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Practice Points

September 2, 2016

The Price of Juvenile Crime

The Juvenile Law Center has released a report outlining a 50-state (and D.C.) study of the laws that allow for the imposition of juvenile court costs, fines, fees, or restitution on youth or their families. These costs can be imposed for services ordered for youth including probation, an attorney (even if they were appointed a free attorney based on indigence), mental health evaluations, the costs of incarceration, treatment, or restitution payments. The report, Debtors’ Prison for Kids? The High Cost of Fines and Fees in the Juvenile Justice System, reveals that these practices fall particularly hard on minority youth, they actually increase recidivism and they can trap youth in poverty. The center has also created a national map that outlines both these practices and the consequences of these practices by state. Finally, the report outlines alternatives to these harmful practices.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



August 22, 2016

Access to Justice for Children in Washington State

The University of Washington School of Law has released the report “Defending Our Children: A Child's Access to Justice in Washington State” which underscores the importance of legal representation for children in foster care and the injustice of "justice by geography." For most youth in state care, access to legal representation in the state of Washington depends largely on the county in which the youth is in foster care. The inequity of this approach is obvious.  No youth should have to rely on the serendipity of location for the benefits of legal counsel.


The state is represented by legal counsel and the parent(s) have access to legal counsel. The child, too, must be represented.  All foster youth in the custody of the state of Washington deserve equal access to legal representation. With 414,000 children in foster care nationwide, legislators, attorneys, policy makers, and the public must realize that the rights of children demand legal representation in foster care court proceedings. Representation is not just a nice thing -- it is a justice thing. Representation of youth in state care should be mandated in and across all states.


Sadly, the irony of endorsing the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for adult criminal defendants while denying that same right to children in foster care is missed. No one would question that a victim of neglect and abuse removed from their family and placed under state custody would treasure the guidance and support of a highly trained attorney. In the upheaval, separation, and emotional desolation that is a part of any youth's journey in foster care, a child needs someone literally on their side.  Only by guaranteeing competent and effective legal representation for all youth in foster care can we ensure that the legal rights of all foster children are protected.


Sharon McCartney, Medicaid and child welfare consultant, Washington, D.C., and Daniel Pollack, School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, New York, NY



August 22, 2016

Social Security Administration Extends Application Period for Youth in Foster Care

As of August 1, 2016, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has extended their timeline for allowing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications from youth with disabilities who are engaged in the foster care system. In 2010, the SSA began taking applications from youth up to 90 days prior to their transition out of foster care. The new pilot program allows youth with disabilities to apply up to 180 days before their transition date, which is an exception to the general rule of accepting applications in the month before the month the youth would normally be eligible for SSI payments. Typically, youth in foster care cannot obtain SSI while foster care payments are in play.


Foster care youth may file within this new 180 day timeframe if they are: i) living in statutory foster care situation; ii) allege blindness or disability; iii) appears likely to meet all non-medical eligibility requirements when foster care payments terminate; iv) expects foster care payments to stop within 180 days of the application; and v) file within 180 days of youth ceasing to be eligible for foster care.


The SSA has laid out specific procedures for these applications on their website. If a child is not eligible for SSI prior to the age of 18, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is instructed to place the application in a medical hold.  The pilot program is established through July 31, 2017, and may be further extended.


Jessalyn Schwartz, ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force, Boston, MA



July 7, 2016

Guidance on Every Student Succeeds Act

On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services issued the first guidance on the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act—addressing how state and local education and child welfare agencies must collaborate to implement the ESSA’s provisions on school stability, prompt school enrollment, and school success for children in foster care. The guidance consists of two Dear Colleague Letters and a question and answer section.  Below are key points found within the guidance document.


The First Dear Colleague Letter on Timelines clarifies that the effective date of the ESSA’s school stability provisions is December 10, 2016. The Department of Education indicated that it intends to condition the FY 2016 Title I grant award on compliance with these provision. The second dear colleague letter is directed to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors and also stresses the December 2016 timeline.


The guidance provides definitions for key topics such as: foster care, school origin, and “additional costs” for school transportation.   Notably, in regards to school of origin, the guidance states that if a child’s foster care placement changes, the school of origin would then be considered the school in which the child is enrolled at the time of the placement change.  For transportation costs, the guidance states that they may not be a factor in determining a child’s best interests in terms of school placement.


By December 10, 2016, each SEA must appoint a state-level point of contact to collaborate with the state child welfare agency to implement the ESSA’s foster care requirements. The Guidance also recommends LEAs immediately appoint POCs to ensure compliance with school stability requirements. The Guidance notes the persons appointed must have the capacity and resources to guide implementing the ESSA’s requirements for children in foster care.


The guidance explains that when a child in foster care moves school districts, the new school district cannot decline enrolling a child because the child cannot produce documents normally needed for school enrollment. LEAs must also ensure the children are regularly attending, fully participating, and their needs are met.


For a more in depth analysis of the guidance document, see the highlights document created by The Legal Center for Foster Care and Education.


The guidance document is also available.


Caroline Shurig, Children and Families & Public Benefits Practice Group, LAF, Chicago, IL



June 24, 2016

U.S. DOE Releases Report on OCR to Ensure Educational Equity for All Students

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently released its 2015 fiscal year report: Delivering Justice. Submitted to the President and Secretary of Education, under Section 203(b)(1) of the Department of Education Organization Act, the report provides a summary of the types of cases and investigations as well as data collection efforts conducted in the last year. Also covered in the report—OCR’s work to provide technical assistance to educational institutions, engage with stakeholders, administer the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), and develop nine policy guidance documents on key civil rights topics.


In 2015, OCR reviewed 10,392 complaints, initiated 19 compliance reviews, and resolved 9,250 cases overall, including 1,044 resolutions. OCR reports receiving a record-breaking number of complaints, while operating with the smallest sized staff in the history of OCR. Complaints increased in the following substantive areas: support for English learner (EL) students; harassment based on race, color, or national origin; restraint or seclusion of student with disabilities, accessibility of curriculum through technology for students with disabilities and sexual violence. Notably, complaints of sexual violence at the postsecondary level increased from 11 cases in FY 2009 to 164 in FY 2015.


OCR announced it will release the results of the 2013–14 Civil Rights Data Collection this year, with newly added information on areas such as the cost of preschool within school districts, educational access in youth correctional facilities, civil rights coordinators in school districts, access to distance education courses, credit recovery and dual enrollment programs, and chronic absenteeism. OCR utilized new data collection tools to provide summary reports to school districts immediately after data submissions. Previously, summary reports were issued eight months after submission. New customized data checks eliminated a manual edit checking process that otherwise would have taken OCR an additional two months after the data collection period ended.


Overall, the report shows an increasing use of the OCR complaint process to remedy discrimination in schools and universities across the United States as well as increasing levels of efficiency in terms of the agency’s data collection efforts. OCR continues to focus its efforts on enforcing rights guaranteed by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Amendment Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Caroline Shurig, Children and Families & Public Benefits Practice Group, LAF, Chicago, IL



June 24, 2016

U.S. DOE Office of Civil Rights Unveils Data for 2013–2014 School Year

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. DOE Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released its 2013–2014 Civil Rights Data Collection survey of all public schools and school districts nationwide. The study examined data from 95,507 public schools, in 16,758 districts across the United States, representing 50,035,744 students. These students were 51.4 percent male and 48.6 percent female, including 14 percent students with disabilities. Broken down by race, the student population was 50.3 percent white, 24.7 percent Hispanic or Latino, 15.5 percent Black or African American, with the remaining 8.3 percent being Asian, multi-racial, or Native American/Pacific Islander.


The study measured a number of factors, such as discipline/school climate (bullying/harassment), restraint and seclusion, access to college and job readiness programs, teacher equity, and rate of retention. This was the first year that the OCR looked at school truancy, access to free or partial-pay preschool, educational opportunities within justice facilities, and the presence of law enforcement or school resource officers.


Focusing on absenteeism, 13 percent of students, or 6.5 million, were found to have been chronically absent. Of these students, more than 3 million were high school students, while a surprising 3.5 million were elementary school-aged (K–6). Students of color were found to be more at risk of being chronically truant than their white peers, and students with disabilities were between 1.3 and 1.5 times more likely to be habitually absent, depending on grade level.


Discipline and restraint/seclusion were areas that showed large equity gaps. 2.8 million K–12 students nationwide experienced one or more suspensions, made up of 1.1 million Black students, 600,000 Latino, 660,000 students benefiting from the IDEA, and 210,000 ESOL students. Black children were suspended 3.6 times more often than white students in preschool, with most preschool students suspended being male. Black students were found to have been 1.9 times more likely to be suspended without access to educational services than white students, and were 2.3 times more likely to receive a referral to law enforcement or face school-related arrests. The study goes further into detailing the demographics that were and were not disproportionately impacted in school discipline. Over 100,000 students were placed in seclusion settings or involuntary confinements, or faced physical restraint at school, including 67,000 served by the IDEA.


The report found that Black and Latino students have less access to high-level math and science courses and that race, ethnicity, disability, and English proficiency impact college enrollment. Further, there is unequal access to accelerated courses and AP programs for Black and Latino children, ESOL students, and students with disabilities, and these groups, in addition to other students of color are more likely to be retained or held back in school.


The OCR report additionally evaluated educational class time and services in justice facilities, teaching and staff equity, the presence of civil rights coordinators in school districts, access to distance education and early learning programs, possibilities for credit recovery, and dual enrollment. This publication also included topics that were optional in the 2013–2014 data set, but will be highlighted in the 2015–2016 CRDC, such as allegations of bullying based on sexual orientation/religion, discipline-related transfers to alternative schools, the occurrence of preschool corporal punishment, and teacher turnover.


Jessalyn Schwartz, ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force, Boston, MA



June 16, 2016

UCLA Civil Rights Project Publishes Study on Financial Impact of School Exclusion

On June 2nd, the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at The Civil Rights Project released “The High Cost of Harsh Discipline and Its Disparate Impact,” a study focused on suspensions, school dropouts, and their consequent costs. Research has shown that the risk for dropping out increases when a student is suspended. These dropouts have an oft-overlooked financial and social impact due to lost wages, higher crime rates, greater demand for welfare, and poor public health.


The study outlines previously performed research to show the connection of suspensions to dropout rates and the financial cost of an increase in school dropouts, combining the work of three researchers to estimate the impact of school exclusion nationwide. Russell Rumberger presented an analysis of the Educational Longitudinal Study in which 16,252 high school sophomores were surveyed first in 2002, again in 2004, 2006, and 2012. The students were filtered using demographic data, family information, and school performance. Robert Balfanz used the Florida state data system, focusing on 181,897 freshmen followed from 2000 to 2008 to evaluate the number of in and out of school suspensions and high school graduation rates, factoring in demographic and performance variables. Clive Belfield examined the fiscal and social costs of dropouts in Florida and California. To assess the financial impact, economic outcomes were compared for high school dropouts and graduates, age 18 to 65, in earnings, crime, health, and welfare.


According to the report, suspension rates have been rising since early 1970s, especially for students of color. A review of suspension rates by racial group shows a wide discrepancy between the percentage of suspended black and Hispanic students and that of white students. Between 2000 and 2001, there were approximately 3.5 million high school sophomores in the United States. 16 percent of tenth graders reported having received a suspension in or out of school within their first semester. Applying this percentage to the total number of tenth graders nationwide, approximately 564,457 students were suspended, which results in a 12 percent increase of dropouts, or 67,735 students. Each dropout is estimated to cost the country $163,340 fiscally, with a social impact of about $527,695 per student.


The study’s findings show that on a national scale, there is a 23 percent decrease in graduation rates between students who have experienced a suspension and those who haven’t. Economically, rising dropout rates and lower graduation numbers are estimated as costing the United States $11 billion in fiscal losses and $35.7 billion in social costs. Conversely, when the suspension rate is reduced, leading to fewer dropouts, the financial impact lessens. A 1 percent decrease in school suspensions was estimated to benefit the economy by $691 million fiscally and $2.2 billion socially. Reducing the suspension rate by half was expected to yield $5.5 billion fiscally and $17.8 billion in social benefits. The study also breaks down specific results from California and Florida, and recognizes its research’s limits, as the report only looks at 9th and 10th grade data from two states. The study did not evaluate data from suspensions in earlier grades and its estimates were based on students graduating from high school in 2004, not accounting for the recent declines in suspension rates in some states.


The UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies recommends that the federal and state governments use this data to craft and apply evaluation and oversight plans that factor in suspension rates when gauging school performance. One goal of the report is to direct resources towards more effective disciplinary policies and practices in schools to reduce the frequency of suspensions and risk for student dropout. Further, the study advocates for the review of data and research provided on costs to states and the country as a whole.


Jessalyn Schwartz, ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force, Boston, MA



May 31, 2016

"Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois"

In April, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission in partnership with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law released “Burdened for Life: The Myth of Juvenile Record Confidentiality and Expungement in Illinois.” This first of a kind study explains that Illinois laws and policies governing the treatment of court and arrest records of youth “threaten public safety, produce substantial unnecessary costs, and impede young people’s ability to transition to productive adulthood."


Although state law long has emphasized the principle that a youth’s mistakes should not brand that child for life, Illinois youth have been harmed by the erosion of confidentiality protections and the extreme difficulty and expense of erasing a record through the expungement process, according to the report.


In Illinois, tens of thousands of juveniles are arrested each year, and the largest majority of those arrests by far are for non-violent offenses. Over the last decade, only three of every 1,000 arrests—less than one third of one percent of juvenile arrests—were expunged in Illinois, the study determined.


Julie Biehl, Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, Chicago, IL



May 11, 2016

Michigan Court Rules on Obligation to Address a Parent's Known Disabilities

The Michigan Appellate Court recently issued a landmark decision on the rights of parents with disabilities in In re Hicks/Brown 2016 WL 1650104 (Mich. App. April 26, 2016). The court reversed a termination of parental rights decision after finding that the Michigan Child Welfare agency had failed to make either reasonable efforts under child welfare statutes or reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case involved a parent with significant cognitive disabilities. The court found that the agency either knew or should have known about the disabilities from the beginning of the case. It failed to appropriately assess the disabilities, improperly created a “no visit” case plan for a period of time, failed in other ways to create an appropriate case plan, and failed to assist the parent with arranging for services that were appropriate to her. All of these deficiencies led to the court finding that the termination of the mother’s parental rights needed to be vacated.


The court’s decision based its ruling on federal and Michigan child welfare and disability law and utilized cases from other jurisdictions. It also cited extensively to Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, National Council on Disability (September 27, 2012), and a number of other journal articles and position papers. These articles and the court’s analysis of federal regulations and statutes are essential reading for all child advocates.


The court summed up its ruling in strikingly clear language—language that has the potential for establishing a roadmap for such cases in other jurisdictions.


We take this opportunity to clarify what a court and the (child welfare agency/DHHS) must do when faced with a parent with a known or suspected intellectual, cognitive, or developmental impairment. In such situations, neither the court nor the DHHS may sit back and wait for the parent to assert his or her right to reasonable accommodations. Rather, the DHHS must offer evaluations to determine the nature and extent of the parent’s disability and to secure recommendations for tailoring necessary reunification services to the individual. The DHHS must then endeavor to locate agencies that can provide services geared toward assisting the parent to overcome obstacles to reunification. If no local agency catering to the needs of such individuals exists, the DHHS must ensure that the available service providers modify or adjust their programs to allow the parent an opportunity to benefit equal to that of a nondisabled parent. If it becomes clear that the parent will only be able to safely care for his or her children in a supportive environment, the DHHS must search for potential relatives or friends willing and able to provide a home for all. And if the DHHS shirks these duties, the circuit court must order compliance.


Practice Tip: What if your state court, unlike Michigan, does not allow the court to order services post-disposition? Not all states do. For example, how can an attorney utilize Hicks in a state where the juvenile court statute prohibits court orders for specific services, but provides that a court may order a new case plan when the existing one is not reasonably calculated to achieve the permanency goal? The answer is straightforward. Use the language from the Michigan decision and change the last phrase. If the child welfare agency shirks the duties outlined in Hicks, the court should find that the agency has not made reasonable efforts and order a new case plan which provides for the kinds of efforts ordered in Hicks.


Richard Cozzola, Children and Families Practice Group, LAF, Chicago, IL



April 25, 2016

Study on Racial Disparities in Youth Commitments and Arrests Released

The D.C.-based research and advocacy group, The Sentencing Project, released a study in April 2016 focusing on the racial disparities in youth arrests and subsequent commitments to secure facilities between 2003 and 2013. While the overall rate of commitment after a finding of delinquency has fallen 47 percent in that period, the study found that these downward trends are not being equally seen across racial lines. Commitment of white/non-Hispanic youth fell by 51 percent, while African-American commitments only fell by 43 percent. In fact, the racial gap between white and black youth committed to detention facilities in America was found to have increased by 15 percent.


In the United States, only 16 percent of youth are African American, yet the number being committed to secure facilities increased in the ten years studied from 38 percent to 40 percent.  In contrast, 56 percent of America’s youth are white, while the number incarcerated has fallen from 39 percent to 32 percent between 2003 and 2013. Overall, juvenile justice arrests have declined by 34 percent, but arrests of black youths have actually increased by 24 percent.


Behavior is also not reflected in arrest rates. The report states that white and black youth are as likely to engage in fighting, possess weapons, use and sell illicit substances, steal, and commit status offenses, such as truancy. However, black youths are more likely to be arrested for these offenses and treated harshly in sentencing, causing further involvement with the juvenile justice system. In 2013, African American youth were 129 percent more likely to be arrested than white youth, which is an increase from 85 percent found in 2003. Black offenders are also 19 percent more likely to be committed, up 6 percent from 2003.


The study shows that when looking specifically at racial disparities, the nationwide trend might not be as glaring, but specific states with larger disproportions in their population, show the racial divide surrounding youth arrests and commitments. While the report does not want to detract from the strides made by activists and policymakers in overall juvenile incarceration and arrest rates, it clarifies that further efforts must be made to ensure the same positive impact is made on all youth who interact with our justice system.


Jessalyn Schwartz, ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force, Boston, MA



April 21, 2016

National Network for Youth Generates Study on Effective Practices to End Youth Homelessness

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) has recently released “What Works to End Youth Homelessness?” This publication defines homeless youth as “12–24 years old, living on their own, without a parent or guardian, and lacking a stable or permanent address.” It summarizes the characteristics of homeless youth in America, the existing structure for serving this population, the steps that may be taken to further impact homeless youth, and a range of proposals and ideas of how communities may work to prevent and end this crisis. The study found that family instability, stemming from issues of abuse and neglect, domestic violence, substance abuse or other conflict, systems involvement, residential instability in childhood, and the disconnection from education, employment, and social supports are the leading characteristics of youth experiencing homelessness in the United States. 

NN4Y calls for the collaboration of public systems and community-based organizations to address areas that may allow youth to find stability. Prevention through outreach and advocacy, provision of immediate services, such as food, clothing, transportation etc., the use of emergency shelters for crisis intervention, and family engagement/support are all suggested. Further, the publication discusses the importance of teaching independent living skills, connecting youth to educational opportunities, promoting workforce development, and providing intensive case management, along with culturally-competent services to the disproportionate number of African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, human trafficking victims, and LGBT youth who battle homelessness.

