Saturday, September 24, 2016

New columns on differential response, predictive analytics and the Family First Act

I'm opposed to the so-called Family First Act, which is being sold as a way to change perverse financial incentives in child welfare and reduce the use of group homes and institutions but which, in fact, would do little of either.

But I'm also offended by intellectual dishonesty.  So two recent NCCPR columns in the Chronicle of Social Change deal with the intellectual dishonesty behind some of the arguments being used against the bill:

Family First Act Has Problems, But The “Imminent Risk” Provision Isn’t One of Them


Meanwhile there's still another study out showing that "differential response" - a less coercive way to handle reports alleging child abuse - does not compromise child safety.  But that isn't stopping opponents - including a group with a particularly poor track record on child welfare issues. Read about it in this column:


And finally, if you're still not creeped out by the prospect of using "predictive analytics" in child welfare, read this column.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A good decision for New York City foster children

Judge sees New York foster care suit “settlement” for the sham that it is


A federal judge wisely threw out a proposed settlement in a lawsuit brought against the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and – supposedly – against New York State.  The suit was brought by the city’s “public advocate,” Letitia James, and by Marcia Lowry, who used to run the group that calls itself “Children’s Rights” before they had a parting of the ways.

I say supposedly against the state because under the settlement the state wasn’t actually required to do much of anything – just “monitor” the city.  So of course the state rushed to “settle” – it was a great way for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stick it to his far more progressive rival, Mayor Bill DeBlasio at the expense of the city’s most vulnerable children.

Perhaps most appalling, the settlement actually would have barred anyone else from bringing a class-action suit against the state during the term of the settlement. (Presumably Lowry would have sought a similar ban against suing ACS had she reached a settlement with ACS.)  In other words, Lowry simultaneously maintained that her suit was essential and every other possible class-action suit was worthless.  The arrogance behind this position is breathtaking.

The fact that not just lawyers for parents but also the lawyers who represent children in foster care proceedings called b.s. on this one tells you everything you need to know about this suit.  It also tells you that Marcia Lowry, who long ago did some real good with some of her lawsuits, no longer understands what works, and what doesn’t, in American child welfare. 

Details about Lowry and “Children’s Rights” are in this NCCPR report.

 ACS has made real progress

 Yes the city child welfare system still has big problems.  It’s also made a lot of progress – that’s why lawyers who in the past might have backed a suit like this one now feel this particular suit and the particular remedies it sought were the wrong approach.

The part of the suit that seems to have gotten the most attention is the part pointing out that
the average length of stay in foster care is longer in New York City than the national average.  But that is partly because the city has curbed needless removal of children from their homes.  So there is less “churning” in which children are taken from everyone they know and love and then “thrown back” a few weeks later – much the worse for the experience – because everyone realizes the child never should have been taken at all. 

States and localities that engage in that pernicious practice actually can wind up looking good when you measure average length of stay.

The judge should be commended for throwing out the settlement. And Marcia Lowry should stop bringing foolish, arrogant lawsuits before whatever legacy she has is tarnished beyond repair.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

New columns about a child welfare tragedy and the foster care "Twilight Zone"

In the Chronicle of Social Change: How Child Protective Services took an almost unimaginable tragedy - and made it almost unimaginably worse.

Read the column here.

And in Youth Today: How child welfare agencies hide the true number of children they take from their families.

Read the column here

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New columns about racial bias in "predictive analytics" and the so-called Family First Act

ProPublica has done some outstanding reporting on racial bias in the use of algorithms - "predictive analytics" - in criminal justice.  Things may be even worse in child welfare

Read our column here

Although I oppose the so-called "Family First Act" which would make small changes in how the federal government pays for child welfare services, some of the arguments against the bill are so disingenuous that they tempt me to change my mind.

This column explains why

Friday, July 8, 2016

New columns on the latest CASA scandal and on child welfare finance legislation

There's another scandal at a program affiliated with the most sacred cow in child welfare, Court-Appointed Special Advocates.  No one should be surprised.  Bias is built into the CASA model.

Read about it here.

And here's my analysis of proposed child welfare finance reform legislation:

Monday, June 27, 2016

New columns on child welfare finance

In the Chronicle of Social Change, NCCPR looks at what really works in child abuse prevention:
To Prevent Child Abuse: Replace the “Public Health Approach” with a Social Justice Approach

And in Youth Today, a look at how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a program meant to help poor people become self-sufficient became a child welfare slush fund.

Also, while in London earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet the author of the excellent new study discussed here:
New Longitudinal Study Finds Epidemic of Fear, Not an Epidemic of Child Abuse