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Welcome to the California Elder Justice Workgroup Wiki Site!



The California Elder Justice Workgroup (CEJW) was launched in October 2009 to protect the rights, independence, security, and well being of vulnerable elders in California by improving the response of the legal, long-term care, and protective service systems. 


Visit About Us to learn more about CEJW or Click here to download the full Project description in PDF format.












It’s out!

Improving California’s Response to Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: A Blueprint. 


The document represents over two years of exploration and discussions by advocates, service providers, experts in elder abuse prevention and related fields, and others with an interest in ensuring justice, safety, and security for older adults in California. These include the findings from the first state summit on elder abuse, held in April of 2010, an environmental scan to gather the collective knowledge about abuse and related topics, and discussions with the leaders of state agencies, professional associations, and advocacy groups. We welcome you to use the Blueprint to:

  • Guide your work with abused and vulnerable elders;
  • Assist you design new programs and expand existing programs by identifying unmet needs and justifying funding proposals;
  • Craft public policy; and
  • Set research agendas.


Hard copies of the Blueprint are being sent to summit delegates, members of CEJW’s Technical Advisory Group, and state and federal policy makers. 

Click below to download now:

-       Improving California’s Response to Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

-       Improving California’s Response to Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation: Executive Summary


We’d like to know your thoughts, ideas, and plans for using the Blueprint. Please take a moment to fill out our survey. We’ll also use it to keep you up-to-date about plans for implementing the Blueprint.

Click here to complete the survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XYRTT8Y

Thank you!


News & Updates



CEJW highlighted in Victimization of the Elderly and Disabled (VED)

Thanks to summit delegate and Senior Legislator Shirley Krohn, CEJW was featured on a front-page article of the May-June 2011 issue of VED. Shirley leads off the article with this to say about the summit:

While there are many programs, conferences, workshops, and the like that deal with elder abuse, there are very few that actually have, as a part of their agenda, an action plan and commitments made by the attendees. We’ll be making good on the summit’s promise as we move forward to implement the Blueprint.  


CDA Loses Mental Health Services Champion

Just as elder advocates in California have begun to reap the benefits of her work, Lin Benjamin will be leaving the California Department on Aging where she has served for the last five years as their Geriatric Mental Health Specialist. Lin will resume her consulting business, Benjamin Gero-Psych Consulting, and hopes to continue working with Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) projects. Her departure is the result of cuts to MHSA funds that were designated for state agencies to hire staff to ensure that MHSA funds meet the state’s most critical needs. Some services funded under MHSA will also be cut. Advocates may want to let policy makers know about the value of mental health services for vulnerable elders and what a blow to the field Lin’s absence will be.


IOA Launches Elder Financial Abuse Collaboration

In what Erika Falk, Director of Geriatric Assessment & Psychological Services at the Institute on Aging  and the Elder Abuse Forensics Center, calls a “CEJW summit inspired” initiative, the IOA is launching the San Francisco Elder Financial Abuse Collaboration in collaboration with the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy. The project will: 

  • Research and analyze existing programs, frameworks, and policies that address elder financial abuse, with a particular focus on civil legal remedies; and
  • Translate the findings into a blueprint that will guide San Francisco’s implementation of a comprehensive, coordinated civil response to elder financial abuse.

For more on the project, see: 



New Investigations Slam California’s Oversight of caregivers

Two recently-released reports address the ongoing problem of preventing dangerous people from becoming caregivers for California’s most vulnerable members:  


Caregiver Roulette: California Fails to Screen those who Care for the Elderly at Home, a report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, suggests that few people who hire caregivers from on-line services like Craigslist take advantage of a 2008 law that enables them to do criminal background checks on prospective employees through the Department of Justice. 


The Office, which was created in 2008 by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and includes several former investigative reporters in its ranks, reviewed 64 recent criminal cases involving caregivers and found that 27% of the offenders had previously been convicted of crimes. In one case, a woman convicted of stealing $43,000 from a church where she worked as a bookkeeper and $18,675 from her bed-ridden mother, got a job as a caregiver through a newspaper classified ad. She moved into the client’s master bedroom, started charging the client rent, bought cars on her bank accounts, and put the elderly woman’s house up for sale before she was caught.


The researchers also examined Craigslist ads placed by people offering to care for elderly clients in their homes and found caregivers with criminal convictions for commercial burglary, methamphetamine trafficking, and prostitution. In one case, a would-be caregiver who was caught stealing $2,400 worth of merchandise from a garden supply store described herself to a sheriff’s investigator as a “kleptomaniac” with “uncontrollable urges.”


