Fired Miami social worker gets 1 1/2 years in prison for extorting families of refugee children

As a newly hired employee for a Miami social services agency, Leslie Rubero Padilla’s job was to reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their parents or legal guardians in the United States.

She was supposed to charge the families only for transportation, such as airfare. But authorities say Rubero shook down more than a dozen of them by insisting they had to send her additional money or the reunification with their children would be delayed — or, worse, they would be deported back to their native country in Central America.

“This case is just so shocking because this defendant preyed on the most vulnerable people,” federal prosecutor Daniel Bernstein said at Rubero’s sentencing hearing on Friday. “Why is it so offensive? She calculated that these are people I can rip off because they are not going to report it.”

The prosecutor asked U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles to send Rubero, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September, to prison for four years. Bernstein pointed out that she not only exploited the poor parents and guardians for a total of $11,100, but also noted: “She had legal custody of their children.”

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Retired Arizona Judge Reveals Corruption in Legal System

Arizona-court-appeals

Justice John F. Molloy was an attorney in Arizona who went on to serve as a judge on the Arizona Superior Court bench. He is probably best known for his time serving as Chief Justice to Court of Appeals for the State of Arizona, where he authored the famous Miranda decision that was subsequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and overturned, resulting in what is known today as the “Miranda Rights” which law enforcement now quotes to suspected criminals upon arrest.

Judge Molloy wrote a book that was published in 2004 a few years before he died in 2008. He was apparently suffering from cancer at the time, and perhaps knew his remaining time on earth was short. The title of the book is: The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion, published by Paragon House.

An excerpt from the book has been published and copied in many places on the Internet today, reprinted in accordance with the “fair use” provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107. It is an amazing expose on just how corrupt the American Judicial System is today, and it perhaps gives us a better understanding on how so many judges in family or juvenile courts across the United States are able to successfully remove children from the custody of their parents in medical kidnapping cases.

john_molloy2

“THE FRATERNITY “- THE CORRUPTION OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM EXPOSED BY A JUDGE “The once honorable profession of law now fully functions as a bottom-line business, driven by greed and the pursuit of power and wealth, even shaping the laws of the United States outside the elected Congress and state legislatures.”

Justice John F. Molloy

When I began practicing law in 1946, justice was much simpler. I joined a small Tucson practice at a salary of $250 a month, excellent compensation for a beginning lawyer. There was no paralegal staff or expensive artwork on the walls. In those days, the judicial system was straightforward and efficient. Decisions were handed down by judges who applied the law as outlined by the Constitution and state legislatures. Cases went to trial in a month or two, not years. In the courtroom, the focus was on uncovering and determining truth and fact.

I charged clients by what I was able to accomplish for them. The clock did not start ticking the minute they walked through the door.

Looking back

The legal profession has evolved dramatically during my 87 years. I am a second-generation lawyer from an Irish immigrant family that settled in Yuma. My father, who passed the Bar with a fifth-grade education, ended up arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court during his career.

The law changed dramatically during my years in the profession. For example, when I accepted my first appointment as a Pima County judge in 1957, I saw that lawyers expected me to act more as a referee than a judge. The county court I presided over resembled a gladiator arena, with dueling lawyers jockeying for points and one-upping each other with calculated and ingenuous briefs

That was just the beginning. By the time I ended my 50-year career as a trial attorney, judge and president of southern Arizona’s largest law firm, I no longer had confidence in the legal fraternity I had participated in and, yes, profited from.

I was the ultimate insider, but as I looked back, I felt I had to write a book about serious issues in the legal profession and the implications for clients and society as a whole. The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion was 10 years in the making and has become my call to action for legal reform.

Disturbing evolution

Our Constitution intended that only elected lawmakers be permitted to create law. Yet judges create their own law in the judicial system based on their own opinions and rulings. It’s called case law, and it is churned out daily through the rulings of judges. When a judge hands down a ruling and that ruling survives appeal with the next tier of judges, it then becomes case law, or legal precedent. This now happens so consistently that we’ve become more subject to the case rulings of judges rather than to laws made by the lawmaking bodies outlined in our Constitution.

