian ad litem may seek to withdraw by filing a motion with the court that appointed the guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem must continue representation until the motion is granted, and if the court’s order so provides, until a successor guardian ad litem is appointed. In Title 19-A cases, an order that appoints a guardian ad litem “for the duration of the case” does not obligate the guardian ad litem to serve once a final judgment has been rendered by the trial court. In Title 22 cases, an order that appoints a guardian ad litem “for the duration of the case” obligates the guardian ad litem to serve until final action, including adoption of the child.

Advisory Note – _____ 201_

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The LSW license, which requires only a bachelor’s degree, has been removed from the list of licensures that form the predicate of a guardian application. Each of the other licenses requires at least a master’s degree.

3. These amended rules shall take effect on ________ __, 201_.

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A Government Health Care System In America And It Is The Medical Version Of Hell

November 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

There Already Is A Government Health Care System In America And It Is The Medical Version Of Hell

NOVEMBER 28, 2013
Michael Snyder
11/26/2013
Source …..

Injured-VetWhat would happen if the entire health care system in the United States was run by the federal government?  Would such a system be better or worse than what we have today?  To get an answer to these questions, all we have to do is take a look at what is already happening.  The truth is that there already is a government health care system in America and it is the medical version of hell.  You are about to read about the horrifying state of health care being provided by the federal government at VA hospitals and on Indian reservations around the country.  Injured military veterans and those that live on Indian reservations are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and the government is doing an absolutely nightmarish job of taking care of them.

Theoretically, the government should be able to provide at least a basic level of care for these people, but as you will see this is simply not happening.

Why?

The bottom line is that the federal government is completely and utterly incompetent.  This has been demonstrated once again in recent months by the launch of Obamacare.  What a train wreck that has been.

But we shouldn’t be surprised.  When it comes to health care, the U.S. government can’t seem to get anything right.

Most Americans don’t realize this, but government-run health care for our military veterans is a complete and total joke.  In some instances, it can take critically injured military veterans more than a year to see a doctor…

CJ Jackson, a Purple Heart recipient and 101st Airborne medic, was severely wounded during a battle in Afghanistan when an enemy rocket-propelled grenade hit a wall a couple of feet from him, sending debris into his arm and leg. He said he waited over a year to see a doctor at the Jackson VA despite being considered critically injured.

And once a vet is finally able to see a doctor and have surgery scheduled, those surgeries are often conducted in facilities that are beyond disgusting.  The following is what one orthopedic surgeonrecently told CNBC

“Occasionally we’d find pieces of bone” on equipment, he told CNBC. “What it really shows is that no one is really taking the time or care to clean the instruments.”

His story was backed up by Dr. Phyllis Hollenbeck, who still works at the hospital. She testified on Sept. 9 about problems at the Jackson center. “Essentially everything that happens in primary care at the Jackson VA can be included under the umbrella of being unethical, illegal, heartbreaking, and life threatening for the veterans, and everything in the care of the veterans starts in primary care.”

Of course this is not the first investigation that discovered these kinds of conditions at VA hospitals.  A few years ago, ABC News also conducted an investigation of conditions at VA facilities across the United States.  What ABC News discovered was absolutely staggering.  The following are just a few of the things that they found during the course of their investigation

*Bathrooms filthy with what appeared to be human excrement

*Dirty linens from some patients mixed in with clean supplies

*Examining tables that had dried blood and medications still on them

*Equipment used to sterilize surgical instruments that had broken down

*Some patients that were begging for food and water

*Vets neglected so badly that they had developed horrific bedsores and dangerous infections

Is this how the federal government should be treating the men and women that have shed blood fighting for our country?

Unfortunately, it appears that the mistreatment of our military veterans has gotten even worse since Barack Obama took power.  For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “25 Signs That Military Veterans Are Being Treated Like Absolute Trash Under The Obama Administration“.

The funny thing is that many of the people that run these VA facilities are greatly rewarded for their “hard work”.  For example, CNBC discovered that those running the VA facility in Jackson, Mississippi described above are receiving huge bonuses…

The director of the Jackson VA, Joe Battle, received a $6,500 bonus last year on top of his $165,000 salary, and Rica Lewis-Payton, the network director of the South Central Health Care Network, which includes Jackson, got almost $36,000 in bonuses last year, on top of her $180,000 salary.

Are you disgusted yet?

You should be.

And we see the exact same thing happening in government-run health care facilities on Indian reservations.

