Thursday, October 21, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 20, 2021

● We begin with, I kid you not, the table of contents from a law journal – specifically the issue of the Columbia Journal of Race and Law featuring papers presented at the Strengthened Bonds conference.  The full issue is here.  Here’s what you’ll find in it:

 PREFATORY MATERIAL

Editor’s Note—Growth in Unprecedented Times, Nicolás Quaid Galván 

Foreword—Strengthened Bonds: Abolishing the Child Welfare System and Re-Envisioning Child Well Being, Nancy D. Polikoff & Jane M. Spinak 

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: How I Became a Family Policing Abolitionist,  Dorothy Roberts 

ARTICLES 

Political-Economic Roots of Coercion—Slavery, Neoliberalism, and the Racial Family Policy Logic of Child and Social Welfare, Gwendoline M. Alphonso 

The Surveillance Tentacles of the Child Welfare SystemCharlotte Baughman, Tehra Coles, Jennifer Feinberg & Hope Newton 

Abolition, Settler Colonialism, and the Persistent Threat of Indian Child Welfare, Theresa Rocha Beardall & Frank Edwards 

Reimagining Schools’ Role Outside the Family Regulation System, Brianna Harvey, Josh Gupta-Kagan & Christopher Church 

Twentieth Century Black and Native Activism Against the Child Taking System: Lessons for the Present, Laura Briggs 

Toward Community Control of Child Welfare Funding: Repeal the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and Delink Child Protection from Family Well-Being, Angela Olivia Burton & Angeline Montauban 

Using Peacemaking Circles to Indigenize Tribal Child Welfare, Lauren van Schilfgaarde & Brett Lee Shelton 

How Racial Politics Led Directly to the Enactment of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997—The Worst Law Affecting Families Ever Enacted by Congress. Martin Guggenheim 

Mutual Deference Between Hospitals and Courts: How Mandated Reporting from Medical Providers Harms Families, Clara Presler 

The White Supremacy Hydra: How the Family First Prevention Service Act Reifies Pathology, Control, and Punishment in the Family Regulation System, Miriam Mack 

Assimilation, Removal, Discipline, and Confinement: Native Girls and Government Intervention, Addie C. Rolnick. 

Ending the Family Death Penalty and Building a World We Deserve Ashley Albert, Tiheba Bain, Elizabeth Brico, Bishop Marcia Dinkins, Kelis Houston, Joyce McMillan, VonyaQuarles, Lisa Sangoi, Erin Miles Cloud, and Adina Marx-Arpadi 

And see also from the Journal’s Forum: 

Calculating the Souls of Black Folk, Predictive Analytics in the New York City Administration for Children's Services. J. Khadijah Abdurahman

In other news:

● This really should be obvious: If you don’t know your rights then you don’t really have those rights.  New York City’s family policing agency, the Administration for Children’s Services,  desperately wants to keep it that way.  Because then ACS can keep right on barging into homes in the middle of the night, ordering that the children be awakened, questioned about the most intimate details of their lives and stripsearched – or maybe worse – without families having any idea that they can fight back.  THE CITY reports on a fight in the New York City Council over whether ACS will continue to be able to run roughshod over families. 

● Last month, two online news sites published more than 10,000 words about foster care in West Virginia.  Not one of those words came from a birth parent.  I have a blog post about why that’s a problem, and why so much of the journalism of child welfare has failed. 

● OK, I never expected to write this sentence: Paris Hilton has an op-ed in The Washington Post. It’s about the abuse of children who are institutionalized.  In her case, she was forced into an abusive institution by her own parents.  But, as she points out: 

An estimated 120,000 young people are housed in congregate-care facilities at any given time across the country, many of them placed through the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Hilton also took part in a webinar with other survivors, led by Think of Us and Breaking Code Silence.  And because she took part, Sixto Cancel of Think of Us said, people are paying a lot more attention than when the other survivors were speaking out on their own. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

How the journalism of child welfare fails

Two online news sites published more than 10,000 words about foster care in West Virginia.  Not one of those words came from a birth parent.



