Commission on Children in Foster Care
December 17, 2012
Justice Bobbe Bridge (ret.), Washington State Supreme Court, Commission Co-Chair
Asst. Secretary Denise Revels Robinson, DSHS Children’s Administration, Commission Co-Chair
Mr. Jim Bamberger, Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA)
Mr. Ryan Cummings, Foster Youth Representative
Ms. Chorisia Folkman, NW Intertribal Court System Representative
Ms. Jeannie Kee, Foster Youth Alumni Representative
Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck, Superior Court Judges’ Association
Ms. Carrie Wayno, Attorney General’s Office (AGO)
Members not present:
Ms. Beth Canfield; Mr. Mike Canfield; Senator James Hargrove; Ms. Barbara James; Dr. Ken Emmil;
Rep. Ruth Kagi; Rep. Mary Helen Roberts; Ms. Joanne Moore.
Ms. Hathaway Burden, Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ); Mr. Jacob D’Annunzio, Office of Public Defense (OPD); Ms. Karen Dinan, AGO; Judge Anne Hirsch, Thurston County Superior Court; Ms. Laurie Lippold, Children’s Home Society of Washington; Ms. Erin Shea McCann, Columbia Legal Services; Ms. Mary Meinig, Office of the Family and Children's Ombudsman (OFCO); Ms. Janet Skreen, Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
Ms. Alyson McLean, CCFC Intern, CCYJ
Ms. Susan Peterson, AOC
Staff not present:
Mr. Michael Curtis, Executive Director
Call to Order and Welcome:
Justice Bridge called the meeting to order.
Welcome and Introductions:
Justice Bridge welcomed Commission members and guests. A special welcome was given to Alyson McLean, the new CCYJ Evans School Intern who is replacing Courtney Millan.
Approval of September 24, 2012 Meeting Minutes
Justice Bridge presented the meeting minutes from September 24, 2012. Judge van Doorninck suggested two changes. Motion to approve the minutes with the changes was made by Judge van Doorninck. The motion was seconded by Mr. Bamberger. The September 24, 2012 meeting minutes were unanimously approved with the changes.
Providing Legal Representation to Vulnerable Foster Care Youth
Ms. Erin Shea McCann, a staff attorney with the Children and Youth Project at Columbia Legal Services, reported about a legislative proposal they are working on with the Mockingbird Society and Partners for Our Children regarding legal representation for children and youth in dependency and termination proceedings. She said they have support from Mike and Beth Canfield of the Foster Parents Association of Washington, the Center for Children and Youth Justice (CCYJ), Catholic Community Services, and several other community organizations.
Ms. McCann provided a quick historical overview of the issue of legal representation, discussed the statute as it currently reads, and said that the landscape of the Supreme Court changed earlier this year when the Washington State Supreme Court issued In re Dependency of M.S.R. and T.S.R. In that case, the Supreme Court held that children have at least as great a right to an attorney as do their parents. The Court, however, declined to create a universal right to counsel, stating that each child’s circumstances are different and that it should be on a case-by-case basis as to whether an individual child should have an attorney.
Ms. McCann then distributed a handout titled Providing Legal Representation to Vulnerable Foster Children & Youth and gave a quick overview of what they are proposing this legislative session. The proposed legislation provides attorneys for the most vulnerable foster children, including those:
Ø Whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated;
Ø Who have lived in multiple foster homes or who have been in care for many years;
Ø Who may be institutionalized;
Ø Who have been suspended or expelled from school;
Ø Who have run from their foster care placement; and
Ø Who are prescribed psychotropic medications.
The proposed legislation clarifies who can request that an attorney be appointed for a child, including a parent, the DSHS, the GAL/CASA, the child, or the court on its own initiative. The legislation also lowers the age a child is notified of their right to request counsel, from age 12 to age 7, and provides that an attorney may file a motion for a child to be appointed an attorney at public expense. Ms. McCann noted that a study conducted by Chapin Hall found that legal representation of children significantly reduced the cost to DSHS, because permanency was achieved more quickly—resulting in less time in care. She stated that there may also be significant savings to the courts and discussed a DIY study that indicated children should have a trained legal advocate if they are attending court.
