Wednesday, July 28, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 27, 2021

● Video is now available for all of the panels at the Columbia Journal of Race and Law Strengthened Bonds Symposium.  Here’s where to find all the videos.  This one is cued to Prof. Dorothy Roberts’ keynote:

Once again, a lot of stories are from and about family policing in Los Angeles: 

● Almost every Black child in Los Angeles (and also metropolitan Phoenix) will be forced to endure a child abuse investigation before they turn 18. Almost every child.  I have a blog post about these and other horrifying findings; it includes a link to the full study. 

WitnessLA has an excellent discussion of both the new study and the LatinoUSA stories, highlighted here last week, about abuse in LA foster care.  Medscape also has a good story about the study. 

● Speaking of abuse in LA foster care, there’s also this from KABC-TV. 

● And the excellent grassroots organization DCFS – Give Us Back Our Children sponsored this webinar on how the system really works. They’ve also released a guide to help parents facing DCFS understand their rights. 

In other news: 

● Think of Us, a group founded by a former foster youth, Sixto Cancel, interviewed 78 foster youth about their experiences in group homes and institutions.  Their overwhelming view: Such placements should – and can – be abolished.  There’s a story in The Imprint, which includes a link to the full report.  Several of those interviewed noted how though advocates of institutionalization (and their credulous journalist enablers) claim such placements are a last resort, for them institutionalization was their first placement. 

But particularly revealing – precisely because this the degradation is so routine – is this discussion of what an institutionalized youth must do just to use the bathroom. 

During the study, we heard story after story of youth only being allowed to go to the bathroom at specific times of the day and for only a few minutes. … Youth shared how they got so used to having to ask for permission before going to the restroom, that—much to their embarrassment—they could not shake that behavior even long after they left institutional placements. In this one simple act that most of us take for granted lie many instances of unjust control and violence against youths’ humanity, privacy, culture, autonomy, self-expression, and ability to make their own life choices. 

Next City has an update on the story of children needlessly taken from their mother, Kyeesha Lamb, in Philadelphia.  The family is, at last, out from under the “supervision” of Philadelphia family police. 

“I feel great,” says Lamb. “Absolutely. But when they said it, I just felt concerned for all the people who might still be in the same situation.” 

● Hidden foster care is, unfortunately, a common and legal practice across the country – but not in Cherokee County, North Carolina, where coercing a family into signing a so-called “custody and visitation agreement” (CVA) can be a criminal offense. Carolina Public Press reports that David Hughes, a former supervisor for the county family police agency, pled guilty to two misdemeanors as part of a plea deal.  The former head of the agency still faces trial. 

To understand what’s so wrong with all this, consider how hidden foster care was used:  For cases so weak the county felt it couldn’t even get a judge to rubber-stamp a request to take away the children. As the story explains: 

DSS workers testified in May that they used CVAs to close “stuck cases,” in which they had difficulty building up enough evidence for a judge to agree to remove a child from what the social worker thought was a dangerous situation. 

“It may not have been enough for a petition,” Hughes testified in May at a federal trial, “yet we were concerned about returning the children back to the home for safety reasons.” 

Petitions were not filed because “we felt like it was probably not a strong enough case to take to court,” Hughes testified. 

● And finally, something I missed when it first came out a year ago, but which remains highly relevant: An in-depth report from Child Welfare Watch in New York City on the problem of taking children or otherwise harassing mothers whose only crime is themselves being survivors of domestic violence. 

Thanks to a class-action lawsuit settlement, New York City is probably better about this than most places in the country, and certainly better than it used to be. NCCPR’s Vice President was co-counsel for plaintiffs in that suit.) Now, the city’s family policing agency is less likely to actually remove the children.  But they still do plenty of damage.  As the report explains:

 Even when there are no allegations against them, domestic violence victims are stripped of their privacy, deprived of authority in their homes, and made to live in terror of losing their children, [Raquel Singh, the executive director of Voices of Women] says. It’s not uncommon for abusers to use ACS as a weapon against their victims, who stay silent for fear of bringing more scrutiny into their homes. “It creates this double-victimization.” … 

Lawyers who represent parents in New York City Family Courts often argue that ACS practices would not be tolerated in communities with money or political influence. “It’s a one-size-fits-all, bullying approach,” says Maura Keating, the director of litigation at Center for Family Representation, which defends thousands of parents each year. “We tell families they have rights, but that goes out the window when your kids are trying to sleep and there’s someone from ACS banging on the door late at night, tearing through your closet, looking for evidence that a man is there.”