Monday, November 21, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up – special Harm of ASFA edition

Saturday marked a tragic milestone – the 25th anniversary of a law that has harmed millions of children, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.  So this week, the round-up is devoted entirely to news, commentary and resources concerning the harm of ASFA. 


● A parent may be sentenced to a relatively short time in prison – but, because of ASFA, for their children it can lead to a life sentence of separation from parents they love.  The PBS NewsHour has an in-depth report. 

Recent commentary: 

● From Prof. Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of Shattered Bonds and Torn Apart, the definitive books on family policing and race, in Slate: "The Clinton-Era Adoption Law That Still Devastates Black Families Today."

● From Prof. Sarah Katz, director of the Family Law Litigation Clinic at Temple University, in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “A federal law has been destroying families for 25 years.  Let’s get rid of it.” 

● From Prof. Mical Raz in The Washington Post: “Our adoption policies have harmed families and children.  The Clinton-era Adoption and Safe Families Act passed 25 years ago. It’s time to reexamine its origins.” 

● From Josie Pickens and Dean Alan Dettlaff of the upEND movement, in the Houston Chronicle: “Instead of making children safer … ASFA became yet another means for national and state governments to forcibly and permanently remove Black children from their families through a speedy process of terminating parental rights.” 

● From longtime family defender Diane Redleaf in Reason:The Adoption and Safe Families Act Takes Kids Away From Loving Parents.” 

● And from NCCPR in the Albany, N.Y., Times Union “This law was supposed to protect kids from abuse. It hasn't.” 

Previous commentary: 

● From Prof. Shanta Trivedi, director of the  Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the University of Baltimore, in The Imprint: “Adoption and Safe Families Act is The ‘Crime Bill’ of Child Welfare.” 

● From Kathleen Creamer, managing attorney of the Family Defense Unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and Prof. Chris Gottlieb, director of the New York University School of Law Family Defense Clinic: “If Adoption and Safe Families Act Can’t Be Repealed, Here’s How to At Least Make it Better.” 

Additional resources 

NCCPR’s ASFA resource page, with an overview of the harm the law has done and responses to some of the excuses put forth by ASFA proponents.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Our annual reminder: End "child welfare"’s public celebration of family executions

 On this Saturday - “National Adoption Day” - who will stop to remember that for some children and some young adults every mass adoption ceremony, every treacly feature story on the local news is an act of cruelty – ripping the scab off a wound that never fully heals?


Termination of parental rights is child welfare's "death penalty."  So why do
some of the very judges who order a family "executed" preside over
public celebrations of the aftermath?   

This post originally was published on November 15, 2020

             There was a time when, as a people, we were so uncivilized that executions were a form of entertainment – a public spectacle to be celebrated. 

In Canada, for example, 

Before they were banned in 1870, executions in public places could draw thousands of spectators, including families and young children. Boisterous behavior and a less-than-solemn attitude marked these macabre gatherings.  “When the day of a public execution arrived, the businessmen closed their factories and their stores and the people put on their holiday dresses,” noted an 1894 article in the Evening Star about hangings in early Toronto.   

The last official state-sanctioned public hanging in the United States drew a crowd of 20,000.  Even then, reporters condemned it as a “carnival.” (I probably don’t even need to mention that the man they hanged was Black.) 

Fortunately, nearly a century later, we have, of course, outgrown such practices. 

Except in "child welfare." 

Termination of parental rights (or, as it should be called, termination of children’s rights to their parents) often is described as child welfare’s death penalty.  It is the prerequisite to any adoption of a child from foster care. 

And every year, all over America, we celebrate these family executions with a joyous public spectacle.  It’s called National Adoption Day.  This year it’s happening on Nov. 19. 

You know the drill. Open the court on a Saturday, bring in ice cream, cake and balloons, finalize foster-child adoptions en masse – and reinforce every stereotype about how the system supposedly “rescues” children from horrible birth parents and places them with vastly superior adoptive parents.  The same judges who are supposed to decide impartially on termination cases often lead these celebrations.

            Last year, when celebrations still often were virtual due to COVID, organizers of the Los Angeles County event added a particularly macabre 21st Century touch:  “A pool camera will be permitted at a pre-selected adoptive family’s home for coverage as the family’s virtual adoption ceremony takes place.”

  The whole spectacle also gets the courts and the local family policing agency (a more accurate term than “child welfare agency”) a guaranteed puff piece in the local newspaper celebrating what is, in reality, the aftermath of an execution.  And, of course, as with those other public executions, a disproportionate share of the families “executed” are Black. 

