Tuesday, April 21, 2020

NCCPR News and commentary round-up, week ending April 21, 2020

● Remember that classic scene in The Matrix – the one people know even if they haven’t actually seen the film? Take the blue pill and go back to living in a dreamworld, take the red pill and see the ugly reality. When it comes to how the child welfare system works, for decades most of us, including, sadly, most journalists have been swallowing the blue pill handed us by the child welfare establishment. In the world of the Blue Pill it is a purely benevolent system which, of course, has some flaws, but only because it’s underfunded. 

If you’re finally ready for the red pill, if you’re ready to see the system as it really is, watch the video of this webinar, featuring Erin Miles Cloud of the Movement for Family Power, Miriam Mack of The Bronx Defenders and Tiffany McFadden, a former foster youth now a professor at the City University of New York. (The video starts at about 4:30 in.)

● Speaking of myths too readily accepted by journalists: Here’s a thought experiment. How do the arguments in favor of rushing to report anything and everything to child abuse “hotlines” because fewer white, professional “eyes” on Black children differ from the arguments in favor of the racist practice by police known as stop-and-frisk?  Spoiler: They don’t.  I have a blog post about it.

● Also relevant, this New York Times column, which has nothing specifically to do with child welfare, but in fact has everything to do with it.  The link on the Times website summed it up: “The Seductive Appeal of Snitch on Thy Neighbor.”

● “My kids are hurt, they’re crying,” says a mother whose children in foster care no longer can visit her. “They don’t understand. My daughter is thinking we don’t want to see her.”  That’s from an excellent story in the Chronicle of Social Change exploring the real harm being done to children by child welfare’s failed response to COVID-19.

● COVID-19 hasn’t changed the fact that many times, the removal of a child to the chaos of foster care is unnecessary to keep the child safe. Now there are new data from New York City illustrating the extent of the problem, and how COVID-19 has made it worse. That’s because it’s as easey to put children in to foster care as ever but now, often, there is almost no way out.  I have a blog post on it with a link to the story that revealed the new data, from the Center for New York City Affairs.

● This story involves spouses fighting for custody. But I suspect it’s only a matter of time before a child protective services agency pulls the same stunt: Denying visitation and/or custody to a first responder – because s/he’s a first responder!

In other news:

● Two excellent stories form Rise:

--One is about how all children are safer when poor families have access to lawyers the minute they even think child protective services is about to enter their lives (you know, the way rich families always do – in those incredibly rare cases in which CPS comes anywhere near a rich family.)  As Emma Ketteringham of The Bronx Defenders explains:

When a CPS worker comes to your door and asks to look through your cupboards and in your fridge, asks you questions, sends you for a drug test, asks you about whoever lives in this home, and wants to talk with your child without you present—that’s not social work, that is an investigation. There are fundamental legal rights at stake.

In the other story, family advocate Joyce McMillan discusses the new law in New York reforming the state’s blacklist of people accused – often falsely – of child abuse or neglect. A listing on the state’s “central registry” effectively blacklists the accused, denying them access to some of the very jobs most often filled by low-income workers.

● Once again, top federal child welfare officials have been poring over their child welfare policy manual, and once again they’ve made a change that will allow more funding to be used to help keep families together, as well as to support the least harmful form of foster care, kinship foster care. And though it’s not yet online they’ve added a useful clarification to the last change they made, involving federal aid to help pay for lawyers for parents and children in child welfare cases.  The new language makes clear this aid also is available to help pay for social workers and parent advocates used as part of family defense teams.

● And for anyone who still thinks taking away a child because family poverty is confused with neglect and putting him in foster care is no big deal because, after all, “what’s the worst that could happen?”  Here’s the answer.