             Imagine for a moment that you are a reporter assigned to write a multi-part in-depth series on the criminal justice system.  Now, try to imagine submitting a three-part series of more than 10,000 words filled with the comments of judges, prosecutors, police officers and prison guards – but not one word from someone accused of a crime, or even from a defense lawyer.

             Hard to imagine, especially now, isn’t it?  Yet the equivalent happens, over and over and over, when the topic is foster care.  Because, consciously or not, while reporters may not believe all parents caught up in the system are evil – indeed they will rush to say: “No, no, we wrote an entire story about ‘prevention!’” they write as if they believe any parent whose child "had to be" taken away must be sick, sick sick!  Therefore, they are too subhuman to have their perspective shared with readers.

             No wonder.  Most reporters and, especially, their editors, are white and middle class.  Most foster parents are disproportionately white and overwhelmingly middle class.  Most caseworkers are disproportionately white and overwhelmingly middle-class. Parents who lose their children to foster care, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately nonwhite. 

           


 
Reporters can identify with foster parents – they probably know some, or at least have friends who do – or if not that, then they may have friends who adopted a foster child. Reporters can identify with caseworkers - college-educated underpaid hardworking white-collar professionals, just like them.  Few journalists have any personal friends whose children have been forced to endure the trauma of needless foster care. 

            So birth parents become, at best, nonentities, at worst those awful people their foster or adoptive parent friends told them about.  So they’re unworthy of inclusion, unworthy of being heard.  That winds up doing enormous damage to children. 

           When I was starting out as a reporter, 45 years ago, I made all of the mistakes I criticize now.  But after all this time, journalism should have learned to do better.  Some journalists have; most have not. 

            The result is stories that, despite months of hard work by earnest, well-meaning reporters are filled with stereotypes and misconceptions that only make it harder to fix serious and real problems. 

            Case in point: The three-part series about West Virginia foster care published in September by Mountain State Spotlight and The GroundTruth Project, which also created Report for America.  The reporters for these stories are current and former Report for America Fellows. I single these stories out not because they are exceptionally awful - there’s far worse out there - but precisely because they are so typical of the journalism of child welfare. (For that same reason, though anyone can click on the link, I’m not naming the reporters; it’s their editors who should have asked more questions.) 

            Another reason to look closely at these stories: The flaws should be even more obvious when the state in question is West Virginia.  

            That’s because, when it comes to tearing apart families, West Virginia is among the most extreme outliers in America.  This is mentioned once, in passing, in the stories, and accorded no significance other than to illustrate a supposed need for more foster parents. 

In 2019, before COVID, even when factoring in rates of child poverty, West Virginia tore apart families at the third highest rate in America, a rate well over double the national average.  When you look at the number of children trapped in foster care on any given day, West Virginia is the fourth worst in America; again, that's even when factoring in rates of child poverty. 

Yeah, I know: Opioids.  The stories blithely attribute West Virginia’s high rate of removal to the fact that “More than half entered the system because of a parent’s substance abuse.”  That’s not correct. More than half entered the system because a worker checked the “substance abuse” box on a form; that is not necessarily the same thing.  Also: 

● While opioids made it worse, West Virginia was a family destruction outlier even before the opioid crisis.  

● It also assumes that the only solution when, say, a parent’s legal prescription for Oxycontin leads to addiction is to take away the children - as opposed to, say, drug treatment, something discussed in detail here.  

●Other states with severe opioid problems, such as Ohio, take away children at a rate that, while still too high, is far lower than the rate in West Virginia. 

The reporters either never spoke to – or ignored – all those families whose children were taken where opioids were not an issue - including all those victims of false allegations or cases in which family poverty is confused with neglect.  (Unless, of course, one believes that happens only in the other 49 states.) 

            Thus, one story discusses how West Virginia institutionalizes far too many children and sends many of them out of state.  The story reveals case after case in which these institutionalized children were abused.  But that is a story one West Virginia news organization or another has done every few years for decades.  And they all make the same mistake as the most recent stories: The problem is said to be due to a “shortage of foster parents.”  So there’s supposedly a desperate need for more people like someone I’ll call Saintly Foster Mom, a standard trope in these stories, who I’ll talk more about later. 

