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Big news!! Trump signs executive order strengthening the CHILD welfare system


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Trump acted to strengthen America’s child welfare system by signing a historic Executive Order (EO) aimed at improving outcomes for children and families. This EO focuses on three key areas of action: improving partnerships, improving resources, and improving oversight.

“President Trump’s executive order demonstrates how his administration has prioritized placing each of America’s foster kids with the loving, permanent family they deserve,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. 

“Since the President took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results. The President’s executive order lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners to build a brighter future for American kids who are in foster care or in crisis.”

“Our number one goal is to help our children and youth by making improvements to our child welfare system, and I’m incredibly grateful to President Trump for taking this monumental action today,” said the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson.

“These strong actions support vulnerable children and youth nationwide by advancing measures to reduce child abuse and neglect, encouraging family preservation, and strengthening adoption and other forms of permanency for America’s kids.”

Background

Currently, there are approximately 430,000 children in the foster care system. Of those 430,000 children, there are nearly 124,000 children in foster care who have a plan for adoption, but have not yet achieved the permanency of a forever family. Each year, close to 20,000 youth age out of care without the support of a loving, permanent family. Many of these young men and women will experience higher rates of homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment after they leave foster care. Through three key reforms to the child welfare system outlined in the Executive Order, this Administration is standing up for vulnerable children and families, pursuing child safety, as well as permanency and child and family well-being.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), ACF received and distributed $45 million in grants to states, territories, and tribes to support the child welfare needs of families during this crisis, and to help keep families together. In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is anticipated to add $300 million in federal resources in fiscal year 2020 to support children in foster care, as well as children formerly in foster care now living with adoptive parents or legal guardians.

ACF has worked tirelessly in aiding efforts to reduce the number of children entering the foster care system. Through proactive primary prevention efforts and a focus on providing services to keep children safely at home, ACF—with partners at all levels of government and in the not-for-profit sector—has been able to keep more children safely out of foster care. This progress can be seen in the data. The number of children/youth entering care in recent years has declined, with a preliminary estimate of 250,000 children/youth entering care in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. This is a five percent decline from FY 2018, and a nine percent decline from FY 2016.

The Executive Order on Strengthening Foster Care for America’s Children

The EO builds upon that success by offering three key reforms that will strengthen the child welfare system and promote permanency for children in the foster care system nationwide.

The first reform aims at creating robust partnerships between state agencies and public, private, faith-based and community organizations. To accomplish this, the EO empowers HHS to collect and publish localized data that can be used to aid in the development of community-based prevention and family support services and in the recruitment of foster and adoptive families; to hold states accountable for recruiting an adequate number of foster and adoptive families for all children; and to develop guidance for states on best practices for effective partnering with faith-based and community organizations, aimed at improving outcomes for children and families.

The second reform seeks to improve resources provided to caregivers and those in care. To accomplish this, HHS will increase the availability of trauma-informed training, support guardianship through funding and grants, and enhance support for kinship care and for youth exiting foster care by evaluating barriers to federal assistance.

The third reform would improve federal oversight over key statutory child welfare requirements. To accomplish this, the EO requires the Title IV-E Reviews and the Child and Family Services Reviews to strengthen the assessments of these critical requirements and directs HHS to provide guidance to states regarding flexibility in the use of federal funds to support and encourage high-quality legal representation for parents and children.

Deliberate reforms of the child welfare system will bring change to the foster care system to improve the lives of many vulnerable children and families. ACF looks forward to implementing these changes to prevent child maltreatment, keep families together whenever safely possible, and achieve timely permanency for the thousands of children waiting in the system.

Source:

All ACF press releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the ACF media page. Follow ACF on Twitter Visit disclaimer page for more updates.

Quick Facts

Currently, there are approximately 430,000 children in the foster care system. Of those 430,000 children, there are nearly 124,000 children in foster care who have a plan for adoption, but have not yet achieved the permanency of a forever family.

Each year, close to 20,000 youth age out of care without the support of a loving, permanent family.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), ACF received and distributed $45 million in grants to states, territories, and tribes to support the child welfare needs of families during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is anticipated to add $300 million in federal resources in fiscal year 2020 to support children in foster care, as well as children formerly in foster care now living with adoptive parents or legal guardians.

The number of children/youth entering care in recent years has declined, with a preliminary estimate of 250,000 children/youth entering care in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. This is a five percent decline from FY 2018, and a nine percent decline from FY 2016.

