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Months after a child welaare case is petitioned, a nonresident father appears in court and requests custody of his children who are living in foster care. Little is known about the father, and immediately, the system-judge, caseworkers, and attorneys view him with suspicion and caution, inquiring about his whereabouts and his prior involvement in the children's lives. Those doubts, in turn, raise complicated questions about his legal rights to his children. As a practioner working in the child welfare system, you're likely to face this scenario. The largest percentage of child victims of abuse and neglect come from households headed by single mothers. Consequently, dependancy proceedings frequently focus on reunifying children with their mothers. The child welfare system frequently responds to this dynamic by treating fathers as legal strangers to their children and minimizing the importance of their rights. Often, involving fathers is an afterthought. Evidence reveals that child welfare caseworkers, courts, and attorneys typically do an inadequate job of locating nonresident fathers at the outset of the case, involving them once identified, and ensuring their consitutional and statutory rights are fully protected.


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