News and commentary from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform
concerning child abuse, child welfare, foster care, and family preservation.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending August 11, 2020
So much news this
week, it’s hard to know where to start.
But let’s begin with some important new research:
● Prof. Kelly Fong effectively embedded with a child welfare
agency, interviewing more than 100 caseworkers, family members and “mandatory
reporters.” The result is a damning indictment of a system that fails even when
everyone tries to do the right thing. I
have a discussion of the study, with links to the full study, on this blog.
● Even as one major news organization after another has
debunked the whole “pandemic of child abuse” myth, TheNew York Times bought
into it. And instead of doing the story themselves they outsourced it to a
reporter with a disturbing track record.
have a blog post about it.
● Some in New Mexico want to double down on the failed
approach the Times story advocates. I
column in Youth Today about why
that will backfire.
In our view, those who
call the police on Black people for “looking out of place” are motivated by the
same thing that people who anticipate a child abuse pandemic due to a lack of
white eyes on poor Black and brown children: racism.
White America is slowly
beginning to understand the fear that Black people experience when confronted
by the police. We know that this same fear exists for many Black and brown
people about child welfare authorities, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
● And in Illinois, Attorneys at the Shriver Center on Policy
Law write in the Chicago Sun-Timesabout why Gov. J.B. Pritzker should expand
his ambitious agenda for reforming juvenile justice to reform the system that
does so much to fuel the failed juvenile justice system – the failed child
welfare system. They write:
As in the juvenile legal system, Black families
are disproportionately entangled in the foster system. The often racialized and
biased assessments of what constitutes “good” or “bad” parenting explain why approximately
53% of Black
children nationwide will experience an investigation for abuse or neglect by
age 18, and why Black parents in Illinois are over-represented in these investigations.
It also explains why Black
people statewide are 14% of the population while Black children make up 44% of
the foster population. In Cook County, Black people are 24% of the population
while Black children represent over 70% of the foster population.
● The failings described in Prof. Fong’s study ultimately lead
to the biggest failing of all: The anishment of parents from a child’s life –
at least for the duration of her or his childhood.That process has been accelerated by a
vicious, racist federal law, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act of
1997.Like the infamous crime law and
welfare law passed at about the same time, ASFA was animated by hatred of poor
people – in
particular poor women of color.
Its provisions include a requirement that if a child has
been in foster care for 15 of the past 22 months, the state must petition for
termination of parental rights – even if the child was wrongfully taken in the
first place, and even if delays prolonging foster care were the agency’s own
fault. (There are, in fact, exceptions
to this requirement, but since states often are enthusiastic about tearing
apart poor families, those exceptions often are ignored.)
The timelines apply even when it is impossible for parents
to jump through all the required hoops because of, say, a pandemic.
But now, as Michael Fitzgerald reports in The Imprint, Rep. Gwen Moore, (D-Wis.) has introduced a bill to suspend the timelines when there is a public health
emergency and for one year after the emergency ends.
Oddly, all those child welfare groups like the Children’s
Defense Fund and the Child Welfare League of America that issued
pious pronouncements supporting racial justice and proclaiming solidary
with #BlackLivesMatter haven’t yet sent around the usual “sign-on letter” to
support this bill. Must be just a
temporary oversight – right?
● Another bill is a lot more popular with these groups –
because it spends more money on child welfare.
But at least this one doesn’t spend more on the policing
functions of child welfare. In fact, unlike many other such bills, this one
spends money in ways that might do some good. The
Imprint has a summary.
● Something else Prof. Fong’s study makes clear: You won’t
fix the failures of child welfare just by firing those caseworkers who think it’s
a good idea to wear T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Professional Kidnapper”
as happened in Arizona. But, for the
Arizona Republic has an update on that story.
● Still another crucial failure of child welfare in coping
with COVID-19: Cutting off all in-person visits between children in foster care
and their parents. Many states now are beginning to allow some in-person
visits, but it’s too little, too late.
Just ask former foster youth, as Legal Services of New Jersey did in