Wednesday, July 22, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 21, 2020

● Apparently, it was the must-have fashion accessory at the Prescott office of the Arizona Department of Child Services: T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Professional Kidnapper.” So many staff wore them, the Arizona Republic reports, that when word finally got out and they were fired, the office was left with only one investigator.  All of which raises one obvious question: How many other child protective services caseworkers – the child abuse police – all over America share the sentiment but aren’t dumb enough to put it on a T-shirt?

Indeed, the rate of removal in Yavapai County, Arizona, which includes Prescott, though obscenely high, is actually only a little higher than metropolitan Phoenix and lower than the rate in metropolitan Tucson, even when rates of child poverty are factored in.  And while the rate of removal in Yavapai County is more than 60 percent above the national average, again when rates of child poverty are factored in, the average rates of removal in 14 states are even higher. But no one’s been fired in Tucson, or all those other states - presumably because they make better fashion choices.

So this seems like a particularly good time for a reminder of just how much tragedy is caused by workers who take the destruction of families as some kind of joke:

● In The Nation, Sylvia Harvey tells the heartbreaking story of the tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of families needlessly destroyed by the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act through the story of one such family.

● In Filter, Elizabeth Brico writes about another family under siege because of ASFA: her own.

● Still another story, this one from Wesley Muller in the Louisiana Illuminator calls into question the dominant – and frankly racially biased – master narrative about child abuse and COVID-19, the one about how, when white people aren’t looking Black parents will unleash a “pandemic of child abuse” upon their children.  Add that to the excellent stories challenging this narrative in Bloomberg Citylab, The Marshall Project and the Associated Press

● In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times goes beyond a controversial court decision in a single high-profile case. It poses questions about the functioning of child welfare that are almost never asked in Los Angeles. From the editorial:

County child welfare departments are indeed police of a sort, possessing the stunning governmental power to take children from their parents even without court orders. Without doubt they remove kids disproportionately from Black and Latino families. For all their good intentions, and the good intentions of a citizenry that demands more aggressive child protection, critics say that child welfare agencies operate from a racially and culturally ignorant perspective that sees poverty as child abuse. Beware calls to defund police in favor of funding social welfare agencies, they argue, when those agencies are also steeped in a racist and harm-causing framework. Their proposed solutions can be too extreme, but their argument is interesting and warrants serious debate.

● The editorial cites the work of NCCPR Board Member Prof. Dorothy Roberts of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the recent report from the Movement for Family Power. Prof. Roberts and MFP co-director Lisa Sangoi discuss Black Families Matter: Ending Family Regulation Systems in this podcast.

● The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law sponsored an excellent webinar, “A Conversation about the Manifestation of White Supremacy in the Institution of Child Welfare.” Since I don’t imagine everyone will have time to watch all of it, I’ve cued the video to the presentation of Clinical Consultant Maleeka Jihad.  She discusses the racist underpinnings of the system’s constant attempt to describe social justice problems as mental health problems – and how this dates all the way back to efforts to justify slavery.

● Unfortunately, too many political leaders don’t get the basic fact that in child welfare the caseworkers are the police.  This misunderstanding can be seen in part of one of the proposals to pour money into child welfare in response to COVID-19. As I note in this Blog post, that proposal could have an unusual side effect.

● Call it the new, improved audit of Oregon child welfare. Unlike a previous audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, this one zeros in on the problem driving all the others: Oregon’s obscene rate of tearing apart families.  I have an op-ed about it in the Salem Statesman Journal and I discuss it in more detail in a blog post.