In addition to being notified of new posts by RSS and E-mail, we are now on the Twitter bandwagon! If you are an existing Twitter user, you can now “follow” our Twitter feed and get notified of new posts. What is Twitter? Well, here is what Wikipedia has to say:
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS, RSS, or email, or through applications such as Tweetie, Twinkle, TwitterFox, Twitterrific, Feedalizr, and Facebook. Four gateway numbers are currently available for SMS: short codes for the United States, Canada, and India, and a United Kingdom-based number for international use. Several third parties offer posting and receiving updates via email. Twitter had by one measure over 3 million accounts and, by another, well over 5 million visitors in September 2008, a fivefold increase in a month.
The Adoption Forum I Final Report has been posted, providing an evaluation and statistical analysis of the 13 Michigan counties with the largest adoption dockets after collaborative work between the courts, local offices of the Michigan Department of Human Services, and other child welfare stakeholders. Between March 1, 2008, and March 1, 2009, the counties participating in the Adoption Forum were able to increase adoptions by 14 percent for permanent wards.
The participating counties were:
The participating counties employed a number of mechanisms to increase the number of adoptions of permanent wards. These include: streamlining requirements for adoption (e.g., paperwork); sending the termination order directly to the adoption caseworker to ensure an immediate response after termination; publicizing Adoption Day; judges meeting monthly with CASAs, local DHS, and prosecutor to discuss barriers to timely adoptions and solutions; meetings with the private sector to recruit adoptive families; and creation of a “rocket docket,” a special docket for backlogged cases. There were a number of other methods employed that are not listed here.
To download or view the report, click here: Adoption Forum I – Final Report 2009
On Freep.com this morning columnist Rochelle Riley wrote a great article regarding the state of Foster Care in Michigan today and the efforts being made by the Department of Human Services for the future. Ms. Riley also discusses the efforts being made pursuant to the class action filed by the advocacy group Children’s Rights.
The article addresses the Department of Human Services public relations efforts throughout the month of May, which is National Foster Care Month, to recruit new foster care parents. She writes, “They are also out to repair the agency’s reputation and tout changes in the system that oversees 16,800 foster children and teens.”
She reports that with all of the State budget cuts, foster care remains untouched. She states: “There are no direct cuts in foster care,” Ismael Ahmed, DHS director since September 2007, told me in an interview this week. “In fact, we’ll be putting more money in foster care as a result of several things that are part of the child welfare improvement template that we adopted.” I have been following the budget cuts to services related to children’s protective services in general on this blog. (See “The Budget Axe” post)
She also cites a number of statistics in her article. Here are a few:
- The department has cut the ratio of cases to workers from 40-1 to 22-1. The settlement calls for 15-1, and Ahmed said the state hopes to reach that next year.
- There’s about 125,000 phone calls or reports of abuse of children every year.
- DHS investigates about half of those, removing some 17,000 kids from homes each year.
You can read Ms. Riley’s complete article on the Freep.com by clicking here.
Posted on May 27th, 2009 No comments
This is an unpublished case from the Court of Appeals. Petitioners began caring for the child when she was four days old and were appointed her guardians in June 2006, because respondent parents had been in and out of prison the previous several years. In July 2008, petitioners filed a petition to terminate respondents’ parental rights, which the trial court granted following an evidentiary hearing.
The trial court terminated respondents’ parental rights under MCL 712A.19b(3)(f), which provides:
(3) The court may terminate a parent’s parental rights to a child if the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, 1 or more of the following:
* * *
(f) The child has a guardian under the estates and protected individuals code, 1998 PA 386, MCL 700.1101 to 700.8102, and both of the following have occurred:
(i) The parent, having the ability to support or assist in supporting the minor, has failed or neglected, without good cause, to provide regular and substantial support for the minor for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition or, if a support order has been entered, has failed to substantially comply with the order for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.
(ii) The parent, having the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the minor, has regularly and substantially failed or neglected, without good cause, to do so for a period of 2 years or more before the filing of the petition.
Petitioners had the burden of proving both subsections (i) and (ii) by clear and convincing evidence. In re ALZ, 247 Mich App 264, 272; 636 NW2d 284 (2001); In re Hill, 221 Mich App 683, 691; 562 NW2d 254 (1997).
Respondent Father did not dispute that he failed to provide regular and substantial support for the child during the statutory two-year period, but argued that he lacked the ability to do so because of his incarceration. Section 19b(3)(f)(i) considers whether a respondent provided support if he had the ability to do so or, if an order of support had been entered, whether the respondent substantially complied with the order. It was undisputed that no support order had been entered against respondent Wheeler and thus petitioners were required to prove that respondent Father had the ability to provide support and failed or neglected to regularly and substantially do so for at least two years without good cause.