Ms. McCann asked for support for their legislation. She pointed out that Washington State ranks 48th in the nation in protecting the legal rights of foster children and youth, above only Hawaii, Idaho and Indiana. The Child and Youth Project feels like now is the time to relook at the most vulnerable populations and try to strengthen the legal protections for them.
Judge van Doorninck asked who would pay for the attorneys? Ms. McCann said hopefully it would be a state and county cost. Mr. Bamberger asked if the bill would actually include that language, and Ms. McCann responded that it required further conversation. Judge van Doorninck discussed the language she would like to see in the bill and that ultimately she would like to see every child have an attorney.
Ms. McCann asked for input from the foster care alumni. Mr. Cummings said he understands that money is always going to be a problem, but that he had an attorney when he was 13 years old who fought for his wants and needs so he knows why having an attorney is important.
Ms. Kee agreed that this is something that should automatically be done. She said having an attorney has saved lives, and believes that if she would have had an attorney representing her, she could have avoided being in an abusive foster home for her first two years of foster care. She also believes having an attorney can help with the issue of sibling connection as well as connection with other members of their biological families.
Ms. Folkman asked whether legal representation would be mandated or encouraged. Ms. Shea McCann said, as much as they would like to mandate caseloads and training standards, she doesn’t think they are there yet but there may be some good things to learn from the WA-QIC project. Mr. D’Annunzio said he thinks there is a certain point in time where parents’ rights are terminated and kids are left with no one advocating for them, and that period of time is very crucial.
Justice Bridge summed up the discussion and said there are concerns about the fiscal implications and concerns about competing interests from the levels of government and other stakeholders (i.e. CASA). Justice Bridge asked Ms. McCann to keep the Commission apprised.
Dependency Best Practices Workgroup
Judge Anne Hirsch, of Thurston County Superior Court and Dependency Best Practices Workgroup Chair, reported on the Workgroup and distributed the Washington State Dependency Best Practices Report, November 29, 2012. She thanked Janet Skreen, Tim Jaasko-Fisher, Joanne Moore, Jacob D’Annunzio, and many others for all their help in completing the report. The Report can be truly useful and usable to the court community working with dependency cases.
The document is organized like a travel guide, each area has one or two pages, points out costs, research on the usefulness of it, contact information for the different counties, expected results, where the programs currently exist, and the key principles for each programs/processes listed which are listed in order from the most evidence based to the least. Often the most evidence based also has the highest price tag. Part I of the document consists of programs, and Part II consists of services.
Mr. Bamberger encouraged Judge Hirsch to keep it a living document, delivering its information through webinars, seminars, etc. Ms. Skreen said the distribution plan is that each judicial officer in the state will get a hard copy, and it will also be posted on the Commission’s web page on the Washington Courts Web site and the Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) Web site where judges can access it.
Justice Bridge asked for a motion to accept the Report. Mr. Bamberger made the motion, and Judge van Doorninck seconded. The Commission unanimously approved the Washington State Dependency Best Practices Report and thanked the Workgroup for its efforts.
Dependency Timeliness Report Presentation
Ms. Janet Skreen of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) gave a status report on the Dependency Timeliness Report (DTR). They have been putting the data together, and there are 14 more days left to collect data for the 2012 Report. Ms. Skreen said this year they will be including some racial disproportionality and disparity numbers, and some outcomes with regard to that.
She next discussed the formation of the Dependency Timeliness Report Advisory Committee; in collaboration with their associates at the Research and Development Analysis (RDA) at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
The first meeting of the Advisory Committee was December 6th at which they determined seven initial recommendations for inclusion in the Report including:
1) Reentries into care and time to reentry, and try to identify reasons for those;
2) Failed adoptions and reasons the adoptions failed;
3) Total time in the court system, from the date of the petition filed to the date of dismissal;
4) Time from reunification to dismissal;
5) The number and identification of cases with long-term foster care agreements (some other states call that APLA), and cases that could eligible for a cold-case project (some other states have done cold-case projects through their court improvement programs, and that’s what they’re starting to look at it too);
6) More information on continuances (the numbers, the reasons, and who requested any one continuance—taking a hard look at why continuances are happening);
7) Analysis of cases that we don’t have a match for (want to do some analysis of what is going on with those children, look at what prevents us from having a match, and make sure our data is continually improved so we can get a match).