I’ve previously written that this day should be called National Child Welfare Hypocrisy Day – since while "child welfare" systems always piously proclaim that their first goal is to reunify a family they’ve torn apart, the outcome that brings them true joy, the one they celebrate, is when that child, overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately nonwhite, is adopted by someone who often is neither.

Unlike some of my friends in the family preservation movement, I am not opposed to all involuntary adoptions of children taken from their parents.  I am not opposed to all terminations of parental rights.  On those very rare occasions where this is appropriate, I am not opposed to an adoptive family having a private, quiet celebration.  But each of these things should take place far less often than they do now.

 So in that sense, my previous column was too kind.  It said adoption was sometimes an appropriate second choice after reunification and sometimes the appropriate first choice.  In fact, adoption should be farther down on the list, after not only reunification but also guardianship and perhaps other options as well, such as tribal customary adoption, a practice used by some Native American tribes that might well be adaptable elsewhere.  And while a private celebration is one thing, it should never be a mass public spectacle – it rubs salt into too many open wounds, and not just for parents. 

Prof. Christopher Church, senior director of strategic consulting at Casey Family Programs, has argued that using the term “civil death penalty” to describe the terminations that come before the cake, ice cream and balloons actually understates the trauma to the child.  Horrible as it is to lose a parent to physical death, losing a parent to termination of parental rights can be worse. 

“When a child knows somebody is out there but they have no way of connecting to them, that is ‘ambiguous loss,’” Church said at a recent conference.  “That is a more complex trauma for children than death loss.  … Death is finality and [children] can comprehend that better.” 

Church also reminds us that before the joyous public spectacle there’s sometimes another ceremony, if you can call it that.  It’s called the “goodbye visit.”  Children are told they will never, ever see their parents again, and now they all must say goodbye.  No cake and balloons here; just tears and anguish. 

The children are not always saying goodbye just to their parents.  If one child is adopted and the others are not, the sibling bond is severed forever.  If a parent later has another child whom s/he is allowed to keep, the child who was adopted amid the ice cream and cake may never know that sibling – unless, when they are adults, they find some way to find each other. 

But hey, don’t let that spoil the party. 

I can imagine some readers thinking: But wait. We have to do this, don’t we?  After all, if a case goes to termination of parental rights, the parents must have been the worst of the worst, right? 

Wrong. The termination phase is as arbitrary, capricious and cruel as every other decision-point in child welfare.  As Prof. Vivek Sankaran, director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan, has written: 

[C]ourts seem to terminate parental rights out of a sense of convenience. A child has been in foster care for 15 months, so let’s terminate. A foster parent prefers to adopt a child, so let’s terminate. A parent hasn’t fully complied with services, so let’s terminate. 

            Still another indication of what’s really behind termination cases can be seen in how different the outcomes are by age.  Among children torn from their parents during their first year of life, only 36% are reunified; 46% are adopted.  Then, year after year, reunification rates inch up almost every year until age 14. Nearly 54% of children taken at age 14 were reunified. 

            So are parents of infants vastly worse than parents of 14-year-olds?  Or do caseworkers have their own rescue fantasies triggered by a child about whom they can gush, “Awwww, he’s so cute!” 

            No, we don’t need adoption and the attendant spectacle of mass public family execution to give children “permanence.”  In fact, we don’t know how often adoption does that.  Child welfare systems don’t like to ask questions to which they don’t want to know the answers, so we don’t know how often, when, say, that cute baby becomes a teenager, the adoptive parents change their minds.  

            But even when the adoption doesn’t fall apart, and even when a child really can’t live safely with her or his own parents, the obsession with adoption still hurts children.  As Prof. Sankaran explains: 

Families, and the relationships within them, are far more enduring and resilient than we want to acknowledge. In our quest for legal permanence, we forget about a child’s need for relational permanence, often defined as a child’s lifelong connection with caring adults. For example, too often, we ratify adoptions with the hope of providing a child with a legally permanent home. But in doing so, we cut off the child’s ability to have permanent relationships with those who have – and will always – matter to him. A mother. A sibling. A grandparent. Hence the countless number of stories of adopted children searching for their kin.

           Other options, such a guardianship, don’t require a child to sacrifice any relationships. 

