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Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Are foster kids helped, harmed by open hearings May 28, 2012|Kelli Kennedy, Associated Press

Excerpts from the original article my quotes are italicized in response to what was not specified.

"A California judge’s decision to open a county’s child welfare hearings earlier this year has energized a debate among advocates in other states about whether greater transparency helps or harms the young victims appearing in family court." ... nearly 20 states, including Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois, those hearings are usually open to the public"

Usually, and open are two different things; if you want accountability usually needs to be ALWAYS because:

"Proponents say transparency leads to better decisions by putting a spotlight on judges, exposes the blunders of child welfare workers and gives the public a better understanding of how the system works. ... “Confidentiality has done more to protect the system than to protect the children in the system,’’ said Michael Nash, chief presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s children’s court. He ruled in January that dependency hearings in his county will be open to the public unless there is proof the child will be harmed."

Children rarely testify in these hearings and if they were allowed to the court room could be sequestered. Its a thing we do with wittiness's in every other court; so they do not feed off of each others testimony.

"But critics say children will be further traumatized by testifying about abuse in a courtroom full of strangers. The Children’s Law Center of California, which represents most children in the Los Angeles County system, asked the state appeals court to overturn Nash’s decision, but that move was rejected."

Good because again sequestered means isolated from whats going on in court and it even flys for rape trials. But there is no reason for the entire proceeding to be behind closed doors.

"Executive Director Leslie Starr Heimov says it’s unfair to compare states that have open hearings with California because children don’t have a legal right to attend hearings in many states. More than 200 children attend hearings every day at the Los Angeles courthouse."

In New Hampshire under NH RSA 169 “‘[P]arty having an interest’ means the child” (RSA 169-C:3 (XXI-a)); yet these children who ARE recognized as having rights; are not appointed an attorney to represent those rights; and in the entire system statewide in NH there are only "two Judges" and only one who consistently takes the time to talk with children privately without it recorded about what is going on in their case; my guess is he better understands what the two sides are trying to bring to his attention and better act in the Child's best interests.

“It’s difficult and it’s painful and they’re in the system through no fault of their own and to create a system where there’s forced to endure more pain, that’s harmful,’’ Heimov said."

This women works for the Children's law center in California;  you really have to wonder from reviewing the site whose side she is really on; open courts provide oversite and accountability for her team as well; possibly the problem they fear most - when like NH with Guardian's Ad Liteum's who meet the child once and write reports based on fiction; parents beware look at their reports and for those alleged statements of fact; ask them did you witness this? No? where did you get your information? and then slam them with the real facts and bring in rebuttal wittiness's.

"Family courts have opened gradually since the early 1980s, beginning with Oregon. An advocate for child welfare reform says that among the states that have followed suit, New York and Missouri’s moves in the late 1990s were particularly significant. The change is usually spurred by a horrific child abuse case or a push from local media to gain access. The beating death of 6-year-old Elisa Izquierdo by her mother prompted the opening of New York family courts in 1997 and the passage of a state open-records law referred to as “Elisa’s Law.’’

Do we really need another child to die; to realize that the courts need to be open to be accountable?

“Social workers were identified as falsifying records and lying in court, and I heard horror stories from family court judges. The lack of transparency has harmed far too many families and children in Kentucky,’’ Westrom said.

Across the country and in New Hampshire we have been fighting for open courts; law makers are suppose to enact laws that their voters want.

"Activist Gail Helms has fought for open courts in California since her 2-year-old grandson Lance was beaten to death by his father in 1995, shortly after the man was awarded custody despite a history of drug use. The boy’s father was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder."

Again, how many Children have to die before legislators understand the realities of closed court rooms in America!

“They need to have someone in there to monitor and see what goes on in those courtrooms,’’ said Helms, whose efforts have included protests and remarks at public forums.

"Wexler said that despite some initial protest when hearings are opened, no state has reclosed them." “In every state there are lots of people worried and upset that courts are going to be opened and then a few years later everybody forgets the courts were ever closed. The disasters that everybody worried about never happened and there is a modest uptick in attention. It’s constructive,’’ said Matt Fraidin, a law professor at the University of the District of Columbia. Lawyers in Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Oregon, and Utah told Fraidin no problems have been reported since opening courtrooms there."

In every state the only people worried about open courts are the ones abusing the system. Children lives taken to soon should not be martyrs. John B.S. Haldane once said: "While I do not suggest that humanity will ever be able to dispense with its martyrs, I cannot avoid the suspicion that with a little more thought and a little less belief their number may be substantially reduced."

Let's add a little more thought to the discussion of Open court rooms in the foster care system and a little less belief that Child Protection Service's is there for the greater good; my guess is with open courts we will prevent more deaths, it will prevent children who become wards of the State from being abused in foster care and needlessly drugged because it will require accountability.

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