Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 15, 2019

● He was a bright, engaging little boy when his aunt first asked child protective services for some help. Instead, CPS threw him into foster care, moved him from home to home, group home to group home, until he had no ties to anyone who loved him.

“Despite her desperate efforts, his aunt was unable to get custody of Alonzo, and was only able to see him during weekly, supervised visits,” writes Vivek Sankaran in the Chronicle of Social Change.

This only intensified Alonzo’s anger. He felt unloved. He felt disconnected. And he was becoming unhinged, no longer caring about life. With each move – of which he experienced at least 10 – the system was losing this child. And then it finally did, when he committed murder.

● The Philadelphia City Council will create a special committee to examine how the city’s Department of Human Services handles allegations of abuse and neglect and its process for deciding when to remove children from their homes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The proposal comes from councilmember David Oh, who himself was falsely accused of child abuse.

Four months earlier, the council had defeated a similar measure.  According to KYW Newsradio, part of what made the difference was activism by the many families harmed by DHS:

Oh reintroduced the resolution this month and encouraged parents who've lost custody of their children to come to Council to testify in its favor. Dozens showed up, and their emotional testimony extended the last few Council sessions by as much as an hour.
The resolution still appeared unlikely to pass this week, so Oh placed a "hold" on the bill, which keeps it on the calendar for future consideration. Several sources said that created concerns that the parents would continue to come and testify every week until the resolution passed.

And, it appears, DHS has finally stopped trying to repeal the laws of mathematics.  The Inquirer reported that:

Philadelphia has by far the highest rate of child removals of any big city. After adjusting the removal rate for the number of impoverished children, it still tops the list, albeit narrowly.

Nothing unusual there; NCCPR has been pointing this out for more than a decade.  But this time, DHS didn’t even try to deny it.

● Elsewhere in Pennsylvania things aren’t going as well.  In one of its frequent fits of mass hysteria and demagoguery over child abuse, the Pennsylvania Legislature made even more draconian its state law requiring hospitals to report to authorities any infant “affected” by parental substance use.  The old law, which was bad enough, at least said the substance had to be illegal.  Now it’s any substance.  The change was cheered on by an Inquirer reporter who sank to “crack baby journalism.” 

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania also legalized medical marijuana.  But while affluent white people can smoke pot with impunity, if you’re poor and/or nonwhite different rules apply.  So, as the Wilkes Barre Times Leader makes clear in this excellent story and this follow-up, the change in the law already is harming families.

● The Houston Chronicle and NBC News have another excellent story in their series about how so-called “child abuse pediatricians” harm innocent families.

● But is there a way that hospitals and medical personnel can intervene when they have concerns about a child that is actually helpful, improves child safety and reduces the likelihood that the child will have to endure the trauma of needless removal? As a matter of fact, yes. Check out this program in Washington State in which doctors, nurses, hospitals and family defenders work together.

● The reporter for the Times of Northwest Indiana who wrote this excellent story about how Indiana child welfare authorities routinely confuse poverty with neglect has written about how he got the story.

● “Adverse Childhood Experiences” and “trauma-informed” are now among the most common buzzwords in child welfare – often uttered by people who are oblivious to the extent that the system in which they work inflicts one of the worst Adverse Childhood Experiences of all. In an essay for Children’s Bureau Express, Prof. Christopher Church of the University of South Carolina School of Law reminds us that “Unnecessary Removals [are] The Most Unjust Adverse Childhood Experience.”