Tuesday, July 16, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 16, 2024

● Last week I wrote about the self-proclaimed “child welfare scholar” who insists that the horrors inflicted on children by “residential treatment facilities” have nothing to do with the foster care system.  This week, PBS News Weekend spoke to some former foster youth who beg to differ. 

● It’s official: Minnesota has a law that will phase in enhanced protections for children facing family police investigations and the risk that they will be placed in foster care.  Though some Native Americans have expressed concerns that such laws could dilute the impact of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a citizen of the White Earth Nation, doesn’t see it that way. 

As The Imprint reports

“Other states should follow our lead,” Flanagan said. “As a Native woman, this bill hit home. So I’m incredibly grateful for all of the folks behind me who helped us get here today.”
● Of course, if the federal government and the states were serious about, at long last, compensating Native Americans for what family policing has done to them – and continues to do to them – they could follow Canada’s example

● Amid concern over child abuse fatalities in Tennessee, I have a column in Tennessee Lookout about the best way to curb such fatalities.  (It’s what you think.) 

● Two cases involving the dubious diagnosis of “shaken baby syndrome” are in the news this week. In one case, The New York Times Magazine says: “Flawed science helped convict Russell Maze more than 20 years ago. The D.A.’s office now says it got it wrong. Why is he still behind bars?”  In the other, despite strong evidence that the shaken baby diagnosis was wrong, the father is not only in jail, a date has been set for his execution.  That case is in Texas – but you probably guessed that. 

In this week’s edition of The Horror Stories Go in All Directions: 

NewsNation reports that 

A northwest Indiana woman accused in the death of her 10-year-old foster child has been taken into custody in Michigan following a days-long search. … [Jennifer] Wilson has been charged with reckless homicide in connection with the death of 10-year-old Dakota Levi Stevens in late April.

Monday, July 15, 2024

NCCPR in Tennessee Lookout: The best way to reduce child abuse fatalities is to reduce poverty

The only acceptable goal for child abuse fatalities is zero.  But how do we come closest to achieving that goal? 

Some have suggested that because child abuse deaths may have increased by 30% in 2023, Tennessee is doing too much to keep families together so we should tear apart even more families.  That would only make everything worse. 

For starters, there is no evidence for the claim that Tennessee is bending over backwards to keep families together. On the contrary, even when rates of child poverty are factored in, Tennessee takes children from their families at a rate nearly 50% above the national average. ...

Read the full commentary in Tennessee Lookout

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 9, 2024

This week we begin with two new resources: 

● The National Center for Youth Law has published a superb guide for families so they’ll know their rights when they have to face the state family police agency.  It’s a great model for advocates in other states as well. 

● While others try to exploit child abuse deaths, NCCPR works to help people understand them – and find real solutions.  Check out our new Issue Paper on this topic. 

● Among those most adept at exploiting such tragedies is right-wing extremist Naomi Schaefer Riley.  At the online news site WitnessLA, I respond to her latest attempt. 

● I also have a commentary in The Imprint on the biggest failing in that U.S. Senate committee report on the horrors of “residential treatment.”  What’s the failing? Here’s a hint: the commentary is called “Don’t Forget: Nonprofit Residential Treatment Also Stinks 

● The report was followed by a hearing that included testimony from Paris Hilton.  That was more than one self-proclaimed “child welfare scholar” could handle.  I have a blog post about it. 

In this week’s edition of The Horror Stories Go in All Directions: 

● Some of the strongest backers of tearing apart even more families point to West Virginia as a model – because that state has what they see as an exemplary record of rushing to terminate children’s rights to their parents and dump them into adoptive homes.  NBC News has a story about how that worked out in one recent case. 

KRQE-TV in Albuquerque reports: 

A civil lawsuit against the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department involving a developmentally and intellectually delayed teen girl getting raped by her foster parents has been settled. The lawsuit claimed they put the girl with a known sexual predator. 

Clarence Garcia pled guilty to seven sexual abuse charges as part of a plea deal in January 2023. One of his victims included a vulnerable teen girl. “Beginning when she was 14 J.H., an intellectually and mentally delayed young woman, was continuously raped by Clarence Garcia for 16 months while in his supposed care,” said the victim’s attorney Kate Ferlic.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Who’s afraid of Paris Hilton?


