National Conference on Parent Representation

CFR staff were presenters at this year’s ABA’s national conference where parent mentors, social workers, and attorneys gathered to learn about creative advocacy in uncertain times, concrete lawyering skills, significant federal changes supporting representation at the local level and ways our community can reimagine the child welfare system.

CFR staff presented on the following two panels:

Overcoming Pain Points: Using Advocacy to Address Racial Harm and Bias

Presenters in this workshop addressed several ways to address racial harm and explicit and implicit bias in representing parents. Presenters offered tips for direct work with clients, including in client counseling, and share concrete strategies for challenging bias in trial and appellate litigation and in court and other systems impacting clients.

Michele Cortese, JD, Center for Family Representation, NY
Barbara Harris, JD, CDE Washington State Office of Public Defense
Maura Keating, JD, Center for Family Representation, NY
Anastasia Rivera-Bonilla, JD, Center for Family Representation, NY

Psychiatric Medication and Foster Care:  Preserving the Parent’s Voice

Multiple studies have concluded that children in foster care are prescribed psychiatric medication at a rate significantly higher than other populations of children.  Much of the time, the medications are used to control behavior and anger.  Many of the medications used in this population are prescribed off-label, with little proven benefit but significant risk. Compounding the problem, parents are frequently pressured to sign consent forms without having ever spoken to the psychiatric provider. The consent forms parents are asked to sign do not contain sufficient information about benefits, risks or alternatives to allow them to make a true informed decision about the psychiatric care of their children. When parents refuse to consent, even if their objection is reasonable, the medications are often administered over their objections. Parent attorneys can play a vital role in reducing the overuse of medication. The presentation covered the “red flags” that can help them recognize situations where the child’s treatment with psychiatric medications may be problematic, parents’ objections need to be heard and court intervention may need to be considered.

Christine Bruno, JD, Center for Family Representation, NY
Dr. Martin Irwin, MD Clinical Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU
Grossman School of Medicine