● We begin with publication of a landmark book about homelessness poverty and, therefore, inevitably, the family policing system: Invisible Child by New York Times reporter Andrea Elliott. The book is, in some ways, a de facto sequel to what I consider the best book ever written on the topic, Nina Bernstein’s masterpiece, The Lost Children of Wilder.Elliott adapted one part of her book into a New York Times Magazine cover story. I have a blog post about the book and the cover story.
In other news:
● Stop and think for a moment about this comment, from one of only two Black directors of a county family policing agency in Ohio (there are 88 such agencies). She’s speaking of her own caseworkers:
“We’ve had people come in and say, ‘They were cooking something on the stove. And I don’t know if it was drugs or what,’ and it was collard greens.”
The quote is from this Toledo Blade story about racism in the local family policing system.
But that isn’t even the most revealing comment. Wait until you read what the white transracial adoptive parent has to say.
● This year the American Bar Association annual conference of family defense attorneys was, of course, an online event. The ABA has put some of the presentations online – including the keynote from Prof. MartinGuggenheim, who founded the nation’s first family defense clinic at New York University School of Law (and who also is president of NCCPR).
● The ACLU has an important new position paper out on “Family Surveillance by Algorithm” and the need to question the use of “predictive analytics” in family policing. They have a commentary about it in The Imprint.
● The online news site The City has been on top of a story other New York City media have ignored: how the city schools and the city family policing agency join forces to harass families with “educational neglect” reports if they can’t get their children online for classes – and now, if they are rightly concerned about sending children back into classrooms. Here’s their latest story.
● Also in New York City, Rise has issued an outstanding blueprint for replacing family policing. The report and a video about it are available here. As the report explains:
Like policing and incarceration by the criminal legal system, surveillance and family separation by the family policing system impact predominantly Black and brown, low-income families living in communities marked by societal neglect. Involvement with ACS often lasts for years and for generations, and, for families in these communities, can be unavoidable.
Rise knows from our work with impacted parents, and from our partner organizations, that parents have been reported and investigated for suspected child maltreatment when they’ve rinsed their children’s clothes in a tub without detergent, left younger children in the care of an older child, run late for picking their child up from school, or sought medical care for an infant with health challenges.
● As the so-called Family First Act, with its curbs on institutionalizing children, takes effect, New York State courts have made clear they’re going to demand that those who want to institutionalize a child actually show the child really needs to be institutionalized. As The Imprint reports, some of the agencies that institutionalize children are very upset about this.
● And, still in New York: Marcia Lowry suffered a huge defeat when a federal court refused to cerfity one of her McLawsuits as a class action. The defeat is a significant victory for children. This particular lawsuit was opposed not only by lawyers for parents but also by the lawyers who represent children in family policing cases. You don’t suppose they know something Marcia doesn’t.
● The Imprint also has a story about a new Texas law which curbs the enormous power of so-called child abuse pediatricians – doctors who find child abuse when it’s there but also, sometimes, when it’s not.
● United Family Advocates, a group that brings together Left and Right where we have common ground on family policing issues, has a new, updated website, with UFA’s bipartisan position papers on issues like the so-called Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.
● The Chicago Sun-Times has an editorial headlined: “DCFS caseworkers with Spanish-language clients should be able to speak Spanish.” And if you’re thinking: Wait, that’s even an issue? Unfortunately, it is. Citing excellent reporting from ProPublica, the editorial explains:
[W]hen it comes to the State of Illinois agency that bears the heavy responsibility of working with children and parents in family crisis, that bit of common sense — work with the families as much as possible in their own language — too often is not practiced, despite a federal court order.