Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There goes the judge

    Some updates to Sunday night's post concerning National Child Welfare Hypocrisy Day (a.k.a. National Adoption Day):

    First, New Jersey will again be celebrating reunification this year – one of the very few child welfare systems to do so.

    Second, in yesterday's Blog, I took issue with Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan, for placing far more emphasis on adoption than on reunification. I noted that this essay by a trial court judge, Kenneth Tacoma, condemning the consequences of Michigan's adoption fanaticism, and in particular legislation known as the "Binsfield laws," named for a former lieutenant governor, seemed to give Corrigan some second thoughts, but did not change her overall stance. A spokeswoman for Corrigan writes that she "would like you to know that she and Judge Tacoma worked together on legislation, which passed earlier this year, to address the issues [Judge Tacoma] pointed out in his article."

Actually, that legislation, which makes only minimal changes, is what I had in mind by second thoughts. As the Detroit Free Press reported when Corrigan and Tacoma first presented these changes:

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and a critic of Michigan's child protection system, called the proposals "small steps in the right direction. It is the first public acknowledgment that the Binsfeld laws were a horrible mistake," Wexler said. "But even these revisions don't address the worst legacy of Binsfeld: The take-the-child-and-run mentality, which still dominates Michigan child welfare, causing the state to take thousands of children from their homes needlessly every year, often in cases where family poverty is confused with neglect."

    Justice Corrigan also showed priorities I would argue are disappointing during a meeting of an 80-member task force studying Michigan child welfare. Corrigan is a member of the Task Force.

I attended an all-day meeting of the Task Force in Detroit on November 17 because I knew that arrangements had been made for one group largely left off the task force itself – birth parents – to speak to the group. I had the privilege of meeting some of the birth parents as they were preparing their presentation beforehand. Some tears were shed as more than 20 parents whose children had been taken from them worked up the courage to face what amounts to the power elite of Michigan child welfare. Afterwards, several members of the task force said they were deeply moved, and the Free Press ran a story about the presentations.

    But Corrigan, who had been there earlier and would return later, missed it. Her spokeswoman explained that she had to return to her office to deal with "pressing court business" - preparing for the Supreme Court's weekly conference at which cases are discussed and decided.

    But Justice Corrigan was back at the Task Force that afternoon, in time to chastise a task force committee, harshly and at length, for putting forward a recommendation that would require a little more work from the courts at a time when their budget is being cut. (Given that this is Michigan, however, odds are everyone's budget is going to be cut.)