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ABA Child Law Practice

Vol. 31 No. 3 March 2012 CLP Online:

Raising the bar
The Judge’s Role in Ensuring Quality Representation for Parents
by Elizabeth Thornton and Judge R. Michael Key

Y ou are a judge hearing child abuse and neglect cases. It is your outcomes for children and youth in
abuse and neglect cases.2 (See
morning calendar. You ask the clerk to call the first case—an Sidebar 1)
adjudication and disposition on a complicated case involving do- The American Bar Association,
mestic violence allegations. The agency has recommended placing through its Standards of Practice for
Attorneys Representing Parents in
the children in foster care and supervised visitation with the parents. Abuse and Neglect Cases (the “ABA
Parent Attorney Standards” or “Stan-
When the clerk calls the case, the are not sure how to change the status dards”) and the National Council for
court-appointed attorney for the moth- quo. Juvenile and Family Court Judges
er steps into the hallway and yells, “Is This article explores questions that through its Resource Guidelines: Im-
Mrs. Smith here?” Two minutes later may arise as you explore your role in proving Court Practice in Child Abuse
all counsel are present and Mrs. Smith improving parent representation in & Neglect Cases, emphasize the role
is seated at counsel table with her at- your jurisdiction. child welfare judges play in ensuring
torney. Mrs. Smith’s attorney informs parents in abuse and neglect cases re-
the court that his client agrees to the Why should judges be concerned ceive high-quality representation.
petition allegations and agency recom- with the quality of representation The Resource Guidelines call on
mendations. You can see Mrs. Smith parents receive? judges to take “active steps to ensure
trying to whisper something in his ear. As a judge hearing child welfare that the parties in child abuse and ne-
He shushes her and the case proceeds cases, you should be concerned with glect cases have access to competent
by stipulation. the quality of representation parents representation,” noting that “[e]ach
As Mrs. Smith and her attorney appearing before you receive. Attor- (Continued on p. 39)
leave the courtroom you hear her ask, neys present information to you, the
“So, what just happened?” The attor- judge, through argument, and direct What’s Inside:
ney rushes back in for another case. and cross-examination of witnesses. 35 CASE LAW UPDATE
You have noticed this attorney To make well-informed decisions you
seldom recognizes his clients. You must receive complete and accurate in- 43 IN THE FIELD
sense he does not take time to meet formation. You cannot get a complete Charting New Territory:
his clients before hearings as he often and accurate picture of the families Bringing Trial Skills Training
seems confused and frustrated after appearing before you if a party lacks to the Gila River Indian
hearings. You wonder if your decisions competent representation.1 Community
would change if you had a better pic- Quality legal representation for 46 RESEARCH IN BRIEF
ture of the families appearing before parents supports good decision mak- Family Drug Court Helps
you. Would case outcomes differ if ing. It upholds confidence in the ju- Families Reunify, Saves
the parents’ attorney helped parents dicial system and basic values of due Money
engage in appropriate services? You process. Additionally, research shows New Study Tracks Serious
want the parents appearing before you that providing parents with quality Physical Abuse among
to have quality representation, but you legal representation leads to improved Hospitalized Children

33 Vol. 31 No. 3
CLP Online —www.childlawpractice.orgInternet:
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First Annual Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change
ABA Child Law PRACTICE The Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change, created by the ABA Center on Children and the Law in 2011 with
ABA Child Law Practice (CLP) approval from the ABA Board of Governors, honors the work of Mark Har-
provides lawyers, judges and other pro- din. Before his retirement, Mark served for almost 30 years on the staff of
fessionals current information to en- the ABA Center on Children and the Law as director of child welfare. Mark
hance their knowledge and skills, and has long been recognized by those who work in this area of law as an early
improve the decisions they make on innovator in the child welfare legal field.
behalf of children and families. Topics
include: abuse and neglect, adoption,
foster care, termination of parental Eligibility
rights, juvenile justice, and tort ac- Nominee must be a practicing or retired attorney, current or retired law
tions involving children and families. professor, a sitting or retired judge, or a current or former federal or state
legislator. The award is given based on an individual’s personal achieve-
CLP is published monthly by the ABA
ment and commitment. It is not given to groups of people, organizations,
Center on Children and the Law, a
or posthumously. Nominees must have a record of significant accomplish-
program of the ABA’s Young Lawyers
Division, 740 15th St., NW, 9th Fl., ments in legal scholoraship and/or systems change
Washington, DC 20005-1022.
Director: Howard Davidson The nominee should embody Mark’s leadership style, characterized by hu-
mility, a “willingness to serve,” and a deep driving compassion for children
CLP Staff: and families. Mark was a mentor to many, a willing collaborator, and great
Editor & Designer: influencer of change. He kept focused on the end results he sought and con-
Claire Chiamulera, 202/662-1724 tinually pushed his colleagues, in his understated manner, towards reaching these results. He remained steadfast to effecting positive change for children
Publications/Marketing Director: and families over his long career. The winning nominee will be someone
Sally Small Inada, 202/662-1739 who shares many of these qualities.
Case Law Summaries: Nomination Process
Scott Trowbridge A nomination packet must be submitted by March 30, 2012 and should
Subscriptions: include:
• $99 individual rate (payable by ■■ Nomination Form

personal check only) ■■ Nomination letter explaining the qualifications of the nominee and the
• $169 institutional, agency, library, reasons why the nominee should receive this award. The letter must in-
and law firm subscribers clude a description of the nominee’s legal work on the behalf of families
Subscribe online: and children, and their employment and professional history.
Send check or money order, made payable to the:
American Bar Association, 740 15th Street, ■■ Up to three letters of recommendation may be included.
NW, Washington, DC 20005-1022 Nomination letters, and letters of recommendation, should explain how the
Subscription Inquiries & nominee reflects the qualities and values (such as humility, willingness to
Address Changes: mentor others, ability to collaborate to effect change, etc.) that Mark repre-
Call: Charles Teague, 202/662-1513 sents.
Nominations due March 30, 2012. The award will be presented during the
Copyright © 2012 American Bar annual National Child Welfare Court Improvement meeting in Washington,
Association, ISSN 2161-0649 DC, June 27-29, 2012.
The views expressed herein have not been ap-
proved by the House of Delegates or the Board More information:
of Governors of the American Bar welfareaward.html
Association, and accordingly, should not be con-
strued as representing the policy of the American
Bar Association.