So this time, when National Adoption Day rolls around, remember that for some children and some young adults every mass adoption ceremony, every treacly feature story on the local news is an act of cruelty – ripping the scab off a wound that never fully heals. 

Again, that doesn’t mean adoption by strangers and termination of parental rights are always wrong.  But it needs to be moved much farther down on the list of options for children.  And while, on rare occasions, we still need to impose child welfare’s death penalty, can’t we at least have the decency to stop celebrating it? 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending November 17, 2022

Before the news, a reminder about an important virtual meeting tomorrow (Nov. 18): 

The New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is hosting a series of public briefings to examine the extent to which racial disproportionalities and disparities exist in the New York child welfare system and its impact specifically on Black children and families. You can register for the first meeting here. 

And now the news: 

● Decades ago, NCCPR’s founder, the late Betty Vorenberg, resigned from the National Board of the American Civil Liberties Union because of the national ACLU’s failure to understand that family policing is a civil liberties issue.  That began to change last year, when they took a skeptical look at predictive analytics in “child welfare.”  And now, it’s clear, the ACLU gets it.  Today (Nov. 17), together with Human Rights Watch, they released this outstanding, comprehensive report on the racial and class biases that permeate family policing.  The report's author, Hina Naveed, will discuss it at a webinar on Nov. 21.  The report includes this video:

● In the case of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, they didn’t just ignore what family policing was doing to families, they spent decades actively undermining efforts to keep families together – including leading efforts to deny the role of racial bias.  So while this slide deck summarizing the research on how poverty is confused with neglect, and how even small increases in income dramatically reduce what agencies label “neglect” is useful – it would be better had it been accompanied by an apology. 

● In contrast, the Center for the Study of Social Policy did sort of apologize for some of its earlier work on the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act, in this commentary calling for repeal of ASFA. 

Just as the Indian Child Welfare Act is the gold standard for “child welfare” law (or would be if it were enforced) the work of Rebecca Nagle, producer of the This Land podcast,  is the gold standard for ICWA journalism.  Last week, as the Supreme Court heard a challenge to ICWA, Nagle had important stories in The Nation and The Atlantic. 

Julia Lurie of Mother Jones spoke to Nagle for this overview of the Supreme Court case – and the special interests behind the effort to overturn ICWA. 

● In Slate, Michele Kriegman writes that The Supreme Court May Ensure Native Kids’ Ancestry Is Erased—Just Like Mine Was. 

● From NCCPR President Prof. Martin Guggenheim's keynote address to the last Kempe Center conference - reprinted in The Imprint:   

I’m here to tell you that family regulation has nothing at all to do with child welfare, it is entirely about the subordination of poor communities and, particularly, poor communities of color. 

● Add one more to the long list of parents against which the family policing system discriminates: parents who are, themselves, foster youth.  One such parent, Katelyn Owens, writes about her experience in The Imprint. 

● In Michigan, state judges are all upset over a “placement crisis” in child welfare.  In Bridge Michigan, I write about how it’s those same judges who are causing the “placement crisis.” 

● One judge who does understand is the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.  As she prepares to retire from the bench, Justice Bridget McCormack wrote a stunning dissent that’s actually a call to transform “child welfare” in Michigan – and everywhere else.  I have a blog post about it.  And see also this story in The Imprint. 

● A key step toward transforming "child welfare" involves a federal law that will be 25 years old on Saturday.  Prof. Sarah Katz, Director of the Family Law Litigation Clinic at Temple University, writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer that "A federal law has beendestroying families for 25 years. Let’s get rid of it.  I agree with the growing consensus that we should mark the anniversary of the Adoption and Safe Families Act by repealing this harmful, discriminatory law for good."

● I agree, too. NCCPR's commentary in the Albany, N.Y. Times Union is called "This law was supposed to protect kids from abuse. It hasn't."

● And in Reason, longtime family defender Diane Redleaf writes: "The Adoption and Safe Families Act Takes Kids Away From Loving Parents" 

● Think the residential treatment industry can’t sink any lower? Then let this sink in: A residential treatment center in Connecticut is blaming an 11-year-old girl for being assaulted by another resident.  CT Mirror reports that, in response to a lawsuit from the girl’s adoptive parents, the RTC says: 

“The plaintiff’s injuries and/or damages were caused, in whole or in part, by the negligence and carelessness of the minor plaintiff,” the defense reads. 

