Presentation on theme: "Louisiana Child Welfare Comprehensive Workforce Project at LSU Meaningful Engagement of the Legal and Judicial System for Child Welfare Workers."— Presentation transcript:
Louisiana Child Welfare Comprehensive Workforce Project at LSU Meaningful Engagement of the Legal and Judicial System for Child Welfare Workers
Legal Competencies: Legal Issues and Court Preparation Explain the statutory definitions of abuse and neglect and abandonment the stages of a child in need of care action using the Louisiana Childrens Code. Recognize the legal authority to file a petition under the Louisiana Childrens Code. Access the court jurisdiction when necessary to protect children and assure permanency within legally established time frames. Understand the caseworkers role and responsibility in the courtroom, basic roles of the childs attorney, district attorney, parents attorney, court appointed special advocate (CASA) and Departments attorney.
Legal Competencies: Legal Issues and Court Preparation cont Explain court proceedings that relate to children and families involved with DCFS in regard to safety, permanency, and well-being. Gather, prepare and document case information for court and explain the impact of accurate and impartial case documentation for court proceedings. Identify the purposes, time frames and standards of evidence that pertain to legal proceedings within the child protection system.
Legal Competencies: Learning Objectives Describe the structure and sequencing of testifying and demonstrate the ability to testify in juvenile and/or district court hearings. Explain the four principles of giving effective testimony. Recognize the role of the expert witness and why expert witness testimony is critical to a CINC case. Describe the types of questions used by attorneys to qualify a worker as an expert witness.
Legal Competencies: Learning Objectives Know what constitutes effective testimony and cross examination. Explain how to respond to cross examination. Demonstrate through role play how to maintain appropriate courtroom decorum and deliver effective testimony at a juvenile court hearing.
How a Case Becomes Known to Court There are 4 ways a case comes to the courts attention: 1. A request to the court for an order to compel a parent or caretaker to cooperate with and participate in the agency investigation of a report of child abuse and/or neglect. instanter order 2. A request to the court for an instanter order for the purpose of removing a child from his parents custody and home, and place him or her in a safe environment 3. Request for a restraining order, temporary protective order 4. CINC petition.
Various Court Actions and Procedures REFUSAL TO COOPERATE If at any point in the investigation process, the parent/person responsible for a childs care or any other adult subject of a report of child abuse and/or neglect refuses to cooperate with the investigation, and the investigation cannot be completed and a validity determination made as a result of the refusal to cooperate, the Child Protection Investigation Worker shall consult with his supervisor regarding the alternatives which may assist the agency to obtain the needed cooperation. The first alternative which should usually be explored is law enforcement assistance. If that does not effect cooperation, the worker shall refer the situation to the District Attorney for assistance with a request for a court order. Refer to Policy Section for examples of specific areas of refusal to cooperate. Child Code 613 and 614
Various Court Actions and Procedures EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE ACTION A. REMOVAL OF THE PERPETRATOR For investigations in which the formal assessment of risk indicates that a child is at serious risk of harm due to one parent/caretaker, but may have another parent/ caretaker who is willing to provide protection, the worker and supervisor may consider the advisability of assisting the parent willing to protect the child to obtain a protective court order. The Louisiana Children's Code in Articles 617 and 618 provides for temporary restraining order and protective orders
Various Court Actions and Procedures EMERGENCY PROTECTIVE ACTION B. INSTANTER ORDER: Basis for Decision to Request an Instanter Order For some investigations, the formal assessment of risk will reveal that a child is at serious risk of harm as the result of child abuse and/or neglect, and that it is necessary to remove the child from his parent/caretaker in order to protect him. Reasonable efforts to prevent Placement should be explained here why it is not in the childs best interest to remain in the home. If the child is in immediate danger, then the Child Protection Investigation worker, with supervisory concurrence, is responsible for taking action, on an emergency basis, to attempt to secure the protection of the child. The protection, in the case where removal is necessary, is secured by requesting the instanter orderinstanter order issuance of an instanter order from the court with juvenile jurisdiction. The instanter order, if issued, takes the child into the temporary custody of the DCFS and, therefore, permits the worker to remove the child from his home and parent/caretaker, and allows the agency to place the child in a safe environment.
Various Court Actions and Procedures C. CONTINUED CUSTODY HEARING Article 624 of the Louisiana Children's Code requires that a continued custody hearing be held within three (3) days of a child's being taken into custody as the result of an instanter order. Refer to Emergency Protective Action (D) for preparation for the Continued Custody Hearing.