34 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
Case Law Update
Removal of Child from Relatives’ Home Due to Undocumented Immigration Status Overturned
In re M.R., 2012 WL 360593 (Wash. Ct. App.).
The Washington Court of Appeals partly on the caseworker’s impression that from the grandparents’ home at the review
overturned an order removing a child there was a strong bond between the child hearing due to the questions about their
from her grandparents’ home because and her grandparents. In addition, he de- immigration status. The mother appealed.
of allegations that they were undocu- scribed the many other relatives who often The Washington Court of Appeals re-
mented immigrants. Given the many visited the home and were positive for the versed. Although courts should endeavor
years the grandparents had lived in the child. to keep children from unstable place-
U.S., the trial court’s concerns about The caseworker also described threats ments, undocumented status alone is not
the possible instability of the placement that the maternal relatives made regarding sufficient to justify when the child has a
were not strong enough to warrant the contacting immigration authorities if the strong bond to a caregiver, a sibling in the
child’s removal given the strong bonds child was placed with the paternal grand- area, and has adjusted to daycare.
to her family. parents. The mother noted that, though In making a placement decision, a
she knew about the maternal relative’s trial court should evaluate several fac-
A four-year-old child came to the desire for custody, she supported the child tors, including the child’s attachment to
attention of the child welfare agency remaining with the father’s family. siblings and caregivers and the poten-
because her mother was homeless, using At a review hearing several months tial harm to the child if the placement
methamphetamines, and may have en- later, the agency and mother continued changes. While the risk of the placement
gaged in prostitution in front of the child. to recommend placement with the pater- changing is a factor that should be con-
The child’s father was unavailable to nal grandparents. At this stage, the sidered by the courts, immigration status
parent because he had been deported due guardian ad litem (GAL), joined the is not a reliable indicator of whether a
to criminal activity. After an investiga- recommendation. person will be deported. As the trial court
tion and background check, the child was The agency noted that it did not de- itself observed, “frequently people are in
placed with her paternal grandparents, termine immigration status, the investiga- the United States illegally for a very long
where she lived for four-to-five months. tions revealed the paternal grandparents time and never draw the attention of the
At the preliminary hearing, the agen- had been in the U.S. for 18 years, owned authorities…”
cy recommended the child remain with their own home, and had owned their own Since the decision to remove the child
the grandparents with a goal of return business for three years. from the paternal grandparents was based
home and a dual goal of adoption. Despite the agreement of the parties, on an untenable ground, the order was re-
The recommendation was based the court ordered the child be removed versed and the case remanded.
Children Not Dependent Due to Mother’s Cognitive Limitations
In re N.E.F.-J., 2011 WL 6076176 (Or. Ct. App.).
The Oregon Court of Appeals over- apply what she had learned, but had lim- help her with any questions or problems.
turned a juvenile’s court’s depen- ited ability to respond to new situations. The juvenile court found that the
dency order because the record did Due to her limitations, she at times had children were dependent because the
not reflect a serious threat of harm. placed the children at risk. For example, mother had cognitive limitations that im-
Though it was not disputed that the mother continued to treat her child paired her ability to parent, establishing
mother had cognitive limitations that as a baby when he was more than a year a current threat of serious loss or injury.
posed potential safety risks, she lived old, giving him a bottle, despite his cues The mother appealed.
with a supportive couple, and nothing that was not what he wanted. She also The Oregon Court of Appeals
in statute or case law required her to let him wander to potentially harmful reversed.
parent independently. places. The worker concluded the moth- The court found the mother cor-
er could not parent the children herself. rectly argued that the agency had to
The child welfare agency sought The mother did not attempt to con- prove the child was facing a current seri-
custody of mother’s two children after tradict the worker’s testimony. Rather, ous threat of harm. Nothing in statute or
one was surrendered by an aunt that was she argued that she could parent the case law required the mother to parent
caring for him due to the mother’s cog- children safely with the assistance of a independently. Because the family friend
nitive limitations. The younger child had family friend who she had lived with for stated the mother was free to remain in
been living with the mother. two months. The family friend testified their home indefinitely, there was no
At the adjudication hearing, the noting that the mother had been given reason to believe this supportive envi-
agency worker noted that the mother had primary parenting responsibility but that ronment was in peril. Thus, the juvenile
learned some parenting skills and could she and her husband were available to court’s jurisdiction order was reversed.
35 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
CASE LAW UPDATE continued Research performed on Westlaw compliments of West Group.

STATE CASES In re M.B., 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d 45 (Ct. App. injurious to a child requires showing more
Alabama 2011). DEPENDENCY, JURISDICTION than one accident.
L.M. v. Shelby County Dep’t of Human After mother repeatedly cursed, tied up
phone lines with calls and hang ups, and Massachusetts
Res., 2011 WL 6117941 (Ala. Civ. App.).
threatened agency caseworker and other In re Meaghan., 2012 WL 247851
staff, juvenile court had authority to issue (Mass.). TERMINATION OF PARENTAL
injunction prohibiting the mother from RIGHTS, REPRESENTATION
Juvenile court erred in terminating paren-
contacting caseworker except through her Trial court was correct in holding that
tal rights where the mother had continued
attorney or in writing. Although this type where the child’s legal guardians peti-
to abuse substances but the father had
of injunction was not listed in the child tioned for adoption, effectively terminat-
remained drug free and complied with his
welfare statute, it fell within the juvenile ing father’s parental rights, the indigent
case plan. Although a parent’s rights may
court’s limited jurisdiction as it reasonably father had a right to an appointed attorney.
be terminated for failing to end a relation-
supported protecting the child. Though statute provided for representation
ship that poses a risk to their children,
in cases brought by the public child wel-
that risk must be shown. Nothing in
Tracy J. v. Superior Court, 2012 WL fare agency, father’s constitutional right to
the record showed the father could not
234030 (Cal. Ct. App.). DEPENDENCY, parent was similarly at risk in case brought
protect the children when the mother was
REASONABLE EFFORTS by private parties.
under the influence. Further, the father
had never been told his involvement with Where parents had limited intellectual
functioning and mother had physical
the mother was prohibited. In re J.J.P., 2012 WL 171407 (Minn. Ct.
difficulties including obesity and short
Alaska arms that made it difficult for her to
Martha S. v. Dep’t of Health & Social perform some parenting tasks such as
District court erred in denying petition
Servs., 2012 WL 104471 (Alaska). diaper changing, agency failed to make
for expungement of juvenile records from
DEPENDENCY, FINDINGS reasonable efforts by providing infrequent
executive agency’s files after expunging
Trial court properly removed children on visitation. Despite the parents’ limited
its own records. Court’s concern about
the ground that their father had a mental intellectual functioning, they fully coop-
separation of powers issues lacked merit
illness that put his children at a substan- erated with services. According to one
since the legislature crafted a statute that
tial risk of harm. Father’s personality caseworker, in a year of supervised visits
allowed expungement without limiting it
disorder led him to threaten and try to with positive reports by those supervising,
to only judicial records. If the legislature
kill professionals who were respond- the parents still had only one supervised
had sought to impose such a limit, it could
ing to abuse allegations. Contrary to the visit a week.
have done so.
father’s claim that his personality disorder
diagnosis was not a mental illness, the District of Columbia
In re J.R., 33 A.3d 397 (D.C. 2011).
dependency ground encompasses a broad Cooley v. State, 76 So. 3d 210 (Miss. Ct.
range including mental illness, serious DEPENDENCY, JURISDICTION
App. 2011). ABUSE, HEARSAY
emotional disturbance or mental deficien- District of Columbia trial court properly
Child’s statements made to school nurse,
cy, and expert testimony indicated it was exercised jurisdiction over child under the
including his identification of mother’s
a mental illness. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and
boyfriend as the perpetrator, was admis-
Enforcement Act where child’s mother had
sible in criminal child abuse proceeding.
California been in District foster care for a decade.
The statement qualified under the hearsay
In re Gabriel K., 2012 WL 335815 Though the mother had primarily been
exception for statements made for the pur-
(Cal. Ct. App.). DEPENDENCY, placed in foster homes in Maryland, and
poses of medical diagnosis or treatment.
REUNIFICATION the child was born there, jurisdiction by
The child’s identification of the perpe-
Trial court did not err in denying mother the District of Columbia court was proper
trator, a member of his household, was
further reunification services for two since the Maryland court declined jurisdic-
relevant to treatment that might include
siblings based on fact that services had tion, and the child had strong ties to the
prevention or psychological services.
been previously stopped for younger District.
child who had then been placed with his Missouri
father. Though statute only explicitly Illinois
State v. Green., 2012 WL 258677 (Mo. Ct.
states that reunification efforts can be In re A.P., 2012 WL 204161 (Ill. App. Ct.).
stopped where efforts with a sibling had DEPENDENCY, NEGLECT
Trial court properly admitted child’s
previously failed, to construe the statute Trial court’s dependency finding was im-
statement describing her abuse in criminal
such that reunification services could be proper where the only allegation was the
proceeding despite the lack of a finding
withheld for the older child but not the mother’s boyfriend allowed the child to be
of reliability by the court. Statement was
younger child who was the subject of the burned in the bathtub. There was no indi-
made to a professional trained in forensic
prior finding, would be absurd and would cation that the children had been neglected
interviewing, child’s statements to others
not meet legislative intent. or abused in the past and the boyfriend had
were consistent, and defendant’s objection
immediately sought medical attention after
was overruled. These factors implied that
the bathtub incident. A preponderance of
the court found the statements reliable.
the evidence that a home environment is

36 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
Call 202/662-1724 for a copy of any case reported here.

