Some recent media articles and resources relating to child abuse and neglect. If you have items that you think would be helpful to include in this occasional post, please forward them to me at the email in my signature block.
These stories were chosen because of their perceived relevance to the child welfare community. MiPSAC is not responsible for the views expressed in any of these articles, nor does it take a position for or against the positions expressed in the articles. They are presented merely to provide a sampling of what the media is saying about child welfare.
Charlie Enright, JD, MSW
4907 Foster Rd.
Midland, MI 48642
Michigan Professional Society on Abuse of Children, MiPSAC
This and previous posts can be found at: http://www.mipsac.org/category/can-articles
RECENT MEDIA ARTICLES
MI: Michigan DHS Gets Positive Review
June 25, ABC10: The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) received welcome news in the form of a positive report from the monitors measuring DHS compliance with the federal child welfare modified settlement agreement (MSA). The MSA reflects many of the department’s key initiatives. Substantial compliance with its measurements will eventually allow DHS to move to state – rather than federal – oversight. The monitors highlighted several significant DHS accomplishments in their report:
● The extension of foster care to age 21.
● Health insurance for foster youth transitioning to adulthood.
● Post-secondary education support for foster youth transitioning into adulthood.
● Establishment of a statewide centralized phone number for reporting child abuse and neglect.
● The hiring of more than 700 child welfare workers.
● University in-service, graduate-level courses for children’s protective services workers and adoption workers.
● Immediate action for children with a goal of guardianship.
● Resolution of issues surrounding the licensure of relative foster care homes.
Michigan’s child welfare system came under federal oversight on Oct. 24, 2008 as a result of a lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights. Shortly after taking the DHS helm in January 2011, Corrigan began renegotiating the consent decree to focus less on bureaucracy and more on outcomes. The MSA took effect on July 18, 2011. The report filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan today is the first monitoring report of the MSA. Link to Article Contains link to full report.
U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Juvenile Life Sentences
June 25, MLive.com: The U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote this morning struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles, a ruling that will impact Michigan more than almost any other state. Michigan is second in the nation in the number of inmates serving life for crimes committed at 17 and younger, 358. There are about 2,500 nationally. The court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a scheme of life in prison without possibility of parole for juveniles. Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion. The opinion cites two earlier Supreme Court cases in 2005 and 2010 that expanded protections for children. Link to Article
MI: Commentary: Alternative Education a Way To Stem School-To-Prison Pipeline
June 25, Detroit News: The apocalyptic state of public education is shoving our high school dropouts onto a pathway to the penitentiary. The latest proof comes in recent reports about how Highland Park may resort to a charter system to keep its doors open in September. Not a single article or report that I’ve seen on the subject has mentioned the fate of programs for high school dropouts. To me, that means we as a society have become so desperate to salvage our public schools from financial collapse that we have calculated our most vulnerable students right out of the equation. This equates to adding them to crime statistics and prison rolls. Link to Op Ed
MN: County Considers Participating in Program to Help First-Time Moms
June 23, West Central Tribune: With the goal of helping vulnerable first-time mothers raise healthy children and improve their own lives, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners took a first step this week to join the Nurse-Family Partnership. The NFP community health program, which operates in communities nationwide, pairs a registered nurse with a woman who is pregnant with her first child and living in poverty. The intervention-style relationship, which is fostered through home visits, continues until the child turns two years old. Link to Article
DC: ‘Heart-Wrenching’ Catch-22: Homeless Families Who Turn To City For Help Find No Rooms, Risk Child Welfare Inquiry
June 23, Washington Post: When Shakieta Smith, a homeless mother of two, called the District’s shelter hotline in March, she was told the city’s shelters were full. Then the intake worker added a chilling warning: If she and her kids had nowhere safe to sleep, she’d be reported to the city’s Child and Family Services Agency for a possible investigation into abuse and neglect. Link to Article
ND: Citing Child Abuse Concerns, Administrator Urges Halting Tribe’s Funding
June 22, Grand Forks Herald: The regional federal administrator wrote state and federal officials that many children on the reservation in north central North Dakota are subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse — including the unprosecuted murder of two siblings more than a year ago. He advocated declaring a state of emergency at Spirit Lake and suspending all state and federal funding to the tribe until qualified professionals can be put in place to run programs. Link to Article
MI: Defense Attorney Weighs In on Bay City Man’s Overturned Sexual Assault Conviction
June 22. MLive.com: A state Court of Appeals’ recent reversal of a Bay City man’s conviction of sexually assaulting a little girl has won praise from the attorney who represented him at trial. The appellate court vacated Burns’ April 2011 conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim younger than 13. Link to Article Includes Link to Court Decision
NJ: Religion and Foster Care: Should Parents Take On Children From Other Faiths and Traditions?