           
But the shortage of foster parents in West Virginia is artificial.  If opioid-plagued West Virginia cut the rate at which it tears apart families to the rate in opioid-plagued Ohio, half the children in West Virginia foster care wouldn’t be there.  “Shortage” solved.
 

            But because this point of view is entirely absent, this expose of horrible out-of-state placements of Vest Virginia foster children is likely to have the same substantive effect as all the other exposes of horrible out-of-state placements of West Virginia foster children: None. 

            Of there’ll be the usual expressions of shock and outrage, maybe legislative hearings, and perhaps some more money thrown at the state family policing agency, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to hire more caseworkers to take even more children.  All of that will give the news organizations something to write on journalism awards entry forms where they ask “What did the stories accomplish?”  

But it won’t accomplish anything for the kids.  Because by refusing to meaningfully consider wrongful removal, the series effectively lets DHHR off the hook.  The agency can keep right on coming back with the same old excuse: We have to do this, there’s a shortage of foster parents, you know. 

            That’s what happens when you limit your source base almost entirely to people who are part of the very system that has failed: The sources consist largely of people who now or in the past kept the West Virginia child removal machine running at full speed: current and former caseworkers for an assortment of “providers” or current or former high ranking officials of those “providers,” with the occasional politician expressing outrage thrown in. So of course the answer to everything is going to be some version of give us providers more money so we can rescue children – and, maybe while we’re at it, make those sick, sick, sick parents better. 

            The propaganda even affects the children themselves.  To their credit, the reporters at least spoke to some foster youth.  Included was one, now 15,  who 

entered the state foster care system at 6 years old; by the time he was 8, his social worker was transporting him to group homes outside West Virginia. “I was too messed up for foster programs.” [he said.] 

           No eight-year-old is too “messed up” for a family, either his own or, when that’s genuinely unsafe, a foster family.  The key is providing the family whatever it takes through wraparound services.  Wraparound pioneer Karl Dennis explains it well in this video:

 


The 15-year-old has internalized propaganda from the industry that institutionalizes children – and the journalists failed to do enough to question it.  The closest they came was a quote from Marcia Lowry of A Better Childhood, who filed one of her typical McLawsuits against the state.  She at least disagreed with those who said the solution to sending children to out-of-state institutions is to build more in-state institutions.  But Lowry's lawsuits suffer from the same failing as the stories: they ignore the huge number of children needlessly taken from their homes in the first place. 

Indeed, the journalists are so accepting of conventional wisdom that at one point they write: 

 The path to reducing the number of foster kids leaving the state isn’t clear, especially as West Virginia continues to experience waves of children affected by poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic and the drug crisis. 

What does children affected by poverty have to do with the need for foster care? ( unless, of course, you think it’s a good idea to confuse poverty with “neglect”?)  What does COVID have to do with it?  (Unless you buy into the widely-debunked (and, by the way, racially-biased) claims that COVID lockdowns set off a “pandemic of child abuse”Even in the case of children orphaned by COVID, there usually are extended family members who can step in.)  As for the drug crisis, that was discussed above. 

No, there is a perfectly clear path to reducing the number of foster kids leaving the state – but both public officials and journalists in West Virginia have chosen to ignore it. 

But what about the “prevention” story? 

What do you mean ignored it? the journalists might reply. We devoted one entire story to “prevention” and how West Virginia starts prevention programs and then cuts funding for them! 

            Except that this is the traditional provider-centric model of prevention.  The story describes an assortment of programs built largely around what providers want to provide: counseling and parent education – because, remember, those parents may not be evil but they sure are sick!  And we providers want to be noble healers; we didn’t get college degrees just to do the grubby work of providing concrete help to families! 

In fact, a small number of parents are evil.  A small number are sick. So for some of the latter, some forms of counseling and/or parent education are helpful.  Where substance abuse really is a problem that is a real sickness for which family-based drug treatment is essential.  But a prevention strategy built around providing only the help that makes the helpers feel good is doomed to failure - as West Virginia keeps proving. 