Montana PLACEMENT it does not require the parent to affirma-
In re J.W.C., 265 P.3d 1265 (Mont. Where children entered care due to tively request an attorney.
2011). TERMINATION OF PARENTAL domestic violence, trial court improperly
RIGHTS, ICWA changed case goal from reunification to Utah
In Indian Child Welfare Act case, where permanent legal custody with the grand- In re J.M.S., 2011 WL 6323022 (Utah).
mother had requested a transfer to tribal parents because the mother had sufficient- DELINQUENCY, GROUNDS
court, the state trial court erred in not ly complied with her plan and there was a In delinquency case, where youth paid
transferring the case. Although the tribe continuing strong bond between her and a stranger to punch her to terminate her
was on notice of the mother’s request to her children. Trial court’s concerns that pregnancy, action was not an abortion
transfer and did not affirmatively respond, mother’s new boyfriend posed a similar procedure under statute that indicates a
the ICWA Guidelines indicate that the risk were not supported by the evidence; woman can not be held criminally liable
state court should transfer absent good though he had a criminal record, it was for for having an abortion. Legislature clearly
cause, putting the burden on the tribal driving under the influence and disorderly intended ‘procedure’ to mean a medical
court to affirmatively decline jurisdiction. conduct, not domestic violence. procedure, thus trial court erred in dis-
missing the delinquency petition.
New Jersey In re P.S.S.C., 32 A.3d 1281 (Pa. Super.
Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. V.T., 32 Ct.). TERMINATION OF PARENTAL
A.3d 578 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.). Bagley v. Dep’t. of Social Servs., 2012 WL
In termination proceeding, trial court erred
Court erred in finding father’s use of mari- OF PARENTAL RIGHTS, RELATIVE
in finding father was incapable of assum-
juana and cocaine constituted a substantial PLACEMENT
ing parental duties or that he evidenced
risk of harm to his child in dependency ad- Trial court did not violate provision re-
a settled purpose of abandoning his child
judication where his uncontradicted testi- quiring consideration of relatives when it
where little attempt was made by agency
mony indicated he used drugs several days denied mother’s request to place the child
to translate documents or ensure there was
before the visit, was not intoxicated in his with the uncle’s girlfriend’s parents. Under
an interpreter where the father only spoke
child’s presence, and nothing caseworkers state statute and common law, a relative
Spanish. Due process required meaningful
described about his behavior during the is a person related by consanguinity, af-
communication with the father about his
visit showed any risk of harm. finity, or adoption and the relationship the
rights and responsibilities.
mother offered did not meet that criteria.
New York Tennessee
In re Jayden B., 91 A.D.3d 1344 (N.Y. In re Deandre C., 2012 WL 161845 Farrell v. Dep’t. of Social Servs., 719
App. Div. 2012). DEPENDENCY, (Tenn.). DEPENDENCY, S.E.2d 313 (Va. Ct. App. 2012).
Family court erred in dismissing neglect Evidence that mother abused one child so RIGHTS, SIBLINGS
petition against mother where she and her severely to render the child blind and un- Trial court properly found all siblings
partner engaged in violent altercations in able to walk justified finding that the child were abused or neglected during termi-
the presence of the children. Given the tes- was severely abused. The mere presence nation trial where one child had been
timony that the children were often afraid of the siblings in the home did not justify physically abused and malnourished given
of the mother and her girlfriend, that these the juvenile court’s finding that they were the prior removal history due to substance
fights were frequent and required police also victims of severe abuse. However, abuse and failure of services. A child need
intervention, petitioner showed by a pre- the trial court correctly found all siblings not suffer actual harm before dependency
ponderance of evidence that children were were dependent, as the remaining siblings finding and evidence shows a substantial
at risk for serious emotional harm. could be at risk of the same type of abuse risk of harm to the other siblings.
suffered by the injured child and, in fact,
In re Jyashia RR., 2012 WL 300720 (N.Y. the aggravated circumstances finding for FEDERAL CASES
App. Div.). TERMINATION OF PAREN- one child relieves the agency of further District Colorado
TAL RIGHTS, FAILURE TO IMPROVE reunification efforts. Schwartz v. Booker., 2011 WL 6055329
Trial court properly found father had (D. Colo.). LIABILITY, CHILD
failed to plan or provide for his children in Texas WELFARE AGENCIES
termination hearing. Father did not follow In re J.M., 2012 WL 335859 (Tex. Where child’s estate sued the Denver
through with recommended counseling, App.). TERMINATION OF PARENTAL County child welfare agency after a child
arrived late for visits, did not make him- RIGHTS, REPRESENTATION died due to abuse by foster parents, though
self available for additional visits when Where mother contested termination, and child had originally been placed there
the agency recommended increasing visits had been found indigent in a criminal by the Jefferson County agency, Denver
beyond one hour a week, and did not at- proceeding, trial court erred in failing to County had assumed the special relation-
tend school functions and meetings. appoint counsel, ask if she desired coun- ship with the foster parents. For qualified
sel, or give her the opportunity to know- immunity purposes, separate County agen-
Pennsylvania ingly waive her right. State statute requires cies are arms of the state government.
In re H.V., 2012 WL 258673 (Pa. Su- appointing counsel for an indigent parent
per. Ct.). DEPENDENCY, RELATIVE when the parent opposes termination, but

37 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
Sidebar 1: Parent Representation Programs that Improve Outcomes
Data from regional parent representation programs show that when parents receive quality legal representation, children
are less likely to enter foster care, and if they do enter foster care, they achieve permanency more quickly. The following
three parent representation programs have significantly improved permanency outcomes for the families they serve.
New York’s Center for Family mechanisms – such as guardianships, For example, a 2010 program case
Representation (CFR) is an inde- child custody or personal protection audit found a 39% increase in the
pendent nonprofit serving clients in orders, education and landlord-tenant rate of reunification.
Manhattan and the Bronx. It provides advocacy – to allow parents or their The most recent and comprehen-
clients with a multidisciplinary team family members to provide for their sive evaluation examined the pro-
of an attorney, social worker, and par- children without the need for gram’s earlier permanency impacts
ent advocate. CFR primarily repre- foster care or dependency court for over 12,000 children in foster care
sents clients after a petition to remove interventions. from 2004 to 2007. This evaluation
the child to foster care has been filed Since opening its doors in 2009, shows the OPD parent representation
by the child welfare agency, but rep- CFA has served approximately 50 program significantly increases the
resents some clients during the child families during the child protection rate at which children reach perma-
abuse investigation. investigation. In 100% of those cases, nency and shortens the time to perma-
Data tracked from 2007 show: the case closed with children residing nency for children in foster care for
■■ More than 50% of the children of with a permanent family outside of the all permanency outcomes.
parents represented by CFR never child welfare system. The CFA team ■■ There was an 11% increase in
entered foster care. helped prevent the need for foster care the rate of reunification in OPD
placement for 112 children in less than counties as compared to counties
■■ Where foster care could not be
two years. without OPD.
avoided, the project’s average
length of foster care was just 4.5 There was a 104% increase in the
Washington’s Office of Public ■■
months (with a median of 57 days) rate of adoption; and an 83% in-
Defense (OPD) Parent
compared a statewide average of crease in the rate of guardianship.
Representation Program is a state-
nearly two and a half years.
wide system of parent representation.
■■ Preliminary data indicates that The program serves a mix of urban, When researchers converted these
CFR has a re-entry rate of approx- rural, and suburban communities. rates into real time, the results were
imately 1%, which favorably com- It funds, trains, and supervises par- striking:
pares with a New York statewide ents’ attorneys throughout the state ■■ The 11% improvement in the rate
foster care re-entry rate of 15%. of Washington. Like CFR and CFA, of reunification translates into 27
■■ Over 1/3 of CFR’s cases (33%) OPD’s parents’ attorneys work with days or almost one month less
were dismissed against parents private social workers for the benefit time a child spends in foster care.
since 2007, often pursuant to a of their clients. OPD attorneys repre- ■■ The majority (68%) of children in
section of the child welfare statute sent clients after the filing of a petition the evaluation sample who attained
that permits a court to rule that the to remove a child to foster care. permanency reunified with parents.
family no longer needs services. The OPD parent representation
This is three times as many cases program has been evaluated several ■■ For those children and families
as were typically dismissed in times throughout its history. Evalu- who could not achieve reunifica-
Manhattan before CFR became ations have consistently found that tion, adoptions and guardianships
the primary institutional provider the program is succeeding in meeting in OPD counties were accelerated
for parents. its goals and has achieved better out- by approximately one year.
comes for children, including:
The Detroit Center for Family Excerpted from “Improved Outcomes
■■ increased family reunifications, for Families and Potential Cost-Savings
Advocacy (CFA) is an independent
■■ fewer reunification failures and Associated with Providing Parents with
nonprofit agency serving clients in an
case re-filings, High-Quality Legal Representation,”
urban area. CFA represents families
■■ reduced time to all permanency by Elizabeth Thornton and Betsy Gwin,
during the child protection investiga- available from the author (E-mail: eliza-
tion, and helps at-risk families access outcomes,
continuance reductions, See
legal tools to protect their children. ■■
original for citations.
The CFA team of a lawyer, social ■■ improved case participation by par-
worker, and parent advocate use legal ents, and better access to services.