Various Court Actions and Procedures AFTER CUSTODY PETITION TO COURT, ADJUDICATION AND DISPOSITION A. REPORT TO DISTRICT ATTORNEY/ PETITION TO THE COURT The Child Protection Investigation worker shall be responsible for cooperating with the district attorneys office (as soon as possible but no longer than 15 days) with regard to the filing of a petition to the court to have a child adjudicated as a child in need of care by completing a full report of the allegations and facts obtained regarding the child abuse/ neglect so that all pertinent information is included in the petition. Refer to policy reference for further instructions. The DA should type and file the report IAA Informal Adjustment Agreement
Various Court Actions and Procedures APPEARANCE HEARING The Louisiana Children's Code in Article 646 requires the parent to appear in court to answer the petition prior to the adjudication hearing, but no later than fifteen (15) days after the filing of the petition. The worker is expected to attend the hearing prepared to discuss the case. This should include the chronology of the facts of the case as well as the facts that support the agency recommendation. ADJUDICATION HEARING The adjudication hearing is a trial before the judge at which the state must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the allegations stated in the petition are true and that the child is "in need of care". The Child Protection Investigation worker is responsible for assisting the district attorney in the preparation for the hearing, if requested, attending the hearing, and for being prepared to testify as needed. This includes responding to the best of his knowledge to any question the court allows. DISPOSITION HEARING The Louisiana Children's Code requires that following an adjudication that a child is "in need of care", the court conduct a disposition hearing to decide the disposition for the child. The Child Protection Investigation worker may attend the disposition hearing.
Various Court Actions and Procedures FAMILY SERVICES PROGRAM WORKING WITH THE COURT CASES IN WHICH THERE ARE EXISTING COURT ORDERS In some instances, there will have been court intervention resulting from the initial abuse/neglect investigation in which certain activities were ordered, although the children remain in the custody of the parents. The court orders may mandate action on the part of the family and/or DCFS. In such cases, it becomes the responsibility of the Family Service Worker to see that the order is complied with, both by the Agency and by the clients. If, for any reason, the family fails to follow through with court ordered activities, the court shall be notified as soon as the lack of substantial compliance becomes apparent, and shall be advised of the Agency's recommendation for assuring the safety of the children. Dont need to wait until the next date – you can move for an earlier hearing date – Childrens Code
Various Court Actions and Procedures FAMILY SERVICES PROGRAM WORKING WITH THE COURT CASES IN WHICH THERE ARE EXISTING COURT ORDERS The Family Service Worker shall make every effort to comply timely with provisions of court orders which pertain to DCFS. All written reports and court appearances which occur following the adjudication of the case are the responsibility of the Family Service Worker. Court appearances and preparation up to and including the adjudication are the primary responsibility of the Child Protection Investigation Worker, except in those cases in which the original court order was requested by the Family Service Worker.
Various Court Actions and Procedures FOSTER CARE PROGRAM DISPOSITION The purpose of the disposition is for the court to make decisions concerning plans for a child who has been adjudicated to be in Need of Care. The disposition may be held immediately after the adjudication but shall be conducted within 30 days after the adjudication. The Foster Care Worker is responsible for providing the court a report at least 10 days (this is for all of the stakeholders) prior to the disposition in accordance with Ch. C. Art. 668 and for attending the disposition hearing.
Various Court Actions and Procedures FOSTER CARE PROGRAM JUDICIAL HEARINGS FOR CASE REVIEW AND PERMANENCY The role of the DCFS and role of Court since federal mandate of Judicial system is required to oversee what is being done. Partnering with the court to insure that kids and families get what they need The first Case Review Hearing is held three months after the disposition hearing if the child is removed prior to disposition or within six months after the disposition hearing if the child was removed at disposition, but in no case more than six months after removal of the child from his parents. This case review hearing is held not later than every six months thereafter until the child's permanent plan is achieved
Various Court Actions and Procedures FOSTER CARE PROGRAM JUDICIAL HEARINGS FOR CASE REVIEW AND PERMANENCY In addition to six month Case Review Hearings, the Louisiana Children's Code requires that Permanency Hearings be conducted. The Louisiana Children's Code requires that: A Permanency Hearing be conducted within 30 days of a judicial determination that efforts to reunify the parent and child are not required. The Foster Care worker shall address in-state and out-of-state placement considerations, as applicable, in the court report prepared for all Permanency Hearings. In-state and out-of-state placement considerations should also be considered at the permanency hearing.
Various Court Actions and Procedures FOSTER CARE PROGRAM JUDICIAL HEARINGS FOR CASE REVIEW AND PERMANENCY A Permanency Hearing be conducted within nine months after the disposition hearing if the child was removed prior to disposition or within 12 months if the child was removed at disposition but in no case more than 12 months after removal. The Foster Care worker shall address in-state and out-of-state placement considerations, as applicable, in the court report prepared for the 12 month Permanency Hearing. The Foster Care Worker is responsible for the report to the court and attendance including foster parents, relative care providers and pre- adoptive parents at the Disposition, and Judicial Hearings for case review and permanency.
