Wednesday, November 10, 2021

NCCPR News and commentary round-up, week ending November 9, 2021

We start with two big virtual events TODAY (Nov. 10): 

● At 12:45 p.m. ET, Andrea Elliott, author of Invisible Child, discusses her outstanding book and the intersection of law, journalism and social justice at this event sponsored by the New York University School of Law Forum. 

● Attending it will be just what you need to tune up your b.s. detector when the evangelists for predictive analytics (basically computerized racial profiling) in child welfare try to sell it at a virtual event at 5:00 p.m. ET The backstory about who is involved, how they apparently tried to stack the deck and how activists unstacked it (along with a link to the event) are in this NCCPR Blog post. 

● You know how family policing agencies love to say “We don’t take away children on our own, a judge had to approve everything we do”?  Well here’s what an actual judge had to say about that, in the course of explaining why he approved the removal of a child – a decision he apparently came to regret: 

As WDSU-TV in New Orleans reports: 

After a week of being separated from his parents, the judge ordered [the child] back with his mother and father. His written order criticized the procedural process that led to his initial decision to remove the child, which he had to make over the phone. 

“The [Children’s] Code has created a system in which a judge must make a decision about probable cause based on factual and medical evidence without the benefit of a hearing, review of evidence, or any of the fact-finding tools which are obligatory in every other proceeding under the Anglo-American legal system,” [Judge] Doherty wrote. “This is a system which borders on a sham.” 

The judge continued that the system is “nevertheless, (the one) the Legislature has provided.”

● More examples of the harm done by these systems are in this excellent video from the Los Angeles group, DCFS-Give Us Back Our Children:

● At the federal level the law that makes everything worse is the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.  The Imprint reports on a bill that would make ASFA less awful. 

● A Florida county sheriff says that a private agency warehoused children in conditions so horrible he’s launching a criminal investigation. But guess who took away the kids in the first place.  I have the answer in this blog post. 

Rise interviews Rutgers Prof. Frank Edwards about his landmark study documenting the vastness of family police intrusion into the lives of nonwhite families.  Says Edwards: 

Kelley Fong’s research with moms shows that seeking out services like supportive housing becomes much more dangerous when you’re worried about potentially losing your kids. Parents in crisis may choose not to try to get the resources they need because they’re worried about a CPS investigation. 

Our society’s knee-jerk, default reaction is to involve CPS whenever something’s wrong in a family rather than offering resources or support. People may think an investigation is not a big deal—but the evidence is clear: that’s just not true. It’s a really traumatic experience for kids and parents. 

● We continue highlighting articles from the Columbia Journal of Race and Law Strengthened Bonds Symposium.  Charlotte Baughman, Tehra Coles, Jennifer Feinberg and Hope Newton of New York’s Center for Family Representation examine “The Surveillance Tentacles of the Child Welfare System.”  They use case studies to illustrate how those tentacles attack families and instill fear in whole communities, driving families away from seeking help: 

CFR’s clients regularly express fear of the family regulation system in explaining why they did not seek immediate medical treatment after their child sustained a minor injury. Pregnant women who use  substances  may  fail  to  obtain  prenatal  treatment  due  to concerns of surveillance. 

And once under surveillance, the system works to keep families there almost forever: 

The  young  mothers we represent  at the Center for Family Representation(CFR), who are usually  Black  or  Brown,  are  frequently  denied  favorable settlement  offers  because  family  regulation  system  prosecutors believe  they  will  have  more  children  in  the  future  and  want  to retain   an   easier   pathway   to   more   surveillance   through subsequent court involvement that often involves micromanaging the care of their children.

● And, from Los Angeles, the place that tears apart families at the second highest rate among America’s biggest cities, KTLA-TV and NBC Los Angeles bring us one more reminder that the horror stories go in all directions (but the rate of abuse in foster care is far higher than the family policing establishment wants to talk about).