Court Report Writing - pg. 6

Completed Court Report




Court Hearing Date: 11/10/05

CASA Volunteer: Harold H. Hendrick
County:Pima Date Submitted:10/25/05 JD Number: 99999
Child Name: Age:

Total # of Placements: # of Contacts Since Last Report:
James Ducats
Karen Ducats
Carl Ducats
7 years
4 years
10 months
3
3
1
12
10
6


Records Reviewed List date, title, and author of material
Psychiatrist's assessment of James Dated 10/14/05 by Dr. Alice Melrondur
School report from James' teacher Dated 10/4/05 by Mr. Fred Woodbury
Medical Exam report by Dr. Gibbs Dated 8/11/05 - 8/13/03
CPS case file records Dated 6/8/05-10/22/03
Minute Entry from Dependency Review Hearing Dated 5/12/05

Persons of Interest and/or Interviewed
James Ducats Child
Karen Ducats Child
Carl Ducats Child
Lisa Walden Biological Mother
Donald Ducats Biological Father
June and Richard James and Karen's former Foster Parents
Helen and Charles James and Karen's Foster Parents
Elaine and John Carl's Foster Parents
Kelly Samuals, MSW CPS Case Manager
Alice Melrondur, PhD Therapist for James
Fred Woodbury School Teacher for James
Edward Smithe Lisa Walden's employer
Maxwell Gibbs, MD DES appointed physician
Howard Mells, Esq. Attorney for Mother
Julie Delmont, Esq. Attorney for Father

Brief History

James, Karen, and Carl Ducats were taken into custody on May 7, 2005. A neighbor, Ms. Helen Greer, telephoned authorities when James came to her door one evening asking for food so he could feed his brother and sister. The CPS investigation found that their father was to be supervising the children, but they had been left alone for two days. Neither the mother nor the father could be located. James and Karen were placed into a shelter on 5/7/05 while Carl was placed in an emergency foster home. James and Karen were placed in a foster home on 5/13/05 and Carl was allowed to remain at the emergency foster home. On 6/10/05 James and Karen were removed from their foster home and placed in a group home. On 8/14/05 James and Karen were placed in a second foster home, but will soon be returned to the group home. This CASA volunteer was appointed to the case on 9/10/05 and has spent 37 hours on the case since being assigned.

Assessment

James Ducats, child -- case plan: Family Reunification

James' behavior has been deteriorating since he was removed from his mother. Initially after removal he was quiet and reserved. Now he regularly throws tantrums and refuses to listen to his foster parents. He will openly oppose whatever his foster parents ask him to do. James' attitude has gotten to the point were his current foster parents have asked for his removal. Personal interviews with the previous foster family and the current foster family confirm the personal observation that James' behavioral and emotional states get worse after each parental visit. Dr. Melrondur (James' therapist) attributes this to James' fear that he will never be returned to his mother. The doctor believes that James' tantrums and disobedience are efforts to make people put him back with his mother.

Mr. Woodbury (James' teacher) states that James is reserved in class. He does well in his coursework, but does not get involved with any other children during recess or during group activities. I asked James why he does not get involved and his response was, "Why make friends when I'm leaving here soon?"

I have been present during two parental visits by Ms. Walden and one with Mr. Ducats. James brightens up when his mom arrives. He always asks her when they get to go home together. Ms. Walden also seems very happy to see her children. They interact well and the children seem very happy to spend time with their mother. James does not interact much with his father, spending most of his time talking to his mom. James and Mr. Ducats will play catch with a football together.

During my visits with James he does not seem to understand why he was taken from home. He misses his mom and his friends and wants to return home. James appears indifferent about his father and was not concerned about only seeing him once during his removal.


Karen Ducats, child -- case plan: Family Reunification

Karen told this volunteer she was frightened by her removal from home. She does not understand why she does not get to see her mom every day. As a result she spends as much time as she can with her brother. When they are apart she is restless and appears tense. Once James arrives home from school, Karen is by his side. As James' behavior has deteriorated so has Karen's. She uses her brother as a role model and copies his poor behavior. When James gets upset with things, Karen picks up on this and has started throwing tantrums.

During the parental visits Karen sits in her mother's lap. When they play a game Karen insists on being next to her mother and reaches out to touch her frequently. When the visits end Karen cries as her mother leaves. Karen has no contact with Mr. Ducats and does not even seem to notice he is in the room. Her focus is totally on her mother.

