Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From denial to desperation: Misrepresentations on child welfare and race

In a column in The Chronicle of Social Change earlier this month, Marie Cohen includes the following statement. Almost everything in it is untrue:

Starting in the early 2000s, a group of wealthy foundations and allies called the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare promoted the notion that a racist child welfare system is behind the disproportionate representation of African-American families in the child welfare system.  As evidence has accumulated that contradicts this view, the alliance has quietly suspended its work, and has not published anything since March 2015.

The statement is about as accurate as a Donald Trump tweet storm. I’m devoting an entire column to it because it illustrates how a series of small misrepresentations piled one on top of the other can create a narrative entirely divorced from fact.
There really is an Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. It is run by the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
But that is the only part of the entire paragraph that is entirely true.
I am aware of no occasion on which the Alliance has said the entire system is racist. If Cohen knows of such a statement, let her come forward and present it. The Alliance has, however, put out superb reports, such as the Michigan Race Equity Review, which document how biases play a role in the needless removal of children of color from their homes.

The other misrepresentations are more serious. Cohen claims that the Alliance hasn’t published anything since March 2015. This false claim is the only evidence she offers for her further false claim that the Alliance “quietly suspended its work.”
“Publish Or Perish” Does Not Apply

There are two problems with this:
1.       Even were the claim about publishing true, it would be irrelevant. An Alliance is not the same thing as an untenured college professor. It does not perish if it does not publish as often as Cohen wants it to.

  1. The claim is false. This publication was issued a full year later. And there has been more recent work; unless, of course, you cling to a quaint 20th century definition of “published.” The Alliance organized and conducted a webinar on September 28, 2016.  The Alliance conducted another webinar on November 17, 2016. And another on February 22, 2017.  (Surprisingly, none seems to have gotten attention in The Chronicle, even though they dealt with one of this publication’s favorite topics: predictive analytics in child welfare.)  The Alliance also is sponsoring an Accelerating Change awards competition. The call for entries was issued on March 28, 2017.
All of this is available on the Alliance website.
Alliance Director Tashira Halyard told me about a few of the other events the Alliance has planned, including a conference this fall. Among the topics: this memo from the  Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services concerning the need to “ensure that child welfare agencies and state court systems are aware of their responsibilities to protect the civil rights of children and families in the child welfare system.”

Inference Peddling

Then, having falsely claimed that the Alliance wasn’t publishing and then falsely claiming that the Alliance suspended its work, Cohen said these things-that-did-not-really-happen happened “[a]s evidence has accumulated that contradicts” the view that child welfare has a racial bias problem.
This is a classic example of what can best be called inference peddling.  Cohen wants us to infer that there is now so much evidence that racial bias is no problem in child welfare that people who once said there was such a problem have given up and gone away.
In fact, Cohen’s exercise in inference peddling suggests that those clinging to the fiction that child welfare is magically exempt from the biases that permeate every other aspect of American life are getting desperate.
That’s understandable. The denial movement demands that we deny one study after another which finds that even when poverty is taken into account, there is racial bias over and above the class bias that permeates child welfare.
It also demands that we deny common sense.
In Florida, for example, the Tampa Bay Times just completed an exhaustive examination of police shootings. The newspaper found that many were justified. But it also found strong evidence of racial bias.

In six Florida counties, including four large ones, law enforcement also does child abuse investigations and makes the initial call on removing children.  So, as I noted last week, if the denial movement is correct, here’s what it means: If a sheriff’s deputy in these six counties confronts a black man and shoots him, there might be bias. If a sheriff’s deputy confronts a black man and takes away his children, there is no bias.

One recent study suggests that a majority of black children will have to endure a child abuse investigation at some point during their childhood. It is horrifying to think that, in some cases, those black children and their parents will be investigated by people so arrogant they actually believe that all bias magically stops at their office doors.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Race, journalism and child welfare: The double standards run deep

The Tampa Bay Times is earning well-deserved praise for a package of stories called Why Cops Shoot.
Since no government agency was keeping track of police shootings in Florida, the Times took on the task. The newspaper tracked 827 police shootings in Florida over six years and analyzed each one.

