ABA Resolution Seeks to Prevent Foster Kids Becoming Homeless

The ABA House of Delegates met last Monday, February 10, 2014, at the Midyear Meeting in Chicago, Illinois to debate and vote on a wide range of public policy issues.

One Resolution on the table, which was submitted by the Commission on Youth at Risk, “urges governments to enact and implement legislation and policies which prohibit youth from transitioning from foster care to a status of homelessness, or where a former foster youth will lack a permanent connection to a supportive adult.” This Resolution, Resolution 109A, was adopted.

The Resolution says governments and courts should provide support for housing assistance for children who turn 18 while in foster care and that dependency cases should not be dismissed until a Court finds that the child has (1) housing, (2) a permanent connection with at least one supportive adult, and for youths with disabilities, (3) a transition to adult systems that provide health care and other support.

The Resolution cited a report that followed over 700 children who had been in the foster care system in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. 36% of the former foster care children reported at least one instance of homelessness by the age of 26. The Resolution explained that “further action is needed to help former foster youth find safe and secure housing and avoid homelessness,” suggesting that Courts “simply forbid a child leaving foster care from becoming immediately homeless.”

In support of the second requirement (that the Court find the child has a permanent connection with at least one supportive adult), the Resolution explains that, “youth need stable and caring relationships with committed adults in order to transition smoothly into adulthood and avoid negative outcomes like poverty and unemployment.” In 2009, 80% of eighteen-year-olds who aged out of foster care through emancipation had no permanent family to turn to.

As it relates to the disabled youth in foster care, the Resolution argues that states “pay special attention to the transition needs of youth with disabilities because youth with disabilities are over-represented in the child welfare system and are at greater risk for poorer outcomes than their non-disabled system-involved peers.” Special transition planning requirements must be put in place because the successful transition of youth with disabilities requires accessing benefits, services, and supports in adult systems that operate by rules and eligibility criteria very different than the child serving systems.  Many of these services and supports have long waiting lists, are not entitlements, and require careful and early planning to ensure that the youth can access them upon discharge.  In addition, because many of these youth cannot rely on a parent or caregiver to help them navigate this complicated transition, clear requirements and procedures for transition planning for these youth is essential to their health and well-being.

homeless

Five Years to Serve, Justice Hardly Served

A Wisconsin man and his wife were sentenced to five years each for imprisoning their teenage daughter in their basement for six years. Apparently the father testified during trial that he tried to get his daughter to become a ward of the state because he could not care for her. The couple’s justification for imprisoning their daughter was that the family needed to be protected since she suffered from mental health issues. It sounds like she was the one who needed protection.  It also is understandable that the teenage girl might have mental health issues from being imprisoned by her own parents for over half a decade.

Additionally, the girl’s older stepbrother faces charges of sexual assault against her. His trial will begin this month. The alleged acts initiated by the step brother occurred numerous times. It is unclear whether the parents were aware of their son’s actions.

While it is undoubtedly shocking to hear of the abuse and neglect this teenage girl went through, it seems even more appalling that it took so long for anyone to notice. While the girl was home-schooled and thus, probably did not get out as much, there must have been someone who knew of her existence and could inquire as to her whereabouts for the past six years. The 15 year old girl was seen by a passerby in her pajamas looking overly malnourished (68 pounds) leading to an investigation and the charges being brought in 2012. It is two years later and the parents are just now facing the consequences of their actions.

This young girl was imprisoned for five years and prevented from enjoying aspects of life that are inherent in our day to day routines. She was deprived food multiple times, but even when her parents provided food, she had to eat of the floor. She had to use the restroom in boxes and bathe in a utility sink. Not only did this experience toll on the teenage girl mentally, but she was also physically abused. The teenage girl also stated that she was forced to eat her own excrement multiple times.

The exchange of those six years of her life, and arguably more time considering she will most likely continue to struggle with the awful memories of her experience, with the five years both parents will serve does not seem just. This teenage girl needs to know that her parent’s actions were cruel and deserving of more than five years. It is clear that her parents have already set a horrid example of how to treat others and your children. Could this court not have provided a better example by sentencing these parents to at least six years, equaling the minimal amount of time they stole from their daughter? It seems the court could find plenty of justification for a sentence of way more than five years.

