Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sue 'em

An adoptive mama in New Jersey is sueing DFS for not protecting her abused and traumatized daughter while in their care. Check out the full story here

"Individual lawsuits are pretty rare," Zalkind said. "You have to have someone who is willing to represent the child, and so often kids don't have that kind of support or advocacy."

It seems like so many foster care reform efforts fall short of making any big changes. A lawsuit doesn't seem like a bad idea. If you get hurt at work there is a recourse. As an adult if someone assaulted you -you could press charges. You could demand restitution through a civil suit.

Sometimes I really don't understand why the neglect/abuse that brings kids into care isn't cause for a criminal case. Even now in CJ's case, his SW has said if the same information was being brought in front of a criminal judge instead of a family judge there would be jail time. Why is it okay if kids are involved? I really don't understand.

Maybe if every kid who was not protected while in care was able to sue.... Maybe someone would listen. Maybe something would change.


Beth said...

In our experience, there often is a criminal case going on at the same time as the Family Court case. Sometimes I gather the standard of proof may be different -- there may be enough evidence of potential harm to children to remove them, but not enough to convict a person who is innocent until proven guilty.

We have also experienced a lack of information sharing and communication between criminal court and Family Court. Two processes might be going on at the exact same time, but one side doesn't know what the other is doing (and sometimes can't even find out! for example -- does a protection order or a stayaway order exist, or not? that one has come up a couple of times for kids in our care, and often our agency social workers literally weren't able to get an answer.)

Amanda said...

In my state it seems the policy is to not file criminal charges - even when law *requires* they do so (i.e. in the case where a mother abandons her baby and then later reclaims him as happened in my first placement).

I think you're right - this may be what it takes to cause real, meaningful reform. Protective Services seem particularly sensitive to lawsuits. I truly think that's why the majority of foster parent regulations exist.

fostermama said...

It bothers me, for a totally different reason, that child abuse allegations aren't treated as criminal allegations. I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind it. But from the perspective of the rights of the birthparents or other accused abuser, I don't think there should be such dire consequences without a real burden of proof being met.

fostermama said...

(Forgot to mention - this is the other fostermama)

I've been thinking after what happened to us that we need a national organization: Foster Parent Legal Assistance Association. When everything is done extra-judicially and laws are completely ignored and foster parents have less than nothing in the way of rights...