By treaty, the U.S. government is required to provide health care on Indian reservations.  But the level of health care being provided is of extremely low quality and the programs are very underfunded.

In fact, things are so bad that the following expression is very commonly heard on Indian reservations across America…

“Don’t get sick after June”.

Why would they say that?

Well, because in the fall and winter the waits to see a doctor and the rationing of care get particularly bad.  If you get seriously ill, you might end up dying before you ever get the care that you need.

Posted below is a video news report featuring Judge Andrew Napolitano about the horrific state of government-run health care on Indian reservations…

In light of all of this, should we have more government interference in the health care system or less?

Our-Military-Veterans-Deserve-Better

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Federal Suits are the way to get them ?

November 28, 2013 § 3 Comments

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

Judge accused of signing blank child-removal orders isn’t immune from suit, federal court rules

By Martha Neil

7 hours, 12 minutes ago

Because pre-signing blank court orders for others to fill out after hours is an administrative rather than a judicial function requiring discretion, a Michigan judge who allegedly followed this practice is not immune from liability in a lawsuit filed by parents who briefly lost custody of their child, a federal judge has ruled.

Wayne County Family Court Judge Judy A. Hartsfield hence must face the suit, which was brought by an Ann Arbor couple. Their 7-year-old son was taken from them for several days and put in foster care without a judicial determination that he was in danger. The removal came after the boy was mistakenly given hard lemonade at a Detroit Tigers football game by his father, a professor at the University of Michigan, who didn’t realize it contained alcohol, according to the Detroit Free Press and Deadline Detroit.

However, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn dismissed claims brought by the parents against two supervisors with the Department of Human Services because, the judge said, they were relying on what they thought was a valid court order when making the foster-care place. Claims against Detroit police have been halted for now, due to the city’s ongoing bankruptcy case.

A press release by the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped the family sue, provides additional details.

Cohn assumed for the purpose of deciding the motion that the allegations made by the plaintiffs, Christopher Ratté and Claire Zimmerman, were true.

Click here to view or post comments about this story

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The appearance that Social workers disregard the fabled saying to extort monies THE BEST INTREST OF THE CHILDREN?

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

100 quotes from social workers that the government shouldn’t ignore

The alarming comments that follow were all submitted by children’s social workers responding to our UK-wide child protection survey

Credit: stevendepolo on Flickr

Credit: stevendepolo on Flickr

The 600 social workers who responded to our child protection survey, published last week, raised serious concerns about the state of child protection today and the pressure they’re facing – to downgrade cases of child abuse to reduce costs and meet arbitrary targets.

Find out more about the survey and its findings here, and scroll down for 100 messages from 100 children’s social workers trying to blow the whistle on a system they feel is unsafe. Please share or comment if you think the government needs to listen to them.

100 reasons why the child protection system isn’t safe

“I have been told not to accommodate children as this will cost too much and we do not have the placements for them. I have also been told not to take cases to child protection as there are no social workers to take the case.”

“The father was released from prison after serving a sentence for significant sexual abuse. He had three young children and his partner resumed their relationship and allowed him in the home, where he was having contact with the children. She did not believe he would harm them and he had not completed any work regarding his offending behaviour. This was considered a child in need case.”

“Ofsted observed the number of child protection cases was very high so the [local authority] reduced the number of child protection plans.”

“We were told if you had a teenager on your case who is 14-16 years old they could not have child protection plans anymore as they are either deemed “capable of voting with their feet” or “able to self protect”, regardless of the concerns in the family. We were asked, or told, that these cases could not go to a case conference and if they were already subject to plans then they had to be de-planned to Child In Need.”

“Eight children lived in chronic neglectful circumstances. There was domestic violence from Dad to Mum, suspected sexual abuse by siblings, violence from older siblings and poor parental control. In my view it needed a legal planning meeting, but it became a child in need case, as it was when it was given to me. I had a real battle to get a child protection conference.”

“If a family is not engaging, the case is still child protection, but managers want it to go to another team so new child protection cases can be given to the worker.”

“A child disclosed he’d been hit by his father, with significant injuries to substantiate. Child confirmed regular abuse, but it was the first time social care heard of it. Decision was made by higher management to allow the father to stay home given the first disclosure, therefore reducing child protection number.”

“Children with an injury by a care giver would normally go to a strategy meeting. More pressure is put on duty teams to send cases to child in need for visit, which delays cases going to child protection and I feel leaves children at risk.”

“There was a request for accommodation made for a 13-year-old at 9am. But the request was withdrawn at 3pm when a manager defined the young person to be over 18. Placed young woman (who claims to be 14) in a hostel for adults. She was raped and became pregnant.”