Quotes

“President Trump’s executive order demonstrates how his administration has prioritized placing each of America’s foster kids with the loving, permanent family they deserve. Since the President took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results. The President’s executive order lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners to build a brighter future for American kids who are in foster care or in crisis.”— Alex Azar, HHS Secretary

“Our number one goal is to help our children and youth by making improvements to our child welfare system, and I’m incredibly grateful to President Trump for taking this monumental action today. These strong actions support vulnerable children and youth nationwide by advancing measures to reduce child abuse and neglect, encouraging family preservation, and strengthening adoption and other forms of permanency for America’s kids.”— Lynn Johnson, ACF Assistant Secretary

Additional Links

cps, foster care, law, money, parental alienation syndrome
To Find the Law, Follow the Money: How CPS is Funded

Funding state child welfare services involves a complicated web of funding streams, including federal, state and local money.

The largest source of funding dedicated to child welfare comes from the federal government via formula grants or as federal reimbursement for eligible programs like foster care.

The largest sources are Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act.

Title IV-B includes the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program and the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program.

Title IV-E includes Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, Guardianship Assistance and the John H. Chaffee Foster Care Independence programs.

While all states may receive these funds to use for their designated purposes, some states have been granted Title IV-E Waivers, which allow for flexible use of Title IV-E funds to operate innovative demonstration projects to improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children in out-of-home care, and in some instances work to prevent the need for foster care altogether.

In addition to Title IV-B and Title IV-E funds, which are dedicated to child welfare services, states also tap other federal funding streams, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and Medicaid. These sources are considered nondedicated, meaning they are not required to be used for child welfare services but may be used for those purposes if the state chooses.

Below is a description of each of these funding streams. For a more detailed look at the issue see the Congressional Research Service’s Child Welfare: An Overview of Federal Programs and Their Current Funding report from January, 2015, the Child Trends, Federal, State and Local Spending to Address Child Abuse and Neglectreport from 2014 and the Child Trends report, Child Welfare Financing SFY 2014: a survey of federal, state and local expenditures, from 2016.

Check out a new brief from Child Trends, An Introduction to Child Welfare Funding and How States Use It, released in January 2016!

Title IV-E

Title IV-E constitutes the largest pool of federal funds used by states, totaling just over $6 billion dollars in FY 2012 and nearly $7 billion in FY 2014. States, tribes and territories with approved Title IV-E plans may be reimbursed for the cost of foster care, adoption assistance, or kinship guardianship assistance, in addition to services for older youth who have aged out or emancipated from foster care.

Title IV-E Foster Care Maintenance

The Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments program allows states to be reimbursed by the federal government for maintenance payments made to provide shelter, food and clothing for eligible children.

In addition, it covers administrative costs, training of child welfare staff and foster parents, recruitment of foster parents and data collection. A child is eligible for these payments if he or she entered foster care through a voluntary placement or judicial determination, was considered “needy” according to the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program standards before removal, and currently resides in licensed or approved foster care.

The AFDC program was a federal entitlement program to low-income, primarily single-parent households, that was replaced by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 1996. Traditionally these payments would cease upon the child’s 18th birthday.

In 23 states and the District of Columbia, however, payments may be continued until the child reaches 21.

This extension was authorized by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act).

In FY 2013, fewer than 159,000 of the 400,000 children in foster care were receiving foster care maintenance payments.

Title IV-E Adoption Assistance

Title IV-E Adoption Assistance funds must be used to place children with adoptive families in a timely manner, provide for financial and medical assistance, reimburse states for associated administrative costs, and train employees and adoptive parents. Children are eligible for adoption assistance funds if they meet one of five criteria:

  • They are considered needy, according to the former AFDC.
  • They remained in the pre-removal situation.
  • They are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • They are the children of minor parents who are receiving Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments.
  • They were eligible for adoption assistance previously but their adoptive parents died or had their parental rights terminated.

The Fostering Connections Act increased the overall amount of federal spending on adoption assistance payments to adoptive families by phasing out the income eligibility requirements for those payments over time (delinking eligibility from income). As federal spending on adoption assistance payments was expected to increase and state spending was expected to decline, Congress required states to reinvest any state savings from this change in child welfare programs. However, according to the SFY 2012 Child Trends survey, federal expenditures from the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program actually declined for the first time, probably because of a decrease in the number of eligible children, and states no longer receive enhanced reimbursed rates through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a federal law that provided temporary assistance to states during the last economic downturn.

Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance

Title IV-E Guardianship Assistance is similar to adoption assistance and foster care maintenance in that it also covers the training of child welfare staff and guardians in addition to administrative expenses.

However, the primary purpose of guardianship assistance is to provide federal reimbursement to kinship guardians, or relatives, who serve as legal guardians and have previously served as foster parents for the child. For the child to be eligible for these payments, he or she must be leaving foster care in exchange for a legal guardianship with relatives and meet four additional criteria:

  • The child must be eligible for Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments while residing in a prospective kinship placement for six consecutive months.
  • The state must determine that returning home and adoption are not appropriate permanency goals for the child.
  • It must be demonstrated that there is a strong attachment between the child and the prospective relative guardian and that the guardian is committed to the guardianship.
  • Children age 14 or older must be consulted about the potential placement.

The Fostering Connections Act provides states the option to use federal Title IV-E funds for reimbursement for kinship guardianship assistance payments on behalf of eligible grandparents and other relatives who have assumed legal guardianships of children.

As of FY2014, 32 states and five tribes have incorporated kinship guardianship assistance into their Title IV-E plan.

STATES WITH KINSHIP GUARDIAN ASSISTANCE

The following states offer assistance to family under the Kinship Guardiam Assistance program:
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin

Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects

Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects allow states to apply for more flexibility in the use of Title IV-E federal reimbursement. These demonstration projects must aim to increase permanency for all children in foster care and/or help children make a successful transition out of care when they reach 18, or in some states, 21; improve child welfare outcomes by focusing on safety and well-being; and prevent child abuse and neglect through early intervention, while also reducing the instances of re-entry into foster care by reducing instances of maltreatment.

Note that the Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects will end in 2019 and have not been authorized to continue.

Currently, 28 states, D.C. and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state are operating Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects. The states are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

John E. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program

The Title IV-E John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) funds are designed to help older youth in foster care achieve independence and self-sufficiency. The program targets children who are expected to be in care when they turn 18, those who are 16 or older and are placed in kinship care or adoptive placements, and youth ages 18-21 who have aged out of foster care.

Assistance with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults are just a few of the services to which these funds are dedicated.

In addition to helping foster youth achieve self-sufficiency, CFCIP funds are also used to provide Educational and Training Vouchers to foster youth, up to age 21.

These vouchers may be used for the cost of attendance at an institution of higher education, up to $5000 a year.

Further, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 amended the Social Security Act to add that CFCIP funds should be used to “ensure that children who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age have regular, ongoing opportunities to engage in age or developmentally- appropriate activities.”

The act also raised the mandatory funding authority of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Programs to $143 million starting in 2020.

Title IV-B

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services

Title IV-B, Subpart 1 of the Social Security Act, titled the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services, offers states flexibility in creating or expanding child and family services, in partnership with community-based agencies, to ensure that kids can stay safely at home.

This funding may be used for child protective services, including investigations of child abuse and neglect, caseworker activities, counseling, emergency assistance and arranging alternative living arrangements, in addition to family preservation services, time-limited family reunification services, and family support or prevention services.

Family Connection Grants

Family Connection Grants, first established as part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, support services that help kids in foster care, or those at risk of entering care, to stay connected with their families.

These services are:

  • Kinship navigator programs.
  • Family finding.
  • Family group decision making.
  • Residential family treatment.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 appropriated $15 million for FY 2014.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families

Title IV-B, Subpart 2 of the Social Security Act, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, encourages family support and preservation, time-limited family reunification services, and services to support adoption.

This flexible-use funding allows states to develop, establish or expand community-based programs to support family preservation.

Other Federal Funding

Other federal funding for state child welfare services includes the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and Medicaid.

CAPTA State Grants

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) State Grants, first enacted 40 years ago, and re-enacted most recently in 2010, seeks to improve child protective systems with an emphasis on collaboration between child protective services, health, mental health, juvenile justice, education, and other public and private agencies.

CAPTA funds are authorized to help states make improvements to child protective services, such as intake, assessment, screening and investigation of reports of child abuse and neglect; develop, improve, and implement risk and safety assessment tools and protocols; and case management and monitoring processes.

Finally, the statutory authority for the Children’s Justice Act is housed in CAPTA. These grants administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are available to states and territories to improve the assessment, investigation, and/or prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases.