“Most of the shootings seem justified,” the Times concluded.  But, the newspaper said, there also are

“systemic problems that lead to questionable shootings: police operations that target minority neighborhoods; dubious traffic stops and nervous cops who rush to judgment; bad decisions by police that put them in harm’s way so they feel forced to shoot.
 In the worst cases, officers lie. They change their stories, tamper with evidence. They can kill an unarmed man lying on his back.”
And the Times found something else: “Police are more likely to shoot if you’re black.”  A series of graphics lead to a conclusion as obvious as it is inescapable: Racial bias plays a role in police shootings.

To which many no doubt would respond: Tell me something I don’t know.

The idea that there is racial bias in policing is now so accepted that the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a public apology.

And policing is not alone. As I’ve noted before, if a black man and a white man enter a store or hail a taxi, few would doubt who is more likely to be followed around the store and less likely to get the cab. Even in the hard sciences, where objectivity theoretically is at a premium, black scholars have more trouble getting research grants.

A Blindspot in Child Welfare …

Everyone – or at least everyone on the political left – would agree: Racial bias is part of every aspect of American life. Everyone, that is, except those liberals who keep insisting that one field is magically exempt: child welfare.
Those who are, to use one of child welfare’s favorite phrases, “in denial,” tell us the grossly disproportionate rate at which black families are investigated as alleged child abusers and have their children taken away has nothing to do with race – it’s because of poverty. (This is actually an improvement; I’m old enough to remember when the child welfare establishment insisted they never took children because of poverty either.)
In fact, it’s both. Broad neglect laws make it easy to confuse poverty with “neglect.”  But even when you factor in poverty, study after study finds racial bias over and above the class bias.

… And in Newsrooms

This willful blindness among some of my fellow liberals also can be seen in certain newsrooms – such as the Tampa Bay Times.

In an editorial last year, the Times acknowledged that Hillsborough County (metropolitan Tampa) took away children at the highest rate in the state. The newspaper even noted that the rate of removal in Hillsborough was far higher than Miami-Dade County, which has nearly double Hillsborough’s population.
But bias? No way! And, opines the Times, anyone who thinks there’s a problem can’t possibly be a good liberal. As the editorial put it:

“The figures are sure to give ammunition to antigovernment conservatives, many of whom like to frame the child protection process as antifamily. But that overlooks the facts and misses the point.” 

And what are those facts?
 “Hillsborough’s rangy size and high poverty levels help create especially troublesome home environments.”

There’s just one problem with that: The rate of child poverty is higher in Miami-Dade where, the Times acknowledges, far fewer children are taken.

Another of the Times’ facts: In the majority of cases, children are not removed from their homes.
Well, yes. But in the majority of cases where police confront citizens, they don’t shoot them. That doesn’t mean no one is ever wrongfully shot, as the Times has just illustrated.

But most striking was this argument:
“In more than 4,000 cases since 2011, a judge has found that investigators got it wrong only 66 times.”
The Times series on police shootings produced a strikingly similar statistic, but a vastly different conclusion:
 “No matter what [police officers have] done, they almost certainly won’t be charged with a crime, the Times found. Only once in the six years and 827 shootings analyzed was an on-duty cop charged with a crime for shooting someone. It got thrown out of court.”

So to review: When judges rubber-stamp removals of children from their homes, it means the removals must be justified. When prosecutors won’t prosecute police it means police are not being held accountable.
Of course, one can see why some liberals would cling to the notion that child protection workers are somehow immune from bias. After all, they’re caseworkers, not hard-nosed cops. Right?
Not so in six Florida counties, including some large ones. In those counties, sheriffs’ departments investigate child abuse allegations and remove children.  The counties include four in the Times circulation area: Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hillsborough.

Once again, to review: In the considered opinion of the Tampa Bay Times, if a sheriff’s deputy confronts a black man and shoots him, there may be bias. If a sheriff’s deputy confronts a black man and takes away his children, there can’t be bias.

Because, as far as the Tampa Bay Times is concerned, those who take away children are always right.

A lesson for child welfare from the Hillary Clinton campaign: Don’t rely on predictive analytics

Hillary Clinton
I’ve written before about how one of the biggest losers in the 2016 elections was “predictive analytics.”  All those algorithms kept assuring us that Hillary Clinton was all but certain to win.  The media were suckered.

It turns out the media were not alone.  In her review of a new book, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times writes that the campaign itself made the same disastrous error:

As described in “Shattered,” Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook — who centered the Clinton operation on data analytics (information about voters, given to him by number crunchers) as opposed to more old-fashioned methods of polling, knocking on doors and trying to persuade undecideds — made one strategic mistake after another, but was kept on by Clinton, despite her own misgivings.

