Orlando Sentinel: With LGBT groups in Capitol, House briefly debates ’sexual oreintation’ foster care bill

A beautiful moment:

 It was a rare first-person discussion for the Florida House: two openly gay lawmakers discussing the problems they experienced as teens.

The Florida House briefly showed its new, more diverse membership Tuesday when two freshmen openly gay House members supported an amendment to an otherwise non-controversial foster-care bill to prohibit foster parents from interfering in the “natural development of the child’s sexual orientation.”

From the Orlando Sentinel.

Foster care can do better all around at helping kids develop their personal identities, including their sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, culture, and personality. Families do that naturally through shared experience, history, and values. But foster care staff have to be trained and supported to help a kid develop identities that the staff member him or herself does not necessarily share.


Here’s a video of Rep. Richardson. Thanks Miami Herald.

Normalcy Bill Passes!

I’m a day late (and more than a dollar short)–the Normalcy Bill has passed and will be sent to Governor Scott! Congrats to Florida Youth Shine and everyone else who worked together and very hard to make this a reality. 

DCF to CLS: Seek Attorneys ad Litem for Medicaid Denial Cases

DCF, understandably, sees the futility and waste of paying for medical services that Medicaid should be covering. Medical support is an important component of permanency for families. I wouldn’t limit this advocacy to just out-of-home kids: we should extend this service to parents (as part of case plans and reasonable efforts) and to kids still at home. Imagine if a state spent half as much on federal benefits litigation as it does on parenting classes.

“The first thing I lost in law school was the reason I came”

I came across this post at Poverty Law blog:

A student who wants to do work on social justice came to my office and after I emailed him Bill Quigley’s essay, Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice, he sent me a link to Dean Spade’s essay, For Those Considering Law School.   Both are worth reading by those considering law school — and even though in law school or teaching at law school.  Three somewhat more dated essays include Duncan Kennedy’s Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy (a canonical classic), Robert A. Williams, Jr.’s Vampires Anonymous and Critical Race Practice (a favorite of mine), and my On Becoming “Professor” (mine, though it is the weakest link in this list of essays).

I’ve decided to auto-post this at the beginning of each semester to remind myself that, by most objective standards, law school is not a place that social justice-minded human beings should willingly be. And yet here they, we, are. We, teachers and students both, must struggle together to create something more out of the experience than marshaled consumption of (expensive) case books, debt-binding, and then hierarchical sorting of students for their disbursement into the hegemony. Maybe one day I’ll open a School for People Who Wanted to Go to Law School But Thought Better of It. I will call it Law School.

Third DCA issues rule to show cause against APD and appellate counsel

The facts are a classic professional responsibility or CivPro fact pattern. APD and M.B. reached a settlement. APD’s trial counsel courteously agreed to have the hearing taken off calendar, but through some snafu the hearing officer entered a default against M.B. The APD trial counsel acknowledged that this was an error and tried to fix it, but the statewide APD office decided to take advantage of the mistake and objected to a withdrawal of the default. Predictably, the Third DCA is not happy:

On appeal, the Agency reverses its position [that the order of dismissal was entered in error]. Represented by new counsel, the Agency now argues for affirmance for two reasons: (1) M .B. failed to file objections to the recommended order of dismissal; and (2) the dismissal was proper because M.B. failed to advise the hearing officer the case had been resolved. The Agency’s first argument can only be described as absurd. The Final Order of Dismissal was issued one day after the Recommended Order. The Agency’s second argument directly conflicts with the position taken by Agency counsel below. It is painfully obvious from the correspondence between Sippio–Smith and Warwick below that Sippio–Smith conceded the Final Order was entered in error.

We summarily enforce the Agency’s original agreement and order the Agency’s appellate counsel of record and the Agency itself, through separate counsel, to show cause within ten days why each should not be sanctioned pursuant to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.410(a) for the maintenance of a frivolous defense to this appeal.

M.B. v. Agency for Persons with Disabilities, — So.3d —- (Fla. 3rd DCA 2013) (emphasis in original, paragraph order reversed).

This is the second reversal of an APD decision this year. The first is here. Both involved APD’s statewide office’s intermeddling in the fair hearing process. I will not go so far as to say that statewide APD is attempting to deny claims at any costs legal, ethical, or otherwise, because I have seen good outcomes from APD as well. But it only takes two points to make a line–and APD should begin worrying about where this line is taking them. 

Georgia: Deprived children and youth have no standing independent of GAL

If there is a holding in this case, it’s this:

The protector of a child’s best interests is his guardian ad litem. It has previously been held that, “[w]hen a court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent a minor, the minor is in effect made a party to the action and has standing through the guardian ad litem to appeal. [Cits.].” (Emphasis supplied.) In the Interest of J.F., 310 Ga. App. 807, 808, n. 1 (714 SE2d 399) (2011). This is the appropriate result in a deprivation action, as this case exemplifies. Here, the trial court determined that the child was deprived. The child’s legal guardians do not contest this result, and the child’s guardian ad litem has opined that an appeal is not in the child’s best interests. All of the adults who are legally entrusted with the child’s best interests do not believe an appeal is necessary. It would be inappropriate, indeed unwise, to allow a child, especially one under the circumstances of deprivation, to override all other decisions regarding his best interests.

In re W.L.H.
Supreme Court of Georgia, — S.E.2d —-,13 FCDR 389 (March 4, 2013).

This is a somewhat befuddling opinion, consisting of two statutory cites, one out-of-context sentence of a lower court opinion, and a conclusory statement that any contrary result would be “unwise.” It is apparently so unwise that the court deems it best not to describe the level of unwisdom that would befall children if they were allowed to appeal something that other parties thought they should not appeal, even if appeals are rarely granted, even if most kids don’t have attorneys, and even if other states allow children and youth to appeal without any noteworthy harm raining down on them or anyone else. I do not claim to know anything about Georgia law, but it is exceedingly curious to me that a state supreme court opinion on representation could exhaust itself of logic without mentioning “due process” except in the gloss of the appellant’s argument.

The dissent does a thorough job of dismantling at the legal and policy level why this result is not necessary or, even, wise. To deny someone standing is the ultimate legal pronouncement that you do not care, no matter how personally important or legally exigent, about anything they have to say. I am proud that Florida courts have a history of moving towards inclusion and empowerment of children and youth subject to dependency proceedings, hearing them out alongside their GALs and other people tasked with shaping their best interests. The Supreme Court of Georgia suggests that a legislative fix is necessary. I hope for its kids that this moment of silence ends quickly.

What I’m Reading: Parsing Parenthood

Cynthia Godsoe Lewis & Clark Law Review (Approx. 62 pages)

The story public family law tells about parenthood is both inaccurate and normatively misguided. Parents are deemed “bad” because of their need for state support, and the parent-child relationship is accordingly devalued. This devaluation has resulted in costly and ineffective child welfare policies, embodied in the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and related state laws. Child maltreatment costs an estimated $103.8 billion annually, yet its incidence is not decreasing. Thousands of youth “age out” of foster care each year as legal orphans, with no connection to a family and very poor prospects.

This Article explores the consequences of this flawed framework, including the failure to recognize the socioeconomic factors underlying most child maltreatment and the disregard for the real ties between parents and children after families are separated. It argues that child welfare policies will not succeed until the underlying parenthood framework changes; implicit cognitive biases channel even new interventions in a way that stigmatizes marginalized families and over-prioritizes adoption as a panacea. This Article concludes by considering some promising paths to remapping public parenthood, incorporating lessons from the public health preventive approach and from the private family law system’s disaggregation of parental rights and responsibilities.

What I’m Reading: Children’s Health Rights and Family Preservation