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Tag Archives:

Frank Cervone

What’s the right amount of time for a birth mother to change her mind about putting her baby up for adoption?

The adoption process in Pennsylvania is being scrutinized for potential updates, but one bill that could halve the time birth mothers have to decide against adoption has been particularly controversial.

By Elizabeth Lepro and Lauren Rosenblatt | PublicSource | July 7, 2016

When Priscilla Sharp gave birth to her daughter, she was startled when the baby was put in her arms.

Moments after the nurse handed her the child by accident, a nun came by to carry the baby girl away.

“I had no choice. I had no home, I had no job, I had no money.”

Sharp, now a 71-year-old blogger living in State College, had chosen to put her baby up for adoption in 1964 and was not permitted to see the child. Sharp said she’s held on to the pain of that moment for 50 years.

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The Legal Intelligencer Professional Excellence Awards – June 21, 2016

logoAttorney of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Lawyer on the Fast Track Awards

Keynote Address of Frank P. Cervone, Executive Director, Support Center for Child Advocates

Thank you Hank.  We congratulate Legal Editor Hank Grezlak for his recent promotion, announced today in The Legal.  His reach has grown tremendously, clearly a sign that SOMEONE in American Lawyer Media likes him! As reported today, “Hank Grezlak’s role with ALM as Regional Editor-in-Chief for the Northeast—including The Legal Intelligencer—has been expanded to include oversight of all regional ALM brands including the New York Law Journal, The Recorder, Texas Lawyer, Daily Report and the Daily Business Review … and Sesame Street, The National Enquirer, Saturday Night Live and All Twitter feeds everywhere.”  Talk about Fast Track!!

Seriously, The Legal has been a tremendous partner of the public interest law community, and a friend of Child Advocates, promoting our events and helping us to invite others to the work.  More importantly The Legal Intelligencer remains a vital element of Pennsylvania’s Fourth Estate, speaking truth to power, pressing for and creating accountability in our legal institutions.  All of the journalists and leaders involved in ALM and The Legal Intelligencer – please let’s recognize these fine colleagues! 

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White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon

By Frank P. Cervone

The White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon engaged the challenge of using computer technology and the Internet to solve complex legal and social service problems facing children, families and professionals in the child welfare system. Hosted by the Administration on Children and Families (ACF), the child welfare arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the gathering convened more than 150 lawyers, techies, and former foster youth at the White House for two intense days of brainstorming, software design and information sharing.  The sessions were held at The White House and Reagan Federal Office Building on May 26-27, 2016 and led by ACF Commissioner Rafael Lopez, White House Policy Advisor Molly Dillon, and HHS Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox.

The White House Hackathon builds upon work of two Children’s Rights Summit held in December 2014 and 2015 in Silicon Valley, and focused on the interaction between technology and children’s rights.  Workgroups in this current session developed digital solutions and legal principles to address information sharing across the child welfare system.  Links to the proceedings can be found at:

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Video

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Day Two

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Website

Commissioner Lopez challenged the group to imagine trying “something dramatically different to change a system we know does not yield better results for children and families in the system. How do we engage, across multiple sectors, the kind of talent and creativity that we need to rethink and reimagine foster care in America?”

The Obama Administration has prioritized digital access to help fill gaps in knowledge and service in a wide variety of fields, while promoting cross-disciplinary and international participation in creative web-based problem-solving.  Other Hackathons have engaged civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs to build tools that help others in their own neighborhoods, experimenting with alternative ways to engage citizens in civic discourse. The 2016 Foster Care & Technology Hackathon featured more than 20 former foster youth and foster parents and also included a software development team from Romania. With tools such as digital information lockers and all-new software platforms, workgroups “hacked” on topics that included substance exposed newborns, homeless youth, foster family recruitment, youth empowerment, and preventing unplanned teen pregnancy.

Inside the larger group, about 20 lawyers in the “Legal Hackathon” met to explore the legal challenges to applying technology in child welfare.  Angela Vigil, Pro Bono Partner at Baker & McKenzie and leader of the Legal Hackathon, observed that “information about and related to children and families in the child welfare system is sometimes shared that should have been protected, and information is sometimes held that should have been shared in the child welfare system.  These failures must be addressed in order to better serve the children the child welfare system was designed to serve.”

Key stakeholders include children, biological parents, siblings and relatives, foster parents, courts, caseworkers, and both lawyer and non-lawyer advocates for children and their caregivers.

Vigil added that “a principled framework should govern the access, protection and flow of information among and between these parties. Yet no such holistic framework exists — although there are certainly laws that aim to govern some of this information access and protection.”