According to the HHS Report to Congress, states reported their intention to use their CAPTA grant funds to:

  • Improve the intake, assessment, screening, and investigation of reports of child abuse or neglect (85%).
  • Use the funds develop, improve, and implement risk and safety assessment tools and protocols, including use of differential response (73%).
  • Improve case management, ongoing case monitoring, and delivery of services and treatment provided to families (65%).

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, provides federal block grants to states.

This flexible funding stream can be used for any purpose, so long as it furthers one of the four main goals of TANF, including providing assistance to families so children can be safely cared for in their own homes. These funds may also be used for foster care or adoption assistance for children who are not Title IV-E eligible.

In addition, up to 10 percent of TANF funds may be transferred to the Social Services Block Grant. The use of these funds is limited to assisting families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

Social Services Block Grants (SSBG)

The Social Services Block Grants (SSBG) allow states to implement locally appropriate social services to increase self-sufficiency and independence, reducing dependence on social services.

SSBG funds can be used for more than child welfare services. With five policy goals, one being the reduction and prevention of child abuse, and 28 service categories, states are allowed to tailor services to meet the needs of their residents.

Categories include foster care, substance abuse, case management, adoptive services, counseling, protective services, housing, employment services and more.

See the SSBG 2014 Annual Report for more on how states use this funding source.

Medicaid

Medicaid is an important source of funding for health services—which can include medically necessary health care and mental health— for children and youth in foster care.

It is an open-ended entitlement. States must provide a match based on their population. Key services include Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) and optional targeted case management (limited), rehabilitation services,

Medicaid-funded therapeutic foster care and certain administrative costs. All children eligible for Title IV-E are eligible for Medicaid, and states may extend Medicaid to adopted children or former foster youth ages 18-21 who are not eligible for Title IV-E.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act extends Medicaid coverage for former foster youth up to age 26. Medicaid is an open-ended entitlement equal to each state’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate, between 50-82 percent depending on per capita income.

Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments

Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments were established in 1997 as part of the Adoption and Safe Families Act. They are designed to encourage states to increase the number of children who were adopted from foster care, adoptions of older children, age 9 or older, and adoptions of children with “special needs” under the age of 9.

The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 extended funding for the incentive payments through 2016 and revised the instances in which a state may receive Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments to include improvements in the rate of children who:

  • Are adopted at any age.
  • Leave foster care for legal guardianships at any age.
  • Are pre-adolescents, defined as between 9 and 13 years of age, and leave foster care for adoption or legal guardianship.
  • Are older, defined as 14 years of age or older, and leave foster care for adoption or legal guardianship.

State and Local Funds

State and local funds are typically used to match federal funds or to draw down federal dollars.

The use of state and local funds for child welfare services varies depending on the state and whether it operates a state- or county-run child welfare system.

View the original source of this article at This NCSL Project by clicking here.

The Denver-based child welfare project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience.

Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or childwelfare@ncsl.org.

NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child welfare issues before Congress and the Administration.

Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or cyf-info@ncsl.org.

Additional Resources

Its Almost Tuesday is not affiliated with The NCSL Project.

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New Truancy Laws in Texas and Why It Matters

I am posting this article for parents to read and understand because the laws are very important when it comes to being thrown in a situation where you might find yourself deciding to home school your child.

 What does home schooling have to do with truancy?

Well, in my case, I decided to home school my child when my ex was actively seeking out my child under threat to kidnap him.  I had received a call from the school districts’ main office telling me that my ex-husband/abuser was calling them attempting to obtain information as to what school my son was attending.  I had given the school and the school district copies of my protective order.  They were concerned because the protective order which barred contact from my son, did not bar my ex from receiving information from them regarding my son.  They were calling me because they would be releasing the information to him, and they wanted to let me know.

I immediately called the police, my lawyer, and everyone else I could think of for help, protection and advice on what to do.  I ultimately decided to home school my son.  I invested in the Abeka homeschool curriculum, and he did not return to school.  I began teaching him at home.

I went up to the school to withdraw him and was shocked to find out they would not allow me to withdraw him from school.  They gave me the reason that there had been conflicting custody papers brought in by my son’s father and grandmother stating that he had visitation rights.  (he had shown them the original divorce papers that were issued prior to the domestic violence protective order barring him from all contact with us).  I explained they had the copies of the protective order, and i was told that they had submitted it all to the school district’s attorney for review and we’d all meet up after the spring break.