The evidence showed that respondent Father had been continuously incarcerated since late 2005. Although he was in prison, the statute does not provide an exception for incarcerated parents who, despite their incarceration, “may still retain the ability to comply with the support and contact requirements of the statute.” In re Caldwell, 228 Mich App 116, 121; 576 NW2d 724 (1998). In this case, petitioners proved that respondent Father was in prison and that he had not paid support during the two-year period preceding the filing of the petition. However, they presented no evidence to show that he had the ability to pay support. Indeed, one of the Petititioners admitted that he did not have the ability to pay support while he was incarcerated. Therefore, the Court found petitioners failed to prove § 19b(3)(f)(i) by clear and convincing evidence and reversed the trial court’s termination of parental rights with respect to him.
Respondent Mother did not challenge the trial court’s finding that she failed to provide regular and substantial support for the statutory two-year period despite an ability to do so. Instead, she argued only that she did not have the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the child and, therefore, the evidence was insufficient to prove § 19b(3)(f)(ii). The Court held that respondent Mother had no contact with the child after a visit in November 2005.
A parent does not have the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with a child when a court order has been entered terminating visitation rights. In re Kaiser, 222 Mich App 619, 623-625; 564 NW2d 174 (1997). In this case, there was no evidence that any order prohibiting visitation had been entered at any time between July 2006 and October 2007. Respondents’ motion to terminate the guardianship was denied in November 2007. While respondent Mother asserted that she interpreted the court’s decision as prohibiting any contact with the child and petitioners, the trial court took judicial notice of the order that was entered after that hearing, which simply continued the guardianship and did not address the issue of visitation. The Court held that respondent Mother had not shown that she was legally prohibited from contacting the child between November 2007 and July 2008 and affirmed the termination of her parental rights.
The lesson to be learned in this case is that in a termination petition filed under MCL 712A.19b(3)(f) where a respondent has failed to pay support and no existing support order is in place, it is the burden is on the petitioner to show respondent has the ability to pay regular and substantial support. Absent any evidence of this, the case must be dismissed.
All in all, this case was a loss for the petitioners because they were seeking to terminate parental rights to pave the way for an adoption. Now that father has retained his legal rights, their ability to adopt the child is frustrated.
To download or view the case, click here: In re CW.
Posted on May 26th, 2009 1 comment
The following abstract from a recent article in the journal Pediatrics has been posted on the Michigan Bar Association’s Family Law Listserv and Children’s Law Listserv. The study finds a strong correlation between breastfeeding and child abuse. Essentially, it finds that the longer a mother breast feeds, the less likely she is to perpetrate child abuse upon the children. Frankly, I think the reason for the correlation is that mothers who choose to breastfeed and go through the sacrifices required to do so are of a type that are less likely to abuse their children in the first place.
The abstract is below:
New Study on Relation between Breastfeeding and Child Abuse
Strathearn L, Mamun AA, Najman JM, O’Callaghan MJ. Does breastfeeding protect against substantiated child abuse and neglect? A 15-year cohort study. Pediatrics 2009 Feb 123(2):483-93. 15 Apr 2009
This study utilized prospective data from a large national sample of Australian women to examine the effect of breastfeeding on substantiated child maltreatment 15 years later. The authors concluded that breastfeeding protects against child maltreatment, particularly events perpetrated by mothers.
The researchers examined duration of breastfeeding as a potential protective factor against child abuse and neglect. Maternal-relevant information (e.g. parenting attitudes, stress, anxiety) and breastfeeding data were collected from 7223 mother-child dyads around the time of birth. Case information from child protection agency reports on substantiated child abuse and neglect was obtained 15 years after birth. The researchers found that, as breastfeeding duration decreased, the odds of a child being maltreated by his/her mother within the next 15 years significantly increased. After adjusting for various potential confounding variables and modifying analyses to test for the robustness of findings, the researchers concluded that breastfeeding may act as a protective factor against child maltreatment. The prospective data collection allowed the researchers to make the simple yet elegant conclusion that breastfeeding potentially prevents child abuse and neglect. The use of a large sample also strengthens the generalizability of the findings. One drawback is that the authors asked participants to answer questions that appeared to have face validity but without additional validity or reliability. A replication using measures with established psychometric properties would be a significant contribution. The authors suggest that one potential explanatory mechanism for their finding is through the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin, which may help to elevate maternal mood and reduce maternal anxiety and stress. This finding is also consistent with animal models where oxytocin appears to influence maternal behavior. Although the physiological underpinnings of the findings were not tested directly in the current study, future research should continue to examine this important mechanism. The physiology for maternal bonding and breastfeeding behavior may lead to new ways of understanding attachment and subsequent outcomes. Another explanation for the findings, as suggested by the authors, concerns the self-selection of mothers who breastfeed. Mothers who decide to breastfeed may be more emotionally invested in motherhood and in their child; in turn, these mothers may be less likely to neglect or abuse their child. Since the authors could not ethically conduct a randomized design to test this potential confound, their findings may be the closest approximation to understanding the association between breastfeeding and prospective child maltreatment. Yet, it remains important to consider these influential third variables.