June 22, New Jersey Jewish Standard: A complaint from a Muslim constituent has led the New Jersey legislature’s sole Orthodox Jewish legislator to introduce a bill that would mandate that children in foster care be placed with their co-religionists “to the maximum extent practicable.” But one local observant Jewish foster mother to Christian children worries that the bill would make life even harder for children needing foster care and the adults who wish to care for them. Link to Article
MI: Livonia School Board Seeks to Fire Teacher Accused of ‘Child Abuse’
Jun. 21, Observer & Eccentric: The Livonia school board took action toward firing a teacher and already terminated a parapro accused of slapping, grabbing and force feeding special-needs preschoolers, among other unprofessional classroom management practices. Neither the teacher nor the parapro has been charged with a crime. Administrators first heard complaints from other staff members about the classroom environment in late October. The 12 preschoolers in the classroom, ages 3-5, are all cognitively impaired and some are also physically impaired. The classroom is part of a Wayne RESA center program serving students from multiple districts. Link to Article
EU, U.S. Sign Agreement to Combat Online Child Abuse
June 21 (Xinhua) — The U.S. and European Union (EU) have reached a framework agreement to combat online child abuse and pornography, EU and U.S. high officials for justice and home affairs said here on Thursday. The Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online strengthens EU-U.S. cooperation on fighting cyber crime while protecting the rights and privacy of children. It sets out a number of criteria to help countries in their efforts in identifying and protecting victims of child pornography, and in investigating cases of online child abuse. Link to Article
MI: Retweets For a Baby: Michigan Husband and Wife Turn to Twitter to Help With Adoption Process
June 21, Michigan Live: Frustrated by the adoption process after two years with no results, a Merritt Township native and his wife have taken a new approach to the process. Link to Article
MI: Michigan’s Prescription for Foster Kids: Drugs
June 21, Bridge Magazine: A report from the Government Accountability Office last December stated that foster children are twice as likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs — medications for anti-anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, psychosis — than other children on Medicaid. The reasons include greater exposure to trauma, frequent changes in placements and varying state oversight policies, the GAO said in a review of five states, including Michigan. Link to Bridge Article
Among the GAO’s other findings:
● Michigan was the only state of the five examined that does not have established training requirements for child welfare, court personnel or foster parents to make them advocates.
● Michigan does have policies identifying who can give consent for medicating foster children, but there is no standardized consent form to help inform consent decisions.
● Michigan meets only one of the guidelines recommended, but not mandated, by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
● 1.5 percent of Michigan’s foster children under age one year were prescribed a psychotropic drug, compared to 0.3 percent of children on Medicaid who are not in the foster system. (Researchers did note that some of the medications in the psychotropic drug category, such as antihistamines, could have been prescribed to treat a non-mental health issue such as allergies or a rash.)
● Michigan foster children under age 17 were three times more likely than for non-foster Medicaid patients to receive drugs at dosages exceeding maximum guidelines based on FDA-approved labels.
● Michigan foster children were far more likely to have five or more psychotropic prescriptions at the same time than non-foster Medicaid patients. “Increasing the number of drugs used concurrently increases the likelihood of adverse reactions and long-term side effects, such as high cholesterol or diabetes, and limits the ability to assess which of multiple drugs are related to a particular treatment goal,” the GAO authors noted.
Turns out, Michigan is nowhere near being alone with this problem. See: Link to Op Ed re Florida
US: U.S. Midwest in Crosshairs of Child Sex Trafficking Fight
June 20, CNN International: When it comes to child and adolescent sex-trafficking in the United States, the FBI ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul among the top 13 places in the nation. With its tangle of highways known as Spaghetti Junction, its year-round sporting events and frequent conventions, millions pass through on any given day. “There’s the thought no one’s going to catch you in the Midwest,” says Dan Pfarr who works with teens in crisis. Though difficult to confirm, the statistic most cited by police and child advocates is that within 48 hours of running away, one in three teens will be approached by someone in the sex trade. With hundreds of thousands of runaways every year in the Midwestern U.S., the pool of potential victims is immense. Link to Article
OR: Oregon Settles Suit Over 2003 Abuse Investigation
June 20, Associated Press: The state of Oregon has agreed to pay $300,000 to a family whose complaint about an investigation by child protection workers went before the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The case began in 2003, when a social services caseworker and a deputy sheriff pulled a 9-year-old girl from her Bend classroom and questioned her about alleged sexual abuse by her father, Nimrod Greene. According to the family, the girl falsely incriminated her father because the investigators would not accept her denials. Link to Article
This is the infamous Greene v. Camreta case and shows the potential consequences of improper child interview techniques.