There’s much more in the story but also, as is so often the case with these stories, something missing: Why was an 11-year-old institutionalized in the first place?  No, wait, this time it’s even worse.  This was the second time this child was institutionalized. The first time was when she was no older than age 6.

● You may recall the outstanding Associated Press story about the U.S. soldier who decided he wanted to keep an Afghan baby for his very own.  The headline was “Afghan couple accuse US Marine of abducting their baby.”  I have a post about it with a link to the full story.  It turns out, the New York Times Magazine was doing its own in-depth investigation of the same case.  That story adds additional detail. 

● From WGLT public radio in Illinois: Another story about the enormous harm done to a family by a “child abuse pediatrician.” 

● And as you read all those treacly “adoption day” stories next week, don’t forget this case, in which it is not at all clear the children ever needed to be taken in the first place.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A child welfare case leads to a stunning dissent from Michigan’s Chief Justice

More than just a dissent in an individual case, this opinion is a call to transform “child welfare” in Michigan – and everywhere else. 

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack

The Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Bridget McCormack, has written a dissent in a case involving termination of a child’s rights to her parents (a more accurate term than termination of parental rights).  Justice McCormack is retiring, and what may be her final opinion in a family policing case goes well beyond any one case.  It is a brilliant dissection of the failings of both law and practice in “child welfare” in Michigan and pretty much everywhere else in America. 

As far as the case itself goes, the best thing Michigan’s family police could have done was offer some strictly voluntary help to the mother and go away.  The second best thing they could have done was -- nothing at all.  The case began in 2017 with the child at its center living with friends of the mother, while the mother coped with traumas in her own life.  Five years later, the child remains there.  But with two differences: 

First, thanks to the interference of the family police, the child, the mother and the friends all were put through a wringer.  The adults had to endure jumping through one meaningless hoop after another and the child endured the torment of years of court proceedings and uncertainty.  

Second, the child no longer has any legal right to see her mother, with whom she has remained very close.  If there’s ever a falling out with the friends, who were forced to become licensed foster parents, or if the family police simply so decree, all contact between mother and child can be cut off. 

As Justice McCormack wrote in her dissent: 

How would this case have turned out if, rather than admonishing the respondent-mother for failing to secure a legal guardianship (a process that’s confusing and not common knowledge to every new parent who might call on friends and family to help), the court had simply helped her set one up? … 

McCormack called the case 

both tragic and frustratingly commonplace. A mom expressed a strong interest to remain a part of her daughter’s life. Her daughter expressed a similarly strong interest to see her mom. And yet the best our legal system has to offer them is a complete severing of their legal relationship, with no consideration of creative solutions that would benefit the whole family. I wish this case was an outlier. But in ten years reviewing records in termination cases, I have seen many just like this where our statutory process for protecting children has failed them. 

McCormack didn’t stop there.  She went on to critique every stage of the process. 

This particular case was unusual in that the child already was living with the family friends.  Most cases begin with what McCormack rightly characterized as “the forcible removal of the child from the home.” She then raised an issue that’s been a theme of this Blog since it began 16 years ago: balance of harms. She writes: 

While courts must consider whether “[t]here is reasonable cause to believe that the child is at substantial risk of harm” with their parents, there is no requirement to consider the “substantial risk of harm” from removal, despite the clear evidence that removal has lasting negative effects on a child’s mental and physical well-being into adulthood. 

The harms of removal and sometimes also foster care can produce “worse long-term outcomes than if the child had remained at home” in many cases … But Michigan’s removal statutes do not require courts to balance these harms against the harm that might result from staying home. 

In contrast, McCormack wrote, when Washington D.C. courts adopted a rule requiring balance of harms, entries into foster care decreased sharply. 

McCormack went on to note the double standards in law concerning the obligations of the state and the obligations of a parent forced to jump through whatever hoops the family police put in her way.

In this case, she wrote, 

From the point of court involvement to the final hearing, the respondent-mother made immense progress toward the goals laid out by [the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services] in her agency treatment plan. She found housing, got a job, took classes, left a toxic relationship, found a therapist, and began taking her medication. But because she had not convinced the court that she was stable enough in these accomplishments on the day of the termination hearing, she lost the chance to continue improving. … 

Raising a child is difficult, even when there is no crisis. The statutes governing termination proceedings require only “reasonable” efforts—not perfect efforts—from DHHS to reunify the family. And yet, we often require parents to meet each requirement with near perfection. Should any obligation in a court’s order not be completed, a parent can lose their legal rights to their child. 