This case-law system is a constitutional nightmare because it continuously modifies constitutional intent. For lawyers, however, it creates endless business opportunities. That’s because case law is technically complicated and requires a lawyer’s expertise to guide and move you through the system. The judicial system may begin with enacted laws, but the variations that result from a judge’s application of case law all too often change the ultimate meaning.

Lawyer domination

When a lawyer puts on a robe and takes the bench, he or she is called a judge. But in reality, when judges look down from the bench they are lawyers looking upon fellow members of their fraternity. In any other area of the free-enterprise system, this would be seen as a conflict of interest.

When a lawyer takes an oath as a judge, it merely enhances the ruling class of lawyers and judges. First of all, in Maricopa and Pima counties, judges are not elected but nominated by committees of lawyers, along with concerned citizens. How can they be expected not to be beholden to those who elevated them to the bench?

When they leave the bench, many return to large and successful law firms that leverage their names and relationships.

Business of law

The concept of “time” has been converted into enormous revenue for lawyers. The profession has adopted elaborate systems where clients are billed for a lawyer’s time in six-minute increments. The paralegal profession is another brainchild of the fraternity, created as an additional tracking and revenue center. High powered firms have departmentalized their services into separate profit centers for probate and trusts, trial, commercial, and so forth.

The once-honorable profession of law now fully functions as a bottom-line business, driven by greed and the pursuit of power and wealth, even shaping the laws of the United States outside the elected Congress and state legislatures.

Bureaucratic design

Today the skill and gamesmanship of lawyers, not the truth, often determine the outcome of a case. And we lawyers love it. All the tools are there to obscure and confound. The system’s process of discovery and the exclusionary rule often work to keep vital information off-limits to jurors and make cases so convoluted and complex that only lawyers and judges understand them.

The net effect has been to increase our need for lawyers, create more work for them, clog the courts and ensure that most cases never go to trial and are, instead, plea-bargained and compromised. All the while the clock is ticking, and the monster is being fed.

The sullying of American law has resulted in a fountain of money for law professionals while the common people, who are increasingly affected by lawyer-driven changes and an expensive, self-serving bureaucracy, are left confused and ill-served. Today, it is estimated that 70 percent of low-to-middle-income citizens can no longer afford the cost of justice in America. What would our Founding Fathers think?

This devolution of lawmaking by the judiciary has been subtle, taking place incrementally over decades. But today, it’s engrained in our legal system, and few even question it. But the result is clear. Individuals can no longer participate in the legal system.

It has become too complex and too expensive, all the while feeding our dependency on lawyers. By complicating the law, lawyers have achieved the ultimate job security. Gone are the days when American courts functioned to serve justice simply and swiftly. It is estimated that 95 million legal actions now pass through the courts annually, and the time and expense for a plaintiff or defendant in our legal system can be absolutely overwhelming.

Surely it’s time to question what has happened to our justice system and to wonder if it is possible to return to a system that truly does protect us from wrongs.

A lawyer from Tuscon, Arizona, John Fitzgerald Molloy (b. 1917) was elected to the Superior Court bench where he served for seven years as both a juvenile court and trial bench judge. He subsequently was elected to the Court of Appeals where he authored over 300 appellate opinions, including the final Miranda decision for the Arizona Supreme Court. During that period, he also served as president of the Arizona Judge’s Association. After 12 years, Molloy returned to private practice to become president of the largest law firm in southern Arizona. His book has received widespread praise for its candor and disquieting truths.

Copyright 2004, Paragon House

Article Source.

 

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

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 888-506-6810

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:

U.S Government- The Largest Human Trafficker Of Children In The World.

