Wednesday, August 18, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending August 18, 2021

● This first story falls into the category known as: Please drop everything and read it.  Kendra Hurley was one of the first journalists to question the “master narrative” about child abuse and COVID-19: The claim that, in the absence of ever-vigilant, mostly white middle-class “mandated reporters,” overwhelmingly poor disproportionately nonwhite parents would unleash a “pandemic of child abuse” upon their children. 

“But a group of mothers, attorneys, and other advocates who know the foster care system from the inside saw things differently,” Hurley writes in a just-published follow-up story for The New Republic.

They had long considered the system overzealous in its investigations of poor Black and brown families. So when child protective services began operating at a whisper of its former self, where others saw danger, these women saw opportunity. “I think this could be a test where the numbers end up showing that we don’t need the mandated reporter system at all,” Chris Gottlieb, co-director of the New York University School of Law Family Defense Clinic, told me for a CityLab article in June of 2020, when New York City’s child welfare agency reported a 51 percent decline in child abuse cases. 

Today, more than a year later, indicators suggest that in New York City, at least, the advocates were right. … 

[B]efore the number of reports plummeted in 2020, no one knew what might happen in the absence of mandated reporting: With a pared-down system, would more children be harmed? Now the data is coming in, and it shows “what we always knew” about mandated reporting, says Erin Miles Cloud, co-director and co-founder of the nonprofit Movement for Family Power: “Our kids are safe without it.” [Emphasis  added]

● But in the meantime, the whole “pandemic of child abuse” myth has done all sorts of harm to children.  Now, as pediatric ICUs fill with COVID-19 patients and kids are rushed back into classrooms – sometimes without masks and too young for vaccines – this NCCPR Blog post offers a reminder of how child welfare establishment fearmongering helped make things worse. 

● How can a family that wants help feel comfortable seeking that help if they know the helper is also a mandated reporter, and the place they go for help is run by the same agency that can take away the children?  Obviously, they can’t.  That’s why members of Rise protested at New York City Hall last week against a plan to expand “family enrichment centers” run by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services.  And here’s what Rise wants don’t instead.

● After the mandated reporter phones in a report (a report that almost always is false or involves confusing poverty with “neglect”) there may follow an investigation and a listing of a parent in a “central registry of alleged child abusers.  The City University of New York Law Review has a comprehensive examination of the harm done by these registries – including the lack of due process and how needless listings drive families further into poverty.  The article includes a state-by-state summary of the widely-differing ways in which these registries work. 

● The Dallas Morning News has an impressive examination of the implications for Texas in that study which found astounding numbers of Black children in America’s largest counties will face the trauma of a child abuse investigation (again, almost always as a result of a false report). Equally impressive: The story was written by a student intern. 

● Native American children also have been special targets of the family police.  Starting August 23, the This Land podcast series reveals the results of a year-long investigation into the systemic attacks against the one law that seeks to protect Native American children, the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Perhaps you read the stories about white celebrities who can brag on social media about things like not bathing their children. Last week, we highlighted Roxane Gay’s commentary noting that Black parents don’t have that luxury.  Now, BuzzFeed News reports, the system doesn’t even work that way for Black celebrities.  

● You’ve read the next two stories before – over and over and over again.  It’s that standard of investigative journalism exposing horrors at a “residential treatment center.”  This week’s examples come from Arkansas and Illinois.  Yet somehow the message still hasn’t sunk in: You can’t fix this with more inspections and “corrective action plans.” The problems are built into the model: Residential treatment itself is the problem.