“I held a case where I strongly suspected sexual abuse and the parents of the child continued to expose their son to the suspected perpetrator. My assessment strongly supported the need for child protection status, but my manager passed my assessment back to me twice, to change wording and the recommendation to child in need. My supervisor was also requested to impress that I needed to change my recommendation. This went up to service manager level and my supervisor changed my recommendation. Shortly after a disclosure of sexual abuse was made by the young boy and the assessment was sent back to me to change the recommendation to that which I had originally recommended.”

“Children who were at risk of physical harm, but had sustained emotional harm because of their father’s abuse were de-planned before their behaviour had been appropriately managed by mum. My time was then freed up to take other cases.”

“My manager was under pressure to reduce the number of cases so I was told to close cases and move them on to a CAF (common assessment framework).”

“Previous child died due to chaotic and unhygienic home conditions. The parents are not managing routines and missing appointments for the children. Children are presenting as smelly, unkempt and often late or missing school. Care proceedings ended in child in need plans.”

“There were 32 domestic abuse incidents in 13 months. We were told it was child in need as the mother was working with the local authority – yet she was still with her partner and the child witnessed all incidents.”

“Families where there is on going emotional abuse or neglect are classed as something family support workers can deal with. I am working with a family where the mother’s mental health issues + drug addiction greatly impact upon her children and her ability care for them. But the fact that the 14-year-old can pick up the pieces each and every time is seemingly ok. There is no consideration to the emotional abuse and neglect going on in the home because they are ‘safe’.”

“The process is now that child protection can only last for a 9 month period, then if [the case] is not meeting the threshold to remove the child, the plan is to remove the plan. This leaves children at a significant level of risk.”

“There are no support services in child protection so I have known a case to be reclassified because all of the money is ploughed into early intervention. I believe this leaves our most vulnerable children in society without social work support and intervention.”

“I have too many cases to have a sufficient understanding of what is occurring in each of them and to adequately assess the experience of the child amongst all of the other issues.”

“I am due to pick up a case as ‘child in need’ where the 14-year-old reported that her dad had threatened to strangle her. The family have had services in the past due to similar concerns and have not engaged effectively. The child has not actually been SEEN by the current initial assessment social worker.”

“I had a child who was repeatedly neglected with other professionals raising concerns. However, child protection thresholds were not met and the child was deemed a child in need.”

“A serious case of emotional abuse was declassified from a care order to child in need, then forced to close. The child was a 13-year-old boy who was seriously scapegoated by both parents. After the case was closed the child ran away from home, and was sexually exploited. It reopened as a child protection case and he has since been accommodated.”

“Children’s centres are taking on too many social care referrals as a result of social care not having the resources to take them. Most staff within the centres do not have a level 3 NVQ, let alone a social work degree, so they are pressurised to step cases down from child protection to child in need so that management feel better about allocating a child protection case to the unqualified staff.”

“Child protection plans are more complex to complete, now asking for breakdown of risks and needs. If there are more needs than risks, the child protection plan is withdrawn, however a high number of needs may, when drawn together, reflect chronic neglect, which should be managed via child protection and not child in need.”

“A case where a single Father of an under-5 child was consuming alcohol was completely downgraded from a child in need case even though the father had attended two meetings smelling strongly of alcohol within a week, and police had been called to the home because of shouting.”

“There was drift on many of the child protection cases with no support services in place for families to access. Children were made subject to child protection plans for over 18 months with little progress.”

“The department closed open cases, which I believed were still in need of a service, due to the pressures to bring the numbers of children needing a service down to meet government targets.”

“The child is prepared to stay at home and suffer the abuse as it keeps the family together. The child does not want to be responsible for hurting the family.”

“Siblings with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), ADHD and attachment disorders placed with grandparents. Grandparents are struggling physically and emotionally. Domestic violence towards grandparents by children. Young people involved in anti-social behaviour. No wider support network, few community resources, no respite services. Eldest is vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The case is held by integrated services. No Child in Need input as the case does not currently reach the thresholds. What is the long term future of these children – foster care? Will they be able to stay together? It would cost more money to put these children into care, yet services are saying there are no budgets, resources or local FAS training available to provide early intervention to keep this family together in the longer term. Saddening.”

“I had a 4-year-old where I felt he had been sexually abused by his father, but was told that the child was to remain as child in need as we were trying to cut the number of child protection cases.”