38 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
(Continued from front page.)
Sidebar 2
party must be competently and dili-
gently represented in order for juvenile ABA Model Rules Support Judicial Oversight
and family courts to function effec- of Parent Representation
Similarly, the ABA Parent Attor- A review of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct reveals judges are not
ney Standards call on judges to recog- required to exert quality control to ensure parents receive effective court-
nize the importance of the parent at- appointed representation. However, it is within judges’ roles to do so.
torney’s role, with the knowledge that
“when competent attorneys advocate Rule 1.2, Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary, requires that “[a] judge
for parent clients, the judge’s job be- shall at all times act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the
comes easier.”4 The Standards outline independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid
steps judges should take to support impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” You may worry that this rule
quality parent representation and are limits your ability to set expectations for parent representation. However,
discussed below. commentary to this rule clarifies that judges should participate in activities
that promote access to justice for all.
How can judges ensure
parents receive high quality Rule 2.5, Competency, Diligence and Cooperation, requires judges to “per-
form judicial duties, competently and diligently.” Commentary to this rule
clarifies that judges should “monitor and supervise cases in ways that reduce
To ensure parents receive quality rep-
dilatory practices, avoidable delays, and unnecessary costs.” Holding parents’
resentation, you must first understand
attorneys accountable to clear and reasonable expectations reduces delays and
what quality parent representation
unnecessary costs.
looks like. The ABA Parent Attorney
Standards outline duties for parent at-
Washington State has successfully reduced the number of continuances and
torneys and give guidance about work-
court delays by focusing on improving parent representation. In 2000, Wash-
ing with clients, preparing for court,
ington piloted an enhanced parent representation program in two of its coun-
involvement with case planning, and
ties. Initial evaluation of the pilot found a significant reduction in the num-
post-hearing obligations.5
ber of days it took courts to hold shelter care, disposition, and permanency
In general, parent attorneys
hearings.1 More importantly, there was a significant increase in the number of
should: (1) empower clients to direct
children and families reunifying when parents received high-quality represen-
their representation; (2) spend time
tation. The program has since expanded to two-thirds of the state’s counties.
getting to know their clients and com-
municate and counsel them regularly;
Rule 2.9, Ex Parte Communication, prohibits judges from initiating, per-
(3) work with clients outside of the
mitting, or considering ex parte communications concerning a pending or
courtroom to help clients plan and
impending matter, except in limited circumstances. Requiring a high-level of
engage in services; (4) know the law
representation from parents’ attorneys does not implicate the ex parte com-
and prepare for court hearings; and (5)
munication rule. In reviewing or evaluating attorney performance, specifics of
regularly participate in relevant
pending cases should not be discussed.
1. Gemma, Carolyn. “Quality Representation of Parents Improves Outcomes of Families.” Child Court
A good parents’ attorney knows Works 6(1), 2003.
the case facts and relevant law, identi-
fies his client’s strengths, proposes that same government. navigate what often feels like a fright-
solutions to the court tailored to the ■■ How does that parent stay moti- ening, confusing, and unfair system.
client’s needs and, when necessary, vated to work her case plan? There are several things you can
effectively litigates to achieve his cli- do to ensure parents appearing before
■■ How can she look weeks or months
ent’s objectives. you receive quality representation.
down the road to getting her child
Equally, if not more important, a Some things you can do in your indi-
good parents’ attorney acts as a coun- vidual courtroom, at the “micro” level.
selor of the human spirit for his client. ■■ How can she trust this system
Others will be easier to accomplish by
Parents involved in the child welfare enough to partner with it in order to
working with your court system ad-
system typically find themselves succeed?
ministration at the “macro” level.
caught in a system where the state has Parents’ attorneys have the respon- Below are some concrete steps
acted to take away their child and ev- sibility to build trust with their clients that the ABA Parent Attorney Stan-
eryone in the court process is paid by and to help their clients successfully dards suggest to support quality parent

39 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
ments. Child welfare practice in-
Sidebar 3
volves a complicated and unique area
A Judge’s Expectations for Parents’ Attorneys of law. Parents’ attorneys have the
awesome responsibility of advising
Attorneys who do not meet these expectations will not receive appointments and advocating for clients who could
to represent parents in my courtroom. potentially permanently lose custody
of their children. Parents’ attorneys
■■ Treat your clients with dignity and respect. need to know the substantive law, be
■■ Know the law. competent trial advocates, have broad
■■ Communicate with and counsel your clients regularly, explain the legal knowledge of issues families involved
consequences of your clients’ actions or inactions, and help your clients in child welfare face, and be famil-
find and engage in appropriate services, if needed. iar with appropriate and accessible
■■ Work with your clients and opposing counsel to avoid litigation and re- The ABA Parent Attorney Stan-
solve conflict when doing so benefits your clients. dards recommend that parents’ attor-
■■ Competently litigate for your clients’ positions, when necessary. neys receive a minimum of 20 hours
■■ Understand and appreciate the magnitude of the decisions this court is of relevant training before they are
making about your clients’ lives and respect the responsibility you have in eligible to receive appointments and
impacting those decisions through your advocacy. a minimum of 15 hours of relevant
training each year thereafter. Setting
mandatory minimum training require-
representation in your courtroom. able to develop practice standards for ments is best accomplished through
parents’ attorneys, this is something your court administration. However,
Recognize the importance of the you still can accomplish in your you can require that attorneys receiv-
parent attorney’s role. This is one courtroom. Provide parent attorneys ing appointments from you meet a
of the easiest and most important seeking appointments from or appear- minimum training requirement. Let
things you can do. Be sure to show ing before you with standards you have attorneys know your training expecta-
respect for parents and their counsel. adopted for your courtroom. Require tions and ask them to certify that they
This sends the message that they are that attorneys agree to comply with the will complete the requisite training
integral to good decision making. This standards before they are eligible to be each year.
influences not just the hearings but appointed to represent parents in your If there are no relevant local train-
the tone of the entire child welfare courtroom. ing opportunities, you can often find
process. One parent advocate noted, if Establishing clear standards of quality child welfare-specific trainings
the judge treated every parent appear- practice for parents’ attorneys is di- through your state’s court improve-
ing before him as if that parent was rectly related to the first step described ment program.6 You can also work
the mayor’s wife, there would be a above. If you do not set reasonable with your local or state child welfare
great improvement in not just parent expectations for parents’ attorneys, agency to develop trainings for parent
representation and the expectations put you send a clear message that the par- attorneys. The child welfare agency
on attorneys, but on the child welfare ents’ attorney role is not important or can help fund these trainings with Ti-
system as a whole. respected. Other people in the child tle IV-E funds.7 National organizations
focused on child welfare practice are
Establish uniform standards of often an excellent resource for train-
representation for parents’ attor- ing curricula and materials.8
Ensure attorneys are well- Another way to ensure that par-
neys. Standards of practice put par-
ents’ attorneys on notice that a certain
trained by setting minimum ent attorneys are well trained is to
level of representation is expected and training requirements. institute a parent attorney mentoring
required for the attorney to continue program where more senior attorneys
to receive appointments. Establishing assist new or more junior parent attor-
standards of practice for parents’ attor- welfare process can see that and it neys. For example, in Massachusetts
neys is usually best done at the macro promotes a negative and counterpro- the Committee for Public Counsel
level – through state legislation, by ductive view of parents’ attorneys and, Services, which oversees all court-
your state’s administrative office of the ultimately, their clients. appointed child welfare attorneys, re-
courts, or through your jurisdiction’s quires parents’ attorneys to complete
court administration. Ensure attorneys are well-trained by substantive child welfare training and
If these larger systems are un- setting minimum training require- trial skills training. In addition,

