Here’s a short post this week because I am out of town. Hope you’ve had a good week.
Here we go!
Don’t get too used to this map
The National Association of Counsel for Children put out a national report on, you guessed it, counsel for children. The report is called Seen, Heard, and Represented: A Policymaker’s Guide to Counsel for Kids. It lays out the various configurations of counsel for kids around the country and makes policy recommendations for what NACC thinks is best. It’s very comprehensive. Good job.
You can see that NACC marks Florida as a state where a “subset of kids get an attorney.” Florida has five mandatory categories of children who get state-funded attorneys, but otherwise appointment is at the judge’s discretion and unfunded. Those special needs kids are currently at risk under HB 875, which means NACC is going to need to draw a new map.
Rumor has it that the GAL Office is asking sponsors to amend the GAL bill onto the one that would require trauma screenings. That’s one way to get your bill across the finish line, but it’s a huge add to an otherwise limited bill. Kind of a messy way to win, but it would get them what they think they want.
I worry winning is going to collapse the GAL under its own weight. The GAL Office is currently claiming near-100% representation while also putting out recruitment info that readily admits many of those kids don’t have volunteers right now. That article says, “In recent months we [in the Second Circuit] have had an increase in cases.” Yes, the out-of-home-care numbers in the Second Circuit have gone up a whopping 13 children since January (see below). Some kid is going to get hurt under their watch while they’re screwing around.
What happens when agencies don’t agree? They fight.
Florida’s privatized foster care system is held together by contractual relationships between hundreds of organizations that don’t always get along or even like each other. A case out of the Second DCA this week gives a brief view into the world of those relationships.
In Eckerd Youth Alternatives v. Devereux Foundation, the organizations were sued by two children who claim they were negligently reunified with their father. Eckerd was the CBC and its contract with Devereux had an indemnification and defense provision. Eckerd emailed Devereux and said, “Hey, start defending please.” Devereux had other ideas and kept replying to Eckerd’s request for defense with “we promise we’ll do everything required under the contract.” Specifically, Devereux took the position that it only had to defend against claims it would ultimately have to indemnify, which wouldn’t include issues of Eckerd’s sole negligence.
Eckerd eventually got tired of Devereux being coy and sued them. The Second ruled Devereux was wrong. The end.
The moral of the story is that those contractual relationships matter when you’re trying to figure out who is responsible for what in a case. There is typically an answer buried somewhere in there. You just need to find it and hold that person or organization to its duties.
What’s going on in the legislature?
A bill that makes it a little easier for unwed fathers to assert parental rights passed both houses. It just has to be signed by the governor.
A bill to ban medical care for trans kids is also bouncing between the houses looking for consensus language. Dwyane Wade very publicly moved his family out of state because of things like this, which means someone is going to ban basketball and build a prison next to his house any minute now. These are difficult times.
There was probably lots more, but I’m at a conference for clinical law instructors this week and have to get to the sessions. There are two panels on abolition in the child welfare system. I’ll let you know how they go. Happy weekend.