Yet “predictive analytics” continues to be sold, literally and figuratively, to child welfare systems as a way to target which parents should have their children taken away.  In fact, as is discussed indetail here, predictive analytics magnifies the racial and class biases that are built into the child welfare.

It will work every bit as well in child welfare as it did in the Clinton campaign.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Big Data’s latest brainstorm: Target poor people and make parents suspects if they ask for help

Remember the good old days when the one thing almost everyone interested in child welfare could agree on was “home visiting”? Assign a trained worker to help “at-risk” new parents, sometimes even before the child’s birth. Then follow up with regular visits to the home.
When such programs follow a particular model, the Nurse Family Partnership, this kind of help actually is helpful.
Those whose top priority really is taking away more children find this acceptable since it widens, rather than narrows, the net of intervention into families. Advocates of family preservation find it acceptable because it’s strictly voluntary for the families.
About the only people to object, initially, were right-wingers with their paranoid ideas that this was a sneaky backdoor way for “big gummint” to spy on families.
Just because you’re paranoid…

But then along came self-proclaimed liberal Elizabeth Bartholet, who proved the adage “just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Based on the criteria she sets out in her book, “Nobody’s Children,” her agenda is so extreme that I estimate it would require taking at least one million children from their parents every year.
That would be even before implementing a linchpin of her strategy, which I discussed last month: a very different version of home visiting. The Bartholet version is the right-wing nightmare come true: It would be universal and mandatory. In other words, a government-mandated spy in every living room. Bartholet specifies that the visitors would be mandatory child abuse reporters, and that the purpose of those visits includes “surveillance.” Indeed, that seems to be their primary purpose.

Of course that’s not going to happen – not because it’s Orwellian, but because it would be so expensive. But now, it turns out, Bartholet’s vision also was hopelessly low-tech. In the age of the latest fad in child welfare, predictive analytics, it no longer matters what the spy in the living room actually sees. Just making use of a home visiting program ratchets up the level of suspicion.

At least that seems to be the latest plan from software vendor SAS, according to a recent story from predictive analytics evangelist and Bartholet disciple Daniel Heimpel, publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.

SAS is the company which used past cases to test a secret, proprietary predictive analytics algorithm in Los Angeles. SAS proclaimed it a rousing success even though 95 percent of the time when the algorithm predicted severe harm to a child the algorithm was wrong.

Now SAS is developing a new approach in Florida. This one targets poor people. It compares birth records to three other databases: child welfare system involvement, public assistance and “mothers who had been involved in the state’s home visiting program.”

So listen up “at-risk” new mothers: In the world of predictive analytics, the fact that you reached out for help when you needed it and accepted assistance on how to be better parents isn’t a sign of strength – it’s a reason to consider you suspect, and make it more likely that your children will be taken away.
So the conclusion is obvious: Mothers will have to turn down the help in order to protect their children from the risk of having to face the horrors of foster care. Oh, wait, that probably won’t work. Big Data entrepreneurs would simply respond by finding a database listing mothers who refuse home visiting, and count that against them too.
The only way to escape Big Data is to hide the pregnancy, avoid prenatal care and give birth at home. Yes, child welfare has found one more way to endanger children in the name of protecting them.
A dilemma for predictive analytics defenders

SAS’ approach also should create a dilemma for some defenders of predictive analytics, such as Heimpel, who can’t see why anyone would object to using it for targeting which families should get help, in particular home visiting. SAS is standing that on its head. Their new approach winds up using home visiting to target investigations.
SAS’ evidence that its new approach works consists of pointing out that a lot of those it targeted had repeat reports of child abuse. But the reasoning is circular. Part of the rationale for predictive analytics is that decisions now are too subjective and prone to bias. Logically, then, you can’t turn around and cite those same subjective, biased decisions as proof your approach works.
Indeed, reliance on prior reports as proof of accuracy was a key flaw in evaluations of New Zealand’s experiment with predictive analytics.

And you’re certainly not going to make the system less biased by tracking only poor people. That only magnifies the existing “surveillance bias” that makes poor people targets because they’re more visible to government agencies.
But hey, the news isn’t bad for everyone. Middle class child abusers are in luck! If child welfare systems adopt this latest Big Data brainstorm, middle class child abusers are likely to be a lower priority for investigations – and likely to have lower risk scores when a caseworker shows up at the door.

