If there’s one thing that really, really upsets America’s child welfare establishment, it’s pointing out the close resemblance between the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy that separated children from their parents at the Mexican border and the American foster care system.
So, every few weeks, it seems, there is another desperate attempt at hair-splitting to try to convince us that when American child protective services agencies tear apart families nearly 270,000 times every year, it’s nothing like those roughly 2,600 cases that occurred on the border.
Of course the two systems are not identical. Although the percentage is small, some of the children taken by U.S. agencies really did need to be removed for their own safety. And unlike Donald J. Trump, most people in the U.S. child welfare system have good intentions.
But even the good intentions can have a downside. They are likely to shield needless removal of children into U.S. foster care system from the kind of intensive scrutiny the Trump family separation policy is likely to get when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January.
That’s unfortunate, because good intentions is pretty much where the differences end. As this handy chart makes clear, everything else amounts to distinctions without differences. And the efforts of foster care apologists to draw those distinctions actually illustrate the extent to which the two systems are similar.