Overwhelmingly, the problem that leads to family separation is poverty – and the solution is money.  It doesn’t have to be a lot of money.  One study after another has found that even small amounts of cash significantly reduce what child welfare systems label as “neglect.”  And when "counseling" for some mental health problem or other really is needed, providing cash allows the parent to go out and buy some, just the way middle-class people with "mental health issues" do. Yet this perspective is, again, entirely lacking in the stories.  

Even as these stories point out that West Virginia spends $300 to $1,500 per day per child on those out-of-state institutions, and $31 a day for foster families, at no point is the idea of simply providing some of this cash to birth families even mentioned.  The state that often will spend $600 per day to institutionalize a child out-of-state apparently won’t spend $600 per month for a rent subsidy so a child isn’t taken away because of lack of housing or for a childcare subsidy so a child isn’t taken on a “lack of supervision” charge.  But the reporters never take note of this. 

A birth parent might have mentioned it.  So might a birth parent’s lawyer – but, again, their voices are absent amidst those 10,000 words. 

Enter “Saintly Foster Mom” 

            No typical in-depth look at foster care would be complete without Saintly Foster Mom – the character who has sacrificed so much to rescue helpless children from those evil – sorry, sick – parents, and who could do so much more if only “the system” didn’t treat her so badly.  You’ll find her in story after story – here’s another classic example.  And because they are not powerful people (though they have more power than birth parents) and have the best of intentions, I’m not naming the one in the West Virginia story – even though in that one, the subtext is unusually close to the surface.  Here’s how it begins: 

For [the foster mother], becoming a foster parent felt like a calling as early as high school. 

She remembers the little girl in her mom’s pre-K classroom, crying and wearing tattered clothes. One time the child came in with a broken eardrum. Every time [the future foster mom] visited she seemed to possess an ability to calm her. 

She dreamed of becoming a foster mother. 

“I have always felt like I was supposed to help kids in the system,” she said. 

That doesn't sound like someone who gets the confusion of poverty with neglect. 

And later there’s this: 

On the wall of their younger foster daughter’s bedroom, the [foster parents] have a print of a tree with multi-colored thumbprints of all eight kids they have fostered since 2018 on the branches. The other side lists their names, the day they arrived and the day they left. 

“When I walk in here, I see all my kids,” [the foster mother] said. 

            Your kids?  

           


A birth parent whose children were wrongly taken might have pointed out that there is something wrong with a total stranger saying that someone else’s children are hers.  But we never hear from such a parent.  So no one suggests that a foster parent who declares someone else’s child to be hers might not be objective about whether that child ever needed to be taken and whether that child should be reunified.
 

           At another point, the reporters note that one of the foster children refers to the foster parents as “mom” and “dad.” The reporters seem to see this as one more indication of how wonderful the foster parent is. 

            And then there’s this from another foster parent, speaking of the two foster children she went on to adopt: 

Two of her foster children “have a whole new life because DHHR did their job the right way,” she said. But sometimes “DHHR has bad days, DHHR makes bad choices.” 

            The rest of the story is a litany of complaints by foster parents concerning ill-treatment by DHHR and an assortment of private agencies.  They’re the same complaints aired in hundreds of other stories – and, odds are, many of them are valid. 

            But, as I’ve noted often before, it almost never seems to occur to the foster parents that if this is how the family policing agency treats them – and the agency really needs them – imagine how they treat birth parents.  It didn’t seem to occur to the reporters, either.  Like Saintly Foster Mom, the reporters seem to view the birth parents as maybe salvageable but, if not, then they’re disposable.  But that attitude creates the very system that has done all the harm the reporters have exposed. 

            Like so many other stories, these seem to have been written by earnest journalists with good intentions.  The solution to the problems of journalism is more journalism.  On its website, The GroundTruth Project declares that “We take responsibility for all of our work. When we make a mistake, we own it.”  