Karen prefers to be with her brother during my visits. I have met with her several times though before James returns from school. In my one-on-one visits with Karen she is shy and reserved. She misses her mother and really wants to go home. She draws family pictures and items from her home. She talks about how much she liked playing with certain toys and being put in bed by her mother. Mr. Ducats is noticeably absent from her drawings.


Carl Ducats, infant -- case plan: Family Reunification

Carl has been doing well in his current placement. Since there were no relatives to take Carl he has remained at the first foster home that took him in on the night he was removed. Elaine and John (foster parents) report that Carl is eating fine and is a well-behaved infant. Carl makes eye contact, faces, and smiles when someone holds him. He is not irritable and is easily soothed when upset.

Carl's mother has supervised visits with him each week. She holds him in her arms, talks to him, caresses him, and he giggles, coos, and laughs when she speaks to him.


Lisa Walden, birth mother

Ms. Walden resides in a one-bedroom apartment. She works a full-time job to earn money to raise her children. On the night her children had been removed Lisa was finishing an out-of-town weekend job for Mr. Smithe. Lisa is a model employee who Mr. Smithe says he would have a difficult time replacing.

Lisa has attended all ten of the parenting classes that had been arranged for her. She told her case manager that she has learned Donald really cannot be responsible enough to watch after the children. Prior to the children's removal, Lisa had arranged with a friend to care for the children while Lisa was at work. Donald had agreed to watch the children on the weekend of May 7th. He did not show up. Donald and Lisa do not live together.

The visits between Lisa and her three children have been very emotional. She cares about the children's well being and asks them what they have been doing since their last visitation. The older children run to their mother when she arrives. Prior to her arrival the children fidget and repeatedly ask when she will be arriving. Lisa interacts very well with all of her children. When the whole family gets together, Lisa will converse with Karen and James while holding Carl.


Donald Ducats, birth father

Donald Ducats is the father of all three children. Donald and Lisa have been dating on and off since shortly after they graduated high school. During a supervised family visit I noticed that Donald is very standoffish towards the children. He pays no attention to Carl, answers Karen's questions with short or one syllable answers, and only gets involved with James to throw balls around. Donald attended only one of the ten parenting classes that were arranged for him.

Donald told the case manager that he was supposed to be looking after the children on the weekend that they were removed from home. He did not show up on Friday because he worked late on a neighbor's car and "forgot to check on the kids." Saturday he went to an afternoon ball game and then went out celebrating the victory with his friends. Sunday morning he was feeling too bad to leave his apartment.

Reasonable Efforts

The case plan is to reunite the children with their biological mother, with a target date of 11/17/05. CPS has identified and assigned a parenting course to the biological parents. The mother has attended all ten of her course meetings and participated in each session. The father attended only one course and did not participate during the discussions. James has been provided with therapy to address his emotional and behavioral problems. His behavior has not improved, but Dr. Melrondur has told me James should dramatically improve once he is returned to his mother. CPS has successfully provided services and support to the family during the removal process. The only exception is Mr. Ducats, but it was his own choice not to participate in the services. Reasonable efforts have been made.

Opinions and Concerns

I believe the case plan for reunification is the correct choice for the children. Lisa Walden cares deeply for her children and they love her. The problems that James has been having do not carry over to school and I feel they will clear up once he is back in his own home with his mother.

The services provided have been very helpful to Lisa. She now fully understands the responsibilities for child care rest completely with her. After completing her parenting courses she knows that Donald is not responsible enough to watch after the children and she has arranged with several friends to care for the children in the event that her normal weekday caretaker is unavailable. Mr. Smithe has also offered to give Lisa more flexibility in her job so she can take care of her children if she has problems with scheduling. He knows a valuable employee when he has one. The services for James were not very beneficial for his behavior, but they did confirm that his poor behavior is based on his removal from home and not any underlying physical or mental deficiencies.

Kelly Samuals (case manager) has been a great help to me. Her assistance with the case file review and contact names for people was very important. She saved me many hours of seeking out that information on my own.

Donald Ducats has almost no regard for his children. He places his own fun and entertainment above the well being of the children. He only takes an apparent interest when the child can offer him some sort of benefit. His lack of concern for the children shows that he is their father in genetics alone. Ms. Walden has done a great job raising these children by herself.

Recommendations

I respectfully make the following recommendations:
  1. That all children remain a ward of the court, committed to the care, custody, and control of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
  2. That James, Karen, and Carl be reunited with their mother in accordance with the case plan.
  3. That James receives a follow-up session with the Dr. Melrondur 2 weeks after his return home.
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