October 2009 CA&N Media Articles, Cases and Resources

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
(989) 832-9628
[email protected]

Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire has published a commentary on the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which aggregates and publishes statistics from state child protection agencies.  The latest NCANDS report highlights a 12% decline in the rate of substantiated child maltreatment from 2006 to 2007, one of the largest year‐to‐year drops ever revealed by the system. But according to notes accompanying the report, at least 4 states (Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, and New Jersey) described major administrative and statistical changes in their systems that resulted in declines of 24‐60% in one year. In particular, a 60% drop in the number of victims reported by Florida, attributable to a new way the state categorizes cases, accounted for much of the national decline identified in the report.  Recalculated to exclude states with declines or increases of 20% or more, the report data showed that from 2006‐2007 there was no change in substantiated sexual abuse, an 8% decline in physical abuse, and a 1% decline in neglect.  Link to UNH Commentary

The ABA Center on Children and the Law announces the release of Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Futures: A Judge’s Guide.  This Guide is the result of a collaboration between the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Zero to Three National Policy Center.  It addresses the wide array of health needs of very young children in the child welfare system.  By sharing current research on physical health, child development, attachment, infant mental health, and early care and education, the authors provide tools and strategies to help judges promote better outcomes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers who enter their courtrooms.  While the Guide is written for judges, the information it provides can be useful for both parents’ and children’s attorneys, guardians ad litem, CASAs, and other child advocates. The Guide can be accessed through its own webpage, which allows for download of the full PDF version, individual chapters, or chapter Practice Tips: Link to ABA Report.

The following article has been posted to Philanthropy News Digest: Resource Center Established to Help States Implement Foster Care Legislation  The nonpartisan Fostering Connections Resource Center will work to provide timely data and customized tools to state and local decision makers responsible for implementing the Fostering Connections Act  Link to Article

The ABA Center on Children and the Law, as part of the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System (QIC NRF), recently released a book and training curriculum on Advocating for Non-Resident Fathers in Child Welfare Court Cases.
Both can be downloaded for free, and hard copies of the book are also available (shipping and handling charges will apply).  These two resources are based on the expertise of legal professionals across the country and include practical guidance on engaging non-offending, non-custodial fathers in their children’s cases.  The book is available at www.fatherhoodqic.org/book.shtml and the training curriculum is available at http://www.fatherhoodqic.org/curriculum.shtml.  For more information please contact Lisa Pilnik ([email protected]) or Jessica Kendall ([email protected]).

The first findings from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence have been released. They appear in an article in the journal Pediatrics and in a bulletin published by the US Department of Justice.  Link to DOJ Bulletin  or  Link to Pediatrics Article

New Study Finds Most States Fail to Adequately Protect the Legal Rights of Abused Children.  Second Edition of a State-By-State Report Card Shows Improving Grades in Some States; Michigan gets a C grade.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) October 7th
Case Name: In re Williams
The trial court correctly terminated the respondent-mother’s parental rights to the minor child based on her long standing drug addictions, inability to complete a drug treatment program, and lack of housing and employment. However, the trial court erred in permanently severing the respondent-father’s fundamental right to the care and custody of his child after proceedings conducted without the assistance of counsel.  The court held a trial court cannot “deny a respondent appointed counsel by imputing to the respondent income earned by people who bear no legal responsibility to contribute to the respondent’s legal expenses.”  At the termination hearing the DHS argued the father’s lack of “independent housing” and his insufficient income supplied grounds for terminating his rights. The court held it was fundamentally unfair to deny appointed counsel because a respondent does not qualify as indigent, while at the same time invoking his indigence as a ground for terminating his parental rights.  Court’s Opinion

Detroit News, Sept 30th: The Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, developed by law professors at the University of Michigan Law School, offers free legal assistance and support to keep children with family members and out of the foster care system. The office works in collaboration with Wayne County’s Department of Human Services. It is located on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, the center is targeting the Osborn neighborhood on Detroit’s east side, where more than a third of the children live in poverty. The community has one of county’s highest rates of children being removed from their homes.