They are expecting that the Advisory Committee will meet about twice a year, and they intend it to be a permanent commitment. Ms. Skreen said as long as they have the Dependency Timeliness Report, they want to make sure the stakeholders have plenty of opportunity to help shape the Report for years to come.
Ms. Skreen also talked about dismissals. For the length of time that they’ve had the DTR, they have had to rely on CA data to determine why a case got dismissed. But she said that is court data, and we should really know why we are dismissing cases. A new order of dismissal has been released that has approximately eight dismissal codes, with an “other” code too. It will likely be an Assistant Attorney General (AAG) who fills out the order at the dependency hearing, and the clerk will be directed to docket that particular code. Ms. Skreen said this has been through the Codes Committee and approved. They are also looking to the county clerks as their partners on this and are hoping they will docket this information as requested. This will also help them in achieving the legally-free date.
Ms. Skreen answered members’ questions, and there was discussion about funding. She said Matt Orme’s position is funded through the CIP Data Grant, and anything that has to do with the report itself also comes out of CIP. The publication and distribution of the Washington State Dependency Best Practices Report, the DTR, and the Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) are funded out of CIP.
Discussion turned to the importance of coding in recording and collecting pertinent data from dependency and termination cases. New dismissal codes will be in place soon; continuance reasons will be documented, as well. Justice Bridge strongly recommended that the SCJA President or his designee write to the Clerks’ Association President, now Betty Gould, and urge correct docketing of all coding for accurate measurement of case processing.
Ms. Skreen said, today she asked Justice Bridge for a representative from her foundation, and she is here today to ask permission for a representative to sit on their advisory committee. She said others they have asked also include the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), Casey Family Programs, Ron Murphy (representing Casey Family Programs and as Co-Chair of the Racial Disproportionality Advisory Committee), several colleagues from CA, Joanne Moore of OPD, Kirsten Johnson of CITA, children’s attorney Jana Hyde, and Family Juvenile Court Improvement Program (FJCIP) Coordinator Christine Liebsack from Snohomish County. Ms. Skreen said they don’t currently have a youth representative, but they would like to.
Mr. Cummings agreed to be the youth representative.
Project Respect Presentation
Justice Bridge gave the Commission a status report on the Project Respect project. She reminded members that the project is housed at the Center for Children and Youth Justice (CCYJ), and that CCYJ was awarded a two-year grant through the Children’s Justice Task Force, which is also the organization that funds the Children’s Justice Conference. She said these funds were for a two-year project to develop a statewide protocol for the response to commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). The two-year grant is for the purpose of developing a victim-centered protocol for response to these cases with consistent practice throughout the state. She then described the process that was followed.
The first year of the grant ended on November 30, 2012, when the Protocol was released. During this second year CCYJ will work with jurisdictions who wish to adopt it, adapt it, and modify it to their own usage. Five jurisdictions, three on the west side and two on the east side of the state, will be selected by a competitive process. Copies of the protocol are available electronically or in hard copy.
Ms. Jeannie Kee, Normalcy Workgroup Co-Chair, gave the Commission a status report on the Normalcy Workgroup. She said the Workgroup had their sixth meeting, and at their next meeting in March they will have a draft completed. There have been a few additional areas that they want to try to add in after talking to youth at their last Passion to Action meeting, and they want to make sure they are addressing all the issues the youth want to see addressed in this document. It will be called “Know Before You Say No.”
Remaining issues to be resolved include:
1) The addition of judicial input;
2) The advisability of a “normalcy checklist” for judges and social workers.