As for poor people who need help with child-rearing, I guess they’ll just have to hire nannies.

New columns on state-sanctioned ransom, child welfare's addiction to bad science, and a tragedy in Pennsylvania

In Youth Today, I’ve written about the payments some parents are forced to make to get their children back from foster care. The euphemism used by child welfare systems for such payments is “child support.” But when someone takes away a child and makes parents pay money to get the child back, the proper term is “ransom.”  

 I also have  a column about the latest twist from the latest example of that addiction, "predictive analytics": a plan that specifically targets poor people - and penalizes those among them who reach out for help.

In the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., I look at how child welfare's double standards are at the heart of the tragic death of a child, allegedly at the hands of the foster parents who adopted her.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Child welfare’s 163-year addiction to bad science

Today’s child welfare system has its roots not in benevolence, but in bigotry.
Foster care began more than 150 years ago with a Protestant minister by the name of Charles Loring Brace. Brace founded an organization that still exists, New York City’s Children’s Aid Society.
Brace had seen the revolutions in Europe of 1848, and they terrified him. In particular, he was terrified of poor immigrant Catholics, whom he branded a “stupid, foreign criminal class” and the “scum and refuse of ill-formed civilizations.” He worried that “some demagogue might arouse their passions and fuse all the elements for a Parisian scene of riot and blood.”
And, of course, Brace explained, these Catholic immigrant parents were genetically inferior, passing bad “gemmules” on to their children. Fortunately, these ill effects could be reversed – by taking away the children and shipping them out to middle class Protestant farmers in the countryside.
Brace did just that. Between 1854 and 1929, his “orphan trains” took at least 100,000 such children. But the name notwithstanding, many of the children were not orphans. And many were taken without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
In 1990, I discussed some of this history in a letter to The New York Times. That prompted a touching and wonderfully ironic testament to the importance of family: a response defending Brace from his own great-grandson, Charles Loring Brace IV.
Bigotry? Heavens, no, Brace IV said. Those remarks about “scum and refuse” reflected merely a “somewhat genteel sense of superiority.” And you can’t blame great-grandpa for the whole “gemmules” idea – he got it from Charles Darwin!

The headline the Times put on this letter is: “Brace Took Up Bad Science in Good Faith.”

Bad Science in Arizona

Flash forward 163 years. The place is Arizona, scene of the nation’s longest sustained foster care panic. The sharp, sudden increase in children removed from their homes began in 2003. It might – might – have finally stopped in 2016. Arizona tears apart families at a rate 60 percent above the national average when rates of child poverty are factored in. Metropolitan Phoenix takes children at the highest rate among America’s big cities when poverty is considered.

And the state is remarkably creative about figuring out new ways to do it.
The latest plan: secretly tape interviews with those suspected of abusing and neglecting their children. Then run the recordings through a “Computer Voice Stress Analyzer” (CVSA) to see if the suspect is telling the truth.

Academics who have studied the technology … have dismissed it as ineffective. Kelly Damphousse, the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Arts and Sciences, led a 2007 study for the Department of Justice. … “The software isn’t capable of distinguishing who is telling the truth,” Damphousse said …

“It’s a sham. … There is no scientific validity to the results,” said John J. Palmatier, a former police officer and criminal justice professor who has studied such technologies for 34 years. …  “They’re actually using it? I hope Arizona has deep pockets, because if the right attorney finds out, they’re going to pay big bucks,” Palmatier said.

In fact, the right attorney did find out. When family defender Gregg Woodnick blew the whistle, the Arizona child protective services agency decided it would not make clandestine use of CVSA after all. So that part of the plan never got off the ground. But the agency still uses it with the “permission” of the suspect.

The Ultimate in Bad Science

But of course, the classic example of child welfare’s never-ending love affair with bad science is “predictive analytics” in which computer software supposedly tells caseworkers which families are at high risk for abusing their children.

I have yet to encounter anyone who favors predictive analytics who is both an advocate of family preservation and does not run a child welfare system. But some reformers who do run such systems say, in effect:

§  Yes, we know that the Los Angeles experiment with predictive analytics produced a false positive rate of 95 percent.
§  Yes, we know about how predictive analytics reinforces racial bias in criminal justice, with a disturbing tendency to overestimate the dangerousness of the accused if they’re black and underestimate the danger if they’re white.
§  Yes, we know about the research in New Zealand that suggests similar problems in child welfare.

