Sunday, June 8, 2008

NPR: Where the birth parent-bashing never stops

Every time I think the folks at National Public Radio can't sink any lower, they manage to surprise me. On Friday, one of the network's two flagship programs, All Things Considered devoted three segments to foster care. Reporter Michelle Trudeau's first sentence of her first story began with a false allegation against hundreds of thousands of families, presented as fact. Without even the pretense of attribution, Trudeau said:

"A child is placed in foster care only as a last resort, when parental maltreatment or neglect is extreme and unremitting."

The only reason I can't call that a baldfaced lie is that I don't think she would make this false allegation on purpose. More likely she was just astonishingly sloppy and ignorant, accepting anything she heard from anyone who shares her preconceptions, without bothering to check. And since it conformed so well to the NPR mindset, nobody else checked either. The segment, and two which followed were right in keeping with NPR's record of relying almost exclusively on white, middle-class alleged experts to bash the overwhelmingly poor disproportionately minority families who lose children to the system. The network is now up to seven child welfare segments in less than a month that relied exclusively on white, middle-class voices. (See At NPR: The ultimate "Blackout" describing how the network managed to broadcast four segments on a new report on transracial adoption without ever speaking to an actual Black person).

As for Trudeau's broad brush attack on hundreds of thousands of poor, minority parents, study after study has found huge numbers of children in foster care primarily because the parents' family poverty is confused with neglect. Summaries are available in NCCPR Issue Paper #5. And plenty of people who have run child welfare systems freely admit as much. Again see their comments here. At a minimum, the reasons children come into foster care is a point of dispute; but Ms. Trudeau offers up the NPR party line as fact - as usual, no dissent is allowed.

There are plenty of birth parents who did not engage in extreme unremitting maltreatment – or any maltreatment at all - who could tell their stories on NPR; I've even sent statements from two of them to NPR's ombudsman - but once again NPR shut them out. Instead, NPR opted for a commentary from a white middle-class judge rattling off horror stories.

Even when children are taken because of real maltreatment it is rare that this maltreatment is "extreme" or "unremitting" – and that explains the results of that study cited often on this Blog, the one involving 15,000 cases which found that children left in their own homes fared better even than comparably-maltreated children placed in foster care. Though widely reported elsewhere, as far as I know, not one word about that study has been uttered on NPR.

But I've come to expect nothing different from a network whose arrogance reminds me of nothing so much as the old joke about the slogan for the phone company when it was a monopoly: "We don't care, we don't have to."

What's the matter with Kansas?

The guy in charge of the state's child welfare agency is caught on tape - and tied up in knots. See this story from The Wichita Eagle.