The end of 2021 brought more outstanding reporting on various dark corners of the “child welfare” system.
● If you tear a child from a parent’s arms, then demand money to give the child back, what’s the right word for the payment? If you said “child support” you must work for a family policing agency – since almost anyone else would call it what it is: Ransom. Yes, family policing agencies really do this. NPR has an outstanding in-depth report on how this hurts children.
● If you take money from a federal program meant to help poor people become self-sufficient and spend it instead on investigating those families when their poverty is confused with neglect – and on paying middle-class foster parents – what do you call it? How about TANF as a child welfare slush fund. ProPublica has an in-depth story on that one.
● Combine these two stories with earlier excellent work by the same reporters on family policing agencies diverting some foster youth’s Social Security payments to help run their bureaucracies and you see a pattern, discussed in this NCCPR blog post about foster care as a shakedown scheme. Also: In one state, The Imprint reports, foster youth have won a partial victory on the Social Security issue.
● But the biggest failure of family policing is the heart of its mission: putting families under onerous needless surveillance and taking away the children. That was encouraged by an odious federal law, the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act. The PBS Newshour has an in-depth, finely-nuanced look at ASFA and the harm it has done. For more about ASFA, check out the new ASFA resource page at nccpr.org.
● ASFA aptly illustrates another pervasive problem in family policing: racial bias. But is that only a problem among people who work in the system? Since March of 2020, we’ve been bombarded with news stories about the so-called “pandemic of child abuse” that was supposedly inevitable once all those overwhelmingly middle-class disproportionately white “mandated reporters” no longer had their “eyes” constantly on children who are neither.
There were a few notable exceptions, but much of the media marched in lockstep on this one. Now, even that bastion of the child welfare establishment JAMA Pediatrics has called b.s. Their somewhat more formal title: “Child Physical Abuse Did Not Increase During the Pandemic.” Unfortunately, it’s a typical, overpriced journal article – but NCCPR’s comprehensive round-up debunking the myth is free.
So, when will all those reporters take a hard look at their own unconscious biases – and correct their stories?
● Canada has basically the same family policing system we have – same rates of removal same discrimination against nonwhite families – especially Native (First Nations) families. But there’s one big difference: Though they don’t use the R word, CBC News reports that Canada has agreed to pay billions in reparations to First Nations children wrongly placed in foster care.
● More than two decades ago, NCCPR published a simple comparison of the “statement of principles” in two child welfare class action lawsuit settlements. We compared the statement in the innovative family-focused settlement in Alabama (A member of NCCPR’s Board was co-counsel for the plaintiffs) to the one in one of the typically dreary, desultory McLawsuit settlements won by the group that calls itself “Children’s Rights” – in this case, the one in Tennessee. We posed a simple question: “If these principles can indeed become reality, which would be the better reality for vulnerable children?” Twenty years later the Tennessee Tribune compared how things have gone in both states. No spoilers here, but you really should read the story if you’re thinking of responding affirmatively to one of those endless fundraising emails from Children’s Rights.
● We know that high-quality interdisciplinary legal representation for families reduces time in foster care with no compromise in safety – it’s the model that has made New York City a national leader. But officials in New York’s family policing agency have resisted taking it to the next level: providing this intervention before the family police actually take the case to court so there’s no need to place the family under supervision or take the children in the first place. Several other localities are piloting such efforts. The latest is Springfield, Massachusetts. CommonWealth Magazine explains how it works.
● And finally, on this Blog, we look back at a Christmas miracle: The Tampa Bay Times discovers that yes, Florida, children are needlessly torn from their homes.