NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
Wexler has long decried Arizona's approach to child welfare – what he terms the "foster care panic'... "With Arizona, it's always take the child and run, year after year after year.'That's interesting. What he's saying is that in fact Arizona has been administering exactly the medication Roberts prescribed in her previous article. With Arizona CPS it's take the child and ask questions later. It's the instances in which CPS didn't do that and children were severely hurt or killed by their parents that Roberts cites as reasons to ramp up foster care placements still more. What foster care actually consists of and what results it has for children are topics Roberts scrupulously overlooks. But, like the video "Powerful as God" suggests, there's a mid-ground between the extremes of leaving children with their parents even though they may be at risk of harm, and taking children into care on the slimmest of pretexts, just so the CPS caseworker can say she was "proactive." As one mother in the video exclaimed incredulously, "No one ever asked me if I needed help." As long as CPS caseworkers are faced with a simple choice of taking children from- or leaving with- parents, they will take them when they shouldn't and leave them when they shouldn't. But what if CPS had a third option - helping parents deal with the situation that's got them stymied and the child at risk? As one of the attorneys for Ontario's CAS pointed out in the video, a parent may be perfectly good and capable 360 days out of the year, but those other five days are problematical. Does it make sense to take that parent's child because abuse or neglect occurred on those days? Not necessarily. Maybe what the parent needs is help.
Wexler's life's work is now devoted to making the case that children, even the ones who've been mistreated, are best left with their families. Breathe people. Hear the man out. If we help stabilize families – providing intensive help, real drug treatment, subsidies for things like daycare and rent – he says we could actually do what we claim we want to do, which is to help children.What a concept. But, as Wexler told Roberts, "Arizona has never seriously tried any of this stuff." What it did, during the term of Governor Janet Napolitano, was panic at a spate of deaths to children (very much like what Roberts urged in her last column).
"Err on the side of protecting the child,' she said at the time, "and we'll sort it out later.'
The problem, says Wexler, is that we never sorted it out. Two years after Napolitano's proclamation, the number of children in foster care jumped 40 percent, with more to come. As caseloads bulged and budgets shrank, it was simply safer to take away children.
Safer, that is, for the caseworkers who live in fear of making a mistake that results in the death of a child. Studies suggest that kids are actually better off when left with their families, even with minimal support, rather than bouncing around in foster care.Good for Roberts that she tells her readers what she didn't in her previous piece - that children in foster care actually do worse than children in parental care. I'll get more into that in a future post. Meanwhile, Wexler has some very specific ideas about what Arizona should do to help fix things.
… Shut down places like the Crisis Nursery – what he calls "parking place shelters' – and use the money to instead provide services to families. If a mother is reported for leaving her kids alone while she works, help her with daycare. If a parent can't provide a decent place to live, offer a rent subsidy. If drug addiction is the problem, offer treatment.
... Offer a program of more intense services when warranted, allowing a social worker to spend several hours a day to helping a parent when a child is deemed unsafe. If after six weeks nothing changes, move to terminate that parent's rights.
…Seek a waiver from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, so that $83 million in federal funds now designated for foster care can instead be spent on keeping families together.
…Provide quality defense lawyers and parent advocates, to help families get out of the CPS system when they don't need to be there. To free up caseworkers to focus where they're most needed – on the children who will die if no one comes to their rescue.
…Open all CPS records, so we get a truer picture of what's really going on in the agency.As Roberts points out, those may be good ideas, but they won't meet with a very favorable reception in a legislature bent on cutting budgets. But is that really an issue? The Canadian video raised the issue that Ontario spends about $30 per day per child on foster care. How much drug counselling and parenting classes can that buy? My guess is that, if Arizona and every other state redirected its resources away from foster care and toward helping parents, the balance sheet would remain the same, but the results for children would be immeasurably better. As Roberts says, "eleven thousand kids in foster care means that something's not working." True, and that "something" is a child welfare system that, for all its failure the other way, still errs on the side of taking children from their parents. The results are predictable, costly and entirely unnecessary.