But, they say, we will avoid all these pitfalls. We will only use predictive analytics the right way.
I trust them to try their very best to do just that. But I don’t trust their successors, whoever they may be. And I don’t trust the successors to those successors. Because the typical child welfare agency is like the one in Arizona – chaotic, dysfunctional and ready to grasp at any straw that might get it off the hook the next time a child “known to the system” becomes front page news.

That’s why child welfare keeps taking up bad science in good faith.

Monday, April 3, 2017

NYC’s new child welfare chief is looking for help in all the wrong places

● The consultants he’s bringing in have one thing in common: a fondness for computerized racial profiling.

● Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has crusaded against racial bias in law enforcement, now seems to find it acceptable it in child welfare.

The depressing script is being followed to the letter in New York City.

Newspapers discover that children “known to the system” sometimes die. Though there is no evidence that these tragedies are any more common than before, now the press is paying attention.  That turns the deaths into a “series” or a “spate” or a “rash.” Then the child welfare agency, in this case the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), officially is christened “embattled” and/or “beleaguered.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
As is discussed in detail in a series of previous posts to this blog, a slew of mayor wanna-bes rushes in exploit the tragedy by announcing investigations and issuing reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo does the same to gain leverage in his feud with Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio fails to stand up for an agency that has, in fact, made remarkable progress, taking away far fewer children with no compromise of child safety.

That should come as no surprise. Back when he chaired the City Council’s Human Services Committee de Blasio proved adept at grabbing headlines for himself by exploiting an earlier tragedy, the death of Nixzmary Brown.

And of course there is the Ritual Sacrifice of the Agency Chief, in this case Gladys Carrion. (Officially she retired. If so, it was because the mayor wouldn’t stand behind her.)  Her replacement, David Hansell, has no experience specific to child welfare. So he’s seeking advice. 

There are several outstanding reformers in the field to whom he could have turned. But chances are he doesn’t know about them. Instead Hensell is looking for help in all the wrong places.

The people/organizations he’s bringing have done nothing to distinguish themselves in the field. And they have one thing in common: a fondness for computerized racial profiling, or to use the child welfare field’s preferred euphemism, “predictive analytics.”

Consultant #1

David Hansell
Of all the choices Hansell has made the most difficult to explain is his choice of Philip Browning, who

recently resigned as director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

In the 40 years I’ve followed child welfare, when I’ve read stories in which people are asked to name systems that function relatively well, I’ve never heard anyone mention Los Angeles.

There’s a reason for that. The Los Angeles child welfare system is almost always embattled and/or beleaguered. It has the same sorts of high-profile horror stories as New York City, and they provoke the same sort of response: Foster-care panic.  But unlike New York City, L.A. tends not to recover from those panics. It just lurches from crisis to crisis.

Browning is beloved by those who embrace a take-the-child-and-run approach to child welfare. That’s because while Los Angeles has all the same problems keeping children safe as New York City, Los Angeles tears apart families at among the highest rates of America’s big cities. In fact the rate-of-removal in Los Angeles is well over double the rate of New York City – in fact, it’s more than 150 percent higher.

Or to put it another way, if New York City tore apart families at the rate Los Angeles tears apart families, instead of taking away 3,702 children in fiscal year 2016, the city would have had to take away more than 9,200 – a number that would be higher than all but four of the past 24 years.

Philip Browning
Browning did not make Los Angeles’ dreadful record of removals any worse. But he didn’t make it any better. The already high rate-of-removal in Los Angeles increased further at the beginning of his tenure, which started at the end of 2011, then returned to about where they were when he got there.  And the number of children trapped in foster care on any given day increased by more than 15 percent during his tenure.

And, by the way, Chicago does better than both New York and Los Angeles – and in Chicago independent court monitors have found that the emphasis on family preservation has improved child safety.

Los Angeles outperforms New York City in just one area: the percentage of children placed in kinship foster care – that is, with relatives instead of strangers. That improvement took place during Browning’s tenure.  Other than that, however, the only thing Philip Browning can teach New York City is what not to do.

There was one other distinguishing feature of Browning’s tenure in Los Angeles. He was a huge cheerleader for “predictive analytics” in which computer algorithms use various “risk factors” to tell caseworkers who is supposedly most likely to abuse a child.