“I interviewed two children at school who were pushed over and hit by a door during a domestic incident between their parents. I wanted to make a child protection referral, also based on previous domestic violence and a senior social worker refused. I referred for a core assessment and the case was re-allocated.”

“You are forced to progress assessments quicker and when the management are not happy with your assessment you are asked to re-assess until the right outcome has been achieved, that the management are happy with.”

“Children being left with mother who brings home men, sex offenders, drug dealers and violent. Obstructs any forms of contact with biological father. Local authority not bothered because children doing well at school academically.”

“Local targets to reduce the number of children subject to child protection plans – set for both teams and individual workers as appraisal targets.”

“Cases are managed by unqualified workers at the children’s centres who do not always recognise the signs of abuse and tend to form a more informal relationship with the parents, making it hard to challenge abuse.”

“Our team is busy and so passing to child in need can free up workers.”

“There are cases with a long-standing history of neglect that the department feels should be left as the skeleton in the closet. Primarily, and rather sadly, this is in respect of older children where the attitude is, what are we going to do with teenagers?”

“Sometimes direct assaults are not made section 47 child protection cases as managers direct otherwise, especially with teenagers.”

“A child was held against a wall by the throat with another adult witness. Police were not even consulted and managers did not classify the as child protection. Young person was punched in the face by mother, followed by another assault, and this is not deemed to be child protection.”

“There is a reluctance to classify CSE (child sexual exploitation) cases as child protection, but to treat them as child in need. This is partly due to child protection procedures being an imperfect tool to deal with CSE. The problem is that if cases are not considered safeguarding cases then agencies can pull out without recourse to multi-agency meetings.”

“Long history of dometic violence going back 16 years, very obvious pattern of behaviour. Child protection Chair decided to removed children from not just the child protection plan, but social work involvement, going against my professional opinion as a social worker. The case was closed to social work involvement that day. A month later, the mother had been stabbed and a child injured by her partner who she had allowed back in the house.”

“We’ve now been told we have to dedicate one afternoon a week auditing our own cases. We have enough paperwork to do without having to give up more time with our families. I try and do as much paperwork as I can at home in the evenings so I don’t get behind with my visits. No wonder social workers don’t stay long.”

“Many services have been cut and services that are still around do not chase families like they used to. If families don’t engage they just close the case and leave it to social workers who do not have the time to provide intervention work or a high level of monitoring.”

“Burnt out social workers who are underpaid do not function at a level where they can protect children effectively.”

“My colleagues and I are under a vast amount of pressure, with some holding a caseload of 40. Just this fact in isolation puts children at massive risk as we don’t have the time to see all of our families. If there was at least double the amount of staff then perhaps we would be able to do our work properly. There is never enough time to work in the way you would want to, completing tasks thoroughly and writing up your case notes. The feel of the work is tense, pressured and there is never any time to stop, think or reflect (or even eat lunch). No time to reflect can also have a serious impact on our decision making.”

“After a poor Ofsted inspection a strong culture of bully and fear pervades the local authority that I work for. I’m depressed, unhappy and after five years since qualifying I have decided to leave child protection for good.”

“I work in a very rich, resourced borough in London. Therefore resources are available to prevent or reduce risk, as families are given various types of support. But I am conscious that many other boroughs do not have a fraction of this and therefore in those boroughs, it is very difficult for child protection workers to work well and support the family.”

“Returning to case work after 6 years out, I was allocated 39 cases within 2 weeks. Had no knowledge of the database, the various team members, other agencies and current practice. Despite expressly saying I needed a good induction, I was thrown in at the deep end. Net result 6 months later, the legacy of the lack of induction has persisted. I have lots of cases that I have no time to close and many cases that need to be on a child protection or child in need plan that I simply have no time to do!”

“Local services and charities we rely on are being cut because they no longer receive funding. There is more pressure on social care teams to respond to the need of children at risk as the early intervention sector is being cut more and more.”

“All funds are put into acute/crisis intervention out of necessity. There are not enough resources for early support. This is a self perpetuating problem, which will result in more high level cases costing much more. There is no long term, sustainability planning any more. Central government is accountable for this and should stop blaming those at a local level.”

“Caseloads are to high to be able to do a thorough assessments and meet with the family. Also due to high caseloads, it can take time to refer families for appropriate services of support.”

“Although frontline staff have not been cut, the supportive services around us have been decimated. Thus, social workers are having to pick up work that other services would have done. Leads to increased caseloads, lack of time for reflection and good analysis.”