The results were unequivocal: the foster youth dropped out of high school at a much higher rate and were significantly less likely to have completed a GED. The foster care high school graduates received significantly less financial assistance for education from their parents or guardians. Foster youth reported more discipline problems in school and experienced more educational disruption due to changing schools. They were significantly less likely to be in a college preparatory high school track. The adults in the lives of the foster care youth were less likely to monitor homework.Yet another study in the Oxford Review of Education summarized its findings this way:
Among the many disadvantages suffered by children looked after by local authorities, low educational achievement probably has the most serious consequences for their future life chances. This article reviews research over nearly twenty years which consistently shows that children in residential and foster care fall progressively behind those living with their own families and leave school with few qualifications, if any... [T]his and other consumer studies indicate that at present the care system is more likely to put additional obstacles in their way than to make any particular effort to compensate for their earlier disadvantages.Now, it might be argued that these kids aren't likely to have as good outcomes as children of families not found by a child welfare agency to have neglected or abused their children. That is, maybe the deficits the foster care kids have aren't due to foster care but to their traumatic previous lives. But it turns out it's specifically foster care that's the culprit, at least in the psychological deficits foster kids demonstrate. A 2006 study reported in Development and Psychopathology compared kids in three separate groups:
children who experienced foster care, those who were maltreated but remained in the home, and children who had not experienced foster care or maltreatment despite their similarly at-risk demographic characteristics.Once again, psychological functioning was negatively affected specifically by foster care. The results suggest that foster care, more than other demographic factors associated with negative outcomes for kids, produced bad results.
In the current sample, children placed in out of home care exhibited significant behavior problems in comparison to children who received adequate care, and using the same pre- and postplacement measure of adaptation, foster care children showed elevated levels of behavior problems following release from care. Similarly, children placed into unfamiliar foster care showed higher levels of internalizing problems compared with children reared by maltreating caregivers, children in familiar care, and children who received adequate caregiving.As I've reported before, unlike biological families, foster families aren't forever. Indeed, most foster care ends abruptly when the child turns 18. Ready or not (and how many are?), at that age, a child in foster care is on his/her own. Of course, some foster parents continue to allow the child to live at home for a time. And even after the child moves out, the foster parents may continue to provide advice, guidance and even money. But there's no requirement that they do any of that. "Aging out" of care is a problem for almost all foster kids. Longitudinal studies of foster kids after age 18 show lower involvement with education, far lower likelihood of employment, higher incarceration rates and greater likelihood of having experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse. All of that is to say that those who plump for more and more kids to be taken from their parents and placed in foster care need to explain why those outcomes for children are preferable to what they might get at home. So far, they haven't.
Petitioner made his child support payments and had regular visitations with Aaron without the slightest suspicion that he may not be Aaron"s biological father...Petitioner"s visitations with Aaron continued on a regular basis with Aaron spending alternate weekends with Petitioner and his family in their home...[in] 2008 Aaron [said]....he had a "real' dad, Francisco Serrano, and knew that Petitioner was only his "step' dad...Identigene labs concluded that Pedro Soto is not the biological father of Aaron Soto...Chromosomal Laboratories, Inc. concluded that...Francisco Serrano was Aaron"s father.
Since Aaron is living with and being supported by his biological father, Francisco Serrano, it is clear that Petitioner"s child support payments are really pocket money for Maricela Guerrero and not the "child support' that the courts have ordered...by lying about the real father of Aaron, Ms. Guerrero has set up a scheme whereby she can fleece her innocent former boyfriend and have the County aid her in enforcing this unfair scheme...
As Petitioner states in his Declaration, Aaron will always be welcomed in his home, however, he does not wish to continue the falsehood that he is Aaron"s biological father. Clearly it is in the best interest of the child that his biological...father be established.
[T]he Department concedes that Francisco Serrano, not Petitioner [Pedro Soto], is the real father of Aaron Soto, but insists that due to the passage of time the injustice of Petitioner paying child support for a child that is living with, and being supported by his real father, should be extended at least another five years until Aaron reaches eighteen and finishes high school. The sheer injustice of the situation does not seem to bother the Department one bit.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Lowe and Pepperdine law student Sarah dela Cruz McKendricks, who helped Lowe with the Soto case."][/caption] Lowe conceded that the law is against Soto but argued that under subsection (c) of Family Code Section §7575 "[T]his court still possesses the authority to right this wrong under its equitable powers." The 2004 Navarro Case Lowe cited County of Los Angeles v. Navarro (2004) as case law in urging the Court to exercise its equitable powers to right a clear injustice in a paternity case. In Navarro, the trial court denied a motion to vacate a judgment entered against Manuel Navarro establishing him as the father of two boys and ordering him to pay child support for them. Navarro had been erroneously "defaulted into fatherhood" of children he did not know. The motion was filed over five years after Judgment had been entered against him and was definitely time-barred. The County of Los Angeles opposed the motion, arguing that relief should not be granted Mr. Navarro because the statute of limitation had run against him.
