Thursday, October 14, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 13, 2021

 We begin with three important follow-up stories

 ● Florida’s family policing agency, the Department of Children and Families, has, in effect, confirmed the findings of a USA Today Network investigation that found DCF ignored widespread abuse in foster care.  According to USA Today’s follow-up story: 

After a USA TODAY investigation in March brought to light more than 4,000 records detailing such complaints that had been kept secret from the public, DCF conducted an internal review of more than 1,100 of the calls.  The review’s findings? Only 19% of the accusations were inaccurate. Twice that number were deemed accurate. An additional 21% were partially accurate.  And few accused caregivers faced repercussions: Just 1% had their foster license revoked. … 

“If those were family-of-origin cases, would those children have been taken from their families? The answer is a resounding yes,” [State Senate Minority Leader Lauren] Book said. “We have a system that is taking children because they think they can do better (than parents), and we’re clearly seeing in black and white that they’re woefully ill-prepared to do so.” 

And once again, USA Today reporters trace the origins of the problem to the foster-care panic in Florida starting in 2014.  (As to why that panic occurred, we have an explanation here.) 

● Back in May, KING-TV in Seattle reported on what some workers for the state family policing agency allegedly were doing to youth who refused the cruddy group home placements in which the agency tried to stash them: 

Four people, who claimed they supervised foster kids overnight in cars and offices, said their managers encouraged them to use psychological tactics to make the youth miserable. They say they were told to do things like blast air conditioning or turn off the heat to make the youth intentionally cold. … Three workers said they were instructed not to allow youth to fall asleep throughout the night. [Emphasis added.]

As we noted at the time: 

Though the story doesn’t mention it, sleep deprivation is commonly defined as torture – the CIA used it on prisoners at Guantanamo. 

Now KING-TV has a follow-up, focusing on disturbing behavior by the head of the family policing agency, Ross Hunter.  

The station reports that 

Hunter knew of the accusations at least four months before the complaint became public in the KING 5 story. Hunter said he forwarded the complaint to other managers in January, but he didn’t open a formal investigation. 

And there’s much more in the story about Hunter’s overall approach to running the agency (something we first raised questions about more than a year ago).

● And Carolina Public Press updates the latest turn in the scandal over hidden foster care in Cherokee County, North Carolina.  Here’s how it worked: 

social workers at times coerced parents into signing [placement agreements that bypassed the courts], saying their children would be placed in foster homes far away if the documents were not signed. 

The practice apparently began when the agency got fed up with the fact that sometimes judges actually refused to rubber-stamp their demands to take away children. 

In other news: 

● NCCPR has a Guest Column in the York (Pa.) Daily Record that begins this way: 

After reading Kim Strong’s excellent story about child abuse deaths and implementation of the federal Family First Act in Pennsylvania, some readers may be wondering: Why in the world is that guy you quoted at the end (that would be me) saying we should do more to keep families together?  Why would he say we should improve defense counsel for families when more children are dying? 

Short answer: Because it’s the best way to stop more children from dying. 

● In child welfare, we can’t speak truth to power until we speak truth to CASA.  The most sacred cow in American child welfare harms the children it is intended to help.  NCCPR presented The Case Against CASA at the Kempe Center’s international conference last week. Here’s the text.   

● We also presented on Child Abuse, COVID-19 and the Legacy of “Health Terrorism.” 

In The Washington Informer, Melody Webb discusses the confusion of poverty with neglect: 

“It astounds me that we live in the richest country in human history that takes people’s kids away because, in part, parents can’t afford stable housing,” said Webb, executive director of Mother’s Outreach Network and representative of indigent parents seeking reunification with their children. … 

“It’s important that we dig deep into the reasons for these removals that are called ‘neglect only,’” Webb said. “I would imagine most people would take some pause if they understood neglect is related to poverty and poverty is driving these removals.” 

● The Imprint has an interview with MJ Jihad who founded MJ Consulting “to be doing whatever it takes to have these children remain within their birth family.”  Her work is partly an outgrowth of her own experience, when she and her siblings were taken from their father when his poverty was confused with neglect. 

● From NPR’s review of Andrea Elliott’s book, Invisible Child: “Elliott is a masterful storyteller and, by sharing Dasani's story, she calls on all of us to dismantle the systems that so often failed her and countless others.” 

● After NCCPR wrote a column for The Imprint about a widely-circulated, and grossly misleading, graphic, Chapin Hall put a great big warning label on their version.  But why use it at all?  We have an update.