Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some good journalism about some bad foster care systems

    This doesn't happen very often: There's been so much good reporting on child welfare that it's been hard to keep up. So here's a round-up:

     For starters, there have been many good stories on the case of Noah Kirkman, the Canadian boy held in Oregon foster care for two years. There are links in the previous post to this Blog.

Also noted previously, the Los Angeles Daily News story about the foster-care panic in Los Angeles County. But there's lot's more:

     A dogged columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C. Sun News, Issac Bailey, has spent months investigating the case of a father whose child was brutally abused by the children of her mother's new boyfriend. The child has been trapped in foster care for two years, for just one reason: Until the columnist started asking questions, the State of South Carolina deemed the father too poor to raise her – even though he'd been raising her before mom fled with her, and even though he's raising his other children with no problem. It's a six-part series.  This link, to today's installment, will get you to the rest.  And see, especially, part three,

    ● The Lincoln Journal Star has an excellent editorial, pegged to NCCPR's data, asking why, as most of the nation does a better job of keeping children safe in their own homes, Nebraska is getting even worse. The Daily Nonpareil, in Council Bluffs Iowa, also citing NCCPR, is asking the same question about Iowa.

     Also in Iowa, the Des Moines Register has a very good story about what the state child welfare agency does when one of its caseworkers allegedly "goes rogue" and interferes in a custody dispute involving her own family. (It does absolutely nothing). The Register also has done excellent editorials, like this one, on the dangers of "central registries" of alleged child abusers that are utterly lacking in due process protections for families.

     And then there's this incredibly botched case in Texas, which illustrates the first rule of lousy child welfare systems: No matter how much it hurts the child, never, ever admit you made a mistake. KPRC-TV in Houston broke the story, and did a follow-up story the next day about the (relatively) happy ending.

It's the second time a Houston television station has beaten the you-know-what out of the Houston Chronicle. (The Fox affiliate, KRIV, did it with this story, and this one.) That's because the longtime reporter on the child welfare beat at the Chronicle, Terri Langford, appears to view it as her mission in life to make sure that this side of the child welfare story never makes it into her paper's news pages.

Which just goes to show that child welfare and the journalism of child welfare have something in common: There's been some real improvement in some places, while others remain mired in failure.