AbleChild's Concern is that Federal Court Decision May Place More Children At Risk

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A recent court decision traffics more children into a flawed state care system based on vague term "at risk".

Last month, in Juan F., et al. v. M. Jodi Rell, et al., the United States District Court in the District of Connecticut held that Connecticut's Department of Family Services ("DCF") could not suspend new intakes of children into its Voluntary Services Program (the "Program"). (Juan F. v. O'Neill and Juan F. v. Rowland FILE No., COURT, and DATE FILED civ. No-H-89-859 (D.C. Conn., Dec. 19, 1989); 93-7714 (2d Cir. Oct. 13, 1994). http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/01/prweb3514524.htm

According to the Court, the decision to suspend new intakes would unilaterally cut off the service lifeline for vulnerable, at-risk children. The Court explained that any suspension of intakes would leave children at imminent risk of irreparable harm, and place the defendants in violation of their settlement obligations. Ironically, a point often forgotten, is the fact that the original plaintiff/child in the case, Juan F., died while under State care.

The Court ultimately concluded that children accepted into the Program must be accepted by the State because these "at-risk" children were part of the original settlement in the lawsuit. AbleChild addressed the flawed intake methods in a friend of the court brief. The concern of AbleChild is that many of the children identified for the Program are not "at-risk." "The real danger is that some of these children, who are not 'at-risk', will now be put into harm’s way by taking them away from their families without cause and forcing them to ingest dangerous psychotropic medications," says Sheila Matthews, Cofounder of AbleChild.

Unfortunately, with the good intent of helping "at risk" children, AbleChild points out that the Court ignored the State's current faulty intake methods for determining which children are truly “at risk.” Ms. Matthews who has testified on behalf of children rights both on the Federal and State level, went further to state that, "Often times, the State concludes a child is 'at risk' without any justification. Children are taken away from their families on the basis of a single phone call into a 'hotline' and even without the filing of a police incident report. When this happens, innocent children are unjustly put at risk, and the child's family is forced to prove to a court that their child is not in danger."

AbleChild appreciates the Court's concern regarding the well-being of all of Connecticut's children; however, Ablechild also recognizes that children who enter DCF, regardless of whether the children are "at-risk," are typically diagnosed with a mental illness and treated with psychotropic drugs. Ablechild believes the parties, and the Court, should make a commitment to first insuring that no child is unnecessarily taken away from their family.

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Sheila Matthews
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