Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Texas, CPS, FLDS and DNA

I've got to get a quick item out before I leave for a conference this weekend.

Her Honor ordered DNA testing to sort out the mommies and daddies of the 437 kiddies taken into custody. The more astute analysts have pointed out that this testing could be used to convict the parents, both mothers and fathers, of crimes.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that a child welfare case is unlike both a criminal or a civil case. The purpose of this kind of case is to rehabilitate the parents to make the home safe for the children. To that end, there are certain procedures put into place to determine what the issues are that make the home unsafe, and to provide services to remedy those issues. That often means that the parent has two choices:
  • Cooperate with the evaluations and services (which often include making admissions in therapy) and risk having that information used to convict them, or
  • Refuse to cooperate with the evaluations and services and lose their children forever.
For certain crimes, including sexual abuse, the state is not mandated to provide services or reunify the children with the parents.

What a dilemma. But there is a solution.

The parent's attorneys and the GALs must request the Her Honor to issue protective orders, specifically stating that any information obtained during the evaluation and treatment of the offending parents must not be given to law enforcement or prosecutors, and can not be used to obtain a criminal conviction. This is justified as being in the best interests of the children, especially if the permanency plan is reunification.

There is sufficient precedent for this practice. These cases are not intended to be punitive, nor to entrap parents. They are intended to make the family home safe for the children.

At the same time, parent's lawyer must address visitation rights (yes, RIGHTS) and advise their parents not to comply with any pre-adjudication case plan, because those are nothing more than fishing expeditions to gather evidence to use against the parents.

Coming up: Reasonable Efforts to prevent removal

Suzanne Shell is a legal consultant and expert on child welfare cases.

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Leave the emotions, propaganda and rhetoric at the door. This blogger is only interested in intelligent, logical, well-thought out, factually based comments which are on-topic, indicating the writer has an open mind and a mature ability to reason.