● Three stories, one blog post: NPR’s Rachel Martin did a great interview with a Black single mother trying to hold down a job and also make sure her four children are learning online. But the only difference between this heroic mother and many who lose their children to foster care under similar circumstances is random chance. Indeed, I wish NPR had not identified her. A mother in what may have been a similar situation in California reportedly almost did have her children taken - though that story has been updated. Meanwhile a Lexington Herald-Leader story about a court decision in Kentucky offers rare insight into what really happens when child protective services shows up at the door. In this blog post I disucss all three stories, with links to the full stories.
You meet a family and you learn that the mother doesn't have childcare, so she's going out to her back to work welfare appointments, and leaving her children home alone in the apartment. And she's doing that because if she doesn't make those appointments, she will lose her benefits, which then would hurt her entire family. So she's taking a calculated risk. The response then to her is not to get her the childcare, it is to send her to a parenting class, to teach her not to leave her children at home, which guess what? I think she knew that.
Second of all, she'll probably end up, because her children have been removed from her, losing the very benefits she was working so hard to preserve because now her household has been reduced, so she no longer has the children in her care. And then we then give the money to the foster parent so that the foster parent has money for childcare.
You end up with a very fear-driven system where people are scared to not remove. What I have found over the years is that the case planners, the ones in the organization who are closest to the family, often call us and say, "I'm so glad you won that hearing to get the children home. Those children never should have been removed."
I've had many, many 18-year-olds come into my office and say, “Hey, you're a public defender. You represent the parents. This is my mom's name. Did you represent her? What happened in my case? Why didn't she want me?” And I've ordered the records and gone over them with them and showed them the fight their mother put up for them and helped them to understand the narrative that was hidden from them in the name of their own happiness.
It makes everybody feel really good - especially white liberals - to think that we're doing something for the children by saving them, when, in fact, we're doing them direct harm, destroying communities, and doing nothing about the things that actually pose the greatest risk.