For more information:

http://news.yahoo.com/wisconsin-man-sentenced-starving-imprisoning-daughter-235640721.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons

http://host.madison.com/news/local/crime_and_courts/ffd78388-76e3-58a5-97a6-1d788d8b4660.html

10 Missing Children Cases Potentially Linked to Greek Mystery Girl

http://news.yahoo.com/mystery-girl-greek-roma-camp-abandoned-mother-lawyers-181620606.html

From Elinda Labropoulou and Laura Smith-Spark at CNN:

About 10 cases of missing children are “being taken very seriously” in connection with the suspected abduction of a girl by a Roma couple in Greece, a spokesman for a Greek children’s charity said Tuesday.

“They include children from the United States, Canada, Poland and France,” said Panagiotis Pardalis of the Smile of the Child charity.

In a case that has generated huge interest in Greece, authorities have charged the Roma couple with abducting the child they call “Maria.” They appeared in court Monday and were remanded into custody pending a trial.

A lawyer for the couple says the pair adopted the child from her biological mother.

The Smile of the Child said the girl, who was found Thursday in a Roma community near Larissa, central Greece, is now being cared for in a group home.

Medical tests carried out on the girl since she was found indicate she is between 5 and 6 years old, slightly older than initially thought, said Pardalis.Police have said they are suspicious of the records the couple provided for the child and for other children in their care. In addition to the abduction charge, the couple is accused of falsifying official documents.

Four officials, including the head of the registry office from which Maria got her birth certificate, have been suspended while a police investigation is under way, the media office of the Athens municipality said Tuesday.

The girl received the document this year, it said. It is unusual for a birth certificate to be issued years later.

1,000 years of Roma discrimination

Authorities asked questions about Maria because she has fair skin and blond hair, while her parents have darker complexions typical of Roma, a race descended from Indian nomads who face widespread discrimination in Europe.

Haralambos Dimitriou, head of the local Roma community, said the couple took the girl in because her Bulgarian mother couldn’t keep her. He said Maria was raised like a “normal” child.

Pardalis said Sunday that she was found in “bad living conditions, poor hygiene.”

Calls about the girl

Thousands of calls poured into Greece after authorities released photos of the girl last week.

Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, whose daughter Lisa Irwin vanished from their home in Kansas City, Missouri, two years ago aged about 11 months, asked the FBI to get in touch with Greek authorities when they heard about the case.

“There is no such thing as a tip too small,” said Bradley, whose hopes were raised despite the apparent disparity in age between their missing daughter and the girl found in Greece.

Authorities released photos of the two adults charged in the case Monday — Eleftheria Dimopoulou, age 40, and 39-year-old Christos Salis — in the hope that the publicity would reach someone who can provide more information about them.

Police said the blond child looked nothing like the man and woman with her, and DNA testing confirmed that they were not her biological parents.

A police statement said the couple “changed repeatedly their story about how they got the child.”

A government news agency said police found suspicious birth and baptism records as well as family registrations that claimed the woman had given birth to 10 children and the man was the father of four more.

Prejudice against the Roma

Prejudice and discrimination against the Roma are widespread in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, Amnesty International says.

Maria’s case plays into old prejudices about them stealing children for forced labor.

Pardalis mentioned such a possibility, saying, “We don’t have any other information if this girl was forced to work or to beg on streets.”

And the government news agency raised “the possibility of the existence of a ring bringing pregnant women to Greece from Bulgaria and then taking their children for sale.” The agency also cited past “reports” that empty coffins were found for infants who supposedly were stillborn to foreign mothers in Athens.

While there is a risk that old prejudices are at work here leading to these suspicions, DNA tests can prove who her parents are as well as the other 10 missing children. This story has given more light to the grave issue of human trafficking. Not only is human trafficking prevalent in the rest of the world, it is sadly all too common in the United States, with Houston, Texas as a hub for trafficked victims.