A profound mistake occurred here when appellant was charged with being the boys" father…Instead of remedying its mistake, the County retreats behind the procedural redoubt offered by the passage of time since it took appellant"s default.
It is this State"s policy that when a mistake occurs in a child support action the County must correct it, not exploit it…Thousands of individuals each year are mistakenly identified as being liable for child support actions. As a result of that action, the ability to earn a living is severely impaired, assets are seized, and family relationships are often destroyed. It is the moral, legal, and ethical obligation of all enforcement agencies to take prompt action to recognize those cases…and correct any injustice to that person.
Despite the Legislature"s clear directive that child support agencies not pursue mistaken child support actions, the County is asking that we do so. We will not sully our hands by participating in an unjust, and factually unfounded, result. We say no to the County, and we reverse.The Soto Decision Judge Paula J. Coleman agreed with Lowe and the Navarro court, and granted Soto's motion to set aside his paternity judgment. She also ordered that a new birth certificate for Aaron be issued, and that Pedro Soto's name not be on it. To read Coleman's order, click here. The Long, Hard Struggle to Defend Victims of Paternity Fraud Senator Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles), a longtime family court reform advocate, was the sponsor of the Child Support Enforcement Fairness Act of 2000, and the Navarro court cited this law as the basis for its decision. Fathers and Families' legislative representative Michael Robinson has successfully worked for many years to bring equity and fairness to child support and paternity fraud cases, and many of Robinson's actions directly impacted the Soto case. After Navarro, the Los Angeles County Department of Child Support Services asked the California Supreme Court to depublish the case, which would prevent other paternity fraud victims from using Navarro to liberate themselves. Robinson sought and submitted amicus letters against depublication from numerous California legislators and prominent attorneys, including: former Assemblywoman Nicole M. Parra; former Assemblyman Raymond Haynes; former Senator Dick Ackerman; former Senator Roy Ashburn; Senator Rod Wright; prominent family law appellate specialist Jeff Doeringer; Roger Dale Juntunen, J.D., M.B.A.; and others, as well as the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. To read their amicus letters, click here [37MB]. Navarro's attorney, Linda Ferrer, praised Robinson's "extraordinary" work in this letter. When attorneys for the Fresno Department of Child Support Services tried in the Sanchez paternity fraud case to assert that Navarro had been abrogated by AB 252 (an earlier paternity fraud bill that Robinson helped pass), Robinson got one of the bill's principal co-authors, then-Senator Roy Ashburn, to issue a declaration stating that the legislature's intent in passing the bill was not to abrogate Navarro. To read Ashburn's declaration, click here. Continuing the Fight: F & F's SB 375 & SB 377 Fathers and Families' SB 375 & SB 377 will end outrageous injustices such as those experienced by Soto and tens of thousands of men who have been unable to get out of fraudulent paternity judgments. These bills will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee early next year. To learn more, click here. Also, see our column Bill would give 'duped dads' some fairness under the law (Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11). If you are a victim of paternity fraud, whether in California or in another state, we want to know your story--please click here. Pedro Soto Thanks Lowe, Fathers and Families Pedro Soto writes:
Mr. Lowe and Ms. McKendricks did an excellent job with my case, and I am forever grateful with them. Mr. Lowe took my case when other attorneys refused, citing the statute of limitations. I had given up hope, but Mr. Lowe gave me the desire to continue the fight and move forward.
