Are States in The US Complying With CAPTA Laws For Kids Not in Foster Care? (Pt 2)

A stack of legal books and a Judge's gavel, signifying the law, and the importance of upholding it.

Welcome back and thanks for joining us again. We’ve been looking at the CAPTA laws (which if you remember from the previous article are the federal laws governing how US child welfare agencies handle kids who aren’t in the foster system) and discussing whether or not local agencies are actually following them. As we shared with you previously, ProPublica did two years of survey and research on this subject and turned up a disturbing number of failures on the part of numerous child welfare agencies around the country. Let’s dive right in where we left off last time, with the last three of five areas that child welfare agencies need to work on, in order to meet those regulations.

CAPTA regulations that US states aren’t complying with:

  • Guardians Ad Litem: Representing Children in Court

A Guardian ad Litem (often called a GAL) is a person appointed by the court to investigate what solutions and end results would be in the best interest of a child. GALs are often attorneys who act as representatives on a child’s behalf at court hearings, presenting information to the court, and making recommendations. In child abuse and neglect cases, federal law requires that every child be represented by someone who is trained to recognize what would be best for them, and to determine what their needs are. ProPublica determined that in recent years, only 13 states in the US even kept track of GAL information for these children, and only two states – New Jersey and North Carolina – provided a GAL for every child at every hearing.                                                                       

  • Keeping Track of Child Deaths From Abuse And Neglect

Federal law also requires that states provide information on any child deaths that the agencies believe are the result of abuse or neglect. Included in the federally required data are the causes and circumstances surrounding the death, the child’s age and gender, and a record of any previous interactions the agency has had with that child and their family. But in order to provide that info, the agencies have to keep track of it. According to ProPublica, when they reached out to child welfare agencies in all 50 states to ask about whether or not they were in compliance with this requirement, nineteen states released the information CAPTA requires; 22 released some part of the information, and 9 didn’t respond to the request for information at all. Where does Michigan fall on that list? They didn’t say…

  • Appeals: Giving Accused Parents The Chance to Clear Their Names

Federal law requires that if a state keeps a registry or list of any type, naming parents and caregivers suspected of abusing children, that it also gives them a chance to clear their names. Michigan keeps a child abuse and neglect registry where the names of people are listed if they’re suspected of having abused or neglected a child in Michigan. The state doesn’t require that those same people be convicted, simply that the agency “substantiate their findings” against those people. In recent years, after being sued over the issue, Michigan CPS now provides people with notifications that they’ve been placed on the registry, and an opportunity to contest those findings.

Michigan’s CPS agency doesn’t seem to be holding up their end of the bargain!

While the focus here wasn’t specifically Michigan, the fact that so few states are actually in line with federal law, and the fact that Michigan was rarely listed as being one of the states in compliance, it’s been very telling to read ProPublica’s findings in this instance. Although not any kind of surprise, as Michigan’s CPS has a very long history of non- compliance when it comes to both state and federal laws governing the agency’s actions. So remember, if CPS accuses you of child abuse or neglect, it doesn’t matter how “low risk” they claim the allegation is – you need to protect yourself and your family. Call 866 766 5245 right now and get help from Michigan’s premier CPS defense attorneys.

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