ESSA Creates New Federal Rights for Foster Children to School Stability

In December 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  ESSA amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  Two parts of the amended ESEA are particularly relevant to children in foster care: Title I, which now provides school stability rights for children in foster care, and Title IX, the McKinney-Vento statute.  Some of the changes to McKinney-Vento went into effect in October 2016.  The Title I changes related to foster care are effective December 10, 2016.  Additional information is posted under “Trial Resources – Education” on the CAFL site. Or you can click here to go directly to the ESSA information page.



DCF Rewriting Its Regulations

DCF is in the process of rewriting its regulations.  The agency anticipates submitting between one and four sets of proposed changes to the Secretary of State every two weeks during the next several months. In total, they are planning on publishing 19 new or revised CMR sections. CPCS will be submitting comments on each section, and we encourage private bar to submit comments as well. We will be posting proposed sections on the CAFL site as we receive them. Please click here for additional information and links to the proposed regulations.



Amy Karp named one of this year’s recipients of the MCLE Scholar-Mentor Award

Congratulations to CAFL Training Director, Amy Karp!  She has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Scholar-Mentor Award, which is presented to members of the Bar who have “demonstrated leadership through long-term service to MCLE, excellence in teaching or writing, and creativity in the suggestion of program and publication ideas.”

Attorney Karp’s commitment to zealous advocacy for children and parents is evident through her exemplary work with CAFL, which began in 1995, and her service as training director since 2000, where she developed a model program for providing counsel in child welfare/state intervention cases and established, and continues to oversee, the certification training program for CAFL’s private attorneys.

Her work with MCLE has enhanced the reasons for her receipt of the Scholar-Mentor Award.   There, in addition to co-chairing the annual MCLE Juvenile Delinquency/Child Welfare Conference, Attorney Karp created, organized, and led countless training and education programs, which she facilitated on her own or with a team she assembled and managed.   She also assisted in the development of detailed performance standards and, in collaboration with others, authored MCLE’s Child Welfare Practice in Massachusetts on the representation of children and parents in child welfare/state intervention cases.

“Amy’s dedication and her passion for her work inspire others to undertake the challenges of advocating for children and parents who are confronted with state intervention and truly dire circumstances.  Her keen intellect and her affable manner make her a natural for imparting knowledge to others, especially on issues as complex as those confronted by the CAFL practice.  For all of these reasons and more, it is no surprise to me that MCLE is recognizing Amy’s outstanding work by bestowing upon her the Scholar-Mentor Award,” said CPCS Chief Counsel Anthony Benedetti.

Mike Dsida, CPCS Deputy Chief Counsel of CAFL also had high praise for Attorney Karp.  “Amy has been indispensable in establishing CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division as a national model for providing high-quality representation in state intervention cases.  She has trained nearly every child welfare lawyer in the state and a substantial number of Juvenile Court judges as well.  She knows child welfare law inside and out.  She also is extremely well-versed in the wide array of non-legal issues that affect CAFL lawyers’ work, and she knows how to share her expertise and the expertise of others with panel members and staff.  It’s impossible to list all of her other accomplishments, but they are all grounded in her unrivaled commitment to our clients – parents whose children have been taken away by DCF and children who have been removed from their homes, their families, and their communities.  We are thrilled to see Amy being honored with MCLE’s Scholar-Mentor Award.”

For those interested in attending the award ceremony and reception, MCLE will present the Scholar-Mentor Award to Amy Karp on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 5:30 pm, at the MCLE Conference Center, 10 Winter Place, Boston, MA.

Presidential Proclamation — National Youth Justice Awareness Month, 2016

– – – – – – –



The essential promise that we make to our young people — that where they start must not determine how far they can go — is part of what makes America exceptional. It is our shared responsibility to ensure all children are given a fair shot at life, including a quality education and equal opportunities to pursue their dreams. Too often in America, young people are not afforded a second chance after having made a mistake or poor decision — the kind of chance some of their peers receive under more forgiving environments. Many of these young people lack institutional or family support and live in distressed communities. Others may have experienced trauma and violence or may struggle with disabilities, mental health issues, or substance use disorders. As a society, we must strive to reach these children earlier in life and modernize our juvenile and criminal justice systems to hold youth accountable for their actions without consigning them to a life on the margins. During National Youth Justice Awareness Month, we reaffirm our commitment to helping children of every background become successful and engaged citizens.

