Vital Information from Attorney Vincent W. Davis

if-social-services-removed-your-children-ca-attorney-vincent-w-davis-explains-how-to-respond[1]THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PROVIDED BY ATTORNEY VINCENT W. DAVIS AND COPIED HEREIN WITH PERMISSION. PLEASE CONTACT ATTORNEY DAVIS

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The Most Important Thing You Must Know At the Beginning of Your Juvenile Dependency Case

by VINCENT DAVIS on NOVEMBER 3, 2014

I’ve been noticing a shift in the willingness of social workers, and sometimes judges to place foster children with family. It seems that all the political lobbying foster parents are doing in Sacramento and amongst the County social workers is paying off.

It is imperative that you know the following: YOU MUST FIGHT TO PLACE YOUR CHILDREN WITH FRIENDLY RELATIVES at the very beginning of the case; otherwise you risk losing them to adoption to the foster parent. This is rarely fought about during these juvenile dependency cases. And it should be something that should be raised by your attorney at each and every hearing; and if it is not completed (i.e., the child actually placed with a relative), your attorney should have a trial on this, and perhaps other issues, at the Disposition Hearing. Please read, read and re-read California Welfare and Institutions Code section 309. And if necessary have your attorney have a trial on these issues at the Dispositional Hearing.

Here are some actual recent case studies.

The first case from Riverside County. The relatives who wanted the child lived in Oklahoma. They were cousins of the mother. They contacted the social worker at the very beginning of the case, 3 days after the first hearing, the hearing commonly known as the arraignment detention hearing.   Short after that hearing, the child was placed with a local foster care family. Turns out, the foster parents were a young couple, who couldn’t have children and wanted to adopt this child. And under a concept in the law called Concurrent Planning, the county social worker supported the foster parents desire to adopt.

The social worker informed them of two important things; both of which were false. First, the social worker said that they could not have the child placed in their home in Oklahoma, at the beginning of the case, because the court would order Family Reunification Services for the parents. And that could not happen until the court terminated Reunification Services 6 to 12 months into the case. This is false, because the child can be placed with the relatives, despite the parents being given Family Reunification Services.

Second, the social worker informed the relatives that the child could not be placed in their home without an Interstate Compact Placement of Children (“ICPC”) approval from Oklahoma. An ICPC is a report prepared by the receiving state social worker approving the Oklahoma relatives. All of this is true. But, the social worker told the relatives that this could not even be requested or initiated until at or after the disposition hearing; which in this case, was months down the road. This was false. ICPC can be initiated at any time. And remember, the foster parents and the child are living and bonding during all this time.

Third, the social worker had the opportunity to initiate and request and Expedited ICPC, which is completed in 30 days. For whatever reason, she did not. Had she done so, the child could have been placed with the relatives quicker and faster.

Instead, the social worker requested and ICPC, which took months and months. Apparently, and as usual, a regular ICPC takes months and months and months. And on top of that there was further delay because the County social worker delayed the process, the California ICPC office delayed processing the request, and then Oklahoma delayed the process because someone went on vacation.

While all of this was pending, the parents’ parental rights were terminated at the Welfare & Institutions Code section 366.26 hearing.

About a month later, the Oklahoma ICPC was approved, but the relatives were no longer legal relatives since the parents lost their parental rights. Relatives are relatives only through the parents; and if the parents lose their rights, the relatives in turn lose their relationship with the children as well.

The relatives did go to court and request that the child still be placed with them, but they were denied. The fact that they were no longer relatives, and the fact that the child had formed a loving bond with the child after all that time, were things used by the juvenile court to justify not giving the child to the Oklahoma relatives.

The next case is out of San Diego County. The child was taken from the parents based on the allegations that mother had mental and emotional deficits, and that the father was responsible for the death of a sibling. The child was placed in a single parent foster home.

As it turns out, the social worker claimed that she was never told of any relatives that wanted the child placed in their home. And as it turned out, there were 3 relative families in San Diego, one in Arizona, one in Colorado, one in Alabama and one in Korea. The Arizona and Korea families were stationed in that locale, as part of the United States Armed forces. It appears that the social worker either spoke to, or had the chance to speak to some of these relatives, but never inquired if they wanted the child; instead waiting for the relative to take some affirmative action to have the child placed in their homes.

This is not the law in California. California Welfare and Institutions Code section 309, requires the social worker to search out and find, and to use “due diligence” to find relatives. If you think about it, this is an onerous burden for the social workers, but it is the law. And the biggest problem is that most attorneys are not familiar with this particular law, or choose not to fight for it, or enforce it at every hearing, especially the disposition hearing. In this case, it was conceded that there was no due diligence filed with the court. And honestly, after 25 years of practice as an attorney in this area, I’ve never seen a due diligence for relatives filed with the court. I take that back, San Francisco uses an outside service to locate relatives, but I don’t think it was filed with the court. But there, one of the relatives informed me that she did get a call, but the caller basically called to talk her out of wanting to have the child placed in her home. And the relative went along with the recommendation that the child not be placed in the relative home.