“Every service is over-stretched and their criteria is now so high that we end up attempting work that previously would have been done by a specific service. For example, a service that offers support to children who have lived with or witnessed violence now won’t work with children who are ‘safe’ i.e. in a refugee, so I am undertaking this work.”

“Children are suffering significant harm due to thresholds, lack of resources, constant changes in social workers and staff sickness. There’s a danger of issues being missed and children being lost in the system. We are staffing departments with NQSWs who are not experienced and lack support and training.”

“There are NO resources now. Universal services have pulled their remit to focus on their core function, they ignore safeguarding. The other supporting services have disappeared or the ones that are left provide a minimal service.”

“Most services are being cut and will be cut again in the next financial year with children’s centres being hit. It’s foolish to think that simply not cutting frontline services but cutting all the others wont impact on child protection.”

“Many services are having their funding cut. There are very few services to offer families and children support outside of social care. There is very little in the way if early intervention to prevent the risk of harm escalating.”

“In the last few weeks there have been a noticeable amount of complex cases with families unable to cope due to the stress and strain of the lack of resources available to them. It has led to crisis point where extreme things have happened and children have been harmed by adults no longer able to cope and under huge pressure with little support due to budget cuts.”

“Local authorities are increasingly ignoring neglect cases, resulting in horrendous long-term neglect.”

“Case of chronic neglect, horrific sexual abuse, emotional abuse and addiction issues. On the child protection register for two years. No change and still managers won’t accommodate!”

“Care planning is being driven outside of the formal process of reviews. Children are discussed and some social workers are then directed to return the child home, often quite troubled teenagers, within days of the decision. This is despite disagreement from social workers.”

“The council has been tipping children out of care at 16 again to save money. This is putting practice back 20 years. This should never be acceptable. Outcomes are reverting back to the bad old days.”

“Pressure is being put on social workers to return children to their parents when they’re on care orders. I don’t agree with this practice as on most occasions the same issues are present.”

“We had a learning disabled child aged 9 who had been sexually abused. The mother was mentally unstable and going out every day to find arguments with males in the community in the hope that they would kill her. She was often getting beaten up. The child got one day in care under a voluntary agreement and was then returned to the mother with no other help in place. The case did not meet child protection or child in need thresholds.”

“Social work decisions vary according to the budget pressures. It is harder to get agreement to place children once the overspend bites.”

“Great reluctance to pay for carers when it’s clear it’s needed. Children are often left for too long with unsatisfactory parents.”

“It is always the case with teenagers that senior managers want them returned without any real work being done to successfully reunite the young person and sustain their placement with their family.”

“‘Edge of Care’ Meetings routinely held for all children over 10 years, ostensibly to ensure no child is removed from family unnecessarily, but it feels like a gate keeping exercise.”

“Children have been returned home to reduce looked-after numbers, only for the child to return to care shortly after with further abuse.”

“The local authority advised the parent that a mother and baby placement would be found. The birth parent agreed to this, however the local authority was unable to source an in-house placement and the service manager refused to pay for an independent placement. Therefore the newborn was allowed home in an extremely risky situation with significant domestic violence.”

“A child [had been sexually exploited] and was on a police protection order. I wanted the child to be accommodated over a short period of time away from the area to complete some intensive work around CSE. However, the senior manager, stated it would not do them any good and I had return the child to their family. This child has since been on a PPO 3 times.”

“A 16-year-old who had been sexually abused by her father, with her paternal grandmother’s knowledge, was placed with her paternal grandmother. And this is after the paternal grandmother had been assessed as unable to safeguard her or meet her needs.”

“Managers have exceeded their targets and need to reduce the number of cases in the team.”

“Teenagers at risk of self harm and poor parenting are denied alternative placements to save money and reduce looked-after numbers.”

“Targets to reduce the number of looked-after children directly impact on social work practice.”

“Huge pressure not to accommodate anyone over the age of 14 unless in an emergency. Children have been returned home without time to do proper return to home plans as management have agreed to very short periods in care, despite no change or improvement in the home.”

“Managers are reluctant to allow children to go into care due to the cost.”

“Unmanageable high caseloads prevent you from spending adequate time with children and families. The majority of time is spent completing paperwork and updating the care first system. Other agencies do not take responsibility and most of the pressure and responsibility is placed with the social worker. Lack of money and services to offer support to families. Good services have closed due to budget cuts.”

“Workers do not have the time or support to keep children safe. There is shocking management of local authority services.”