While the number of juvenile arrests have fallen sharply over the past decade, roughly 1 million juvenile arrests were made in 2014. An overwhelming majority of these arrests were for non-violent crimes, and nearly three-quarters of those arrested were male. Children of color, particularly black and Hispanic males and Native American youth, continue to be overrepresented across all levels of the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, far too many youth become involved with the adult criminal justice system each year — including in several States where 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults regardless of their crime, and two where 16-year-olds are as well. Children in the adult system have less access to rehabilitative services and often face higher recidivism and suicide rates. Some States have recently raised the age so that 16- and 17-year-olds are not unnecessarily tried in adult courts, and many are reforming sentencing laws and expanding access to age-appropriate transition services upon reentry.

Even for those youth who were never convicted or otherwise found guilty, simply having had contact with our justice system can lead to lifelong barriers and an increased likelihood of ending up in a cycle of incarceration. To help break this cycle, my Administration increased funding for expunging juvenile records and took steps to ensure young people in juvenile and adult justice facilities can receive Pell Grants to pursue a quality education. The White House launched the Fair Chance Pledge to highlight employers and institutions of higher education that have committed to reducing barriers that justice-involved youth often face in accessing employment, training, and education. To build on these efforts, the Congress must reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to increase protections for youth and limit the number of minors held in adult jails and prisons. Reauthorizing the JJDPA will promote evidence-based practices, quality education, and trauma-informed care for incarcerated youth, while reducing punishments for things such as breaking curfew and truancy.

We have also seen too many of our youth held in solitary confinement while incarcerated, which can lead to devastating, long-term psychological consequences. Earlier this year, my Administration took steps to implement reforms that include banning this harmful practice for juveniles under the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We must ensure that young people have quality legal representation throughout every stage of the legal process as well as age-appropriate and rehabilitative sentencing and placements. The financial costs of the juvenile court system can be debilitating and can unfairly penalize children from poor families — by reducing the fees and fines imposed on youth, we can avoid pushing families into debt and decrease this disproportionate burden.

To meet these goals, we must engage young people before they find themselves locked into a path from which they cannot escape. The Departments of Justice and Education created the Supportive School Discipline Initiative to incentivize positive school climates and rethink discipline policies to foster safer and more supportive learning environments. They are also working to assist States, schools, and law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of school resource officers and campus law enforcement professionals. The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services released a joint policy statement against the use of suspension and expulsion in preschool settings — which disproportionately affect children of color. As part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative, we are providing services such as job training and substance use disorder treatment and counseling for youth in juvenile facilities, and we are expanding the use of effective community-based alternatives to youth detention. We are also screening youth for exposure to trauma that can put them at greater risk of entering the juvenile justice system. And through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, we are working to address persistent opportunity gaps and ensure all young people can reach their full potential — including by helping them get a healthy start in life, enter school ready to learn, and successfully enter the workforce.

When we invest in our children and redirect young people who have made misguided decisions, we can reduce our over-reliance on the juvenile and criminal justice systems and build stronger pathways to opportunity. In addition, for every dollar we put into high-quality early childhood education, we save at least twice that down the road in reduced crime. That is why my Administration has sought to expand high-quality early education by increasing funding for programs like Head Start and investing in preschool, child care, and evidence-based home visiting. Investing in our communities and our kids makes sense, and if we recognize that every child deserves to remain connected to their families and communities, we can ensure youth who come in contact with the law can have a chance at a brighter future.

This month, we come together to ensure all young people are supported, nurtured, and provided an opportunity to succeed. We must make sure youth in every community and from every walk of life can be known for more than their worst mistakes. With enhanced possibilities, a sense of optimism, and an open mind, they can all thrive and live up to the full measure of their promise.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2016 as National Youth Justice Awareness Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month by taking action to support our youth and by participating in appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs in their communities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.


Debtor’s Prisons for Kids? The High Cost of Fees and Fines in the Juvenile Justice System.

The Juvenile Law Center (JLC) today released Debtors’ Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System, a groundbreaking report on the impact of juvenile court costs on youth and their families. The report was featured in a New York Times article this morning, and includes a companion microsite featuring interactive maps.

State holds first “Reunification Day Celebration” in Berkshire County

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, for the first time in Berkshire County, local agencies hosted a Reunification Day Celebration to recognize the reunification of families after separation through the child welfare system.  This event was hosted by Berkshire Children & Families, the Department of Children and Families, and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – Children and Family Law Division (CAFL), in collaboration with the Berkshire Juvenile Court and the local bar.

