Sunday, February 7, 2021

A setback for California’s vulnerable children

 A top official of a group that has been California’s leading foster-care apologist is about to oversee child welfare in the state

File this under: What were they thinking????

In California, it would be hard to find a group that has done more to impede real reform of child welfare than the so-called Alliance for Children’s Rights.  They are classic practitioners of what has been aptly called “health terrorism.” 

As I explained in this post last year, about an Alliance PowerPoint presentation: 

Were there a hotline to which one could report statistics abuse, the authors of the PowerPoint presentation would have their rights to their pocket calculators terminated.  The PowerPoint packs into one presentation almost every common misuse of data to leave the false impression that children are not needlessly torn from their parents, there’s no such thing as confusing poverty with neglect and, in any event, child abuse is rampant. 

In the process, the presentation dredges up ugly stereotypes about poor people and demeans the lived experience of thousands of foster children.  The presentation also repeatedly uses the term “bio parent” for children’s parents – a pejorative term that suggests someone no more important to a child than a test tube. 

You can read all the details in that earlier blog post. 

Speakers at the event where this presentation was given included the Alliance’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Angie Schwartz. 

Then there was the column, co-authored by Schwartz, in which, as we noted at the time, the authors sought to “stand reality on its head, leaving both a written and visual impression of vast sums of money for prevention dwarfing a tiny amount for foster care.” 

And when it comes to permanently tearing apart families in Los Angeles – overwhelmingly families of color - by terminating children’s rights to their parents (a more accurate term than termination of parental rights) – the Alliance leads the way, and celebrates it. Yes, the Alliance leads L.A.’s celebration of what should be called National Child Welfare Hypocrisy Day. 

So, guess who the Director of the California Department of Social Services just chose to run the Department’s  Children and Family Services Division: Yep: Angie Schwartz. 

How much damage? 

In California, counties run child welfare with state oversight, so it’s not clear how much damage this appointment will do.  But there are all sorts of ways a state agency can exert pressure on local governments. 

So, under Schwartz’s leadership: 

● Will California’s painfully slow 22-year statewide reduction in the number of children torn from their families come to an end? 

● Will the division issue “scathing audits” of counties that make big moves to safely curb needless foster care, and praise counties, such as Yolo, which embrace a take-the-child-and-run approach? (Even as Yolo County itself seems to be having second thoughts.) 

● Will the division claim that there is no such thing as confusing poverty with neglect, no such thing as a child needlessly taken from her or his parents, and no way to reduce entries into care? 

● Will the division take substantive steps to curb racism in child welfare, or just offer the usual “racism is a really bad thing” platitudes? 

● Will the division pressure counties to rush even faster to terminate children’s rights to their parents? 

● Will the division seek to pressure Congress to more than double federal funding for foster care by eliminating the only real brake on such funding? (That’s something else Schwartz is on record as favoring.) 

Of course, a key tenet of the family preservation movement is that people can change, and no one doubts Schwartz’s good intentions.  The same is true of organizations.  The Alliance has joined other groups, including NCCPR, in a campaign led by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles to end partnerships between the county Department of Children and Family Services and law enforcement. 

But just last month, the Alliance put out a position paper suggesting all children taken from their parents are “abused and neglected” and all of their parents are “unfit.” 

So in California, it looks like the fight to protect one of children’s most important rights – the right to live safely in their own homes – just got harder.