I continued to home school my son prior to the withdrawal waiting for the meeting with the attorneys.

What I hadn’t thought about was how the child’s grandmother had used her address to enroll my son in school at that particular school telling me it was “because then he could go to school with his favorite cousin”.  So during the wait time, while I was homeschooling my son, the school sent a certified notice to the grandmother’s address notifying me that truancy charges would be filed against me unless he returned to school pending this wait time.

I did not receive that notice.  The grandmother signed my name on the certified letter receipt and never told me.

I was charged with truancy.  That was used against me later on by CPS when the false allegations began to flow.  The charges never came to fruition, but nevertheless they haunted me, as they were brought up over and over again as reason that I was supposedly “neglectful” of my child when I was merely trying to protect my child from domestic abuse.

SO – TEXANS –

HERE’S THE NEW LAWS ON TRUANCY THAT STARTED SEPT 1, 2015

TXTRIB

New Truancy Law Set to Put Pressure on Schools, Parents

by Terri Langford, The Texas Tribune

Aug. 8, 2015

Throughout August, The Texas Tribune will feature 31 ways Texans’ lives will change because of new laws that take effect Sept. 1. Check out our story calendar for more.

When the state’s new truancy law takes effect Sept. 1, students will no longer face criminal sanctions — penalties that could include jail time — for skipping school. But there is likely to be more pressure on schools — and on parents, who could face more cases if their kids fail to show up for class.

“I anticipate an increase in prosecutions of parents under this new statute,” said Ryan Kellus Turner, general counsel and director of education for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center in Austin, which helps provide training on municipal court procedures.

Both the education center and Texas Education Agency officials have spent the summer trying to chop the bulky House Bill 2398 into serviceable bites for educators and judges who face a dramatic shift this fall in the way they deal with chronic school skippers. That shift includes a new requirement for all public schools to implement truancy prevention programs and new directives on how the courts can penalize school skippers.

For years, Texas was one of two states that made truancy a criminal violation. Public school students who had at least 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period found their truancy cases heard by justices of the peace or municipal judges. Schools also had the option of sending students with three unexcused absences within a four-week period to the adult courts.

Under the old law, students could see fines as punishment. But those 17 and older who failed to pay those fines could be charged with contempt and, in some cases, wound up in adult jails. For example, 21,576 truancy cases were filed so far this year in Dallas County. Of those, three students were jailed for failing to comply with the judge’s orders.

Under the new law crafted this year by state Rep. James White, R-Woodville, and state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, schools can no longer send students with three unexcused absences within the four-week period to truancy courts. Instead, school officials will notify parents of the absences and warn them of the consequences, which could be a fine or a loss of driving privileges if the student racks up more absences or a criminal complaint against the parents. In addition, a face-to-face meeting between the school officials and the parents will be set up, and the student must be enrolled in a truancy prevention program.

Starting Sept. 1, schools will have some kind of truancy prevention program in place that will probably come in the form of mentoring and counseling.

If a student age 12 or older has 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period, school officials must first must determine if the absences are because the student is homeless, pregnant, in foster care or is a primary earner for the family. If the student’s situation matches any of those categories, then the school is to offer counseling support.

If the student does not fall into any of those categories and the anti-truancy programs have not worked, the school can refer the child to truancy court, where the student can face a $100 fine, a loss of driving privileges and perhaps a referral to the juvenile court system.

Like the old law, the new one allows schools to file a criminal complaint against a parent, but only if school can prove the absences were the result of the parent’s negligence. Negligence in Texas is defined as deviating from the “normal standard of care.” In such cases, parents will face a maximum fine of $500.

Turner says parents could see more criminal complaints if courts believe that a student’s legal guardian is not helping get that child to school.

“Even under this new law, the parent contributing to nonattendance is still a misdemeanor,” Turner said.

But the Texas Education Agency notes that a court now can dismiss a charge against a parent of contributing to the truancy if a judge finds that the dismissal “would be in the best interest of justice” and the student is unlikely to continue skipping school or has a good reason justifying the absence.

White, the original bill sponsor, said parents need to take school attendance seriously. School attendance is mandatory in Texas, and that does not change under this new law.

The only thing that does change is a shift from court referral to earlier intervention by schools.

“This piece of legislation marks a serious paradigm shift by lawmakers,” Turner explained. “Under the old law, the message from the Legislature was we want these cases prosecuted and we want these kids in court.”  