In the respondent-mother’s case, the trial court terminated her parental rights for two reasons: her ongoing efforts to manage her mental health and a decision to drive to court with a suspended license. The substantial progress the respondent-mother had made toward rectifying the conditions that led to court involvement in her family didn’t matter.  And whether external factors, like poverty, contributed to her decision to drive to court without a valid license was not relevant either. The court seemed to want a perfect parent, not a reasonable parent. 

McCormack also explained that Michigan law allows termination when “the conditions that led to adjudication continue to exist.”  But in some cases, correcting such conditions is, literally, impossible. 

In this case, McCormack writes, the court that terminated the child’s rights to her mother 

cited the respondent-mother’s initial choice to place [the child in an informal guardianship while she looked for housing. And it also cited the respondent-mother’s own upbringing, concluding that she did not have a “personal foundation to apply to her own parenting.” … It said she had a “history of giving birth to children and relying on others to raise them when she could not cope.” To remedy these historical experiences, the respondent-mother would need a time machine. 

I would only add a question: Does that latter standard mean that the Michigan family police will start investigating every family in Bloomfield Hills with a live-in nanny? 

McCormack dissects how the broad, vague concept of “best interests of the child” is easily subject to the whims and biases of agencies and courts. 

This isn’t a new observation, which makes it all the more frustrating. In 1977, then [U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Brennan noted that the “best interests” standard’s open-ended nature allowed “social workers of middle-class backgrounds, perhaps unconsciously, . . . to favor continued placement in foster care with a generally higher-status family” because of a “bias that treats the natural parents’ poverty and lifestyle as prejudicial to the best interests of the child.” 

McCormack goes on to point out solutions, some of which may require statutory changes, but most of which do not, starting with not confusing poverty with neglect.  And she concludes with a warning, that’s also been a theme of this blog: 

There are, of course, cases of neglect or abuse where children should not remain with their parents. But when a child welfare system spends too much time investigating, monitoring, and adjudicating families that do not require court intervention, these serious cases can slip through the cracks. 

So now consider again the five years spent traumatizing this child and harassing both her mother and the friends who had taken the child in.  What case slipped through the cracks in the meantime?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

NCCPR in Bridge Michigan: Judges can — and must — solve Michigan’s child placement crisis

Amid all the concern over children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems forced to endure makeshift placements — some even shipped more than a thousand miles away — Michigan has lost sight of the real causes of the problem. As a result, everyone from the state’s probate judges to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services pursue solutions that will make things worse.

At the root of the placement crisis is the fact that Michigan tears apart so many families needlessly. The typical cases seen by DHHS caseworkers are nothing like the horror stories. Far more common are cases in which poverty is confused with neglect. In Michigan, 17 percent of children were thrown into foster care because their parents lacked adequate housing — that’s more than were taken because of physical abuse. … 

Read the full column in Bridge Michigan

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending November 8, 2022

● Oral argument before the Supreme Court in Brackeen v. Haaland, the case challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act is scheduled to begin TODAY (Nov. 9) at 10:00 am ET.  You can listen to the arguments live here. 

● There have been so many stories about ICWA during the run-up to oral arguments that I didn’t think there was any new ground to cover. But Karin Brulliard of The Washington Post proved me wrong. 

● Of course, most non-native foster parents who adopt native children are not accused of abusing them.  But a story from South Dakota reminds us of what can go wrong.  That story and the assault on ICWA should prompt us to revisit NPR’s superb reporting from more than a decade ago on what the South Dakota family police do to Native children and their families. 

In other news: 

Video is now available of the Family Integrity and Justice Works event documenting the enormous harm done by the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act: 

● Please: Before you ever again believe that line of bull that family policing agencies give you about: “We must be right because judges approve everything we do!” – read this story from Honolulu Civil Beat. 

NBC News has an in-depth report on the death of a seven-year-old institutionalized in a residential treatment center in Kentucky.  But it fails to answer the fundamental question addressed in this NCCPR commentary for the Lexington Herald-Leader: Why in God’s name is Kentucky institutionalizing seven-year-olds?  (The fact that Kentucky tears apart families at a rate 50% above the national average might have something to do with it.) 

● Speaking of outliers: Massachusetts is even worse than Kentucky – and Massachusetts has been that way for more than a century.  I have a blog post about the state’s ugly history of family destruction. 

Another post discusses two stories about “shortages” in Massachusetts “child welfare.”  One story got to the heart of the issue, the other didn’t. 

