Wednesday, April 1, 2020

UPDATED: Philadelphia DHS is lying about parent-child visits

Never, ever assume that Philadelphia’s child welfare agency can’t sink lower.

Now the agency is lying about federal guidance concerning visits between foster children and their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An excellent story on the online news site Billy Penn includes this claim from a p.r. person for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services about why the agency has cut off in-person visits.  According to the story:

…family visits “per the Order of the Philadelphia Family Court and federal and state guidance, are now to occur by video or phone.” [Emphasis added.]

I don’t know what the state is saying but the claim about federal guidance is false. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau (CB) recommends precisely the opposite.  This letter from the director of the Children’s Bureau states:

CB urges all courts, CIPs [Court Improvement Programs], and administrative offices of the courts to:
● Discourage or refrain from issuing blanket court orders reducing or suspending familytime;
● Be mindful of the need for continued family time, especially in times of crisis andheightened anxiety;
● Remain cognizant that interruption or cessation of family time and parent-child contact can be traumatic for children;
● Continue to hold the child welfare agency accountable for ensuring that meaningful,frequent family time continues;
● Become familiar with ways in which in-person visitation may continue to be held safely;

And the list goes on – all of it encouraging precisely the opposite of DHS’ behavior. You can read the actual federal guidance, in full, here The section on visits is on page 3.

I suppose one shouldn’t have expected any better from an agency whose past efforts include the notorious Pyramid of Bull------t.

But during a pandemic one would hope the agency would rise to the occasion instead of sinking even lower.

As for the order of Philadelphia Family Court that raises two questions:

● Why is the court issuing an order that contradicts federal guidance?

● Why isn’t DHS fighting that order?