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					                        Perspective of a
                        Juvenile Court Judge
                        Judge Paul Boland




                        T
                                 he intense public attention focused on the problem of alcohol-
                                 and drug-exposed children is often too narrow. More than the
                                 infants and their mothers are involved. This problem is also
                        having a severe impact on the public health, child welfare, and juvenile
                        justice systems. Any effective policy response must consider and meet the
                        needs of these systems as well.
                             The juvenile court judge occupies a unique position. Like all other
                         judges, the juvenile court judge must apply the law to resolve a dispute.
                        For juvenile court judges handling abuse and neglect cases, however, the
                        law requires a new type of role. The judge must monitor whether child
                        welfare agencies have provided services to individual children and fami-
                        lies sufficient to comply with federal and state requirements that reason-
                        able efforts be made to keep the family together. This means that the
                        juvenile court judge must know what services are available in the com-
                        munity to support the family and how well child welfare agencies are
                        performing in individual cases and generally.
                             In performing these duties, the juvenile court judge often confronts
                        at least three problems: (1) the court caseload is so high that efficient
                        and effective judicial decision making is extremely difficult; (2) the lack
                        of legal representation for the child and severely overloaded child welfare
                        caseworkers further hinder proper preparation and handling of these
                        cases; and (3) although mandated by law, the resources to assist families
                        are often simply not available in a given community. This third problem
                        often requires juvenile court judges to be active in their communities in
                        encouraging development and coordination of resources.
Judge Paul Boland
                            These problems are not unique to abuse and neglect cases involving
was the presiding
judge of the Juvenile   alcohol- and drug-exposed children. Indeed, the increased pressure on
Court of Los Angeles    juvenile courts results from twin scourges: poverty and drug abuse.
County Superior
Court in 1989 and           During 1990, 20,000 children entered the Los Angeles County juve-
1990.                   nile justice system as a result of allegations of abuse and neglect. The
                        majority of these cases involved poor families. Nearly one in four children
                                                                                                       101




in Los Angeles County now lives in poverty. Over the last two decades,
poverty in this community has doubled from 12% to 24%. Poverty
introduces a whole set of stresses for a family, which, for some, leads to
abuse or neglect of their children.
     This increase in poverty also significantly contributes to the problem
of alcohol and drug abuse within the family. Cases involving alcohol- and
drug-dependent families have also been on the rise. In 80% of the
petitions filed in Los Angeles County last year, parental drug or alcohol
abuse represented a critical element in the case. Moreover, the number
of cases involving infants exhibiting drug or alcohol withdrawal symp-
toms at birth continues to rise at an alarming rate. In 1988, 2000
drug-exposed infant cases entered the Los Angeles juvenile court system.
In 1990 that number rose to 4000 cases.
     Future trends are even more disturbing. The Children’s Defense
Fund reports that families in the 1990s will be increasingly affected by
poverty and homelessness, and that 80% of poor and homeless families
will be abusing drugs and alcohol.

The Problem                                   grams—alcohol and drug treatment and
                                              testing, group counseling, parent skills
It is in the face of these twin scourges of   training—as prerequisites to family re-
family poverty and parental drug and alco-    unification. Yet, because of reduced
hol abuse that judges, social workers, and    funding for traditional, public-sector
counselors must try to protect children,      substance abuse programs; limited ex-
rehabilitate parents, and reunite families.   pansion of private, outpatient, and resi-
New resources have not kept pace with         dential programs; and a lack of
increased needs, and the widening gap is      comprehensive family-oriented drug re-
having an extremely harmful impact on         habilitation programs, the children and
both the system and the families. Consider    parents seen in the juvenile court all too
the following:                                often confront long waiting lists or even
                                              complete absence of services when seek-
n Each juvenile court judge in Los Ange-      ing help.
les is asked to make difficult decisions
affecting the lives of 350 children a week.
With the number of cases on each day’s        A judge now is able to devote an average of 10
court calendar, a judge now is able to
devote an average of 10 minutes to each       minutes to each child’s case . . . by 1995 judges will
child’s case. With court caseloads ex-        be allowed only 5 minutes to determine a child’s fate.
pected to double over the next 5 years, by
1995 judges will be allowed only 5 minutes
to determine a child’s fate.
n Social workers in Los Angeles are ex-
                                              What Juvenile Courts
pected to closely supervise 100 children.     Can Do
Yet, the Child Welfare League of Amer-
                                              Full solutions to these problems will require
ica and other accrediting bodies dictate
                                              legislative action to review the needs of
that caseloads not exceed 35 children.
                                              courts and child welfare agencies and to
n Parents and children are required to        appropriate sufficient funds. But there are
participate in various court-ordered pro-     also some interim steps that juvenile courts
102                                                                   THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN – SPRING 1991


