The General Assembly is in recess until September.
State Supreme Court authorizes payments for juveniles’ victims
By Michael R. Sisak (Staff Writer)
Published: July 29, 2011
WILKES-BARRE – The state Supreme Court on Thursday authorized compensation payments for more than 100 victims of juvenile offenders whose convictions were overturned in the aftermath of the Luzerne County kids-for-cash scandal.
The payments range from $25 to $1,500 – the maximum under state juvenile court rules – depending on the victim’s loss, expenses and damage, Berks County Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim said in a report to the high court. Judge Grim, whose review of the scandal-plagued juvenile court led to the reversal of thousands of juveniles’ convictions during the tenure of ex-Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., recommended payments for 114 victims, totaling $65,310.
Mr. Ciavarella, 61, faces 13 or more years in prison on a racketeering conviction connected to a $1 million payment from the builder of the detention center. He will be sentenced Aug. 11.
The payments to victims of the juvenile offenders will be disbursed from a $500,000 victim compensation fund established last year by the state Legislature, ensuring restitution for victims who would have otherwise been shut out from compensation, Judge Grim said.
Each of the payments will be equal to the amount a victim would have been entitled to had the convictions, and accompanying restitution orders, stood, Judge Grim said.
One victim, Gary Moran, will receive $250 to cover the remaining costs from a windshield smashed by a juvenile five years ago. Mr. Ciavarella sentenced the juvenile to probation and ordered him to pay half of the $1,000 repair.
The juvenile paid $250 to Mr. Moran but was cleared from paying the balance when the state Supreme Court overturned the convictions.
“Thank God,” Mr. Moran said. “They kind of left me hanging.”
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PA Supreme Court Issues Judicial Guide To Benefit Children, Families
By Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Thursday issued an 800-page guide, developed by judges for judges, to enhance their ability to handle the complex social, developmental and interpersonal issues inherent in court dependency cases involving abused and neglected children.
“This guide is a valuable resource that presents a social science context for the complex and challenging decisions being made daily by all who sit in dependency court,” said Justice Max Baer who oversaw the effort on behalf of the Supreme Court. “It covers topics that are part of our day-to-day work, but not part of the training we receive as lawyers and judges.”
Over the last year, a team of experienced judges and social science experts spent countless hours of thoughtful review and analysis to develop resource material designed to assist judges and judicial officers in 14 areas, including child attachment and bonding; child development; domestic violence; grief and loss; individual case planning; mental health; neglect and deprivation; physical/ sexual/emotional abuse; placement; safety and risk; substance abuse; transitioning youth; trauma; and visitation.
The guide is part of the Court’s on-going efforts to improve the lives of Pennsylvania’s abused and neglected children, getting them out of temporary foster care and into safe, permanent homes. It serves as a supplemental resource to the previously released Dependency Benchbook which has become the central document for dependency proceedings in Pennsylvania and is used by countless judges to the benefit of children and families. Each section of the supplemental guide connects the elements of social science to the many judicial proceedings and practices outlined in the judicial benchbook.
“Like the Dependency Benchbook,” Justice Baer said, “this resource guide is an historic effort, and we collectively agree it will result in healthier children, stronger families and, ultimately, a more vigorous and productive Pennsylvania.”
Lackawanna County Common Pleas Court Judge Chester Harhut chaired the Dependency Benchbook Committee and efforts to develop the supplemental resource guide. Expert consultants included Dr. Judith Silver, PhD, Pediatric Psychologist, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Dr. Pearl S. Berman, Professor of Psychology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania: Jim Nice, Family Unity Project; and Kevin Campbell, Founder, Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness—an agency that specializes in reconnecting foster care children with lost biological family members through specialized investigative techniques including an Internet-based search technology, when needed.
In 2006 the Supreme Court began efforts to reduce delays in placing abused and neglected children safely and permanently in loving, caring homes and to improve the lives of abused and neglected children. Those efforts, which have been led by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts’ Office of Children and Families in the Courts, in close partnership with the state Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, are paying off.
State Department of Welfare statistics show a consistent decline in the number of Pennsylvania children in foster care. In September 2006 there were more than 21,000 Pennsylvania foster homes. By September 2010, that number had dropped below 15,000, resulting in an estimated savings of $220 million in the costs for administering foster care programs throughout Pennsylvania.
The creation of the resource guide and the OCFC was made possible through Court Improvement Project grant run by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.