Tuesday, January 12, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending January 12, 2021

● The Daytona Beach News-Journal has an excellent editorial highlighting how Florida child welfare tears apart families, and traumatizes children, when a parent’s only “crime” was to have been, herself, a victim of domestic violence. Citing the excellent work of USA Today Network reporters in Florida, the editorial declares that 

– the system is too often “stacked against women who are abused,” treating them as if they were at fault for being beaten into unconsciousness or trapped by poverty in an abusive relationship. Their children are traumatized, torn away from their mothers when they most need their comfort. And in case after case, the USA Today reporters documented a system dead set against reunification  – even when records reflect that the children were never physically harmed. 

The editorial suggests that the Florida Department of Children and Families examine 

a random sample of child-abuse investigations that cite domestic violence as a leading cause and assigning an experienced team (preferably made up of people who don’t currently work for DCF) to review them. It should also look into allegations that assigned blame to victims of domestic violence and looked for any reason to take their children into foster care. 

The editorial said DCF Secretary Chad Poppell 

should be aware of the national research showing how badly children suffer when they are separated from their parents  – and be wholly committed to ensuring that doesn’t happen to parents who never abused or neglected their children. 

That also would be good advice to reporters at the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, whose fomenting of foster-care panic has done so much to create the problem.  

● There is a way to report on the question of child abuse and COVID-19 without descending into racially-biased fearmongering. In a story this week, the Arizona Republic shows how to do it right

Most notable are comments from a group that once was the foremost proponent of a “take the child and run” approach to child welfare in Arizona: 

Molly Dunn at the Arizona Children's Action Alliance said she's less worried about the drop in calls than she was in the spring.  “We don’t know what will happen when things get back to normal," said Dunn, director of child welfare and juvenile justice for the alliance. "But when I look at the research, I’m less concerned. The real threat is the economic stress that families are under." … 

"We don’t need to redouble (efforts) to detect child maltreatment, we need to redouble efforts to reduce the economic stressors that could lead to abuse or neglect," Dunn said. Programs such as eviction protection, improved unemployment benefits and help with necessities, such as food, could go a long way to reducing that stress, she said. 

Worries about the reduction in "eyes on the child" due to teachers not having physical contact with kids might be overblown, Dunn said. 

● NCCPR has updated our report on child welfare in Minnesota.  The bottom line: There’s been progress, but what constitutes progress in Minnesota still would be considered an obscene rate of tearing apart families in many other states. 

● Adapting an idea pioneered in New York City, The Imprint reports on how family defenders in Los Angeles now are hiring parent advocates to help families get through the system – and help children get home sooner, or not get taken away at all. 

● And for those who need still more evidence of racial bias in child welfare, check out this story from MDedge.  From the story: 

[A] 2018 systematic review found that Black and other non-White children were significantly more likely than White children to be evaluated with a skeletal survey. In one of the studies included, at a large urban academic center, Black and Latinx children with accidental fractures were 8.75 times more likely to undergo a skeletal survey than White children and 4.3 times more likely to be reported to child protective services. 

"And let me emphasize that these are children who were ultimately found to have accidental fractures," [Dr. Tiffani] Johnson said. 

Meanwhile, in an analysis of known cases of head trauma, researchers found that abuse was missed in 37% of White children, compared with 19% of non-White children.