Wednesday, July 21, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 20, 2021

 We start with four stories from Los Angeles: 

● You may think you know all about how the family policing system tears children from mothers whose only crime is to be survivors of domestic violence.  But public radio’s Latino USA has a story in which such a case turned into the ultimate tragedy.  

● Suppose a white couple from Beverly Hills decided to opt for home birth. The baby came sooner than expected, there were possible complications, so the family called paramedics.  The paramedics said the newborn was fine, but took mother and infant to the hospital anyway.  When the hospital wanted to draw blood from the baby, the parents said they’d rather that be done by their private physician.  The family went home.  For this hypothetical white family from Beverly Hills, what do you think would happen next? Bet you didn’t guess this 

● Los Angeles is taking the first step toward possibly curbing racial bias in child welfare. As The Imprint reports, the county plans to try “Blind Removal Meetings.” 

● And following up on reporting from NPR and The Marshall Project, the county also took a first step toward letting foster children keep their own money.  Yeah, you wouldn’t think it would take a resolution of the Board of Supervisors to do that – unless, of course, you’ve either followed the NPR/Marshall Project stories or just have a sense of how callous and greedy the child welfare system can be. 

The discovery of mass graves of Native Canadian children who died after being taken from their homes and tribes and forced into white-run “boarding schools” has led to renewed scrutiny of the same practices in the United States.  

Indian Country Today has an overview of what happened in each country as a result of what one historian calls “education for extinction.”  Here’s one difference: 

[W]hile Canadian officials have apologized for their operation of the schools and are in the process of paying compensation to those who were forced from their homes into the boarding school system, the U.S. has offered no such apologies or payments. In fact, U.S. officials have barely acknowledged the policy existed. 

Although many schools were run directly by the government, the article explains, some were run by private religious groups.  At one point, Catholic and Protestant groups actually were fighting over which would get to strip Native Americans of their culture. 

The New York Times talked to survivors, including Noman Lopez: 

His grandfather taught him how to carve a flute out of the branch of a cedar. When the boy brought the flute to school, his teacher smashed it and threw it in the trash. 

He grasped even then how special the cedar flute and his native music were. “That’s what God is. God speaks through air,” he said, of the music his grandfather taught him. 

● And NBC News reports on the difficulties ahead in piecing together the full scope of crimes committed – and covered up – for generations. As the story explains: 

The endeavor acknowledges a truth Indigenous peoples across North America have known for generations: that the governments of Canada and the U.S. didn’t just take the culture of the Indigenous children that both countries attempted to assimilate through boarding schools. In countless cases, they also took these children’s lives, each one representing a stolen generation. 

● But it would be a huge mistake to view these solely as crimes of the past.  You don’t need a boarding school to destroy a family or a culture.  South Dakota’s fanaticism about tearing apart Native American families right now was documented nearly a decade ago by NPR. And look what just happened there last week. 

In other news: 

● On The Imprint podcast, Prof. Josh Gupta-Kagan explains “hidden foster care,” in which families are coerced into surrendering custody of their children but the placements are labeled “voluntary” and not reported in official data.  He says there may well be as many children torn from their homes and placed in this system as the officially reported figure.  That would mean that family policing agencies tear children from their families half a million times every year. 

● In Arizona, dozens of organizations, including NCCPR, have joined in support of a mother who is appealing the state’s decision to put her on a blacklist of alleged child abusers – solely because she made legal use of medical marijuana to control severe nausea and vomiting.  Phoenix New Times tells her story. 

● In Massachusetts families for whom English is not their first language may be interrogated by the state family policing agency in a language they don’t understand and, as their children are taken from them, handed documents they can’t read.  CommonWealth Magazine reports on a lawsuit filed in an effort to end these practices.  

The Imprint reports that New York State is finalizing plans to help counties and New York City take advantage of federal reimbursement for half the cost of lawyers for parents and children in many child welfare cases.  According to the story: 

Beyond simply giving court-appointed lawyers raises, or hiring new ones, each jurisdiction will have to first submit “enhanced quality plans.” That could include hiring parent mentors and social workers for legal teams … or providing parents and kids with access to counsel at the earliest stages of a child welfare investigation, before a petition has been filed in family court.