Tuesday, October 13, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 13, 2020

● You’ve heard it before, but we all should listen again: This time Prof. Terek Ismail, co-director of the Family Law Practice Clinic at CUNY Law School, writes about how, for a child torn from everyone loving and familiar it doesn’t matter if it’s happening at the Mexican border as a result of the deliberate cruelty of Donald Trump or around the corner because of the routine, unthinking cruelty of child protective services.

In a column for the New York Daily News Prof. Ismail writes that “The violence done to families scrutinized, surveilled and ripped apart by state agents is no less traumatic because it happens in our backyards, or because it happens in the name of protecting the children who are taken away. …”

● Why do we find that so hard to fathom?  Why do we understand the cruelty to children when it’s inflicted at the border but not when it’s done by a child protective services agency? In part, it’s the legacy of a decades long campaign of “health terrorism” that has left us with a distorted perception of who is in the system and why.  I didn’t make up the term – in fact, it comes from a group that specialized in that kind of “health terrorism” – and still refuses to apologize or work seriously to undo the damage.  I have a blog post about it.

● We are similarly cavalier about tearing apart families forever through the overuse of termination of parental rights – or, as it should properly be called, termination of children’s rights to their parents.

In a column for The Imprint, Prof. Vivek Sankaran writes:

[C]ourts seem to terminate parental rights out of a sense of convenience. A child has been in foster care for 15 months, so let’s terminate. A foster parent prefers to adopt a child, so let’s terminate. A parent hasn’t fully complied with services, so let’s terminate. …

But what is often missing is a careful examination on why termination is the best – and only – option for the child. Why terminate if a child still has a loving bond with his parent? Why terminate if a child is already living safely with a parent or a relative? Why terminate if the system has not identified another permanent home for the child? 

Writing on the Health Affairs Blog, three specialists in law, medicine and substance use warn that shifting resources from police to child welfare agencies can simply mean shifting resources from one police force to another. “When Reimagining Systems of Safety,” their article is called, “Take A Closer Look at the Child Welfare System.”

Like Prof. Sankaran, these authors note that “the child welfare system maintains a cavalier default toward separating families…”

Instead, the authors write

 [W]e believe states should create a separate system of family-based support that is completely independent from the child welfare system. This system could offer strengths-based care, case management, peer support, parenting resources, linkage to effective substance use treatment when needed, and concrete social service navigation. …  

● Two retired judges and one current judge in Washington State have a column for the Seattle Times explaining why a recent State Supreme Court ruling “gives critical life” to rights granted to Native American children in Washington under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

 ● But, as Indian Country Today notes, if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court that may jeopardize ICWA itself, if a challenge to that law reaches the Supreme Court – which it may.