As is outlined in detail in our publication Big Data is Watching You, predictive analytics has  proven itself permeated with the same kinds of racial and class biases that already plague child welfare. Yet in Los Angeles, Browning brought in a private for-profit software firm to experiment with predictive analytics using secret, proprietary software.

They didn’t use it on any actual cases. Rather, past cases were fed into the computer and then it predicted risk. The algorithm predicted many of the cases that, in fact, lead to deaths, near fatalities or “critical incidents.” There was just one problem: It predicted vastly more cases where there none of those things actually happened. In fact the rate of “false positives” was over 95 percent. If you predict that a vast number of cases will result in catastrophe, it’s no wonder you’ll often be right, even as you are wrong far more often.

This means that, were this kind of system actually implemented, vast numbers of innocent families would come under additional scrutiny and their children would suffer the enormous trauma of needless foster care placement – because no caseworker is going to risk being on the front page as the worker who defied the algorithm and left a child in an unsafe home. So all those children would face the high risk of abuse in foster care itself.

And in the real world, all the time and resources squandered pursuing these cases would be stolen from finding children in real danger – potentially undermining any alleged gains the  algorithm produced in finding such children.

Consultant #2

Consultant #2 is a private child welfare agency based in Florida known as Eckerd Kids. In Florida, everything after the initial removal of a child is handled by private “lead agencies.”  Eckerd, which had the contract for the St. Petersburg area was brought in to take over nearby metropolitan Tampa after, yes, a “series” or “spate” or “rash” of deaths of children “known to the system.” 

They implemented a predictive analytics algorithm called Rapid Safety Feedback. Eckerd then implied that this caused the deaths to stop – they brag about this on their website.  As the same time, they piously proclaim that they don’t really know if the two are related – and they really aren’t claiming any such thing.

In fact, the picture in Tampa is far murkier than Eckerd and proponents of predictive analytics claim.  Full details are in Big Data is Watching You.  (Scroll down or search for “What Really Happened in Tampa.”)

And while backers of a take-the-child-and-run approach across the country have been fawning over Eckerd’s methods, the agency seems to be having trouble keeping its own house in order. A foster child in the care of one of Eckerd’s subcontractors died late last year and the foster mother has been charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. The foster mother worked as a marketing manager for another Eckerd subcontractor.

There is no indication that Eckerd uses Rapid Safety Feedback to screen foster parents. But if they did, this one probably would have gotten a low risk score. Why? Because as the Tampa Bay Times put it in an editorial that revealed a lot about bias in child welfare, analytics – and journalism – the accused

seemed in many ways an ideal foster mother. College-educated with a $70,000 income, she lived in a nice Riverview neighborhood …

Of course, every agency has such failures. But it appears that Eckerd is being sought out by child welfare systems across the county largely on the basis of hype about how it supposedly stops such tragedies with predictive analytics.

Consultant #3

Consultant #3 is Casey Family Programs. This is one of several separate but similar foundations all endowed through the fortune of UPS founder Jim Casey (the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which, long ago, funded NCCPR, is another). Casey Family Programs is run by William Bell who joined Casey after an undistinguished tenure running ACS.  But I think the reason Casey is being brought in is because of the recent work of its Executive Vice President of Systems Improvement, David Sanders.

Sanders also ran the Los Angeles child welfare agency – and he did a good job there. But more recently he’s been far less successful. Sanders chaired a wretched mess known as the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. 

The commission was chaotic, it was angry, it was dysfunctional, it was secretive and it made its decisions based on newspaper horror stories.  In other words, a commission tasked with studying the child protective services system devolved into a microcosm of that system.  Details are in a series of previous posts to this blog, in NCCPR’s report critiquing the commission’s work, and in a scathing dissenting report from one of the commissioners.

And what was the key recommendation from this commission? Take the racially biased, class biased approach of predictive analytics and make it even worse.  And what was the basis for this recommendation?  Eckerd’s supposed success in Tampa.

From all this, an ugly picture emerges. New York City appears poised to reverse decades of progress, albeit inconsistent progress, in safely reducing the number of children consigned to the chaos of foster care.

And in another classic example of liberals who forget everything they claim to believe in when someone whispers the words child abuse in their ears, we have Mayor de Blasio. He has campaigned against racial bias in policing, but apparently he’s ready to accept it in child welfare.

 Good reason to be scared

During a previous foster-care panic in New York a 14-year-old wrote an essay called “I am scared of ACS.” 

Today, New York City’s vulnerable children have good reason to be scared of ACS once again.