Wednesday, August 14, 2019

NCCPR News and commentary round-up, week ending August 14, 2019

Lots of news this week, starting with two important court decisions.

● An appellate court in Washington State blasted the scandal-plagued Snohomish County CASA program – that’s the one a judge found engaged in “the blatant withholding and destruction of evidence … rampant, continuing lying …” and “pervasive and egregious” misconduct. 

The appellate court also blasted the Snohomish County Superior Court for making a fair termination of parental rights trial impossible – because court employees actually worked with the CASA program instead of remaining neutral.  Through it all, the National CASA Association has remained silent.  Do they actually approve of the Snohomish County CASA program’s actions?  Details on all of this, and a link to the decision, in this NCCPR Blog Post.

● A federal appellate court also brought good news last week: It upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Here’s the National Indian Child Welfare Association statement on the decision.

● In Youth Today, I review recent studies that all have one thing in common:  They demonstrate that, when it comes to reducing child abuse, there’s nothing like the transformative power of cash.  And, great news! In the same column, I reveal the apparently up-to-now secret way to target child abuse prevention without resorting to Big-Brother, privacy-invading predictive analytics!

● I have long argued that the so-called Family First act has been vastly overhyped. The funds can be used on only a few types of services and they have to meet criteria for being “evidence-based” that are vastly higher than the criteria for say, foster care or residential treatment (which have no real evidence base).  But now comes word that the federal government will be studying whether to allow funding under Family First for programs that follow the Homebuilders model for Intensive Family Preservation Services.  That alone would make Family First vastly more useful.  Here’s how Homebuilders works.  And here’s a summary of the impressive evidence base for it.

● In the Chronicle of Social Change, Vivek Sankaran writes about the need for judges to behave like – you know, judges, and enforce the law. He writes:

[T]hroughout my career, I’ve heard judges chide lawyers and parents when they emphasize the law. One frustrated judge said to a colleague, “I see you’re going down the statutory road again.” Another said to a parent, “I know there’s a legal right to ask for more visits. But if I gave it to you, then I’d have to give it to every parent.” A third said, “I know the law says that corporal punishment is allowed. But in my courtroom, this is what we do.”

And I would argue that, at its most extreme, this attitude helps explain what happened in Snohomish County (see first item above).

● Another Chronicle story looks at how “In Aftermath of Latest Child Death, L.A. Contends with Potential Foster Care Panic.”  I’ll have some thoughts on this one soon.

● In Talk Poverty Elizabeth Brico writes about how “State Laws Punish Pregnant People Just For Seeking Drug Treatment.” And of course, they also punish the children.  Ms. Brico cites an Amnesty International report documenting how such laws drive women away from treatment and away from prenatal care.

● When a parent who has lost a child to foster care – or is at risk of it – can get help from another parent who’s been through the same ordeal it can help prevent the placement, or shorten it, lessening the trauma for children.  So, Rise, a magazine written by parents who have been in this position, asks: Why aren’t more of them working in NYC? This is, of course, an excellent question for the rest of the country as well.

● Also in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has on his desk a bill that could significantly ease the trauma for children who have lost their parents forever due to termination of parental rights.  The bill would allow judges to continue contact between these children and their parents if the judge is persuaded it’s in the child’s best interests. 

In the New York Daily News, Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the Family Defense Clinic at New York University School of Law, explains why the governor should sign the bill.  And family defense attorney Amy Mulzer has a letter to the editor about the bill in the Albany Times Union.

● Until it was surpassed in 2017 by Montana, Wyoming had the dubious distinction of child removal capital of America. (It’s still #2 in that regard.)  So it’s encouraging that the legislature in that state is considering a bill that would bolster family defense.  The story illustrates the importance of both the new study showing that high-quality family defense safely reduces foster care and the change in federal rules that allows some of the cost of such defense to be reimbursed with federal funds.

● I have a guest commentary in the Times of Northwest Indiana about how the latest McLawsuit filed by the latest group founded by Marcia Lowry, A Better Childhood, may well make that state’s dismal child welfare system even worse.

● And finally, though not related directly to child protective services, Vice News has a disturbing story about how the private adoption industry coerces parents into giving up their children.  The common denominator shared by these cases and those involving CPS is poverty. The Vice story cites a survey which found that “most women … put up their babies for adoption at least in part because of financial concerns.