GA/MI: Mom Hated Daughter She Starved: They Once Lived In Grand Rapids
June 19, WOOD TV: Family members of a teen girl who was allegedly starved to death by her mother in Georgia said there was a history of abuse that started when the girl and her mother lived in Grand Rapids. Michigan CPS launched more than a half-dozen investigations when the family lived in Grand Rapids, but only once did they substantiate abuse. The family has a lot of questions about why their cries for help couldn’t save Markea. Link to Article
US: Child Welfare Investigation Predicts Mental Health Problems in Young Children
June 19, Eureka Alert: A study published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that young children who have been investigated for maltreatment by child welfare agencies have a higher prevalence of mental health problems and that very few receive treatment for those problems. Horwitz said of the study, “The fact that so many very young children in contact with child welfare are showing signs of social and emotional problems is somewhat surprising, but that so few children and caregivers receive any services is disturbing given that effective interventions are available and could produce positive changes in the lives of these children.” Reading the journal article requires access through Elsevier. Link to Eureka Alert Article
US: State Officials Urged to Ease Barriers to Interstate Adoptions of Kids in Foster Care
June 19, Associated Press: “Children wait in foster care not because there aren’t enough families to adopt them, but because of artificial barriers we erect,” said Jeff Katz, executive director of Listening to Parents, a Boston-based group that organized the initiative. Link to Article
US: Preventing Drug Abuse in Depressed Youths
June 18, Daily Rx: Adolescent Drug abuse is less likely with effective treatment for depression. Adolescents who get treatment for their major depressive disorder (MDD) before they begin abusing drugs are less likely to start. Early treatment is the best prevention method. Those who were successfully treated for their depression in the TADS program were 14.5 percent less likely to develop a SUD than those who were not successfully treated. Link to Article
MI: Dominick’s Law May Give Michigan the Nation’s Toughest Child Abuse Laws
June 15, WXYZ-Lansing: Michigan could soon have the toughest child abuse laws in the country. State lawmakers voted to approve Dominick’s law. The bill allows for longer sentences for those convicted of child abuse. It makes it a crime for witnessed of child abuse to ignore it and do nothing. It also adds penalties for those who commit abuse in front of other kids. “From this day forward child abusers are going to have to deal with Dominick’s Law,” said Rick Calhoun, Dominick’s grandfather. The governor now has to sign the bill for it to become law. Link to Article Comment by C. Enright: While this may be an emotionally satisfying and politically expedient move, any criminologist can tell you it will have no deterrent effect whatsoever. And it will cost a bundle of taxpayer money to house those convicted.
Dad’s Love Can Be Crucial for Happy Childhood, Study Confirms
June 15, HealthDay News: Move over, tiger moms. Dads can play an even more significant role in the development of happy, well-adjusted children than do mothers, a new study indicates. “In our 50 years of research, we have found that nothing has as strong and consistent an effect on personality development as does being rejected by a parent — especially by a father — in childhood,”. The study, published recently in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, analyzed 36 studies, from 1975 to 2010, involving almost 1,400 adults and 8,600 children in 18 countries. The children ranged in age from 9 to 18, and adults were between 18 and 89. All the studies included in the review included an assessment of seven personality traits considered central to what is called “parental acceptance-rejection theory.” Those traits — aggression, independence, positive self-esteem, positive self-adequacy, emotional responsiveness, emotional stability and positive worldview — were evaluated using self-report questionnaires. Participants were asked about their parents’ degree of acceptance or rejection during their childhoods and about their own personality characteristics or tendencies. “The study shows a strong relationship between those seven traits and the experience of feeling accepted and cared about by your parents,” said Dr. John Sargent, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, in Boston. “What’s really important to kids is to know they’re accepted by their parents,” Sargent said. Study author Rohner said fathers may have a greater impact on a child’s personality because children and teenagers pay more attention to the parent who seems to have greater interpersonal power, or influence, in the family’s power hierarchy. Link to Article
RESOURCES WITH ONGOING VALUE
Differential Response Systems
July 2011, National Quality Improvement Center: Traditional child protection systems have been hindered by challenges of “over-inclusion” of low risk referrals, “under-inclusion” of families who have high needs, and have been burdened by a “one size fits all” high resource investigative approach. Differential response now allows for more than one way for an agency to respond to reports of child maltreatment concerns; forensic, investigative resources can be allocated to high risk (for reoccurrence) situations and an alternative (different) response can meet the needs of family support issues (often currently assessed as low or moderate risk). As child welfare systems implement new ways of working in the context of differential response, practice model development, supervision, management, and skill building emerge again as priorities. Link to Issue Brief
Apparently, many states have adopted this system to more effectively respond to CA&N from both improved outcomes and cost efficiencies perspectives.