40 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
attorneys who satisfactorily complete complete and accurate information on Is it appropriate for judges to
the trainings and are eligible to be the parent’s progress to present to the hold parent attorneys account-
appointed to represent parents must court.
able for quality representation?
also work with a mentor attorney Parents may not know what to expect
for at least 18 months. The mentor Ensure parents’ attorneys are
of their attorneys. If they are not happy
attorney advises the newer attorney fairly and timely compensated
with their attorneys they might not
on cases, observes trial skills, and and carry reasonable caseloads.
know if they can get new ones or how
recommends if the attorney is ready An unfair wage or overwhelmingly
to do so. They might be scared to say
to work independently.9 While an large caseload can negatively impact
they are not happy with their represen-
attorney mentor program is more parent representation quality. Parent
tation. As a practical matter, if judges
easily established at the macro level, attorneys should receive compensation
do not hold parent attorneys account-
you can work with senior and well- that is competitive with the salary of
able for quality representation, who
qualified parent attorneys in your government attorneys and other court-
courtroom to establish a similar appointed attorneys. The ABA Parent
Parents typically do not have the
program for new attorneys seeking Attorney Standards recommend that
ability to select, hire or discharge the
court-appointments from you. parent attorney caseloads not exceed
attorney representing them. They are
Finally, you can be an effective left with little power to influence the
trainer in your courtroom everyday by quality of representation. From where
demonstrating your knowledge and Recognize parent attorneys
the parents sit, their attorneys likely
understanding of the law as applied who are doing their job well, know and are on friendly terms with
in each case. It is also helpful for you even if it is just a few words of the caseworkers, agency attorney, and
to participate in legal trainings to see judge – all of whom seem to have in-
firsthand what parents’ attorneys are
credible power over the parents’ lives.
learning or to participate as a It is up to the judge to not only level
presenter. 100 clients per full-time attorney.
the playing field, but to ensure the ap-
. As a judge, you are in a leadership
pearance of a level playing field.
Appoint counsel when a case first role in your court. In many jurisdic-
Many judges are uncomfortable
comes to court, or before the first tions, the court administration sets
getting involved in evaluating attor-
hearing. Parents are at a clear disad- attorney fees. Make recommendations
neys. The image of a judge is of an
vantage if they do not have counsel to your court administration about rea-
impartial arbiter, detached and objec-
for the duration of their child welfare sonable caseloads and compensation.
tive. Setting standards for parents’
case. It is essential that appointments Know what the government attorneys
attorneys and requiring that they meet
are made in the first instance because and children’s attorneys are paid and
those standards may feel uncomfort-
of the stringent timelines for parents advocate for parent attorneys to re-
able or outside your role as a neutral
to reunify with their children. You can ceive a competitive wage.
fact finder. However, the ABA Model
accomplish this in your courtroom. In- Code of Judicial Conduct reveals there
form parents of their right to counsel. Hold parents’ attorneys accountable.
are no rules prohibiting judges from
Make appointments at the first calling Once you have let attorneys know your
involving themselves in questions of
of every case, or work out a system expectations, put a system in place to
representation in this manner. Several
with your local child welfare agency hold them accountable. Recognize par-
rules actually support this sort of judi-
to make sure that indigency screenings ent attorneys who are doing their job
cial oversight (see Sidebar 2).
and referrals for attorneys are made well, even if it is just a few words of
before the first calling of the case in thanks. Develop a transparent process
Does judicial oversight of parent
court. for determining when a parent attorney
representation quality create a
It is also important that the same is not meeting the Standards and what
conflict of interest for the parents’
attorney represent the parent for the steps can be taken to remediate the
attorneys appearing before you?
entire case. Perhaps more than in any situation. Make it clear that attorneys
Sometimes parents’ attorneys worry or
other area of the law, the role the par- who do not provide quality representa-
argue that judicial oversight of parent
ent attorney plays on behalf of her tion will no longer receive appoint-
representation creates a “conflict of
client outside the courtroom is as ments from you. Since many judges
interest” for the attorney. The parent
important as the role she plays inside struggle in this area, the remainder of
is the client and should be directing
the courtroom. She can encourage her the article discusses the practical and
the representation. The person evalu-
client to work on her case plan, hold ethical limits of holding attorneys ac-
ating the attorney’s performance and
the agency accountable under the case countable for good practice.
making sure that the attorney has a
plan, help identify services, and gather future pay check (i.e., continues to get
41 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
appointments) is the judge. This is not as a whole for quality representation Judge R. Michael Key has served on
a conflict of interest under the ABA rather than focusing on a single at- the juvenile court bench in Troup
Model Rules of Professional Conduct, torney. This avoids the appearance of County, Georgia, since 1989, and is
which define “conflict of interest” spe- singling out one attorney over others. a partner in the law firm of Key &
cifically as a conflict between clients. You can spell out minimum standards Gordy, P.C. He is a former president of
That said, the concerns are valid. of representation in the parent attor- the National Council for Juvenile and
A recent evaluation of the court- ney’s contract to receive appointments. Family Court Judges.
appointed representation in child However, that does not absolve you,
protection proceedings in Texas found the judge, of the responsibility to run Endnotes
that “attorneys may be discouraged your courtroom on a day-to-day basis
National Council of Juvenile and Family
Court Judges (NCJFCJ). Resource Guidelines:
from taking an adversarial trial ap- in a way that ensures competent
Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and
proach because of certain judges’ at- representation. Neglect Cases, 1995, 22.
titudes” and that “some attorneys feel Ultimately, if a court-appointed 2
See e.g., Courtney, Mark. Jennifer Hook
that, in order to continue receiving ap- parents’ attorney appearing before you and Matt Orme. Evaluation of the Impact
pointments, they must conform to the is not providing competent representa- of Enhanced Parental Legal Representation
judges’ wishes.”10 The evaluation not- tion to his clients you should correct on the Timing of Permanency Outcomes
ed that this tied in with “some judges’ the situation. That could mean sitting for Children in Foster Care, 2011. <http://
views that normal trial procedures and down with the attorney and explaining
advocacy skills have no place in a CPS your expectations, or it could mean
case.”11 no longer providing that attorney with
NCJFCJ. Resource Guidelines: Improving
Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect
To protect against this sort of out- court appointments. Cases, 1995, 22.
come it is important to: (1) be aware 4
American Bar Association. Standards of
of this issue; (2) create a culture of Conclusion Practice for Attorneys Representing Parents
quality representation in your court Judges can take several steps to ensure in Abuse and Neglect Cases, 2006, 38. <http://
and remind yourself that you want par- parents receive quality representation.
ents’ attorneys who act like attorneys In reality, it is difficult for judges to administrative/child_law/repstandwhole.
—this might make your job harder mange and monitor attorney perfor- authcheckdam.pdf>
when you have to preside over a con- mance and poor quality representation 5
Laver, Mimi. “A Cut Above: What Makes
tested hearing, but ultimately having for parents persists in many places. a Parent Attorney Great.” ABA Child
Law Practice 27(4), 2008, 62. <www.
information from all parties will make While you are not obligated to en->
your decision making better; and (3) sure the parents appearing before you 6
A summary of court improvement program
make sure that your expectations for receive quality representation, doing activities for each state is available at http://
attorneys and the consequences of not so promotes fairness, gives you confi-
meeting them are clear and that any dence that your decisions are based on 7
42 U.S.C. 474(a)(3)(B).
evaluation process is transparent (see all relevant information, and ultimate- 8
The ABA National Project to Improve
Sidebar 3). ly improves the lives of the children Representation for Parents Involved in the
Whether parent attorneys are and parents appearing before you. Child Welfare System frequently provides
web-based parent attorney trainings and
full-time attorneys contracted with Through your actions and inac-
training materials are available at: http://
the county or state, or attorneys in tions, you influence the level of advo-
private practice paid on a case-by-case cacy in your courtroom. You should projects_initiatives/parentrepresentation/
basis, within certain bounds, you can create a courtroom culture where par- parentrepresentation_trainingmaterials.html
and should ensure that only attorneys ent attorneys are encouraged to zeal- 9
ABA Center on Children and the Law.
that meet the minimum standards can ously represent their clients at every “Summary of Parent Representation Model.”
serve and be compensated by the state. stage of the proceeding, to stand their <
It may be easier, and perhaps more ground, and to never abdicate their publications/center_on_children_and_the_law/
appropriate ethically, to have court- responsibility to advocate for their cli- model.authcheckdam.pdf>
appointed parents’ attorneys in your ents – not to the child welfare agency 10
Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial
county to be selected and approved by and not even to you, the judge. Commission For Children, Youth & Families.
an independent panel (e.g., the court Legal Representation Study: Assessment of
administrator and another person with Appointed Representation in Texas Child-
knowledge of the standards for parent Elizabeth Thornton, JD, is an attorney Protection Proceedings, 2011, 39.
representation, such as the director of at the ABA Center on Children and the 11
the Court Improvement Project). Law. Her work at the Center includes
You can improve practice by a focus on improving representation
pushing the group of parent attorneys for parents.