The two hour celebration was held at the Berkshire Children and Families’ Family Resource Center and honored local families for their reunification success.    The Honorable Amy L. Nechtem, Chief Justice of Juvenile Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court, the Honorable Joan M. McMenemy, First Justice of the Berkshire Juvenile Court, Carolyn Burns, CEO & President of Berkshire Children and Families, and Margie Gilberti, Pittsfield DCF Director of Areas addressed the audience.  Brian Litscher, a local CAFL panel attorney, entertained the crowd with an acapella performance of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The honored families were presented with passes donated by local attractions, and gifts that were generously provided by CAFL.  Arts and crafts and face painting followed the structured portion of the celebration.  A commemorative canvas, donated by CAFL panel attorney, Peter Brewer, was decorated and will be displayed in the Berkshire Juvenile Court.

This event was held in connection with the American Bar Association’s National Reunification Month.  National Reunification Month is celebrated around the country every June to honor the importance of the reunification of children with their families in the child welfare system.  The event was first celebrated in 2010 by the American Bar Association in collaboration with many national agencies.  National Reunification Month celebrates the accomplishments of families who have overcome an array of challenges to safely reunify, recognizes the vital role that community partners play in strengthening families, and is designed to inspire other families in pursuit of successful reunification.

Reunification Day Celebration 2

Another Huge Loss in the Indigent Defense Community

10/6/11 3:40:14 PM -- Boston, Massachusetts Portrait of BU Law Professor Robert Spangenberg  Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University Photography

Bob Spangenberg – taken in 2011 when he joined the faculty at Boston University Law School

Sad news as another giant from the indigent defense world has passed away.  Robert (Bob) Spangenberg, who spent a lifetime working to improve access to counsel for the poor in criminal and civil cases died late last month at age 83.

In the 1960’s, as an advisor to the Lyndon Johnson administration, Bob was instrumental in the creation of the Office of Legal Services, the precursor of the Legal Services Corporation.  Having helped establish the largest national civil legal aid funder, Bob turned his attention to Boston, where he helped found the organization now known as Greater Boston Legal Services.  Before settling in the Commonwealth, Bob was called back to Washington to serve as Special Assistant to the first Director of the National Legal Services Program.

Bob returned to Boston to become the Executive Director of the Boston Bar Association’s Action Plan for Legal Services.  During his tenure, The Action Plan conducted in-depth research into the legal needs of the Commonwealth’s indigents. The Action Plan’s findings helped prompt the 1983 legislation which created the Committee for Public Counsel Services.  Bob served as a CPCS board member from its inception until 1995 and remained a strong supporter in the years after.

In 1985, Bob formed The Spangenberg Group (TSG).  For a quarter of a century TSG conducted research and provided technical assistance to civil and criminal legal systems around the United States and throughout the world.  During this period Bob testified before Congress and numerous state legislatures, leading to positive change in the delivery of legal services in many jurisdictions.  TSG’s work contributed to a critical rate increase for CPCS private assigned counsel.   Bob and TSG provided key information and expertise to CPCS in the Lavallee (Nathaniel Lavallee, et al. vs. The Justices of the Springfield District Court, 442 Mass. 228 (2004)) and the Arianna  (Arianna S., et al. v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, et al., SJ-2004-0282 (filed June 28, 2004)) cases.  As result of Lavallee and Arianna, the state legislature enacted hourly rate increases in criminal, juvenile and child welfare cases, and instigated the creation of the first CPCS District Court staff offices.

In 2009, Bob received the Champion of Indigent Defense award for outstanding efforts in making positive changes to indigent defense systems from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  The National Legal Aid and Defender Association Reginald Heber Smith award, as well as the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense Robert O. Dawson award were presented to Bob in 2008.  In addition, Bob was the recipient of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bob was extremely generous with his time and expertise, always willing to answer a call for advice.  He maintained a keen interest in CPCS, often calling to check in on the never-ending battle for increased funding, or to get more details about a story he had seen in the press.

Bob Spangenberg will be sorely missed.  His work benefitted scores of individuals.   Although still inadequate, because of Bob the services available to indigent defendants and civil legal aid clients in the Commonwealth are significantly better than those provided in most other parts of the country.

Anthony J. Benedetti
Chief Counsel
Committee for Public Counsel Services
44 Bromfield Street
Boston, MA 02108


Recognition Well-Deserved – Atty. Anne Goldbach Receives the 2016 MACDL Clarence Gideon Award

Anne GoldbachOn June 14, 2016, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) presented our colleague, Atty. Anne C. Goldbach, with the Clarence Gideon Award, an honor not awarded every year, but presented to only those worthy to be recognized as champions of the noblest principle that all persons shall stand equal before the law.   Continue reading