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/08/08/new-truancy-law-puts-pressure-schools/.

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This is M.D. one of the children not forgotten…
Source of Stories: PLAINTIFFS’ ORIGINAL COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF AND REQUEST FOR CLASS ACTION in the recent lawsuit filed on behalf of 12000 foster children in the State of Texas against Governor Rick Perry, Thomas Suehs, Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission of the State of Texas and Anne Heiligenstein, Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services of the State of Texas.

There are several “named plaintiffs” suing the Texas system. They are children who have had to live in foster care on a long-term basis and they represent a “class action” suit on behalf of over 12000 other foster children.

Usually a foster care stay is approximately 12 to 18 months if all goes well, but for the not so fortunate, the stay in foster care may last for years. Many children never find a permanent home, and “age out” of foster care as a young adult who has not learned how to find a sense of security or how to trust people.
These children have become a product of their environment, harmed by the failure of a government system that needs not just an overhaul, but a miracle to fix. Whether an oversight created some problems or a lack of financial funding for a private foster family or residential facility occurred because of some bureaucratic red tape – the effects trickle down and the leftover mess is cleaned up by the ones that matter the most – the children – and when I say cleaned up, I mean dealt with.

Most of the time, the higher ups will never put a face to the name – or number these innocent children have become. Most of the time, these are not accidents, or unforeseen circumstances, but completely preventable and avoidable situations that leave these children paying the ultimate price by living in an unimaginably painful world. Negligence, abuse, misconduct, untrained workers, caregivers with backgrounds that should keep them from working in any environment ‘designed’ to protect children….are some of the causes for the damage done to these children. Caseworkers carry too high a workload with too little incentive or not enough pay for long hard overtime work hours so the turnover rate is high. The need to hire more workers often means they are not always experienced or even properly trained to deal with the depths of the situations they will encounter in their job. The real life situations of a child that they must protect if at all possible, realizing their decisions may change the course of many lives forever. That is not a light responsibility to be taken, and when the workers are hired and fired or quit so often that motivation to do the job right is low, lives can be ruined. Destroyed. By one choice made, or one decision.

I can barely touch the issues our system must address in order to affect a noticeably positive change that those families named in the lawsuit as well as those who are not. will benefit from. One thing is clear, anyone involved in the system will become someone new before its over with. The lawsuit outlines what the issues are that the children see in their daily lives when living in foster care. The lawsuit places the failures on the table for all to see now, not just the children, but anyone else who has not, until now, taken a look.

Its Almost Tuesday is thrilled that legal action has been sought to find justice for these children and families. Meanwhile we await the outcome of the battle ahead that the lawyers must face, and we can only cross our fingers that the outcome we can anticipate will be in favor of the children. We can only hope it will not only be in favor of the children, but also begin the road to remedy the harmful effects they have suffered. Somehow. Having said that it only seems appropriate now, to take the time to get to know these children, starting with M.D. the first named child plaintiff in the lawsuit.

M.D. is the first of many stories we will share. Remember, these stories are real. These experiences have been lives of children not unlike yours or mine — they have been caught up in an unfortunate trap set by a system out of control.

Child Welfare. Child Protection. How much do we see in these stories? Have these children been protected?

If they had been we would not watch as lawsuits are filed. If they were protected, I would not be writing this blog; or introducing you to these children. Although we will only learn their initials and not their full names, we will hopefully learn something about who they are – and not forget them.

Its Almost Tuesday commends all the survivors of the foster care system, applauds them for their courage when living in a world they never should have known…

This is the story of M.D.

M.D. is a fourteen-year-old girl from Corpus Christi, in Nueces County. M.D. was originally brought into state custody at age eight, placed with relatives, and then again brought back into state custody at age ten. Over the four years that M.D. has most recently been in the care of the state, DFPS has repeatedly failed in its obligation to provide for her safety and wellbeing. Instead of providing her with services and therapy to address the maltreatment that caused her removal from her parents and the abuse she suffered while living in a DFPS-selected placement, DFPS has compounded that trauma by placing her for years in inappropriate institutions; failing to provide her with critically-needed mental health evaluations and services; over-medicating her with powerful psychotropic medications; failing to seek and secure an appropriate permanent home for her; and subjecting her to numerous and frequent placement moves that have prevented her from establishing lasting relationships with caregivers, therapists, or even other children.

