● Remember all that fearmongering about COVID-19 leading to a “pandemic of child abuse”? (Of course you do, since even after several national news organizations challenged it, the fearmongering kept right on going.) Remember the dire predictions of a vast surge in child abuse reports when all those battered and bruised children came limping back to class and their horrified teachers saw what their evil parents had done to them?
A study from New York City finds that it didn’t happen. When the family police had to step back, mutual aid networks stepped up. That prompted me to check one of the states that has been most fanatical about forcing schools to reopen: Florida. It didn’t happen there, either. I have a blog post about it, with a link to the full study.
● When I saw the headline I thought this story from a television station in Connecticut was going to be the usual fearmongering. On the contrary, a spokesman for the state child welfare agency had a very different take on the decline in reports alleging abuse and neglect:
“What did we find during the pandemic and what are we still finding now? Families are incredibly resilient. Communities are the best form of support for families,” [DCF spokesman Ken] Mysogland said.
Many of these families need housing, food or broadband internet service. “What children and families need are those concrete and tangible supports. Versus surveillance by a government agency,” Mysogland said.
● If only a school in Michigan had turned to a mutual aid network when a struggling father was only able to get his children to school 75 percent of the time, compared to a countywide average of 85 percent. Instead, they called the family police – who tore away the children. They even managed to get the courts to terminate the children’s rights to their parents (a more accurate term than termination of parental rights). The Michigan Supreme Court had to step in to reverse the termination.
A child welfare appellate clinic run by Prof. Vivek Sankaran won the case. But, he writes:
our appellate victory will never erase the harm done to this family. Our client has not seen his children in nearly two years. During this time, the children formed relationships with other adults, which will now be disrupted. These children may never be able to overcome the trauma created by a foster care system that unnecessarily separated them from their father, placed them with strangers, and needlessly terminated their father’s right, only to have our state’s highest court correct these errors years later.
● The mutual aid approach got a big, albeit indirect boost, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. As Kendra Hurley explains in Early Learning Nation:
The relief package is the most radical child protection plan this country has seen. Unlike our current approach to child maltreatment, it funds the very measures that have been demonstrated to keep kids out of foster care and safe in their homes.
● Mandated child abuse reporting is a failure. One-time proponents have turned against the current system of massive mandated reporting, and study after study shows that it backfires – discouraging families from reaching out for help and overloading the system, making it harder to find children in real danger.
But a commission studying mandatory reporting in Massachusetts appears to have limited its discussion to whether to expand mandatory reporting a little, or expand it a lot. NCCPR’s testimony on the commission’s proposals is available here.
● Mandated reporting is a contributor to still another danger to children: KQED Public Radio reports on an alarming rise in syphilis in newborns. The disease is easily treatable during pregnancy. So why is it increasing? According to a former director of the California Department of Public Health:
"They're very concerned about what's going to happen when they're found to be pregnant and using drugs. They're concerned that their drug use will be reported and then CPS will be involved and their children will be taken away."
So congratulations, all you backers of mandatory reporting laws, and all you supporters of making the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act even tougher: You’ve created still another hazard for children.
● The Washington Post has a very good story about some excellent foster parents. They saw that love is more important than money. So they fought against the state child welfare agency (Florida, again, of course) to allow their foster child, a young boy who migrated to the United States with an abusive uncle, to return to his parents in Guatemala. But, of course, as Prof. Sankaran pointed out, child welfare agencies putting money before love doesn’t just happen with immigrant children:
The American legal system has long treated poor or minority families differently than White families, said Vivek Sankaran, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has studied termination of parental rights cases.
● That fact is aptly illustrated by two excellent stories in Next City. They examine the racial bias that permeates child welfare in Philadelphia – and that means the bias that permeates child welfare everywhere.
● Two analyses of that long, complicated court decision concerning the Indian Child Welfare Act: One from Indian Country Today, the other from The Imprint. (And here’s a reminder of why the law is needed.)