CARC Newletter Fall 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. 

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Progress of Kansas Department of Children and Families, Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, and Kansas Department of Health and Environment

This report provides an assessment of the State of Kansas’ progress towards achieving the Performance Goals, Practice Improvements, and Outcomes of the McIntyre v. Howard. Settlement Agreement (referred to herein as the Settlement Agreement) for calendar year 2021 (CY 2021), as well as State data, as validated by Judith A. Meltzer and the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), the Neutral. This report also includes a summary of efforts made by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to meet the Settlement Agreement commitments.

This report was released on September 19, 2022, by the CSSP. Judith Meltzer is the President of the Center, a national non-profit policy organization that connects community action, public system reform, and policy change to create a fair and just society in which all children and families thrive. The Neutral contracts with Action Research, a child welfare research organization that provides data analysis, program evaluation, systems analysis, performance management to assist with the data analytics.

I. Summary of McIntyre v. Howard

The McIntyre et al. v. Howard et al. (McIntyre v. Howard) lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Kansas in November 2018 on behalf of a class of children in the custody of Kansas’ child welfare system by advocates alleging repeated and ongoing placement instability and lack of adequate access to mental health services for children in care.4,5 Following months of negotiations, on July 8, 2020, Parties agreed to a settlement plan (the Settlement Agreement) that was approved by the federal court in Kansas City on January 28, 2021. The State began working to change policies and practices to meet the Agreement’s requirements, despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19, which intensified stresses on its workforce, Kansas families, children and
youth, and mental health systems nationwide.

The full report is attached at the bottom of this newsletter webpage.
 

Podcast on Advances in Supporting Kinship Caregivers

This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts,  Google PodcastsStitcher, and SoundCloud. Subscribe to receive new episodes as they are released.

Kinship care refers to the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin). Relatives are the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents because it helps maintain the children's connections with their families, increases stability, and overall minimizes the trauma of family separation. Kinship caregivers may be referred to as formal or informal kinship families based on whether they are officially involved with the child welfare system.

Kinship caregivers and families may be faced with needs, questions, and constraints that are different than those of resource foster care families. Child welfare agencies continue to address these unique needs through kinship navigator programs that help caregivers manage the foster care licensing process; connect families to available supports and services; and understand legal, medical, or other systems and requirements.

As jurisdictions place higher emphasis on placing children and youth in relative or familiar settings, some are expanding and advancing the support provided to kinship caregivers. The podcast series, Advances in Supporting Kinship Caregivers, comprises episodes featuring the advances created and implemented by child welfare agencies and their partners to strengthen kinship families and meet the unique needs faced by these caregivers.

Part 4 explores the public-private partnership between FosterKinship and the state of Nevada. FosterKinship supports the state by providing both kinship navigator services and foster care licensing services, reducing the number of offices and agencies families have to interact with to adapt and prepare for the change becoming a kinship family requires. FosterKinship also provides programs and services to connect kinship families access services or resources they need to raise healthy children.

The following individuals are featured in this episode:

Topics discussed include the following:

  • Kinship caregivers’ challenge to learn about and access available services and supports
  • The value of combining kinship navigator and foster care licensing services
  • How reducing the number of points of contact for families helps create stronger, more trusting relationships with the child welfare system
Other Related Resources

Commentary: Black Parents Love Their Children Too - Addressing Anti-Black Racism in the American Child Welfare System

See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/358375729

Tricia Stephens, LCSW-R, Ph.D., Silberman School of Social Work, City University of New York - Hunter College,  Journal of Social Work, February, 2022

The SARS-Cov-2 virus exposed and reinforced the effects of systemic racism that support adverse outcomes for Black people in almost every facet of life in the United States (Yearby & Mohapatra, 2020). The acknowledgment that systemic racism is pervasive and constitutes a public health emergency, because of its mechanisms of action at the individual and institutional levels, is an important one (Carmichael & Hamilton, 1967; Feagin & Bennefield, 2014). Without it, the reproduction of inequality, pain, and suffering is almost a certainty. Systemic racism (referred to interchangeably here as institutional racism) provides validation for White racist beliefs about people of color, often using knowledge produced by institutions dominated by powerful white ideals and actors as justification (Feagin & Bennefield, 2014). Using research that perpetually queries the failings of people of color, while remaining blind to investigating and recording any White racist role in the poor social and health outcomes that are a consequence of being racially targeted (Feagin & Bennefield, 2014; Yearby & Mohapatra, 2020), allows for the violations of people’s basic human rights in plain sight.