Social Workers/Legal Personnel non-adversarial Social workers use non-adversarial approaches to working with clients. Our work is not about winning but working toward goals with the clients that are mutually agreed upon, ensure self sufficiency and build toward empowerment. Social workers are guests in the legal environment; this may immediately feel that you are at a disadvantage in the courtroom and will cause you adapt. Social Workers are trained differently than legal personnel and work from a system of ethical values and principles that believe in the principles of self determination; starting where the client is at; and working for the best interest of the clients.
Whos Who in the Court The Judge The Child The DCFS Worker The Parents Attorney for the Parents Attorney for the Agency Attorney for the Child CASA Foster Parents Relatives, other interested persons Court personnel; i.e., interpreters, court reporters/clerk, court security
Lets Talk About Judges Some judges sit just in juvenile court or Family Court, and some sit just in courts with general jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have juvenile courts where the judge hears family-law type cases and some only have courts where one judge hears many different types of cases. It takes a judge time to learn about child welfare, and although there is some training for judges, most of it is learned on the job.
Lets Talk About Judges Judges are legal and political figures and all are lawyers. Many are politicians who had to win an election for their position or who are appointed by an elected official and serve at their pleasure. Like all people, judges vary widely in terms of their values, ethics, experiences, intelligence, knowledge, work ethic, receptivity to change, and personalities. As with other lawyers they tend to be analytical thinkers and focus on the facts, which they expect to be presented in a logical progression.
Lets Talk About Judges Judges expect witnesses to answer questions directly and want people who testify to get to the point and to express themselves succinctly in writing and orally. Most judges are practical and decisive, almost all are impatient with regards to poor performance, delays, dramatic behavior and excessive details. Judges personalities are revealed over time, as are their work habits, knowledge, skills, commitment to doing the work well, and their attitudes toward social workers, families & attorneys. Social Workers appearing before judges quickly learn which judges are easiest to work with; hardest to work with; fairest; most receptive to improving court practices and who values the role of social workers in working with children, youth, and families.
Lets Talk About Judges Make no mistake: JUDGES HAVE A LOT OF POWER. THEY CAN HOLD YOU OR YOUR SUPERVISOR IN CONTEMPT OF COURT. THEY CAN JAIL YOU, IF THEY CHOSE TO DO SO. THEY CAN ORDER A WIDE RANGE OF THINGS FOR OR AGAINST YOU OR YOUR CLIENT OR CHOSE NOT TO ORDER SOMETHING.
Interacting and Building Positive Relationships Between Social Workers and Judges Introduce yourself to the judge at each court appearance or other encounter Dress appropriately Be polite – use church manners but be assertive in making your positions Speak and write as clearly and plainly as possible. Be concise and to the point Do not display emotion, especially anger or disdain, if the judge makes a decision with which you disagree/
Interacting and Building Positive Relationships Between Social Workers and Judges Learn as much as possible about the judges tendencies, personality, and likes/dislikes and be guided by this knowledge. Determine the history of the judges interactions with the agency and how it may affect the judges handling of particular issues or dealings with social workers. Build relationships with court clerks, bailiffs, and court reporters.
Courtroom Presentation Dress Appropriately – Wear professional, conservative attire. Never wear denim, sneakers, hats or sunglasses. Have a court outfit. 1. Men –wear a button down shirt, jacket & tie and shoes. 2. Women – wear a skirt or pants with shoes or similar professional business attire. Make a good impression – Remember, you can never take back your first impression. 1. While waiting for your case to be called be attentive, quiet and respectful. Be an example for others. 2. Respect the judges rules such as no food or drinks in the courtroom. Never chew gum!
Body Language is Key Stand and sit tall in the courtroom. NEVER roll your eyes, or suck your teeth, or make disapproving audible sounds. Your body language can exude confidence or weakness. When people are teaching self-defense classes, it is often taught that muggers profile their victims. A person walking slouched over with his eyes cast to the ground is more likely to be prey than someone who is aware of his surroundings and walking upright. Let your body language signal to the opposing party that you are not going to be the next victim. Stand by your decisions with the confidence that you exude.
Speak to the Court with Respect Even if you do not respect the judge and other court personnel on a given day, give the court the respect it deserves. Always answer the judge with your honor; or yes/no Maam; or no/yes, Sir The court is the best system we have for resolving controversies and administering justice in this country. Dont take things personally. Lawyers take the adversarial role seriously & opposing counsel will try to discredit your testimony. Dont take the bait. Be respectful to everyone.
