Tuesday, January 5, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending January 5, 2021

The Imprint has a story about key issues in child welfare and juvenile justice in 2020.  Here’s the part I hope they notice at the Biden transition team: 

Bluntly put, there are a lot of blue-leaning child welfare folks who hate Trump but love what they’ve seen from the U.S. Children’s Bureau during his tenure. Under the leadership of Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner and his right hand, David Kelly, the office has focused on advocating for a movement upstream toward maltreatment prevention and a reduction in the use of foster care. The duo also spearheaded an expansion of federal child welfare financing to help states pay for more, and better, legal representation for both children and parents involved in child welfare cases. 

There is a push by family preservation advocates to persuade the Biden transition team to keep Milner on to continue under the new leadership at Health and Human Services (HHS) … 

● Two weeks ago, I highlighted these stories from USA TODAY Network Florida about the swatch of destruction cut through families by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Now, a story of another such family. Elizabeth Brico writes in Filter about what the termination of her children’s rights to her has done to them: 

This could have been an opportunity to teach them about resilience, resolve and recovery. Instead, it has become a powerful lesson in self-loathing. The state chased permanency—but the only permanency achieved is the grief that now permeates all of our lives. 

● State laws that require hospitals to turn in to the family police (a more accurate term than child protective services) any pregnant women who allegedly has a substance use disorder do enormous harm to children needlessly taken from their parents at birth, and discourage women from seeking prenatal care.  Alexandria Kristensen-Cabrera, an M.D.-P.hD. student at the University of Minnesota, has a column in MinnPost supporting legislation to modify the law in Minnesota. 

● On the national level, Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute for Child Welfare, and Amelia Franck Meyer, founder and CEO of Alia Innovations, write in The Imprint about what “building back better” would mean in child welfare.  “Instead of building a system that keeps children safe from their families,” they write, “it will be one based on keeping children safely with their families.” That will require “revolutionary action,” they write, but “We believe that the options of fixing what exists now (evolutionary change) and building a new way of work (revolutionary change) are not mutually exclusive.” 

Also in The Imprint, Prof. Vivek Sankaran writes about how child welfare can “smother” families 

…through our shaming and judgment. By piling needless requirements upon them. By expecting them to trust us even though we can’t make the time to develop authentic relationships with them. By not always fulfilling our commitments and legal obligations. 

● On The Imprint’s podcast, family defenders in Colorado talk about the devastation of families due to child welfare’s failed response to COVID-19, including a mad rush to terminate parental rights.  It starts at 17 minutes in, and see especially the results of a survey starting at 26 minutes in.  MedPage Today has an in-depth overview of the effects of COVID on child welfare.  And NCCPR has more in our report, Child Welfare’s Pandemic of Fear.