Tuesday, November 24, 2020

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending November 24, 2020

 ● Last week we noted a report from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia on the harm done to children by the state’s central register of alleged child abusers.  In a Philadelphia Inquirer story about the report, CLS attorney Janet Ginzberg explains:

 “We have had a number of clients put on the child-abuse registry because the child had diaper rash and it got infected,” Ginzberg said. She said putting those parents on the registry is only keeping them in poverty — ultimately hurting their children, rather than protecting them. …

 Ginzberg said it’s up to state lawmakers to change this process — but doing so will take courage. After all, she said, no one wants to appear soft on child abuse. “I’ve had so many legislators say to me: ‘That’s awful! I had no idea how this works. But I’m not touching this with a 10-foot pole.’”

 ● Speaking of Philadelphia – and Los Angeles and Phoenix – WitnessLA has reprinted NCCPR’s commentary on big city rates of removal.

● Also last week, we noted a change that limits the ability of some New York City Hospitals to drug test pregnant women without their consent.  But, as the Movement for Family Power explains in this tweet thread, it’s only a small change, with plenty of loopholes. 

● In Rise, Prof. Kelley Fong of the the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech discusses her research on the harm of mandatory child abuse reporting laws: 

Because ideas of neglect overlap with material hardship, there’s a justified fear among parents that being open about struggles will lead to a CPS report. In my research, I heard from parents that these fears prevent them from getting support they need and want for their families. 

One parent was reported when she tested positive for marijuana during her pregnancy. When she found out, she felt set up by the prenatal clinic, which hadn’t told her that this could lead to a CPS report. Her baby remained with her, but she said she would think twice about opening up to the prenatal clinic again. She worried she was experiencing postpartum depression but also worried that if she shared what was going on, they might accuse her of not being able to take care of her child. We can see how this keeps parents from accessing support. … 

Sometimes, CPS can help with material needs. … [but] what does it mean to provide these supports through an agency that’s organized around surveillance and has the power to separate families? Why is it that the best way to get the diapers your family needs is to reach out to an agency that can take your child away? 

● The harm of mandatory reporting also was the theme of a webinar sponsored by the Shriver Center on Povery Law.  In this part of the webinar, Charity Tolliver, founder and project director of Black on Both Sides explains why, “however kindly intended, the foster care system is viewed as a looming threat for most Black families.”


 ● The Imprint reports on a bill introduced in Congress that could reduce needless family separation. It would allow federal judges “to consider whether it would be better for the whole family if the defendant [convicted of a federal crime] were to stay out of prison or probation and instead be ordered to receive a comprehensive range of services, under legislation introduced this week.

 The Marshall Project has an excellent story about the enormous harm done to poor familiies, especially poor families of color, when a dangerous media-fueled myth catches fire.  In this case it was the myth of the “superpredator” and the racist criminal justice laws it helped to spawn. But some of the same news organizations spread equally dangerous, racist myths about poor families that led to the passage of an equally dangerous law: the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.

 ● In a commentary for Youth Today, Alexandra Miller and Macon Stewart write that it’s time to


bring back the Black girls who are unnecessarily pulled out of their homes and placed into the foster care system. In 2018, Black children represented 23% of youth in foster care and 14% of the general youth population. Research …  overwhelmingly demonstrate[s] that Black families are more likely to have abuse reported, investigated and substantiated than white families. Relatedly, Black children are more likely to be placed in care and remain in care for longer periods of time than white children and are less likely to reunite with their families.

● Mike Hixenbaugh, the NBC News reporter who’s done outstanding reporting about the harm done to families by some so-called “child abuse pediatricians” – including a new podcast, -- tells the story behind the story. 

● In 2015, two federal agencies, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a scathing letter blasting the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families for discriminating against still another category of family that is often targeted for needless destruction: parents with disabilities.  Now, DCF has reached a settlement with the federal agencies.  WBUR Public Radio has a story about it. And this HHS press release has a link to the full agreement. 

● And on this blog, I’ve reprinted our annual salute to National Child Welfare Hypocrisy Day.