In the United States, most Americans have no idea and extent of the horrible things that our Federal, state, county and local governments do to it's own citizens especially children. Now I fully realize there are real child abuse cases and they need to be dealt with swiftly and accordingly however most child “neglect and abuse” cases in America are complete fabrications made for the benefit of selling children for government profit. Now you would think that with all the legislation in the USA and laws that have been passed regarding so called “protection” of it's own citizens and all the hollering and complaining our own government does in the United Nations against other nations such as China, Thailand, the Philippines, India and the like in regards to child trafficking, that in fact our government would have a spotless record and be an outstanding example of how to protect children from human trafficking. However, just the opposite holds true, yes the word hypocritical can and should be appropriately applied here to all American Government agencies in regards to all U.S children. If one just took a few minutes to do just a little research on this important subject matter, you would discover indeed that our American children are being bought and sold by our own government and just as sadly, the Christian Community does very little about it !
Something else most Americans are not well enough informed about nor take Biblical action is that their hard earned tax dollars support various state, county and local programs where by children are “legally” stolen for profit. How can this be you ask ? Fairly simple as it turns out; The culprit is the Federal Title IV programs where by states, counties and local municipalities/ Family Courts and other courts as well as foster and adoption agencies are that are awarded billions of tax dollars annually to take children from good and healthy parents. Were you aware of actual “head hunters” who are are also employed through social services and various government agencies that look for children to steal ? I'll bet you(if I were a betting man) that you were unaware of this. You see, the system operates so that state, county and it's social services agencies can easily take children from good parents and make a huge financial windfall on each child taken. Children are taken from good parents through false allegations of abuse and the children are later often times sold to foster care agencies or adoption agencies. Federal monies are easily gained as the more children that are as identified (often times) as being “in crisis”(These children are often from poor families and typically blonde in hair color and also have blue colored eyes), the more cash courts and governments make. Profiteering at the expense of children's lives though use of false abuse and or neglect allegations against parents has made many a judge, lawyer, court and government employee rich through these government monies as well. Now you may be asking yourself, what kind of evil person does, this? Well, It's a well documented fact that many Child Protection Workers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, cops, teachers, judges, lawyers lie to snatch children from millions of parents in the USA each year. It's the cold hard cash that attracts these evilist's to do such diabolical and wicked things as take lovely children from great mommy's and daddy's. See video- http://youtu.be/ztEqMounuRU
Domestic Violence Workers have also been known to get into the act since it is their desire to eliminate men and families as God intended anyway, you can see these Domestic Violence workers visiting schools talking with teachers, children and school officials trying to drum up business. They also get a huge chunk of Title IV Federal monies as well and just like the other fore mentioned evilist's who participate in stealing children for cash, many of these Domestic Violence Workers also lie to gain cash. It's a feeding frenzy for the evilist's these days. Our legislators and even those elected to to the Executive branch are well informed of the child stealing and profits made but these government leaders by and large want nothing to do with changing the system and ridding the lies. Corrupt Federal Legislators like Charles Shummer are quite content with the billions of dollars that flows from our Federal Government to these legislators pockets and their home political districts. Millions of children are stolen illegally from corrupt government agents and there is little protection in the law from them. I suppose if you had enough money or have a personal relationship with one of these corrupt government leaders, a phone call to the “right people” could be made on you and your child's behalf to rescue them from the claws of these wicked people but in reality, but who of us has a political friend and ally to get what is already guaranteed to us in our US Constitution ? We should not have to be concerned about, nor have fear that our child will hurt themselves playing or have an accident and then CPS, Government agents, cops, teachers, DV workers and the like will be like vultures that will come and take away our child making false allegations of abuse against us- http://youtu.be/y9k-1Du74mg. Please remember, if you ever are hauled into Family Court or in front of CPS agencies, the law says everything must be decided “in the best interest of the child” meaning the government can do anything it wants at anytime with your child and you have NO legitimate claim nor recourse. You are at the total mercy of the judge and or government agency. As a parent, you can be court ordered for all sorts of psychological, physical and other tests, all returned finding you without fault or issue yet for no real or appropriate reason, your children can still be taken away from you, and that includes having your parental rights terminated for no real or appropriate reason as well.
Parents who home school their children and or Christians in the USA are especially vulnerable to being falsely accused of abuse these days and should take special note of what I am sharing here and prepare for action to protect their children and their families at all costs ! Please note that anytime the government cannot control, manipulate or indoctrinate persons with government propaganda, the entire family becomes suspect and is put on a watch list by various government agents who look for an open door to destroy the family unit. The family unit in America is in a purposeful cross hairs for destruction by government paid workers with their wealth of taxpayer funded Federal Title IV programs.
As well, In case you were uninformed, children in foster care and adoption agencies are inappropriately and horrifically often times being drugged up with psychotropic medications as young as three years old http://youtu.be/ISFPJL66p4c. I can tell you as a professional therapist that there is no child at the age of 3 that will need to be medicated with psychotropic medications for any reason-ever ! The only and sole purpose of medicating the vast majority of children while in foster care and or in foster care type housing is to cause them to be domicile, that is to force the children in care foster care more compliant and more easily to manipulate. The social experiments that have been occurring especially with our boys in schools for years now have also been extended to all children and adolescents in foster care and adoption agencies. Since Feminists have been the ones mostly insistent to destroy the male gender, they are also the main force behind our male children with mental health diagnosis such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder then pollute their minds with psychotropic medications such as Ritalin. These anti-christian women's groups for years now have looked to destroy God's plan for the family, there are many so called trained mental health professionals that are in place already to destroy more children as children are often seen as a liability and not an asset to these feminists.
We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to pray for our enemies and that we must do but unless Biblical Christians get up off their butt's soon and fight back at all costs, most of our children will be gone. There are over 50 million children that have been murdered through abortion in the USA so children living outside the womb are the next obvious target by evilist's. We need Godly men of action(James 2:17-20).This is and can be a very frighting situation and season for the ill equipped Christian and or family. Families should take this article as a very serious call to action and a warning to beware of just what the U.S and all it's states, counties and local governments are involved in. The US and it's states governments are largely not interested in helping people in their God given liberties of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as documented in our Deceleration Of Independence. The question for you and I has become; do you love your children and family enough for America to once again become “home of the brave” ? Meaning that we stand up and protect our children and families from wickedness, or do we stand aside and let evilist's go on with their onslaught against our family, friends and neighbors ???
Please be sure to view all three of the videos in this article. It will hopefully ignite your soul to do something to fight back and get our children back !
Psalms 37:17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.

