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Inquiry on foster care summons one Pulaski County judge; placing children with kin at issue

By Amanda Claire Curcio

This article was published August 31, 2016 at 5:45 a.m.

circuit-judge-patricia-james-is-shown-in-this-file-photo

Circuit Judge Patricia James is shown in this file photo.

Children and Family Services Division Director Cecile Blucker.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, is shown in this file photo.

Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, is shown in this file photo.



Lawmakers on Tuesday subpoenaed a Pulaski County juvenile court judge to answer questions about her reported refusal to give priority to relatives in the placement of children who are in state custody.

Children and Family Services Division Director Cecile Blucker.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, is shown in this file photo.

Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, is shown in this file photo.



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Nodmcm says... August 31, 2016 at 5:26 a.m.

Judge James could, right now, with what's been written in this newspaper, find all members of the Joint Performance Review committee in contempt of court, and order state policemen to "round up" those legislators and bring them before her for a show cause hearing. If those fellows want to boss around a judge, they better go to law school, pass the bar exam, and then get elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Then, and only then, will they have a measure of authority over Judge James. I bet a lot of people in Arkansas would enjoy seeing some legislators disciplined by a judge. Judge James, you go girl!

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DoubleBlind says... August 31, 2016 at 7:05 a.m.

If Judge James isn't in fact blocking DHS from placing kids with family rather than in foster care, she should at least answer the questions. She shouldn't be above scrutiny.

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BOLTAR says... August 31, 2016 at 7:25 a.m.

Those who maltreat and neglect children often learned those behaviors from the previous generation of their own family - the adults and other relatives who raised them. When a family service worker takes emergency custody of a child, that worker assumes parental responsibilities for that child, and no responsible parent would place a child in a household about which they know very little beyond the fact the family has an apparent problem with child maltreatment. The presumption an abused child should just be handed to grandparents, for example, recklessly denies the reality the grandparents may have taught their child the abusive behavior he or she then visited on the grandchild, so a child must often go into foster care while appropriate home evaluations are completed.

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LR1955 says... August 31, 2016 at 7:31 a.m.

I'm just guessing but I feel that Judge James has seen children that were pulled out of a bad home situation and placed with another family member, where the placement family allows the children's temporarily non-custodial parents (Jethro & Jethrene) to have access to the children. Sorry Legislature but there have been bad stories about too many of you to give your big pants much support!

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PopulistMom says... August 31, 2016 at 8:50 a.m.

Whiskey,

If somebody does not like what a judge does, then they can appeal that ruling. The judicial branch does not answer to the legislative branch. If Blucker thinks that the Judge's rulings are improper under Arkansas law, then she must try to get the Attorney General to intervene in a case or convince a family to appeal. Judges do not answer to the legislature.

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PopulistMom says... August 31, 2016 at 8:54 a.m.

Of course, no child should be placed in a situation which has not been vetted. Nodmcm, Boltar, and LR1955 are right on! Anyway, as LR1955 noted, too many legislators have shown that they are not experts on child placement. One of them gave his children away to a pedophile. (It is an outrage that he was not asked to resign.)

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NoUserName says... August 31, 2016 at 10:13 a.m.

Didn't a commentator mention this very thing during a recent article on Federal funding for kids in foster care? That judges were preferentially putting kids in foster rather than a suitable relative.

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Whippersnapper says... August 31, 2016 at 12:19 p.m.

The problem with this judge is that the LAW says something and she doesn't like it. A judge who doesn't want to enforce the laws they disagree with is indeed a bad judge, whether their dislike is justified or not. Until and unless she can establish that it violates the state or federal constitution, her oath of office requires her to enforce the laws she doesn't like just as fairly as the laws she likes. This is not some place where the law leaves leeway, it is quite explicit. Her approach ought to be advocacy in favor of changing the law, using the platform she has, but that's harder than simply ignoring the law and trusting that the legislators would be too spineless to take action against her.

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PopulistMom says... August 31, 2016 at 1:17 p.m.

Whipper,

State law also requires that children be placed in fit homes. When two laws conflict, it is her duty as judge to make a ruling. Once a relative is investigated and deemed fit, then a judge may place a child in that home. Her utmost job is the protection of the children.

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BOLTAR says... August 31, 2016 at 1:38 p.m.

Exactly right, PopulistMom. Laws require interpretation and application based on the facts in a specific situation. That is why we need qualified, impartial judges who can balance conflicting demands in order to arrive at the most just and legal decision.

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