42 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
In the Field
Charting New Territory
Bringing Trial Skills Training to the Gila River Indian Community
by Claire Chiamulera

T ucked in the desert 20 miles south of Phoenix, Arizona sits the
Gila River Indian Community, home to members of the Pima
and Maricopa tribes. Among its seven districts, Sacaton serves as
Q&AHow did you prepare?
We researched Arizona’s
child welfare law since some
of the attorneys were practicing in
the community’s unofficial capital. Here sits the community’s tribal state court and tribal court. But we
court, a beautiful modern structure with a southwestern also had to focus on some different
laws, including federal laws such as
design. the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
The ABA Child Welfare Trial There is a growing recognition of the and the Gila River Indian Commu-
Skills project team met here on a importance of protecting heritage and nity’s tribal code.
December morning to do something culture in child welfare cases involv- We always try to be culturally sen-
they’d never done before. The project ing Native American children and sitive, but it was much more important
has delivered child welfare trial skills families. Model courts are reaching in this situation. I had the federal law
training to states throughout the coun- out more to tribes. There is now a background but I really hadn’t looked
try for 19 years. The training sharpens at the cultural competence side. As
part of trial skills, we send a checklist
trial skills of child welfare attorneys [This training] represents part
through an intensive one-day session. before a training asking about the ju-
of the growing effort to rec- risdiction’s laws, standard child wel-
For the first time, the project would
train legal professionals who practice ognize heritage and culture in fare practices, common acronyms, and
in a tribal court on an Indian reserva- tribal child welfare cases. any unique issues. This checklist was a
tion. useful information-gathering tool.
CLP spoke with Anne Marie We were fortunate to partner with
Lancour, JD, state projects director at federal Resource Center focused on NCJFC, who assigned a staff person to
the ABA Center on Children and the tribes, and federal laws and programs this model court. She had experience
Law. Lancour, who directs the ABA’s have expanded protections in these working with Native American com-
trial skills training, shared the unique cases. We thought it would be a good munities and she provided background
preparations, highlights, and lessons opportunity for the trial skills project on Indian culture generally and spe-
learned. to expand what we normally do in cific to this tribal community.
state child welfare courts. It represents I also researched various Indian
tribes and even studied what you do
Q&A What prompted your
work with the Gila
part of the growing effort to recognize
heritage and culture in tribal child when you go to a different country.
That’s essentially what you’re doing
welfare cases.
River Indian when you’re going to an Indian com-
Q&A Who
munity. You’re on sovereign land. It’s
attended and what
The ABA provides trial skills training a foreign nation and you have to be
to model court jurisdictions as part of was their experience respectful when you go to a different
a contract with the National Council level? culture. That’s not to say we’re not
of Juvenile and Family Court Judges The chief judge of the Gila River respectful when we go to a state, but
(NCJFCJ). The Gila River Indian Indian Community and four judges since this was the first time training in
Community is a model court jurisdic- from Indian communities outside Gila an Indian community, we wanted to be
tion. The NCJFCJ asked if we could River attended. We also had attorneys sure we were culturally sensitive.
deliver trial skills as part of the agree- who represent children in tribal and
state court, prosecutors who represent
ment we had with them.
the child welfare agency’s interests,
and parent attorneys. It was a highly
Q&A Did the training change
as a result of your
Q&A Talk about the signifi-
cance of bringing the
experienced group; one judge had 34
years experience and most of the at-
A lot of what we do with trial skills is
training to an Indian torneys had considerable child welfare fast-paced. We had to change things up
community. trial experience. and scale back. We took out some trial

43 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
amongst themselves and come up with
Trial Skills for Child Welfare Attorneys an answer. They got it right after talk-
ing it through and it was much more
Trial Skills for Child Welfare Attorneys is the ABA Center on Children and
powerful than if we had given them
the Law’s flagship trial skills training program. For 19 years, this one-day
the answer.
session has offered specialized, targeted training to child welfare attorneys
throughout the country.
Who should attend: child welfare agency attorneys, children’s attorneys, Q&A Were there unique
practices within the
parent attorneys, and caseworkers who testify in court Indian community that
Training highlights: you accommodated?
■■ Learn strategies in dependency cases to help children achieve permanency I researched protocols when you go
quickly. to an Indian community. You ask for
■■ Strengthen your ability to organize large caseloads and prepare for trial. permission to be on sovereign land.
■■ Expand your knowledge of the rules of evidence. You give small gifts as an acknowledg-
■■ Improve your skills in examining and cross-examining witnesses in court. ment that you’re going to a different
■■ Gain practical experience working through child welfare court case culture and environment. You ask to
scenarios with personalized feedback. be welcomed and ask for permission.
We started the training by asking for
Format: lectures, demonstrations, and mock trial exercises permission to be on the land. Next an
Special features: elder give a blessing and welcomed us.
■■ Each program is specially adapted for local practice and state law. We then presented modest gifts as a
■■ Participants receive continuing legal education credits. sign of respect and appreciation.
■■ Participants get a trial notebook to help organize and prepare for their We reoriented our trial court ex-
next case. ercises so they took place in tribal
■■ Trainers are experienced child welfare attorneys. court and applied the Gila River Indian
Community’s code, law, and rules.
Learn more: Their practices are slightly different,
To learn about trial skills training opportunities in your state, contact Anne but the tribal code mirrored many state
Marie Lancour, child welfare protections by focusing
on permanency and safety. The level of
exercises so we would have enough can change things up and still have a proof needed to prove some elements
time for in-depth conversations and productive and meaningful training. of the case differed too so we had to
observations. tailor some case facts. On the whole, it

