Nevada System

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Nevada System

Postby Marina » Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:11 pm



Nevada Supreme Court Sets Foster Child Precedent

Sep 24, 2007 09:47 AM EDT

The Nevada Supreme Court has issued a ruling that sets a new precedent for placing foster children with families.

The court decided last week that judges must consider the best interests of the child over other factors in deciding where to place children.

Previously judges were given some leeway to give preference to family members of children permanently removed from their parents.

But a unanimous decision filed Thursday ordered a Clark County district judge to drop his decision to place a now 4-year-old girl with with her aunt and uncle, rather than foster parents.

A judge still could decide to place the girl with her relatives. But under the high court's new ruling such an order must be based solely on whether it is in the girl's best interests.


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Postby Marina » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:57 pm

. ... 26348.html

November 12, 2007 at 7:5:55 PST

In foster care, siblings separated or left waiting

Grant will finance home for brothers, sisters

By Abigail Goldman
Las Vegas Sun

Claire's assigned bedroom is painted pink and plastered with photographs. One picture is of her brother, smiling. (He lives across the street.) Another is of her younger sister, standing with her hair pulled back. (She moved out last week.)

"She left me," Claire said.

It's estimated that 70 percent of children in the foster care system are in it with their siblings - and not just sets of two or three kids, but groups of five or six. Clans that are often sent to different homes until someone, anyone, can make them whole.

At least that's the goal. The reality is quite different. Siblings in the system, whether placed in shelters or in county-run foster homes, are often separated simply because no other option exists. For children who have already lost their parents and seen their home lives shredded, this separation can rip at the seams of what's left.

Thomas Waite, executive director of the Girls and Boys Town of Nevada, gives one example: At the Vegas residential facility, one group of siblings, two girls and a boy, live as neighbors and have to cross the street to see each other. And they're the lucky ones.

Other children in the system have found themselves utterly separated and have little contact with siblings.

For families of four and five children, finding a single home has been nearly impossible, Waite said.

But the situation is changing, at least for a handful of children.

A $350,000 grant from the Nevada Women's Philanthropy will enable Girls and Boys Town to build a siblings home: a 5,000-square-foot house that, like all the residential properties on the foster care campus, will house nine children full time under the care of a married couple who also live in the house.

Here, sibling groups from one or more families can live together in a co-ed and age-diverse environment, which is an exception to the rule in the foster care system, Waite said.

"The goal for these kids," Waite said, "is to experience what a normal large family would look like." Waite acknowledges that nine children represent a tiny minority of children passing through the system. "We serve 1,000 kids a year (through Girls and Boys Town) and even that is a drop in the bucket in terms of what we are dealing with."

Still, he said, it's a start.

The Nevada Women's Philanthropy awarded the grant Nov. 2. Construction is slated to begin in April and be completed next November, Waite said.

It will not be the first sibling house in the Las Vegas Valley. Child Haven, the county's public shelter for abused and neglected children, operates the Howard Cottage, where 12 children are housed with their brothers and sisters.

Still, there are 62 children who live in the shelter's more traditional housing, which is segregated by gender and age. Of all the children, 57 have siblings who are also at the shelter. Some have been separated out of necessity, said Christine Skorupski, public information officer for Clark County Family Services.

Sometimes a child needing a higher level of care must live separately in a home that is designed to meet his needs. And there are siblings who share only one parent, and are therefore divided among different relatives who promise to keep the children in touch with each other.

Sometimes the family is just too big, and finding a foster parent willing to take them all in "is not even a matter of who has a big enough heart," Skorupski said. "It's who has a big enough home."

"It obviously poses some placement challenges, and (siblings) have a tendency of staying with us a little longer," she said.

From April to June last year, there were some 6,000 children in Nevada's foster care system. On average, those children spent slightly more than 15 months in temporary care, according to the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services.

Unless foster homes can be found to accommodate a family of children, Waite sees the Girls and Boys Club sibling residence as a long-term home, where children won't have to fear being bumped around by the system that is supposed to care for them.

Waite wants to provide a secure environment for siblings until they have completed high school and can move out on their own.

"My goal is to make this the last place they are going to be," Waite said. "If we can create permanency, we can really make a difference in their lives for the first time."

Abigail Goldman can be reached at 259-8806 or at [email protected].


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Postby Marina » Sun Mar 30, 2008 7:38 pm


Judge upholds state's removal of children from rural 'academy'

Associated Press - March 28, 2008 8:45 PM ET

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled in favor of the state Division of Child and Family Services which was sued by some of the parents of 30 children the agency removed from a Christian-based boarding school after hearing claims of sexual activity, neglect and other problems.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of Reno against the unlicensed Abundant Life Academy in White Pine County was praised by the state attorney general's office, which represented the division.

In his decision dismissing the lawsuit against the division, Hicks said the state "had a compelling interest" that superseded the rights of the protesting parents who had given the academy custody of their children.


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Postby Marina » Sun May 11, 2008 12:03 pm


Colleen McCarthy, Investigative Reporter


DFS Placed Kids in Homes Without Background Checks

Updated: Feb 6, 2008 06:40 PM EST

The Channel 8 I-Team has learned that Clark County's Department of Family Services has been placing children in homes without the completion of a background check.

