Wednesday, March 2, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending March 1, 2022

 ● As almost everyone reading this probably knows, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act which The Imprint calls “a bedrock law passed in the 1970s to combat cultural genocide committed against Indigenous families.” 

● With ICWA in danger, states, which haven’t done nearly enough even with ICWA, are going to have to step up. Alaska Public Media reports on a study suggesting better approaches in Alaska – where two-thirds of foster children are Alaska Native or American Indian. 

● As almost everyone reading this probably also knows, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has unleashed the state family policing agency against transgender children and their parents.  But in a letter to The Washington Post, Prof. Shanta Trivedi points out that there’s nothing really new here: 

Vague definitions of abuse and neglect open the door to state-approved discrimination. These laws have historically been used to control Black and Native families, and these parents live in constant fear that their children could be removed. … What’s happening in Texas simply shines a light on a much larger problem: Child welfare laws invite discrimination and have been used to regulate marginalized communities. 

● The researchers who wrote the article for JAMA Pediatrics debunking the whole “pandemic of child abuse” myth discuss their findings in this interview.  They explain why the predicted explosion of child abuse never happened: 

We know that many people had more time on their hands due to work disruptions or remote work. They were less rushed; their kids were less rushed. During that period, state, local, federal government and neighbors stepped in. So while unemployment skyrocketed, there was eviction protection, stimulus checks, direct supports for food and utility services, and increased unemployment insurance. … We think that during the pandemic families were given enough support that they never got to that edge [of lashing out at their children]. 

Also: You know all those stories claiming there was an increase in hospital admissions for abusive head trauma? That wasn’t true either. 

● Every state has one: The grandstanding state legislator quick to exploit a child abuse tragedy and demand that more children be taken away. Soon, no story is considered complete without the obligatory quote from that lawmaker.   But things have taken a strange turn in Maine.  I have a blog post about it.

● Among the most dangerous words in the child welfare lexicon – for children – are “best interests of the child.”  They are an invitation for a largely white, middle-class power structure to impose its vision of “best” on children and families who, disproportionately are neither.  So it was encouraging to see the Washington State Supreme Court warn of “the danger of improper biases about ‘best interests’ contaminating the decision-making process.”  Those words came in a decision reversing a lower court which allowed a Black child to be taken from his loving extended family and placed with white strangers who tried to adopt him.  The Imprint has a story about it all. 

Three different stories from across the country focus on the enormous trauma inflicted on children misdiagnosed by doctors as abused.  

● In Arizona, KNXV-TV links a tragic case to a system so racially biased that, in Phoenix, 63% of Black children will have to endure a child abuse investigation. 

● In Missouri, after seeing stories like this from KSHB-TV, a legislator is introducing a bill to bolster protections for the falsely accused. 

● And in Illinois, a family is suing after their children were thrown into foster care for more than a year, all because of a false allegation from a doctor who allegedly was retaliating because she felt offended and embarrassed by the father. 

● New Mexico is moving to do a better job providing representation for families in child welfare cases.  Youth Today reports on creation of an independent Office of Family Representation and Advocacy. 

­● In Virginia, write Valerie L’Herrou of the Virginia Poverty Law Center  and consultant Esther Sherrard are urging the state and county-run child welfare systems to adopt a high-quality interdisciplinary defense model.   In a column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch they write that under the current system 

Usually, parents are assigned an attorney who has little or no training in parent defense, has no support to manage the case and is paid a flat fee of $120 — equal to a half-hour for most attorneys. In court, they face well-paid and well-resourced agency attorneys. 

Please keep that in mind whenever a family policing agency says they must be right because “a judge has to approve everything we do.” 

● After decades, people finally realize that family policing systems confuse poverty with “neglect.”  But how much of that can actually be seen in state laws.  Child Trends set out to find out “To what degree do child welfare agencies include income-related factors in their definitions of child maltreatment?”  They’ve produced a handy chart.  Of course in some states family policing agencies point to some provision of the law that makes an exception if, say, the lack of adequate food clothing and shelter is “only” due to poverty.  But this is largely ignored – the exception exists only on paper.  And, as Child Trends points out in a second chart, nearly half the states don’t even make the exception on paper.