● And while most states tore apart fewer families in 2021, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas are among those that took away even more children.  I have a blog post about that, too. 

● One place that has been getting these stories right lately is The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Last week, they published a story about high turnover among caseworkers for the private agencies that oversee foster care in that city, and the enormous harm that does to children.  But instead of the usual suggestion: a caseworker hiring binge, the Inquirer story cites a better idea: 

Family advocates suggest a straightforward if dramatic answer to the problem of worker turnover: Take fewer kids into care in the first place. 

A common misunderstanding is that the leading reason kids are taken into the foster care system is because of physical or sexual abuse. But that accounts for only one of six cases. Children far more often are removed from their homes for “neglect,” which often amounts to symptoms of poverty, like food insecurity or unstable housing. 

Supporting those families financially and with social services, rather than removing the child, would reduce caseloads significantly and allow workers to focus on the cases that really require intervention. 

Rise is beginning a series on one of the cruelest aspects of family policing: The way the system treats children of domestic violence survivors. 

Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary writes about how many grandparents raising grandchildren are having trouble feeding their families.  There are many reasons, but this one stands out: 

“I hear from the grandfamily caregivers that they don’t want to be a part of ‘the system,’” Keith Lowhorne, vice president of kinship with the Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parents Association, said in the report. “They worry that applying for food and nutrition programs would cause someone to come and take the children away if they don’t have legal custody, or go after the parents for child support, which would cause problems.” 

● And another “child abuse pediatrician” is being sued.  The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that 

Dr. Elizabeth Woods was sued Wednesday in federal court, where she was accused of giving flawed medical opinions to authorities regarding whether a child injury was the result of abuse and lacking the expertise necessary to conduct those evaluations. The suit was filed by a dozen parents individually and on behalf of their young children who they claimed were unjustly ripped away from their custody. 

Dr. Woods was the subject of this NBC News – KING-TV investigation in 2020 and this follow-up in 2021.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Some good, bad and ugly in new federal “child welfare” data

The federal government has released state-by-state data for the number of children taken from their parents in FFY 2021 (yes, they always run about a year late).  And NCCPR has updated our rate-of-removal index. 

The big national takeaway is that these data – once again – refute the racist myth about COVID-19 and “child welfare.”  You remember, right?  All those dire predictions that when overwhelmingly middle-class, disproportionately white “mandated reporters” no longer had their  “eyes” constantly on children who are neither, those children’s parents would unleash upon them a “pandemic of child abuse.”  

Notwithstanding research showing that didn’t happen, the myth morphed in 2021 into this: As soon as schools reopened and overwhelmingly middle-class, disproportionately white “mandated reporters” once again had their “eyes” constantly on children who are neither, a vast amount of hidden child abuse would be revealed and entries into foster care would surge. 

The new data provide even more evidence that this didn’t happen.  Nationwide, entries into foster care declined by five percent.  That’s because, of course, there was no hidden pandemic of child abuse; on the contrary, government cash assistance and mutual aid efforts reduced poverty so there was less poverty to confuse with neglect

Some outliers 

But some states, notably states that always have been fanatical about tearing apart families, didn’t get the message. 

  This is a state where the head of the family policing agency, known as the Children’s Division, effectively admitted massively violating federal law by failing to make “reasonable efforts” to keep families together.  The failure shows.  The number of children torn from their parents in Missouri increased by five percent.  In 2021 Missouri tore apart families at nearly double the national average and the 10th highest rate in the country – even when rates of child poverty are factored in. 

  Even Missouri looks good compared to Kansas.  In Kansas, entries into foster care also increased by five percent – but Kansas was worse than Missouri to begin with.  Kansas tears apart families at the seventh highest rate in America, more than double the national average.  And that may be an underestimate, because of how that state uses a loophole in federal reporting requirements (or simply violates those requirements) to avoid reporting many short-term placements. 

This state shows what happens when those masters of “health terrorism” at Prevent Child Abuse America dominate the debate.  PCAA’s Iowa chapter has been the “Godsource” for journalists in that state for decades.  (You can read about Prevent Child Abuse Iowa’s recent behavior in NCCPR’s publication on reputation laundering in “child welfare.”) So it’s no wonder Iowa tears apart families at a rate nearly as high as Missouri – and the number of children torn from their families soared by 11%. 

And, by the way, all three states have records of racial disparity as bad or worse than the national average.