Always Prepare for Court Do good work. Although you may think your initial presentation to the courtroom is your first opportunity to impress the court, the truth is that you begin preparing your testimony the moment you begin working with a family. Follow best practices in your work. In addition to doing the right thing, you will feel more confident and secure knowing that your underlying work is thorough and can withstand the scrutiny of the opposing party. Review and make notes. When a worker does not review the file prior to court, the testimony often comes across as sloppy, unorganized, and less credible. Know your case. Be responsible for your case. Workers who have just been assigned a new case should be fully knowledgeable about the existing case and aware of what has been previously ordered.
Always Prepare for Court Use note cards to make notes on when reviewing the file. These can be referred to during testimony and are easier to manage then a large file. Put yourself in the judges position: every time a question is asked, the social worker must take long pauses to flip through voluminous records. At some point, you will begin to think that this case is not important to the worker. Although a witness should feel free to think and take time when answering questions, taking long pauses can cause frustration for those waiting. The truth is, once you have put all that effort into preparing, you rarely have to refer to notes.
Always Prepare for Court Practice. Practicing your testimony is key. Sit in front of a mirror or get a peer to help you go through some practice questions. When you are practicing, identify areas of weakness in your case. This will give you an opportunity to practice critical thinking by examining those weaknesses and developing an appropriate response. When you are reviewing a case and discover a significant flaw, bring it to the attention of your DCFS attorney (representing the State) immediately. Often it is better for your DCFS attorney to intentionally bring out a weakness than to have it brought out by the opposing attorney during cross-examination. This can also add to your credibility.
Theres No Substitute for Preparation Being a busy social worker, preparation may not exactly come naturally; however, in a legal setting you simply cant take shortcuts. Preparation means going over every piece of information directly and remotely connected to the case. It means rehearsing your responses out loud not just thinking them through, but actually saying the words. Most attorneys force their clients to do all this way past the point where you might think it is overkill, but in the end, there is great value in rehearsing. Being well prepared helps you to keep your cool on the stand and to exude a confident attitude to the court. KNOW YOUR CASE
Preparing for Testimony Speak with any previous caseworkers and discuss the case with your supervisor. Summarize the services offered, the response, and the outcome. Prepare to answer questions about reasonable efforts. Meet with the attorney (whom ever is representing the State – DA or DCFS attorney) to discuss the case; especially any troublesome aspects. Outline the history of the case, include important dates & events. Prepare a description of your professional experience and qualifications. Discuss the expected cross examination questions with your DCFS attorney.
Follow the 4 Basic Rules of Testifying in Court 1. Always tell the truth, even if it hurts. 2. Dont be afraid to admit you didnt hear or understand a question. 3. Stop talking when someone says, Objection. 4. Always tell the truth.
Always tell the truth, even if it hurts If you dont, it will come back to haunt you in some way. When you get caught in a lie, even a small lie, it forever hurts your credibility in the eyes of that judge. A lie will not only impact your credibility in the case at hand but in every case for which you testify from that point forward. As social workers you are expected to be competent and professional – you can only do that if you always tell the truth.
Dont be afraid to admit you didnt hear or understand a question Most lawyers have no problem speaking up, so chances are they wont mind repeating what they have said. Judges look to you as the experts in the area of child welfare, not legalese. Asking for clarification is to be expected. Providing testimony is a critical aspect of the dependency process, so making sure you get the question is the first step to being effective on the stand.
Stop talking when someone says, Objection. Fight the urge to finish your sentence. When an attorney objects to a question or an answer stop speaking until the judge rules on the motion. If the judge overrules the objection, then the caseworker should answer the questions. If the judge sustains the objection, then the caseworker should not answer the question, and the attorney will ask another one Demonstrating respect for the legal process and the court will only enhance your professionalism in the eyes of the judge.
Guidelines for Testifying Be confident and self assured. Make eye contact with the questioner and the judge. Refer to the case file only as necessary in order to recall information. No not read your court report out loud to the court. Listen carefully to the question and answer it directly. Ask that a question be repeated if it is difficult to hear or understand, but do not make a habit of doing so.
Guidelines for Testifying State facts, not opinions or conclusions. For example, instead of saying that the mother was uncooperative or rude describe her behavior and actions - state exactly what she said or did. If you do not know the answer to a question or you cannot recall it, simply give that response. Speak clearly, distinctly, and loudly enough to be heard.
Cross-Examination Cross-examination is questioning by the attorney other than the one who called the caseworker as a witness. The purpose of cross-examination is to expose weaknesses, errors, biases, or other deficiencies in the testimony. The attorney might also focus on the caseworkers lack of experience or qualifications and will try to show that you did not do a thorough investigation or exercised poor judgment.
Cross-Examination Cross-examination can sometimes be unpleasant, but it is important not to take it personally and remain outwardly calm, confident, and respectful at all times. If the caseworker becomes hostile or defensive, the judge may discount the testimony.
