Wednesday, March 3, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending March 3, 2021

● We begin with a “hidden gem” in federal law that could be of enormous benefit to families – if the federal Department of Health and Human Services chooses to use it: 

As Ruth White, executive director of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare explains in The Imprint, normally, funds freed up under the so-called Family First Prevention Services Act can’t be used for what families need most to avoid having their children taken away – things such as housing assistance.  But in a time of national emergency – such as now – those restrictions can be waived if HHS chooses to do so.  The question now: Will state and local “child welfare” agencies seek such waivers and will HHS grant them? 

● How did “child welfare” get into this mess, anyway?  On the Parental Rights Foundation podcast, NYU Law Professor (and NCCPR president) Martin Guggenheim reviews the recent history of child welfare, how to fix it, and the role of high-quality family defense. 

● One reason we’re in this mess: The racism that permeates child welfare – and the fact that there is an entire “caucus of denial” that claims – seriously – that child welfare is the one and only field magically immune from racism.  I have a blog post about the latest such claim. 

● One place where the racism is particularly pronounced: Minnesota.  Kelis Houston of Village Arms talks to Rise magazine about the need to pass the Minnesota African-American Family Preservation Act.  Says Houston: 

The child welfare system’s knee jerk reaction to anything they are uncomfortable with or just don’t understand in our community is to take our kids and place them in white foster homes, even when there are relatives available who are willing to care for them. 

● Still another place to find racism in child welfare: Some “curious” differences concerning where foster children wind up depending on how old they were when they were taken. I have a column about it in Youth Today.  Because, it turns out …

The Children’s Bureau data show, once again, that what [the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act] did was turn inner-city maternity wards into a version of Supermarket Sweep, with the babies as the prizes. It turned child welfare into the ultimate middle-class entitlement: Step right up, and take a poor person’s child for your very own. 

● Two columns this week discuss the need to legalize – childhood.  Lenore Skenazy writes in Reason about a mother arrested for leaving her children alone in their home – a room at a Motel 6 – because it was the only way she could work her night-shift job.  Showing far more understanding than local authorities, contributors to a GoFundMe campaign raised $165,000 so the family could move to a permanent home.  

And author Bridget Foley  writes in Newsweek about moving to Idaho in part because childhood is still legal:  

My husband and I had struggled for years in California, then Pennsylvania, and finally in Washington, to give our children what we believed to be normal developmental milestones. Everywhere we went, it seemed like small acts of childhood independence like waiting for a school bus, walking to school and riding a bike to a friend's house had been slowly phased out of normal life in every town we lived in prior to moving here. 

Both authors note that legislation to, in effect, legalize childhood is pending in South Carolina, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, and (just in case) Idaho.