This document outlines further opportunities for research, calling for investment in periodic national studies through the Department of Health and Human Services to determine the prevalence of youth homelessness and the needs and characteristics of the population. NN4Y believes that “multiple source collaboration” between the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, youth risk organizations, foster care, and juvenile justice systems will result in positive change. The organization has provided a proposal for a comprehensive system that may be continuously refined and focuses on interventions to prevent homelessness and provides long-term solutions and aftercare for youth who have suffered with housing instability in the past. NN4Y stresses the importance of differentiating between youth and adult homelessness and the vital need for measurable plans and community involvement to ensure success in the goal of ending youth homelessness in America.


Jessalyn Schwartz, ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force, Boston, MA



April 5, 2016

U.S. DOE Reaches Resolution Agreement with Newark Public Schools Regarding School Closure

On December 10, 2015, Advancement Project and Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE) received notification that the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had reached a resolution agreement with Newark Public Schools (NPS). This agreement came about after OCR investigated a Title VI complaint which the Advancement Project and PULSE filed in May 2014. The complaint was based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It alleged that a series of school closures initiated by the state-appointed superintendent of NPS disproportionately impacted black students and that no educational justification existed for such closures.


Advancement Project and PULSE’s investigation found that while black students were 51 percent of the student enrollment in NPS in the 2013–14 school year, they were 86 percent of students affected by school closures and conversions to charter schools at the end of the same school year. The complaint further alleged that school closures caused serious social and emotional harms to students affected and would not result in improved academic outcomes. Indeed, the closures led to a situation where black parents had even more burdens to overcome so that their children could receive an excellent education. For example, black parents were forced to fill out confusing enrollment applications with no guarantee that their children would be accepted to any school. Some parents were forced to fill out the applications more than once because their children were not accepted to any public school, and other parents with multiple children learned that their children would be forced to attend different schools. Because of a lack of transportation options, some parents were forced to send their children to schools on the other side of town, and elementary school children had to travel long distances on foot over highway overpasses and large intersections.


OCR’s investigation supported the allegations. OCR determined that the number of black students and students with disabilities affected by school closings at the end of the 2011–2012 school year was “significantly disproportionate” as compared to white and other students. Significantly, OCR’s preliminary review of the data indicated that NPS’s actions “did not appear to afford the affected students any measurable, improved educational outcomes.”


The resolution agreement requires NPS to identify all students harmed by school closures and provide compensatory services to those students. The agreement outlines specific deadlines for NPS to develop assessment of harm and remedy plans. The harm analysis must consider school grades, attendance, discipline, test scores, distance and safety of transportation, overcrowding, access to facilities and resources, and delays in the provision of special education and/or related services and aids.


This is believed to be one of the first agreements from OCR seeking to address harms caused by school closures. This is a victory for the parents and students of Newark, but there is much left to be done. Advancement Project and PULSE will continue monitoring the implementation of the resolution agreement to ensure its fidelity and will continue their work with national coalitions like Journey for Justice to bring national attention to the disparate impacts that black and brown communities experience as a result of efforts to privatize public schools.


More information is available at the Advancement Project’s website.


Oscar Daniel Lopez, Advancement Project, Washington, D.C.



March 23, 2016

"Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities"

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities (Commission) has released "Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities." The report includes recommendations focused on a "proactive approach to child safety with a more strategic response to immediate crises, we hope to make prevention of fatalities standard practice."


While overall safety for children in the U.S. is improving, child fatalities are not declining. From the report:


Child protection is perhaps the only field where some child deaths are assumed to be inevitable, no matter how hard we work to stop them. This is certainly not true in the airline industry, where safety is paramount and commercial airline crashes are never seen as inevitable.


Every day, four to eight children in the United States die from abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or caretakers. The Commission found that more data on these deaths in necessary, though they did find that most children who die are under the age of five. Concern about these fatalities led Congress to create the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) in 2013. The president and Congress appointed a group of 12 Commissioners, with the goal of outlining a national strategy to end child maltreatment fatalities in the U.S.


After a listening tour around the U.S., the Commission put together a comprehensive list of recommendations centered around a public health approach to child safety that engages a broad spectrum of community agencies and systems. Recommendations focus on leadership and accountability, decisions grounded in better data and multidisciplinary support for families. The Commission was only able to find one evidence-based practice to reduce fatalities, NurseFamily Partnerships—home visiting programs.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



March 16, 2016

Special Immigrant Juvenile Brochure

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has published a Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) brochure for juvenile courts and child welfare professionals. The brochure provides an overview of SIJ, eligibility requirements, the role of child welfare professionals and juvenile courts as well as tips and resources.  It provides helpful information for lawyers working on these issues, both full time and pro bono lawyers.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



March 16, 2016

DOJ Guidance on Enforcement of Fines and Fees

The Department of Justice has released a package of resources to assist efforts to reform harmful and unlawful practices related to the assessment and enforcement of fines and fees.  The resources include a Dear Colleague letter, a resource guide, a grant program through the Bureau of Justice Assistance focused on the development of strategies that promote appropriate justice system responses, including reducing unnecessary confinement, for individuals who are unable to pay fines and fees and support for the National Task Force on Fines, Fees and Bail Practices.  The assessment of fines and fees on vulnerable youth who are unable to pay can be very damaging and impact the future of youth in many unintended ways.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



February 22, 2016

Measuring the Impact of Children's Right to Counsel

First Focus has released an issue brief focused on measuring the impact of a right to counsel for children in the child welfare system. This brief aims to be a primer on the issue of right to counsel and to provide a “state of the field” of a child’s right to counsel to improve policy and practice around the country. The brief argues that one way to improve court performance is to provide children in juvenile court with a lawyer. The brief looks to the American Bar Association Model Act for Children in Abuse, Neglect and Dependency proceedings, which calls for a right to counsel for children and then the brief “describes the scope of outcomes that the Model Act would affect and the challenges jurisdictions face in seeking to measure the impact of such representation.”


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



February 8, 2016

Ban on Solitary Confinement of Juveniles in Federal Prison

President Obama has issued an executive order that bans solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons and jails.  Although there are only a few hundred youth in federal prisons and jails, this is an important acknowledgment of the devastation caused by solitary confinement, particularly for juveniles.  The order arose from a review conducted by the Department of Justice focused on how, when, and why correctional facilities isolate certain prisoners from the general inmate population.  The review resulted in a report and recommendations and includes 50 Guiding Principles covering issues, such as the use of the restrictive housing as a form of punishment, the appropriate conditions of confinement in restrictive housing, and the proper treatment of vulnerable inmate populations, such as juveniles, pregnant women, LGBTI inmates, and inmates with serious mental illness.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



January 25, 2016

Ban on Mandatory life Without Parole Is Now Retroactive

In Montgomery v Louisiana the United States Supreme Court ruled that their 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, barring mandatory life without parole sentences for youth, applies retroactively. The decision means that 69-year-old Henry Montgomery, along with the others serving similar mandatory life without parole sentences, will receive new sentencing hearings or be considered for parole.


Justice Kennedy wrote that “there is no grandfather clause that permits states to enforce punishments the Constitution forbids.”  He continued that Miller is no less substantive than Roper and Graham, and said that “After Miller, it will be the rare juvenile offender who can receive that same sentence. The only difference between Roper and Graham, on the one hand, and Miller, on the other hand, is that Miller drew a line between children whose crimes reflect transient immaturity and those rare children whose crimes reflect irreparable corruption. The fact that life without parole could be a proportionate sentence for the latter kind of juvenile offender does not mean that all other children imprisoned under a disproportionate sentence have not suffered the deprivation of a substantive right.”


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 11, 2015

Re-Authorization of Every Student Succeeds Act

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a key federal law governing education, originally signed into law in 1965, and last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind in 2002. This law is the first major overhaul of federal education law in over a decade.  The law has many new provisions including the provision that states to ensure certain protections for vulnerable youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.


“Children in foster care are often forced to change schools multiple times, disrupting important relationships and derailing children’s educations. The new provisions in ESSA are an important advance in ensuring school stability and academic success for students in foster care, and we look forward to supporting schools and child welfare agencies to ensure smooth implementation,” said Kathleen McNaught of the ABA Center on Children and the Law, who leads the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education.


Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


November 24, 2015

Might the ADA and Rehabilitation Act Require Accommodation of the Effects of Trauma in Education under the ADA and Section 504?

The answer is a qualified yes. In P.P. et al v. Compton Unified School Dist., the federal district court held in the context of a motion to dismiss that students and teachers adequately alleged the elements of a disability claim under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the court’s words, it “acknowledges the allegations that exposure to traumatic events might cause physical or mental impairments (login required) that could be cognizable as disabilities under the two Acts.”


In their complaint, the students and teachers claimed that the students’ exposure to traumatizing events is a disability which the district did not properly accommodate. The named plaintiffs identified their exposure to a variety of community trauma (shootings, stabbings, sexual assault, mistaken arrests). They alleged that the district ignored their duty to accommodate the trauma in schools, and failed to train staff to understand complex trauma or to implement practices necessary to address violence and conflict.


The Ruling
In an extensive opinion on both Section 504 and the ADA and their interface with the Supreme Court’s Twombly-Iqbal standards, the court found that plaintiffs set forth adequate claims that (1) that they had a disability, (2) were otherwise qualified to receive an educational benefit, and (3) were denied educational benefits by reason of their disability. The court also found that claims that the district violated the implementing regulations of the Rehabilitation Act were enforceable through a private right of action. While cautioning that its ruling was not a determination on the ultimate issue, the opinion provides a thoughtful and critical analysis of the issues, and a possible template for cases in other jurisdictions.


The court’s ruling focuses on the facts established by the plaintiffs, which could give rise to claims under the Rehabilitation Act and ADA. Most notably, their claims that complex trauma can give rise to neurological changes and that such trauma has caused the students particular limitations in their abilities to perform tasks. While the court made clear to note they were not acknowledging a legal position that exposure to trauma is a cognizable disability, it found that the plaintiffs provided enough facts to demonstrate they could or may establish a claim—enough to survive a motion to dismiss.


In part, the suit calls for CUSD to incorporate proven practices that address trauma—a model other public schools around the nation have adopted. If the court ultimately rules that exposure to traumatizing events is a disability, its impact could go far beyond the district involved in the case to impact other public school systems.


Keywords: children’s rights, litigation, Compton Unified School District, trauma, education, disability, Rehabilitation Act, Section 504, ADA


Donielle Robinson, Case Western Fellow, Legal Assistance Foundation, Chicago, IL



November 17, 2015

A Short Primer on Objections

In this article, Stuart Israel gives at least five critical tips on objections that all advocates, including those working with children and youth, need to remember.


  1. 1) Object only if you have good reason
  2. 2) Object only when necessary
  3. 3) Use the traditional language of objections
  4. 4) State the legal basis for your objections
  5. 5) Prepare to lose objections.


Write the list down and bring the list with you the next time you have an evidentiary hearing.

Richard Cozzola, Children and Families Practice Group, Chicago, IL



November 7, 2015

Dismantling the Sexual Abuse-to-Prison Pipeline

The Center for the Study of Social Policy has released a report titled "Dismantling the Pipeline: Addressing the Needs of Young Women and Girls of Color Involved in Intervening Public Systems." The report focuses on the disparities that girls of color face within public systems and showcases policies that work to stop the sexual abuse to prison pipeline and instead improve outcomes for this vulnerable population. The report also outlines what additional data is needed to flesh out this issue.

Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


October 6, 2015

DOE Calls for Investing in Teachers, Not Prisons

On September 30, 2015, Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a speech in which he called for a reduction in incarceration and an increase in funding to pay teachers. Mr. Duncan outlined the U.S. facts on incarceration; for example, the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 20 percent of its inmates. Young people who make mistakes in the U.S. are often locked up, leaving their potential unrealized. Mr. Duncan linked the lack of education and incarceration noting, “More than two-thirds of state prison inmates are high school dropouts. And an African-American male between the ages of 20 and 24 without a high school diploma or GED has a higher chance of being imprisoned than of being employed.” Many young people end up in the criminal justice system based on behaviors at school—the “school-to-prison pipeline.” However, Mr. Duncan stated, “If our states and localities took just half the people convicted of nonviolent crimes and found paths for them other than incarceration, they would save upwards of $15 billion a year.” Mr. Duncan argued that this money could instead be spent paying teachers to engage our country’s neediest children.

Currently there is a gap in funding for education between poor and wealthier communities. For example, the Ferguson-Florissant school district in Missouri spends $9,000 per student, but in a wealthier community 11 miles away, funding is approximately $18,000 per student. Mr. Duncan argued that this proposal is not just good for kids but for the country as well, noting that a “10 percent increase in high school graduation rates would reduce murder and assault arrest rates by approximately 20 percent. And a one percent increase in male graduation rates would save up to $1.4 billion in the social costs of incarceration.” Secretary Duncan also touched on implicit bias and discussed how education and economic opportunity allow social mobility as well as social justice.

Cathy Krebs, Committee Manager, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


September 4, 2015

Department of Justice in Violation Through Use of Policies of Indefinite Detainment of Children

In a ruling issued on July 24, Judge Dolly M. Gee stated that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was in violation of the 1997 consent decree regarding immigrant children through the use of their policies of indefinite detainment of children and their mothers. The court found that the government’s policy violated the 1997 agreement’s requirement to shorten the detention of children, hold them in the least restrictive conditions possible, avoid holding children in centers that were unlicensed or under-resourced for youth. It also found that the policy exposes children to abhorrent conditions and treatment. The DOJ had argued for a change in the agreement, but Judge Gee found that they had failed to meet their burden and did not show that a change in factual circumstances warranted a modification of the agreement. The judge’s orders required the DOJ to respond to the court’s assertion that its family detention policies violate the consent decree by August 3, 2015, with the plaintiffs having an ability to file a response by August 10.


On August 6, 2015, the DOJ filed a response, arguing that the family detention centers run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are necessary for immigration control and that the order by Judge Gee would severely impede DHS’ ability to secure the borders and operate effectively, while still supporting legal trade and travel. The DOJ warned that the court decision may create an increase in the number of parents trying to cross the U.S. border with their children. The DOJ also claimed that detaining immigrants is one way to ensure that they will appear for their court hearings, as 84 percent of undocumented immigrants with children who are not detained skip such hearings The American Immigration Lawyers Association and other immigrant rights groups responded with outrage, claiming that the Obama administration and the DOJ have moved too quickly to release some of the imprisoned mothers and children, doing so in a manner that has left many still in detention.


As of this writing, nothing has been published on the plaintiffs’ response to DOJ’s claims, but once it has been filed, the matter will stand as submitted and the parties await further action from the court.


Keywords: children’s rights, litigation, Judge Gee, Department of Justice, immigrant children, 1997 consent degree, Department of Homeland Security, detainment


Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



September 4, 2015

Georgia Guilty of Segregation of Students with Behavioral and Educational Disabilities

In an investigation completed in July, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has found that Georgia has been illegally segregating thousands of students suffering from behavioral, emotional, and educational disabilities and placing them in substandard facilities with insufficient educational programs. The investigation found that students were being placed in buildings without gyms, cafeterias, libraries, labs, playgrounds, and more.


The DOJ detailed its findings in a letter to Georgia’s governor and attorney general in early July, noting that schools acted prematurely in moving children out of the regular education classroom, and recommending them for placement in alternative schools after one or multiple minor incidents. Parents are feeling pressured to sign off on these placements, and students are falling significantly behind, missing out on school involvement, such as sports and extracurriculars, ultimately leading to worsening behavior. The students are largely placed in the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) which was found to be largely unnecessary by the investigation. Most of the students were shown to be able to remain in their mainstream classrooms if provided with more behavioral or mental health services.


In 2010, GNETS was criticized by a state audit for not being cost-effective and for failing to be accountable for student performance. In 2014, a thirteen year-old boy committed suicide after hours in an isolation room in one of GNETS programs. The DOJ has threatened a lawsuit if the problems are not addressed through redirection of services, training, and resources to shift students back into the regular education programs. Spokespersons for Georgia’s governor, attorney general, and Department of Education all declined to comment on this matter.


Keywords: children’s rights, litigation, segregation, behavioral disabilities, emotional disabilities, educational disabilities, GNETS, Georgia, education


Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



September 4, 2015

Children with Disabilities Found to Be Disciplined at Much Higher Rate than Other Students

As the United States marks the 25-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, data has been released showing the large discrepancies in punishment, suspension, and expulsion of children with disabilities in the nation’s schools. UCLA’s Civil Rights Project released a report earlier in 2015 which studied suspension rates of children with disabilities and children without disabilities over the 2011–2012 school year. The study found clear evidence of the “discipline gap,” showing that the percentage of children with disabilities who were suspended was significantly higher than those without disabilities and that a third of all children in grades K–12 with emotional disabilities were suspended at least once. When race becomes a part of the equation, the disparity worsens, with one in four black boys and one in five black girls with disabilities being suspended in any one school year.


Other disciplinary measures, such as sending a child to the principal’s office, withholding recess or other activities, and verbal admonishment have negative effects on children with disabilities. In many situations involving children with severe behavioral issues, educators are not properly trained and instinctively turn to punishment and even restraint and seclusion methods, such as tying children up with cords and duct tape, to control these children. A 2014 Propublica investigation of government data showed that restraint and seclusion was used more than 267,000 times in 2012 across the U.S. and that three-fourths of the students had physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities. Many injuries have been reported, and as many as 20 deaths through 2009 have occurred. About 50 percent of states have laws prohibiting the use of some of these tactics.


The White House put this issue under a microscope at an event with educators, policymakers, and nonprofit leaders. The increase in negative outcomes, such as delinquency, substance abuse, gang involvement, dropping out, and the “school-to-prison pipeline” was highlighted at the gathering. Last January, the administration released guidelines on educational disparities based on race, and now, the New York state education department is developing similar guidelines on disabilities.


Education reformers are pushing for new disciplinary protocols that vary depending on the district. The commonality is that educators are taught to look beyond the behavior to pinpoint and address the underlying problem, whether it is a diagnosed disability, an educational issue, or an undiagnosed condition. In California, one high school has implemented a “positive behavioral intervention and support” (PBIS) program that provides similar acceptance and support that many students were previously seeking from gangs and other negative influences. Children are taught consequences for bad behavior and are rewarded for appropriate behavior. Broward County Schools in Florida have seen a large drop in arrests and suspensions after putting a program in place to support students through caseworkers following a suspension. More than 90 percent of students did not commit a second offense under this program. Other states have seen similar results and some have also found that it costs significantly less to implement new programs to address discipline than to incarcerate youth for their actions in or out of school. There is now a strong call for changing educational cultures and belief systems of all involved in teaching America’s youth.


Keywords: children’s rights, litigation, student, discipline, disabilities, PBIS, Propublica, behavioral issues, emotional issues


Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



June 12, 2015

Response to "What Child Welfare Attorneys Need to Know about Shaken Baby Syndrome"

Sandeep K. Narang, MD, JD, and Christopher S. Greeley, MD, MS, have written a response to the article "What Child Welfare Attorneys Need to Know about Shaken Baby Syndrome" which ran in the spring edition of Children’s Rights. "What Child Welfare Attorneys Need to Question About the Innocence Project’s Information on Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma" (login required) ran in the April/May 2015 Edition of The Guardian, a publication of the National Association of Counsel for Children.