Cross-Examination Some sneaky cross styles to watch out for: Note Steal Rapid Fire Attack/Badgering and Belligerent Condescending/Incredulous Counsel Overly Personal Mispronouncing Name Good Cop/Bad Cop Leading Around the Barn
Court Reports The primary way social workers have to communicate information to the court. Poorly organized reports frustrate the judge and demean the social workers role in the court process. The goal is to present material in a manner that is easily understood. A cover page with salient facts might help organize the data in the report. Reports need to be comprehensive, concise, and written as directly and clearly as possible. If the document is an updated version of an earlier one, highlight the new material. It should also be simple to locate any supporting documentation.
The Written Court Report The Worker is required to submit a written report to the Court 10 days before any scheduled disposition, permanency or case review hearing. Many people need to know the information contained in this report. The report should provide detailed information on the status of the case. Failure to file often results in not moving children toward permanence. A suggested format for a narrative court report follows. The Court Report Format is used to guide preparation of the report to the court prior to each case review or permanency hearing. If the court is unwilling to accept the format below, comply with the court required format.
The Written Court Report The Court Report Format is used in conjunction with the case record documents and Policy Section 6-835, Judicial Hearings for Case Review, Permanency and Restoration of Parental Rights, to prepare a typed report to the court in accordance with the legal requirements of the Childrens Code and to describe for the court and other involved parties the progress of the family in achieving case goals. The original court report is signed and submitted to the court, via certified mail or hand delivery to insure receipt at least ten working days prior to the hearing. Copies are submitted, via certified mail, to individuals listed at the end of the report. A copy is also filed in Section 4 of the Foster Care record.
The Written Court Report Date of Report Court Address Docket Number Hearing Date Hearing Type – e.g. Disposition, Review, Permanency, Status Involved Parties Parents name(s) and addresses, incarceration status if incarcerated Not necessary when parental rights have been terminated Child(ren)s name(s) and DOB Date each child entered foster care and date each child freed for adoption
The Written Court Report Reason Child(ren) Entered Foster Care: Reason child was placed in state custody as stated on first court order or DCFS Form 65 Reasonable efforts provided to prevent placement and results Reason it was not safe enough for the child to remain in the home Previous valid reports of child abuse/neglect involving any family members Previous Court Orders List and describe compliance or attempts to comply
The Written Court Report Brief Summary of Efforts to Achieve Case Goal: (List separately for each parent.) Identify parental behaviors necessitating removal of child(ren) from the home. Provide most recent SDM reunification risk reassessment results, including assessment date. Based on the Assessment of Family Functioning (AFF) and case plan, describe behaviors needing to change for the child to safely return home. Explain how services being provided to family members are linked to generating behavioral changes and improving parental capacity to safely care for the child(ren). Address any paternity issues or searches for unidentified or missing parents. Also, describe Department provision of services to achieve permanency, insure overall development and meet daily care needs for each child in state custody, as well as services provided to insure the safety and well-being of any children remaining in the care of the parents. Description of services to parents and each child should include efforts to plan for and achieve an alternative (concurrent) case plan goal if the primary case plan goal can not be achieved.
The Written Court Report Case Plan: (List separately for each parent.) Date of most recent FTC and next scheduled FTC Specify current case plan goal and any concurrent case plan goal Rationale for rating in each SDM risk area Clearly describe family circumstances leading to overall high or very high risk level rating
The Written Court Report Case Plan: (List separately for each parent.) cont Describe current action step(s) and service plan for parents and how plan is expected to change a behavior/situation that lead to the child being placed in foster care. Describe the parents response and behavioral changes, since the last court hearing related to each action step/service and how current parental functioning impacts the case plan goal and planning activities to achieve permanency for the child(ren). Include information related to health issues (physical or behavioral) of each parent impacting capacity to care for the child(ren) and prognosis for improvement. Make clear the extent of compliance with the case plan by all parties and progress toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care. Attach reports from service providers. Describe action steps/services identified by the family, not related to the reason the child entered FC, but necessary to meet the needs of the family and supported by the Department
The Written Court Report Current Placement of Child(ren): Describe efforts to notify current caregiver of upcoming court hearing and caregivers response (do not give address of foster parent or other caregiver) Describe the following: how current placement is most appropriate to each childs individual care needs how this is the least restrictive (most family-like), safe, and most appropriate setting to meet the childs needs how placement allows child to stay with siblings, achieve educational stability, remain in close proximity to parents, maintain connections to community of origin, retain extended family relationships, develop cultural heritage, and continue religious practices Length of current placement and child(ren)s adjustment Caregivers recommendation for permanency for child(ren) Other placements since last court report and reason(s) for changes If indicated, any plans to move the child(ren) and reasons for proposed change Discuss all placement considerations and pertinence to achievement of permanency Number of previous placements since foster care entry
