Wednesday, May 26, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending May 24, 2021

A coalition of organizations, working with Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles has launched a week-long social media campaign to explain how the family regulation system really works.  Each day there are new Twitter threads and a video.  Here’s one of the videos. You can follow the whole campaign at @DontTakeOurKids 

What the death of George Floyd did to awaken America to the racism in policing, the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, killed by police outside her foster home, may be doing to awaken Ameerican to the racism in family policing – a.k.a. the “child welfare” system.  It is the theme of an extraordinary amount of very good commentary this week.

 ● In her “Unpack This” video for The Root, Felice Leon talks to Prof. Dorothy Roberts, author of Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, (and a member of the NCCPR Board of Directors) about how the system has been rooted in racism, all the way back to slavery. 

The Imprint is publishing a series of essays, in prose and poetry, from those with lived experience, about the meaning of Ms. Bryant’s life – and death – in foster care.  

In one essay, Dominique Freeman writes 

Ma’Khia Bryant, like many other Black girls in foster care, is placed under the control of a system designed to protect, honor and shelter them, but does the exact opposite at an alarming rate. It inflicts physical and psychological harm, which can ultimately lead to death. 

In another, Angela Braxton writes: 

Even if we do figure out a way to navigate the system to bring our children home, there’s always another hoop we have to jump through as our children languish in care, being further traumatized with each new home or placement, being constantly reminded that their birth mother isn’t “good enough,” beating our Black children down mentally, physically and emotionally until they too believe they are not “good enough” or white enough to be worth anything. Reinforcing this by the words that “you’re a lost cause, you’ll be just like your parents,” told by those who were chosen to better care for them. 

● And in USA Today, leaders of the Juvenile Law Center, which, up to now, has not been particularly active on curbing needless removal of children to foster care, discuss how, as the headline puts it, “Cop killing of teen shows how child welfare, police derail young Black and brown lives.” 

In other news: 

● The issue of racism in child welfare took on new relevance in Colorado after a judge in child welfare cases resigned under pressure after her racist comments became public.  But what about all the other comments from all the other judges that no one ever hears – especially in most states, where child welfare court hearings are closed to press and public?  Colorado’s “Child Protection Ombudsman,” Stephanie Villafuerte writes about this for the Colorado Sun. 

● Villafuerte is unusual in her deep understanding that family regulation systems (a more accurate term than “child welfare”) err in all directions.  Far more common are “Child Advocates” like the one in Massachusetts, who is on a crusade to make that state’s child welfare surveillance state even bigger and more oppressive.  I have another blog post about how she’s doing it

● One of the ways she does it is to point to the fact that the Massachusetts family regulation agency has set up one-stop drop-in centers where families can go for help.  Lots of systems are trying to hide their coercive nature behind such centers.  It’s not that such places do no good, it’s that as long as they are run by agencies with the power to take away children – instead of by and for the communities most affected – people will be afraid to use them.  That’s why when New York City’s family regulation agency announced an expansion of such centers, the parents who write and edit Rise weren’t buying it.  Rise has a better approach. 

● One better approach is as simple as providing impoverished families with a little more money, or the equivalent.  Still more evidence for this comes from a new study showing that simply providing greater access to benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – or what used to be called foodstamps) is enough to reduce what family regulation agencies call “neglect.” 

● Those great stories from NPR and The Marshall Project about states effectively stealing money that rightfully belongs to foster children are getting results.  The Las Vegas Sun called on Nevada officials to end the practice.  And legislation to stop it has been introduced in Nebraska. 

● What happens to foster children who don’t want to go to some cruddy night to night group home placement?  According to KING-TV Seattle, this: 

Four people, who claimed they supervised foster kids overnight in cars and offices, said their managers encouraged them to use psychological tactics to make the youth miserable. They say they were told to do things like blast air conditioning or turn off the heat to make the youth intentionally cold. … Three workers said they were instructed not to allow youth to fall asleep throughout the night. [Emphasis added.] 

As I note in a blog post, though the story doesn’t mention it, sleep deprivation is commonly defined as torture – the CIA used it on prisoners at Guantanamo.

● And the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports on questions about still another of those “child abuse pediatricians.”