Pastor Paul Waldmiller~Black Robe Regiment Pastor

http://blackroberegimentpastor.blogspot.com/2012/02/us-government-largest-human-trafficker.html

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Family Reunification

CIR-Family_ReunificationFamily Reunification in Law, Policy, and Practice

Family reunification can be viewed from multiple perspectives, such as the body of law that delineates parental rights and the implications of the law on public policy, the practices and decision-making processes child welfare agencies engage in when deciding whether to return children to their birth parents, and child and family factors that may affect the possibility of successful reunification. The following sections discuss family reunification in all of these contexts.

Law

The bedrock assumption underlying child welfare policy is that children are better off if raised by their natural parents.1 This preference for the role of natural parents is codified in law and provides the rationale for retaining reunification as a core outcome for children placed in foster care.2 Parents have the fundamental right to direct the care, custody, and control of their children, and it is presumed that, until or unless proven otherwise, they will act in a child's best interest.3

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized the autonomy of the natural family and grants wide latitude to parents, the court does acknowledge the interest of the state to protect and promote children's welfare and to assure that children have permanent homes.4 The exercising of this authority emphasizes that a child is not the absolute property of a parent, although state action is limited to situations in which parents are proven unfit or unwilling to perform parental duties and obligations.5 Because the presumption favoring parents has to be set aside before any other caregiving arrangements are pursued (assuming the parents do not consent), reunification has to remain the primary goal of child welfare services until a permanent decision regarding parents' abilities to carry out their responsibilities can be made.

Parental rights regarding children are frequently construed as a bundle of rights and responsibilities pertaining to custody, medical treatment, educational and religious decision making, physical and emotional care, and financial support. Generally, the parent's rights are comprehensive and predominate over those of the child and third parties, including the state and relatives of the child. However, the bundle is divisible, and some rights can be conveyed to others for a limited duration, even as natural parents retain other rights. For example, parents can convey guardianship of a child to a third party during a planned absence. The guardian assumes day-to-day responsibility for the child (food, clothing, and shelter), but parents retain the right to make certain decisions on behalf of the child. Only in the extreme circumstance of termination of parental rights do the natural parents totally relinquish the bundle.