—Cathy Krebs, Committee Director, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



June 8, 2015

Law to Limit Use of Seclusion and Restraints on Children in Connecticut

On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill limiting the use of seclusion rooms and restraints on children in the state’s schools.  Connecticut’s current law regarding seclusion and restraints allowed children to be locked alone in rooms for indefinite periods of time and restraints to be used with little oversight. The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) has found that children, some as young as pre-school aged, were being placed in seclusion, including those on the autism spectrum. The OCA additionally found that the children being restrained or secluded were largely African American or Hispanic, and found that over the last three years, more than 1,300 incidents included injury to the child during the restraint or seclusion. The new law would increase monitoring and reporting of the practice of using restraints or seclusion, and requires that parents must be notified within 24 hours of the child being placed in seclusion. The law sets forth strict limits on the use of restraint and requires all seclusion rooms to have windows. Connecticut’s multi-tiered law begins to take effect on July 1, 2015, with some provisions not being implemented until 2019. 


 Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



May 21, 2015

ICAN Yammer Group

The American Bar Association Working Group on Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors and the Immigrant Child Advocacy Network recently launched the ICAN Yammer group, an online community that supports pro bono attorneys new to immigration law and representation of children. The resource, developed in collaboration with Section of Litigation sponsor Navigant leverages the expertise of mentors and experts nationwide. The ICAN Yammer group also serves as a platform to aggregate and share materials related to representation of children in both immigration court and state court proceedings. Yammer is the Microsoft enterprise social network for business. Access is provided by invitation only. This extraordinary and unique effort arose due to a need identified by Navigant through their involvement with the Section of Litigation’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. The Section is grateful to Navigant and Microsoft for their commitment to assisting on this critical issue.

—Cathy Krebs, Committee Director, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



March 2, 2015

Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?

The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA has released the report Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?. This report analyzes discipline data at elementary and secondary schools for every district in the nation and estimates 18 million days of lost instruction in just one year. The report highlights the individual states and districts with the most egregious discipline records, with Florida found to be the highest suspending state for all students at both the elementary and secondary levels. However the report also found that many districts have made progress at improving discipline in their schools.

This report provides companion spreadsheets enabling anyone to compare or analyze data from every district in the nation. Further, there is a simplified web tool available that allows visitors to compare—through graphic depictions—the elementary and secondary suspension rates for any two districts. The web tool is updated with the data from the report.

—Cathy Krebs, Committee Director, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee



February 10, 2015

Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected

In recent years, a multitude of research, data, and policy initiatives have reflected the disproportionate impact of zero-tolerance and other harsh disciplinary policies in schools on boys and young men of color. However, as highlighted by a new report by the Columbia Law School Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies (CISPS) and the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), very few studies focus on the effect these policies have on females of color and the similarities and differences between girls and their male counterparts. Through focus groups and interviews performed in Boston and New York, CISPS and AAPF determined that girls and young women of color were also youth in crisis, experiencing victimization and achievement gaps due to the current disciplinary environments seen in many educational institutions.


The study’s key observations ranged from issues of educational achievement and engagement to personal safety and familial responsibilities. Academically, while both boys and girls of color are subject to larger achievement gaps and harsher discipline, females often experience greater disparities in treatment and attention than male peers. The at-risk youth surveyed described their discipline-centric environments as unsafe, not conducive to learning, and lending to disengagement in the classroom. Other data gathered highlighted the high incidence of interpersonal violence, pregnancy, and familial caretaking obligations as outside influences lending to school detachment. The study also found that the use of punitive punishments rather than restorative techniques contributes to the problems facing these youth and leads to a disproportionately high number of young women of color in the juvenile justice system.


The study recommends a number of approaches, including expanding research frameworks to include young women of color, developing equitable funding efforts to support education across all genders and races, and enforcing positive anti-harassment and anti-bullying measures. The report additionally advocates for reforms to the juvenile justice system and for the public to become involved to engage, support, and assist these young women with the myriad of challenges they face.


—Jessalyn Schwartz, attorney, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



February 4, 2015

Should We Be Concerned about the End of CHIP?

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has made a large impact on the health coverage of children since its inception in 1997. CHIP was reauthorized through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), however, it is only funded through the end of 2015’s fiscal year. While the ACA does provide some coverage that may protect children in the wake of CHIP’s expiration, they may be left particularly vulnerable.


It is true that most children would qualify for plans offered through healthcare exchanges, but the plans have a twenty-percent lower actuarial value, only covering about 70% of healthcare costs. Additionally, there is an issue with the so-called “family glitch,” which occurs when those who are offered sufficient insurance through an employer are not eligible for subsidies, even if the employer coverage does not apply to the employee’s family. Often, fewer options exist for pediatric care and plans may not include children’s hospitals and networks, limiting the access of children on ACA plans.


Essential benefits, such as dental and vision care, are not part of many plans and the increased cost of these services may make it difficult for children to receive them. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decided that essential benefits would be defined by the states, not a national standard. This makes it possible for children in certain states to be excluded from special needs and disability coverage. The coming year will bring an opportunity to make some necessary decisions about children’s healthcare and these considerations are incredibly important for their protection. Read more.


Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



February 3, 2015

Toughening Child Abuse Laws in Pennsylvania

As of December 31, 2014, new regulations combining 21 pieces of legislation have been enacted following recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection. In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the regulations seek to expand the definition of child abuse, identify mandated reporters, develop a more clear idea of who an alleged perpetrator may be, and improve record-keeping and data sharing among law enforcement.


Previously, child abuse was defined as where a child suffered “serious physical injury,” which typically meant severe pain or lasting impairments. Under the new law, the standard lowers to include “bodily injury,” requiring “impairment of a physical condition,” or substantial pain. Additionally, the definition of possible perpetrators has expanded to include relatives who do not live with the child and a parent’s spouse or significant other. This is an important distinction, as it now allows for social workers to intervene and trigger the requirement of registering with the state as a child abuser.


The regulations have now changed the way these crimes are reported, requiring mandated individuals such as clergy, doctors, teachers, and some attorneys to report abuse to authorities through a hotline, rather than to a supervisor. Other changes include data sharing between counties and law enforcement, background checks for those working in schools and in direct contact with children, and training for certain mandated reporters, such as care providers and teachers. Read more.


Jessalyn Schwartz, Boston, MA; Member of the ABA Children and the Law Advisory Task Force



January 28, 2015

Shame on U.S.

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) and First Star have released the report “Shame on U.S.” which discusses how the federal government does not properly enact or monitor federal child welfare laws. The report makes several recommendations for all three branches of federal government, with a goal of improving the child welfare system and better protecting abused and neglected children.


Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.



January 28, 2015

Unaccompanied Children Resource Center

The Immigration Advocates Network and the American Bar Association, in partnership with Pro Bono Net, have launched a website, the Unaccompanied Children Resource Center . The site includes legal information and referrals for lawyers, advocates, children, and their guardians. The site also includes information about pro bono opportunities for lawyers.


Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.



December 9, 2014

Better Education for America's Incarcerated Youth

On December 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of a Correctional Education Guidance Package to help states and local agencies strengthen the quality of education services provided to America’s estimated 60,000 young people in confinement every day. This guidance package builds on recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force report released in May to “reform the juvenile and criminal justice systems to reduce unnecessary interactions for youth and to enforce the rights of incarcerated youth to a quality education.” 


Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Correctional Education Guidance Package, correctional education, My Brother's Keeper, task force


Marlene Sallo, CRLC working group member



November 14, 2014

First-Ever Comprehensive Evaluation on Juvenile Records

The Juvenile Law Center (JLC) has released a first-ever comprehensive evaluation of state policies that govern the confidentiality and expungement of juvenile court and law enforcement records. Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records underscores the limited opportunities that exist nationally for youth when we fail to protect them from the harmful effects of their juvenile records. The scorecard measured each state's overall treatment of records based on its performance in two policy areas: (1) confidentiality of records during and after juvenile court proceedings; (2) the availability or ease of sealing or expungement.


The scorecard can be accessed on the JLC website along with a comprehensive and interactive map and the complete dataset. 


Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Juvenile Law Center, JLC, juvenile records, confidentiality, expungement

Marlene Sallo, CRLC working group member



November 3, 2014

Report Blasts Oklahoma Child Welfare System

A report issued in October entitled Co-Neutral Commentary Three concluded  that Oklahoma has not made “good faith efforts to achieve substantial and sustained progress” towards meeting comprehensive reform in its child welfare system.

The report commented on the “Pinnacle Plan” that is an integral part of the “Compromise and Settlement” (CSA) where the state of Oklahoma and the nonprofit group Children’s Rights agreed to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed in 2008. Part of the settlement required that three neutrals monitor progress made by the state in “reforming an understaffed, under-resourced agency with a rising population of vulnerable children in its custody, and a pattern of housing very young children, including infants, in overcrowded shelters.”

Monitors noted that progress was exacerbated by the fact that “40% of new workers statewide left DHS (last year).” When the Pinnacle Plan was written in 2012, roughly 8,500 children were in foster care and, as of the report, 11,580 children were in care. The report concluded that the Department of Human Services (DHS) is trying but so far its efforts “do not yet represent good faith efforts to achieve substantial and sustained progress toward target outcomes.” Neutrals had ongoing meetings with caseworkers and supervisors across the state and noted that there is no supervisor or worker that could confirm any systematic effort to begin implementing graduated assignments—not even through an initial pilot.

The Casey Family Programs also funded a study (solicited by DHS) that the increase in children going into DHS’s care was not due to simply better identification of abuse and neglect but rather that the increased DHS caseload was due to a continuation of unproductive practices and that a fairly consistent theme was that “best practice” was often not supported by the workload implications or the availability of resources.

Part of the settlement was to reduce worker turnover by increasing salaries 6.25%. However the governor and the legislature have failed to follow through with the promised raises that further undermine worker morale. 


The complete report can be found here.


Keywords: litigation, children’s rights,Oklahoma, child welfare system, DHS, Casey Family Programs, Co-Neutral Commentary Three, Pinnacle Plan

Robert M. Murphy, Office of Administrative Hearings, Spokane, WA



October 14, 2014

Keeping Kids Out of Foster Care

Vivek Sankaran from the University of Michigan and Martha Raimon from the Center for the Study of Social Policy have just published a new article with important ramifications for legal services programs, child protection agencies, and most importantly for the families involved with child protective services. The article describes how integrating legal services with child protective services can produce better outcomes for families. The article is an excellent summary of how these programs work, and includes newer research and suggestions on integrating the work with medical legal partnerships. It provides a promising model for how agencies that provide broad based civil legal services for the poor can make an important difference for families.

Rich Cozzola, LAF, Chicago, IL




October 5, 2014

Breaking Down Barriers for African American Girls

The National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund have released a report entitled Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity. The report takes a comprehensive look at the barriers that African-American girls encounter in school—including overly punitive and disproportionate school disciplinary practices—and the educational and economic outcomes that result. It concludes with concrete recommendations to help advance African-American girls’ educational opportunities and outcomes. This report is a result of a multi-year study and focuses on the barriers that limit the educational opportunities of many African-American girls as well as the impact of those barriers. The report outlines potential interventions to improve the lives of young African-American women and urges stakeholders, advocates, and community members to take action to improve this situation.

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 9, 2014

Update: J.E.F.M. v. Holder

J.E.F.M. is an historic nationwide class action seeking court-appointed counsel for children in removal/deportation proceedings. Oral argument was heard on September 3, 2014, and a decision by the district court is pending. Video of the proceedings can be found on the court’s website. The lawsuit seeks class certification, and declaratory, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief on behalf of persons under 18 who are or will be in immigration proceedings on or after July 9, 2014, without legal representation. The court is expected to rule quickly.

The case is J.E.F.M, et al.. v. Holder, et al., 14-cv-01026-TSZ (W.D. Wash.)

Jennifer Baum, Child Advocacy Clinic, St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program, St. John's University School of Law


September 2, 2014

National Standards for Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) has created the SOS project (Safety, Opportunity & Success) which is a multi-year project that engages multiple stakeholders with a goal of implementing policy and practices that divert youth charged with status offenses from the courts and eliminates the use of secure confinement for youth charged with status offenses. As part of this project, CJJ has created the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses, which promotes policies and best practices for this youth population.

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


June 30, 2014

Lack of Counsel Violates Washington Youth's Legal Rights

For the first time in Washington state’s history, an appellate court has ruled that failure to appoint counsel to a foster youth violated the youth’s legal rights. In the case, In re the Dependency of J.A.,the appellate court found that the juvenile court misapplied due-process law by understating the youth’s interests in his case as well as incorrectly analyzing the risk of error in the case. The appellate court also held that the government’s financial interests did not outweigh the interests of J.A. in having legal counsel.

State law makes appointment of counsel completely discretionary for the vast majority of children and youth in Washington. Some counties appoint to all children, some only to adolescents, and some rarely, if ever. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court held that, while there was no universal right to counsel for foster children in termination proceedings, some children did, in fact, have a constitutional right to counsel. In re Dependency of M.S.R., 174 Wn.2d 1, 22 n. 13, 271 P.3d 234 (2012). To determine which children, the court suggested a case-by-case analysis using the Mathews v. Eldridge due-process factors. 424 U.S. 319 (1976). While the Court made significant pronouncements about children in dependency actions, it limited its holding to children in termination trials. It also reserved the issue of whether those children had a state constitutional right to counsel in dependency or termination proceedings. No Washington appellate court had ever found a right to counsel for any dependent child.

J.A. is a 15-year-old foster youth living with developmental delays. While in care, J.A. was prescribed psychotropic medications, put in inpatient treatment, arrested, and separated from his sibling. He wanted to return to his mother’s care, but his requests were denied. J.A. filed a motion to appoint counsel at public expense, arguing it was required under the federal and state constitutions, as well as under state law. The Pierce County Juvenile Court denied the motion and, even after the foster mother indicated she was no longer interested in adopting J.A., denied a subsequent motion for reconsideration. The motions were largely unopposed, though the GAL wrote and submitted a letter arguing that J.A. did not need an attorney.

J.A. appealed and the department responded to the appeal, arguing that the juvenile court properly exercised discretion. Neither the GAL nor J.A.’s parents weighed in on the appeal. The department’s position was that the motion was not appealable and that the trial court had acted properly, and rejected J.A.’s argument that all children in dependencies had a state or federal constitutional right to counsel.

In the appellate court’s opinion, issued June 11, 2014, it held that the trial court had misapplied all three Mathews factors. First, the court held that a “child’s fundamental liberty interests are at stake, not only in the initial hearing, but also in the series of hearings and reviews that occur as part of a dependency proceeding once a child comes into state custody.” In other words, children’s important due-process rights do not come into play during the dependency and termination trials but in all judicial hearings in their case. The state had argued that the court should not review the case as an interlocutory appeal.

Second, the appellate court held that children’s fundamental liberty interests and rights include the right to the “’affection and care of his parents,” “freedom of personal choice in matters of family life[,]” and reiterated that a foster “child has a strong liberty interest in the parent-child relationship that is equal to or greater than that of parents.” (Citations omitted). The state had defended the trial court’s finding that J.A.’s interests in his case were “not that great.”

Third, the appellate court held that “[b]ecause a case-by-case analysis allows wide room for judicial discretion, subjective determinations can magnify the risk of erroneous fact-findings.” The trial court had argued that its team (social worker, GAL, assistant attorney general, and parents’ attorneys) would adequately protect J.A., at the same time acknowledging they had failed to keep him out of detention after a recent “meltdown.”

Fourth, in a footnote, the appellate court noted that lawyers are “especially important [. . .] to a child with a disability.” The department and the trial court argued that his disabilities would limit an attorney’s role and thus diminished the need for him to have one.

Finally, the appellate court rejected the argument that Pierce County’s limited resources to pay an attorney outweighed the other factors.

The appellate court indicated that its holding was limited to J.A.’s right to counsel under a discretionary statute, not under either constitution. This holding was despite the court’s use of the Mathews due-process test that the MSR court indicated was necessary to determine whether a child had a constitutional right to counsel.

Casey Trupin, Columbia Legal Services

June 11, 2014

Comprehensive School Discipline Consensus Report

On June 3, the Council of State Governments Justice Center released a report, three years in the making, regarding school disciplinary policies nationwide. The bipartisan effort included over 700 interviews with advisors and consultants ranging from school administrators, teachers, lawmakers, students, parents, and advocates to other stakeholders. The report expanded on the January 2014 federal guidance by the Departments of Education and Justice, which discussed how to impose discipline in academic settings without discrimination on race, color, or national origin.

The general theme of the report is that schools need lower suspension rates, and get more engagement from students. Millions of students, mainly nonwhite, disabled, and LGBT youth, are suspended for minor misconduct and often end up facing lapses in academics, dropping out, or becoming involved with the juvenile-justice system.

The report’s overall goals include identifying behavioral and mental health issues of students through support teams and services; improving school climate by fostering a positive learning environment where students feel safe, welcome, and supported; adapting school-police partnerships to reach mutual ends; and minimizing student engagement with the juvenile-justice system. To reach these goals, the report puts forth 60 recommendations, such as using a “graduated system of responses,” or other steps such as peer conferences and restorative practices prior to suspension, leaving removal from school as a last result. The report recommends multidisciplinary approaches and practicality to ensure the efficacy of plans to change the school environment. The report is meant to be a guide for all involved in the nation’s education system and an impetus for change to be made on a federal, state, and local level.

Jessalyn Schwartz, Member of Massachusetts Bar


May 29, 2014

Toolkit for Status Offense Reform Released

The Status Offense Reform Center of the Vera Institute of Justice has released a toolkit focused on reforming the status offense system. The purpose of the toolkit is to provide assistance to advocates to create a community-based system outside of the juvenile-justice system for assisting youth charged with status offenses such as running away and truancy.  The toolkit is organized into four modules:  1) Structuring System Change; 2) Using Local Information to Guide System Change; 3) Planning and Implementing System Change; and 4) Monitoring and Sustaining System Change.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, status offense system, youth, truancy, runaways, Vera Institute of Justice

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 28, 2014

New Civil Rights Guidance for Charter Schools

On May 14, 2014, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent a letter to education and child-focused professionals to provide guidance surrounding charter schools and federal civil rights law, stressing their commitment to high-quality charter schools. The publication discusses Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or natural origin; Title IX of Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, along with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibiting discrimination of persons with disabilities. The letter stresses that these federal laws apply to charter schools regardless of whether they receive federal funding, and that additional requirements may be imposed on charter schools that receive funds through the Department of Education’s grant programs.

The guidance goes on to discuss that charter schools may not discriminate in admissions practices and must utilize neutral criteria to determine eligibility. Parents who are not primarily English-speaking must be provided with information about the school and the admissions process via interpreter or translation services, and parents with disabilities must be communicated with in a proper manner. Affirmative steps must be taken for students who are English language learners, including effective identification and instruction practices.