It turns out, Paris Hilton knows more about "residential
treatment facilities" than at least one self-proclaimed
"child welfare scholar." (Photto by Peter Sch√§fermeier,
via Wikimedia Commons)

In a previous post, I noted the increasing desperation of Richard Barth.  The former Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work and self-proclaimed “child welfare scholar” seeks to run from the fact that the system he’s done so much to build and maintain – the family policing system – has failed. 

Among other things, I discussed in that post how he couldn’t cope with the rigorous scholarship of Prof. Kelley Fong, author of the landmark study Investigating Families. 

But now it turns out, Barth also can’t cope with Paris Hilton. 

Late last month, Hilton testified at a Congressional hearing. The topics included the horrors inflicted on thousands of young people, herself included, by “residential treatment facilities” (RTFs).  The hearing followed the release of a scathing report from a United States Senate committee on those horrors and the entire residential treatment industry.  

So how did Barth respond?  By pretending that this industry has nothing to do with his sacred, beloved “child welfare” system.  It’s not a matter of ill-motivation. Barth has always genuinely wanted to help vulnerable children.  This issue is his failure to face the reality that his approach has backfired. 

So in a post on his increasingly shrill feed on the site formerly known as Twitter, he tells us that Hilton: 

has very reasonable grievances but, just to be clear, she was not in the "child welfare system".  Her treatment was privately arranged by her family.  

In another tweet, he tells us: 

@ParisHilton story is about private residential treatment--another, distinct, service ‘system.’" 

And then he throws in a story about saintly foster parents in order to distract us from what the system – and it is one system – is really like. 

So, time for a fact check. 

For starters, to characterize what Hilton and so many others have been forced to endure in these hellholes as merely “very reasonable grievances” is a disturbing understatement.  

But more to the point: Residential treatment facilities collect their victims from two sources.  Yes, sometimes desperate parents are fooled into sending their children there voluntarily.  But a large source of victims – and revenue – for these places is foster children. They’re dumped into institutions by family police agencies (a more accurate term than “child welfare” agencies) when they run out of foster homes because they take so many children needlessly. 

Professor Barth may not understand this.  But Paris Hilton does.  As she testified: 

“For children who do end up in foster care, we cannot allow them to grow up in cold facilities that act like kid prisons.” 

Another speaker at the same hearing, not a celebrity but a former foster youth, Tori Hope Petersen, made the same point. 

But if that’s not enough for Barth, the Senate committee report itself singled out the warehousing of foster youth in such places as a particular problem.  According to the report: 

[A] significant portion of foster children placed at RTFs have no demonstrated behavioral health needs, so family court judges should be dissuaded from placing children in RTFs … 

The report goes on to note that at least two states are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, in one case by placing disabled foster children in substandard facilities, in the other by dumping them in RTFs when they didn’t need to be placed in such places at all. 

Citing an excellent report from the group Think of Us, the Senate report notes that “a child described being mocked by a staff member who said, “[t]hat’s why your mom didn’t want to keep you. That’s why you’re in foster care.” 

And it’s those family police agencies, so beloved by Barth, who are responsible for investigating abuses in these horrible institutions – and repeatedly turning a blind eye. 

Pretty much everyone knows it's all part of one “child welfare” system – except apparently Richard Barth, who’s made this same claim before.  As we noted in that previous post:

For some reason, the federal database known as the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System has a whole category for “institutions” Similarly, this excellent database from ChildTrends includes “Group Home or Institution” under “Placement settings and stability for children in foster care.” [Emphasis added.]  

And apparently [if Barth is right] the entire federal government got its regulations wrong, too.  Because federal regulations define foster care as 

“24-hour substitute care for all children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility.”  

Barth also seems to think it’s significant that RTFs are mostly privately run; as if this somehow makes them separate from his precious foster care system.  But most group home and institutional care has always been privately run – with all of us taxpayers providing most of the money.  In many states family foster care also is overseen by private agencies. 

And no, it doesn’t matter that a lot of the RTFs are run by for-profit corporations – nonprofits also have a hideous track record. 