When M.D. was eight years old, DFPS removed her from her parents due to neglect by her mother and abandonment by her father. After nine months in the state’s custody, DFPS placed M.D. in conservatorship with her aunt and uncle. However, when M.D. was ten years old, DFPS removed her from this home, because her cousin sexually assaulted her while she was
under the aunt and uncle’s conservatorship.

After removing M.D. from her relatives’ home, DFPS moved the ten-year-old child through three foster placements over the next six months. Eventually, DFPS placed M.D. in a foster home in Dallas, over 400 miles from her home community.

Toward the end of 2007, DFPS moved M.D., still only ten years old, to an institution, an RTC in Victoria. After three months in this facility, M.D. became suicidal. She stayed there for almost two and a half years, steadily deteriorating both emotionally and psychologically. During this time, DFPS assumed PMC of the child.

From the RTC, DFPS sent M.D. to an acute care facility just outside of Houston, without making any permanent plans for her. After two months, DFPS moved M.D. 300 miles away to yet another RTC in Denton.

While at that RTC, M.D. and another young child left the facility and walked to a nearby retail establishment where M.D. was raped. After the rape, DFPS did not provide M.D. with any special counseling, even though M.D. was so traumatized that she had started cutting herself.
Instead, RTC staff chastised M.D. for leaving the facility. In the midst of the emotional turmoil resulting from the assault, DFPS sent M.D. to a juvenile detention center after a disturbance at the RTC.

During the four years that M.D. has been in foster care, DFPS has moved her through at least seven different foster placements, as well as hospitalizations. For much of this time, this young child has been kept in institutions of one kind or another – RTCs, psychiatric centers, and detention facilities. With such an existence, M.D. has been unable to form any lasting relationships.

M.D. is currently placed in an austere, restrictive short-term therapeutic placement in San Antonio. M.D. has no privileges of any kind. She has no visitors. She cannot have any toiletries. She is warehoused and alone. Her DFPS caseworker has said that M.D. will be transitioning from this facility to another RTC.

As M.D. has moved through the foster care system, she has been given numerous psychotropic medications. These drugs have been used as a chemical substitute for the care, counseling, and permanent placement in a family that DFPS is obligated to seek and secure for her. M.D. is now diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression.

While M.D. is nominally in the eighth grade, she has been placed in a number of schools attached to the institutions where she was placed. In those schools, she has been advanced from one grade to the next based on her age. Her true academic progress has been constantly interrupted by her placement in a series of far-flung facilities.

Although DFPS knew early on that M.D.’s parents were not capable of parenting her, and in fact had removed her from their care in 2005, it was not until July 2010, more than three years after she was brought into foster care for the second time, that M.D. was freed for adoption.

Despite the fact that M.D. has consistently asked to be adopted, DFPS has continually failed to seek and secure a permanent family for this lonely child. At the age of fourteen, M.D. faces the prospect that she will age out of care after four more years of being shuffled around the state from institution to institution.

Defendants have violated M.D.’s constitutional rights by failing to protect from her from harm while in their care; failing to provide adequate supervision over her foster care placements; subjecting her to frequent moves across the state far from her home community; failing to arrange for adequate therapy to address the trauma she has suffered both before and while in DFPS custody; subjecting her to unnecessary psychotropic medications; keeping her for long periods in institutions; and failing for years to identify or plan for an appropriate permanent placement.

cps, family, healing, social worker, system failure, welfare reform
When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…

A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

The child never comes home again.

This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

It happens all the time in this system.

All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

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Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

Is that you?

Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

Carry on a legacy?

Make a difference in someone’s life?

Change history?

Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

Why is it so important to define these two words?

Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

Definition of Child Neglect

Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

  • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
  • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
  • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

Instead she failed them.

He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

She has the name that haunts him.

She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

the social worker now lives forever…

to that little boy …

(c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

cps
Computer crash hinders Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud case

 Anyone else smell a rat?

Imagine that –

 How in the world could an office so important as the Attorney General’s NOT keep backup?  The work product has to be out there somewhere I’m sure – its not a single copy kinda documentation when you’re dealing with issues such as these!

Or maybe i’m wrong…Either way its horrible news… unless you’re a defendant of course.

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Computer crash hinders Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud case

07:00 AM CDT on Thursday, October 23, 2008

By EMILY RAMSHAW and ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News
eramshaw@dallasnews.com rtgarrett@dallasnews.com

 

AUSTIN – A massive computer crash that destroyed hundreds of the state attorney general’s confidential documents may prevent scores of Medicaid fraud prosecutions and has revealed serious problems with a newly expanded state outsourcing of computer services.