Yet, despite these facts, the court left the child in the foster home because the child had formed a bond with the foster parent.

The third case is an interesting case out of San Bernardino County. The children were removed from the parents because of allegations of mutual domestic violence. At the beginning of the case, I provided 25 names of relatives to the social worker. After 2 months, the social worker refused to investigate and report to the court about any of the relatives. The children were in foster care, and the recommendation by the social worker, for concurrent planning, was adoption by the foster family.

Here’s the funny part. The number one relatives was the maternal grandparents, who were both medical surgeons from El Salvador. Both traveled to/from the United States frequently, visiting and working in the United States. Both came to the San Bernardino, and the court was informed that they would stay there as long as necessary to keep the children, and to get them out of foster care. Turns out the grandfather had a United States Visa that expired in 2021, and the grandmother had a Visa that expired in 2018.

WIC 309 states that the immigration status of the relative care takers cannot be considered. So if you are undocumented, that cannot be used against you in getting your relative children placed with you. Notwithstanding, the social worker told the grandparents after they arrived in California, that they could not have the children because they weren’t citizens. And the worker’s attorney argued in court that since they were not permanent residents, they children could not be placed with these grandparents. And initially, the court seemed to go along with that, but began reversing when I pressed the matter.

Now, on my recommendation, the grandparents I recommend these grandparents come from El Salvador, and I had section 309 on our side.

After a trial, the judge informed me that the children should be placed with the mother, my client, after her home was checked out, and after we filed a Restraining Order against the father. It seemed that I had pushed the relative placement issue so hard, the court decided just to place the children back with the mother. Maybe it was easier than investigating 25 relatives, and dealing with the Immigration issues.

We offer free initial consultations, and we can offer an extended case analysis and consultation for a nominal fee. Also we are available to represent you in your juvenile dependency matter as a parent, relative or foster parent. Check our website for news on the monthly Juvenile Dependency Law seminars in a city near you.

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

When fostering excites venture capitalists, the number of children taken into care rises

 The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY


The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY

A Norfolk reader sends me photographs of an advertisement placed on the back of local buses by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. “New challenge,” it reads. “Have you thought of fostering? If so you can earn £590 a week.”

Two things are interesting about this, one general, one specific. For a start, it shows what mind-boggling sums are now available to councils whose social workers take children into care. I have quoted before advertisements offering foster carers £400 a week for each child. But £590 a week means that a foster home looking after three children taken from their parents, which is not uncommon, can now earn almost £100,000 a year. In addition are the lavish fees charged by fostering agencies to make the arrangements, almost invariably run by ex-social workers.

Most people have no idea what a big business fostering has become. When one such firm, National Fostering Agency, representing 175 local authorities after being launched by two ex-social workers in 1995, was placed on the market by Rothschilds in 2012, it was sold by its “venture capital” owners Sovereign to a “private equity” firm, Graphite Capital, for a staggering £130 million.

The more specific point, however, is that, of all the councils that feature in my files as seizing children from their parents for what seem like questionable reasons, Norfolk and Suffolk are high on the list. In one of the most controversial cases I have reported, it was Norfolk’s social workers who were eventually forced to hand back a baby to its parents, after they had twice travelled to France to take the child into foster care in England. Having been thwarted in their plans, when a judge ruled that they had no legal right to do so, they seized several more children from different members of the same family who, to justify their removal, now face many charges of criminal abuse.

Yet last year the children’s department of this same council, Norfolk, received the most damning report possible from Ofsted, failing it as “inadequate” (the lowest rating) on every one of the five counts on which social workers are judged, from “quality of provision” to “leadership and management”.

Rad More at: Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Warning to the Parents of Massachusetts

Boston (AP) - The state child welfare agency's caseload has continued to grow even as it has come under intense scrutiny following the deaths of children in its care.

In the past four months, the caseload at the Department of Children and Families has increased by 4,776, or nearly 15 percent, to 36,835. In the past year, the caseload has jumped by 6,830, or about 23 percent.

The increases come as the state has launched a push to add to the number of social workers.

The agency came under fire following the disappearance last year of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose family was under agency supervision.

Jeremiah's body was discovered last month. His mother and her boyfriend are being held on charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and reckless endangerment. They have pleaded not guilty.

After the death of two additional children, former agency Commissioner Olga Roche resigned last month.

The union representing social workers is pressing state lawmakers for an additional $9.9 million in the state budget to help ease the caseload pressure, saying the department needs more workers given the spike in incoming cases.

Child welfare agency's caseload grows as scrutiny continues

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Inquest into death of Dana Baker hears about her heartbreaking final message to social workers

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Tragic teen's final 'goodbye' call to foster agency

TEENAGER Dana Baker phoned a foster care agency boss just before she was found hanged - to say 'goodbye' because he had 'taken away' the foster family she desperately wanted, an inquest heard.

An earlier text message - saying how 'alone and abandoned' she felt - went unanswered because the agency social worker who received it had been ordered to have no more contact with her.