So no, Prof. Barth.  Residential treatment is not some separate system that appeared out of nowhere and has nothing to do with foster care.  It’s an integral part of the “child welfare” system you helped to build and you continue to defend.

Monday, July 1, 2024

NCCPR in The Imprint: Don’t Forget: Nonprofit Residential Treatment Also Stinks

Long ago, in the early years of my career as a reporter, I worked in the original nonprofit sector of journalism — public broadcasting. Public television stations are known for their incessant pledge breaks begging for money — after all, they’re nonprofits, dedicated solely to the public good, right? How else are they going to stay on the air? 

That explains what happened, at least twice, at a station where I had worked, during pledge breaks in the middle of “Sesame Street.” The person doing the pitching said words to the effect of: “And now, boys and girls, we need you to bring your moms and dads to the television because we have a very important message for them: If we don’t get enough money we might have to take away Sesame Street.” 

It was a reminder that no halos come with nonprofit status. Desperation to survive can induce behavior in nonprofits that is as corrosive of common decency as the worst corporate greed. ...

Read the full column in The Imprint

Thursday, June 27, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, weeks ending June 26, 2024

● As noted last week, New York State again failed to pass “Family Miranda” legislation requiring the family police to tell families their rights.  So JMACforFamilies is continuing to do just that.  This photo is from  their latest campaign on New York City buses: 

 For decades, we’ve said states grossly underestimate the rate of abuse in foster care – indeed they don’t even try to find out. Now, the Associated Press reports, the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirms it. (And be sure to read the last paragraph to see what HHS is going to do about it.) 

● No self-respecting journalist for a mainstream news organization would do a big story about the criminal justice system and not so much as speak to the accused or their lawyers.  But in “child welfare” it’s common to treat birth parents as too subhuman to talk to – especially in the child removal capital of America, West Virginia.  That’s one reason why a recent NBC News story about that state’s system failed badly.  I have a blog post about it. 

● It's almost as if the producer of this 20-minute New Yorker documentary about Black parents and children desperate to reunite had the NBC story in mind, when she entitled her documentary To Be Invisible.

● Among the issues NBC ignored: In West Virginia children have been taken from mothers not because of opioid abuse, but because they are getting medication-assistant treatment for opioid abuse.  To what should be the surprise of no one, a new study finds that the fear that exactly this will happen deters mothers from seeking treatment. 

● But the biggest reason for wrongful removal is the confusion of poverty with neglect.  The Imprint has a story about bipartisan legislation which would provide a small amount of additional federal aid to states providing concrete help to families to avoid foster care.

ABC News reports on still another family tormented, and their children needlessly placed in foster care, because of a hospital’s misdiagnosis of child abuse. 

● New Hampshire is another state where, so far, the greed of the family police agency is taking precedence over the needs of the foster youth they’re supposedly protecting.  The New Hampshire Bulletin reports that the agency stalled a bill that would have stopped the state from swiping foster children’s Social Security benefits. 

● In Kentucky, the Legislature unanimously passed a bill to make it easier to place children with relatives instead of strangers when foster care allegedly is necessary.  It also would provide more aid to kinship foster parents. There may be no other state that needs this more, since Kentucky uses kinship foster care at one of the lowest rates in the nation – even as it continues to take children at a rate well above the national average.  But Spectrum News 1 reports that the state family policing agency – part of an agency with a budget of $3.5 billion – says it can’t afford to do this, so it’s just going to ignore the law. 

In this week’s edition of The Horror Stories Go in All Directions: 

WFLA-TV reports: 

As each day passes, Zy’kiria Bell’s death is still a mystery. The 17-year-old girl died on May 29 at Lake Academy, a state-owned facility in Tampa. It’s sites like this one that are entrusted to care for our most vulnerable youth. … 

8 On Your Side has learned the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has launched a criminal investigation into Zy’kiria’s death. It comes as the Department of Juvenile Justice shut down the site. 

KOVR-TV, Sacramento reports: 

Young twin brothers drowned in a pool in Roseville last October. The Placer County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday said their foster caregiver has now been arrested in connection to their deaths. 

Schitara Victoria Page faces two counts of cruelty to a child by abuse, neglect or endangering health relating to the deaths of the 22-month-old boys. She faces two counts of special allegations of willful harm or injury resulting in death.