Counties Facilitating Interstate Adoption Fail To Follow Investigative Protocols

    Law ExpertThis case involves a dispute over liability between two counties in Iowa and Nebraska. The original issue involved a young boy who became a ward of Nebraska when his mother began living with a convicted sex offender. The state placed the boy with a foster couple in Iowa who was interested in adopting him. An interstate compact on the placement of children process was initiated to legally transfer the child. The Iowa county then had to conduct an ICPC investigation, but they failed to look into the adoptive family’s background. In the 5 years prior, the Iowa husband had been accused of sexually abusing his neighbor’s son. He denied any involvement but the report that sexual abuse was indicated still stood. This information never came to light during the investigation, and the Iowa county continued with the adoption process, placing the boy with the Iowa family. A year later, the county received a call from a faculty member at the boy’s school informing them of an inappropriate sexual relationship between the man and the boy. A major investigation determined that the boy had been abused by his guardian for over a year.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please describe your experience as a caseworker as it relates to child protective services.
    • 2. If an ICPC investigation is opened, should the previous sexual assault have raised a red flag with the county's social/caseworker?
    • 3. If a child is moved across state lines from one county to another for the process of legal guardianship, and a sexual assault is reported in the new county, does that county have a responsibility to inform the county which the child came from?

    Expert Witness Response E-127838

    I am a licensed psychotherapist at a renowned psychotherapy center, where I treat children and families going through ACS investigation. I currently manage a caseload of 26 patients. I earned my master’s degree in social work and a Juris Doctorate degree. In addition, I have done extensive postgraduate training at Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. My initial exposure to child protective cases was as a primary clinician and graduate social work intern a board of families and children’s services where I managed a full-time caseload and offered preventative services, including individual and family counseling to ACS involved youth and families. Most of the families I worked with were mandated for services during abuse and neglect allegations. I have extensive knowledge and training in sex offender risk assessments and the application of them during psycho-sexual evaluations. I acquired this specialized forensic training at The Legal Aid Society, Criminal Appeal Bureau, where I was an in-house social worker for 10 years.

    The previous sexual assault should have raised a red flag with the county’s social worker. It prolonged the process for its final determination, and this afforded the perpetrator more time. Given the in-home circumstances, a simple and thorough background check would have brought the information to light about the guardian. In a standard adoption process, a thorough background check must be conducted in tandem with a detailed home study. The county did not act on a series of red flags swiftly enough in making its determination. Due to the fact that the county finally rejected the adoption, it had a responsibility to 1) inform the judge determining legal guardianship of its previous findings and 2) inform the county that a sexual assault had later been reported. A similar and uniform standard to meet the best interest of the child should be applied in both processes– adoption and legal guardianship. Even if an ICPC investigation is not ultimately required in a legal guardianship process, the relevant information should have been presented during the hearing. Ultimately, when considering the best interest of the child, the judge would likely not have granted guardianship and exposed the child to the perpetrator.

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