            Please take ownership of this one.  Please go back and try again.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 13, 2021

 We begin with three important follow-up stories

 ● Florida’s family policing agency, the Department of Children and Families, has, in effect, confirmed the findings of a USA Today Network investigation that found DCF ignored widespread abuse in foster care.  According to USA Today’s follow-up story: 

After a USA TODAY investigation in March brought to light more than 4,000 records detailing such complaints that had been kept secret from the public, DCF conducted an internal review of more than 1,100 of the calls.  The review’s findings? Only 19% of the accusations were inaccurate. Twice that number were deemed accurate. An additional 21% were partially accurate.  And few accused caregivers faced repercussions: Just 1% had their foster license revoked. … 

“If those were family-of-origin cases, would those children have been taken from their families? The answer is a resounding yes,” [State Senate Minority Leader Lauren] Book said. “We have a system that is taking children because they think they can do better (than parents), and we’re clearly seeing in black and white that they’re woefully ill-prepared to do so.” 

And once again, USA Today reporters trace the origins of the problem to the foster-care panic in Florida starting in 2014.  (As to why that panic occurred, we have an explanation here.) 

● Back in May, KING-TV in Seattle reported on what some workers for the state family policing agency allegedly were doing to youth who refused the cruddy group home placements in which the agency tried to stash them: 

Four people, who claimed they supervised foster kids overnight in cars and offices, said their managers encouraged them to use psychological tactics to make the youth miserable. They say they were told to do things like blast air conditioning or turn off the heat to make the youth intentionally cold. … Three workers said they were instructed not to allow youth to fall asleep throughout the night. [Emphasis added.]

As we noted at the time: 

Though the story doesn’t mention it, sleep deprivation is commonly defined as torture – the CIA used it on prisoners at Guantanamo. 

Now KING-TV has a follow-up, focusing on disturbing behavior by the head of the family policing agency, Ross Hunter.  

The station reports that 

Hunter knew of the accusations at least four months before the complaint became public in the KING 5 story. Hunter said he forwarded the complaint to other managers in January, but he didn’t open a formal investigation. 

And there’s much more in the story about Hunter’s overall approach to running the agency (something we first raised questions about more than a year ago).

● And Carolina Public Press updates the latest turn in the scandal over hidden foster care in Cherokee County, North Carolina.  Here’s how it worked: 

social workers at times coerced parents into signing [placement agreements that bypassed the courts], saying their children would be placed in foster homes far away if the documents were not signed. 

The practice apparently began when the agency got fed up with the fact that sometimes judges actually refused to rubber-stamp their demands to take away children. 

In other news: 

● NCCPR has a Guest Column in the York (Pa.) Daily Record that begins this way: 

After reading Kim Strong’s excellent story about child abuse deaths and implementation of the federal Family First Act in Pennsylvania, some readers may be wondering: Why in the world is that guy you quoted at the end (that would be me) saying we should do more to keep families together?  Why would he say we should improve defense counsel for families when more children are dying? 

Short answer: Because it’s the best way to stop more children from dying. 

● In child welfare, we can’t speak truth to power until we speak truth to CASA.  The most sacred cow in American child welfare harms the children it is intended to help.  NCCPR presented The Case Against CASA at the Kempe Center’s international conference last week. Here’s the text.   

● We also presented on Child Abuse, COVID-19 and the Legacy of “Health Terrorism.” 

In The Washington Informer, Melody Webb discusses the confusion of poverty with neglect: 

“It astounds me that we live in the richest country in human history that takes people’s kids away because, in part, parents can’t afford stable housing,” said Webb, executive director of Mother’s Outreach Network and representative of indigent parents seeking reunification with their children. … 

“It’s important that we dig deep into the reasons for these removals that are called ‘neglect only,’” Webb said. “I would imagine most people would take some pause if they understood neglect is related to poverty and poverty is driving these removals.” 

● The Imprint has an interview with MJ Jihad who founded MJ Consulting “to be doing whatever it takes to have these children remain within their birth family.”  Her work is partly an outgrowth of her own experience, when she and her siblings were taken from their father when his poverty was confused with neglect. 

● From NPR’s review of Andrea Elliott’s book, Invisible Child: “Elliott is a masterful storyteller and, by sharing Dasani's story, she calls on all of us to dismantle the systems that so often failed her and countless others.” 

