Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Philadelphia DHS Excuse Machine never stops

Well, Philadelphia DHS is nothing if not predictable.

In an op-ed column about the appalling allegations of widespread abuse of youth at the Glen Mills schools exposed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center wrote that “The abysmal failure of local and state child welfare agencies to scrutinize the Glen Mills program … is simply inexcusable.”

The locality that sent more youth to Glen Mills than any other is, of course, Philadelphia.  And that means as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Cynthia Figueroa had a responsibility to know what was happening there.  So did her predecessors who also allowed children to languish at Glen Mills.

I tweeted Levick’s quote with this comment: So why do I have the feeling this won't stop @PhiladelphiaDHS commissioner @cynfigueroaf from coming up with all sorts of excuses?”

And sure enough, yesterday, Philadelphia DHS took an old standby from child welfare and applied it to juvenile justice, tweeting:

Actually we don't make placement decisions for juvenile justice involved youth.

What they mean, of course, is that judges make the final decision. That’s the same excuse they use for Philadelphia’s obscene rate of tearing apart families and throwing children into foster care.  But in both cases, we all know who those judges are listening to.

Indeed, if DHS were not so influential, how could it possibly issue the statement cited in this news story, under the headline “Philly DHS pulling clients from Glen Mills Schools.” 

The response from Figueroa: Her agency didn’t write the headline.

O.K. Then how about this story from KYW Newsradio, in which you can actually hear Figueroa take responsibility for placements at Glen Mills:

In the story, Figueroa can be heard, loud and clear, saying:

We're not going to reopen intake and I think there's a clear necessity to review whether we'll ever be able to send kids there again. [Emphasis added.] 

Does “we” not include you, commissioner?

The city is pulling its boys after an Inquirer investigation revealed widespread abuse and attempts to cover it up, Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa told the newspaper.

From the same story:

“It’s heartbreaking. It was a very hard read,” Figueroa said. She had recently received promises of change from Glen Mills, and expected to resume sending boys there as of two weeks ago. [Emphasis added.]
 Instead, the 51 Philadelphia boys remaining at the school will go back before a judge to be placed elsewhere. Some will go to other schools for court-ordered boys, while others will be enrolled in alternative programs that allow them to stay in the community.

An earlier Inquirer story, about an earlier incident of abuse at Glen Mills, which prompted Philadelphia to stop sending boys there, included this:

Figueroa said this was the first time the city had suspended intake at Glen Mills since she took office in 2016.

Why does DHS want it both ways?  Because they want credit for stopping the practice of sending youth to Glen Mills without being blamed for the fact that they allowed children to stay there year after year after year.

Figueroa wants everyone to know how heartbroken she is about the Inquirer revelations, but she doesn’t want anyone to ask why the Inquirer had to do DHS' job and uncover abuses DHS should have known about.

It is, indeed, inexcusable.  So for once, can’t DHS stop making excuses and put the children and youth first?