Thursday, August 9, 2018

The story New Hampshire CASA really, really REALLY doesn’t want you to read

I’m going to provide a link to a story about a horrific case of abuse in foster care in New Hampshire and a lawsuit filed in connection with that case. But as you consider whether or not to click on it, please remember: The New Hampshire Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program would rather you didn’t.

In fact, it’s important to them that you not read the story. Really important to them. So important to them that they actually went to court to try to prevent the New Hampshire Union Leader (known as the New Hampshire Sunday News on Sunday) from publishing the story – even though CASA had been dismissed from the lawsuit in question.

So if you want to make CASA feel better, whatever you do DON’T CLICK THIS LINK.

And you probably also shouldn’t read the next two paragraphs, from another Union-Leader story that summarize the case.

The New Hampshire Sunday News story details how DCYF and the Spaulding Center ignored red flags and rushed through the licensing of a Northfield foster home when they were faced with an emergency placement.
Six months later, the toddler suffered traumatic brain injury; today he struggles with medical and developmental issues. The foster mother, Noreen Stohrer, eventually pleaded guilty to child endangerment. She had a troubled history, including the death of a foster child under her care in New York state, the reports said.

My guess is they also might prefer it if you don’t read my op-ed column for the Union Leader on learning the right lessons from the tragedy.

The reason it was even possible to ask a judge to suppress the story is because it was based on material that was placed in a public court file by accident.  But the judge agreed that since the newspaper did nothing illegal, it had a First Amendment right to publish the story.

New Hampshire CASA was not the only organization to go to court to try to suppress the story.  So did the state Division of Children Youth and Families and the Spaulding Center, the private foster care agency involved in the case. 

But CASA’s position is particularly odd.  After all, unlike the other parties, as noted above, CASA actually had been dismissed form the suit (though the lawyer suing these agencies says he may try to change that).  And CASA programs always insist that they are the only ones who have absolutely no interest other than what’s best for children.  So surely they’d want the public to know about what this child had endured and what might be learned from it – wouldn’t they?

Why, then, did CASA want the story suppressed? According to the Union Leader, CASA was willing to see the public left in the dark because “CASA lawyer Dan Deane said he didn’t want CASA to suffer from the publicity and guilt by association.” 

That attitude may come as a surprise to those whose only knowledge of CASA comes from the gushy news stories about the program that appear all over the country.  But it is less surprising considering the actual track record of the National CASA Association and some CASA chapters across the country.

● There’s the study, commissioned by National CASA itself, that found the program prolongs foster care and reduces the likelihood that children will be placed with strangers instead of relatives – with no evidence that it improves child safety.

● There’s the second study, done by a CASA, that also found CASA didn’t work.

● There’s the scandal surrounding the CASA program in Snohomish County Washington where a judge found “pervasive and egregious misconduct.”

● There’s the matter of the former CASA for that same program whose diatribe about the overwhelmingly poor disproportionately nonwhite parents the program sees would make Donald Trump blush.

● There’s the CASA program in Kansas that held a fundraiser that featured a blackface act.

● There’s the CASA program in California that fell apart over a simple request that volunteers be more diverse.

● There’s the law review article which argues that CASA is “an exercise of white supremacy.”

As for the current case, according to the story that CASA doesn’t want you to read, the mother’s lawyer, Peter Hutchins, says:

state procedures allow him to appeal the decision to drop CASA once the underlying case is resolved. “I’m not letting CASA off the hook on this,” he said. “I’m committed to appealing it. They’re a corporate entity.”

So eventually, there may be more stories from New Hampshire that CASA doesn’t want you to read.