CARC Newletter Summer 2022

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The Children’s Advocacy Resource Center (CARC)  is a statewide program dedicated to providing legal advice or services to families caring for children in or at risk of entering the foster care system. CARC also provides resources for legal professionals who represent children or work as Guardians ad Litem. 

CARC is funded through the Access to Justice grant through the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration.

Under the CARC program, Kansas Legal Services operates a Guardian ad Litem/foster care hotline that takes direct calls from foster families, foster youth, grandparents, community direct service providers, and others throughout Kansas in order to offer advice, representation, resource referral, or technical assistance on child welfare-related issues in Kansas. 

It is our hope that this newsletter will help educate the Kansas legal community about changes in law within the state and expose the legal community to other resources in our community. 

Please consider sharing this newsletter link with peers and colleagues who have an interest in child welfare and child legal representation. 

Thank you for the work you do to improve the lives of children and youth throughout Kansas. 

Last updated on .

Courting Judicial Excellence in Juvenile Justice: A 50 State Study

Josh Weber, New York: The Council of State Governments Justice Center; Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2022.

Background

Juvenile court judges are the most important public figures in the juvenile justice system—their decisions impact whether hundreds of thousands of youth each year become court involved and for how long, whether they are involuntarily removed from their homes and communities, and the services they receive. In many states, juvenile courts also directly oversee local probation officers, shaping the culture, policies, and practices determining how most of the juvenile justice system operates.

Despite the importance of these judges, however, their role has remained largely unchanged over the last decade even as jurisdictions and the field have engaged in substantial juvenile justice reforms. Indeed, states and locales have generally not assessed whether and how the structure, roles, and operations of their juvenile court support or hinder public safety and positive youth outcomes. At the national level, there is a limited set of juvenile court resolutions and best practice and resource guides for states to consider1 with little direction on fundamental issues like court structure or rotations. Further, the juvenile court standards that do exist, such as those from the American Bar Association, are over 25 years old.

A critical examination of the juvenile court is potentially more important now than at any time since the mid-1990s. Juvenile arrests and court referrals continue their more than 25-year decline, and the overwhelming majority of youth who are arrested have committed nonviolent offenses.3 Yet many communities across the country are experiencing increasing concern and divisiveness on responses to juvenile crime and related juvenile justice reforms. As a result, juvenile court judges are on the front lines of determining how best to balance community safety, public sentiment, media scrutiny, and political pressure with a commitment to research-based approaches and data-driven decision- making. In addition, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, judges reported to us that they encounter youth and families with an increasingly complex array of needs and are challenged to find viable service solutions that go beyond the purview of traditional court proceedings or judicial expertise. Too often, judges are left to fend for themselves in making these difficult decisions, with limited administrative, best practice, or emotional supports commensurate with their outsized authority and responsibilities.

Read the Study here.

WELCOMING, AFFIRMING, SUPPORTING: Child Welfare Systems Must Honor the WHOLE Child

Recommendations from the getREAL Initiative

By Kristen Weber and Bill Bettencourt, Center for the Study of Social Policy, May 2021.

“Love is not available to those of us deemed disposable and unlovable.

Lovelessness is a consequence of living in a queer-hating society.

It shapes relationships between Black men who love men, just as it shapes our relationship to the communities we exist in.

We’ve been denied love.

But like cunning magicians, many of us have learned to break ourselves out of our cages even when those attempting to master our lives keep fervent hold of the keys."

No Ashes in the Fire
by Darnell Moore

All children and youth belong to families and communities and deserve our collective love and support. Too many children, youth, and families are involved with child welfare systems. Too many children are forcibly separated from their families and communities. Even as the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), community and system leaders, activists, and organizers work to render the need for child welfare intervention obsolete, there remains an urgent need to better support and address the stigma and associated trauma that children and youth involved with child welfare systems experience.

This document summarizes the lessons learned and resources from six years of work with the getREAL initiative—an initiative focused on supporting the healthy sexual and identity development of children and youth involved with child welfare systems, particularly youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or who are gender expansive.

The getREAL initiative began its work with system leaders and community stakeholders to test how child welfare systems could thoughtfully identify and collect data about the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) of all children and youth. As the work progressed, it expanded to take on the system challenges of creating affirmative and loving supports for LBGTQ+ children and youth. In collaboration with counties and states, the getREAL initiative sought to identify and implement new nondiscriminatory policies and practices that specifically promote the well-being of LGBTQ+ and gender expansive youth.

Read the document here.

