foster care parents

San Francisco has long been a pioneer of social change. Just this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors added to its long history of pushing for a stronger community with its approval of six weeks of fully-paid leave for all new parents. This is the first such city-wide legislation to be passed in the country, and it’s expected for California’s state boards to quickly follow after San Francisco’s lead.

Under this new legislation, all new parents, both birth parents and foster care parents, will be entitled to the benefit as long as they meet the following conditions: Have been employed by a single employer for a minimum of 180 days, work a minimum of eight hours per week within the county or city of San Francisco, spend a minimum of 40 percent of their working hours within the county or city of San Francisco, and have been proven eligible to receive paid family leave from the State of California through the California Paid Family Leave for the express purpose for bonding with a new child or teenager. This new law requires the parent’s employer to meet 100 percent of the his or her normal gross weekly pay following assistance from the California Paid Family Leave law.

California’s Paid Family Leave law was passed in 2002 and was the first state-wide law of its kind. With its passing, all employees who contribute to the State Disability Insurance fund are eligible to receive up to 55 percent of their pay for six weeks after a newborn’s birth, the signing of adoption papers for a child, the placement of a child into foster care, or to take in care for a seriously ill family member.

Current California Government Jerry Brown has been a strong proponent of several similar pro-worker initiatives. On April 11, he signed into law new legislation to increase the amount of paid leave from 55 percent of their pay to either 60 percent or 70 percent (depending upon the employee’s income). This legislation also included provisions to progressively raise the state’s mandated minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2022. In tandem with these efforts, the leader of California’s Senate is pushing to provide tax-free retirement savings plans for the more than 7.5 million workers living and working in the state without employer-provided retirement plans.

According to The New York Times, lawmakers in San Francisco and California felt that there’s no other way to push for worker rights initiatives for new birth, adoption, and foster care parents than to introduce such local bill as there is currently no political climate for real change occurring on the federal level.

“Whether it’s paid parental leave, infrastructural investment, minimum wage, paid sick leave or addressing carbon emissions, we know the states have to act,” said Scott Wiener, the supervisor who was the first to introduce the measure.

Photo by:  Giu Vicente

On Friday, April 15, the California Judicial Council approved a new series of safeguards to help stem the abuse of psychotropic medicating throughout the state foster care system.

These new restrictions are expected to be put into the place as soon as July, and will both require doctors to make more convincing cases to begin new prescriptions as well as impel caregivers to give greater detail on how in-care youth react to currently-subscribed psychotropic medications. Most importantly, youth within the foster care will be offered greater opportunity to voice their own opinions about medications prescribed and how they make them feel.

California has long been on the cusp of the over-medicating discussion, being the only state in the nation to require court approval for any and all psychiatric medications written for foster care youth. Yet critics decried the prior-lack of judicial oversight, saying the approval process worked too much like rubber stamping, with psychotropic prescription requests being only partially filled and objections frequently waved away.

With these new rules, doctors will be required to state a full reasoning for any prescriptions made and the results of any relative lab tests with those drugs. The courts will also expect to hear how pharma and non-pharma treatments utilized in the past affected the specific foster care youth involved, and exact specifications for how the prescribed medication is expected to improve the youth’s symptoms.

These sweeping reforms promise to shed new light on one of the foster care system’s biggest issues: Overmedication. Experts estimate nearly one in four children in foster care have been subscribed at least one psychotropic medication–over four times the rate for children nationwide. While the right medication can bring positive change for those in need, the wrongful prescription of certain psychotropic medications can have serious negative consequences, even death.

If you have been injured or abused and are in need of a personal injury lawyer in Torrance or Los Angeles, please contact the Booth & Koskoff office nearest you for a free personal injury case evaluation.

archdiocese sexual abuse lawsuit

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a Long Beach Catholic all-girls high school have been issued a sexual abuse lawsuit this month by a former student and her father who allege that both entities bear responsibility for sexual abuse committed by a volunteer school coach. That coach, Scott Landerville, 56, shot himself in July 2015 after being confronted by the teenager’s father.

The plaintiffs in this Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit identify themselves as John and Jane Doe and are seeking reparative damages totaling $15 million from both parties. This complaint alleges child sexual abuse, false imprisonment, assault and battery, as well as intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress on the part of Scott Landerville and the failure of administrators to adequately investigate rumors regarding Landerville’s questionable conduct with young girls when working as a coach at St. Lucy Catholic School.

According to the complaint, Jane Doe moved into the Landerville home in September 2014 as a type of foster home while her father was recovering from a devastating automobile accident out-of-state (situations with her mother were not amiable to staying). The suit states that Jane Doe was excited at the prospect as the opportunity allowed her to finish out the remainder of her senior year at the Catholic high school with her friends, as well as enable her to continue on with her volleyball team. Landerville and the Doe family had up to this point been in good friendship.

However, within four months of moving into the household, Landerville allegedly began making inappropriate comments of a sexual nature regarding the teenager’s body and denigrated John Doe’s parenting and Jane Doe’s boyfriend. The verbal abuse turned to physical and sexual abuse in February 2015 when Jane Doe was 17 years old.

After Jane Doe reported the sexual abuse to her father, John Doe returned to Long Beach to confront Landerville. Two days following this event, Landerville committed suicide in his backyard. The suit makes note that Jane Doe continues to have “thoughts of suicide and severe guilt over Scott killing himself.”