“I can’t commission expert assessments due to there being a lack of resources. This has recently included assessments looking at the sexual risk a father poses to his child, which was crucial. I subsequently had to complete this assessment, despite having a lack of knowledge and training to do so.”

Fosters dumped after 18 when moneys stop flowing ,The real abusers of the system the courts and the legislators that permit this to continue?

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

28

comments

A foster kid’s dilemma: When life as you know it ends at 18, then what: Phillip Morris

Phillip Morris, The Plain DealerBy Phillip Morris, The Plain Dealer 
Email the author
on November 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM, updated November 24, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Email

 

 

Why does God hate kids?

What kind of pain causes a child to ask that question? Candice Woodland knows. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 8, she once wrote the question in a notebook.

She could have easily asked another question. Why does God hate foster kids? That’s the hand she was dealt.

At the age of 11, after an aging aunt could no longer care for her, Candice became a ward of the state. That’s when the smart, rambunctious, angry foster child began acting out in earnest.

She says she didn’t suffer the sexual abuse frequently visited upon children assigned to live with new families. But extreme physical and emotional abuse was common. In one home, she was routinely stripped and beaten with belts and switches. Another family lavished its biological children with Christmas gifts, while depriving her of any semblance of the holiday. Yet another home used isolation and food deprivation as a form of punishment.

These abusive parenting patterns only caused Candice to act out more.

She perfected the art of running away. She honed confrontation techniques that she knew would get her put out of one foster home and placed into yet another home. She challenged the foster care system because she wanted no part of it.

Candice wanted her mother. She never really knew her father. But she loved a mother, who she said she now understands was trapped in a cycle of drugs, incarceration, recurring homelessness and abuse.

The physical and emotional abuse Candice endured during her odyssey of seven foster homes did not kill her. But the desperate desire for a reconnection with her biological mother nearly did.

Today, at the age of 21, Candice bears close watching. Like many of the 200 Cuyahoga County children, who age out of foster care each year at 18, Candice was emancipated into homelessness, isolation and depression in 2010.

Unlike so many other former foster children, though, Candice has recently begun to find her voice and a vision for herself. She’s a natural leader who is benefiting greatly from a tenacious support system she has found with the YWCA of Greater Cleveland’s Nurturing Independence & Aspirations program, which assists 23 young adults who have aged out of foster care.

In August of 2012, after two years of virtual homelessness, Candice was invited to become a resident of the YWCA’s Independence Place. It’s a safe, supportive and permanent housing network for homeless young adults. It was a godsend. The structure was apparently all she needed to thrive.

Last week she boarded a plane for the first time and flew to Clearwater Beach, Florida for a national convention. She was an invited guest speaker at a meeting devoted to a discussion of foster care issues.

Candice was deliberately selected by the YWCA administration to participate in the conference because she represents the profile of a former foster child who can thrive if given the proper nurturing environment. Her message to the conference attendees was simple:

“Love is the key. It might sound strange, but I never realized how important that was until I received real love. I never realized how important genuine love was until I found a family that believed in me.”

“The last family I was with told me that I was beautiful and that I mattered. I finally had parents who believed in me. That’s when I finally began to believe in myself,” she told me Thursday just before racing off to a class at Cuyahoga Community College.

There are a couple of moments in Candice’s young transient life that still confuse and trouble her, though. Inspired by the story of Antwone Fisher, another Cleveland foster child, Candice is already working on her memoirs. She’s asking herself painful, but necessary questions.

Why did she try to kill herself on the afternoon of her 16th birthday?

“I’m not sure why I did it? I snapped. I just wanted to be with my mother. But she wanted to be with her boyfriend. She wanted us all to do something together. But that’s not what I wanted. So I yelled at her and we got into a fight.”

The fight was nearly her last. She left her mother and deliberately ran into traffic. She wanted to be hit. She said she wanted to die.

When that didn’t work, she went to a pharmacy with the intent to buy over-the-counter drugs for another suicide attempt. But a friend stopped her and called the police.

The police took her directly to the psychiatric ward of a near West Side hospital where she said she was held for a week.

She recovered but her chronic depression and the relentless mental quest to be with her biological mother continued. School was her only emotionally safe place. She became involved in countless extracurricular activities simply so that she could avoid going home.

She tried out for the football team at John Marshall High School as a sophomore and made the squad, she says, as a wide receiver.

“I was very aggressive and football helped me deal with that. But I got tired of being tackled so I quit,” she said with a laugh.