The report also points out that when in-home care agencies do criminal background checks, the quality of the checks varies widely, from instant Internet screening to thorough searches of county courthouse records or Department of Justice and FBI databases. Some clients who’ve been victimized by caregivers have sued in-home agencies for shoddy background checks and prosecutors have taken agencies to court for ignoring criminal backgrounds they discovered and placing felonious caregivers in private homes anyway.


The investigators recommend several measures including the creation of a registry that would allow clients to find independent caregivers who have voluntarily been screened and avoid those guilty of earlier transgressions; a public education campaign to let consumers know how to get and interpret a statewide Department of Justice background check; and a state law to allow consumer reporting agencies to disclose caregiver convictions older than seven years. The report is available at. www.sen.ca.gov/oversight


In-Home Supportive Services: An Open Door for Abuse and Fraud

This report by the 2010/2011 San Diego County Grand Jury comes in response to allegations of waste and fraud in the county’s In-Home Support Services (IHSS) System and covers a wide range of abuses by both consumers and providers of services.  It includes the following summary and update on criminal background checks: 

Until 2009, most potential caregivers were not required to submit to a background check, thus allowing those with an undetected criminal history to be caregivers. In 2009, the state legislature passed a law requiring all current and prospective caregivers, not just those listed on the Public Authority registry, to complete a background check using electronic fingerprinting no later than December 31, 2010.  As of this writing, 97% of caregivers in the County have completed the screening. Beginning February 1, 2011, the background check includes noting some felony and violence-related convictions that will disqualify a prospective caregiver from being listed with the Public Authority. While all current and prospective providers must submit to the background check, information about a caregiver’s criminal background may not be provided to consumers because of “privacy restrictions.” Thus, a consumer may directly hire a caregiver with a felonious past.


Currently, only two state penal code violations (felony convictions for child and/or elder abuse, welfare or other economic fraud) are cause to reject a prospective caregiver from the Public Authority registry. At the governor’s urging, the legislature passed a law in 2009 increasing the list of felony exclusions to include a conviction for any felony and specific serious misdemeanors. However, in a suit filed by caregiver unions, a state appeals court issued a temporary restraining order preventing full implementation of the law.  The plaintiffs allege that the California Department of Social Services, which administers the program at the state level, has no authority to prevent caregiver applicants with any felony conviction from providing services. After two subsequent court hearings, the last trial court found “the state is not allowed to use all felonies and specified misdemeanors to disqualify individuals from being paid by the IHSS program.”The state appealed this decision, which is pending before the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, in the case of Beckwith v. Wagner, case number A128631.

Copies of the filing are available at: http://www.ihsscoalition.org/documents/IHSSFinalReport.pdf


Little Hoover Commission Finds State Long-Term Care System a Mess. So What Else is New?  

A report just released by California’s Little Hoover Commission urges California to rethink its fragmented approach to long-term care services.  Noting that services are delivered by 7 different state departments, the report declares “The emphasis for delivering long-term care services must shift from the current unfocused piecemeal approach and toward a comprehensive, strategically managed approach. The state must develop a vision for a continuum of long-term care services that puts clients at the center, learning more about the clients to better serve them and learning more about outcomes to better manage the resources available.”   The report, titled “A Long-Term Strategy for Long-Term Care,” is available at www.lhc.ca.gov. 


As those who participated in the State summit know, CEJW is committed to working with long-term care advocates to “safeguard” the state’s long-term care system (both in terms of preserving critical services and building in additional safeguards).



The most recent edition of the International Perspectives in Victimology (Volume 5[2]), which is edited by CEJW TAG member John Dussich, focuses on domestic violence and contains several articles on elder abuse. The issue also reviews John’s new book on restorative justice The Promise of Restorative Justice: New Approaches for Criminal Justice and Beyond, which is co-edited by Jill Schellenberg. The book contains a chapter on a restorative justice program for elder abuse by Arlene Groh. For more on the journal, see http://shop.thepressatcsufresno.com/Subscription-51Subsc.htm


Long-awaited guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease focus on early impairment

For the first time since 1984, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke have updated their criteria and guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The new guidelines formalize an emerging consensus that everyone who eventually develops Alzheimer's experiences a period of minimal impairment preceding full onset of the disease. Although detectable, this “preclinical” stage, which is known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), is rarely diagnosed.