● After NCCPR wrote a column for The Imprint about a widely-circulated, and grossly misleading, graphic, Chapin Hall put a great big warning label on their version.  But why use it at all?  We have an update.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The numbers are - literally - unreal! Chapin Hall adds a “warning label” to a bad graphic about child abuse – but it’s still misleading

 About a month ago, I wrote a column for The Imprint calling out several organizations for using a grossly misleading graphic that exaggerates the rate of physical and sexual child abuse.  In fact, two-thirds of the numbers in the graphic are, literally, made up.  The creators of the graphic, from the University of New Hampshire, decided to give the actual rate of known neglect, but double the rate of physical abuse and triple the rate of sexual abuse. 

As I explained in The Imprint: 

The end result is a graphic that leaves the impression that there once was just as much physical and sexual abuse as there was neglect — and all three existed in massive proportions — until the child welfare system got the abuse figures to plummet.
The creators of the graphic include a disclaimer – but only in the fine print, where many who see the original shocking visual are unlikely to notice.  The Chapin Hall Center for Children reproduced the graphic in a presentation earlier this year.  Then Chapin Hall’s Executive Director, Bryan Samuels, compounded the error by extrapolating from the numbers in ways not backed up by the figures themselves. 

See for yourself.  Here is the graphic with the made-up numbers, as presented initially by Chapin Hall:

 


 Here are the real numbers (Bonus, this version is interactive!):


Last week at a virtual conference sponsored by the Kempe Center, Chapin Hall was back.  To their credit they slapped a great big warning label on the graphic:

But why use made-up numbers at all?  Why are so many in the child welfare establishment afraid not to exaggerate? 

And we shouldn’t forget the worst offender: Prevent Child Abuse America.  When they used the graphic at least year’s Kempe conference, they reproduced the original but actually eliminated almost all of the fine print – so it would be extremely difficult for anyone to see that the physical and sexual abuse numbers are not real.  (If you read our earlier post on this blog about “health terrorism,” that probably comes as no surprise.)  

Meanwhile, another panel at this year’s Kempe conference used the same most-misleading-of-all version as PCAA. 

It is the Graphic That Will Not Die.  Perhaps that’s because, for the child welfare establishment, made-up numbers have always told a better story than real ones.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

NCCPR at the Kempe Center conference: Child Abuse, COVID-19 and the Legacy of “Health Terrorism”

This is the text of the second of two NCCPR presentations at the 2021 Kempe Center International Virtual Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare

I’m going to spend a lot of time criticizing things people said and did in the past.  Call that whatever else you’d like, but please don’t call it hindsight.  All of what I am criticizing now was criticized then by a wealth of experts. But they were drowned out.  They need to be heard now.

So, where were we?

I begin that way because this talk was inspired by a presentation at last year’s conference.  At that conference, I first learned that a phenomenon I’d been writing about, and deploring, for decades actually had a name – and the name came from someone who had admitted his organization used to practice this particular dark art.

It’s called health terrorism – deliberately misrepresenting the true nature and scope of a problem in the name of “raising awareness.”

Millions of children in the United States have been victims of health terrorism – and it’s happening even as we speak.  Over the past year-and-a-half we’ve seen both a classic example of health terrorism and vivid proof of how effective it’s been at poisoning the public discourse about child abuse and neglect.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

NCCPR at the Kempe Center conference: The case against CASA

 This is the text of the first of two NCCPR presentations at the 2021 Kempe Center International Virtual Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare

Most Court-Appointed Special Advocates programs call themselves CASA programs – as you’d expect.  Two programs cited in this presentation either in the past or now use a different term: Volunteer Guardian-at-Litem or VGAL.  They mean the same thing, and to avoid confusion I will refer to these programs as CASA programs throughout.  Where a quote uses the term VGAL I will substitute the term CASA.

Whatever you call it, the program I am going to discuss today is probably the most sacred cow in American child welfare; the subject of thousands of local news stories across America, gushing over how wonderful this program is.  I’m going to talk about why those stories are wrong, and how this most sacred cow in child welfare, Court-Appointed Special Advocates or CASA - harms to children.

