Tuesday, May 26, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending May 26, 2020

● This Blog broke some news last week, when we disclosed that Washington State is using an office building for what amounts to a holding pen for foster youth who tested positive for COVID-19. The Chronicle of Social Change followed up with more grim details: The facility reportedly "has no laundry facilities, no full kitchen, no full bathrooms." The youth are sleeping on cots and sleeping bags in the building basement, which had been used for supervised visits. The blog post is here, and includes a link to the Chronicle story.

In other coronavirus–related news:

● The New York City online news site The City reports on the hardships inflicted on children by private child welfare agencies failing to arrange in-person visits. Vice News has a story that looks at the problem across the country.  And Prof. Joanna Woolman, director of the Institute to Transform Child Protection at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, highlights the need for in-person visits in this letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune (scroll to the sixth letter down).

● The American Bar Association held a webinar on the value of high-quality family defense – the model that has helped New York City significantly reduce the use of foster care with no compromise of safety.  But the discussion actually was broader than that, offering perspectives on child welfare that are rarely heard.  All of the speakers were outstanding, but since few people are likely to watch it all, I’ve cued the video to the presentation that may be most useful for a general audience.  It’s from Prof. Tricia Stephens of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College: 

● Andrew Brown of the Texas Public Policy Foundation writes in The Washington Examiner that “As the economic downturn ripples across the country and compounds the financial struggles of families that are already at-risk, states should look closely at reforming child welfare policies and practices that improperly confuse poverty with neglect.”

● Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez, a vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation writes in Youth Today that we should “boldly reimagine” the system to strengthen families. Actually, that’s not particularly bold.  But in recent years, Casey seemed less interested in keeping kids out of the system entirely – as opposed to promoting less use of institutions and more use of kinship foster care.  Perhaps this signals a change for the better under the Foundation’s relatively new executive director, Lisa Hamilton.

In other news:

I have a column in Youth Today about the addition of the Homebuilders Intensive Family Preservation Services program to the short list of those that can be funded under the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. This makes that law potentially far more valuable.  And the fact that Homebuilders is one of the few programs to meet the almost impossibly high criteria for funding under the Act is one more reason not to trust the child welfare establishment that waged a decades-long smear campaign against the program. 

● The Family First Act may have shown surprising value in another respect. I’ve argued that its curbs on paying to institutionalize children were far too minimal to make much difference. But one institution says those curbs are forcing it to close. I’m not going to link to the story because the story was little more than a press release for the institution bemoaning its fate.  But any time one of America’s latter-day orphanages closes, it’s a small reason to celebrate.

● And there’s still more opposition to bringing “sugar frosted foster care” to New York State. Here’s a statement from Prof. Jane Spinak of Columbia University Law School.