Q&A Can
The biggest shift in focus was you give an exam- wasn’t that different from many states
recognizing that getting the “right” we’ve been in because the tribal code
ple of how this shift in
answer and encouraging the partici- mirrored state laws.
focus and emphasis on Native communities tend not ter-
pants to get what we would consider
relationship building played out? minate parental rights because of the
the legally correct answer was not as
We had several practitioners who prac- belief that children and families are
important as the actual process. We
ticed in tribal and state court. A ques- part of the community. They favor
didn’t necessarily have to be the expert
tion came up about applying ICWA guardianship, so we changed a case
in getting to the answer. It was more
to whether the child’s parental rights scenario so it would go from a shelter
the process of working together and
should be terminated. We had two care or removal proceeding through a
garnering a philosophical agreement.
trainers who regularly do ICWA train- guardianship proceeding rather than a
It involved more engagement than we
ing, in addition to me. We all knew termination of parental rights
usually do for trial skills but it was
what we’d give as a federally appro- proceeding.
priate ICWA answer. My co-trainers
Q&A Were
We also had to focus more on
were ready to jump in with an answer the participants
relationship and trust building. This
usually comes to us in a different way.
that legally would have been correct receptive and open to
about balancing the jurisdictional learning?
We always build trust when we go into
questions between ICWA and state Some participants were reserved in the
a state, but this definitely took some
law. However, it was more important morning when we do a mix of lecture,
time and patience. It helped me realize
to let the community members realize discussion, and demonstration. Some
I don’t always have to do things the
we trusted them to know their state people took a little while to win over.
way we’ve done them for 19 years. We
and federal law so that they could talk When we got to the afternoon though,
44 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
everyone had come along and fully knowledge within their commu- realize is important. It’s important
participated in the exercises. By recog- nity. They are the experts and are to recognize where children come
nizing their culture, learning what we the greatest resource of help for from and the importance of culture
needed to do, and acknowledging our the children and families in their and values. Children are usually
way wasn’t the only way, they came community. better off if they can stay with
around and bought into the training. 2. It’s good to come together as a their culture and families in their
group to share ideas and issues communities rather than be placed

Q&A What value came from that you’ve wondered about or in foster care or institutions.
involving the judges?
Q&A Any
haven’t been sure how to handle. advice for
Whenever you bring people It’s good to pause and take time
practitioners based on
together for training like this you to go to training to sharpen your
always learn from each other. By hav- skills and get reinvigorated to go this experience?
back and do what you have to do For practitioners, it’s hard some-
ing five judges attend this training, the
every day when you are at your times, we get very bogged down in
attorneys were able to hear what their
desk or going to court. the day-to-day routine and we forget
judges want to hear in these kinds of
the importance of culture in the big-
hearings. It’s always helpful for prac- 3. The balance between tribal gest sense. I learned that that culture
titioners to learn what the judges want codes and states’ child welfare is important in the Gila River Indian
to hear. laws is not that different. We Community, but also that culture is
The judges participated as attor- all have fundamental interests in important to everyone. We need to
neys in the trial court exercises. By keeping families whole and help- make sure we’re recognizing people’s
seeing judges involved, the attorneys ing children in the community. culture and heritage and how it im-
were more willing to do so them- Their beliefs in keeping family to- pacts children.
selves. In the early days, we thought gether and trying to support fami-
involving judges might have a chilling lies and the Indian heritage and
effect on the attorneys. We’ve realized CLP Editor Claire Chiamulera
community are actually what the
that having judges be active partici- conducted and wrote this interview.
rest of the country is beginning to
pants leads to a better training because
the attorneys see judges as part of the
team and realize they can benefit from Practice Essentials
training as well.
Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Futures:
Q&A Iswould
there anything you
do differently in
A Judge’s Guide
Research on early brain development highlights
future trainings? how crucial the early years are in the development
I would involve the team more in of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. This very
the prep work and help get them up young population is especially vulnerable to the
to speed on the culture and what we effects of abuse and neglect that set the stage for
needed to do. I did a lot of research their long-term health outcomes.
but should have shared that with the
team more and brought them along. Produced with the National Council of Juvenile
There were times when team members and Family Court Judges and the Zero to Three
were ready to jump in with an answer National Policy Center, this guide for judges addresses the wide array of
because that’s how we usually oper- health needs of very young children in the child welfare system. By shar-
ate. With this training, the process was ing current research on physical health, child development, attachment,
more important. It was more important infant mental health, and early care and education, the authors provide tools
for participants to share with each and strategies to help judges promote better outcomes for babies, tod-
other and arrive at an answer than for dlers, and preschoolers who enter their courtrooms. Order online: http://
us to give them the right answer.

Q&A What three things do
you hope participants
For more resources on representing infants and very young children:
took home from the adolescent_health/child_health.html
1. There is a great wealth of

45 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
Research in Brief

Family Drug Court Helps Families Reunify, Saves Money
A new study adds to the growing
body of research showing family
drug courts improve treatment out-
Time to achieve permanency
explained by longer time in treat-
Time in treatment ■■ FRP cases resulted in signifi-
comes for parents and promote family ■■
cantly more reunifications than
reunification. The study also found the ■■ Treatment modalities comparison group cases (70% vs.
courts save money in the long run. ■■ Treatment completion 45%).
The researchers tracked families
involved in the Baltimore City Fam- The FRP saved money.
The cost-savings of the FRP ■■ FRP cases cost less to the child
ily Recovery Program (FRP) in Bal-
program were determined by analyz- welfare system than other child
timore, Maryland. The FRP began
ing costs of the program itself (drug welfare cases since families used
in 2005 and serves families involved
court staff, operating costs, treatment less foster care and were more
in the child welfare system due to
costs, wraparound services, etc.) com-
parental substance abuse. It helps par-
ents achieve sobriety through regular
judicial monitoring, team support, The study reaffirms the benefits of family drug courts for families
comprehensive case management, and the child welfare system.
and prompt access to substance abuse
pared to costs of non-FRP cases. The likely to reunify.
researchers also factored in avoided
The Study costs, such as costs associated with
■■ The FRP was estimated to
The study followed 400 child wel- produce a cost savings of $5,478
long-term foster care/guardianship
fare cases. Half of the cases involved per family (cost savings are partly
and adoption subsidies.
parents referred to the FRP. The other attributed to future realized cost
half comprised a comparison group savings).
of child welfare-involved families not
The study showed positive results in ■■ The FRP creates “opportunity
referred to the FRP. The comparison resources” by freeing money in
three areas:
group was matched to the demograph- one area that can be used in another
ic characteristics of the parents in the (e.g., reducing time in care results
FRP group based on gender, race/eth- Treatment outcomes improved.
■■ FRP parents entered treatment in an opportunity for a foster care
nicity, allegation, and age of youngest placement to be filled by another
child on the petition. sooner than those not in the pro-
gram (57 days vs. 88 days after the child).
The FRP sample included all cases
admitted to the FRP program within petition date). The study reaffirms the benefits
six months of the date of the shelter ■■ FRP parents stayed in treatment of family drug courts for families and
care petition. These cases entered the longer than those not in the pro- the child welfare system. Positive
system between August 2005 and De- gram (138 days vs. 82 days). treatment and child welfare outcomes
cember 2006 and were followed for 12 ■■ FRP parents had higher treat- mean more families stay together.
months. One parent was followed per ment completion rates than those The researchers noted other potential
case, usually the mother unless the fa- not in the program (64% vs. 36%). benefits include promoting improving
ther was the only parent named in the quality of life and attachment between
petition. parents and children, and reducing
Child welfare outcomes traumatic disruptions for children in
The researchers reviewed child
welfare and treatment data to gather improved. the child welfare system.
information on: ■■ Children of FRP parents spent
■■ Parent demographics
less time in nonkinship care Access this study:
placements than children in the “Show Me the Money: Child Welfare
■■ Family history of child welfare comparison group (252 days vs.
system involvement Cost Savings of a Family Drug Court,”
346 days). by Scott W.M. Burrus, Juliette R.
■■ Date of entry and exit into substi- ■■ Non-FRP program cases reached Mackin, and Michael W. Finigan, was
tute care permanency faster than FRP published in the Juvenile and Family
■■ Permanency decisions, including cases (249 vs. 325 days)(possibly Court Journal 62(3), Summer 2011.