Posted on May 22nd, 2009 No comments
With the Memorial Day weekend upon us, I thought it was appropriate to post thefurlough schedule for the Michigan Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and SCAO. The schedule was announcedby the Supreme Court Wednesday, May 20, 2009. For those of you that do appellate work, if your filing is due on any of the furlough days, you get an extra day’s reprieve because furlough days will be treated as court holidays and your deadline is extended to the next business day.
The Michigan Supreme Court has announced that it, the Court of Appeals, and the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) will take six mandatory furlough days by the end of the fiscal year. The furlough days will fall on the following dates:
- Friday, June 19
- Monday, July 6
- Friday, July 24
- Friday, August 7
- Friday, August 21
- Friday, September 4
On these days, both the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office and the Court of Appeals’ Clerk’s Office will be closed and so will not be accepting filings. The furlough days will be treated as court holidays for the purpose of filing deadlines, which means that any filings due on a furlough day will be accepted as timely if received on the next regular business day. The Court’s press release is available here.
Posted on May 20th, 2009 No comments
A great resource, other than this site (of course), for news and other issues related to child abus is the MiPSAC web site. MiPSAC (Michigan Professional Society on the Abuse of Children) is a statewide organization that focuses on meeting the needs of professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. The group is committed to the dissemination of state-of the-art practice in all professional disciplines related to child abuse and neglect. The organization is primarily geared toward physicians, social workers, psychologists and other health care related professionals
There is a great deal of information related to child abuse on the web site. Specifically, check out the newsletter and the blog. The blog appears to be updated monthly and features news articles and cases related to child abuse. The newsletter is published quarterly and features articles written by professionals. The issues are archived back to 1996 and some provide valuable information related to the science behind some of the typical forms of abuse and neglect practitioners on both sides are used to seeing. You can sign up on the web site to be notified of new issues in the newsletter.
You can visit the web site here: http://www.mipsac.org/
Posted on May 19th, 2009 No comments
In July 2008, the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Justice issued the Parents’ Attorney Protocol. This is a guidebook for attorneys representing respondent parents in child protective proceedings. It contains some very helpful hints in representing respondents in these cases. The publication is available on the SCAO web site, but I have made it available on this site also. This may not end up being your “go to” manual for practice (that is the Child Protective Proceedings Benchbook), but it is worth a read. Attorneys new to this area of the law will want to adopt the practice recommendations in this book. Veteran attorneys will find at least a few helpful hints to incorporate into their practice.
Download/view: Parents’ Attorney Protocol
Posted on May 14th, 2009 No comments
In these tough economic times apparently nothing is spared from the budget axe. Gov. Granholm plans to cut $14 million in services that help to prevent child abuse. The Law Enforcement group “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Michigan” issued a press release calling on the governor to reconsider these cuts. The cynic in me says this group of public officials is more interested in preserving their funding than the impact these cuts actually have on curbing child abuse. However, I have to believe that an ounce of prevention of child abuse is a worthwhile expenditure. I think the best way of going about preventing child abuse is to deal with the root causes, such as poverty, substance abuse and lack of education.
I have re-printed the group’s press release below:
Posted on May 11th, 2009 No comments
You have to love government bureaucracy. DHS announced a new policy limit the placement of DHS foster care children and youth (temporary court wards and MCI wards) in jail, correctional, or detention facilities, unless the placement is pursuant to a delinquency charge. Essentially, under the policy foster care wards or MCI wards are not to be placed in jail or secure detention, unless there is a delinquency petition filed. If a ward is jailed without a delinquency petition, they must be removed within 5 days. If it comes to the attention of law enforcement that a foster care or MCI ward is incarcerated, they are to notify the local DHS office, so the child can be removed.
The policy reads as follows:
Secure detention or jail is not to be used for neglect/abuse wards or MCI (Act 220 and Act 296) wards, unless a delinquency complaint or petition has been filed, and the judge has issued an order for detention.
If a foster care child is placed in jail or a detention center without a delinquency charge and signed court order, the foster care worker will move the child to a foster care placement as soon as practical but in all cases within five days, unless the court orders otherwise over the foster care worker’s objection.
If a foster care child is placed in jail or a detention center with a delinquency charge and the court disposition is an order to return the child to foster care, the foster care worker will move the child to a foster care placement as soon as practical but in all cases within five days, unless the court orders otherwise over the foster care worker’s objection.
One would think it would not be necessary to create a policy that states foster care children should not be placed in jail or prison, but here you go. This policy is the result of the consent decree in Dwayne B. v. Granholm et al.