LINKS FROM CHILD INFORMATION GATEWAY WEB SITE
Tips for Child Welfare Professionals: Talking about LGBT-Headed Families.
June 2012, National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections: (1) Tips for Talking about LGBT-Headed Families; (2) Tips for Talking to Birth Families about their Child Joining an LGBT-Headed Family; (3) Tips for Talking to Children/Youth about Becoming Part of a LGBT-Headed Family. Link to pdf Guide
Eliminating Barriers to the Adoption of Children in Foster Care.
2012: Today there are more than 100,000 children waiting in foster care in large part because of barriers in the adoption system that could be eliminated through changes in policy and practice.
Barriers to adoption from foster care identified by participants in the Executive Session include:
• financial disincentives for creating interstate adoptions;
• lack of standardized information about families seeking to adopt and about children waiting to be adopted;
• insufficient post-adoption support compared to support for youth aging out; and
• absence of a robust model for creating adoptions, including effective recruitment of adoptive families; appropriate caseloads, training, and supervision for workers; and significant youth involvement. Link to pdf Recommendations
Social Media Connects Adoptive Parents and Birth Families.
2012, Adoption Center for Family Building: Today, many birth parents and adoptive parents are embracing social media and interactive communication tools like instant messaging, photo/video sharing, text messaging, and video teleconferencing, to share information and stay in touch. While many may celebrate this expansion of openness, some ground rules are recommended. Link to Article
Understanding the Reasons for Placement Instability: Lessons from Case Data
2011, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Children and Family Research Center: Conclusions: Most children in unstable cases have been moved for several different reasons:
caregiver reasons, child behavior and/or system and policy reasons. Child behavior is only one source of instability. Skill and commitment of foster parents plays a role. Increased licensing of kin caregivers should be considered. Child behavior problems are both a cause and effect of instability. Caregivers need resources, training and support. Sometimes behavior problems are expectable for child’s developmental level. Moves made by child welfare to improve children’s lives carry some risk of instability. Planned moves should be made carefully, taking into account past instability as one factor. Link to Presentation Slides
This Is My Baby: Foster Parents’ Feelings of Commitment and Displays Of Delight.
2011, Infant Mental Health Journal: This study examined the association between foster parents’ commitment to their young foster children and the delight they showed in their interactions with children. Foster parents who were more highly committed to their foster children showed greater delight in their children than did foster parents who were less highly committed. These results suggest an important way in which caregiver commitment is transmitted to foster children. Link to pdf Report
The National Wraparound Initiative
The NWI works to promote understanding about the components and benefits of wraparound, and to provide the field with resources to facilitate high quality and consistent wraparound implementation. Wraparound has been most commonly conceived of as an intensive, individualized care planning and management process. Wraparound is not a treatment per se. The wraparound process aims to achieve positive outcomes by providing a structured, creative and individualized team planning process that, compared to traditional treatment planning, results in plans that are more effective and more relevant to the child and family. Additionally, wraparound plans are more holistic than traditional care plans in that they are designed to meet the identified needs of caregivers and siblings and to address a range of life areas. Through the team-based planning and implementation process, wraparound also aims to develop the problem-solving skills, coping skills, and self-efficacy of the young people and family members. Finally, there is an emphasis on integrating the youth into the community and building the family’s social support network. Link to NWI Web Site
Creating a Safe Place for Trafficked Youth in Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs
The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth: Survivor-led programs like GEMS have emerged as models for other youth-serving organizations that come into contact with trafficked youth, but aren’t sure how to ensure their physical and emotional safety. Experts say that with some precautions and training, runaway and homeless youth programs, with their dual focus on understanding and treating young people’s trauma and on empowering youth to reach their full potential, can create their own version of Rachel’s Group: a safe, nonjudgmental environment where formerly trafficked youth feel comfortable getting help. Link to NCFY Child Trafficking Web Page
Additional Resources for Homeless Youth: Link to NCFY Homeless Youth Page
Home Away From Home: A Toolkit for Planning Home Visiting Partnerships with Family, Friend, and Neighbor Caregivers.
2012, CLASP: Family, Friend, and Neighbor and Home Visiting Partnerships, and How Can They Help You Reach Families
In its work to inform and strengthen home visiting policy, CLASP aims to:
• Maximize the extent to which states effectively reach and serve vulnerable families with culturally and age appropriate home visiting models that address their needs and build on their strengths; and
• Assist states in reaching children and their families in the settings in which children are cared for, whether that is at home with their parents; in family, friend, and neighbor care; or in regulated child care settings.