The Future of Children is a collaboration of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Brookings Institution.  The mission of The Future of Children is to translate the best social science research about children and youth into information that is useful to policymakers, practitioners, grant-makers, advocates, the media, and students of public policy.  The project publishes two journals and policy briefs each year.  They have just published their Fall 2009 Journal: Preventing Child Maltreatment.  It contains eight articles on various aspect of prevention.

Detroit Free Press, Sept 30th: “Lack of legal help keeping many Michigan parents, kids apart.”  Full story

Detroit Free Press, Sept 30th: “Report gives Michigan foster care overhaul mixed marks.”  Full story

Traverse City Record Eagle, Sept 30th: Editorial: “Red flags in family court.”  Dennis Mikko, until last month a referee in the 13th Circuit Court’s Family Division, allegedly had a stash of nude photos of children in a briefcase in his courthouse office.  Full editorial

The Michigan State Court Administrative Office, Child Welfare Services Division, through the Court Improvement Program, has been working on improving the quality of legal representation in Michigan.  As part of this project, we contracted with the ABA, Center on Children and the Law to conduct an independent study of legal representation for parents in Michigan and to make recommendations for improvement.  We are excited to announce that the report has been released!   The report is available online at under the Quality of Representation committee information.  Additionally, the report is available through the ABA, Center on Children and the Law, Parent Representation Project website, http://www.abanet.org/child/parentrepresentation/home.html.

The book, Growing Up in the Care of Strangers, came out this August.  The uniqueness of the book is that each of the authors went on to college and graduate school (5-6 got Ph.D.’s) and are currently devoting their lives to helping foster children (5 of them grew up in the MI foster care system).  The purpose of the book is to share their experiences, discuss how they were impacted and then based both on their own personal experiences and their experiences working with foster children, provide recommendations for the current foster care system.  A Review

On May 27-29, 2009, the Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, hosted its first National Child Welfare Evaluation Summit in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Summit was to explore the current state of evaluation practice in the field of child welfare, and provided a forum to discuss dynamic tensions, like those between theory and practice, rigor and flexibility, fidelity and adaptability, and evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence in the field of child welfare.  All of the materials provided to the Children’s Bureau by presenters at the Summit are now available to the public on the website of James Bell Associates. These materials include PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and resources.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) August 18th
Case Name: In re Toia
The trial court properly terminated both respondents-parents’ parental rights to the three minor children where clear and convincing evidence established the statutory grounds for termination. Conditionally affirmed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to ensure compliance with the ICWA notice provisions and a determination whether the ICWA applies.  Full Text Opinion

MSU News, July 30th: While some 75 percent of the nation’s foster care children say they’d like to attend college, just 13 percent actually enroll – and of those, only 4 percent graduate.  Michigan State University has launched a program to attack the problem.  Foster Care Alumni Services is a comprehensive initiative that offers assistance to MSU students in an effort to help them remain in school and ultimately graduate. Services include community mentoring, scholarships, care packages and help lining up everything from student employment to housing to financial aid.  Link to Story

Detroit Free Press, June 10th: “WMU initiative leads to success for former foster kids.  Western Michigan University did something last fall that no other state school had — hand a free education to 51 former foster youths.”  Full story

Educational assistance for former foster youth: Western Michigan University plans to offer up to 50 former foster youths a place in its Seita Scholars program this fall. For information, go to http://www.wmich.edu/fyit/ or call 269-387-8362. Other schools — Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, for example, set aside financial assistance for former foster youths.  Wherever they attend school, alumni of the foster youth system also may be eligible for up to $4,000 per school year in an Education & Training Voucher, or ETV, in addition to other financial aid.  For information, go to the Michigan’s Foster Youth in Transition Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/fyit or Lutheran Social Services of Michigan at https://www.samaritas.org. An ETV coordinator can be reached at 877-660-6388.

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