That’s not because they want to hurt children, of course.  It was all created with the best of intentions.  CASAs still, overwhelmingly, are, to use Malcolm X’s famous phrase “kindly intentioned.” 

But it has failed.

To understand what CASA is and how it really works, I’d like you to imagine the following scene.

IF YOU'RE SEEING THIS ON THE NCCPR BLOG HOMEPAGE, PLEASE CLICK BELOW ON "READ MORE" TO SEE THE ENTIRE POST.

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 5, 2021

 ● We begin with publication of a landmark book about homelessness poverty and, therefore, inevitably, the family policing system: Invisible Child by New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott.  The book is, in some ways, a de facto sequel to what I consider the best book ever written on the topic, Nina Bernstein’s masterpiece, The Lost Children of Wilder.  Elliott adapted one part of her book into a New York Times Magazine cover story.  I have a blog post about the book and the cover story. 

In other news: 

● Stop and think for a moment about this comment, from one of only two Black directors of a county family policing agency in Ohio (there are 88 such agencies). She’s speaking of her own caseworkers: 

We’ve had people come in and say, ‘They were cooking something on the stove. And I don’t know if it was drugs or what,’ and it was collard greens.” 

The quote is from this Toledo Blade story about racism in the local family policing system.  

But that isn’t even the most revealing comment.  Wait until you read what the white transracial adoptive parent has to say. 

● This year the American Bar Association annual conference of family defense attorneys was, of course, an online event. The ABA has put some of the presentations online – including the keynote from Prof. MartinGuggenheim, who founded the nation’s first family defense clinic at New York University School of Law (and who also is president of NCCPR).

● The ACLU has an important new position paper out on “Family Surveillance by Algorithm” and  the need to question the use of “predictive analytics” in family policing.  They have a commentary about it in The Imprint

● The online news site The City has been on top of a story other New York City media have ignored: how the city schools and the city family policing agency join forces to harass families with “educational neglect” reports if they can’t get their children online for classes – and now, if they are rightly concerned about sending children back into classrooms.  Here’s their latest story. 

● Also in New York City, Rise has issued an outstanding blueprint for replacing family policing.  The report and a video about it are available here.  As the report explains: 

Like policing and incarceration by the criminal legal system, surveillance and family separation by the family policing system impact predominantly Black and brown, low-income families living in communities marked by societal neglect. Involvement with ACS often lasts for years and for generations, and, for families in these communities, can be unavoidable.  

Rise knows from our work with impacted parents, and from our partner organizations, that parents have been reported and investigated for suspected child maltreatment when they’ve rinsed their children’s clothes in a tub without detergent, left younger children in the care of an older child, run late for picking their child up from school, or sought medical care for an infant with health challenges. 

● As the so-called Family First Act, with its curbs on institutionalizing children, takes effect, New York State courts have made clear they’re going to demand that those who want to institutionalize a child actually show the child really needs to be institutionalized.  As The Imprint reports, some of the agencies that institutionalize children are very upset about this. 

● And, still in New York: Marcia Lowry suffered a huge defeat when a federal court refused to cerfity one of her McLawsuits as a class action.  The defeat is a significant victory for children. This particular lawsuit was opposed not only by lawyers for parents but also by the lawyers who represent children in family policing cases.  You don’t suppose they know something Marcia doesn’t. 

The Imprint also has a story about a new Texas law which curbs the enormous power of so-called child abuse pediatricians – doctors who find child abuse when it’s there but also, sometimes, when it’s not. 

● United Family Advocates, a group that brings together Left and Right where we have common ground on family policing issues, has a new, updated website, with UFA’s bipartisan position papers on issues like the so-called Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act. 

● The Chicago Sun-Times has an editorial headlined: “DCFS caseworkers with Spanish-language clients should be able to speak Spanish.”  And if you’re thinking: Wait, that’s even an issue? Unfortunately, it is.  Citing excellent reporting from ProPublica, the editorial explains: 

[W]hen it comes to the State of Illinois agency that bears the heavy responsibility of working with children and parents in family crisis, that bit of common sense — work with the families as much as possible in their own language — too often is not practiced, despite a federal court order.