Child welfare (CW) service provision at the individual and institutional levels is not exempt from institutional racism. In fact, it is awash in it. Here, I focus on Black families, who experience some of the worst outcomes within CW, and I make the case that addressing the racial oppression they face should be a central social justice concern for the social work (SW) profession. In 2018, 23 percent of all children placed in foster care nationally were Black (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], 2019a), though Black people comprised only 13.4 percent of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (NYC-ACS) statistics reflect a racialized CW reality where child removals occur almost exclusively in poor neighborhoods of color. In 2018, 141 children were placed in foster care from Brownsville, a predominantly Black neighborhood, while Park Slope and Carroll Gardens combined, two predominantly White and wealthier neighborhoods, had eight children placed in foster care (NYC-ACS, 2019). The composite statistics for the entire city of New York that year replicated this racial pattern across all boroughs. The sanitized term was disproportionality coined to refer to the higher likelihood of Black families living in poverty to have CW involvement, centering “blame” on Black families, and not on the systemic racism that surrounds them (Stephens, 2021).

By the summer of 2020, calls reporting maltreatment allegations to state central registries across the country had dropped precipitously, causing many in the CW workforce to panic (Rapoport et al., 2021; Stewart, 2020). A uniform and disturbing image alerting the general public to the plight of children depicted as being trapped and suffering in their homes at the mercy of their abusive parents was carefully cultivated and broadcast. The implicit message being sent was that without the watchful oversight provided by “sentinels”— workers and professionals embedded in child-serving institutions who detect and report perceived abuse (Sedlak et al., 2010)—children were in grave danger. Nowhere in these messages was race ever explicitly mentioned. It did not need to be because, as is typical with dog-whistling associated with systemic racism, the intended message was clearly communicated. Parents of color living in neighborhoods that were heavily policed and regulated by CW and the carceral system (Edwards, 2019) understood this message was intended for them (Rise, 2021). They were the vicious parents from whom children needed to be protected. One of the recommendations to emerge from CW professionals during the pandemic was a call for providers in educational and medical settings to be increasingly vigilant in online interactions with children to detect evidence of abuse and neglect (Rapoport et al., 2021).

Believing that the decline in calls alleging abuse was interpreted solely as a silent epidemic of violence against children assumes that Black parents are violent without system involvement. And though the CW system in its current form has existed for just over 60 years, it also assumes that Black families must be regulated to keep their children safe. Black families have raised their children safely for millennia without CW involvement, yet, contemporarily, they are routinely subjected to the threat of or actual CW investigation. Whether their children are removed, Black families are sent the explicit message that they can be. According to Wildeman and Emanuel (2014), 11.5 percent of all Black children in America were removed from their homes and placed in foster care between birth and age 18 between 2000 and 2011. When recommendations were made for a transition from in-person to online CW surveillance, Black parents recognized that a watchful eye remained trained on them even as they were more likely to suffer the harshest effects of the pandemic.

Article continued here.

Feasibility of engaging child welfare-involved parents with substance use disorders in research: key challenges and lessons learned

Susan Yoon, Kathryn Coxe, Alicia Bunger, Bridget Freisthler, Elinam Dellor, Anika Langaigne & Jennifer Millisor (2022)

Journal of Public Child Welfare, 16:4, 451-469, DOI: 10.1080/15548732.2021.1899099

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/15548732.2021.1899099

© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Published online: 16 Mar 2021.

ABSTRACT

Child welfare-involved parents provide an important perspective on service needs and program impact. Similar to other vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, challenges exist to engaging child welfare-involved parents in community-based research and evaluation.

This case study reviews recruitment and data collection strategies for effectively engaging child welfare-involved parents with substance use disorders in a survey to evaluate the Ohio Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma (START) program – a multi-county initiative implemented to support families involved in the child welfare system due to parental substance use.

In this study, child welfare agencies and caseworkers played instrumental intermediary roles to inform eligible parents about research opportunities and facilitate connections with the research team.

Ongoing collaboration with child welfare agencies was necessary to establish buy-in for the research, streamline recruitment, and troubleshoot recruitment challenges. Engaging parents directly required strong interpersonal skills, empathy, persistence, attention to detail, and availability during off-business hours.

Recruitment strategies also accounted for the unique internet connectivity barriers of parents living in rural communities through survey completion over landline phones, and provisions for cell phone minutes. We offer several recommendations for research methods, budgeting, and staffing when
conducting research with child welfare-involved parents with substance use disorders

The full article is attached in PDF at the bottom of this newsletter webpage.

Human Rights Watch Grades States on Children’s Rights: No ‘As’ or ‘Bs’. Most States Get ‘Ds’ and ‘Fs’

By Madison Hunt, The Imprint Newsletter/Youth and Family News, https://imprintnews.org/top-stories/human-rights-watch-grades-united-states/173303, posted online September 13, 2022

 

A new state-by-state analysis of how well America meets international standards on protecting its children found “alarming” results — a nation that “overwhelmingly” fails to protect its youngest residents from child marriage, corporal punishment, child labor and justice system abuse. (Note - Kansas received a "D" and was ranked #22 in states for its protection of its children.)

New York, considered progressive by American standards, was among states receiving failing grades on the national scorecard, released today by Human Rights Watch. The state received an “F” grade for its juvenile justice practices and a “D” for failing to protect children from corporal punishment.