If there is a desegregation plan in place, either by the state or federal government, the school’s actions must be consistent with that plan. Schools may voluntarily elect to promote diversity, using race-neutral approaches, such as targeting specific media outlets, community groups, or socioeconomic criteria. If these methods are shown to be unworkable or ineffective, race-based approaches may be used if they focus on location of students or the school rather than on the race of individual students. Additionally, each student must be provided with a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and all disciplinary policies must be enforced in a nondiscriminatory manner.

If parents, professionals, or community members have questions about the civil rights laws governing charter schools or related issues, they are encouraged to contact their local Office of Civil Rights branch. Information may be found by emailing ocr@ed.gov or by calling 800.421.3481.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, charter schools, admission policies, discriminatory, civil rights laws, federal law, Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights

Jessalyn Schwartz, Member of Massachusetts Bar


April 11, 2014

Florida Aims To Reform Child-Welfare System

In April 2014 the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services approved an amendment to SB 1666 in an effort to overhaul the state’s child-welfare laws. The bill aims to change Florida’s current law in a variety of ways, including: improving safety plans used by the Department of Children and Families, requiring degrees in social work for most child- abuse investigators, obligating the department to post details about reported child deaths, establishing a new response team to investigate child deaths, and allowing more placements with “nonrelative caregivers” or family friends by allowing these persons to receive foster care payments.

There are also improvements to the procedures for children with severe medical, physical, and emotional disabilities. Funding the bill is one issue for the Florida legislature, with the Senate recommending an increase of $31 million, the House calling for $44.5 million, and the Governor’s proposed budget of $40 million. The conflicts between these three plans include whether or not to focus on treatment and prevention programs and the allocation for number of protective investigators.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Florida, child-welfare laws, SB 1666 amendment, foster care, child deaths, funding

Jessalyn Schwartz, Member of Massachusetts Bar


April 2, 2014

Office for Civil Rights Releases New School Discipline Data

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released new data on school discipline, including alarming numbers of preschoolers being pushed out of school. According to the newly released data snapshot, racial disparities exist from as early as preschool, where black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment and represent 48 percent of the preschool children that receive more than one out-of-school suspension. The discipline data can be accessed on the DOE OCR Civil Rights Data Collection page.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, school discipline, data, preschoolers, suspension rates, race

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


March 10, 2014

Fourth Edition of Educating Children Without Housing Released

The ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty has released the 4th edition of Educating Children Without Housing. This book addresses the federal educational mandates related to homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the revised edition includes 25 pages of new content including new sections on redetermining homeless status, best practices for serving students displaced by natural disasters, early childhood education, relevant federal guidance, and case summaries. Additional content was also added to the foster care section, making the book an excellent resource for child-welfare caseworkers and advocates. The book also includes an updated directory of resources for educators, advocates, and policymakers.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Educating Children Without Housing, ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homeless children, child welfare

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


March 7, 2014

The Impact of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children Law

Foster Kids in Limbo:  The Effects of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children on the Permanency of Children in Foster Care is an eye -opening report on the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), a uniform law adopted by every state to coordinate the placement of foster children in other states. Every year 40,000 requests for home studies are made through the ICPC. This report compiles data on the ICPC and analyzes whether the ICPC is working as it should to protect and assist children.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, foster children, placement, report, state law

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 9, 2014

U.S. Department of Education & DOJ Release School Discipline Guidance

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), has released a school discipline guidance package that will assist states, districts, and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, school discipline

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


January 9, 2014

Zero Tolerance Does Not Make Schools Safer

The Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice has released A Generation Later: What We’ve Learned about Zero Tolerance in Schools. The brief gives an overview of research on zero tolerance. Several broad research studies reveal that harsh zero-tolerance discipline policies do not make schools safer but instead put children at risk for dropping out of school and future involvement with the juvenile-justice system.  The brief also describes alternatives to zero- tolerance policies that have been shown to keep students in schools and safe.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, zero tolerance, discipline policies, schools

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


December 20, 2013

Report Outlines Right Responses to Noncriminal Status Offenses

The Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice has released a report titled From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses. This report outlines the most effective ways to address noncriminal status offenses, such as truancy, running away, curfew violations, and other risky youth behaviors. The report is also a product of the newly created Status Offense Reform Center at the Vera Institute of Justice (launched in December 2013) which is focused on helping jurisdictions develop a community-based response to non-criminal status offenses, rather than handling these cases through the juvenile court system.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, truancy, risky youth behaviors, Center on Youth Justice, Status Offense Reform Center, Vera Institute of Justice, status offenses, noncriminal

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


November 21, 2013

SPARC Releases Brief on Effects of Trauma on Child Well-Being

The State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center has released a brief, Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Child Welfare. The brief highlights the effects of trauma on child well-being and provides practice recommendations and examples of specific initiatives to guide transformation of the system.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, trauma, State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center, child well-being

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


November 1, 2013

Medical-Legal Partnership Improves Patient Health

Results from a three-year study of the medical-legal partnerships in three pediatric primary care centers that serve a predominantly high-risk population in Cincinnati, Ohio, showed that integrated legal care addressed environmental factors negatively affecting patient health and recovered $200,000 in benefits for patients.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, medical-legal partnership, integrated care, high-risk population, patient health

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C. 


October 25, 2013

Baltimore City to Assist Special-Education Students in Securing a High School Diploma

Special-education students and their families in the Baltimore City Public Schools system have an additional way to understand, track, and see whether the student’s special-education goals are becoming a reality in the child’s progress toward earning a high school diploma.

The district’s program, called the One Year Plus, is designed to deliver an individualized education plan (IEP) which more clearly lays out the student’s academic and behavior goals and how those goals will be met during the school year. According to a Baltimore Sun article, the One Year Plus program has garnered the attention of the U.S. Department of Education with Acting Assistant Secretary Michael H. Yudin indicating the program should be disseminated as a national model.

The district hopes the wide-ripple effect of the One Year Plus program is that IEP teams will better understand how to identify these goals and special education services in order to bring students up to grade-level academic standards and assist more special-education students with getting that critical diploma. A copy of the One Year Plus Best Practice Guide can be found here.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, special education, high school diploma, One Year Plus, individualized education plan, Michael H. Yudin, academic goals, Baltimore City Public Schools

Nicole K. McGrath, staff attorney, TeamChild, Everett, WA 


October 10, 2013

Texas Tackles the Overmedication of Foster Children

The Texas legislature passed a new law attempting to combat the issue of overuse of psychotropic medications on foster care youth. The state relied on reports by Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of overmedication of foster children in order to control behavior, the lack of adequate medical records for these children, and the high percentage of children given five or more medications at one time. The law is intended to regulate the number of psychotropic medications given to a child and to halt the practice of using medication to unnecessarily control a child’s behavior.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, psychotropic medications, foster children, overmedication, behavior, Texas, CASA

Jessalyn Schwartz, law student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA


October 9, 2013

California Governor Signs Law Providing Youth with an Internet "Eraser Button"

On October 1,2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill providing minors under 18 with the ability to have Internet content, including that on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, removed if they so desire.

This legislation would be the first of its kind, offering minors a legal right to control the information they post on the web. The bill additionally includes a provision prohibiting websites from knowingly marketing and advertising certain dangerous products such as firearms, tobacco, and alcohol, to minors. 

Beginning on January 1, 2015, website operators must remove the requested information, especially if it would be damaging to the minor’s reputation. A removal is not a deletion, as the website operators are only able to make the information inaccessible to other site users.  This legislation has been applauded for extending privacy rights and protecting minors from otherwise permanent mistakes, but it also has its critics. Many have voiced issues regarding impracticability of enforcement, the legal uncertainties faced by website operators, and even possible Constitutional repercussions involving the Dormant Commerce Clause, if the law was to extend to websites run from other states.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, online information, Internet content, reputation of minors, website operators, Governor Jerry Brown

Jessalyn Schwartz, law student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA


October 4, 2013

Missouri Guardianship Law Expanded to Include "Fictive Kin" as Family

In August, the Missouri legislature enacted a law allowing courts to broaden the definition of kin in guardianship placements to include distant relatives, family friends, half relatives and similar individuals as “fictive kin.”

This change to the definition of family will entitle close relatives or other family relations to the guardianship designation, which provides benefits such as Medicaid and subsidies to support the child. The expansion will also release interested parties from their only option prior to the passage of the new law:  the often arduous and at times, unsuccessful, process of becoming a licensed foster parent. Legislators hope that this change will lead to more kinship placements and in turn, remove children from the foster care system more quickly, and with less cost to the Missouri taxpayer.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, fictive kin, family, guardianship placements, distant relatives, foster care

Jessalyn Schwartz, law student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA


October 3, 2013

Governor Cuomo Signs Loophole-Closing Law Regarding Children Born as a Result of Sexual Assault

On October 1, 2013,  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two bills into law to promote public safety and prevent further suffering of victims of domestic violence. The first bill amends the current domestic-relations and social-services laws to restrict the parental rights of convicted sex offenders when a child was born as a result of first or second-degree rape, first-degree sexual assault against a child, predatory sexual assault, or predatory sexual assault against a child.

The law now explicitly contains a rebuttable “best interest of the child” presumption to deny custody and visitation of the child by the offender, denies notice of adoption proceedings, and provides no right to notice of social-services proceedings including foster placements, custody, or guardianship.

The bill was introduced to combat the ability of sex offenders to use custody or visitation petitions as intimidation tactics against their victims. The second bill signed allows access of the State Order of Protection Registry to certain employees of state correctional facilities to avoid inmate/victim contact during programming and release.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, sex offenders, domestic violence, social services, laws, rape, sexual assault, custody, visitation rights, victims' rights, Governor Andrew Cuomo

Jessalyn Schwartz, law student, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA


September 12, 2013

Relatives Allowed to Intervene in Child-Welfare Cases in Colorado

In the Interest of O.C., 2013 CO 56, the Colorado Supreme Court held that "parents, grandparents, and relatives" may intervene as a matter of right in a child-welfare case. There had been a question of whether C.R.S. § 19-3-507(5)(a) mandated that a parent, grandparent or relative could not intervene in a case unless the child has previously been in their care for three months. The court held that the three-month custody requirement of section 507(5)(a) applies to foster parents only. In its decision, the court pointed to the Children's Code goal "[t]o preserve and strengthen family ties whenever possible." O.C., page 7 (citing §19-1-102(1)(b), C.R.S. (2013)). In addition, the court emphasized that the "issue of whether a relative may intervene as a matter of right in termination and placement hearings is a matter of great public importance" as it "impacts who may offer evidence at hearings and decisions regarding placement of children and parental rights." O.C., at page 5.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, child welfare, intervention, custody requirement, relatives, Children's Code

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 10, 2013

Decision Benefits Older Exceptional-Needs Children and Their Parents

In A.D. v. State of Hawaii Department of Education, the student plaintiff was age-eligible at the time he filed his due process complaint, but was 20 when he invoked stay put, thereby exceeding the state of Hawaii's maximum age for special-education eligibility set by Act 163.

The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) argued that because the student plaintiff had aged out of public education thereby becoming ineligible for special education, he does not have any right to stay put to invoke.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the student had a right to remain in his current educational placement pursuant to stay put until the appeal finally resolved.

That the maximum age of eligibility is different in California does not appear to impact this holding that results in better and potentially longer protections for our older students with exceptional needs.

The following is a summary of the important takeaways from this Ninth Circuit decision:

Your child has the right to remain in stay put after age 22. This decision interprets federal laws regarding stay put, so it doesn't change the outcome just because California ages children out on their 22nd birthday (actually the child can remain in school to the end of the school year in which he turns 22 in California).

So long as your child is still 21 on the date you file for due process, your child remains eligible and in stay put through all resulting hearings and court proceedings. In the unusual case, this could enable a child to remain in stay put until age 27 or 28 should the case be appealed to the Ninth Circuit or U.S. Supreme Court.

The date you move for stay put is not important. Parents need not worry about actually filing for stay put before the date the child age out. The right to stay put is automatic and a stay put placement is guaranteed upon filing a request for due process.

It is not relevant that A.D. challenged Hawaii DOE's eligibility age. The A.D.'s complaint challenged the specific age eligibility criterion for the state of Hawaii. The court discusses this in its decision for the purpose of underscoring why stay put was especially important to the child that is challenging the very law that would otherwise operate to extinguish the child's eligibility and stay-put rights. This discussion does not limit the holding of this case to California kids challenging California's age-related eligibility criterion. Any due process hearing triggers the stay put right even if the child turns 22 thereafter.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, stay-put rights, age eligibility, special education, Hawaii, educational placement

Hans Gillinger, partner, Law Offices of Bonnie Z. Yates, Los Angeles, CA


September 9, 2013

Legal Services Assessment for Trafficked Children

The Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago has issued a report, Legal Services Assessment for Trafficked Children, that provides an overview of the legal services landscape for trafficked children, including gaps in legal services, as well as opportunities for improving outcomes. Although the center used Cook County, Illinois, as a case study, the project also includes input from service providers around the country to provide a national comparison. Finally, the report includes recommendations for developing best practices. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Center for the Human Rights of Children, Loyola University Chicago, human rights, trafficking, legal services

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


July 22, 2013

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Florida for Segregating Children with Disabilities

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Florida alleging the state is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it has placed nearly 200 children with disabilities in nursing facilities when they could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and alleges that the state's policies and practices place children with significant medical needs at serious risk of institutionalization in nursing facilities. The department's complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages for affected children.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Justice Department, Americans with Disabilities Act, Florida

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


June 20, 2013

Attorney-Client Privilege Upheld for Florida Foster Youth

In R.L.R. v. The State of Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families, et al., the Florida Third District Court upheld the attorney-client privilege for a 17-year-old foster youth. The lower court had ordered the child's lawyer to disclose the child's location after he had run away from his foster care placement. The district court ruled that that protecting the attorney-client privilege protects the administration of justice.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, attorney-client privilige, foster care

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 13, 2013

Raised on the Registry

Human Rights Watch has published a report, The Irreparable Harm of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries in the US, that details the harm public registration laws cause for youth sex offenders. The report outlines the sex-offender laws that apply to youth and how they affect a youth through the course of their lives. The laws, which can apply for decades or even a lifetime and are layered on top of time in prison or juvenile detention, require placing offenders’ personal information on online registries, often making them targets for harassment, humiliation, and even violence. The laws also severely restrict where, and with whom, youth sex offenders may live, work, attend school, or even spend time.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, public registration laws, sex offenders, Human Rights Watch, report

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


April 29, 2013

NJJN Launches New Online Juvenile Justice Resource

The National Juvenile Justice Network and its partner, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, have launched a new online resource called the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub. The hub pulls together information and resources to provide a high-quality overview of key issues in juvenile justice, strategies for change, and resources that include research, toolkits, and links to national experts. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, National Juvenile Justice Network, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, juvenile justice, resources

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


April 18, 2013

An Indigent Defense System in Crisis?

The National Juvenile Defender Center has released “Missouri: Justice Rationed—An Assessment of Access to Counsel and Quality of Juvenile Defense Representation in Delinquency Proceedings.” The report reveals an indigent defense system in crisis in which nearly 60 percent of the youth that come before the Missouri courts are not represented by the state’s designated system of indigent defense. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, indigent, National Juvenile Defender Center, Missouri,juvenile defense

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


April 18, 2013

Report Breaks Down Suspension and Expulsion Data

The Civil Rights Project has released its report, Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools. The findings in the report demonstrate that the vast majority of suspensions were for minor infractions of school rules, such as disrupting class, tardiness, and dress-code violations, rather than for serious violent or criminal behavior. The findings of the report also highlight critical civil-rights concerns related to the high frequency of secondary-school suspensions The researchers focused on secondary schools based on the fact that children of color and students from other historically disadvantaged groups are far more likely than other students to be suspended out of school at this level. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, civil rights, suspensions, expulsions, school discipline, secondary schools, disadvantaged groups

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


April 17, 2013

State Legislatures Increasingly Recognize that Kids Are Not Adults

State legislatures around the country are increasingly recognizing that brain research on adolescents and decreasing juvenile crime (as well as tight budgets) mean that they need to rethink policies that treat youth as adults, understand the importance of quality counsel for kids, and divert offenders away from detention. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, state legislatures, juvenile crime, policies, adolescents, brain research

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


February 21, 2013

National Juvenile Defense Standards Released

The National Juvenile Defender Center, with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the Models for Change initiative, has released National Juvenile Defense Standards which were promulgated to provide guidance, support, and direction to juvenile-defense attorneys and other juvenile-court stakeholders. The standards are national in scope and are meant to be used in concert with controlling constitutional, state, and local laws, rules, policies, and procedures in order to have full force and effect.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, standards, National Juvenile Defender Center, juvenile-defense attorneys

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


February 21, 2013

Examining Costs of Exclusionary Discipline in Washington

Washington State’s Team Child, together with Washington Appleseed, has released Reclaiming Students: the Educational and Economic Costs of Exclusionary Discipline in Washington State. The report focuses on the impact of state laws, state regulations, and school district policies and practices that remove students from school and prevent them from accessing educational services due to behavior or violations of school codes of conduct. The report focuses on five key findings and recommendations, based on qualitative and quantitative data. It also includes the stories of youth across the state. 

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, exclusionary discipline, Washington state, school policies, educational costs, economic costs

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


February 11, 2013

Website Offers Civil-Rights Data Information

The website for the U. S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection  includes data about school discipline from approximately 7,000 school districts and 72,000 schools along with other important indicators of access to equal educational opportunity.  