                         can take. The Los Angeles County Juvenile        and understand the effects of substance
                         Court has undertaken five initiatives which      abuse upon parenting skills, child welfare,
                         we believe will also help ameliorate these       and family relationships. The judges also
                         problems: (1) supplemental training for          had a better understanding of the family
                         judges; (2) provision of counsel for children;   treatment needs in these cases. As a result,
                         (3) development of decision-making proto-         judges now make more specific factual
                         cols; (4) adoption of court orders that make     findings and more detailed court orders.
                         more clear the expectations of both child        As they do so, their efforts are met head on
                         welfare caseworkers and families; and (5)        with the child welfare system’s inability to
                         establishment of a countywide task force to      provide even the most basic drug or alcohol
                         expand resources available for families.         abuse treatment programs and services.
                         Similar steps may be appropriate for many        Representation of Children
                         of the juvenile courts across the country.
                         Judicial Training                                It is axiomatic that judges have full infor-
                                                                          mation about a child in order to make an
                       In 1990, 50 of the 60 Los Angeles County           informed decision. This often requires
                      Juvenile Court judges participated in a day-        representation for the child. Until 1990
                       long Juvenile Court Institute designed to          there were no Juvenile Court rules regard-
                       improve their handling of cases involving          ing representation in Los Angeles County.
                                                 drug- and alco-          The County Counsel’s Office routinely
                                                 hol-abusing fami-        represented both the Department of Chil-
  Independent attorneys for children lies. The Institute                  dren’s Services and the child in 85% of the
                                                 was funded by a          cases, despite the risk of conflict of interest
  can perform a critical role in urging grant from the                    in dual representation.
  that essential services be provided to A m e r i c a n B a r         Independent attorneys for children
                                                 Association Cen-
  meet a child’s special needs, ter on Children can perform a critical role in urging that
  especially in drug abuse cases.                and the Law and essential services be provided to meet a
                                                 was co-sponsored child’s special needs, especially in drug
                                                 by the Juvenile abuse cases, where the infant’s custodial,
                       Court and the ABA. ABA Center staff and medical, and developmental needs often
                      local judges planned the program, devel- are great. In recognition of that role, the
                      oped the materials, and coordinated the Juvenile Court adopted a statement of
                       day’s events.                               policies and a set of procedures for ap-
                                                                   pointment of counsel for children. As a
                           The Institute focused on the following: result of these rules, independent counsel
                      n The role of juvenile court judges in drug for children is now provided in 95% of
                       and alcohol abuse prevention, interven- dependency cases.
                       tion, and treatment;                            Representation of children is provided
                      n Judicial perceptions and attitudes regard- by Dependency Court Legal Services
                       ing drug- and alcohol-abusing families;     (DCLS) attorneys and by court-appointed,
                                                                   private practitioner DCLS attorneys who
                      n Medical, psychological, and social effects contract directly with Los Angeles County
                      of alcohol and drug abuse upon pregnant to provide legal services. Private attorneys,
                      women, newborns, parenting ability, child on the other hand, are paid by the court
                      welfare, and family interaction;             on a case-by-case basis. Attorneys in each
                      n Factors in assessing the risks to children group are required to participate in a
                      of drug- or alcohol-abusing families; and    training program to equip them to repre-
                                                                   sent children.
                      n Elements of effective treatment strate-
                      gies for dealing with the causes and effects Decision-making Protocols
                      of family drug and alcohol abuse.
                                                                   In recognition of the substance abuse
                           Substantive material at the Institute problem and the increasing time pressures
                      was provided by pediatricians, psycholo- on judges, the Juvenile Court issued deci-
                      gists, drug treatment counselors, social sion-making protocols to assist judges in
                      workers, and judges. It was presented making risk assessments and in formulat-
                      through a lecture, audiovisual, and inter- ing treatment plans and orders in alcohol-
                      active discussion format.                    and drug-abuse-related cases.
                            Following the Institute, the judges              Under the protocols, at the initial
                         could better identify symptoms of alcohol        court hearing the Department of Chil-
                         and drug abuse in cases presented to them        dren’s Services is required to provide an
Perspective of a Juvenile Court Judge                                                            103