Seeking a legal and ethical framework to govern the flow of information between and among the stake holders in the child welfare system, the Legal Workgroup drafted a “Bill of Rights for Information-Sharing in Child Welfare”.  Key tenets include:

  • Children in care are entitled to access, control, protection and preservation of their information. (for example, it should be a rebuttable presumption that children get access to full information about their siblings in developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed way).
  • Electronic information-sharing between agencies is authorized and expected where it is necessary to serve the children’s interests well.
  • Caregivers need the information necessary to parent effectively. States need to be transparent about rules of information-sharing with caregivers.
  • Caseworkers need unlimited access to all categories of information electronically, real-time, accurate, across sectors
  • Courts must have access to all relevant information necessary to make decisions about the children before them. Courts must insist on stakeholders bringing them everything they need.

Ira Lustbader, Legal Director of Children’s Rights, Inc. recalled that “in every single reform campaign or civil rights lawsuit” that he had been part of “these issues of data and tech have been sources of profound frustration and profound potential to solve problems.” He said that “information on kids should be accessible across sectors, because it will lead to better outcomes. There’s a web of state and federal legal barriers, along with technological ones, that constrain the open access of information for kids across sectors. Some states have MOUs [Memorandum of Understanding] and other approaches to break down barriers” that we can promote and learn from.

The Legal Workgroup plans to continue its efforts in a series of conference calls and other work together over the next six months. Over the next few months, members of the group will invite comment and improvement by experts and advocates across the nation. The result will be a platform upon which local, state and federal law development might be guided to better serve the children and other stakeholders in the child welfare system in the United States.

Seven child welfare workers fired for false reports

May 3, 2016 Philly.com
By: Julia Terruso

Seven child-welfare workers in Philadelphia were fired in February and March in connection with at least two false reports about home visits, according to state officials.

Rachel Kostelac, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said three were workers from Community Umbrella Agencies contracted by the city to handle cases, and four were with subcontracted foster-care agencies.

The report of the firings followed remarks Friday by a state DHS official, who said child-welfare workers in Philadelphia had falsified reports in response to high caseloads.

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Philadelphia’s Child Welfare Reform Suffers Growing Pains

By Pat Loeb
April 5, 2016 PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s child welfare system is suffering from overloaded case workers, who often lack the tools and training they need to protect children, according to advocates and officials inside and outside the system.

Many of the problems, ironically, arise from an effort to improve the system by transferring case management to community-based non-profits, known as Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs).

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To keep children safe, continue DHS reforms

Please take a moment to read Frank’s op-ed published today in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It is our mandate as a community to hold the system responsible, continue to push for growth and change, and participate fully in that evolution. The work of change is never finished, but the system is on the right path.”

Click HERE to read the article in its entirety.

Child Welfare and the Mayoral Transition

The Philadelphia child welfare reform initiative “Improving Outcomes for Children” continues to show promise, but the work is certainly not done yet.  The Support Center for Child Advocates offers analysis and recommendations to Mayor-Elect Jim Kenney and his Transition Team.  We look forward to working with members of the new administration, to the success of its programs and for the well-being of all the children and families of our community.

To read Frank Cervone’s full memo to Mayor-elect Jim Kenney please click here: Child Welfare and the Mayoral Transition

Baltimore Mom Caught On Video Disciplining Child Sparks Online Debate

April 30, 2015
By KYW social media editor Melony Roy

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Baltimore mom caught on camera smacking her son when she found him participating in rioting — originally hailed as “Mom of the Year” — is now facing some backlash on social media for beating her child in such a public manner.

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Improving Representation and Outcomes for Children

Frank P. Cervone, The Legal Intelligencer
March 23, 2015

Slipping through the cracks in the system, a child’s story ends in tragedy. A young person lingering in foster care for years, moving from place to place with no permanent home. These are the perceptions of life in the child welfare system in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, in some cases, it is all too true. The child welfare population is growing. For the first time since 2009, Philadelphia has more than 5,000 children in out-of-home care, compared to 4,256 at the end of 2012. This is the bad news.

The good news is that, locally and statewide, the child welfare system is responding in an effort to improve outcomes for children.

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Law Catching Up On Punishment Vs. Child Abuse

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Law catching up on punishment vs. child abuse
By Frank P. Cervone

October 15, 2014

At our Labor Day pool party this year, a 3-year-old boy grabbed a little girl by the arm when she sat in the plastic race car that the boy had been enjoying earlier. He got a scolding that focused on sharing and the she-had-it-first rule of kids’ justice. Off the boy went, frowning miserably for about 10 seconds, before finding some other great toy to fill his limitless desire to play. It seemed that a lesson was delivered, sufficient for the moment, the penalty fitting the crime.

A week later, I read that NFL star Adrian Peterson beat his 4-year-old son to bleeding and bruises with a tree branch, reportedly for pushing a cousin off a motorbike video game. Peterson was charged criminally with child abuse in Texas, where the incident occurred.

From the enactment of the first child protection laws in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, lawmakers have carved out a corporal-punishment exception for parental supervision, control, and discipline of children. But where is the line between corporal punishment and child abuse? And which of these are crimes? I don’t think the line is so hard to find.

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