“The report brings into sharp focus the areas where the U.S. is failing to uphold basic protections for children, as recognized by other nations and under international law,” said Stephanie Persson, a senior staff attorney at the nonprofit Children’s Rights.

In its assessment, Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization, measured states against the standards set by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The 1989 treaty was designed to protect children from violence and exploitation, and to ensure their education and healthy development.

Since the treaty was adopted, 196 countries have signed on. The United States is the only UN member state not to ratify the convention — and appears to be falling far short of its standards.

The Human Rights Watch scoring system, which is based on state-specific policies, did not rate a single state with an “A” or “B” grade. Forty six states got “Ds” and “Fs,” with only New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota receiving a “C” ranking. 

A “C” grade might not receive a glowing response from a parent if a student brought that home on their report card. But in the report released this week, Minnesota’s “C” grade, and its fifth-place national ranking, stood out. In Minnesota, corporal punishment is prohibited in public schools and penal institutions, but not in private schools. The minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction is a relatively low 10 years old, and no child younger than 14 can be tried as an adult. 

New York ranked seventh in compliance with international standards on children’s rights, but still received low scores on its handling of children accused of crimes, who are disproportionately children of color.

In the beginning of 2020, at least 1,465 people nationwide were serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenses committed as a child, according to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy and research group. Of the juvenile offenders serving life sentences without parole, 62% are African American. 

New York and 24 other states including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina permit juvenile offenders to serve life sentences. 

“Fifty percent of states still allow juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole, despite the condemnation of this practice under international law and despite multiple Supreme Court decisions recognizing juveniles’ developmental immaturity in comparison to adults,” Persson said. 

California is one of the few states that prohibits juvenile life without parole sentences, and has a minimum age of 16 and older for children to be transferred to adult court. Still, Human Rights Watch ranked that state in 30th place on all measures, with an overall grade of “D”. 

California earned a relatively good “B” grade for its juvenile justice practices, however, bringing it closer in line than most states with international standards for children who commit crimes. 

Human Rights Watch called out New York over its juvenile justice practices. In 2017, the state joined efforts nationwide to “Raise the Age” of criminal responsibility to age 18, in an effort to provide more youth the opportunity to receive rehabilitative services from the court system serving children and families.

Indeed, in 2020, the New York City Criminal Justice Agency found arrests of 17-year-olds dropped from 1,941 to 1,315. More than 80% of teens were released on their own recognizance after an initial hearing, with a majority of these youth cases being moved to Family Court, rather than the adult criminal courts. 

According to the UN standards, the minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction should be at least 14 years old, and nations are encouraged to boost it to age 16. Unlike the practices in New York and many other states, the international treaty also calls for no child to be tried in adult court, regardless of the criminal offense. 

“The Raise the Age law was an important first step in reforming juvenile justice in New York State,” said Eamonn Scanlon, the education policy director at Children’s Agenda. But he added: “We must go further as a state to strengthen that law with well-funded alternative placements for children, and fewer exceptions for trying children as adults.”

Human Rights Watch also called New York out for its number of children subjected to corporal punishment. According to a social policy report, there are approximately 160,000 children subjected to such abuse in schools each year nationwide, and Black children and children with disabilities are significantly more likely to suffer.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires protection from “all forms of physical and mental violence.” New York is among the 50% of states that has prohibited corporal punishment in public schools, but it has still been allowed in private school settings, even those that receive public funds. 

An investigation by The New York Times published Sunday into failing test scores and other educational abuses at Jewish private schools run by the Hasidic community recounted numerous incidents of abuse, including boys being beaten for failing to pay attention. 

One of the students who recently graduated from the Yeshiva Beth Hillel of Williamsburg, told reporters he once saw a teacher knock a classmate to the ground and stomp him repeatedly. Another former student said a teacher had dragged him across the room, resulting in his head bleeding. 

Numerous studies have found that corporal punishment is not only ineffective in correcting behavior can cause long-term emotional harm, deterring children’s ability to form positive and healthy family relationships, making it harder to learn, and increasing the likelihood of violent and criminal behavior in adulthood.

In New York, corporal punishment is barred in homes for foster youth and juvenile offenders.

But the state’s correctional facilities have a stark history of physical violence against detained youth. A 2009 federal investigation found that correctional staff “routinely used uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force,” which led to “an alarming number” of serious injuries including concussions, broken or knocked-out teeth and spinal fractures. 

Five years later, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, called on then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and his New York City Department of Corrections to address continuous violations of the constitutional rights of teenagers placed at Rikers Island, who were subjected to violence. 

The U.S. Department of Justice investigation found “repeated use of excessive and unnecessary force by correction officers against adolescent inmates.” It also found correctional officers resorted to “headshots,” or excessive blows to teenagers’ heads. 

According to international standards, corporal punishment is defined as any physical force, used and intended to cause pain and discomfort. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child further clarified that “corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment are forms of violence and states must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to eliminate them.”

Read the Human Rights Watch Report here.

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