Out-of-Court Advocacy

In 2017, the Family Justice Initiative (FJI) identified fundamental attributes of high-quality legal representation for parents and children in child welfare proceedings. The FJI Attributes of High-Quality Legal Representation draw from and build upon existing practice standards1 for attorneys representing children and parents in child welfare proceedings, and findings and recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System, and the Administration for Children and Families. Out-of-court advocacy is one of the attributes.

Read the article here.

CARC Case Study - Grantparent Visitation Case

Discussion of a case relevant to those who are interested in child welfare in Kansas, by Lowell Paul, Senior Research Attorney, Kansas Legal Services.

Read the discussion here.

 

AFCC and NCJFCJ Joint Statement on Parent-Child Contact Problems

This is a statement released on August 16, 2022, by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

The Boards of Directors of both the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have approved a Joint Statement on Parent-Child Contact Problems. The statement accomplishes several objectives. It acknowledges risk to children of polarized perspectives and emphasizes the importance of effectively addressing parent-child contact problems by adopting a child-centered approach. In order to reach these objectives, the statement calls for increased professional competence, screening for safety, conflict, and parent-child contact problems, the full consideration of all factors that may contribute to parent-child contact problems while conducting individual case analyses and referring to appropriate and proportional services and interventions when necessary.

Problem Statement:

The vast majority of separating and divorcing parents maintain safe, healthy, and positive relationships with their children; however, a small percentage of parent-child relationships remain strained and/or problematic. Children are at greater risk when parent-child contact problems are not effectively addressed and when family law professionals and others echo and intensify the polarization within the family. This problem may be exacerbated by

  1. gendered and politicized assumptions that either parental alienation or intimate partner violence is the determinative issue;
  2. contradictory rhetoric about the application of research findings and the efficacy of interventions;
  3. indiscriminate use of services; and
  4. a lack of understanding of different perspectives, education among family law practitioners, and resources.

AFCC and NCJFCJ support transparent, informed, and deliberate dialogue and response to parent-child contact problems following separation and divorce, or when the parents have never resided together, by adhering to the following considerations:

1. Adopt a child-centered approach
Children’s behavior should be considered in the context of what is normal for a child’s age, developmental stage, and the family socio-cultural-religious norms. This behavior may also be an expectable, adaptive reaction to stress, change, or an adverse childhood experience. The
paramount focus of practitioners working with parent-child contact problems should be to promote the safety, interests, rights, and wellbeing of children and their parents/caregivers at all socioeconomic levels. Children should have the opportunity to express their views in family
justice matters that concern them. The stated views of children are not necessarily determinative of their best interests. There are multiple factors that may contribute to children expressing views that do not reflect their best interests. Family justice practitioners should understand the basis for
the child’s expressed wishes and acknowledge their rights.

2. Increase competence in working with parent-child-contact problems
Specialized knowledge and skill are necessary to work effectively with families with parent-child contact problems. Family law practitioners should receive regular and ongoing training on the various factors related to parent-child contact problems including, but not limited to intimate
partner violence, substance misuse, high conflict, denigration, parental alienating behaviors, and healthy parenting.

3. Screen for safety, conflict, and parent-child contact problems
In addition to initial and ongoing screening for safety, intimate partner violence and power imbalances within families in all family law cases, parent-child contact issues, once identified, should be uniquely screened for safety and family risk factors, including the severity, frequency, and impact. Practitioners should, in all cases, employ a structured and evidence-informed screening for family risk factors.

4. Fully consider all factors that may contribute to parent-child contact problems
There should be no immediate label used for parent-child contact problems as there are multiple factors and dynamics that may account for these issues. These include interparental conflict before and after the separation, sibling relationships, the adversarial process/litigation, third parties such as aligned professionals and extended family, a lack of functional co-parenting, poor or conflictual parental communication, child maltreatment, a response to a parent’s abusive behaviors, the direct or indirect exposure to intimate partner violence, parental alienating behaviors, an alignment with a parent in response to high conflict co-parenting, or a combination of these factors. Therefore, practitioners should maintain a broad lens and sufficiently consider the relative contribution of each potential factor before conclusions are made about cause.

5. Conduct individual case analysis
Social science research findings can provide the field with valuable information about the group studied but cannot be used to determine the characteristics or experiences of individual parties or children; therefore, each family/case/situation must be specifically examined and informed by
the best available evidence. Each case must be examined uniquely to understand the etiology and current dynamics of the problem for the family justice system to intervene in an effective child-focused manner.

6. Refer to appropriate and proportional services and interventions
Practitioners should exercise care in recommending, referring, or ordering family members to services and interventions. These services and interventions should be accessible, accountable, proportional to the nature and severity of factor(s) contributing to the parent-child contact problem(s), particularly when there is a court order requiring such services and interventions. Such services and interventions should be informed by a child-centered approach.

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