Fathers and Families is a great organization that fights for what is right and just. Thank you all for keeping cases such as Navarro available for all of us, and I hope that my case also helps right the many similar injustices still out there.Soto Case Documents Below are the documents in the Soto case:
The law defines "income" for support purposes as including all ordinary income as well as "other entitlements to money or lump sum awards, without regard to source, including lottery winnings, income tax refunds, insurance compensation or settlements, awards and verdicts and any form of payment due to and collectible by an individual regardless of source." Also included is "income from an estate or trust." Pennsylvania courts have long based support obligations not just on a parent's actual earnings but also on his or her earning ability and financial resources.Now, the dad argued that what he received wasn't "income from an estate or trust." That is, what he received was the principal from the estate, not income. If he'd invested it in, say, municipal bonds and received periodic payments of interest, that interest would be "income from an estate." But that's not what happened. In fact, he reinvested the money in a non-income producing asset, i.e. a residence. And the court agreed that the money he received was not in fact income from his mother's estate. But no dad gets off that easy. The court ruled that what the father had received from his mother qualified as "other entitlements to money... without regard to source." So it raised his monthly obligation to reflect his receipt of the $83,000. Never mind that he no longer had the money. Never mind that he spent it responsibly by buying a better house for his family and his daughter when she visits him. And above all, never mind that the payment was a one-time thing, but child support payments go on every month, every year. And finally, never mind that his actual income from which he pays his child support didn't go up a penny. No, all of that must take a backseat to his obligation to support his child with whatever comes to hand. But wait. He was already supporting his child and no one argues that he wasn't or that he was doing so insufficiently. The girl's "adult relative" received what the court ordered and there's no indication that it wasn't sufficient to meet her needs. So if child support is really about, well, supporting the child, the dad was doing that. And yet, when he receives a windfall, suddenly his child's needs miraculously increase in lockstep. Again, the money is gone, invested in his residence, so where he's going to get the wherewithal to pay the increased amount is anyone's guess. But irrespective of that, it seems painfully obvious that Pennsylvania law and the court's action have far more to do with Mom support than they do child support. As I said, the girl was supported well enough before he received his inheritance, so why not afterward. Worse, like most inheritances, his was a one-time-only event. To the extent the state can pretend it's income, it only happened in one year. But his child support obligation doesn't end in that year; it goes on and on until the child becomes 18 or 21. So, if he can pay the increased amount, and my guess is he can't (again, the money he receives to pay his bills hasn't increased a bit), he'll be doing so month after month, year after year because the court decided his income had all of a sudden increased by $83,000. That will happen, that is, unless he spends still more money next year to hire a lawyer, go to court and explain to the judge that he hasn't received another inheritance and his "income" has once again declined to what he receives from his employer. In other words, a colossal waste of time and money to do what should have been done in the first place - recognize that the money had already been spent, that the child benefits from the expenditure and that the father's actual ability to pay hasn't increased at all. This silliness would all be solved if state legislatures would take a less punitive, less misandric and more commonsense approach to child support. That would mean setting amounts for child support that reflected what's actually needed to support a child - I'm not talking some bare-bones, spartan existence, but something reasonable - and letting it go at that. The idea that Pennsylvania's approach has something to do with a child's needs is plainly at odds with the truth. The increase in this case was about supporting Mom, not the child who was already sufficiently supported in the first place. My guess is that there's something else at work as well. The notion that any Mom gets a big chunk of anything extra that Dad takes in impacts family dynamics in another way; it tends to keep the child in Mom's custody. In the case in question, the child in question was 16 years old. In most states, that's well old enough for her to have gone to court and told the judge with which parent she wanted to live. And by that age, the judge will pretty much go with the child's wishes absent some indication that she's motivated improperly. An improved living standard on Dad's part, brought about by a better job, an inheritance, a new wife with strong earnings, might just be enough to convince a teenager to move in with him. And we can't have that, now can we. So legislatures and courts are at pains to take any little extra Dad may receive, give Mom a share and pretend it has something to do with supporting an already-supported child. That's life in family court. Thanks to Ned for the heads-up.
Figures released to the Sunday Star-Times show that of the 179,500 people liable for child support, 141,464 (79%) are behind...
"It's just the amount that causes resentment," [Hamilton Budgeting Adviser Claire Mataira] said...
Parents who did not pay their child support on time were charged the greater of $5 or 10% of the unpaid amount. On top of that, they faced a $1 or 2% penalty on the total overdue amount - including incurred penalties - every month.Just to make sure you got that last, New Zealand charges 7% on all overdue amounts. Then it compounds that interest by charging 7% on penalty amounts. My guess is that it's at least fairly common for a father to pay what the order says he owes and still fall further behind during the month he made the payment. Resentment? You bet. Into the bargain, New Zealand child support authorities have powers those in the U.S. don't, at least not yet. Those include the power to obtain warrants for the sale of personal or real property to satisfy the indebtedness. The latter apparently have never been used, but the former are not uncommon. So if Americans think having your license to drive taken away is both bad and nonsensical, understand that in New Zealand authorities can take your car. Not surprisingly, when parents get behind on their payments and penalties kick in, they tend to discourage paying. The reaction in many cases is to try to avoid the obligation altogether or in part by hiding income or emigrating to Australia. A surprising number of New Zealand child support cases are administered by Australian authorities.
