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Court Placement of Abused Children

September 15, 1996

Re "Sending Abused Youths Back Home Draws Fire," Sept. 8:

Somehow, a dependency court system that essentially worked in the 1960s and '70s has metamorphosed into something that perversely "protects" the rights of biological parents over the safety of children. The helplessness of the child victims has been matched by a total absence of power on the part of social workers and other mental health professionals. Many abused and neglected children are placed in double jeopardy: They enter the system because they have been harmed by the very people charged with the responsibility for protecting them, and then the system, charged with the identical responsibility, arranges for them to be abused again, this time in the name of "family reunification."

It is time for commissioners and judges to be held accountable for children who are abused or murdered because of an apparent loyalty to the concept of children as possessions; in fact, it is high time that the entire system is held responsible and assessed as the miserable failure that it is.

RENEE B. LONNER LCSW

Van Nuys

* As an attorney who has been practicing in the Dependency Court for nine years, I have represented both parents and children in over 1,000 cases. I have never been involved in any case in which the hearing officer, whether a judge or commissioner, did not consider the safety of the minors.

The article fails to mention that the Juvenile Court follows the recommendations of the Department of Children and Family Services in 90% to 95% of all of the cases. The fact that the department now recommends that children be detained in marginal cases does not mean that the children are subject to abuse by the system or in foster care. It only means that children are unnecessarily separated from their parents; then it is the children and parents who suffer, and the children who are the victims.

The only protection the children and parents have from an arrogant bureaucracy is the judges and commissioners in the Dependency Court. The commissioners mentioned in your article are conscientious and caring bench officers. They follow the law, as well as their common sense, to protect the children and parents who come before them.

ROBERT A. DEVINE, President

Juvenile Courts Bar Assn.

Monterey Park

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