For a court to challenge a parent's fundamental right to the custody of his or her child, there must be a showing of parental unfitness. Even when parental unfitness is demonstrated, with few exceptions there is a residual presumption that it is in the child's best interests to be in the custody of the parent. Thus, subsequent to the determination of parental unfitness, the court conducts a separate best interests analysis, determining whether it would be in the best interest of the child to remain with the parent or to be placed out of the home. The legal standards for unfitness and best interests of the child are neither clearly defined nor exact. A court must balance competing interests (parents, children, and third parties) and examine various factors as it weighs the facts of an individual case in making its determination.

Policy

Generally speaking, the legal framework for thinking about child rearing creates a strong presumption in policy that favors parents' rights to raise their children.6 This attitude is reflected in three major pieces of social legislation governing the nation's child welfare system: the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, and the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.7

Of the three acts, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) contains the strongest language in favor of family preservation. ICWA requires proof by clear and convincing evidence for any temporary foster care placement and proof beyond a reasonable doubt for termination of parental rights.

The major goals of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA) were to prevent the removal of children from their own homes by requiring states to make reasonable efforts to maintain them there or, if children had to be removed for their safety, to reunite them expeditiously with their parents.8 AACWA required a judicial determination that reasonable efforts had been made or offered to prevent placement or to enable the return of children to their homes. It also contained fiscal incentives for states to avert and shorten foster care placements and to encourage permanency planning for children.

Although the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) specifically authorizes funding for time-limited reunification services, the focus on family preservation and reunification shifts somewhat to efforts to achieve permanency and stability for children through adoption. 9 The act's major features are a change in the time frame for the dispositional review (also called the permanency planning hearing) from 18 months to 12 months and allowing states to plan reunification and adoption concurrently by seeking adoptive homes for children. Significantly, ASFA requires the state to petition the court to terminate parental rights or to support the petition filed by a third party for children in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions to this mandate include children in the care of relatives, children whose best interests are not served by adoption (justified by the state in writing), and children for whom the state has not made reasonable reunification efforts. Lastly, ASFA clarifies reasonable efforts requirements: States are not required to provide reunification services when a parent has killed another child, when the child is the victim of serious physical abuse, or when parents' rights vis-a-vis other siblings have already been terminated. (See the article by Allen and Bissell in this journal issue for a full discussion on ASFA.)

Although some critics claim that ASFA makes it easier to set aside parental rights, signs of a substantially weakened set of parental rights are hard to see. For the most part, ASFA provides some additional guidance to states by clarifying the reasonable efforts standard and creating a new presumption for the termination of parental rights. Of course, whether poor parents can adequately represent themselves is an important question in its own right.10 Overall, federal policy regarding permanency demonstrates a strong preference for returning children to live with their birth parents or for adoption by surrogate parents.11

Practice

Due in large part to the legal and policy framework protecting parental rights, family reunification remains the primary permanency goal for most children who come into the child welfare system. According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), reunification was the stated permanency planning goal for 44% of children in care.12 At the same time, in an effort to expedite children's placement into permanent families, many agencies concurrently plan for family reunification and an alternative permanency option, such as adoption or kinship care, should reunification not be achieved within the set timelines defined under ASFA. As of 2002, 37 states had statutes detailing their concurrent planning policies.13

The concurrent planning process typically involves assessing which children are least likely to reunify and thus would most benefit from an alternative permanency plan. Under an alternative plan, a child is more likely be placed with a foster or kin family that is willing to adopt should reunification not be possible, and birth parents are made to understand that should reunification not be achieved, the child will be placed permanently with the foster or kin family.

