Wednesday, February 13, 2002
County Seeks Rehearing on Appeals Court Social Workers’ Waiver Policy
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
County supervisors yesterday instructed their lawyers to seek a rehearing of an appellate court ruling that bars the Department of Children and Family Services from issuing visitation waivers without prior approval by a dependency court bench officer.
The matter stems from a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed against the county by the Alliance for Children’s Rights, which sought a blanket order prohibiting the DCFS from issuing visitation waivers-an order that exempts certain foster children without emotional or physical problems from required monthly visits.
Such children could been seen once every three or six months, instead of monthly.Judge Terry Friedman, former presiding judge of the county’s Juvenile Court, issued an order Dec. 5, 2000 requiring visitation waivers to be approved by a dependency court bench officer.
The county appealed, asserting that the order violated strictures against the separation of powers, Joel Bellman, press deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.
Div. One of this district’s Court of Appeal upheld Friedman’s decision Feb. 1 in an opinion by Justice Reuben Ortega.
The motion to return to the Court of Appeal to seek rehearing passed 3-2, with Supervisors Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich voting against it. Both said the county should adhere to the court’s ruling and implement the new policy.
Supervisor Gloria Molina introduced a motion that would bring the matter back before the current presiding judge of the Juvenile Court, Michael Nash, but County Counsel Lloyd Pellman said the matter had to remain in the Court of Appeal, which retains jurisdiction.
The board passed Molina’s amended motion to file the petition and have Pellman advise the county on alternatives in two weeks.
DCSF Director Anita Bock told the board her department did not oppose the court’s order but could not possibly comply without additional funding.
“I’m delighted to follow the court order if the board allocates the funds,” Bock said.
Currently, there are 92 waivers still in place, Bock said, adding that 8,000 waivers recently expired, requiring that many more children be visited each month now.
Bock said her department would need another 116 positions costing $10 million to visit those children. Each social worker presently carries an average of 54 cases each month.
Bock added that “court orders are not a great way to make policy” since they “rearrange the policy without the resources.”
Antonovich disagreed, and said, “We are only delaying the implementation of a policy that is in the best interests of the children.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company