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, civil rights, data, school discipline, school districts. access to education

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


February 7, 2013

Complaint Filed Against Toledo Public Schools for Discriminatory Discipline

Legal Aid of Western Ohio filed a complaint against Toledo Public Schools on behalf of a student alleging discriminatory disciplinary practices based on race and disability. The OCR responded the complaint here.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, discriminatory discipline, complaint, public schools

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


February 7, 2013

Colorado Supreme Court Decides L.A.N. et al. v. L.M.B. Case

The court found that a child in an abuse and neglect proceeding maintains the psychotherapist-patient privilege unless the communication formed the basis of a report of child abuse or neglect.  However, (1) if the child is too young or otherwise incompetent to hold the privilege; (2) the child’s interest are adverse to those of his or her parents; and (3) section 19-3-311, C.R.S. (2012), does not abrogate the privilege, then the guardian ad litem (GAL) is in the best position to hold the child’s privilege. The court declared that the GAL’s “client” is the “best interest of the child.”  “The GAL’s ethical obligations as an attorney ‘flow from this unique definition of “client”’; therefore, the GAL owes fiduciary duties of loyalty and confidentiality to the child’s best interests.” The GAL must not reveal privileged information if doing so would be against the child’s best interest. The juvenile court should honor the psychotherapist-patient privilege if that privilege has not been waived.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, child abuse, neglect, psychotherapist-patient privilege, guardian ad litem, Colorado Supreme Court, best interest

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 18, 2013

DOE Opens Investigation on Fall River Disparate-Impact Allegations

The UCLA Civil Rights Project filed a complaint against Fall River with the Office of Civil Rights. The complaint includes an analysis of what research says about school discipline using the disparate-impact analysis as the framework.  Based on the complaint, the Department of Education has opened an investigation into the disparate-impact allegations.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, UCLA Civil Rights Project, complaint, disparate impact, school discipline

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 9, 2013

Deal Reached to Overhaul Juvenile-Justice System in a Tennessee County

On December 17, 2012, Shelby County, Tennessee (which includes Memphis) and the Justice Department signed an extensive agreement to overhaul the county’s juvenile justice system. The agreement is the first of its kind in the nation. In 2009, federal investigators began investigating juvenile justice in the Shelby County and found that teenagers in state custody attempted suicide at high rates and were sometimes strapped to deep, wide restraint chairs and left alone up to five times longer than the law allowed. In addition, black teenagers were twice as likely as white teenagers to be detained and were sent to adult criminal court for minor infractions far more often than whites. The agreement aims to keep low-level offenders out of juvenile lockups and adult criminal court, as well as improving conditions of confinement. The agreement mandates the creation of a community board as well as the appointment of three federally appointed monitors. Read more here.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, juvenile-justice system, agreement, Tennessee, Justice Department, confinement

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 9, 2013

ABA Urges an End to the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The ABA filed a statement with the Senate Judiciary Committee for its December 12, 2012 hearing on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” The Children’s Rights Litigation committee took the lead on drafting this statement which was finalized by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and signed by ABA President Laurel Bellows.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, school-to-prison pipeline, ABA, Senate Judiciary Committee, Laurel Bellows

Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children's Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


December 13, 2012

Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence Releases Final Report

Attorney General Eric Holder's "Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence" has released its final report and policy recommendations gathered from public hearings held across the country over the past year. The report, Defending Childhood: Protect, Heal, Thrive, includes recommendations and highlights the importance of identifying children who are victims or witnesses of violence. The report supports providing support and services to help children heal and focuses on developing programs to help children access supportive and nonviolent relationships with trusted adults in their homes and communities. The report also calls for all children who enter the juvenile justice system to be screened for exposure to violence.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, task force, violence victims, policy recommendations

Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


December 13, 2012

Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Chafin v. Chafin

On December 5, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Chafin v. Chafin, a case from Alabama brought under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, and the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The justices will resolve a circuit split on whether the return of a child to the country of habitual residence renders any appeal of such child abduction proceedings moot. Oral argument can be heard here.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, International Child Abduction Remedies Act, abduction proceedings, oral argument, United States Supreme Court

Jennifer Baum, web editor, Children's Rights Litigation Committee


November 30, 2012

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

On August 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security began accepting requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a form of temporary immigration relief from deportation for certain young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Immigrants who qualify for the new program will also be eligible to apply for work authorization. To learn more about the program, including who is eligible to apply and how to apply, click here.

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.



October 31, 2012

Is the Juvenile-Justice System Failing Our Girls?

A new report, Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls: Lessons from the States, examines the challenges facing girls in the juvenile-justice system and makes recommendations for gender-responsive reform at the local, state, and federal levels. As the report states, “The typical girl in the system is a nonviolent offender, who is very often low-risk but high-need, meaning the girl poses little risk to the public but she enters the system with significant and pressing personal needs. The set of challenges that girls often face as they enter the juvenile-justice system include trauma, violence, neglect, mental and physical problems, family conflict, pregnancy, residential and academic instability, and school failure. The juvenile-justice system only exacerbates these problems by failing to provide girls with services at the time when they need them most.”

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


October 5, 2012

Ohio: No Right to Legal Counsel for Juveniles During Interrogation

On October 3, 2012 the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a provision of Ohio state law that entitles juvenile offenders to representation by legal counsel "at all stages of the proceedings" in delinquency cases refers only to court proceedings that take place after the filing of a complaint in juvenile court or upon an offender's initial appearance in juvenile court. Based on that analysis, the court decided that a juvenile does not have a statutory right to legal counsel during a police interrogation that is conducted prior to the filing of a complaint or the offender's initial appearance in juvenile court.

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 26, 2012

New Study on Parents with Disabilities and the Child-Welfare System

The policy study released by the National Council on Disability, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” provides a comprehensive overview of factors that support and obstruct parents with disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families. The study seeks to highlight the fact that the U.S. legal system is not currently protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. The study indicates that two-thirds of state child-welfare laws allow courts to determine whether a parent is unfit solely on the basis of a parent's disability. Currently, every state family or child dependency court allows disability to be considered when determining the best interest of a child. The report, infused with real-life stories of parents with disabilities, explores the disparate treatment that parents with disabilities often encounter with the system and offers draft model state and federal statutory language to correct the discriminatory effects.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, National Council on Disability

Marlene Sallo, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C.


September 26, 2012

Conn. High Court: ICPC Does Not Apply to Out-of-State Parents

In Re. Emoni W. et. al., 305 Conn. 723, 48 A.3d 1(2012), was decided by the Supreme Court of Connecticut on July 19, 2012. The court granted certiorari for the father, an out-of-state, non-custodial parent of two minor children, to appeal on the issues of:

1. whether the appellate court properly dismissed the appeals as moot, and

2. if not, whether section 17a-175, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, (ICPC) applied to out-of-state, non-custodial parents.

The ICPC is an agreement between states to regulate the placement of children by the sending state into the receiving state. The compact applies to placements preliminary to adoption, placements into foster care, placement with parents or relatives, and placements of adjudicated delinquents.

Read the full case note.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, ICPC, section 17a-175

Jessalyn Schwartz, Northeastern University School of Law


September 20, 2012

Report Describes Failures of Juvenile-Justice System

According to a new report, Families Unlocking Futures: Solutions to the Crisis in Juvenile Justice, the juvenile-justice system is more likely to ultimately land youth in prison than deter or redirect them from system involvement. It describes the growth of the prison system, zero-tolerance policies, and aggressive police tactics, along with the decline of social services and public education, explaining the disastrous effect on low-income and black communities. The report also includes ideas for solutions to these problems in a “Blueprint for Youth Justice Transformation.”

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, juvenile-justice system, prison system

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 20, 2012

IDEA Does Not Provide For a Right to Counsel

In Clauson v. City of Springfield, 848 F. Supp. 2d 63 (D.Mass. 2012), an attorney was appointed by a juvenile court to be both a guardian ad litem (GAL) and educational surrogate parent (ESP) for a special-education student in custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The attorney eventually asked for the DCF to appoint an attorney who could file a hearing request before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) regarding the proposed individual education plan (IEP) and also represent the ESP at the hearing. The DCF refused, and the attorney filed the request himself (although apparently his request dealt with issues outside the IEP). He asserted that because the ESP has a right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to be accompanied by an attorney at the hearing, the right obligated someone to pay for counsel as a matter of due process.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, right to counsel, Department of Children and Families

—John Pollock, coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel


September 11, 2012

Recent Developments in Dependency Law

Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association v. Kinkade (W.D. Mo. 2012) was brought by a Missouri foster parent association alleging that rates paid to its members are too low. The plaintiffs claimed that federal law requires states to make payments that meet foster parents’ costs in caring for foster children. The district court granted the state’s motion to dismiss, holding that private plaintiffs cannot enforce the relevant provisions of federal law.

In Henry A. v. Willden (9th Cir. 2012), the plaintiffs are foster children in Las Vegas suing county and state officials regarding the condition of their care. The complaint includes four federal statutory claims: Children are not provided case plans, officials do not maintain appropriate case records, children are not appointed guardians ad litem (GALs), and children under age three are not provided early intervention screens. The district court dismissed these claims, concluding that the statutory provisions at issue do not create federal rights and, thus, there is no valid cause of action for private plaintiffs.

In In re C.M. (N.H. 2012), Larry and Sonia M. are parents of two minor children, C.M. and A.M., who were subjects of petitions brought by the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth, and Families seeking to remove the children from their parents and place them into state custody. Initially, both parents were assigned counsel. However, subsequent to a dispositional hearing, effective July 1, 2011, the New Hampshire legislature abolished the state statutory right to counsel for indigent parents facing allegations of abuse or neglect. The legislation was aimed at reducing the financial burden on the state posed by providing counsel to indigent parents at state expense.

In In re Ethan C. (Cal. 2012), a father transported his 18-month-old daughter in a car without putting her in a car seat. She was in her aunt’s lap on the way to the hospital to treat an injury to her arm. Another vehicle collided with their car, and the girl died. Two siblings were adjudicated dependent; the dependency court made findings under WIC § 300(f), saying, “The child’s parent or guardian caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect.”

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, foster care, negligence, dependency court, parental rights, right to counsel

Erik Pitchal, Boston, Massachusetts, and Bruce A. Boyer, clinical professor, director, Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, Chicago, Illinois


September 5, 2012

Dignity in Schools Releases Model Code for Education

The Dignity in Schools Campaign has released its new Model Code for Education [PDF], which has been in the works for about two years and features the input of people from all over the country. The Model Code features several right-to-counsel provisions that cover school disciplinary proceedings (page 35), truancy (page 48), and special-education manifestation hearings (page 64). The Model Code was originally conceptualized at and started through the Section of Litigation’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Dignity in Schools Campaign, Model Code for Education, school disciplinary proceedings, truancy, special education

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


August 9, 2012

Report Covers Overcriminalization, School-to-Prison Pipeline

Last winter, the Section of Litigation co-sponsored a symposium, Overcriminalization and Excessive Punishment: Uncoupling Pipelines to Prison [PDF], at the Yale Law School. The report gives an overview of overcriminalization in the United States, discusses the input of those who attended the symposium, and ends with recommendations. The report is an excellent resource for anyone working on school-to-prison pipeline issues.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, overcriminalization, school-to-prison pipeline

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


August 9, 2012

Report Examines Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion

A new report, Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School, takes data from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and other sources and presents it in a way that is meant to make it easier for advocates and communities to use. It includes a database that provides detailed analysis of 7,000 school districts and national and state composites so you can see the national scope of the problem and how one state compares to another. The data is alarming.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Department of Education, expulsion, detention, suspension

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


July 25, 2012

School Discipline Bills Move Forward in California

Three key bills aimed at changing school discipline policies were approved in the California state assembly before the summer recess, and they will be ready for a final vote on the senate floor when legislators return from their recess in August. Unfortunately, the bills have now been softened to give districts more discretion to implement harsher punishments than the authors originally intended.

One of the bills, Assembly Bill (AB) 2242 [PDF], has prevented administrators from giving students an off-campus suspension for being defiant or disruptive prior to being amended. The bill seeks to reduce the number of expulsions and out-of-school suspensions due to “willful defiance” or “disrupting school activities.” As it currently stands, administrators will not be able to expel offending students or give them out-of-school suspensions for more than five days—students in some schools serve suspensions in special on-campus classrooms.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, California, school discipline

—Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


July 3, 2012

FTC Offers Resources on Child Identity Theft

If your client’s (or child’s) identity is stolen, what will you do? Identity theft continues to top the list of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer-protection agency. An identity thief can hijack your tax refund, alter your medical records, prevent you from getting credit or a job, and even borrow money in your child’s name.

New publications from the FTC explain how to protect your child client’s information and your own, along with the immediate steps to take to limit damage from identity theft.


In addition, three one-minute videos demonstrate habits to protect personal information and the essential first steps to take if your identity is stolen.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Federal Trade Commission, identity theft

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


June 19, 2012

Committee Teleconference Wins ACLEA Award

The Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA) is awarding the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee’s teleconference, “Recognizing and Addressing LGBTQ Issues in Your Children’s Law Caseload,” the Award of Professional Excellence in the Public Interest category in its 2012 ACLEA’s Best Awards. The association will honor the American Bar Association during the group’s annual meeting July 31, 2012, at the Westin Denver Downtown.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Association for Continuing Legal Education, LGBTQ

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 8, 2012

Report Adds to Research on School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Citizens for Juvenile Justice, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts and the Racial Justice Program of the ACLU’s National Legal Department, has released Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts’s Three Largest School Districts, a report on school-based arrests.

Data on school-based arrests was examined from Massachusetts’s three largest school districts—Boston, Springfield, and Worcester. Results show that the majority or a substantial percentage of all school-based arrests were for disruptive but otherwise relatively minor misbehavior. Students in Massachusetts are being handcuffed, booked, and sent to court for behavior once handled by schools and parents, including swearing, slamming doors or banging lockers, failing to follow directions, or being disruptive in hallways, according to this groundbreaking report.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, school-to-prison pipeline, juvenile justice

—Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


May 1, 2012

Who Should Decide when a Juvenile Is Charged as an Adult?

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently heard a challenge to the practice of allowing prosecutors to decide whether a juvenile should be charged as an adult with no judicial review. Many advocates argue that the decision to try juveniles as an adult should be made by a judge after hearing from both the prosecution and the defense.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, New Jersey, juvenile court

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 1, 2012

Tennessee Juvenile Court Violates Rights of Juveniles

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Civil Rights has completed its investigation of the Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee. The DOJ has issued a report of the findings [PDF], which show that the juvenile court fails to provide constitutionally required due process to all children appearing for delinquency proceedings, that the court’s administration of juvenile justice discriminates against African American children, and that its detention center violates the substantive due-process rights of detained youth by not providing them with reasonably safe conditions of confinement. As part of the investigation, the department’s attorneys and consultants conducted an in-depth analysis of more than 60,000 youth files and reviewed policies and procedures, recordings of hearings, court documents, case files, detention material, and statistical data.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Department of Justice, juvenile detention

—Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


May 1, 2012

Juveniles Have No Constitutional Right to Jury Trial

A New Jersey judge has rejected the argument that a juvenile has a constitutional right to a jury trial given the severity of potential consequences from the juvenile proceeding. The judge said, “The fact that a minority of our sister states have chosen to deal differently with the issue under their state constitutions does not require this State to follow in their footsteps.” State in the Interest of A.C. [PDF], FJ-13-1392-11W.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, New Jersey, jury trial

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


April 17, 2012

Report Shows How Juvenile Detention Doesn't Work

On any given night in the United States, there are approximately 60,500 youth confined in juvenile-corrections facilities or other residential programs. No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration [PDF], a report issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, presents a vast array of evidence that demonstrates that incarcerating kids doesn’t work. The report supports the belief among advocates that juvenile-detention facilities do not deter recidivism, that they waste taxpayer dollars, and that they frequently expose youth to dangerous and abusive conditions. The report also shows that, in recent years, many states have substantially reduced their juvenile-corrections facility populations without resulting in an increase in juvenile crime or violence. The report highlights successful reform efforts from several states and provides recommendations for how states can reduce juvenile incarceration rates and redesign their juvenile-corrections systems to better serve young people and the public.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, juvenile corrections, Annie E. Casey Foundation

—Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 22, 2012

Materials Now Online for LGBTQ Teleconference

Materials are now online for the complimentary teleconference, “Recognizing and Addressing LGBTQ Issues in Your Children’s Law Caseload,” which was held Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The teleconference focused on why lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ), as well as gender-nonconforming, youth are overrepresented in the justice system and the challenges they face, as well as how to spot issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender nonconformity in your cases and why it matters. It also included practical tips to advocate for your LGBTQ and gender nonconforming clients.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, LGBTQ, teleconference

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


March 22, 2012

Survey Studies Juveniles Serving Life Without Parole

The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey [PDF], released by the Sentencing Project, provides a new perspective on the population of individuals serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed in their youth. It represents the findings of a comprehensive investigation into this population that includes a first-ever national survey of juvenile lifers. Survey findings from 1,579 individuals around the country who are serving these sentences demonstrate high rates of socioeconomic disadvantage, extreme racial disparities in the imposition of these punishments, sentences frequently imposed without judicial discretion, and counterproductive corrections policies that thwart efforts at rehabilitation.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, imprisonment

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 22, 2012

Department of Education Analyzes Bullying Laws, Policies

The U.S. Department of Education’s report, Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies [PDF], summarizes current approaches in the 46 states with anti-bullying laws and the 41 states that have created anti-bullying policies as models for schools. The report shows the prevalence of state efforts to combat bullying in the last several years. The report reveals that while most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to be done to ensure that adults are doing everything possible to keep children safe.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, bullying

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 8, 2012

Litigation Article Discusses Child Representation

The Litigation article “What Difference Can a Quality Lawyer Make for a Child?” examines the critical difference that a lawyer can make for a child in a variety of legal areas, such as juvenile justice, education, and child welfare.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, child welfare, juvenile justice, education

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


March 8, 2012

Washington Supreme Court: Kids Have No Right to Counsel

In In re Dependency of M.S.R. and T.S.R., No. 85729-6 (Wash. Mar. 1, 2012), the Washington Supreme Court ruled that children in proceedings regarding the termination of parental rights (TPR) do not have a categorical right to counsel under the Fourteenth Amendment (there was no ruling on the state constitution for procedural reasons). The court found that the Washington statute providing for the discretionary appointment of counsel for children met the dictates of due process.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, termination of parental rights, guardians ad litem, child welfare

—John Pollock, coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel


February 17, 2012

Megan's Law Doesn't Give Right to a Jury Trial

The application of Megan’s Law to a juvenile case does not give a minor the right to a jury trial, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled on February 15, 2012.

In a published opinion, Interest of A.C. [PDF], A-5308-10, the court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the juvenile-justice code’s jury-trial prohibition. In so doing, the judges rejected defense claims that Megan’s Law—which can brand a minor as a sex offender for life—has shifted juvenile justice from rehabilitation to punishment, thus triggering a right to a jury. The appeals court said that “whether Megan’s Law should apply to juveniles, either at all or in the manner that it currently does, is a policy decision to be addressed by the Legislature.”

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Megan’s Law, jury trials, New Jersey

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


February 6, 2012

National Task Force Addresses Childhood Violence

The Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence will spend the next year examining the extent and nature of the problem of childhood exposure to violence in the United States, and it will identify policies and promising practices to address the problem. Hearings will be held over the next several months in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Miami, Florida; and Detroit, Michigan. The website for the Defending Childhood Task Force has details about the hearings, information about community listening sessions, and other opportunities to give input.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Attorney General, child abuse

—Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 18, 2012

Free Journal Looks at Nonresident Fathers, Child Welfare

The American Humane Association has released the latest issue of Protecting Children for free. The issue, “Bringing Back the Dads: Changing Practices in Child Welfare Systems” [PDF], is a compilation of articles providing a broad range of perspectives on the issues facing nonresident fathers and the child welfare system. This journal, produced with funding from the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau, through the National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System, identifies promising casework, legal and judicial best practices, awareness to reduce barriers to engagement, and policies that impact the engagement of nonresident fathers.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, American Humane Association, child welfare

—Howard Davidson, director, ABA Center on Children and the Law


January 3, 2012

Brief Looks at Suicide and Bullying

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has released Suicide and Bullying: Issue Brief, a brief on the relationship between bullying and suicide, especially as it relates to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth. The brief describes the extent of the problem and identifies strategies for bullying and suicide prevention.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, suicide, bullying, LGBT

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


December 14, 2011

ABA Supports Right to Counsel for Indigent Parents

Indigent parent-defendants in abuse or neglect proceedings in which the state is seeking custody of their minor children should have the right to state-provided counsel, according to an American Bar Association (ABA) amicus brief [PDF] filed late Monday with the New Hampshire Supreme Court in In re Christian M. and Alexander M.

