Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Child abuse at Penn State: Look who’s NOT on the more mandatory reporting bandwagon

Check the temperature in Hell.  Watch out for flying pigs.  Richard Gelles has just come out against more mandatory reporting of child abuse.

In the past, no one has been more fanatical about wanting states to do more barging into families and taking away children than Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gelles takes responsibility for helping to write the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act which encouraged the needless removal of tens of thousands of children from their homes. 

 As he explained to the New York City publication Child Welfare Watch "Initially, this was just supposed to be a safe families bill, not really an adoption bill at all. The adoption component was a way of sanitizing the bill, to make it more appealing to a broader group of people. Adoption is a very popular concept in the country right now."

His influence probably helps explain why Philadelphia tears apart proportionately more families than any other big city and why Rhode Island, where he taught before coming to Penn, takes away children at among the highest rates of any state.

He’s spoken out in favor of orphanages and gone on record suggesting that only 20 to 30 percent of children taken from their parents ever should return home.

Some of us have long known that more mandatory reporting only backfires, further overloading workers for child protective services agencies so they have less time to find children in real danger, even as it subjects more children who never were harmed to the needless trauma of a child abuse investigation.  But for Gelles finally to realize this is like Newt Gingrich joining an Occupy Wall Street protest.

In this he joins other one-time proponents of massive mandatory reporting like Eli Newberger and David Finkelhor, whose views are discussed in a previous post to this blog.

Perhaps it was that story from Florida, about the assistant principal, a mandated reporter, who called in a report about “a possible sex crime” – two 12-year-olds kissing – that was the last straw for Gelles.  Of maybe it’s the case from Wisconsin last year where a district attorney tried to prosecute a six-year-old for “playing doctor.”

Whatever the reason, if even Richard Gelles thinks it’s a bad idea, then it should be obvious to anyone that it’s time to stop the make-anyone-and-everyone-report-anything-and-everything bandwagon.