evaluation of the full range of services        recognition that, in certain cases, workers
available to the drug- or alcohol-using         will be required to take affirmative action
family, the feasibility of permitting chil-     to assist families in arranging for alcohol-
dren to remain in the family home if serv-      and drug-related services.
ices are provided, and the ability of               When drug- or alcohol-abuse-related
extended family members to care for a           findings and orders are made, cases are
child in the event that out-of-home care is     continued 60 days for a progress report on
required. The protocols recommend that          the court’s nonappearance calendar. The
judicial officers make their own risk assess-   60-day progress reports submitted by Chil-
ment in determining whether to remove a         dren’s Services workers must describe the
child, and outline risk factors for their       parent’s and child’s participation and pro-
consideration.                                  gress in court-ordered programs. If a par-
    The disposition hearing, which occurs       ent is not enrolled in previously-ordered
later, is especially critical in alcohol- and   programs, workers are required to de-
drug-related cases. That hearing provides       scribe the Department of Children’s Serv-
the court an opportunity to involve fami-       ices’ efforts to facilitate parental
lies in counseling, treatment, and testing      enrollment.
programs which may be central to the goal
of child protection, parental rehabilita-
tion, and family reunification. Under the       All too often in the past, neither the case
protocols, Department of Children’s Serv-       plan nor the court’s orders were effectively
ices workers are required to detail the fam-
ily’s drug or alcohol abuse problem and to      communicated to parents, social workers,
identify the parent’s need for participa-       or counsel.
tion in various drug programs. The studies
also are required to describe any special
                                                    Based upon the information furnished
rehabilitation and treatment needs of the
                                                in the report, the court determines
child, particularly in infant drug exposure
                                                whether the Department of Children’s
and withdrawal cases; to identify the need
                                                Services made or failed to make the re-
for parent-child counseling; and to indi-
                                                quired reasonable efforts to provide sub-
cate the need for a parenting skills evalu-
                                                stance-abuse-related reunification services
ation component.
                                                to a family.
Court Findings, Orders, and Progress
                                                    Not surprisingly, Children’s Services
Hearings
                                                workers regard the court’s new require-
All too often in the past, neither the case     ment as a further imposition upon them.
plan nor the court’s orders were effectively    Workers feel that judges are endeavoring
communicated to parents, social workers,        to dictate specific casework activity in a way
or counsel. As a result, given the workload     that invades their professional prerogative.
of both the court and the child welfare         Moreover, they feel that the court has im-
agencies, aspects of the case plan, particu-    posed additional responsibilities upon
larly in the areas of drug and alcohol          them without regard for their own time
abuse, frequently were not implemented,         constraints or the limited resources which
and compliance with court orders was            exist.
found wanting.                                  Drug Treatment Resource
    A multiple-page order form was devel-       Development
oped to implement the protocols. The            Even when drug or alcohol abuse re-
form findings and orders are designed to        sources are available, most agencies
articulate clearly both the case plan and       provide only single-service programs.
the action expected of parents, workers,        Currently, to the extent they exist,
and counsel. The additional requirement         treatment, parenting education, mental
of nonappearance progress reports to the        health counseling, and vocational training
court is intended to motivate adherence to      programs are each offered at separate lo-
the court’s orders and to measure the ex-       cations. Thus, families may be required to
tent of compliance.                             travel significant distances from agency to
   The protocols contemplate that child         agency in order to access needed services.
welfare workers will perform an active role     Further, because drug- and alcohol-de-
in implementing and monitoring the              pendent parents often lack the financial or
court-ordered case plans. The form find-        emotional resources to negotiate access to
ings and minute orders reflect a further        these various programs, many troubled fa-
104                                              THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN – SPRING 1991


      milies go unserved and unsupported. A          parents and children. The results of this
      tragic consequence of this fragmented          study will be presented to the Drug and
      service delivery system is that, in too many   Alcohol Abuse Task Force, which will re-
      cases, children are removed unnecessarily      view and present the recommendations to
      from their parents’ homes.                     the county for incorporation into a coun-
                                                     tywide plan.
          In order to address this problem,
      which has reached crisis levels, a Drug and
      Alcohol Task Force was formed in Los           Conclusion
      Angeles County in early 1990. The Task
                                                     Through increased awareness of familial
      Force is comprised of public-agency and
                                                     drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile court
      private-sector representatives from child
      welfare, health services, mental health, law   judges in Los Angeles County are making
                                                     more informed decisions and more
      enforcement, education, and community
                                                     specific findings and orders in these cases.
      groups. The Task Force meets monthly to
                                                     However more appropriate the court’s or-
      examine further the problem of perinatal
                                                     ders may be, their force and effectiveness
      addiction within the county and to de-
                                                     is limited in the absence of adequate re-
      velop a plan for improving services to this
                                                     sources. Certainly the juvenile court can
      special-needs population on a countywide
      basis.                                         be an instrument of change in families by
                                                     monitoring compliance with the reason-
                                                     able efforts requirements and by giving
                                                     diligent attention to the resources of the
      However more appropriate the                   community and the operation of the child
      court’s orders may be, their force             welfare system. Meaningful results will
                                                     occur, however, only if adequate public,
      and effectiveness is limited in the            private, and community-based, alcohol-
      absence of adequate resources.                 and drug-related rehabilitative resources
                                                     are created for alcohol and drug abuse.
                                                         As the Los Angeles County experience
          After extensive hearings and study, the    has demonstrated, the public and private
      Task Force has recommended that a study        child and family service agencies must
      investigate the feasibility of establishing,   come together to develop an awareness
      within several regions of the county,          that familial drug and alcohol abuse is an
      model, community-based centers that            interagency problem and requires a coor-
      would offer an array of comprehensive and      dinated response. But a proposal for com-
      integrated services needed for effective re-   prehensive, community-based programs
      habilitation of families with drug and alco-   requires a financial commitment that ex-
      hol problems. Services provided at each        ceeds the current funding capacities of
      location would include residential and         the public and private agencies. It is ap-
      outpatient treatment, alcohol and drug         parent that new funding sources—fed-
      testing services, parenting education,         eral, state, and private—must be sought to
      mental health services, and a wide array of    provide resources for families with drug
      other health and education services for        and alcohol problems.

				
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