Responding to the New Hampshire court’s request for briefs on the ramifications of a decision in these cases, the ABA states that its long history of examining this issue has led it to conclude that the risk of error when indigent parent-defendants are not represented in such matters is so great that fair and equal access to justice requires the appointment of counsel.

A substantial majority of states, either by statute or based on their state constitutions, have recognized an unqualified right to counsel for indigent parent-defendants in child custody proceedings, the brief also notes.

The ABA supports, as a matter of right, the appointment of legal counsel at public expense for low-income persons in adversarial proceedings that involve basic human needs such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health, and child custody.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, indigent parents, abuse and neglect

—Ira Pilchen, American Bar Association Communications and Media Relations Division


December 2, 2011

How Washington, D.C., Reformed Its Juvenile-Justice Agency

A new report released by the Moriah Fund, the Carter and Melissa Cafritz Charitable Trust, the Meyer Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation shows how a collaborative effort between Washington, D.C., foundations and national funders supported the transformation of the district’s juvenile-justice agency.

The report, Notorious to Notable: The Crucial Role of the Philanthropic Communityin Transforming the Juvenile Justice System in Washington, D.C. [PDF], details how, between 2000 and 2011, the district’s juvenile-justice system went from one of the worst—with a notorious and inhumane juvenile prison, an over-reliance on incarceration, and a dearth of community programs—to one of the highest acclaimed, receiving recognition from Harvard University. The reforms ultimately reduced youth re-offending rates by decreasing the district’s over-reliance on incarceration; closing and replacing Oak Hill with a smaller, homelike facility and an innovative and acclaimed school; and redirecting funding from incarceration to community-based alternatives.

Keywords: litigation; children’s rights; Washington, D.C.; juvenile justice

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


November 22, 2011

School Resource Officers May Over-Criminalize Behavior

The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) recently released a report entitled Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police In Schools [PDF]. The report compiles information and data that show school resource officers (SROs) needlessly drive up arrests for behavior issues that can, and should, be dealt with inside the school. The report highlights different jurisdictions such as Birmingham, Alabama, where 96 percent of juvenile court referrals for students were for misdemeanor offenses or minor violations. According to the report, a study of sample schools with and without SROs found that schools with an SRO had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an SRO.

The JPI report notes that from 2004 to 2007, the number of SROs in schools declined 8.9 percent, while the rate of student-reported crime dropped from 73 per 1,000 in 2003 to 57 per 1,000 in 2007. According to the report, this suggests both that communities are beginning to question the value of SROs and that school safety can be improved without over-criminalizing student misbehavior. Education Under Arrest recommends investing in schools and implementing practices like positive behavioral interventions and social and emotional learning, which results in better outcomes without the negative effects of SROs, which include unnecessary arrests and involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, school resource officers, Justice Policy Institute

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


November 22, 2011

Immigrant Children Reportedly Kept from Detained Parents

The Applied Research Center (ARC) recently released a report entitled Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System. The report explores the extent to which children in foster care are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents and the failures of the child-welfare system to adequately work to reunify these families. According to the report, there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care who are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents. The report indicates that victims of domestic violence are at particular risk of losing their children.

Once detained immigrant parents lose their children, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention impedes their ability to participate in or complete a child protective services’ plan for family unity. Families also encounter an additional impediment in that most child-welfare departments lack systemic policies to keep families united when parents are detained or deported. The ARC report provides policy recommendations at the federal and state level to protect families from separation and facilitate family unity.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Applied Research Center

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


November 10, 2011

Psychotropic Medication Tips for Advocates and Judges

Multiple studies have found that children in foster care are vulnerable to inappropriate or excessive use of psychotropic medication. Advocating for and presiding over cases involving children and teens in foster care who may have mental-health disorders requires a solid understanding of the positive and negative aspects of medication use in this population.

The ABA Center on Children and the Law is pleased to announce the release of “Psychotropic Medication and Children in Foster Care: Tips for Advocates and Judges” [PDF] by JoAnne Solchany, PhD, ARNP. The brief addresses common child and adolescent mental-health diagnoses; a multimodal approach to managing mental-health disorders; the benefits, drawbacks, and side effects of psychotropic medications; recommendations for best practice; and questions judges and advocates should ask about medication use. The brief is free and available online.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, psychotropic medication, foster care

—Eva Klain, Esq., Child and Adolescent Health director, ABA Center on Children and the Law


November 7, 2011

Colorado Removes Attorney-Client Privilege in GAL Cases

In People v. Gabriesheski, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the role of the guardian ad litem (GAL) in Colorado as an attorney who represents the best interests of the child. In Gabriesheski, the court held that because a child is not the client of the GAL as contemplated by the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney’s duty of confidentiality as set forth in Rule 1.6 does not strictly apply to communications a child has made to a GAL. Similarly, the attorney-client privilege as defined in § 13-90-107(1)(b), C.R.S., does not strictly apply to communications a child makes to a GAL.

The facts of the case are that in 2005, Mark Gabriesheski was accused of assaulting a young girl in his care. Shortly before his trial on sex-assault charges, the girl recanted her statements about the abuse. The prosecutor asked the girl’s GAL to testify about what the girl said to the GAL. Gabriesheski’s attorneys objected to the testimony, saying that it was covered by the attorney-client privilege, and the judge ruled that the GAL could not testify without the girl’s approval, which she refused to give.

Read more in the Denver Post.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Colorado, guardian ad litem, attorney-client privilege

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


October 31, 2011

Webcast Explores Legal Issues for Nonprofits

Meghan Magruder, a working group member of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, is a trainer in the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta webcast, “Legal Issues for Nonprofits that Work with Children,” which focuses on the common risks for nonprofits that work with children and the methods that can be taken to address these risks.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, nonprofits, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, webcasts

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


October 19, 2011

Handbook Offers Tools for Handling Trafficking Victims

The Center for the Human Rights for Children, Loyola University Chicago, and International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) have released a handbook, Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking [PDF], which focuses on helping child-welfare systems identify and appropriately respond to child trafficking victims. The handbook provides child-welfare systems with a comprehensive framework that can be adapted to local and state policies and procedures. The enclosed toolkit includes a child trafficking screening tool, a section on immigration protections and remedies, and a list of national referral programs and services available to child victims of trafficking. The handbook represents the first stage of a larger, more comprehensive effort to build capacity and expertise about child trafficking within state and private child-welfare agencies.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, child trafficking, Center for the Human Rights for Children, Loyola University Chicago, International Organization for Adolescents

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


October 6, 2011

Report Reveals Ineffectiveness of Youth Prisons

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new report, No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration, focuses on whether incarcerating youth works to reduce future offenses. The research within the report reveals that youth prisons do not reduce future offenses, they waste taxpayer dollars, and they frequently expose youth to dangerous and abusive conditions. The report also shows that many states have substantially reduced their juvenile correctional facility populations in recent years, and it finds that these states have seen no resulting increase in juvenile crime or violence. Finally, the report highlights successful reform efforts from several states and provides recommendations for how states can reduce juvenile incarceration rates and redesign their juvenile-correction systems to better serve young people and the public.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, juvenile corrections, youth prisons

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 26, 2011

Report Examines Adolescent Neuroscience and Foster Care

A new report from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, The Adolescent Brain: New Research and Its Implications for Young People Transitioning from Foster Care, discusses the neuroscience behind the discovery that in adolescence, the brain experiences a period of major development comparable to that of early childhood. The report goes into great detail examining what this research means for adolescents in foster care and for their transition into adulthood.

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative’s mission is to ensure that the young people who leave foster care are able to make successful transitions into adulthood. In an effort to improve the systems that support them, the initiative promotes the strategies of youth voice, community partnerships, research and evaluation, public will and policy, and the creation of a range of opportunities for young people. It works in partnership with communities and states across the country to integrate these strategies into the core work of state child welfare agencies and other strategic allies.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, foster care, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


September 14, 2011

Foster Youth Suit Alleging Ineffective Assistance Dismissed

In the case of E.T. v. Cantil-Sakauye [PDF], the plaintiff foster children appealed the dismissal of their class-action lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which they allege that the caseloads of the Sacramento County Dependency Court and court-appointed attorneys are so excessive that they violate federal and state constitutional and statutory provisions and in essence deny Sacremento foster youth effective assistance of counsel. The district court abstained from adjudicating, and the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that dismissal.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, foster children, Ninth Circuit

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


August 30, 2011

IJA/ABA Standards for Juvenile Justice Are Now Online

The first edition of the Institute of Judicial Administration (IJA)/ABA Standards for Juvenile Justice were written in 1977 and updated in 1982, but they are quite relevant to today’s practice. These comprehensive standards cover issues including adjudication, appeals, court organization, dispositional procedures, juvenile records, and monitoring. The standards also cover recommendations for reform.

This resource is now online, and advocates should take the opportunity to become familiar with these important standards.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Institute of Judicial Administration, Standards for Juvenile Justice

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


August 22, 2011

Guide Supports, Explains Restorative Justice Practices

The Alameda County Health Care Services Agency has just released "Restorative Justice: A Working Guide for Our Schools" [PDF]. The guide seeks to provide support and guidance for teachers, community leaders, and school personnel who wish to implement restorative justice in their schools. It explains restorative practices and supports the promise that standards of punishment and exclusion can be shifted to a new paradigm that embraces healing and inclusion—a necessary shift aimed at reducing the number of students funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, restorative justice

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


August 10, 2011

ABA Adopts Model Act on Representation of Children

On August 8, 2011, the ABA House of Delegates adopted the Model Act Governing the Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases [PDF]. The Model Act, sponsored by the Section of Litigation and many other ABA entities, calls for lawyers for children in every abuse, neglect, and dependency matter. What does the Model Act do?

  • It requires the appointment of a lawyer for every child and youth in abuse/neglect proceedings. These proceedings dramatically shape a child’s future, as this is where decisions are made that determine where a child lives, with whom a child will live, and whether the child’s parental rights will be continued or terminated.
  • It offers a model state statute format that can be adopted by various state legislatures and ensures that states have a model of ethical representation for children that is consistent with the best thinking of national children’s legal experts.
  • It gives states holistic and practical guidance on providing lawyers for children by building on the ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases and ABA Policies while incorporating principles from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
  • It improves the quality of legal representation for children and youth in abuse and neglect cases by setting clear qualifications and performance guidelines.


While designed to protect children from abuse and neglect, dependency court proceedings can be intrusive and disruptive to the child and family. The most basic rights and needs of children will be decided by these proceedings, which determine the answer to questions such as:

  • Who will their mother, father, or siblings be? Will they visit?
  • Where will they live? Where will they go to school?
  • Will they be hospitalized? What medications will they take?
  • What will the future hold for them?


An abuse/neglect case that results in the child’s removal from the home may immediately or ultimately result in the child being thrust into an array of confusing and frightening situations, including movement from home to home with total strangers, group home or institutional commitment, or even locked detention for running away or otherwise violating a court order.

Our notion of basic civil rights demands that children have a trained legal advocate to speak on their behalf and to protect their legal rights, just as they would if they were facing a month in juvenile detention. The Model Act seeks to embed in state law a set of standards, duties, and mechanisms to ensure the provision of high-quality, effective lawyering for children.

In the absence of counsel for children, trial courts lack the information necessary to make what is arguably the most important decision in a child’s life.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, ABA House of Delegates, Model Act Governing the Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Cases

— Cathy Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


July 28, 2011

Tennessee Foster Care System Shows Promising Reform

The national watchdog organization, Children’s Rights, has issued What Works in Child Welfare Reform: Reducing Reliance on Congregate Care in Tennessee [PDF], a report that shows that Tennessee has been able to achieve a substantial decline in the use of congregate care for foster children.

Over the past several years, Tennessee has taken a number of critical steps to improve the lives of foster children. As a result of its efforts, Tennessee has seen an increase in the number of foster youth placed with families. The state’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) has successfully improved its ability to reserve institutional care only for youth with severe mental and behavioral health needs.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Tennessee, foster care, congregate care

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


July 26, 2011

New Initiative Addresses School-to-Prison Pipeline

Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have announced the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a collaborative project between the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. The project will address the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, school-to-prison pipeline, Supportive School Discipline Initiative

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


July 11, 2011

Wal-Mart Launches Medical-Legal Partnership Program

Wal-Mart has launched a medical-legal partnership program, staffed by its own legal department, to provide free legal services for patients at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The program is starting in Wal-Mart’s home state of Arkansas, but there are plans to expand. To learn more about medical-legal partnerships, visit the ABA Medical-Legal Partnerships Pro Bono Support Project webpage.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, pro bono, Wal-Mart, ABA Medical-Legal Partnerships Pro Bono Support Project

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


June 17, 2011

Supreme Court Rules on Age and Miranda Custody Analysis

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a 5–4 decision in J.D.B. v. North Carolina [PDF], which involved answering the question of whether the age of a child subjected to police questioning is relevant to the custody analysis of Miranda v. Arizona.

The majority, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, held that a child’s age properly informs the Miranda custody analysis. The Court majority spoke at length about the vulnerability of children and the fact that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults. The Court also dwelled strongly on the fact that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning. The Court referred to “common sense” and “community experience” as factors that make it possible for adults to objectively understand what is expected of children in different situations and indicated that this approach is also warranted when “children are subjected to police questioning.” The Court reversed the North Carolina Supreme Court ruling and remanded the case for proceedings to address the question of whether J.D.B. was in custody when the police interrogated him. Furthermore, the Court directed the state court to take into account all of the relevant circumstances of the interrogation, including J.D.B.’s age at the time.

The dissent opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, addressed a concern that the Court was complicating the Miranda equation by allowing a child’s age to properly inform Miranda’s custody analysis. The dissenters contended that, in the future, the Court will have to decide what other “personal characteristics” might make a suspect susceptible to coercion by police, or else adopt an “arbitrary” line that only age counts, with the concern that even that would result in a highly fact-intensive puzzle for police and judges.

The ABA submitted an amicus brief for this case in support of the petitioner, arguing that, based on the developmental characteristics of juveniles, a court’s Miranda custody analysis for people under the age of 18 must include a determination of whether a reasonable person of the same age would have felt free to terminate questioning.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Supreme Court, Miranda custody analysis

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


June 14, 2011

Washington Denies a Right to Counsel in Truancy Cases

The Washington Supreme Court has issued a decision in Bellevue School Dist. v. E.S. [PDF], which involved the right to counsel in truancy proceedings. The court reversed the Washington Court of Appeals and found no right to counsel under either the state or federal constitution.

The concurrence [PDF], written by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, agreed with the majority but urged the legislature to provide a right to counsel in truancy proceedings and cited to ABA Resolution 109A, which calls for a right to counsel in all stages of juvenile status offense proceedings, in support.

The dissent [PDF], written by Justice Tom Chambers and joined by Justice Pro Tem. Richard Sanders, would have found a right to counsel under the state constitution.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Washington, right to counsel, truancy

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C., and Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


June 1, 2011

ABA Launches Media Campaign on Behalf of LGBTQ Youth

The ABA Center on Children and the Law has launched a video and web campaign, “The Kids Are Listening,” on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in foster care.

The campaign is the first of its kind in the nation and offers free online resources and support to legal and social services professionals—from judges to children’s attorneys and social services personnel—who are involved in the foster-care community. Via the online video, Facebook page, Twitter page, and YouTube page, thecampaign encourages people of all ages and walks of life to stand up to hate speech and discrimination against LGBTQ youth. TheKids are Listening video and resources are available for free at http://thekidsarelistening.org.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, LGBT, The Kids Are Listening

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 26, 2011

Supreme Court Declares Camreta v. Greene Moot

The Supreme Court held that Camreta v. Greene [PDF] is moot because S.G. has no continuing stake in the controversy, given that she lives in Florida and is almost 18. It vacated the portion of the Ninth Circuit opinion that found that officials are required to have a warrant prior to interviewing suspected child abuse victims at school, and it remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion in which Roberts, Scalia, Ginsberg, and Alito joined. Scalia wrote a concurring opinion. Sotomayor, joined by Breyer, wrote an opinion concurring in the result but opining that the Court should have decided only that the case was moot and vacated the judgment below. Kennedy, joined by Thomas, wrote a dissent concluding that Camreta as a “prevailing party” should not have been permitted to appeal the constitutional decision below.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Supreme Court, Fourth Amendment

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


May 24, 2011

Pennsylvania Juvenile Court to Take Multidisciplinary Approach

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted new juvenile-court rules that will require courts to thoroughly consider and address the health, education, and disability needs of youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. According to the Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania, the new juvenile-court rules will require courts to address the health, education, and disability needs of juveniles and children in dependency and delinquency matters. As a result of these rules, Pennsylvania is now one of only a few states to systematically address these issues through court rules.

Regarding educational needs, the new provisions and comments will focus on key areas throughout the adjudicatory process, including minimizing school changes; ensuring that a juvenile or child is receiving an appropriate education, including special education, remedial education, and, for older youth in the child welfare system, transition planning; and ensuring that each juvenile or child has a legally authorized educational decision-maker.

Courts are directed to ensure that a child or juvenile’s health care and disability needs are identified, monitored, and addressed, and ensure that children with disabilities are receiving necessary accommodations. The education, health care, and disability needs of each child must be addressed not only in court proceedings, but also in the court’s orders.

Keywords: litigation, children's rights, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, juvenile court

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


May 2, 2011

ABA Project Explores Consequences of Conviction

The American Bar Association’s Juvenile Collateral Consequences Project represents an effort to collect and catalogue every collateral consequence of criminal convictions in the United States. At www.beforeyouplea.com, juveniles who are transferred to criminal court can find and read state statutes and administrative rules that include a collateral consequence of conviction. These consequences might include barriers to education, employment, and public benefits.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Juvenile Collateral Consequences Project

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


April 27, 2011

Information Packet Explores Bullying, Child Welfare

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) has updated its information packet on Bullying and Children in the Child Welfare System [PDF] to include discussions on cyber-bullying, as well as statistics and information on bullying and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

The packet explores the characteristics of bullies and victims, explains why bullying is an important and relevant topic in child welfare, and provides information on LGBTQ children in care. It also offers steps families and child welfare professionals can take to provide help, as well as an array of resources on the subject of bullying.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, NRCPFC, bullying, LGBTQ youth

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


April 27, 2011

California Homeless Youth Project Issues Brief on LGBTQ Youth

The California Homeless Youth Project has released Struggling to Survive: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning Homeless Youth on the Streets of California [PDF], an report that highlights the challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) homeless youth in California.

The brief is based on an in-depth review of existing research on the LGBTQ youth population, a recently released report from the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership (HHYP), and a series of interviews conducted with LGBTQ homeless youth and service providers. It highlights the need to implement policies designed to reduce disparities and improve the lives of these youth.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, California Homeless Youth Project, LGBTQ youth, homeless

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 29, 2011

Racial Justice Initiative to Tackle Racial Disparity

The Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) in Washington, D.C., has developed a new social advocacy and litigation strategy that focuses on dismantling structural racism in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

For more than 30 years, studies have shown that disproportionate minority contact (DMC) has afflicted the nation’s juvenile justice system at every point of contact, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Although Congress has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce racial disparity in juvenile justice, the results in many jurisdictions have been barely noticeable.