The Written Court Report Health of Child(ren): (Attach all health reports since last court report) Physical Health Child(ren)s overall physical health status update, including immunization status Physicians, other medical providers and treatment type, specify primary care physician Medical diagnoses, chronic health conditions/special needs Medications, including dosage, purpose, person prescribing, date initiated, known side effects and whether the child has experienced any of these side effects Medical equipment, including glasses/contacts Dates of recent physical and dental examinations, specialized exams such as optometrist All known allergies, including drug allergies
The Written Court Report Health of Child(ren): (Attach all health reports since last court report) Behavioral Health (attach any evaluations and progress reports) Child(ren)s overall behavioral health status update Behavioral health services being provided, specify treatment modality Treatment providers, treatment frequency, and expected duration Diagnoses and prognosis for improvement Prescribed psychotropic medications, reason for medication, observed effectiveness, known side effects, and whether the child has experienced any of these side effects Progress in treatment and reasons for continuing treatment
The Written Court Report Education of Child(ren): (only attach documents not previously submitted to the court) School name, (Identify reason(s) for changes in school since last report to the court. In initial court report, describe changes occurring at initial foster care entry.) Describe how this school is achieving childs need for a full time educational program. Include child care or early learning program information for children under mandatory school age. Discuss school performance, current grade level, semester grades and overall grade point average. Identify the type of grading scale utilized if other than the standard 4 point scale. Describe special education services needed and utilized by the child or if the child is in process of being appraised. Include information on educational advocates supporting service access for the child.
The Written Court Report Education of Child(ren): (only attach documents not previously submitted to the court) Cont For a child(ren) who has attained the 7 th grade and is attending a Louisiana school, attach a copy of the childs 5-year educational plan developed by the school If child(ren) is 15 years older, identify childs educational goal (diploma, certificate, GED), realistic prognosis for attaining prior to age of majority, services being provided by childs parents, department, school, foster caregiver, or other entity to support goal achievement Youths plan for post-secondary education/vocation Describe school attendance, number of absences and episodes of tardiness (specify which are excused or unexcused), behavior/disciplinary actions, suspensions, expulsions, etc.
The Written Court Report Education of Child(ren): (only attach documents not previously submitted to the court) Cont For high school students – provide Carnegie units earned and still needed Results of academic testing, including LEAP and GEE IEP results, services/accommodations provided, last update and next scheduled review COMPASS and TABE scores, if applicable Extra Curricula activities – specify and discuss level of involvement Attach copy of most recent IEP and report card or other progress report
The Written Court Report Independent Living Skills Development for youth ages 15 and older: Description of all services being provided to develop youths skills to live independently upon the age of majority including source of service, e.g., parents, current caregiver, mentor, caseworker, contract providers, CASA, and other individuals Assessment of youth needs and progress in skill development. Attach a copy of youths Casey Life Skills assessment and any service/learning plans which have been developed. Unique skill development services for youth with physical, mental or other challenges If working, name of employer, number of hours per week, how long employed, any changes in employer since last court report The Youth Transition Plan (YTP) and any revisions (YTPR), developed at the direction of the youth based on the youths personal life goals should be attached to the court report Credit Report annual clearance – attach results, discuss any problems identified and department efforts to resolve
The Written Court Report Visiting Planned frequency and methods of contact with parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives, fictive kin or others with whom the child has an established and significant relationship Dates and locations of parent/child and sibling visits occurring since last hearing, including description of how locations and frequency were appropriate to serve child(ren)s needs Overall assessment of interactions in visits, including Department efforts to promote visitation and improve interaction quality Specify any need for restriction, limitation, reduction or increase, and reason for the changes
The Written Court Report Relative Search/Fictive Kin Search Names of relatives/fictive kin, relationship and efforts made since the last court report to locate, notify children entered state custody, and involve in supporting Department intervention with the family Efforts to encourage as a connection, contact or placement for each child in state custody Make recommendations or discuss compliance with court orders regarding continuing contact as per Ch. C. 702 D
The Written Court Report Overall Assessment of the Case Status and Agency Recommendation: Continued necessity for and appropriateness of each childs placement in state custody Departments permanent plan recommendation for each child and justification, including efforts to achieve other plans or reasons for not exploring alternatives in order of preferences listed in Ch. C. Article 702 C Projected permanency date (likely date by which child may be returned home, placed for adoption or guardianship achieved) If childs stay in foster care meets the timeline for termination of parental rights (TPR) or criteria for immediate TPR, but TPR is not being pursued, document compelling reasons Request any orders/assistance of court to compel cooperation or compliance by any parent or child, e.g. paternity or drug testing
What are Reasonable Efforts? Reasonable efforts refer to activities of State social services agencies that aim to provide the assistance and services needed to preserve and reunify families. LA Ch. Code Art. 603(23) The term ''reasonable efforts'' means the exercise of ordinary diligence and care by department caseworkers and supervisors and shall assume the availability of a reasonable program of services to children and their families.