But her continued running away from home was no laughing matter. Too many dangerous predators were stalking the streets, preying on young girls just like her. A decision was made by the county that she had to leave town. She was sent to Toledo.

It was the best thing that could have happened. Away from familiar influences, away from the streets she knew, it was harder to run.

“I really resented it at first. But I knew it was a good home. It was the first time that I ever had seen a father figure. He showed me how a man is supposed to treat a woman by the way he treated his wife.”

“It took me a while to accept them, but they accepted me. They called me their daughter. Not their foster daughter. It was the first time I ever felt like I had a family.”

Then Candice turned 18, the age of emancipation, and the streets of Cleveland strongly beckoned. Even though the Toledo family begged her to stay, she wanted to come home.

So she returned to a familiar city that she loved. But with no family and no support, she was instantly rendered homeless, forced to live off of charity and on the couches of friends and strangers.

Two years ago, shortly after returning home, she had an epiphany. She did not want to become her mother. She said she looked at herself and decided that she did not want drug abuse or trafficking to become a part of her life. She decided that she did not want to end up in abusive relationships that led no where. She decided that she did not want to have children that she was unprepared to support.

She decided to take control of her life.

 

“She wants to be an agent of change, not only in her own life but throughout the community. She is suddenly starting to realize her own strength and it’s an amazing transformation,” said Beverly Johnson, who holds the title of life coach at the YWCA, where she mentors Candice and several other young adults at Independence Place.

Today, Candice juggles school and her job at Quicken Loans Arena where she works as a server. But mostly she dreams of finishing school and embarking on a career where she will assist young girls and women, who face the same abandonment challenges she has faced and continues to overcome.

The painful lessons Candice learned from her deeply fractured family experience are now what drive her to succeed. They are critical lessons that motivate her to become part of the effort to make foster care more caring and the aging-out process more nurturing.

The support she receives from the committed staff at the YWCA is what provides the emotional network – and sense of belonging – that so many aged-out foster children crave but never find. Other supportive networks for young adults aging out exist. But still more are needed.

Emancipation from foster care is the beginning of the end for legions of foster children. Often these young adults are unable to emancipate themselves from the hopeless situations they quickly encounter.  The lack of even the pretense of family can do that do a kid.

Candice, fortunately, has found her family, first in Toledo, now at the YWCA.  She says she is determined not to become another statistic.  She says it with conviction. That sounds and feels a lot like true emancipation.

Out on the streets at 18 when the moneys not flowing from the fed?

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

28

comments

A foster kid’s dilemma: When life as you know it ends at 18, then what: Phillip Morris

Phillip Morris, The Plain DealerBy Phillip Morris, The Plain Dealer 
Email the author
on November 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM, updated November 24, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Email

 

 

Why does God hate kids?

What kind of pain causes a child to ask that question? Candice Woodland knows. Abandoned by her mother at the age of 8, she once wrote the question in a notebook.

She could have easily asked another question. Why does God hate foster kids? That’s the hand she was dealt.

At the age of 11, after an aging aunt could no longer care for her, Candice became a ward of the state. That’s when the smart, rambunctious, angry foster child began acting out in earnest.

She says she didn’t suffer the sexual abuse frequently visited upon children assigned to live with new families. But extreme physical and emotional abuse was common. In one home, she was routinely stripped and beaten with belts and switches. Another family lavished its biological children with Christmas gifts, while depriving her of any semblance of the holiday. Yet another home used isolation and food deprivation as a form of punishment.

These abusive parenting patterns only caused Candice to act out more.

She perfected the art of running away. She honed confrontation techniques that she knew would get her put out of one foster home and placed into yet another home. She challenged the foster care system because she wanted no part of it.

Candice wanted her mother. She never really knew her father. But she loved a mother, who she said she now understands was trapped in a cycle of drugs, incarceration, recurring homelessness and abuse.

The physical and emotional abuse Candice endured during her odyssey of seven foster homes did not kill her. But the desperate desire for a reconnection with her biological mother nearly did.

Today, at the age of 21, Candice bears close watching. Like many of the 200 Cuyahoga County children, who age out of foster care each year at 18, Candice was emancipated into homelessness, isolation and depression in 2010.

Unlike so many other former foster children, though, Candice has recently begun to find her voice and a vision for herself. She’s a natural leader who is benefiting greatly from a tenacious support system she has found with the YWCA of Greater Cleveland’s Nurturing Independence & Aspirations program, which assists 23 young adults who have aged out of foster care.