Through the use of public notice forums, the RJI’s goal is to mobilize communities and challenge the interpretation of the law on structural racism and raise the principle that public officials should be obligated to use what has been proven to work by many researchers and jurisdictions.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Racial Justice Initiative, disproportionate minority contact

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 11, 2011

New Publication Focuses on Multi-System Youth

Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform have launched a new electronic periodical, The Connector: Working Together for Multi-System Youth. The Connector will provide information to assist multi-system youth—those who have a wide range of needs in many different systems, such as child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, and education. Quarterly issues will provide the latest information on initiatives, research, model programs, and policy. The first issue of The Connector is free and available now.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, The Connector, multi-system youth

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


March 7, 2011

Review of Oklahoma Child Welfare Documents Concerns

The Center for the Support of Families, Inc. (CSF) conducted a review of a statistically representative sample of cases of children in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) under the direction of Dr. Jerry Milner, vice president of Child and Family Services. The study, Foster Care Case Review of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, found several agency shortcomings regarding the treatment and placement of children while they were in OKDHS custody.

Among the primary concerns was the fact that 21.4 percent of children in the sample were the subject of a maltreatment allegation while in OKDHS custody that was substantiated or where there was sufficient concern to recommend services. Of the 374 children in the sample, 205 (54.8 percent) experienced four or more placement settings during their most recent entry into OKDHS custody; 52 (13.9 percent) children experienced 10 or more placement settings.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Oklahoma, Center for the Support of Families

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 7, 2011

Florida Zero-Tolerance Policy Continues to Push Students Out

The ACLU of Florida, the Advancement Project, and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP have released a report on their study of the ongoing harmful effects of Florida schools’ “zero-tolerance” policies. The study, Still Haven’t Shut Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s New Zero-Tolerance Law, shows that although Florida took a significant step forward in the Spring of 2009 by amending its harsh zero-tolerance discipline laws, meaningful reform has yet to reach most of the schools—and students—across the state.

According to the report, racial disparities in referrals to the juvenile justice system actually got worse after the passage of SB 1540. In addition, in spite of the new law, most school districts’ policies still allow for extremely severe punishments—such as arrest, referral to law enforcement, and expulsion—for relatively minor infractions.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Florida, zero tolerance

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


March 4, 2011

Parent Representation Can Shorten Time in Foster Care

Partners for Our Children (POC) in the state of Washington recently conducted a study to determine the impact of its Parents Representation Program (PRP) and found that the representation of parents can shorten the amount of time that children spend in foster care.

The PRP, developed by the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) and the 1999 Washington State legislature, is designed to improve defense representation for parents in dependency and termination hearings. This study looked at the program’s influence on the speed at which children are reunified with their families, are adopted, or enter guardianships.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, foster care, Washington, Partners for Our Children, Parents Representation Program

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


February 15, 2011

Commission on Youth at Risk Reports on Foster Youth

The American Bar Association Commission on Youth at Risk has released a report with over 55 recommendations aimed at improving the plight of the 30,000-plus youth who age out of our state and local child-welfare systems every year.

Charting a Better Future for Transitioning Foster Youth: Report from a National Summit on the Fostering Connections to Success Act is the product of over 100 child-welfare professionals, leaders, judges, lawyers, advocates, and current and former foster youth from around the country came together in 2010 to explore how to effectively seize upon the new opportunities created by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. This federal enactment created new resources that will enable us to extend support and improve outcomes for foster youth in transition.

The ABA, in partnership with other national organizations, intends to do everything it can to ensure that these thoughtful proposals receive a wide and appropriately targeted distribution and ensure that the report’s recommendations are fully implemented. Please share this report with lawyers, judges, legislators, agencies, and youth who might be interested in the recommendations and whose participation is necessary for the realization of the report’s vision of a brighter future for older youth in and transitioning from care.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Commission on Youth at Risk, foster youth, Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act

—Andrea Khoury, ABA Center on Children and the Law


February 15, 2011

Coalition for Juvenile Justice Responds to A&E Reality Show

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) has issued a fact sheet in response to A&E television network’s decision to air Beyond Scared Straight, a reality TV show about teens being yelled at and shamed by adult prison inmates in an attempt to scare them “straight.” The fact sheet and the CJJ’s news release both stress how the “scared straight” approach has been shown to have a damaging rather than positive impact on participating juveniles.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, Coalition for Juvenile Justice, Beyond Scared Straight

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


January 31, 2011

Website Teaches Kids about Arizona Law

The Law for Kids website is dedicated to teaching children in Arizona about the law in a manner that they can read and easily understand. The site, az.lawforkids.org, created by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education with the support of the Arizona Supreme Court, was made with the specific goal of educating Arizona’s youth, parents, communities, and schools to increase their knowledge about youth laws and to encourage law-abiding behavior.

The site includes a written tour through the Juvenile Court put together by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Samuel A. Thumma. The pictorial tour is aimed at assisting children in learning about the procedures of the juvenile court as well as the meaning behind frequently used terms.

Keywords: litigation, children's rights, Arizona, Law for Kids

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


January 31, 2011

Report Reveals Harsh Effects of Zero Tolerance on Philadelphia Schools

Youth United for Change and the Advancement Project have issued a report, Zero Tolerance in Philadelphia: Denying Educational Opportunities and Creating a Pathway to Prison, which details the effects of zero-tolerance school discipline policies in Philadelphia schools. The report uses vivid student testimonials and revealing data to show the harsh and disparate effects that these policies have had on students and their families. The report describes the economic impact of zero tolerance and urges local and federal policymakers to implement alternatives to zero tolerance that have been proven effective in improving both school safety and academic performance.

Keywords: litigation, children's rights, zero tolerance, Philadelphia, Youth United for Change, Advancement Project

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


January 31, 2011

U.S. Department of Education Launches New Data Website

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced the launch of an online tool designed to help educators, parents, students, and policymakers “have a much more transparent conversation” about what is working—and what is not working—in American education today. The Education Dashboard site, http://dashboard.ed.gov/, offers all 50 states’ pre-kindergarten through 12th grade data regarding 16 key indicators that are tied to the nation’s educational goals, as well as some measures of states’ post-secondary systems. The data also includes information about which state systems allow student achievement data to be incorporated into evaluations for teachers and disparities in funding between high- and low-poverty schools.

Keywords: litigation, children's rights, Department of Education, Education Dashboard

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


January 3, 2011

ABA Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Reverse Miranda Decision

The ABA has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court of the United States to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court of North Carolina that held that age could not be considered in making a Miranda custody determination in a case involving a 13-year-old who was questioned by a police officer in a school conference room in the presence of another police officer and the school’s vice principal.

In its amicus filing in J.D.B. v. State of North Carolina, the ABA requests the high court to reverse the decision and hold that a Miranda custody determination for persons under the age of 18 must include a determination of whether a reasonable person of that age would have felt free to terminate police questioning and leave.

The question of whether age may be considered in a Miranda custody determination was left open by the U.S. Supreme Court in prior case law. The ABA’s amicus brief cites work done by the ABA and research studies that show that juveniles differ developmentally from adults, in ways that make them “more susceptible to influence and intimidation, and more likely to falsely confess to an offense they did not commit.” The factors discussed include diminished maturity, self-restraint, experience, judgment, and decision-making capability; reduced capacity to assist in their own defense; and less appreciation of the long-term consequences of their actions. The filed amicus brief is available here.

The ABA has adopted a number of policies relating to the improvement of the juvenile justice system, and the brief cites the association’s Juvenile Justice Standards as well as a report by the ABA Task Force on Youth in the Criminal Justice System: Guidelines for Policymakers and Practitioners, adopted by the association’s policymaking House of Delegates in 2002.


December 21, 2010

House Introduces Dignity in Schools Resolution for School Pushout

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has introduced a resolution inspired by the Dignity in Schools Campaign National Resolution for Ending School Pushout 2009. The House resolution raises awareness of policies and practices that contribute to student disengagement and removal from classrooms while highlighting the success of positive behavior interventions.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 21, 2010

New York City Council Passes Student Safety Act

On December 20, 2010 the New York City Council unanimously passed the Student Safety Act, which mandates reporting on school suspensions and expulsions, tracking school-level practices, and breaking down data by age, grade level, race, gender, and education status (special education or English language learner). The act requires biannual reports on the number of suspensions citywide each month. The act also requires the New York Police Department to provide the council with a quarterly report detailing the activity of its personnel in city schools. The quarterly report will show the number of students arrested and issued summonses broken down by patrol borough, and it will detail noncriminal incidents involving NYPD personnel.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 8, 2010

Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Teens Singled Out for Punishment

A study that will appear in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents are about 40 percent more likely than other teens to receive punishment at the hands of school authorities, police, and the courts. Check the Pediatrics website for an online version when it becomes available.

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


December 2, 2010

University of Michigan Gets Grant for Child Representation Education Project

In October 2009, the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has named the University of Michigan the National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System (QIC-ChildRep). The law school was awarded a five-year, $5 million grant to gather, develop, and communicate knowledge on child representation nationwide.

Access the State Summary of Legal Authority Governing Child Representation at the QIC-ChildRep website.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 2, 2010

50-State Survey Shows Room for Improvement in Foster Care Health Outcomes

The Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) has issued a brief documenting the results of a 50-state survey designed to help understand child welfare agency requirements for health screenings and assessments upon a child’s removal from the home. The survey findings suggest that states have significant opportunities to strengthen requirements to support better health outcomes for the high-risk foster care population.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 2, 2010

Report Examines School Crime and Safety for Students, Teachers, and Principals

The Bureau of Justice (BOJ) Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released an annual report, 2010 Indicators of School Crime and Safety, that examines data on crime and safety at school from the perspective of students, teachers, and principals. It looks at crime occurring in school as well as on the way to and from school.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


December 2, 2010

Report Shows Dropout Rates on the Decline, but Challenges Still Remain

The Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University America’s Promise Alliance has released a report, Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, that shares some hopeful signs of progress being made in America’s dropout crisis. It also provides an assessment of the challenges remaining and introduces a “Civic Marshall Plan” to combat those challenges.

— Marlene Sallo, web editor, Children’s Rights Litigation Committee


November 29, 2010

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Miranda Rights at School

In JDB v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a juvenile burglary suspect who was interrogated at school by police should have been given a Miranda warning.

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


November 29, 2010

Report Shows Lack of Effective Legal Representation Harms Children

While the legal representation of children in the child welfare system has seen some improvement in recent years, more work is needed for legal advocates to be in compliance with state law, according to a new report, Assessing the Quality of Child Advocacy in Dependency Proceedings in Pennsylvania, prepared by Penn State’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic, the Juvenile Law Center, and the University of Pennsylvania.

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


November 12, 2010

Supreme Court to Hear Fourth Amendment Case on Child Protective Services

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will determine whether child protective services can take children out of their classes at school and interview them without parental consent or a court order.

A man in Oregon called the police and reported that his employee, Nimrod Greene, had sexually molested his 7-year-old son. The son told police that Nimrod had touched his genital area, over his pants. The father then said that Nimrod had several times previously admitted to sexually mistreating his own daughters, S.G., age 9, and K.G., age 5. The boy’s mother said that Sarah Greene, Nimrod’s wife, had several times admitted that her husband had behaved inappropriately with the daughters.

The police arrested Nimrod Greene. Ten days later they called the child abuse hotline. Child protective services assigned caseworker Bob Camreta to investigate. Camreta learned that Greene had been released from jail, but did nothing for three days. On February 24, 2003, Camreta, along with Deputy Sheriff James Alford, went to S.G.’s school, had her removed from her class and brought to a room next to the principal’s office, where they questioned her for two hours. Alford was in uniform and armed with a clearly visible gun.

S.G. told the investigators that her father did not abuse her and always treated her well. However, as hours passed, S.G. concluded that Camreta and Alford would not let her go until she answered yes—untruthfully—to their questions about sexual abuse. When she finally did so, Camreta and Alford allowed her to leave and return home to her purported molester. Since then, S.G. has always stated that she was never abused, and that she felt forced to agree with Camreta’s untrue suggestions. S.G. was reportedly embarrassed in front of her schoolmates and very upset by the interrogation, and she vomited when she returned home. She is still allegedly traumatized by the event.

S.G. and K.G. were later removed from their mother, Sarah Greene, for three weeks. S.G. and her mother sued, claiming, among other things, that S.G.’s two-hour detention and interrogation was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment because there was no court order or warrant, no consent, and no exigent circumstances. The Ninth Circuit agreed that it was unconstitutional, although the court granted qualified immunity to Camreta and Alford. Greene v. Camreta, 588 F.3d 1011 (9th Cir. 2010). The sheriff and caseworker have taken the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.

— David Lansner, Lansner Kubitschek Schaffer & Zuccardy, New York, New York


October 22, 2010

Law Gives Youth Access to Mental Health Care Without Parental Consent

California’s SB 543, Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth, is a bill allowing youth 12–17 years old to receive outpatient mental health care without requiring a parents’ consent if, in the opinion of the professional person, the minor is mature enough to participate intelligently in the mental health treatment or counseling services.

Advocates for youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) are hailing this new law as a step forward for LGBT youth, who may be put at risk of emotional or physical abuse by coming out to their parents prematurely or without support. According to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey, LGBT youth are as much as four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

This new law will allow these youth to access services that advocates hope will prevent poor outcomes for this population. Some parent groups opposed the bill as an assault on parental rights.

— Catherine Krebs, committee director, ABA Section of Litigation, Children’s Rights Committee, Washington, D.C.


October 14, 2010

CRLC Chair Fighting Zero Tolerance in Florida Expulsion Case

Alfreda Coward, chair of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee, is representing an eight-year-old boy who was expelled from school when he was seven for bringing a toy gun to school and never taking it out of his bag. This case has reached national prominence and was featured on the CNN website in the story Toy gun leads to Florida boy's expulsion.


October 14, 2010

Center on Children and the Law Releases Brief on Very Young Children

The ABA Center on Children and the Law has released a practice and policy brief, Advocating for Very Young Children in Dependency Proceedings: The Hallmarks of Effective, Ethical Representation, which explains how attorneys representing very young children can profoundly influence the health, development, and well being of their clients through their advocacy.


October 14, 2010

Civil Rights Conference Addresses School-to-Prison Pipeline

On September 27–28, 2010, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office jointly hosted a conference entitled “Civil Rights and School Discipline: Addressing Disparities to Ensure Educational Opportunity.” Academic and policy leaders, lawyers, law-enforcement officers, investigators, educators, advocates, and researchers discussed and developed strategies to ensure that all children can access a pathway to success, rather than prison.

During the conference, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez discussed this pervasive problem, the need for collaboration in tackling it, and the administration’s commitment to addressing it.


October 14, 2010

OCR Launches New Data Collection Website

Earlier this year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) made important changes to the 2009–2010 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). According to OCR, the changes will enhance the agency’s ability to ensure equal educational opportunity for the nation’s students. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has indicated that “obtaining relevant, accurate, and accessible data will be a prerequisite to any critical analysis and good decision-making.”

The OCR has also launched a new website, http://ocrdata.ed.gov, to display the CRDC data as part of the department’s ongoing commitment to transparency and accessibility. The site contains data from 2000, 2004, and 2006, and will include the 2009–10 CRDC data.


October 5, 2010

HUD to Release Rental Vouchers to Keep Children Out of Foster Care

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that it will provide $20 million in funding to local housing authorities to help more than 2,500 families stay together. HUD estimates that the rental vouchers will reunite nearly 5,000 children with their parents or prevent them from entering foster care in the first place.

HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP) will make 2,543 Housing Choice Vouchers available for families whose inadequate housing was the primary cause of their separation or near separation from their children. In addition, 20 percent of the vouchers will provide stable housing for approximately 750 young adults (ages 18–22) aging out of the foster care system, preventing them from becoming homeless.


October 5, 2010

Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana Issues Report on Incarcerated LGBT Youth

The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana recently released a report, Locked Up and Out: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Youth in Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice System, which addresses how LGBT youth are funneled into the troubled juvenile justice system, the particular challenges of LGBT youth within the system, and the lack of resources currently available to secure a safe environment for all youth in state care. The report also proposes collaborative advocacy strategies that can be implemented to ensure justice and equitable treatment for all of Louisiana’s youth.


October 5, 2010

NJJN Policy Addresses Juvenile Justice Reform During Fiscal Crisis

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) has released a policy paper that provides advocates with tactical strategies geared toward assisting advocates in their work. The Real Costs and Benefits of Change: Finding Opportunities for Reform During Difficult Fiscal Times addresses substantive strategies that preserve and encourage programs proven to successfully rehabilitate youth, strengthen communities, and increase public safety. These strategies offer cost-effective administrative and legislative solutions.


October 5, 2010

Department of Justice Unveils Defending Childhood Initiative

Attorney General Eric Holder has officially unveiled Defending Childhood, a new Department of Justice initiative focusing on addressing children’s exposure to violence. The initiative’s goal is to prevent children’s exposure to violence as victims and witnesses, mitigate the negative effects experienced by children exposed to violence, and develop knowledge about and increase awareness of this issue. A key component of the initiative is a multi-year demonstration program. This program supports the development of comprehensive, community-based strategies to prevent and reduce the impact of children’s exposure to violence in their homes, schools, and communities.

More information on the initiative and the eight demonstrations sites can be found at the Department of Justice website.

In 2009, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), supported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released the most comprehensive nationwide survey of the incidence and prevalence of children’s exposure to violence. The study, which was conducted January–May 2008, gathered data from 2007 and analyzed the lifetime exposure to violence for children age 17 and younger across several major categories, including physical assault, bullying, sexual victimization, child maltreatment, dating violence, and witnessed and indirect victimization.


September 3, 2010

Ninth Circuit Finds That Foster Parents Must Be Paid for Cost of Care

In California State Foster Parent Association, et al. v. Wagner, et al., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the District Court’s findings that the Child Welfare Act grants foster parents the federal statutory right to payments that cover certain enumerated costs, and foster parents can enforce this right under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Federal law requires that licensed foster parents be paid enough to cover the actual cost of providing food, clothing, shelter, daily supervision, school supplies, and daily incidentals. According to the lawsuit, California foster care payments currently cover only a fraction of these costs, resulting in a steep and steady decline in recent years in the number of Californians willing and able to become foster parents. Some counties—for example, Sacramento and San Bernardino—have seen the number of willing foster families drop by more than 50 percent. Perversely, this costs the state money, because a shortage of foster parents means that abused and neglected children are placed in far more expensive, institutional group-home settings instead of foster family homes, which are the most frequent source of adoptions for these kids.


September 3, 2010

ABA House of Delegates Adopts Several Policies Relating to Children

At the August 9–10, 2010, meeting of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, the association approved several policy resolutions on the involvement of children and parents in the justice system. Most notable is a policy calling child custody a “basic human need” in access to justice and making it clear, in a new “ABA Model Access Act,” that there should be a right to legal representation for children in any proceedings initiated by the government “for the purposes of child protective intervention.”

According to the act, that same “right to counsel” should be offered at public expense to low-income parents when parental rights to residential custody of their children are threatened with severe limitations or supervision or are at risk of termination. In commentary, the ABA also clarifies that in child abuse- and neglect-related proceedings, the child’s legal representation should extend “as long as jurisdiction continues.” In a related approved policy, the ABA urged providing legal counsel to youth at all stages of juvenile status offense proceedings, also “as a matter of right and at public expense.”

