So much has happened during the three weeks I was on vacation that I’m sure this list is far from complete. But here’s some of what happened, starting with important news about two outstanding advocates with lived experience in the family policing system.
● “Vowing to work against racial discrimination and unnecessary family separation, a former foster youth from Connecticut and outspoken advocate for her peers has been named as an advisor to the Biden administration’s child welfare leadership team,” reports The Imprint concerning the naming of Lexie Gruber-Perez as a senior adviser to Aysha Schomburg, who runs the federal Children’s Bureau.
How good is this? Let me put it this way: One of the most extreme advocates for tearing apart more families and institutionalizing more children (whom I will not name) – already is whining about it!
● Another former foster youth with public policy expertise, Sixto Cancel, wrote a powerful guest essay for The New York Times – and child welfare establishment types promptly did everything they could to subvert it. I have a blog post about the efforts at subversion.
In other news:
● In addition to everything else foster youth must endure, they all have what amounts to targets on their backs as soon as they become parents themselves. Because of actual hardships, but also because of stigma, stereotype and the fact that their every word and action is under constant scrutiny, foster youth are exceptionally vulnerable to having their own children needlessly torn from them. The Imprint reports on legislation passed in California, awaiting a decision from the governor, that would make it easier for foster youth and their own children to stay together – including providing early legal representation.
● Remember how the Washington D.C. schools and the District family policing agency joined forces to harass families if they were late to pick up children from school? Well, the dynamic duo of family harassment is at it again: NBC Washington reports that if parents who are justifiably afraid to send their children to school during a pandemic that is now taking a heavy toll on children dare to keep them home, they may face a family police investigation for “educational neglect.”
One parent, who says she may be forced to capitulate and put her child at risk, put it this way:
If something were to happen to my child… it will be a decision I regret every single day. And it will be a decision and a consequence that I will lay entirely on the people who forced her back into that building.
● The news is a little better in, of all places, Texas. Texas Monthly reports on how, in what may be the most polarized state in a polarized nation, Left and Right came together to curb the untrammeled power of that state’s family policing agency.
● The Tennessee Legislature is considering an important change for the better in child welfare law: Replacing anonymous reporting to the state’s child abuse hotline with confidential reporting. It would be such an important improvement that when one of the sponsors asked me to record a statement to play for his colleagues, I was glad to take a few moments away from my vacation to do it.
● The infant son of American Idol contestant Syesha Mercado and her partner may be reunited with them, six months after he was wrongfully taken from them. Now those who organized to help the family are working to “shine a light on so many other families, families that can’t get this same attention.”
● Maine foster parent Mary Callahan and I have a column in the Portland Press Herald on how to really fix child welfare in that state. (Hint: It’s the way they did it once before.)
And finally …
● The book I wrote about the family policing system, published in 1990, begins at a hideous Los Angeles County institution known as the MacLaren Children’s Center. Although I often disagree with David Sanders, who now is with Casey Family Programs, he deserves credit for being the Los Angeles child welfare director who, at long last, stood up to an assortment of vested interests and shut that monstrosity down in 2003. But decades later, former residents still suffer. Now some of them are suing.
“They were put in this institution, treated like garbage and thrown away,” their attorney told the Orange County Register. “My clients are looking forward to confronting those that abused them and those that covered up the abuse.”
As you read the story, please keep in mind that there are hundreds of MacLarens still open all over the United States – and a whole industry dedicated to fighting any effort to shut them down.