Adoption and Safe Families Act

This law comes up in Juvenile Abuse/Neglect cases I handle. A starting point to learn about it is here.

Some of the major provisions of the law include:

  • Requires that States move to terminate parental rights for children who have been in Foster Care for 15 out of the last 22 months
  • Exceptions to the 15/22 rule include:[4]
    1. When the child is in a Foster Home with a biological relative (Kinship Care)
    2. When the Agency documents a compelling reason why parental termination is not in the Child’s best interest
    3. When the State has failed to provide services necessary for reunification
  • Requires that Permanency Hearings be held every 12 months
  • Clarifies cases in which States are not required to reunite Families (Aggravated Circumstances)
  • Expands family preservation and support services
  • Extends subsidies for adoptive children
  • Provides incentives for States to improve adoption rates
  • Requires States to document efforts to move children toward adoption
  • Expands health care coverage for adoptive children
  • Provides funding for efforts at encouraging adoption
  • Clarifies that interstate boundaries should not delay adoption.

Termination of Parental Rights and the Incarcerated Parent

The Missouri Supreme Court handed down on January 5, 2017 its decision in In the Interest of J.P.B. This is an important case for the termination of parental rights for incarcerated parents. J.P.B. provides guidance on bases for terminating rights and the limitations on constitutional and procedural rights for incarcerated parents facing termination.

Child Abuse: Mandated Reporters

Some of us are mandated reporters, including all sorts of professionals responsible for the care of children. Sometimes mandated reporters need guidelines. The Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services publishes a useful handbook, Guidelines for Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Children’s Interests: An Annotated Bibliography, 2013-2015

A professor of mine when I was in law school, Nancy Levit, published this past fall in the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, “Children’s Interests: An Annotated Bibliography, 2013-2015,” a bibliography of law review articles. The bibliography itself reads something like a dictionary, but it is a useful tool to find resources for recent scholarly work on various topics relevant to family court practice.

Family Law Resource Guide

The Family Law Resource Guide is published by the Missouri Bar and available for free here. The guide gives some background information about juveniles, marriage, divorce (aka, “dissolution”), child support, adoption, co-parenting and children with law resource guidecover

Latest Missouri Family Law Appellate Opinions

Client Thank You

I really appreciate it when a happy client ends a case and lets me know things are looking up. Yesterday, a happy mother brought me a gift basket and a thank you note with a picture of her child and his doggie.

“Thank you so much for the constant support. It has meant a lot.”

Children’s Division and Teaching Your Kid to Drive

Not the actual car in the case.

They won’t take your kids just because you teach them to drive.

Daughter, 14 years old, had an accident with injury while mom’s boyfriend was teaching her to drive. Children’s Division substantiated a hotline against the boyfriend for neglect. Substantiation was upheld at the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board. Trial de novo held in circuit court. Trial court found Division failed to prove at evidentiary hearing that the boyfriend neglected the daughter and ordered his name removed from the Central Registry. Division appealed but the trial court’s finding was affirmed. Division had the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Mother’s boyfriend neglected daughter. Division argued boyfriend was negligent in violating statute about unlicensed operator driving the vehicle. “Negligence” and “neglect” are not the same. “Negligence” is based upon an external and objective standard of conduct, not personal or subjective intent. “Neglect” focuses on physical deprivation or harm and the intent, generally inferred, determined by conduct. Subjective intent may or may not be considered by the court. Trial court believed boyfriend that he did not intend to harm daughter or physically deprive her of anything. Negligence is not necessarily neglect. In the Interest of Sercl, No. SD33396 (Mo.App. S.D. July 22, 2015).

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