Vetting Prospective Foster Parents

The wrong foster parent can pose a security threat to a child and a liability threat to a human service agency. So, do you know someone who wants to be a foster parent? Expect them to be vetted as part of the home study process.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “In recent decades, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased exponentially. It is estimated that about one in three adults now has a criminal history record—which often consists of an arrest that did not lead to conviction, a conviction for which the person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration, or a conviction for a nonviolent crime.”

Vetting is the clearance process required for people who will have substantial unsupervised access to children. The purpose is to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of the prospective foster parent. Such things as criminal background, identity verification, employment history, character, and residency are checked. Results of the vetting should not be taken at face value. Additional probing is key.

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Ministerial versus Discretionary Acts or Omissions in Child Welfare Litigation

Too often the child welfare system fails our children, especially foster children, leaving our most vulnerable population at risk of harm. Many children in the welfare system are injured or even killed because “[t]he system frequently fails to provide children with stable, secure care” and “fails to meet foster children’s basic medical, psychological, and emotional needs.”This system-wide failure is the result of several recurring problems, which are on the rise, including: inadequate investigation of prospective foster parents and their families, placing children in inappropriate homes, overcrowded foster homes, placing children with first-time foster parents who are inexperienced and become overwhelmed, and inadequate supervision of foster homes. These recurring problems have resulted in harm to those children under the care of the child welfare system, leading many of them to seek redress in the courts.In the field of public child welfare services, then, exactly which acts or omissions are ministerial, and which are discretionary? Each state has its own unique constitution, case law, statutes, regulations, child welfare manuals, and structure. This complexity does not allow for categorical rules on this subject matter, but this article nonetheless attempts to offer some meaningful guidelines on which state actions are discretionary and which are ministerial.

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The Role of Claims Adjuster and Defense Counsel in Human Service Litigation

When a human service agency is sued, litigation is usually resolved through settlement. Who pays the bill? Very often, it’s an insurance company. Claims that involve human service agencies vary widely. Whether dealing with a simple workplace accident, serious injuries and fatalities, or allegations of negligence or professional malpractice, an insurance company’s priority is to provide swift, effective resolution of every claim. The company evaluates which claims should be legally defended and which warrant early settlement. The person making these decisions will be an insurance company claims adjuster. Seemingly anonymous, claims adjusters are ultimately responsible for deciding how much money, if any, will be paid out in settlement.The claims process can be complicated. A good defense counsel must avoid any legal missteps while balancing the needs of the policyholder and the insurance company. All in all, this is not an easy assignment.

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Mission: Improbable Getting Exonerated From a Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

Extensive citation of social science research is unnecessary for us to know that child sexual abuse is one of the most underreported crimes. Likewise, most people would be hard pressed to think of a crime as despicable as child sexual abuse, and we have few qualms about strict sentences for such offenders. So when an Orange County, California, Superior Court judge recently sentenced a child rapist to 10 years instead of the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, the community was outraged. Tens of thousands of people called for the judge to resign.It happens—albeit rarely—that people are wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse and are later exonerated. The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), a project of the University of Michigan Law School “provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence.”This article looks at the 181 cases of people listed in the NRE registry as exonerated for “child sex abuse” from 2010 through August 2015.

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When Billy Is Called to Testify

Children are called to testify in a variety of settings. They may have been a witness to a violent crime, alleged victims of sexual or physical abuse or neglect, or the subject in a custody hearing. In these circumstances children are thrust into an adult world where they are unfamiliar with the language used and the role that they and others play in the legal proceedings. The resulting stress and trauma may not only affect children negatively, it could also make them unreliable witnesses and present lawyers with challenges. To prevent this from happening, it's important to properly prepare a child to testify, whether that means familiarizing him or her with the courtroom and the judge or explaining courtroom behavior and terms. It may make the difference between winning and losing a case.

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The Federal Push for Community-Based Services for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Across the country, the trend in treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities has been deinstitutionalization. In recent years, several states have been working to transition the treatment of their intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens from state-operated developmental centers to community-based services. In the process, numerous developmental centers have been closed. While some residents, parents, advocates and professionals are pleased with this direction, others are fighting the process. As a society, we have had great success in discharging intellectually and developmentally disabled residents from our state institutions; have we been as effective in providing them the services they need to successfully live in the community?

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Print Media Coverage of Child Fatalities when a Human Services Agency is Involved



When a child dies and we learn that a human services department or agency was involved, how well does the print media cover the story? How accurate and thorough is it? Does the story convey sufficient comprehensiveness and perspective to give the reader a solid understanding of the events? Is there any discernible information bias, either intentional or unintentional? Does the writer seem to have an agenda?

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