DFS Director Tom Morton says he first discovered the practice last summer and then ordered that no child should be placed in a home until everyone in that home passed a background check.

Despite his directive, he recently discovered 14 new cases involving children who were placed with family or friends prior to a review of their criminal histories.

Federal law and county policy require case managers to run a background check and to fingerprint anyone who may take custody of a child. For that reason, access to the National Crime Information Center or NCIC is available to county staff 24 hours a day.

Morton believes workers may have been confused about whether an emergency placement with a relative or friend required a background check. He says he's made it clear -- it does.

"I have worked to clean up the practice and staff tell me the number of instances have declined significantly. I've also taken steps to clarify that this really is endangerment of children and I will respond very seriously to any instance of employee behavior that endangers a child," he said.

Morton has notified staff, failure to follow policy will result in disciplinary action. He says he's not aware of any cases currently where a child is in a home that hasn't been pre-screened.

He admits, however, that two children were previously removed from placements after a background check revealed someone in the home had a violent criminal past.


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Postby Marina » Sun Aug 17, 2008 4:12 pm

Colleen McCarty, Investigative Reporter
I-Team: County Child Welfare Ordered to Pay

Updated: Aug 7, 2008 09:25 PM EDT

Clark County will have to pay for its failure to release thousands of pages of child welfare records. A magistrate judge plans to impose monetary sanctions in a civil lawsuit facing the county's child welfare system.

The judge made it quite clear. He found the county's behavior in the case unacceptable. Despite two previous rulings in the lawsuit filed by the National Center for Youth Law, Clark County has failed to produce thousands of child welfare records.

The judge said, quite simply, get the discovery done. Clark County argued it would take staff two years to produce the records. Among them -- case files and institutional abuse reports involving foster children harmed in the county's care.

The judge called the county's timeline unacceptable in any case and ordered it to provide the bulk of the records by early October.

"I think it also sent a very clear message to them by saying that he's inclined to order monetary sanctions against the county. That this kind of behavior, the stalling, the production of important information about children, hiding things about this system will not be tolerated by the court," said Bill Grimm of the National Center for Youth Law.

The court plans to make the county pay attorney's fees related to this latest motion. The National Center for Youth Law does not yet have a cost estimate.

In response to Thursday's ruling, the county says, "It is premature to respond until we have an opportunity to review the court minutes and motions."

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Postby Marina » Tue Nov 25, 2008 5:55 pm

Colleen McCarty, Investigative Reporter
I-Team: Lawyers Question Medical Tests on Foster Kids

Updated: Nov 15, 2008 09:27 PM EST

Video Gallery <1>

I-Team: Lawyers Question Medical Tests on Foster Kids

This is a story about an eight-year-old boy in foster care. A boy we've never met. He exists for us only as a name on a letter questioning his mental health treatment. But his lawyer Janice Wolf wants us to remember Nathaniel is real.

"Some of the things our kids have gone through, you and I could only imagine in our dreams, or nightmares."

Nathaniel described vivid nightmares according psychiatric records obtained by the I-Team. During his first of two hospitalizations at Montevista, Dr. Mark Collins ordered a procedure called a brain spect. It requires the injection of radioactive material to illuminate blood flow in the brain.

Read the legal complaint

In a report to the family court, Collins writes the scan confirms Nathaniel has "severe bipolar disorder."

"I think my concern is that our foster kids are getting not just the best psychiatric care, but proper psychiatric care -- that they're not being mistreated, or experimented on, or used as investigational tools," said Wolf.

The American Psychiatric Association does not accept the use of brain imaging for the clinical diagnosis of children, in part, according to its literature, because of children's sensitivity to radiation and to risk of radiation-induced cancer.

Read a statement from the county about the procedures ... tement.doc

Dr. Collins likens the exposure to a common CT scan, "To not look at a child's brain who's had multiple treatments and is not getting better, it would be like if you had a heart attack and I'm saying, ‘you know what, you've had a heart attack before. We know you have a bad heart. I'm not going to do an electrocardiogram on you.'"

Collins argues the scans are a valuable tool to aid in the diagnosis of his sickest patients and insists not everybody gets a spec scan.

A recent Medicaid review by the Nevada State Department of Health and Human Services identified 96 Montevista patients who underwent brain imaging. The majority, according to the state, were kids in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems.

"I've been doing enough of them I see the utility in this. I see how important it is to take a look at these kid's brains. If I was not seeing the benefit, I would not continue to do it," said Dr. Collins.

Wolf however questions the benefit and again points to Nathaniel. A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of the eight-year-old challenged Collins' diagnosis and noted, "Spect scanning is not yet an accepted diagnostic method. Although it is interesting, it is not yet reliable."

Read a statement from Nevada Medicaid

"We are hoping that at least by raising the concern and raising the issue that others will look also, that people responsible for our kids will take a look at what it is and hopefully support us," said Wolf.

And support kids like Nathaniel whose stories come to life from the pages of a foster care case file.

Only a caseworker stands between a child and a controversial procedure. Collins insists he receives no payment related to the scans. He insists brain imaging will soon be accepted by the psychiatric community. There is certainly evidence he may be right but for now, it remains investigational.

Medicaid does not cover investigational procedures, like brain specs. However these claims slipped through to the tune of more than $33,000. The state has not yet decided whether to seek repayment and has issued a memo reiterating its policy.

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