A safety plan is usually offered to a family when allegations of abuse are made and the County agency feels the need to protect a child or children in a home. Typically the agency will threaten to place the child(ren) in foster care if the family does not “agree” to the safety plan. Mark Freeman represents families who are in this situation and has filed several civil rights lawsuits over the unconstitutional use of safety plans by county agencies obtaining five (5) Federal Court decisions in favor of families over the past five (5) years. These recent Federal Court decisions in Pennsylvania have dramatically altered County Children and Youth Service agency implementations of safety plans. The Federal Court decisions have agreed that asking a family to “agree” to a safety plan under the threat of placement of their children in foster care is coercive and triggers a due process right for the family to have a court hear the matter. Prior to the Federal Court decisions County practice had been to coerce families into a safety plan and then not give the family any court hearing to contest the safety plan. Now, after the Federal Court decisions, County agencies appear to be making attempts to give families some due process. Whether the due process, if any, being offered to families by these County agencies is Constitutional has not been addressed by any Court. If you are in this situation and are being offered, or have already signed a safety plan, you may want to consult with Mark Freeman about your case.
In the first Federal Court decision, both parents were forced out of their home after they were falsely accused of abusing their son. They were permitted only supervised visits. Their son had a medical condition that was misdiagnosed as having been caused by child abuse. With good legal representation, they were able to get their children back, get the dependency petitions dismissed, the ChildLine report dismissed and after they get their children back, filed suit to recover damages for their being forced out of their home. Mark Freeman represented this family throughout their ordeal. The Federal Court decision is available on the Court’s website. Click here for a copy of the Federal Court’s decision on safety plans.
In the second Federal Court decision, the father was accused of abusing his son and was forced to “agree” to a safety plan when the County threatened to place the son and an older daughter into foster care. The father was permitted only supervised visits at the County agency once a week. The father was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and endangering the welfare of a child and was arrested. With good legal representation from Mark Freeman, the parents won the dependency hearing and the return of their children. Mark Freeman was able to get the criminal charges against the father dismissed. Mark Freeman filed a Federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the family against the County and won. The Federal Court decision is available publicly on the Court’s website. Click here for a copy of the Federal Court’s second decision on safety plans.
If you are in this situation and are being offered, or have already signed a safety plan, you may want to consult with Mark Freeman about your case.