Lots of news this week, but one story stands out above all:
● This story is more evidence that the solution to the problems of journalism is more journalism. Bad journalism by the Miami Herald set off a foster-care panic in Florida. Now great journalism from USA Today Network Florida reporters is exposing how much that has hurt children. Combining heartbreaking personal stories with rigorous data analysis, it is the definitive story about the havoc caused when poverty is confused with “neglect.” This story should fall under the heading “drop everything and read.” I hope you will.
OK, now that you’re back – in other news:
● In New York City family defense is going on offense. The Family Justice Law Center “will use affirmative litigation to seek justice for families mistreated by the child welfare system. It will challenge systemic abuses of government power that lead to the illegal separation of children from their families. It will seek redress for harms, while promoting change that would help families survive and thrive.” As Law 360 explains in this story, founder David Shalleck-Klein
said he was drawn into family defense practice by injustices and lack of due process families are confronted with in Family Court. "The criminal justice system pales in comparison," he told Law360. "Even people who work in the criminal justice field are shocked when they see what happens in Family Court."
● The Biden Administration is proposing some significant changes – for the better – in child welfare finance. The changes are not nearly enough, but if the fine print matches this overview from The Imprint, and if the changes are passed by Congress – that’s a big if – they would be a real step forward. Other administrations have made better proposals, but they got nowhere.
From Maine to Hawaii, state legislators seem determined to respond to child abuse tragedies in ways that would make their systems worse.
● In Maine, the state’s equivalent of the GAO got suckered by the Big Lie of American child welfare. I have a blog post about it.
● In Hawaii, at the
very same meeting where a key lawmaker refused to vote to fund jail expansion
because “Basically, you’re putting people in jail because they’re poor,” the
same lawmaker demanded that the state spend more to take away children — who often are taken because they are poor. I have a guest column about it in Honolulu
● Two important books that focus heavily on failures of the family policing system won J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project awards. The book prize went to Andrea Elliott’s book, Invisible Child. The judges call it “a tour de force of immersive reporting and a meticulous and unflinching depiction of intergenerational American poverty.”
One of two awards for Works in Progress went to Roxanna Asgarian’s We Were Once a Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Failing Our Kids The judges write that “With an ever-present lens on poverty and racism, Asgarian’s investigation illuminates the innumerable ways child welfare agencies failed these six young Black children, indicting the ways the most vulnerable among us are imperiled by the very systems created to protect them.”
● The Columbus Dispatch reports on a bill intended to curb still another way family policing agencies harm children – discriminating against their parents if those parents are disabled.
● Colorado Newsline reports on a “right to childhood” bill that passed the legislature. If the governor signs it, it may reduce the likelihood of cases like those described in this post – or at least reduce the likelihood of cases like the first one.
● Also in Colorado: A reminder that the horror stories go in all directions.
● And in Los Angeles, the Reimagine Child Safety coalition has launched its website.