Ms. Hathaway Burden, Project Coordinator, Center for Children & Youth Justice (CCYJ), gave an update on the Quality Improvement Center (QIC) project. The project is up and running and for the last four months they have been steeped in data, especially court data. They are working closely with the Washington State Center for Court Research (WSCCR). She said she thinks one of the big legacies is going to be cleaned data processes that will be put into place. She said they found gaps and discrepancies in the data being reported statewide, and they found three or four months lag between when the attorney is appointed and when that action appears in the data. She believes in the future we will have a better understanding of what children are represented, when children are represented, at what age they are receiving an appointment, and when their cases are dismissed.
The second piece of data collection is the surveys the attorneys complete. There is an almost 99% response rate. They have had a lot of contact with both the treatment attorneys and control attorneys, and they believe the engagement has been especially fruitful for the treatment attorneys. All the attorneys also participated in the two-day training last spring, and then did follow up quarterly trainings.
The last two-day training will be shortly after the March Commission meeting. They’re hoping to train 10 more attorneys, and that will make their overall count for the study 130 attorneys, which is virtually every attorney in the state of Washington doing this work. On a county level, the engagement continues to be high. They have had a number of counties offer up more of their attorneys, where they are willing to spread out the cases to more interested attorneys so they can get their required number of cases for participation.
National Adoption Day
This topic was not discussed because Ms. Lorrie Thompson was unable to join the meeting.
Decision Makers Summit Progress
Ms. Alyson McLean, CCYJ Evans School Intern, discussed the Decision Makers Summit Report. She will be undergoing the task of doing a “sunset review” of the report. She reported that since the last report in March, 11 additional commitments have been marked off as completed and 12 have had active progress.
Creating a Foster Care Transitions Workgroup
There is no need to do anything at this time.
Discuss Parent Advocate Member
This selection is pending.
Justice Bridge said they will be contacting the parent advocate member nominees as soon as possible after the first of the year in hopes of having someone in place by the next Commission meeting.
Child Maltreatment and Gender Violence Proposal
This is pending. Justice Bridge and Alyson will present the Child Maltreatment and Gender Violence Proposal to the Commission as soon as possible.
Commission Meeting Dates for 2013
Ms. McLean provided members the dates for the 2013 quarterly Commission meetings. They are as follows:
· March 11
· May 20
· September 16
· December 16
DSHS/Children’s Administration Updates
Family Assessment Response Program
Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson distributed a copy of CA’s response to the Powell Child Fatality Review Report, dated November 28, 2012. She said they received a lot of feedback before they actually did the response. She also met with staff from the Tacoma office, the staff who were assigned to the Powell children, and Judge Nelson.
CA is working on developing a policy framework for traings on the impact of domestic violence on children in child welfare cases.
Title IV-E Waiver Update
Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson reported that a team of seven people from the state of Washington participated with the other eight states where waivers were approved. It took place in Washington, DC, the first week of November, and it was jointly sponsored by Casey Family Programs and the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). She also met with the advisory committee last week, and got input from them. They are currently in the process of developing their implementation plan, which is due to their federal partners by December 28, 2012.
A draft implementation plan is due to the Legislature by December 31, 2012. That report now is in its final approval process so they can meet that deadline. They will await the response from the Legislature.
Performance Based Contracts
Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson said they had a direct RFP that went out for comment on October 15, and they received comments by October 29. They had about 500 or so comments from people around the state and are in the process of incorporating those comments. That RFP, according to the legislative timeline, is due to be released on December 31, 2012.
Other New Business
Asst. Secretary Revels Robinson said her final goodbyes to the Commission members. She retires at the end of January 2013. She said she has enjoyed her career for 43 years and now is looking forward to retiring. She said the job has been both difficult and very rewarding, and it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with Justice Bridge as Co-Chair of the Commission.
The next meeting is on March 11, 2013, at the Temple of Justice, Chief Justice’s Reception Room.
There being no further business, Justice Bridge adjourned the meeting.
Susan Peterson, AOC
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