Tuesday, October 27, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 27, 2020

 ● Racism in child welfare isn’t just a matter of caseworkers jumping to conclusions when they know the family they are investigating is Black, serious as that problem is. So it isn’t something that can be fixed only with anti-bias training or even smart, necessary innovations such as “blind removal meetings.” It’s a matter of scholars with the best of intentions allowing racial bias to worm its way in, even in places where no one — well, none of us who is white — might have expected – such as a prestigious scientific study purporting to measure the rate of child abuse in America.  NCCPR in Youth Today on how “In Child Welfare the Racial Bias is Everywhere -- Even in the Research.


● University of Pennsylvania Professor Dorothy Roberts literally wrote the book on racism in child welfare (Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare).  Prof. Roberts, a member of NCCR’s Board of Directors, spoke to Rise about why “Abolition is The Only Answer.”  Prof. Roberts will be speaking tonight at the Rise 15th Anniversary (virtual) celebration. Also speaking: Rep. Gwen Moore, (D-Wis.), author of the #stoptheclock bill to suspend timelines under the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act during a public health crisis.


● The revelation that parents can’t be found for 545 children torn from them at the Mexican border by the Trump administration has put that kind of family separation back in the news.  But don’t let it obscure the other kind of family separation – the kind that happens 250,000 times every year.  The motivation behind that kind of family separation is different, but the trauma inflicted on the children is the same – and it’s almost always unnecessary. I have a post about it on this blog.


● Remember the NBC News exposes about “Residential Treatment Centers” run  by an outfit known as Sequel?  Remember the Philadelphia Inquirer expose about residential treatment centers run by Devereux?  Remember the Salt Lake Tribune expose of “Utah’s troubled teen industry”?


Now, let’s welcome Texas to the residential treatment hall of shame, thanks to this outstanding work by Roxanna Asgarian writing for Texas Observer and The Imprint.


One parallel is particularly striking.  The Inquirer story included this stunning admission from Devereux’s Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Leah Yaw: 


“This is not an aberration that happens at Devereux because of some kind of lack of control or structure.  This is an industry-wide problem.”

Now look at what Will Francis, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers told Asgarian:

“Any time you put a kid in an RTC, you are probably expecting some level of abuse. And that’s heartbreaking. We need to rethink where our dollars go. We need to stop putting them towards these warehouses.”

Asgarian’s story also documents how Texas authorities routinely turn a blind eye to abuse at RTCs – something to keep in mind when apologists for tearing apart families mislead you with official figures purporting to show that the rate of abuse in substitute care supposedly is low. (Extensive research says otherwise.) 

So, at long last, can we at least agree that anyone who uses the words “rotten apples” and “residential treatment” in the same sentence – except to deride the idea – should not be trusted? 

As for why so much excellent journalism hasn’t done much good, it’s because no one is willing to face up to what it will really take to fix the problem. I suggest some answers in this column for The Imprint.