The Tampa Bay Online is reporting and my inbox was blowing up all night: the ACLU has filed suit against DCF Secretary Wilkins (in his official capacity of course) over the mandatory drug testing of TANF recipients.
The lawsuit was inevitable, but the big question on everybody’s lips today is: will they serve Wilkins at the Dependency Summit? Get your camera phones ready.
The numbers don’t match up and there’s no explanation of why. For example, there were 19 sex abuse cases, but only 17 perpetrators. I’d also like to see the cases they lost/settled under $15,000. If there are 200 of those, then that’s significant. I’d also like an explanation as to why risk outlays plummeted 66% in 2010. I don’t supposed it’s because DCF suddenly did 150% better than ever.
On appeal, the mother argues that drug tests showing the use of drugs prescribed to her cannot support the conclusion that she failed to substantially comply with her case plan. Certainly, the legitimate use of prescribed medications should not lead to a parent’s loss of parental rights, but that is not the situation here. On multiple occasions, the mother possessed more medication, and in such a combination, as to belie any legitimate medical use. Additionally, she possessed unfilled prescriptions from several different physicians with dates close in time for the same medications. In short, this mother is the face of a problem of epidemic proportions—the obtaining of large quantities of prescription medications from numerous physicians.
I could find no other TPR case involving addiction to prescription medication or doctor shopping. The only similar case was C.A. v. DCF, 27 So. 3d 241 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010), where a permanent guardianship order was reversed and the case remanded for immediate reunification after an independent doctor said that the mother’s medications were appropriately administered. Obviously, these cases pose significant proof problems–the production of a single valid prescription usually negates any argument of misuse. It’s not every day, as in this case, where you find a parent carrying hundreds of pills in a purse.
But the policy proclamations and rhetoric in this opinion are interesting, including the footnote quote from Governor Scott stating that Florida is the epicenter of pill mills (he wasn’t too keen on doing anything about it, but that’s beside the point). Prescription drug addiction, which was previously a privilege of the rich, has become as available to the poor as fast food (using similar distribution models). And, as usual, the consequences for the same behaviors across classes is greatly disproportional. Cases beget cases, so look forward to future pill mill TPRs soon.
I wrote the organizers of the Florida Dependency Summit about whether there would be a promoted hashtag for the event. I’m still hoping for a response. Until then, I propose #FLDS11 as the tag. Tell your friends and followers!
From: Latham, Robert
Sent: Sat 8/27/2011 5:13 PM
Subject: summit on twitter?
I was wondering if the Summit planned on promoting a twitter hashtag so that participants can use it during the event?
The background is this: NACC is looking to set up certification programs for counsel working with children across the country. This includes GALs, AALs, government attorneys, and even parents’ attorneys. The plus sides are obvious: baseline education and training requirements, elevation of the profession to something worthy of requiring special expertise (which it is), and creating cross-organizational relationships of attorneys working in child advocacy.
Just about everyone who has thought or voted on the subject has agreed that it’s a good thing for the attorneys and children of Florida. With one glaring exception: the Florida Association of Counsel for Children (FACC) has taken a strong position against the certification. Why? To roughly quote one of its members: because the GAL Program will get its attorneys certified and then people will think they’re legitimate and we’ll never get rid of them.
The GAL Program’s response was appropriate and measured. Since this is a blog, my critique does not have to be. FACC’s position is short-sighted, ideologically inane, and harmful to their own goal of institutionalizing a representation model in which children are represented directly by competent counsel. Adopting their slant (which I don’t fully agree with), if you want the GAL Program gone, you’re going to have to offer a viable, scalable alternative. Currently, there is none. Good attorneys at DCF and the GAL Program leave on a daily basis to seek careers in other fields of law. That is the enemy. Starving the GAL Program of expertise only furthers the brain drain. By creating a real thing called a counsel for children, you give those attorneys a sense of identity and a level of competence to aim for. With that you hopefully increase the likelihood of them making a career of child advocacy instead of using it as just a band-aid job until something better comes along.