In August of 2012, after two years of virtual homelessness, Candice was invited to become a resident of the YWCA’s Independence Place. It’s a safe, supportive and permanent housing network for homeless young adults. It was a godsend. The structure was apparently all she needed to thrive.

Last week she boarded a plane for the first time and flew to Clearwater Beach, Florida for a national convention. She was an invited guest speaker at a meeting devoted to a discussion of foster care issues.

Candice was deliberately selected by the YWCA administration to participate in the conference because she represents the profile of a former foster child who can thrive if given the proper nurturing environment. Her message to the conference attendees was simple:

“Love is the key. It might sound strange, but I never realized how important that was until I received real love. I never realized how important genuine love was until I found a family that believed in me.”

“The last family I was with told me that I was beautiful and that I mattered. I finally had parents who believed in me. That’s when I finally began to believe in myself,” she told me Thursday just before racing off to a class at Cuyahoga Community College.

There are a couple of moments in Candice’s young transient life that still confuse and trouble her, though. Inspired by the story of Antwone Fisher, another Cleveland foster child, Candice is already working on her memoirs. She’s asking herself painful, but necessary questions.

Why did she try to kill herself on the afternoon of her 16th birthday?

“I’m not sure why I did it? I snapped. I just wanted to be with my mother. But she wanted to be with her boyfriend. She wanted us all to do something together. But that’s not what I wanted. So I yelled at her and we got into a fight.”

The fight was nearly her last. She left her mother and deliberately ran into traffic. She wanted to be hit. She said she wanted to die.

When that didn’t work, she went to a pharmacy with the intent to buy over-the-counter drugs for another suicide attempt. But a friend stopped her and called the police.

The police took her directly to the psychiatric ward of a near West Side hospital where she said she was held for a week.

She recovered but her chronic depression and the relentless mental quest to be with her biological mother continued. School was her only emotionally safe place. She became involved in countless extracurricular activities simply so that she could avoid going home.

She tried out for the football team at John Marshall High School as a sophomore and made the squad, she says, as a wide receiver.

“I was very aggressive and football helped me deal with that. But I got tired of being tackled so I quit,” she said with a laugh.

But her continued running away from home was no laughing matter. Too many dangerous predators were stalking the streets, preying on young girls just like her. A decision was made by the county that she had to leave town. She was sent to Toledo.

It was the best thing that could have happened. Away from familiar influences, away from the streets she knew, it was harder to run.

“I really resented it at first. But I knew it was a good home. It was the first time that I ever had seen a father figure. He showed me how a man is supposed to treat a woman by the way he treated his wife.”

“It took me a while to accept them, but they accepted me. They called me their daughter. Not their foster daughter. It was the first time I ever felt like I had a family.”

Then Candice turned 18, the age of emancipation, and the streets of Cleveland strongly beckoned. Even though the Toledo family begged her to stay, she wanted to come home.

So she returned to a familiar city that she loved. But with no family and no support, she was instantly rendered homeless, forced to live off of charity and on the couches of friends and strangers.

Two years ago, shortly after returning home, she had an epiphany. She did not want to become her mother. She said she looked at herself and decided that she did not want drug abuse or trafficking to become a part of her life. She decided that she did not want to end up in abusive relationships that led no where. She decided that she did not want to have children that she was unprepared to support.

She decided to take control of her life.

 

“She wants to be an agent of change, not only in her own life but throughout the community. She is suddenly starting to realize her own strength and it’s an amazing transformation,” said Beverly Johnson, who holds the title of life coach at the YWCA, where she mentors Candice and several other young adults at Independence Place.

Today, Candice juggles school and her job at Quicken Loans Arena where she works as a server. But mostly she dreams of finishing school and embarking on a career where she will assist young girls and women, who face the same abandonment challenges she has faced and continues to overcome.

The painful lessons Candice learned from her deeply fractured family experience are now what drive her to succeed. They are critical lessons that motivate her to become part of the effort to make foster care more caring and the aging-out process more nurturing.

The support she receives from the committed staff at the YWCA is what provides the emotional network – and sense of belonging – that so many aged-out foster children crave but never find. Other supportive networks for young adults aging out exist. But still more are needed.

Emancipation from foster care is the beginning of the end for legions of foster children. Often these young adults are unable to emancipate themselves from the hopeless situations they quickly encounter.  The lack of even the pretense of family can do that do a kid.

Candice, fortunately, has found her family, first in Toledo, now at the YWCA.  She says she is determined not to become another statistic.  She says it with conviction. That sounds and feels a lot like true emancipation.

Where Am I?

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