Monday, October 3, 2011

Foster care in Texas: The Texas travesties keep on coming

Thursday’s post to this Blog describes a case in which a judge got so fed up with how Texas Child Protective Services treated a child that he issued an order of protection – protecting the child from CPS.  For anyone who missed it, the video from KHOU-TV is available here.  

But that case is far from the only example of appalling CPS behavior in Texas.

The day before reporting on the order of protection case, KHOU broadcast the story of a grandmother who had custody of her infant grandchild, only to have the child torn away by CPS.  The excuse: Grandma smoked.  Here’s the story:


It’s not hard to guess the real reasons why this infant was torn from a loving grandmother.

In part it’s because the bias against families at agencies like Texas CPS extends to extended families  - even though multiple studies have found that kinship care is more stable, better for children’s well-being and, most important, safer than what properly should be called “stranger care.”

But there is another likely reason as well: Money.

The federal government pays states a bounty of anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 for every finalized adoption of a foster child over a baseline number.  Had the grandmother been willing to drag her own daughter-in-law into court and fight her over termination of parental rights, and then adopt the child, Texas still would get the bounty.  The grandmother in this case opted for a more humane approach, one which allows her to raise the grandchild without cutting off the child’s mother entirely.  But that means no bounty for CPS.

And of course, these are not the only egregious violations of children’s rights in Texas.

● There’s the case of the family torn apart for no other reason than they could not afford adequate housing.

● There’s the case in which all you have to do is look at the pictures of the child before and after she was subjected to Texas foster care to see how much harm the state of Texas did to her.

● Or the case in which children were taken because of a botched background check.  There’s a follow-up story here. Both are from KPRC-TV.

● And then there were the Houston families falsely accused of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, as reported by  KRIV-TV.

● And another KRIV story about a mother chose child was taken because she wanted a second medical opinion before consenting to surgery, only to have the child die in foster care.

All these cases in less than two years are not just from one state, but from one metropolitan area, Houston.  And the trend in Texas is ominous.  Nationwide, the number of children taken from their families in 2010 was about the same as 2009.  But in Texas that number shot up by 26 percent, the largest such increase, by far, in the nation.

But here’s what’s really scary.  There is nothing unusual about Houston.  In fact, many other large cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and, Philadelphia take away, proportionately more children.

The abuses in these cases are common in most of the country.  And, of course, these abuses help explain why other children are left in dangerous homes.  All the time, money and effort spent harming these families was, in effect, stolen from children in real danger.  That’s why child welfare won’t get better until every state addresses head-on the problem of wrongful removal. 

What really sets Houston apart is the willingness of three local television stations to take these issues seriously and go after these stories.

In fact, the person who really looks like an idiot is the reporter who managed to miss them all, Terri Langford.  In theory, at least, Langford covers these issues for the Houston Chronicle.  But as I’ve noted before on this Blog,  Langford appears to view it as her mission in life to make sure that this side of the child welfare story never makes it into her paper's news pages.
She hasn’t quite succeeded.  The Chronicle did a superb job on the story about the family torn apart due to housing – but another reporter covered it.  Perhaps the family caught one lucky break and Langford wasn’t around when their plight became known.