Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 20, 2020

● Six years ago, bad journalism from the Miami Herald set off a foster-care panic in Florida.  (You can read about how bad here.)  This week, good journalism from Gannett’s Florida newspapers and USA Today documented how Florida’s most vulnerable children are paying the price.  (And they didn’t flinch from saying that the Herald stories triggered it.)

 ● In The Imprint, leaders of the upEND movement explain why the harm done to poor families, especially poor families of color, is so great that the system needs to be abolished – and what abolition means. They write:

 Abolition of child welfare does not mean abandoning the need to protect children. It means building new ways of protecting and supporting families that also dismantle coercive systems of surveillance and punishment. It means engaging in the work of building radically different systems of care that recognize the basic need of children to be with their families in safe and supportive communities. This work must be done with families at the forefront.

 UpEND’s two-day virtual conference continues today. You can see it on YouTube and registration is free.  Video of yesterday’s session is here. I’ve cued it to the start of a superb keynote address from Lisa Sangoi of the Movement for Family Power.

 ● Here we go again. Remember when The New York Times did a feature that included  middle-class parents giving up on educating children online and even bragging about it? Meanwhile, the Times did not report on poor families victimized by false allegations of “educational neglect” when parents couldn’t get their kids online. (The City has done great reporting on that. Both approaches to the story are discussed here.)

 Now we get a Times story about parents unafraid to announce, even brag about, using alcohol and drugs to cope with the strain of raising children in a pandemic. “[F]or some parents,” according to the story, “getting just a little stoned is the only way they can eke out a small measure of joy in an otherwise fairly hopeless time.”  The story mentions in passing that this is a privilege limited to the middle-class, especially the white middle-class.  But it took Tehra Coles, litigation supervisor for government affairs and policy at the Center for Family Representation, to explain it all in this letter to the editor.

 Oh, and let’s just take a minute to imagine what would happen if a poor Black mother said to a child protective services caseworker “I was just a little stoned.”

 ● If a Black parent in New York does make the mistake of seeking “a small measure of joy” like her middle-class counterparts, she may well wind up in Family Court, itself plagued by racism according to a recent report.  The report dealt with all New York courts, but this story, from Megan Conn of The Imprint, zeroes in on Family Court.

● Also in The Imprint, doctoral student Victoria Copeland analyzes “The Complicity of Academia in Policing of Families.” She writes: 

To this day we still see research that pathologizes families and youth impacted by the child welfare system. Many in academia stand by and consent to the proliferation of surveillance through big data. We offer up remedies of automating decision-making processes, an effort that potentially shuffles youth between subjective case worker decision-making and falsely proclaimed “neutral” computer-based decision-assisting systems.  

NCCPR has more about big data in child welfare here.

 ● And in Reason, Lenore Skenazy writes: “Let your child nap in the car on a cool day while you run into the hardware store and you might have to say goodbye to your dreams of adoption.” In this case, the family almost had to say goodbye to their own child as well.  From the story:

 "Vague neglect laws give cops and caseworkers more power than the parents themselves to decide what is safe for their own kids," notes Diane Redleaf, Let Grow's legal consultant and co-chair of United Family Advocates, which advocates for more legal protections for wrongly accused families. "It is high time we required child protection authorities to bring child abuse or neglect accusations to court for an impartial determination before they are allowed to place anyone on the registry."