Author Archives: ebroderick

In a Broken Foster System, Some Kids Can’t Find a Bed For the Night reports Boston Globe

The Boston Globe recently published an article on the severe shortage of foster homes for children removed from their parents.  According to the article, Massachusetts has one of the worst records nationally for placement instability, lagging behind all but three states.  “In 2018 nearly a third of children in foster care in Massachusetts were moved three or more times during their first year in the system.”  Indeed, “virtually every night, DCF response workers, with kids in their back seats, are crisscrossing Massachusetts, or camping out at a 24-hour McDonald’s as they await word of a foster family with space for another child.”  “Many DCF offices have become de facto day-care centers, with toddlers crawling amid computers and paper clips.” 

The article included quotes from CAFL’s Deputy Chief Counsel Mike Dsida, who stated, ““Foster care is warranted in some cases because of the risks children face in their homes.  But there has to be more thought given to the harm that they suffer as a result of being removed from their homes and placed in an overtaxed foster care system.”  He continued: “That doesn’t mean that children should be left home in risky situations, but many more of them could be maintained safely in their own homes if parents are provided better support.”   In a follow up article, the Globe reported the reactions of several state legislators to the piece. Their responses include advocating for increased funding for family support and stabilization services and possibly refiling a bill that would require an independent review of cases anytime a child experiences more than two placements after entering foster care.  

The April 6 article can be found here.

The April 9 article can be found here.

 

 

Changes to DCF Foster Care Review Process

CAFL attorneys should have received an e-mail from Virginia Peel on January 23, 2019 notifying them that DCF has implemented changes to its foster care review process. These changes include e-mailing attorneys notice of reviews. If you did not receive Virginia’s e-mail, you need to contact her ASAP to ensure that you receive notice of future reviews. Virginia can be reached at virginia.peel@state.ma.us. A copy of her e-mail, and the letter from DCF General Counsel Andrew Rome she references in it, are available here. The written foster care review policy isn’t finished quite yet. But it’s really important that you understand what’s different before you go to a review. For example; DCF has eliminated ratings – full, partial, or insufficient – for task compliance. Instead, the review panel will determine whether each person “demonstrated the desired behavioral changes.” Virginia’s e-mail includes a link to four brief training videos about the new foster care review process. You can watch them here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF2PqsUUKpjh5I27AQmhd9Vh6UGClHjzE. Additionally, Carmen Andrews and Linda Silva in the Fall River CAFL office transcribed the third and fourth videos – “Participate in a Foster Care Review” and “Follow-Up on a Foster Care Review” – which explain how reviews are supposed to be conducted and DCF’s responsibilities following reviews, respectively. The transcripts are available here. Thank you, Carmen and Linda! Stay tuned – we will let you know when the new foster care review policy is available.

Updated Foster Care Review Determination Questions

Upcoming Children and Family Law Certification Trainings

Guardianship Certification Training in Fall River and Holyoke

CAFL is presenting a one-day certification training for attorneys wishing to represent children and parents in guardianship of minor proceedings in the Probate and Family Court. The training is open to all CAFL attorneys in good standing on the care and protection trial panel who have graduated from the CAFL mentor program. The trainings will take place in Fall River on January 22, 2019 at the CPCS office at 1822 North Main Street, Suite #205, Fall River, MA 02720 and in Holyoke on March 18, 2019 at Holyoke Community College, 303 Homestead Ave, Holyoke. For CAFL trial panel attorneys who are interested in the training but have not yet graduated from the mentor program, please email caflattorney@publiccounsel.net indicating your interest and include your full name, BBO number, the courts from which you are willing to accept assignments, the name of your mentor, and a brief description of any experience you have in the Probate and Family Court. If you are already certified to take Guardianships in the Probate and Family Court and want to come to the training for a refresher, you are welcome. If you are not sure if you are certified to take guardianship cases, please contact Rita Caso at rcaso@publiccounsel.net to find out.

To register for the January 22 Training in Fall River go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/training-to-represent-children-and-parents-in-guardianship-of-minor-proceedings-in-the-probate-and-tickets-53437965393

To register for the March 18 Guardianship Training in Holyoke go to:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/training-to-represent-children-and-parents-in-guardianship-of-minor-proceedings-in-the-probate-and-tickets-53656793915

CAFL Trial Panel Certification Training

The Children and Family Law Division (CAFL) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services is seeking qualified attorneys to represent children and indigent parents in care and protection/termination of parental rights and child requiring assistance cases in the Juvenile Court. The Certification Training will be held March 25-26, April 1-2, April 8-9 in Springfield, MA followed by a One Day Mock Hearing on either April 23 or 25 at various locations throughout the state.

 There is a significant shortage of CAFL lawyers in central and western Massachusetts. The need is most critical in the Springfield Juvenile Court. As a result, we are particularly interested in applicants who are able to accept CAFL appointments in Springfield. Admission to the CAFL trial panel is by application only. Applicants must be members of the Massachusetts Bar or be admitted to the Bar of another state and be eligible to practice law in Massachusetts. All attorneys who accept CPCS assignments are required to maintain malpractice insurance.We will give preference to attorneys who commit to practicing in central and western Massachusetts and to attorneys who submit completed applications by Friday, February 8, 2019. We will continue to accept applications after that date, particularly from those planning to practice in western Massachusetts.The application can be found here.

Appellate Panel Certification Training

The Committee for Public Counsel Services is accepting applications for the Children and Family Law (“CAFL”) Appellate Panel Certification Training on April 29, 30 and May 1, 2019 in Worcester. Applicants must have a demonstrated proficiency in legal research and writing and at least one of the following: two years of child welfare trial experience, primary authorship of two or more appellate briefs in other subjects, a recent judicial clerkship, substantial editing experience for a law journal, publication of a law journal article, or other substantial research and writing experience. Admission to the training is competitive and not all applicants will be admitted. All admitted applicants must attend the three-day CAFL appellate training program on April 29, April 30, and May 1, 2019 at the offices of Community Legal Aid, 405 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts.

To be considered, you must submit a completed application by March 22, 2019. The application and more information can be found here.

New Juvenile Court Rules and Time Standards Effective November 5, 2018

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has issued new Juvenile Court Rules for the Care and Protection of Children, effective on November 5, 2018. The new 2018 rules will replace the 2007 Juvenile Court Rules for the Care and Protection of Children. Along with these Rules, the Juvenile Court has issued new Standing Order 2-18 governing Time Standards for care and protection, CRA and delinquency cases.  The new time standards are also effective November 5, 2018.  See below for links to the new Rules and Standing Order, along with a memorandum summarizing the new Rules prepared by CAFL’s Ann Narris.

New Juvenile Court Rules for the Care and Protection of Children

Juvenile Court Standing Order 2-18, Time Standards

CPCS Memorandum Summarizing the New Juvenile Court Rules

SAMHSA Releases Recommendation Letter on the Treatment of Women with Substance Use Disorder and Their Infants

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services responsible for issues of mental health and substance use, recently released a letter with recommendations for the treatment of pregnant and parenting women with substance use disorder and their infants. The text of the letter, containing many useful links, is available here: https://www.publiccounsel.net/cafl/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2017/08/SAMSHA-Dear-Colleague-Letter-2017-2.pdf