Howard Verran, deputy head of service at the Child Care Bureau, described how Dana's foster care placement had been ended because of mounting tension and friction in the household over the previous few days after the youngster took a dislike to an extended member of the family.

On March 3 2011 - the day Dana was found hanging from a tree near the Worcester Road island in Kidderminster - staff at the Child Care Bureau received a series of distressed calls from her.

Mr Verran passed on the information to Dana's own Worcestershire County Council social worker, who had insisted that their department should be the ones to deal directly with the teenager, while the bureau's responsibility was to the foster carers.

Finally, at 5.06pm, Mr Verran took a call from Dana, in which she said, before hanging up: "I just wanted to tell you that all I wanted was my family and you have taken that away from me.

"So I am calling to say goodbye. So goodbye."

Mr Verran immediately called the council's social services department and he heard soon after that the police were looking for Dana.

Child Care Bureau social worker Clare Baxendale sobbed as she told the inquest how she had taken a call during the morning from Dana in a distressed state and she tried to reassure her, saying someone would call her back.

Read more at: Inquest into death of Dana Baker hears about her heartbreaking final message to social workers

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Secrecy cloaks foster care investigations by S.D. social services

1399180075000-185510636Foster children are some of the most vulnerable South Dakotans.

They are taken from their homes and families.

They're asked to live with strangers, sometimes with foster siblings who also come from troubled backgrounds, and to trust a system.

The Department of Social Services tries to carefully screen foster parents, visit foster children regularly and take seriously complaints of abuse or neglect.

But some child advocates in South Dakota have pointed to cases of rape or abuse in foster homes as evidence of a failure to protect children.

They say the state's Department of Social Services has too much discretion as to whether claims of abuse or neglect are valid, whether a child should return to an abusive home or whether a foster home placement is right for a child.

Native American activists often accuse the Department of Social Services of seizing children unnecessarily and placing them with white foster families. A group of families sued social services in federal court last year, alleging children are taken for months, though hearings last less than five minutes and don't offer parents a chance to respond.

But South Dakota's secrecy — abuse and neglect hearings are closed to the public — makes it difficult to evaluate the arguments.

The state's confidentiality laws prevent social services from commenting on specific cases, even when there are criminal charges.

States such as Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota are more transparent. In Minnesota, for example, the records and reports from abuse and neglect investigations are open for public review.

System's secrecy barrier to evaluation

Almost 700 families and group homes provide foster care in the state at any time. An Argus Leader records request showed 121 investigated complaints of abuse or neglect in foster homes from 2009 to last year. Of the complaints deemed worthy of follow-up investigations, only eight were substantiated, and licenses were revoked in each case.

It's far below the thousands of complaints filed for other kinds of family households. But without more information, it's difficult to gauge the depth of problems in foster care.

Court proceedings involving juveniles are closed to the public,so disputes about the placement of abused or neglected children with parents, relatives or foster providers come to light only after criminal charges are brought or a lawsuit filed.

Even then, the process and the conclusions largely are protected from public view. Disclosing the results of abuse and neglect hearings is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Claims of abuse or neglect against foster parents after placement also are confidential.

Some child advocates say recent incidents in Aberdeen highlight a pattern of insufficient investigation and an agency more concerned with covering mistakes than correcting them.

■ Fred Slota, a former foster father from Aberdeen, will be sentenced next week for raping a child in his home.

■ One-time foster father Richard Mette pleaded guilty to rape in 2012 in a case that involved years of abuse of children whom he and his wife had adopted out of the foster system.

■ The guardian of another girl sued the Department of Social Services after being placed in a foster home with a teen boy who had molested other children. The lawsuit, which was settled out of court, claimed the teen molested her on several occasions.

"I believe that there are kids in foster care in Brown County right now who are not safe," said Shirley Schwab, a former head of the county's Court-Appointed Special Advocates Program who closed her office after a high-profile falling out with social services.

Problems have surfaced beyond Brown County. Earlier this year, a former Canton city commissioner and longtime foster father, Jeffrey Nolte, was indicted on rape charges related to a child in his care, although the victim was not a foster child.

How foster care investigations work

Complaints against foster parents can come from children, neighbors, teachers, doctors or anyone else involved with a child who suspects abuse or hears the child talk about abuse or neglect, said Virgena Weiseler of the Department of Social Services.

If the department deems the allegations worthy of follow-up investigation, it passes it along to private contractors. The reports can be included in civil abuse and neglect proceedings. But unless there are criminal charges, the public wouldn't know anything took place. Even substantiated claims of abuse or neglect leave unanswered questions.

In response to an Argus Leader records request, the state offered a spreadsheet with details of each case investigated from fiscal years 2009 through 2013.

The information includes when a report was made, the type of report, the age of the child or children involved, the office through which a foster home is supervised, a ruling of substantiated or unsubstantiated and the date of that decision.

Read More at: Secrecy cloaks foster care investigations by S.D. social services

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