46 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
New Study Tracks Serious Physical Abuse among Hospitalized Children
T he number of children hospitalized
with serious injuries due to physi-
cal abuse is highest among children
by the Healthcare Cost and Utiliza-
tion Project. The sample includes
3,739 hospitals in 38 states, represent-
A significant number of children
in the serious abuse group received
Medicaid (71.6%). The incidence
age one year and younger, a new study ing 88.8% of the U.S. population in of serious abuse injuries was highest
finds. That rate climbs even higher 2006. Hospital discharge information among infants on Medicaid in their
among infants covered by Medicaid. includes demographics, payment, hos- first year of life: 133 per 100,000. This
Other trends found by the study pital type, diagnoses, external cause represented a rate nearly six times
included: of injury based on the International higher than children not on Medicaid.
■■ Abused children with serious inju- Classification of Diseases, and dispo- Only 36.6% of children with nona-
ries stay in the hospital longer than sition (e.g., discharge, death). busive injuries and 48.5% of children
nonabused children. Children with serious abusive hospitalized for other causes received
■■ A fair number of seriously abused injuries, defined as children who en- Medicaid. This finding emphasizes the
children die as a result of their tered the hospital with an injury that link between poverty and child abuse
injuries, particularly infants. was coded as abuse or assault, were and the need for prevention.
grouped into the following injury
■■ The longer hospital stays and criti-
types: fractures, traumatic brain inju- The national cost of the hospitaliza-
cal care required to treat serious
ries, abdominal injuries, burns, skin tions due to serious abusive inju-
injuries drive up hospital costs.
injuries/open wounds, and “other.” ries was $73.8 million in 2006. The
The researchers did not include chil- researchers explained that this rate is
The Study dren who entered the hospital with similar to a rate cited in a 2005 study,
Researchers from the Yale University injuries that were suspicious for abuse but differs significantly from a widely
School of Medicine and the Johns but who were later diagnosed with cited figure of $6.6 billion by Prevent
Hopkins School of Medicine focused nonabusive injuries. Child Abuse America.
on children who are hospitalized with
serious injuries due to physical abuse. Findings Of the children who were hospital-
While data exists on the national oc- The number of children hospital- ized for serious abusive injuries,
currence of child maltreatment, it has ized with serious injuries caused by 58.8% were males and 41.2% were
not identified serious cases of physical physical abuse in 2006 was 4,569 – a females. Nearly half of the children
abuse, such as children hospitalized rate of 1.5% per year. Three-hundred were white (45.3%), while 25.5% were
with head injuries, fractures, or burns of these children died because of their African American, 19.6% Hispanic,
caused by abuse, according to the abuse. The mean length of hospital and 9.5% were grouped as “other”
researchers. stay for the children in the abuse race/ethnicity.
Using data from the 2006 Kids’ group was 7.4 days compared to 3.9
Inpatient Database (KID), a national days for children with nonabusive Limitations
dataset of hospitalized children, the injuries. The researchers noted the following
researchers estimated the incidence of limitations of the study and their po-
tential impact on the findings:
■■ Only hospitalized children were
Children under age one experienced the highest incidence of studied. Never-hospitalized chil-
serious abuse dren, and children who died before
entering the hospital, were not
counted, likely resulting in an un-
hospitalizations due to physical abuse Children under age one experi- derestimate of the problem.
among children under 18 years of age. enced the highest incidence of ■■ Hospitalizations during a specific
They looked at demographic charac- serious abuse (58.2 per 100,000). year were counted, not children,
teristics, mean costs, and length of The researchers noted this rate was so children who were hospital-
stay among three groups of hospital- almost twice the rate for abusive head ized twice in a year could have
ized children: abusive injuries, nona- trauma (30 per 100,000). They urged been counted twice, although the
busive injuries, and “other” reasons for interventions aimed at preventing researchers took steps to avoid this
hospitalizations. infant abuse similar to those that have outcome.
The 2006 KID is a weighted broadened awareness of shaken baby
sample of discharged patients from all syndrome and head trauma. ■■ The researchers relied on physi-
nonrehabilitation hospitals prepared cians’ diagnoses of abuse and

47 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3
assigning child abuse codes. This 28(7), available at www.american- projects_initiatives/child_and_adoles-
approach depends on the accuracy cent_health/child_health.html)
of the diagnosis and the proper as- child/PublicDocuments/Advocacy_
signment of injury codes. for_Young_or_Expectant_Parents_ Poverty is a clear risk factor for seri-
in_Foster_Care.authcheckdam. ous abusive injuries leading to hos-
pdf pitalization. Targeting prevention
Tips for Advocates
efforts in poor communities through
Having data on abused children who ■■ Nurse home visiting programs can
services that serve these families
are hospitalized with serious injuries also be a valuable support for new
is key: community health clinics,
can help gauge the extent of the or expecting parents. For informa-
community centers, early child care
problem and related costs. If tracked tion on nurse home visiting pro-
programs, homeless and domestic vio-
over time, it can also play a role in as- grams, see
lence shelters, churches and faith orga-
sessing whether prevention efforts are preventing/programs/types/hom-
nizations, food pantries, among others.
reducing serious abuse-related injuries evisit.cfm 
Helping families meet their needs and
Advocates working with families with address daily stresses can help prevent
The high incidence of serious inju-
very young children who have entered issues from escalating to abuse. Inte-
ries among infants suggests a need to
the child welfare system due to abuse grating efforts to promote healthy par-
intervene with pregnant and newly
should know how to support these enting can also make a difference.
parenting mothers and fathers. A
number of resources and supports ex- children and advocate for healthy out-
ist to help vulnerable, at-risk families comes. A range of supports are avail- Access this study:
and give them the tools they need to able to help promote their physical and The study, “Using U.S. Data to
promote the health and well-being of mental health, and help them achieve Estimate the Incidence of Serious
their infants and toddlers. permanency. (See Healthy Beginnings, Physical Abuse in Children,” was
Healthy Futures, available at www. published in Pediatrics 129(3), March
■■ See the CLP article “Advocacy for 2012.
Pregnant and Parenting Teens” Vol. —Claire Chiamulera

American Bar Association Presorted
Center on Children and the Law First Class
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48 CLP Online — Vol. 31 No. 3