Nonspecific goals included “doing chores” and “graduating high school.” Some plans were so vague that they lacked any meaningful detail, such as the signed WTLP found in one file that stated “The child will maintain at least a ___ average” (no letter grade filled in). This boilerplate language indicates children have little to no involvement in the drafting of plans. Most files contained information about hobbies, career interests, and personal struggles which could easily be incorporated into the WTLP.
Evidence of Connection to Independent Living Program Services
More than half (58%) of the cold case children qualified for ILP services. Of those, half (54%) show evidence in the file of a connection to services. Another 9% were receiving services according to their case manager, although undocumented in the file. Of those who qualify for services, 11% either refused to participate, were not stable enough to receive, or were not residing in a placement that provided ILP services.
Case reviews documented inconsistency in both the availability of ILP services statewide and in the receipt of services by eligible children. ILP services vary greatly by county and some of the children reviewed resided in areas where there were very limited or no ILP services available. At least one child was denied participation in ILP services due to his behavior. During follow-up calls, DFCS representatives in three counties said they would ensure that ILP services were discussed/offered/documented for the eligible children reviewed.
Evidence of Connection to an Adult
Only half (54%) of the cold case children had a documented relationship with an adult family member. Another 24% had no connections to adult family, but had at least one connection to a non-familial adult. Six of the remaining children had only a case manager to serve as an adult connection. Research has shown that healthy child development requires a relationship with at least one nurturing adult that fosters feelings of trust and security9.
This form of adult connection and love can help a child overcome the trauma of abuse and neglect. For many cold case children the ability to overcome trauma, form healthy attachments, experience trust, and feel secure is impeded.
Case managers often located family members that the children did not know, and steps were never taken to foster these relationships. Other case management practices seemed to inhibit the process of forming family connections. Lisa’s grandmother was a long-distance truck driver who was denied visitation because her job prevented her from serving as a placement resource for the child. Instead of allowing the grandmother to serve as a supportive adult familial contact in Lisa’s life, it was determined that it was “in the best interest of the child” to have no contact with her grandmother. One aunt was told that she could not visit with a child if she did not serve as a placement resource because it would “give the child false hope.” Tina’s parents objected to her contact with an aunt and uncle who wished to be involved in her life. Without a court order, contact between Tina and the aunt and uncle was denied. Eventually the parents’ rights were terminated, leaving Tina with no biological familial connections.