In additional new policy, the ABA has called for full, prompt, and expansive implementation of the “older youth provisions” of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act.

Finally, the ABA approved the first comprehensive set of national standards for state courts hearing child abuse and neglect civil proceedings focused on court organization and administration as well as judicial selection, assignment, and education. These Judicial Excellence Standards, developed over three years by a multidisciplinary committee of leading judges and other key professionals and national leaders, were earlier endorsed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

For more information, see the message from the chairs. For a full list of resolutions adopted by the House of Delegates, visit the ABA’s House of Delegates page. For a full copy of any of the resolutions referenced above, please email Cathy Krebs at krebsc@staff.abanet.org.

— Howard Davidson, executive director of the ABA Center on Children and the Law


September 1, 2010

Department of Justice Releases Strategy to Combat Child Exploitation

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is implementing the nation's first national comprehensive strategy aimed at strengthening the fight against child pornography and sexual exploitation. The strategy will streamline educational, preventative, and prosecutorial activities; seek to improve information sharing and collaboration; and strive to make the most effective use of limited resources. Additional goals include advancing law enforcement's technological capabilities and a renewed commitment to public awareness and community outreach.

Read the National Strategy Report at the Project Safe Childhood website.


September 1, 2010

Report Highlights the Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Child Welfare

A report released by First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, in partnership with the Migration and Child Welfare National Network, reveals that there are more than 5 million children in the United States with at least one undocumented parent. These children are at risk of unnecessarily entering the child welfare system if their parent is detained or deported.

The report provides policy solutions for immigration courts, ICE, and the child welfare system, while pointing to legislation that will accomplish these goals. The report, The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Child Welfare, is a first of a new paper series called Caught Between Systems: The Intersection of Immigration and Child Welfare Policies.


September 1, 2010

Class Certified in Children's Civil Rights Suit for Mental Health Services

A U.S. district court judge in Washington has granted class certification in TR v. Dreyfus, a civil rights lawsuit against Washington State alleging it failed to provide adequate care to children with serious mental health problems. The 10 named plaintiffs, all under 21 years of age, claim that children across the state have been harmed due to repeated hospitalization, incarceration, separation from families, and social isolation. The suit alleges that the Department of Social and Health Services (DHS) has known for years that its mental health system has significant gaps in its delivery and availability of services.

Read more about the case at The National Center for Youth Law’s website.


New York Legal Aid Society Challenges Administration for Children's Services

A federal class-action civil rights lawsuit filed in May 2010 charges New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) of an ongoing practice of improperly keeping children in acute-care psychiatric hospitals for prolonged periods of time—sometimes as long as a year—even after doctors find them ready for release.

The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice and the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, LLP, filed the lawsuit, A.M. et al. v. Mattingly, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of three unnamed foster-care children who remained hospitalized even after doctors recommended their release. The lawsuit seeks to stop ACS from continuing its illegal practice of using acute-care psychiatric hospitals as long-term foster-care placements. The lawsuit asks the court to enjoin ACS from bringing children in foster care to psychiatric hospitals unless such intervention is medically necessary and less-restrictive options have been tried.

Read the full complaint at the Legal Aid Society website, or read the NY Times article about the complaint.


Report Questions Wyoming's Juvenile Justice System

The National Center for Youth Law and the Wyoming Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have released a new report, A Call to Stop Child Prosecutions in Wyoming Adult Courts, which questions Wyoming’s practice of sending an estimated 85-90 percent of children in trouble with the law through adult courts.

The report suggests that Wyoming’s system of dealing with juvenile offenders violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Although youths can ask to have their crimes expunged if they avoid altercations with the law for one year, the practice of prosecuting children as adults for status offenses is something that could be better handled at the community level. The report cites instances of “constitutionally suspect practices,” such as the routine shackling of children and failing to properly advise children of their right to counsel.


Legislation Aims to Eliminate the Use of Corporal Punishment in Schools

Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) has introduced legislation aimed at eliminating the use of corporal punishment, a legal form of discipline that is still permitted in schools in 20 states.

Under the proposed legislation, dubbed the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act, federal education funds would be denied to any state or local educational agency that allows corporal punishment to be inflicted upon a student. The bill would allow school personnel to use “reasonable restraint to the lightest possible degree” on students whose behavior “poses an imminent danger of physical injury” to themselves or other students. The bill also authorizes the U.S. Department of Education to award three-year grants aimed at facilitating the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).


Reinstated Federal Class Action Seeks Child Welfare Reform in Rhode Island

On June 10, 2010, HB 2735, which Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed in March, went into effect. The bill requires that foster youth be informed of their right to counsel. It is the first time in decades that the Washington legislature has addressed the issue of legal representation for foster youth. Adults involved in a child’s case will now be required to notify the child of his or her right to request counsel. If it’s determined that the child wants a lawyer, the adult will then have to report this information back to the court.

To find out more about this new law, visit the National Center for Youth Law.


Washington Bill Requires that Foster Youth Be Told about Right to Counsel

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated a federal class-action lawsuit brought against Rhode Island on behalf of the children of that state. Through reinstatement, the court has granted the children appropriate access to present their claims in federal court and seek relief for the harm that they have suffered while in the custody of Rhode Island’s child welfare system. Law guardians or guardians ad litem will now be able to represent the children in family court and bring claims against the state on their behalf. The complaint, which was originally filed in June 2007, alleged that the state violated the children’s rights under the constitution and federal law by failing to provide them with basic safety, protection, and care—often resulting in serious harm.

Access the court of appeals decision at the website of the advocacy group Children’s Rights.


Report Discusses California Education Advocacy Systems for Foster Youth

With the enactment of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (PL 110-351), states must now work toward ensuring educational stability for Foster Youth. The Fostering Connections to Success Act includes provisions intended to improve educational outcomes for foster youth. Several other federal statutes, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) also provide foster youth with substantive and procedural educational entitlements. However, foster youth still encounter systemic failures and poor educational outcomes irrespective of these laws. The National Center for Youth Law has released a report on how California is ensuring foster children receive appropriate educational opportunities.

Please read the report, Education Advocacy Systems: A Study of How California Counties Ensure Foster Youth Receive the Educational Advocacy and Opportunities They Need.

If you are interested in obtaining further information on the Fostering Connections to Success Act, please visit the Fostering Connections Resource Center.


Website Supports Youth PROMISE Act

On May 26, 2010, the Student Peace Alliance, in partnership with advocates from across the nation, launched a new website, www.youthpromiseaction.org, in support of the Youth PROMISE Act. The website provides information about the act and allows individuals to sign on as a “citizen co-sponsor” of the legislation.


The National Juvenile Justice Network Releases New Policy Platform

The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) recently released a policy platform on Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) that includes recommendations on how states and localities can address the pervasive problem of racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. Jurisdictions are urged to make firm commitments to end DMC, collaborate with key stakeholders in juvenile justice and related systems that work with at-risk youth, and establish clear methods for data collection and analysis.

Access the policy platform.

Access other NJJN documents on DMC.


Publication Addresses Opposition to Ratification of the CRC

International human rights treaties like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognize that all children have the right to an education aimed at their “full development.” The United States is currently considering ratification of CRC. Ratification would encourage the federal government and each state to treat children with respect and dignity while empowering parents to raise their children in a safe and loving environment. The NJJN has created a publication called Opposition to the Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Response from the National Juvenile Justice Network, which addresses the opposition.

For more information on the CRC and how advocates can use it to challenge the systemic problem of pushout in our nation’s schools, please refer to the Dignity in Schools Campaign.

Access NJJN’s fact sheet on the CRC and how it relates to juvenile justice reform at the NJJN website.


Georgia Appleseed Issues Report on Effective Student Discipline

At a time when many students are being suspended or expelled under “zero-tolerance” policies, Georgia Appleseed is offering an assessment of Georgia’s public school disciplinary policies, practices, and outcomes. The Georgia Appleseed project seeks to collect and report information that will be helpful to all of the stakeholders involved in any assessment of the effectiveness of Georgia’s public school system student disciplinary process.

Georgia Appleseed is presenting its preliminary findings in a Phase I report, which is available at the Georgia Appleseed Project website.


Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

A new loan-repayment assistance program will soon be available for civil legal aid attorneys. The Civil Legal Assistance Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (CLAAP) will repay a portion of the eligible federal student loan debt of civil legal assistance attorneys who are employed full time. The program will distribute $5 million to qualified attorneys. The Department of Education will award these funds on a first-come, first-served basis with an application deadline of August 16, 2010.

To obtain further information about this repayment program and several others, please visit the Equal Justice Works webpage.


Supreme Court Rules Out Life Sentence for Juveniles Not Charged with Murder

In the case of Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court held, by a 5-4 vote on Monday, May 17, 2010, that a sentence of life in prison without parole is cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles who haven’t been charged with murder.

Terrance Graham, now 22, is currently serving a life sentence without parole in a Florida prison for participating in an armed robbery at the age of 17, when he was on probation. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. Roberts wrote in concurrence that he agreed that the sentence was unconstitutional based on the particulars of Graham’s case and precedents requiring proportionality of sentences. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined in part by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Access the court opinion on Graham v. Florida here.


Ohio Court Finds RTC for Certain Civil Protection Orders

In Leone v. Owen, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 1730146 (Ohio App. 2010) a parent, on behalf of his son, sought a civil protection order against another juvenile, who was quasi-“represented” by his parent, and an Ohio court of common pleas granted the protection order in a hearing in which neither side had counsel.

The Ohio Court of Appeals (Sixth District) reversed and found a due-process right to appointed counsel for respondent juveniles in civil protection order proceedings. It first noted that being subjected to a civil protection order isn’t a criminal offense, so there’s ordinarily no due-process protection, but certain civil proceedings, such as civil contempt, do create a right to counsel in Ohio. Furthermore, the court noted that “in all other cases dealing with children as parties, due process demands appointed counsel or a guardian to represent a minor child: delinquency actions, termination of parental rights cases, and divorce actions where the child’s welfare demands protection.”

The court concluded that it was aberrant to deny juveniles appointed counsel in civil-protection hearings that “may lead to criminal sanctions” (this was a reference either to the court noting earlier that the violation of a civil protection order is a criminal violation, or to the magistrate in the case telling the juvenile that the prosecutor might use evidence from the hearing to file criminal charges). The court also concluded that the juvenile hadn’t waived his right to counsel, and that the “[a]ppellant’s young age alone would indicate that he should have been appointed counsel.”


Steinberg Discusses New York Child Welfare System

Robin Steinberg, executive director of The Bronx Defenders, has a column, “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” featured in The Huffington Post, providing an overview of how the child welfare system works. The column also notes that New York Governor David Paterson recently made a change to the description of the attorneys who represent children in family court. The term “law guardian” was changed to “counsel for children.”


Advancement Project Releases Overview of Zero Tolerance and High-Stakes Testing

The Advancement Project recently issued a report providing an overview of zero-tolerance school discipline and high-stakes testing. The report discusses the relationship between “zero-tolerance” policies and high-stakes testing, how these two policies are negatively affecting the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and the risks involved if policy reform doesn’t occur.


Resource Guide, What Lawyers Need to Know About Representing LGBTQ Youth

This guide is a list of publications and organizations that can be a resource for lawyers representing youth.


Dignity in Schools Campaign Submits Sign-On Letter on ESEA Reauthorization

The Dignity in Schools Campaign has submitted a sign-on letter to the U.S. House of Representatives asking that school discipline reform be included in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA).

The ESEA is the federal government’s main education law providing funds (e.g., Title I, Safe & Drug-Free Schools) for state and district compliance with federal education requirements. The ESEA is up for reauthorization, and Congress has announced a series of hearings to begin the reauthorization process.

The sign-on letter was developed through a series of calls in the past month, culminating in the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s teleconference on ESEA reauthorization. The letter asks the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, the first body to take up reauthorization, to include school discipline reform in reauthorization.

For more information and to participate in future efforts, click here.


Capitol Hill Briefing on ESEA Reauthorization and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Advancement Project, Alliance for Educational Justice, FairTest, and the Forum for Education and Democracy are holding a Capitol Hill briefing, ESEA Reauthorization: Testing, Discipline, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, April 7. For more information or to register online, click here.


National LGBT Legal Aid Forum

The National LGBT Legal Aid Forum is a new listserv dedicated to improving legal services for low-income LGBT clients. This listserv is a forum for members to post questions and answers related to serving LGBT clients, and to share resources and updates on new developments in LGBT-related law. Legal aid advocates who are committed to effectively advocating for LGBT people and their families are invited to apply for membership.


Opening Doors Project—The ABA Center on Children and the Law

The ABA Center on Children and the Law is currently engaged in the Opening Doors/LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care Project. The Opening Doors Project aims to increase the legal community’s awareness of LGBTQ youth in foster care and the unique issues they face; and to provide the legal community with advocacy tools to successfully represent these youth.


Barton Child Law & Policy Center

The Barton Child Law & Policy Center was established in March 2000 to address the need for systemic policy and process change on behalf of children in Georgia’s child welfare system. During the past decade, the Center has been involved in several successful initiatives and has served as a valuable statewide resource on child abuse and neglect issues. For the Spring 2010 semester, the Legislative Clinic students are working on three primary legislative initiatives: working on the rewrite of Georgia’s juvenile code (Senate Bill 292), helping victims of commercial sexual exploitation of children, and supporting the implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act in Georgia. During the same semester the Juvenile Defender Clinic, students will be representing child clients in juvenile court and working on strategic appeals.


Juvenile Justice Certificate Program Announced for 2010

On July 9–15, 2010, in Washington, D.C., the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute will hold its Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare: Multi-System Integration Certificate Program for Public Sector Leaders.

Designed for public agency leaders responsible for developing and implementing policy and practice, this week-long program uses a multisystem, multidisciplinary approach, focusing on efforts that benefit youth involved in more than one system of care.

The application deadline is March 24, 2010.

In addition, the Institute will be holding its first Certificate Program for Private Sector leaders in October 2010. The application for the private sector will be posted on their website in the spring of 2010.

To obtain additional information and apply online for either program, click here.


SSI Reform for Disabled Foster Care Youth


The Social Security Administration has issued a new POMS (sub-regulatory) policy. The policy recognizes that youth in foster care need income support and health services to ease the transition to independent living once they turn 18 years old. As a result, SSA may now accept an SSI application a month before the month of eligibility.


Massachusetts Federal Court Invalidates Zero-Tolerance Policy


In Massachusetts, a federal court judge invalidates a zero-tolerance policy on constitutional grounds. This case is described in a Boston Globe op-ed, which also cites the ABA adoption of the resolution (from the Commission on Youth at Risk) containing the call to to reduce reliance on disciplinary exclusion.


National Resolution for Ending School Pushout Released


On December 3, the Dignity in Schools Campaign released the National Resolution for Ending School Pushout, a call to action for our school systems to end the harsh disciplinary policies and law enforcement tactics that push too many young people out of school. The National Resolution calls for schools to create positive climates for learning and adopt alternative approaches to discipline that protect the human rights of all young people.


New School Offense Protocol Adopted in Birmingham to Reduce Student Arrests


On October 13, Birmingham public schools adopted a new School Offense Protocol to prevent student arrests for minor offenses, such as fighting or being disruptive in class. The agreement - between the school system, Jefferson County Family Court, the district attorney's office, the Department of Human Resources and the Birmingham Police Department - will use warnings and school conflict workshops to respond to student behavior for first and second offenses, rather than arrest or referral to the court system. Judge Brian Huff of the Jefferson County Family Court helped lead the effort to create the new protocol.


Publication on Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children


The Child Welfare Information Gateway released a publication entitled Court Hearings for the Permanent Placement of Children. The publication addresses, for every state, what the law says about scheduling court hearings, who may be present, the main determinations to be made, and the permanency options available.


The ABA Bar-Youth Empowerment Project Examines State Dependency Statutes


The Bar-Youth Empowerment Project has issued a state by state summary of youth involved in court. The project examined every state dependency statute and court rule to determine whether a child 1) is considered a party, 2) is entitled to notice of proceedings, and 3) has a right to be present during proceedings. They requested feedback from the every state's Court Improvement Project (CIP).


Study Reveals Better Outcomes for Children Represented by Lawyers

A Chapin Hall study evaluates the Foster Children's Project (FCP) of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Florida and finds that children represented by FCP reach permanency at a faster rate than those children not represented by a lawyer.


Kansas Supreme Court Rules that Juveniles Have a Right to a Jury Trial

Saying the Kansas Juvenile Justice Code has become “more akin to an adult prosecution,” the state Supreme Court today ruled 6-1 that juveniles have a constitutional right to a jury trial.


NC Court Rules on Use of Foster Children’s Social Security Benefits

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the state does not have the legal authority to divert the Social Security benefits of foster children to reimburse itself for the cost of their foster care when it is not in the best interest of the children.


President Signs Loan Forgiveness Bill Advocated by ABA

President George W. Bush recently signed H.R. 2669, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, into law. Among the provisions of the law is the income-based repayment program for public service, for which the ABA has strongly advocated for several years. Under the program, borrowers of student loans who are working in qualified public service would repay loans at an affordable percentage of their income and, after 10 years of service, would have the balance of their loans cancelled.


Mentally ill children to get help at home: Judge approves plan to bolster state services

Rosie D v Romney: In January 2006, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, a class of Medicaid-eligible children suffering from serious emotional disturbances, finding that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had violated the federal Medicaid statute.  After this decision, the parties engaged in negotiations in order to craft an appropriate remedy but, after being unable to reach an agreement, the parties submitted to the Court separate proposed remedial plans.  Late last week, Judge Ponsor ruled that the Court will adopt the Commonwealth's proposed remedial plan.


Dignity in Schools Project

The Education Subcommittee of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee has formed a work group to explore the widespread and growing problem of “pushout”—the removal of children from school via open and hidden institutional policies. Recognizing that students and families must renew and deepen their commitment to the educational process and lifelong learning, the work group will explore ways to shift the focus in disciplinary matters from children and families to a perspective that respects the child’s right to education. The work group will advocate for child-centered, dignified reform in schools to keep children in school. Too many children are being denied their right to an education because school districts have been unable or are unwilling to develop policies that uphold children’s dignity and that treat the child’s right to education with the respect it deserves. Through its “Dignity in Schools Project,” the Subcommittee and Committee hope to expose systemic problems in American school systems and to provide concrete solutions to improve the collective response to school discipline issues.


High Attorney Caseloads Compromise Quality Representation for Children

A national survey of lawyers representing children in abuse and neglect cases has found that unmanageable and at times overwhelming caseloads are preventing attorneys from doing the work necessary to protect their clients from harm.Released by the Fordham University's Interdisciplinary Center for Family and Child Advocacy, in collaboration with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and the National Association of Counsel for Children, the study surveyed more than 200 lawyers from across the U.S. and found that more than 40 percent of all respondents have more than 100 cases at a time, only 30 percent of respondents are supported by trained social workers to help them advocate for their clients, and less than one-half of the lawyers have use of investigators to assist them in their cases. Read the full report, including policy recommendations that address the caseload crisis.