The available research on the effectiveness of concurrent planning, while limited, suggests that the practice has been helpful in finding permanent homes for children in a timely manner.14 However, some critics have raised concerns that concurrent planning practices may undermine family reunification efforts. Some argue that concurrent planning leads case workers to work less vigorously toward family reunification.15 Another concern is that birth parents may have difficulty working with case workers when they know alternative permanency options are being actively pursued. To date, there are no rigorous evaluations of the relationship between concurrent planning practices and the likelihood of family reunification. However, proponents of concurrent planning argue that appropriate training, careful implementation, and quality communication between social workers, birth parents, and foster caregivers can address and alleviate many of these concerns.16

The Decision to Reunify
Although family reunification is the most common exit type for children in care, relatively little is known about reunification decision making and the process of reintegrating children into their families. However, the available research suggests that greater sensitivity to parent and child characteristics is needed in choosing appropriate permanency options and keeping reunified families intact. Only a few studies have attempted to explore the factors that lead caseworkers to recommend reunification. What can be gleaned from these studies is summarized below.

One study designed to understand why reunifications fail identified the following case activities as essential parts of the reunification process: quality assessments including whether and when reunification should occur, quality case plans, family engagement, service coordination, family compliance with case plans, family readiness, and post-reunification services and monitoring. The study also noted that a history of prior reunifications, ambivalence on the part of parents, and length of placement all played a part in the decision to reunify. Finally, the study linked the provision of postreunification services to successful reunifications.17

Another small, qualitative study involved interviews with nine caseworkers and several child welfare administrators working in three different public child welfare agencies in the Washington D.C. region.18 Although the small number of participants and the regional focus of this research limit our ability to generalize about these findings, they do offer some insights into the reunification decision-making process.

In the D.C. study, social workers cited four essential issues they considered when deciding to reunify a child. First, most workers were particularly concerned with how well parents had complied with the conditions set out in their case plans. Specifically, workers assessed whether birth parents had actively participated in any service referrals they were given, whether their behavior had changed, and their level of involvement in the daily lives and schooling of their children. Second, assessing the safety of the home was critical in the reunification decision. In addition to assessing necessary changes in the home, workers looked for evidence that birth parents had ceased problematic behavior that might endanger a child and had demonstrated improved parenting skills. Frequency of visitation was another critical factor in the decision-making process. Parents who were unwilling or unable to visit or were inconsistent in their visitation patterns were less likely to be recommended for reunification than were parents who adhered to the visitation schedule. Finally, children's wishes were also a factor in the reunification decision, particularly for older children. It must be emphasized, however, that the lack of research in this area is troubling. Larger studies on factors that affect caseworker decision making are critical to improving the reunification decision-making process.

Child and Family Factors
The characteristics and circumstances of children and families also affect the likelihood of reunification. Reunifying a child with his or her birth parents is not a one-time event. Rather, it is a process involving the reintegration of the child into a family environment that may have changed significantly from the environment the child left. During the time apart, both the parent and the child may have encountered new experiences, developed new relationships, and created new expectations about the nature of their relationship. All these factors must be considered and accounted for when facilitating both physical and psychological reunification. Some studies have found that certain child and family characteristics can hinder or help the reunification process.

Some researchers have found that parental ambivalence about the return of children can be a significant barrier to successful reunification.19 Other studies have found that parents who have multiple problems are less likely to successfully reunify with their children.20 For example, parents with a combination of substance abuse problems, mental illness, or housing problems, and/or single parents, were less likely to be reunited than parents who did not face a multitude of concerns. Additionally, one study found that the duration and amount of contact families had with child welfare workers were positively related to reunification.21 Although other factors may be at work in this dynamic, it appears that continued and consistent interaction between reunified families and social workers may facilitate the reunification process. Maintaining contact between parents and child welfare workers may be particularly challenging, as some families may be resistant to maintaining ongoing relationships with the child welfare system—a system they may perceive as coercive, invasive, or threatening—after a child's return. This situation stands in contrast to many foster and adoptive families, who often request more interaction and assistance from the child welfare system.22

Children can also experience psychological distress during the reunification process. They may experience feelings of grief, loss, or fear at the prospect of leaving a foster home. A child's psychological health can also affect reunification. One longitudinal study of more than 600 children found that children with behavioral or emotional problems were less likely to be reunified than were children who did not face these difficulties.23 Another study found that children experiencing health difficulties and/or disabilities had lower reunification rates than children who were not.24

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