Home visiting and FFN partnerships can help achieve both of these goals. By adapting or altering a traditional home visiting model to include an FFN caregiver in the caregiver’s home, these partnerships reach children and families who may be more difficult to reach through traditional home visiting models. At the same time, home visiting and FFN partnerships can benefit caregivers, improving the quality of their interactions with children, and the level of care they provide. Finally, such partnerships can strengthen the relationship between the child, the parent, and the caregiver. By strengthening these relationships, the strategy may provide greater continuity of care for children, as well as allow the home visiting model’s services to have a stronger impact. Strengthening the quality of care provided by caregivers may also benefit additional children in their care. Link to Program Description
The Signs of Safety: Comprehensive Briefing Paper
April 2012: One of the biggest problems that bedevils child protection work, identified in many child death inquiries, is the Tower of Babel problem, where everyone is speaking a different language. The Signs of Safety framework is designed to create a shared focus among all stakeholders in child protection cases, both professional and family, it is designed to help everyone think their way into and through the case from the ‘biggest’ person (often someone like a director general, a judge or child psychiatrist) to the ‘smallest’ person (the child). However, completing the Signs of Safety framework—even when it is done collaboratively between the parents and children and all the professionals involved in the case—is only a means to an end. Large child protection systems, with their bureaucratic tendencies can often get means and ends confused and thus the completion of assessment frameworks can become a highly prized, over-valued key performance indicator. Completing the Signs of Safety assessment framework is, in the end, simply a process of creating a map of the circumstances surrounding a vulnerable child. As with all maps, the Signs of Safety map needs always to be seen as a mechanism to arrive at a destination. That destination is rigorous, sustainable, everyday child safety in the actual home and places in which the child lives. Link to Briefing Paper
APPELLATE COURT CASES
Court: Michigan Supreme Court
Case Name: In re Budd
In an order in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the court reversed that part of the Court of Appeals judgment (see e-Journal # 49863 in the 10/14/11 edition) applying the “conditional-affirmance remedy,” conditionally reversed the trial court’s order terminating the respondent-mother’s parental rights, and remanded the case to the trial court for resolution of the notice requirements of the ICWA. The court instructed the trial court on remand to “first ensure that notice is properly made to the appropriate entities.” If the trial court conclusively determines that the ICWA does not apply to this child protective proceeding – “because the children are not Indian children or because the properly noticed tribe does not timely respond” – the trial court’s order terminating respondent’s parental rights shall be reinstated. However, if the trial court concludes that the ICWA applies, the trial court’s order terminating respondent’s parental rights must be vacated and all proceedings must begin anew in accord with the procedural and substantive requirements of the ICWA. Full Text Opinion
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Dembny-Reinke
The court held, inter alia, that the trial court committed reversible error by moving so swiftly to termination without attempting to provide the respondent-father with services required by statute and Mason, and that the respondent-mother, too, should have been afforded the opportunity to formally participate in services. Both parents appeared to be improving and rehabilitating themselves, the trial court compounded the error by not permitting them to work toward reunification. The father argued that his incarceration alone should not have resulted in termination of his parental rights and that no evidence presented by the petitioner-DHS indicated that he was not capable of being a good parent. The mother argued that the evidence showed that she was conquering her addictions, as she had been clean and sober for a year. She was also visiting the child regularly, working, and living in adequate housing. Full Text Opinion
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Dobson
The court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the petitioner-DHS established by clear and convincing evidence sufficient statutory grounds for termination of respondent-Dobson’s and respondent-Cataford’s parental rights. However, the court vacated in part the trial court’s decision to the extent that it found that termination of the parental rights of Dobson and Cataford was in the child’s best interests and remanded for reconsideration of the child’s best interests in accordance with the court’s opinion. Apparently, the child lived with her maternal grandparents “off and on for her entire life,” and was placed with them when the wardship case was opened. The caseworker (G) recommended against a guardianship in lieu of termination and adoption and claimed that the child felt “that adoption would be great.” The court noted that when a child is living with relatives when the case proceeds to termination, the trial court “must consider that factor” in determining whether termination of the natural parents’ rights is in the child’s best interests. Further, the child liked the idea of being adopted by her grandparents. There was also no evidence that she wanted to cease all contact with her father. The court held that the trial court clearly erred in determining that termination was in the child’s best interests without considering her placement with relatives. Thus, the court vacated the trial court’s best-interests determination and remanded for reconsideration of her best interests in light of Mason and Mays. Full Text Opinion