Wednesday, December 22, 2021

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending December 21, 2021

December is the month when editors rush to publish big projects, so they’ll be eligible for awards competitions.  That helps explain why there’s so much this week – though probably not the first item:

● As we prepare for another surge in COVID cases, this seems a good time for a reminder of the massive amount of media malpractice that took place at the start of the pandemic, when almost every news organization in America accepted the myth that, in the absence of overwhelmingly middle class, disproportionately white “eyes” constantly on overwhelmingly poor disproportionately nonwhite kids, their parents would unleash upon them a “pandemic of child abuse.”  

The latest to debunk this myth is the ultimate medical and child welfare establishment source: JAMA Pediatrics.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those overpriced journal articles – but every reporter who bought into, and spread, the myth, has an obligation to pay up and read it.  The title explains it all: "Child Physical Abuse Did Not Increase During the Pandemic." 

● A handful of news organizations already had figured that out; but they were drowned out by those which, even in the midst of a racial justice reckoning, bought into a “master narrative” that is racist at its core.  Still more evidence that there was no pandemic can be found in a landmark study from New York City by Prof. Anna Arons of New York University School of Law.  She recently discussed her findings.  There’s video and a summary on this blog. 

● As we learn more about the horrors inflicted on Native American children in “boarding schools” it’s tempting to dismiss that as mere history.  That will be a lot harder if you read this story from The Fuller Project and Mother Jones about the horrors family policing is inflicting on children right now.  From the story: 

“For the families that we work with, it’s constantly living in a state of fear,” says [Teresa Nord of the Indian Child Welfare Act Law Center]. “Grandma was in the system and now Mom is in the system and now the child is in the system… How can we expect our community members to even start healing? … “I live with this constant fear,” says Nord. “I call it child protection PTSD, that they’re just gonna one day knock on my door.” 

The story zeroes in on the state with the worst record in the country – right now – for tearing apart Native families: Minnesota.  As one expert put it: 

“There’s such a weird disconnect in Minnesota between this progressive rhetoric and this really racist structural system.  We’ve seen that with police brutality in Minnesota, but it’s also true in the child welfare system.”  

Although Minnesota is worst, it’s far from alone.  For some context, consider revisiting the outstanding NPR stories from 2011 on these same issues in South Dakota. 

The next three stories have a common thread: If you do not conform to the child welfare establishment’s straight, white, middle-class version of exactly what a parent should be and how children should be raised, then the family police are gunning for you. 

● A mother tries to support her child as he explores his gender identity – just as experts suggest.  She raises her children with love and care even though she is herself a victim of domestic violence.  Then an anonymous caller turns her in to the family police.  Roxanna Asgarian tells the story of what happened to the children in New York Magazine.  I have a blog post about some of the key takeaways. 

● Remember the Pennsylvania judge who took away a father’s children because he deemed the father too obese?  The York Daily Record has an excellent story about that case. 

● And in New Jersey, takes an in-depth look at racial and class bias in the New Jersey family policing system.  (Though it’s billed as a subscriber exclusive, if you give them your email address, they’ll let you read it for free.) 

● At least the children in the stories above are still alive. Tragically, things turned out differently in a case in Tennessee.  As the Tennessee Tribune reports, the state’s family policing agency 

forced itself into [the mother’s] home to “rescue” two toddlers and a ten-year-old who didn’t need their help at all. They suffered months of trauma; the youngest child died.  

In this case the hospital involved got it right – but it didn’t matter, the family police took the child anyway. In another case, also reported by the Tennessee Tribune, the same hospital got it terribly wrong. 

● It’s a Christmas miracle!  After years of ignoring, and sometimes fomenting, foster-care panic, even the Tampa Bay Times admits a lot of children are being needlessly torn from everyone they know and love in that part of Florida. 

● Alas, no ghosts have visited the journalists at the Miami Herald yet.  I have a new column in Florida Today on what the foster-care panic started by the Herald (and encouraged by the Times, at least until now) has done to children in that state. 

● How far there remains to go can be seen in the fact that, as The Imprint reports, a bill that simply would require the New York City family police agency to tell families their rights did not get a vote in the City Council – in large part because the family police in New York City don’t want families to know their rights.  But, of course, if you don’t know your rights, you don’t have those rights – which is how the family police want it. 

● Shortly before giving birth, one mother ate a poppyseed bagel; another a salad with poppyseed dressing.  A hospital in Upstate New York drug tested them without their consent – and turned them in to the family police, which conducted traumatic investigations.  Now, WTEN-TV reports, both mothers are suing, with the help of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the New York Civil Liberties Union.  According to the story: 

“By drug testing me without my consent and reporting a false presumptive positive result to child welfare authorities,” one mother said, the hospital “turned what should have been the most meaningful moment of my life into the most traumatic one. …they treated me like an unfit mother, told me I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed, repeatedly denied my requests for a confirmatory test, and ensured my name would be on the [state central registry of alleged child abusers].” 

● These kinds of policies are fueled whenever the hype and hysteria over drug use meets the hype and hysteria over child abuse.  Though not touching directly on child welfare, this column by Jay Caspian Kang in The New York Times illustrates, once again, how desperate we are to find another Worst Drug Plague Ever so we can keep on blaming poverty on poor people. 

● Remember those excellent NPR/Marshall Project stories about how family policing agencies grab foster children’s social security benefits to fund their agencies?  No one should be surprised that Philadelphia is among the prime offenders.  And now the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on how they do it, and what it does to families.