"Although penalties play an important role in encouraging parents to meet their obligations, if they are excessive they can discourage payment," [Revenue Minister Peter] Dunne said. "Reducing penalty rates in certain circumstances, combined with other effective enforcement measures, will help parents resume payments."All of that is pretty familiar to Americans. What's decidedly less so is that the New Zealand government has decided to do something constructive about its child support debt crisis. Read about it here (New Zealand Herald, 10/23/11). For months, the government has been taking comments on the existing system and seems about ready to make new laws and regulations governing divorced parents with children. Those will take effect in April of 2013, which seems like a long time just to refigure how child support and penalties for non-payment will be administered. And I suppose it goes without saying that the reported fix won't do nearly enough to treat non-custodial parents in ways that ensure payment of reasonable support amounts with reasonable ways of modifying support orders. Only in a fantasy world would that happen and New Zealand doesn't qualify no matter how many Tolkien dramas were filmed there. Still, I'd argue that the fact that New Zealand is backtracking on the most draconian of its child support regulations is a step in the right direction and one I wouldn't be surprised to see the rest of the world emulating in the near future. Face it, child support laws in the English-speaking world are unjust and unreasonable in many different ways. Plus, they affect an enormous number of people. That's a situation that's ripe for change. So we may well attend to what New Zealand does and what effects it has.
An overhaul of child-support payments will reduce the cost for part-time parents who spend just 28 per cent of the time with their children - two nights a week.
Revenue Minister Peter Dunne, who announced the changes, said they would recognise parents as "shared carers" of children if they had the child for 28 per cent of the nights down from 40 and would give greater consideration of both parents' incomes when determining payments.So parents who have their children two nights out of the week will see their support levels drop. So will non-custodial parents whose exes work and earn.
Dunne said the proposed changes to the child-support formula would apply from April 2013, and changes to payment, penalty and debt rules would be introduced the next year. It would mean that some parents would receive lower payments but it would be a "fairer" system.Now, that 28% care threshold contains a catch; most non-custodial parents have the usual every other weekend order meaning they have only half the parenting time required to qualify for the reduction. So that particular change may sound good, but the truth is that it just won't affect that many parents. Somehow I'm not surprised.
Union of Fathers president Allan Harvey welcomed the overhaul but said changes could go further. Fourteen per cent of nights in one parent's care should qualify as "shared care" status - the equivalent of every second weekend.
"It's not usual for children to be in one parent's care every weekend." Harvey also said family household income, when one of the former partners took a new partner, should be taken into consideration, rather than an individual parent's.So the new rules in New Zealand are far from the type of sensible, fair approach to child support that we might wish. But it's a step toward rationality. More important, it's not more of the same - the ever harsher, ever more punitive approach we've come to expect. And in that way, it may be a harbinger of things to come. Some day we may look back on these relatively modest changes and see that this was the time the tide turned.
Courageous is a movie about five men, four who have integrity and display courage. These men range from reasonable to non-involved fathers. The dynamics of their interaction help them focus on their roles as fathers.
Police said a former criminology professor fatally shot her 7-year-old son and then killed herself on Friday as police waited outside with her estranged husband, who was there to pick up the child after receiving court-ordered custody.
Less than an hour before the shooting, a jury granted Rodney McCall, 42, of Wylie, sole custody of Eryk Hayslett-McCall and terminated the parental rights of 43-year-old Karen Hayslett-McCall, The Dallas Morning News reported.
We asked our members to call Jimmy Choo Ltd to protest. Your response has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.Fathers and Families joined with Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence this week in a joint letter to protest an advertisement from the luxury shoes, clothing, and bags company Jimmy Choo Ltd. The ad, which depicts a woman stepping on a man's head as he lies prone on the floor, appears on their website, in print ads, and in many of their storefronts. We explained:
Unwittingly, your ad both trivializes domestic violence and makes it appear that partner abuse is acceptable. The man in the photo appears to be in fear and possibly in pain or even dead, and the woman pictured seems to be about to put her full weight on the man"s skull.
We also asked our members to call Jimmy Choo Ltd to protest. Your response has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.
We commend Jimmy Choo Ltd for understanding our concerns and acting so quickly.
Our original letter can be seen in its entirety here.
With best regards,
Glenn Sacks, MA
Fathers and Families
Toni K. Troop
Director of Communications Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
Update (10/27/11): Your response to our call to action has been overwhelming, and we're pleased to report that Jimmy Choo Ltd has now agreed to remove the offensive ad from all of their stores, all print media, and their website. They emphasize that they did not mean to offend, and they apologize.
We commend Jimmy Choo Ltd for understanding our concerns and acting so quickly.
Glenn Sacks, MA
Fathers and Families
Toni K. Troop Director of Communications
Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence