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CAI Holds Congressional Briefing to Unveil New Report:

Shame on U.S.
Failings by All Three Branches of Our Federal Government Leave
Abused and Neglected Children Vulnerable to Further Harm
January 27, 2015

The federal government's dereliction allows states to fall short on meeting minimum child welfare standards. Below is information specific to Nevada:

CFSR Results Summary: In its Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) process, HHS determines whether each state is in substantial conformity with 7 specific outcomes (pertaining to the areas of safety, permanency and family and child well-being) and 7 systemic factors (relating to the quality of services delivered to children and families and the outcomes they experience).  In the first two rounds of the CFSR, HHS has concluded that Nevada was:

Round 1 (2004)

  • NOT in substantial conformity with 7 of the 7 Outcomes
  • NOT in substantial conformity with 3 of the 7 Systemic Factors

Round 2 (2010)   

  • NOT in substantial conformity with 6 of the 7 Outcomes
  • NOT in substantial conformity with 4 of the 7 Systemic Factors

Although federal law mandates that any state found not to be operating in substantial conformity during an initial or subsequent review must begin a full review within two years after approval of the state's program improvement plan, HHS has announced that Nevada will not undergo Round 3 of the CFSR until FY 2018 (see CFSR Technical Bulletin #7 (March 2014)).

Documents from the U.S. Health & Human Services Children's Bureau

Child Welfare Litigation*

  • Clark v. Willden
    This lawsuit was filed against the Clark County Department of Family Services to end statutory and constitutional violations of the rights of Clark County foster children. The suit challenged the county for failure to protect child abuse victims and children in foster care. The complaint addressed multiple failures of the county child welfare system, including: inadequate child protective services; insufficient caseworker training and high caseloads; inappropriate child placements; insufficient foster parent recruitment efforts and lack of foster parent training or support; lack of representation for children in dependency court proceedings; and failure to provide appropriate educational services. The class sought relief under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Nevada Constitution, provisions of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, provisions of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, provisions of the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program of the Medicaid Act, and numerous state statutes and regulations.
  • Henry A. v. Willden
    Following the dismissal of Clark K. v. Willden, thirteen foster children in Clark County, Nevada filed this new lawsuit against the Director of Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the Administrator of Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, the Clark County Manager, and the Director of Clark County Department of Family Services. Plaintiffs’ complaint charges defendants with violation of state and federal statutes, and the due process clause of the U.S. and Nevada constitutions. The suit seeks monetary damages for the named plaintiffs, as well as systemic improvements on behalf of those children and three discrete classes. The classes are: (1) children who have not been appointed a guardian ad litem to represent them in their court proceedings; (2) children who have not been referred to Early Intervention Services, and (3) children who have not had a case plan developed containing the information foster parents need to properly care for the children placed with them. These classes comprise more than half of the approximately 3,600 children in foster care in Clark County (which encompasses Las Vegas and over 70% of the Nevada population).

*litigation summaries taken from information provided by the website of the National Center for Youth Law

Child Welfare In the News**

  • EDITORIAL: County's child welfare response falls flat (Las Vegas Review-Journal - January 28, 2015) The failures of Southern Nevada's child welfare system are beyond tragic. Over the past several months, the Review-Journal's Yesenia Amaro has reported on the deaths of children in foster care, the oversight of the Clark County Department of Family Services, the guidelines that might have contributed to child deaths and potential conflicts in the examination of those deaths. The Review-Journal has followed the story for the same reasons it covers other important government issues: to provide taxpayers with information about the effectiveness of the services they pay for. Readers are more than capable of reaching their own conclusions based on our reporting.
  • State Gets Low Grades For Child Welfare, Education (Associated Press - January 21, 2015) A Nevada advocacy group is challenging the state Legislature to improve programs for child health, safety and education.
  • Panel proposes 6-point reform plan for Clark County child welfare (Las Vegas Review Journal - January 15, 2015) A blue ribbon committee on Thursday afternoon announced six proposed points of reform for Clark County's child welfare and court system, including increased services to reduce removals of children from their homes, more training for staff and foster parents, a streamlined court calendar and the creation of a public education and awareness program.
  • Family Services neglected foster placement restriction (Las Vegas Review Journal - January 10, 2015) Records show that in 2007 Clark County commissioners unanimously committed to child welfare improvement goals, including restricting to one the number of unrelated infants or toddlers placed in a single foster home. That restriction was not followed in 2014 by the Clark County Department of Family Services in placing 16-month-old Michell Momox-Caselis in a foster home with a 9-month-old foster child who was not her sibling. Michell was found dead in her crib Oct. 12 in the foster family's apartment home. She died of an antihistamine overdose, according to the Clark County coroner's office.
  • Child welfare advocates question county-hired expert's objectivity (Las Vegas Review Journal - January 03, 2015) The national expert hired by Clark County to independently review the case of a foster child killed in October isn't such an outsider after all. Wayne Holder - whose review was completed in December and cleared the Clark County Department of Family Services of wrongdoing in the foster child fatality - leads an organization that holds a $3 million contract with the same county agency.
  • Union leaders: Clark County child welfare caseloads still high (Las Vegas Review-Journal - December 25, 2014) Large caseloads were among the safety concerns that led Clark County Department of Family Services’ employees and leaders with the Service Employees International Union to present a petition to Clark County commissioners in August. Four months later, union leaders say caseloads in Clark County’s child welfare system are still high, especially in Child Protective Services.
  • Justice advocates looking at ways to improve foster system (Includes video) (KTNV - December 15, 2014)"We want to be sure that every child who's either on their own or by and through their family is touching the child welfare system, gets the best possible outcome that we can provide for them. We need to be the voice," said Nancy Saitta, Justice of Nevada Supreme Court.
  • Time short as Blue Ribbon panel considers child welfare fixes (Las Vegas Review Journal - December 14, 2014) The committee was appointed by state Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta to look into problems including capacity issues at Child Haven, the county's emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. The shelter recently had its second significant population spike this year, exceeding its licensed capacity of 70 with 97 children living on campus.
  • Nevada hires expert to review child deaths (Las Vegas Review Journal - December 04, 2014) The state will spend up to $44,000 to have an expert review the homicide of a Clark County foster girl while in care and other child fatalities and near fatalities across Nevada. Mike Capello, a former director of the Washoe County Social Services Department, will be paid an hourly rate of $110, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Review-Journal.
  • Clark County OKs $2M settlement in foster children abuse (Las Vegas Review Journal - November 18, 2014) One of seven former foster children who sued Clark County alleging abuse and neglect while in the child welfare system views the $2 million-plus settlement approved Tuesday as a win/lose outcome. The victim of sexual and physical abuse who asked not to be named said children are set up to fail when they are given bad foster placements. Department of Family Services caseworkers also need to thoroughly investigate any allegations of harm made by foster children.
  • Emails show rift between Family Services management, workers (Las Vegas Review-Journal - November 02, 2014) Employee union officials publicly declared they "no longer have confidence" in Clark County Family Services Director Lisa Ruiz-Lee, who wrote derogatory emails about staff to her boss as labor tensions mounted over working conditions and safety issues.

**news summaries taken from daily newsfeed service of HHS' Child Welfare Information Gateway


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Children's Advocacy Institute
University of San Diego School of Law
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Telephone: 619.260.4806
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