Tuesday, June 30, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending June 30, 2020

● So now, finally, can we put to rest the fear-and-smear narrative about a supposed “pandemic of child abuse”? The Associated Press reports:

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the United States in mid-March … many child-welfare experts warned of a likely surge of child abuse. Fifteen weeks later, the worries persist. Yet some experts on the front lines, including pediatricians who helped sound the alarm, say they have seen no evidence of a marked increase.

The story goes on to quote Dr. Jerry Milner, head of the federal Children’s Bureau, who says some of the early warnings

had “racist underpinnings” — unfairly stereotyping low-income parents of color as prone to abusive behavior.
 “To sound alarm bells, because teachers aren’t seeing kids every day, that parents are waiting to harm their kids — it’s an unfair depiction of so many parents out there doing the best under very tough circumstances,” he said.

● Or, as Joyce McMillan of New York’s Parent Legislative Action Network and Jessica Prince of the Bronx Defenders write in City Limits: The Press is Stoking Fears of a Phantom Child-Abuse Crisis.

● Unfortunately, child welfare agencies may yet wind up creating a spike in child abuse -  by engaging in all that fearmongering and turning friendly virtual visitors into spies – because the contagion of fear they are spreading risks driving families away from seeking help. I have a blog post about it.

There’s lots more about racial bias in child welfare:

Youth Today reports on the landmark report by Movement for Family Power on how the foster system has become the epicenter of America’s failed drug war, and the consequences which fall, of course, predominantly on poor families of color.

● It was thanks to Movement for Family Power that I learned about this excellent position paper that the Movement for Black Lives has issued on foster care and child welfare.

Injustice Watch examines Illinois’ unconscionable ban on in-person visits between foster children and their parents through a racial justice lens. 

As the story points out:

At a time when calls to defund the police have grown louder, some politicians and pundits have suggested replacing police officers with social workers in certain situations. Advocates say the child welfare system is a cautionary tale of a system replete with social workers that still disproportionately targets and harms Black families.
“Families and communities of color are criminalized [in the child welfare system] in much the same ways they are in the criminal system,” said Tanya Gassenheimer, a staff attorney for the Shriver Center on Poverty Law who works on child welfare issues. “It really is a one-for-one parallel.”

● One of the best ways to fight the denial of visits, and the other injustices of the child welfare system: High-quality family defense.  In the Chronicle of Social Change, three lawyers show how this kind of defense has helped limit the damage caused by child welfare’s failed response to COVID-19.

● Encouraging such defense was a key feature of an executive order on foster care issued by the White House last week. Notably, the order urges the provision of such defense even before a case first goes to court.  AP has the story and the Chronicle has an analysis.

● There are two more notable commentaries on racial bias in child welfare in the Chronicle of Social Change.  One from Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, the other from Dr. Sharon L. McDaniel, founder and CEO of A Second Chance, Inc.

In other news …

●The Chronicle also has a story about a report that looked at institutionalization of children around the world and reached the obvious conclusion: Stop doing it.

● The reason to do that isn’t just to stop horror stories such as this one at still another institution managed by Sequel Youth and Family Services. (If that name seems vaguely familiar, this may be why.)  It’s because institutionalization itself is inherently a failure.