While the archdiocese and the school are not being indicted for the sexual abuse itself, they are being accused of knowing about Landerville’s “dangerous and exploitive propensities” with the young girls in his charge. The lawsuit alleges that the sexual abuse occurred due to the Principal’s unwillingness to thoroughly vet Landerville and later allow him continued contact with children without supervision after questions were raised about potential misconduct.

If you have been injured or abused and are in need of a personal injury lawyer in Torrance or Los Angeles, please contact the Booth & Koskoff office nearest you for a free personal injury case evaluation.

youth mentor abuse

A recent Bay Area investigation into some of California’s group homes found disturbing evidence of 815 violations over the course of just the last five years. These aren’t minor violations either. This staggering amount of violations reflects those that posed an “immediate risk” to children and teens, including the physical and sexual abuse of children and at risk youth.

California legislators and social care workers announced last fall that they recognized the issue of group homes and their negative impact on at risk youth. The state is currently in the process of implementing a new multi-year plan designed to replace the private-run and failing group homes with new ‘short-term residential treatment centers’ designed to keep children and other at risk youth for stays lasting no more than six months. This impetus comes at the bequest of a new law that was put into action in 2016.

Unfortunately, while the plan is a step in the right direction, the distressing amount of violations makes this ‘multi-year’ plan a less than ideal option for the many at risk youth currently suffering in California’s dysfunctional group homes, and for much longer than the ‘less than six months’ desired by legislatures. Of the 5,800 children and teenagers currently living in larger group homes, over a 1,000 of them have lived in such an environment of over five years, years that are considered by most every research study the most formative in one’s life.

During the investigation of the Bay Area group homes, reports were found of allegations against employees physically abusing children, using drugs with and around children, using behavior modification drugs as punishment, and much more, including multiple accounts of their being a lack of food and proper nutrients available for the at risk youth in the facilities. These are serious allegations against privately-run group homes. Discerning citizens might expect a revocation of a license and shuttering following such reports, yet all of the group homes where these violations occurred are open and inhabitated by risk youth.

When asked what is being done to keep at risk youth in group homes safe, Michael Weston, spokesperson for the Department of Social Services, said they have a “process that we go through“. When pushed on shutting the doors to troubled locations, Weston responded, “The administrative process does not give the authority to the department to close the facility without doing a lot of legal work.”

If you have been injured or abused and are in need of a personal injury lawyer in Torrance or Los Angeles, please contact the Booth & Koskoff office nearest you for a free personal injury case evaluation.

youth mentor abuse

In November 2015, police arrested youth mentor Patrick Dauphin, 45, on suspicion of sexual battery against one of his charges. Morgan Hill police have yet to disclose any details except for identifying the victim as a 17-year-old old boy and Dauphin as a facilitator with the San Jose-based nonprofit Unity Care Group, an agency primarily serving at risk youth in the surrounding counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Placer.

According to the Morgan Hill police, Dauphin has worked with Unity Care organization for around 10 years and was, at the time of his arrest, working with ten at risk youth minors. The Unity Care Group fired Dauphin shortly after the arrest for breaching the organization’s professional boundaries policy.

In a statement following Dauphin’s termination, Unity Care underscored the isolated nature of the incident as not having occurred at any location connected with Unity Care, and for it being the first arrest connected with an allegation of youth mentor abuse with at risk youth in the nonprofit organization’s 22-year history. The teen victim stated that the incident happened in a Morgan Hill home associated with Dauphin.

At Risk Youth And Mentor Abuse

Unity Care annually works with an average of 6,000 at risk youth throughout Northern California. While the law defines at risk youth as being any minor who has either been absent from their home for over 72 hours without guardian consent, has severe behavioral problems that are beyond the scope of guardians, or has a serious substance abuse problem, who these children and teenagers are is a bit more nuanced.

That’s because such legal definitions tend to describe it as the youth who are failing in some manner or task necessary to achieve and maintain a productive and happy life. However, when examining the causes of their being ‘at risk’, it’s often that it is the adults and adult-organized institutions who fail their charges and lead them into situations wherein teenagers are labeled as ‘at risk youth’.

Poverty is the single-largest predictor of whether or not a child will fall into the label and pitfalls of becoming ‘at risk’ and being unable to successfully transition into adulthood. A recent US Department of Health and Human Services study discovered that youth within low-income families are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activity, join a gang, steal property valued at over $50, incite a violent attack, fight, and/or run away, and are much less likely to graduate with a four-year college degree when compared to youth from middle and higher income families.

Additionally, another study found that children and teenagers from low-income families were 22 times more likely to experience some sort of maltreatment or abuse than youth from higher income ($30,000+) families. Such is the situation of the aforementioned 17-year-old victim.

It is the very mission of mentoring organizations like Unity Care Group to provide a safe, secure, and positive mentoring environment for underserved and at risk youth. Just over half the at risk youth Unity Care serves every year, 3,500, are within the foster system and without a strong family center with a stable income and job prospects. Through their mentoring and similar programs, Unity Care Group strives to help their charges overcome their environmental challenges to make that successful transition into adulthood.

It’s thereby a travesty that the very organization designed to nix the ‘at risk’-ness of their enrolled at risk youth is the one who employed the alleged assailant. Already at risk youth suffer from the failing of adult scenarios and situations like poverty and underfunded schools, suffering abuse again at the hands of youth mentors and organizations striving to aide the teens is criminal in and of itself.

Photo by Nick Miller via Unsplash.