FEDERALLY FUNDED CHILD WELFARE, FOSTER CARE, AND ADOPTION
HEARING BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES OF
THE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
ONE HUNDRED FIRST CONGRESS SECOND EDITION
APRIL 4 AND 5, 1990
Acting Chairman Downey. Mr. Schwartz. STATEMENT OF
ROBERT G. SCHWARTZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUVENILE LAW CENTER,
Mr. SCHWARTZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I will, too,
summarize the written testimony that I have presented to the com-
mittee. I am here as a State-based advocate who has represented
children in the dependency, delinquency and mental health sys- tems
for the last 15 years in Pennsylvania, and has for the last 10 years
been trying to make Public Law 96-272 work in our State.
thrust of my testimony today is an endorsement of the ABA proposal that
Mark has just made. Before I get into the issue of the courts, I just do
want to add a word on intensive, family-based programming, about which
you have already heard from other witnesses, from the point of view of
those of us who rep- resent children. This is an extremely important
issue, especially with the unavailability or declining availability of
qualified foster care, adoptive homes, and substitute care for children
with special needs.
The framework of Public Law 96-272 is
essentially sound. I think the design of 1980 is still durable. The
effort at preserving families, providing for case planning, for case
reviews, for moving children, especially special needs children, to
adoption, is a sound one.
The problem, from our perspective, is that
these procedural pro- tections, which they are in many respects, do not
provide the kind of services at the front end that our clients need; and
the State agencies -- you have already heard from Secretary Coler and
others -- have not kept up with the provision of substantive serv-
ices, including family-based services.
And we do know, after 10
years of experimentation with a varie- ty of inhome supports for
children with a variety of problems, and their families, that there are
levels of programs that I think we can rely on. And I would urge that
the committee take seriously some of the proposals about which you have
heard in the last few days to provide inhome support at the same level
of entitlement in terms of philosophy that we do for substitute care.
To the courts, Mr. Chairman, you mentioned that Rome was burning
a little while back. I think the entire city is burning. The courthouse
certainly is, from our perspective in working with law- yers and judges
throughout the country as well as in Pennsylvania.
I support the ABA
proposal to improve the quality of court inter- vention. I am
particularly intrigued by the study, of bringing to light, of
illuminating what many of us see every day in courthouses across the
country, where judges and attorneys and other advocates are struggling
to make this system work; because the courts were designed as a crucial
part of the monitoring function of Public Law 96-272.
respects, our ability to ensure that case plans are effec- tive, that
children are moved out of unstable situations into more stable
situations, depends on the court's ability to provide a thor- ough and
informed examination of what is taking place in the lives of children
In my judgment, particularly in the major urban communities of
the country, that kind of thorough and informed examination is just
not happening. It is not happening for a variety of reasons. One, and I
think probably most important, is a cumulative case load. It is
different than in a delinquency case, where I would rep- resent the
child, you have an adjudication; you have a disposition; and the case
essentially ends in a finite period of time. These cases do not end for
many of the kids in the system.
We heard about a lifetime of care
for children entering the system now with very, very serious problems.
With some excep- tions, those children will be having 6-month judicial
reviews for most of their lives. This is a burden on the court system
that no other kind of case introduces. I know that when we at Juvenile
Law Center were taking on many of these cases in the early 1980's,
we were taking on about 2 1/2 cases for every case that we closed.
There was a real multiplier effect.
The cumulative caseload has
a very limiting effect on the ability of judges to hear cases in a
relaxed fashion, the way they should be heard; to hear testimony about
reasonable efforts; to make deci- sions about availability and
unavailability of services to children.
It also has an unhappy
impact on our ability to provide counsel for children. We just brought
suit last year in Philadelphia County because of the unavailability of
counsel for children that was man- dated under State law. There just
were not the numbers. And a cu- mulative case load exacerbated that
We have reasonable efforts findings essentially being
ignored in the face of trying to get through these cases. The
determination is not being made very thoroughly. We have to get through
lists of 80 to 100 cases a day. So we have inadequate review of case
plans as well.
We have just introduced local rules of court in
Philadelphia. But rules are very uneven around the State. They are very
uneven around the country. So I would urge, in addition to the ABA pro-
posals, that this committee address the issue of local rules to stand-
ardize what is going on around the country; and to look at the issue
of case load. And if I might, Mr. Chairman, just add one thing that I
think emerged from Judge Reader's testimony that our office and a number
of others are looking at, about the problem of multi- ple systems
involved with children.
The juvenile court in these cases, by and
large, has jurisdiction over the child welfare agency coming before it.
Even in successful programs such as in Ohio -- which has developed the
model cluster system that many of us are looking forward to seeing
results from -- mental health, education, mental retardation, are not
rou- tinely subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
And I think it is worth exploring whether or not, as one is inject-
ing either new dollars or new ideas into this system, the juvenile
courts in these cases should have jurisdiction over more than the
child welfare system alone. And I will conclude with that, Mr.