What are Reasonable Efforts? Laws in all States require the provision of services that will help families remedy the conditions that brought the child and family into the child welfare system. The statutes in most States use a broad definition of what constitutes reasonable efforts. Generally, these efforts consist of accessible, available, and culturally appropriate services that are designed to improve the capacity of families to provide safe and stable homes for their children. These services may include family therapy, parenting classes, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, respite care, parent support groups, and home visiting programs.
When are Reasonable Efforts Required? Federal law has long required State agencies to demonstrate that reasonable efforts have been made to provide assistance and services to prevent the removal of a child from his or her home and to make it possible for a child who has been placed in out-of-home care to be reunited with his or her family. In many States, the statutes also require that when a court determines that reunification of the family is not in the best interests of the child, efforts be made to finalize another permanent placement for the child. Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA), while reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify families are still required, the child's health and safety constitute the paramount concern in determining the extent to which reasonable efforts should be made.
When are Reasonable Efforts Required? When Reasonable Efforts Are Required Citation: LA Ch. Code Art. 626; 684 The court shall determine whether the department has made reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of the child from his or her home and, after removal, to make it possible for the child to return home safely. When the child is to be removed from his or her parents' custody, the court shall determine whether reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removal and what preventive and reunification efforts, or both, were made, and why further efforts could or could not have prevented or shortened the separation of the family.
When are Reasonable Efforts NOT Required? LA Ch. Code art At any time in a child in need of care proceeding when a child is in the custody of the department, the department may file a motion for a judicial determination that efforts to reunify the parent and child are not required. The department shall have the burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that reunification efforts are not required, considering the health and safety of the child and the child's need for permanency.
When are Reasonable Efforts NOT Required? not Efforts to reunify the parent and child are not required if a court has determined that: The parent has subjected the child to egregious conduct or conditions, including any of the grounds for termination of parental rights. The parent has committed or attempted to commit murder or manslaughter of another child of the parent or has aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such a murder or manslaughter. The parent has committed a felony that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent. The parent's parental rights to a sibling have been terminated involuntarily.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court The court may ask the Worker to describe the interaction between parent and child during a visit. Be behaviorally specific about what happened between parent and child at the visit (s). Example: The worker/visit coach observed the childs mother hugging and kissing the child and positively interacting with him/her. The child appeared to be happy to see his/her mother. The child hugged and displayed affection towards his/her mother.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Locate and read ahead of time, the court orders from the previous hearing(s). Make sure the court report is in the file. All foster care cases require the following: Birth Certificate and/or Death Certificate Current picture of child or sibling group Social Security Number TIPS number Full name of child and siblings, First, Middle, Last
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Current report card should be attached to the court letter if possible. Always make sure that the reason for agency involvement is listed at the beginning of the court letter. Each case hearing requires DCFS notification to foster parents, pre-adoptive, and relatives re: Court date and time. Attach the appropriate form to the court letter.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Placement history of child and/or children should be included in the court letter. Notify the Court as soon as possible when a Mental Health Hearing needs to be scheduled. The Worker is expected to attend the staffing at the hospital and obtain any written documentation to be submitted to the court. The court has 10 days from the day of child admission to schedule the hearing.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Case plan should be specific, not generic & should address what is in the petition. When possible, provide the court with specific dates. A copy of the petition should be a part of the case record. The Worker should be able to clearly articulate the Concurrent Case Plan if there is one. Familiarize yourself with the resources/community programs stated in the case plan for parents and child. Provide the court with some information about the program. What does the program offer? What is the duration of the program? Describe how the programs addresses the behaviors requiring court intervention?
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Workers should explain all aspects of the case plan to parents before the hearing including concurrent planning. Encourage parents to ask questions. Ask the parent if they understand why tasks are being requested of them? What supportive services will the agency provide to keep the child in home with parents after the child has been returned home? Including the safety plan for the child. Actively seek resources to assist the child and family and know your resources. Familiarize yourself with the Kinship Program and any other services available to relative placements. When the agency recommendation is to transfer custody to a relative always notify family members of the date and time of the court hearing. Prospective relative caretakers need to be present.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Familiarize yourself with medications and be able to state the side effects when asked. What is the plan for the medical review of the medication? What is the medication suppose to do? What is the dosage? How is the medication supposed to be administered? Discuss with foster parents and child if age appropriate. Encourage child to explain how the medication affects him/her. Explore support groups. Read and review all diagnostic reports attached to the court letter. You may be asked several questions. Example: Why did the therapist discontinue the visits?
