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.
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.
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.
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?
Trust has always been the foundation of a human service agency’s relationship with its clients. Subcategories of that trust, privacy and confidentiality, are cemented in statute and regulation. This protection provides the basis for an effective relationship and ensures that agency officials will not disclose information with others unless there is a sanctioned and pressing need to do so. It follows and it is self-compelling that, in general, information regarding an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity is private, unless that person has publicly made it known.
The vast majority of lawsuits against human services agencies do not go to trial. They are settled, many times through mediation. A mediation is a meeting, typically at the mediator’s office or the office of one of the attorneys, where the mediator assists the parties to resolve their differences so the lawsuit can be settled without going to trial. A mediation is not the same as a hearing or an arbitration. The mediator is an impartial negotiator who has no authority to decide the merits of the case. Instead, the mediator identifies aspects of the case that lend themselves to compromise and helps the parties reach a voluntary resolution. Neither party is coerced or forced to settle the case. If a voluntary settlement cannot not be reached the mediation concludes and the lawsuit continues.
Social Work and the Courts is a collection of important and cutting-edge court decisions in the field of human services, now in its third edition. Pollack and Kleinman present an array of legal cases in everyday language, with clear explanation of the facts and issues, and in-depth examinations of the reasoning and implications of each verdict. This new edition includes over twenty new cases, all of which happened between 2010 and 2014, making this one of the most significant and timely investigations of how social work and the law intersect. Special attention is paid to recent rulings in child welfare and social worker liability. The dissection and analysis of these influential cases makes this volume an excellent teaching tool and an essential resource for both social workers and policy makers.