As much as 50 percent of the Tyler Medicaid fraud division’s files were destroyed in July when a server being repaired by a state vendor wouldn’t restart. The scope of the damage is in dispute.

In an apparent oversight, the documents lost were not backed up – meaning that evidence crucial to convicting dishonest health-care providers who ripped off the state’s health insurance program for the poor may never be recovered. E-mails and other records obtained by The Dallas Morning News indicate some Tyler investigators lost up to 90 percent of their open case files.

“In spite of earlier assurances, the destruction of critical data has, in fact, occurred,” First Assistant Attorney General Kent Sullivan wrote Monday in an e-mail to Brian Rawson, chief of the Department of Information Resources. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office “cannot afford to risk a reoccurrence of this event.”

Lost: 8 months of work

In all, 81 criminal cases and eight months of work in the attorney general’s 13-person Tyler Medicaid fraud office were completely lost, according to an attorney general’s report on the security breach – records that are being painstakingly recovered by the vendor.

IBM, which leads a vendor group selected by the information resources department in the $863 million, seven-year outsourcing deal, said it still is investigating the matter.

“We do take this incident seriously, and we’re taking appropriate steps to ensure that it doesn’t occur again,” company spokesman Jeff Tieszen said.

Mr. Tieszen said IBM-hired data recovery specialists have reassembled 24 of 27 lost gigabytes of information – 88 percent of the lost data.

State officials said that they couldn’t confirm that figure and that their latest estimates remain at 50 percent.

The Medicaid fraud data loss is the worst problem to surface in the first 18 months of the state’s deal with the IBM-led group – and further blemishes a privatization push throughout state government that grew rapidly after Republicans gained control of the Legislature six years ago.

In April 2007, Mr. Abbott’s office was forced to switch to the outsourced system. It gave “Team for Texas,” the vendor group, lead responsibility for the attorney general’s information technology system, including its servers and backup tapes.

The change was supposed to provide better service and save money. But early this year, the attorney general’s office and the IBM-led group had a series of communications breakdowns over whether data was actually being backed up.

In a May e-mail, Sean Peterson, Mr. Abbott’s director of network operations, appeared to have a premonition, raising doubts about whether remote office servers were being properly maintained. He also asked for a list of all the backups that had failed in the last three weeks.

“I am concerned that these are not being backed up properly,” he wrote.

Lag in reporting

On July 21, the Tyler server wouldn’t restart. Alarms weren’t raised immediately; memos in the attorney general’s office say the vendor didn’t notify Mr. Abbott’s office of the problem until 10 p.m. on July 22.

But as initial efforts to retrieve the records failed – and attorney general’s office employees realized that IBM had “not routinely backed up the server as required by contract” – memos show that both the state and the contractor realized the gravity of the situation.

By late July, IBM had to call in a special forensics team from California to try to recover documents. And the data losses were so severe that employees in Mr. Abbott’s office questioned in e-mails to each other whether they should resign for failing to properly oversee IBM, according to records obtained by The News.

Shortly after the Tyler office’s data loss, documents indicate the attorney general’s office determined that servers for three other field offices were not being backed up, either.

In Monday’s e-mail, Mr. Sullivan wrote that he needed a guarantee “that no state agency will again be faced with the situation of having data destroyed and functionally irretrievable.”

There have been other highly publicized problems with big outsourcing pushes by the Health and Human Services Commission – one that created privately run call centers and maintained software to support eligibility screening for public assistance, and another that privatized payroll and hiring at 12 social services agencies.

In 2005, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry, building on an earlier outsourcing of state computer services and data backups, approved a measure forcing at least 15 state agencies to join a dozen that already were using an earlier vendor, Northrop Grumman Corp.

A new, expanded outsourcing deal with Team for Texas – the current provider – was struck in November 2006 and took effect in April 2007.

The deal, expected to save the state $153 million by 2013, has attracted little public attention because even though more than 500 state employees lost their jobs, about 40 percent found other state positions and the rest were guaranteed spots with IBM or its subcontractors Unisys, Xerox and Pitney Bowes.

In July, though, state Auditor John Keel criticized the information department for not riding herd on major state agencies. Though agencies were supposed to hand over to IBM their most knowledgeable and experienced computer technicians, many kept those workers by using them to fill other vacancies, Mr. Keel’s audit said.