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Workers should collaborate with the District Attorney as needed leading up to the Adjudication Hearing. Be sure all attorneys receive the necessary information (10 days) prior to the court date. Do NOT read your court report out loud to the court. Explore resources for Grief Counseling when indicated
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Complete a search packet at least every six months. Also, ask IV-E for a print out. For ICPC (Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children) cases, obtain as much information as possible about the placement where the child is going. This information should be included in the Court Report. Be able to provide the court with information on academic and vocational resources when applicable. What does the child need to do to accomplish the YAP goal?
Helpful Hints for Going to Court If possible obtain employment history from parents. Place, length of time, hours working, earnings, name of supervisor, address, address, phone number. Verify all information. If you identify barriers or weaknesses in the case plan, the court may ask you to explain an action to correct those deficiencies. Be prepared to provide a corrective action if asked to do so. When a case has been transferred to you from another worker – NEVER respond by saying, I just received the case. Give the court the date you received it and you need to be familiar with the record or if you are not familiar then your supervisor must be the person who presents the case to the court.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court If a parent receives SSI or has a disability the Worker may want to assess whether or not this is a contributing factor in the abuse/ neglect case. The consent for release of information form to the agency should be obtained. If a parent refuses, we may be able to get them to sign the consent form at the court hearing. Bring the form with you to the hearing. Have documentation of sibling visits to show they are regular and consistent. Dont forget to address reasonable efforts in the court letter.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court When a child has a medical diagnosis such as diabetes the court may ask if the worker has explained to the child how to manage the illness and the implications if the child is not compliant. Be able to report on the subsidy application (Adoption, Legal Guardianship). Do not put anything in the court report that you cannot answer or explain. Explore recreational activities during the school year and summer. Address in the court letter. Remember to be professional and articulate when testifying in court.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Child Protection Investigator Workers (CPI) CPI should be able to answer. The Who, What, When, Where and How about an investigation. When custody is warranted, the CPI Worker will be notified of the scheduled continued custody hearing and should inform the parents and/or caretakers of the date, location and time of the hearing. The CPI Worker is responsible for ensuring any witnesses and/or pertinent information concerning the removal is available to the court.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Family Services Worker (FS) All cases require the following: 1. TIPS Number 2. Full name of child (ren) First, Middle, Last 3. Current Address of Parents/Caregivers/Children Each case requires proper notification to parents and/or caregivers: Court date and time. Always make sure that the reason for agency involvement is listed at the beginning of the court letter.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Family Services Worker (FS) Notification for change of Family Services Worker should be submitted in writing the court & all attorneys of record (parents, children) as soon as possible. Change of address for any involved parties should be submitted to the docket clerk or responsible party to ensure proper and timely notification for up coming court dates. The Dispositional Hearing requires the Family Services Worker to testify about the case plan for the family. Ask permission of the court if you need to refer to the court letter.
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Family Services Worker (FS) When possible provide the court with specific dates. For example: date of psychological evaluation, dates of parenting classes. Family Services Worker should explain all aspects of the case plan to parents before the hearing. Remember the parents and/or caregivers should be involved in all aspects of case planning activities. Be able to identify or explain the Protective Factors. What types of supports are present that reduce the risk for the child (ren) to remain in the home with the parents? Be able to identify or explain the Risk Factors. What prevents the agency from closing the case or placing the child back with parents if they are currently with relatives?
Helpful Hints for Going to Court Family Services Worker (FS) When substance abuse is suspected, explain why it is suspected. For example: The Family Services Worker should document observations (behavioral information received). Be sure to obtain as much information as possible from the CPI Worker regarding family functioning. Read and Review all diagnostic reports attached to the court letter. You may be asked several questions. Example: Why did the substance abuse counselor recommend relapse recovery treatment as opposed to kicking the client out of the substance abuse program after positive urine screen? The Helpful Hints for Smooth Operation in Court was compiled by Niehma Lowe, LMSW, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Liaison
Resources for Social Workers Engaging the Legal and Judicial Systems MAKING REASONABLE EFFORTS: A Permanent Home for Every Child -articles/reasonable_efforts/ Child Welfare Information Gateway – Child Welfare and the Courts cwa.cfm cwa.cfm
Resources for Social Workers Engaging the Legal and Judicial Systems Louisiana Court Improvement Project Louisiana Childrens Code
Resources for Social Workers Engaging the Legal and Judicial Systems Fiermonte, C, & Renne, J. (2002). Making it permanent. Washington, DC: American Bar Association. Download: apps.americanbar.org/child/rclji/making_it_per manent.pdf Jones, H. G. (2006). Working with the courts in child protection. Washington, DC: DHHS.
Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, Director The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections Hunter College School of Social Work Louisiana Child Welfare Comprehensive Workforce Project LSU School of Social Work A Service of the Childrens Bureau/ACF\DHHS (212) – Direct Line (212) Fax