Tuesday, September 22, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending September 22, 2020

 Before getting to the news, two big events:

 ● On September 30, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law begins a series of webinars on the foster care system with Moving from Why to How: Parent Leaders’ Perspectives on the Movement for Child Welfare Justice

 ●The UpEND Movement has its website up and running, including details about its big virtual event at the end of October.

 Remember how little there was last week? I guess everyone was waiting for this week:

 ● First, two important stories debunking the racist “master narrative” involving child abuse and COVID-19: It is depressing to contemplate that, while several national news organizations have debunked the myth, this excellent story from Kate Masters of the Virginia Mercury might be the first local news story to challenge it.

 Instead of just rounding up the usual suspects, Masters also spoke to Valerie L’Herrou, staff attorney for the Virginia Poverty Law Center’s Family and Child Welfare Program, who said:

 “There’s this sort of false narrative that during the pandemic, there’s been this epidemic of children being beaten and otherwise harmed at home. But really, there never was, ever.  The reality is that a small percentage of the reports that are made have to do with abuse. The majority have to do with neglect.”

 In Teachers College Record, Professors Mical Raz and Frank Edwards deplore the use of this myth as a reason to endanger children by prematurely reopening schools:

 Schools are universally accepted as important. However, we argue, their importance is not as sites of surveillance and reporting of child abuse, and there is no evidence that school closures impede efforts to safeguard children from maltreatment.

 ● But, of course, this hasn’t stopped schools in New York City from harassing families with reports alleging “educational neglect” when their children can’t get online.  The City has an update to a story they broke last Spring.  (New York City is not alone.  In August, The Boston Globe reported on the problem in Massachusetts.)

 ● How do myths like the one about child abuse and COVID-19 become so entrenched? Decades of hype and hysteria from child welfare establishment groups who justify their distortions in the name of “raising awareness.”  But reporters get fooled over and over again.  In fact, one journalist argues that mainstream advocacy groups’ misrepresentation of issues related to sex trafficking helped pave the way for QAnon. I have a blog post about it, with links to his reporting.

● From the Indianapolis Star, Holly V. Hays has this story from a state that takes away children at one of the highest rates in the country:

 An Indianapolis couple is suing the Indiana Department of Child Services alleging the agency removed their two young children from their home under false pretenses and fabricated evidence that left them in foster care for months.

 There were several important stories and commentaries in The Imprint:

 ● Last year, a rigorous large-scale study proved that high-quality family defense reduces time in foster care with no compromise of child safety. Now, a follow-up study helps explain why it works.

 Vivek Sankaran warns that the COVID-19 crisis soon will become a housing crisis. And unless child welfare radically changes direction, that means even more families needlessly torn apart for lack of housing.  He writes: 

When teachers, doctors or neighbors learn of children living in these conditions, they may call Child Protective Services, driven by both mandatory reporting laws which broadly define neglect and a genuine desire to help. We’ve created a narrative that CPS has the tools to support families in crisis.  But that narrative is false.

 ● This jibes with what Prof. Kelley Fong found in her research when she embedded with a state child protective services agency. She writes about one mother who was subjected to an investigation because of a false report from a mandated reporter:

 The CPS report left [her] frustrated with the hospital social worker who notified CPS and wary of similar service providers going forward. “This social worker who spent four minutes with me in the hospital gets to determine strangers coming in,” she said, adding that she would hesitate to be so open next time: “If a social worker came into my room, I wouldn’t speak to anybody without my mother or somebody like a third party with me … I would, this time, now question a little more. Social worker, for discharge? Why? Why are you here? What purpose are you serving here for me?” This distrust and disengagement distances families from the systems tasked with assisting them.

 ● And a commentary by the director of Chapin Hall, one of the most regressive policy organizations in child welfare raises the question: Is Chapin Hall really going to change? I have a blog post on it.