Elder abuse prevention advocates have increasingly been watching the research on MCI as a possible risk factor in elder financial abuse and exploitation, with some suggesting that it may account for the uncharacteristic lapses in judgment that prompt people to engage in highly risky deals or susceptible to undue influence. The new guidelines appear as free-access papers in Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association and are available at http://www.alz.org/research/diagnostic_criteria/




Making Perps Pay

As in past years, elder abuse bills are flying fast and furiously in the State Assembly. Two bills that are making their way through the process would make perpetrators pay for their offenses:


  • SB 586, sponsored by AARP and the California Senior Legislature and introduced by Fran Pavley, Democrat from Santa Monica, deals with “signature stamps” issued by banks to elderly or disabled adults who are unable to physically get to banks. The bill would require that bank employees witness and sign all requests for new signature stamps and provide customers with information on their risks. The bill was prompted by a case in which the caregiver of a bedridden Westwood woman used a signature stamp to cash checks, drain the woman’s bank account, access her life insurance fund, and charge over $80,000 on dormant Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue accounts. The bill also provides for fines on financial abuse to go to APS.
  • AB 332, sponsored by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler of Marina del Rey, would increase the fines for financial crimes committed against elderly and dependent adults from $1,000 to $2,500 for embezzlement, forgery, fraud or identity theft against an elder or dependent adult for a misdemeanor offense of more than $950. The bill also would enable felony charges for some theft crimes against the elderly with fines of up to $1,000. The increased penalties would be in addition to any jail or prison sentences.  


    Upcoming Events


    California Association of Area Agencies on Aging (C4A) 2011

    CEJW will once again join other state organizations in hosting C4A’s annual conference in Los Angeles on Nov. Among the sessions CEJW is organizing are:

    •  Promising practices in elder abuse prevention that area agencies on aging can adopt, including memoranda of understanding between Ombudsmen and APS, screening tools that senior centers can use to prevent vendors and would-be scammers from posing as objective financial advisors to make presentations. 
    • Mental health services for abused and vulnerable older adults  


    For more on the event, watch C4A’s Web site at: www.aging.ca.gov/





    ·   Among the issues raised at the summit was the need for better communication among legal professionals, particularly in the handling of financial abuse cases. Summit delegate Steve Riess sums it up this way.

              “The state’s response to the problem involves helping victims recover from exploitation and punishing wrong-doers. However, civil remedies and criminal prosecution derive their authority from different statutes with very different legal requirements. Moreover, practical considerations, such as the measures of proof required and the ability of defendants to return property, often have profoundly different effects on the outcomes of civil cases and criminal prosecutions. While civil lawyers and prosecutors both address the same exploitative events, there is often a substantial gap in their understanding of each other’s roles. This gap can result in a failure to cooperate and a frustration of purpose.”


    Steve, a private attorney, and fellow summit delegate Helen Karr of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office teamed up on an ingenious solution. They’re designing a short publication to help civil lawyers and prosecutors better understand each other’s roles. The front half of the booklet is entitled “Civil Elder Financial Abuse for Prosecutors” and describes the law and practical considerations faced by civil lawyers. Turning the booklet over, the other half is entitled “Criminal Elder Financial Abuse for Civil Lawyers” and describes prosecutors’ considerations. When completed, they plan to distribute the booklets at no charge to district attorney offices and related law enforcement, as well as to major county bar associations. Stakeholders who would like to help by reviewing a draft can contact Steve at steve@riesslaw.com

    ·         In a new report released December 7, 2010, advocates for consumers and seniors are calling for stricter oversight of the reverse mortgage market and new consumer protections for borrowers. Consumers Union released the report in collaboration with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform’s Prescott Cole and the Council on Aging Silicon Valley’s Shawna Reeves. The report and recommendations for consumers are being issued as the newly authorized Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) examines reverse mortgages and considers whether new safeguards are needed to protect borrowers from abusive industry practices. The Federal Reserve Board is also considering a set of proposed regulations on reverse mortgages.

    In their February 14 newsletter, the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) announced that President Obama’s FY 2012 budget proposed more than $20 million in first time funding for programs included in the Elder Justice Act of 2010. As per the EJC the funding breakdown is as follows:

    ·         Adult Protective Services (APS)-$16.5 million for State Adult Protective Services demonstrations to improve operations. Of these funds, $1.5 million will be targeted for coalition building, training and technical assistance, elder rights program development and research for preventing and addressing elder abuse within Tribal nations according to the Administration on Aging (AoA).

    ·         Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program-an additional $5 million to improve resident advocacy to elders and adults with disabilities who live in long-term care settings.


    To learn more about the work of the Elder Justice Coalition, visit http://www.elderjusticecoalition.com/index.htm

    ·         2011 Elder Rights Conference – Call for Sessions / Sponsorship Opportunity
    Stakeholders are invited to submit a presentation request for the 25th Annual Elder Rights Conference, July 6-8, 2011, in Chicago, Illinois. Deadline for submission is March 17, 2011. For more information, contact gidget.freeberg@illinois.gov or call 217-557-8312.

    ·         Friday, April 29 from 10-11:30am - Promising Practices with Financial Exploitation presented by Betty Malks, Shawna Reeves, Iris Freeman and Adria Navarro.

    ·         To view the POST catalogue description, visit http://post.outpostnetworks.com/postcatalog/catalogue/c6/p303

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