Top Headlines for 11/18

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Child Welfare

Very interesting read from Patrick Yeagle of the Illinois Times, who breaks down the various ways in which Catholic Charities agencies handled the end of their contracts to handle foster and adoptive services for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services. The agencies, all connected to local dioceses, did not want to license foster and adoptive parents who were joined by civil union, and the state did not wish to create an exception for them.

One Catholic Charities agency is working with the state to transfer its cases to other providers, two are establishing independent nonprofits that will carry on the child welfare services, and another has dissociated from its diocese, reports Yeagle.

A task force charged with developing a plan for reform of Arizona’s child welfare system appeared eager to embrace creation of a separate, specially trained investigative unit to prioritize Child Protective Services calls, reports Mary Reinhart of the Arizona Republic

A few thousand miles north, reports Kimball Bennion of the Great Falls Tribune, Montana is working toward implementing changes in its child welfare system, according to Anna Whiting-Sorrel, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Changes afoot include “a shift from a statewide centralized intake system for child abuse reports to a localized system in which each county would deal with reports” and “an independent multidisciplinary board that would be set up to address complaints about Child and Family Services,” reports Bennion.

A Texas child psychiatrist, fired this week from his job at a state hospital, was allowed to continue working with minors at the facility for five months while the state investigated allegations of sexual abusing a minor against him, reports Andrea Ball and Eric Dexheimer of the Statesman. Officials say Dr. Charles Fischer’s interactions with patients was restricted while the investigation proceeded.

Education/Jobs

The Administration for Children and Families has a new leader on early childhood development, reports David Gray of Early Ed Watch. Linda Smith, former executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, will replace the outgoing Joan Lombardi.

Zinie Chen Sampson of the Washington Examiner reports on a study that says suspensions and expulsions have not helped make Virginia schools safer but has put more of its students at risk of dropping out and getting arrested.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency that opened for business this summer, is asking the public for feedback on issues borrowers may run into with private student loans.

State budget cuts in California may force schools to shorten their academic years, reports Juliet Williams and Judy Lin of the Associated Press, which would in turn force more child care costs on many families.

Juvenile Justice

The Florida Times-Union published an interesting version of an editorial yesterday regarding the case of Cristian Fernandez, a 12-year-old Florida boy who has been charged as an adult with the murder of his two-year-old brother. The editorial board essentially passed on the sentiments of juvenile justice advocate Lawanda Ravoira, who identified for the board a number of times that the state should have intervened in Cristian’s life before the fateful day when he slammed his baby brother against a bookshelf.

Fernandez’s public defender, Matt Shirk, made a bold move this week by rejecting a plea offer that would place the boy in juvenile facilities until, at the most, age 21. Fernandez would have had to admit to second-degree murder.

Shirk rejected the deal, saying the defense would not agree to any deal that would keep Fernandez in custody after 18. He is pushing for the case to get sent to juvenile court.

In Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati), the departure of 10 out of the 11 top juvenile court administrators has left the court scrambling to handle its caseload, reports Kimball Perry of Cincinnati.com.