Wednesday, May 4, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending May 3, 2022

BuzzFeed News examines the enormous harm to families when parents are wrongly placed on “central registries” of alleged child abusers. A listing can shut parents out from the very jobs most often open to low-income workers, driving their families further into the poverty that often is confused with “neglect” in the first place.  And, because of who is disproportionately likely to be included in these registries, the story is aptly titled “The Black List.” 

● At last, a big, mainstream news organization that wasn’t suckered by the hype spewing forth from the evangelists for using “predictive analytics” in family policing: Much of that dangerous hype has come from Pittsburgh, where proponents hand-picked the people who would review their plans.  But look what the Associated Press found when, at last, there was a truly independent evaluation: 

According to new research from a Carnegie Mellon University team obtained exclusively by AP, Allegheny’s algorithm in its first years of operation showed a pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a “mandatory” neglect investigation, when compared with white children. The independent researchers, who received data from the county, also found that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the algorithm produced about one-third of the time. 

The story reveals something else; the character of Erin Dalton, who led the push for using this kind of computerized racial profiling in Pittsburgh and now runs the family policing agency there.  Her response to the potential for error boils down to: So what? Or as she told AP: 

“If it goes into court, then there’s attorneys on both sides and a judge,” Dalton said. “They have evidence, right?” 

The Imprint has a big story about Prof. Dorothy Roberts and her decades of work exposing the racial bias that permeates family policing – work that continued in April with the publication of her new book, Torn Apart. 

● Here Prof. Roberts discusses her book, and racism in child welfare with Marc Lamont Hill 

And here with Ali Velshi on MSNBC:

● Velshi refers to Prof. Roberts’ article in The Nation on the real lessons for family policing from COVID-19: No, there was no “pandemic of child abuse” – on the contrary, children did better when family policing agencies were forced to step back and mutual aid organizations stepped up. You can read that story here. 

● It seems like a week doesn’t go by without some “child welfare” agency announcing an initiative that supposedly will make family policing kinder and gentler.  But none of them takes account of “the tattletale factor.” I have a blog post about it. 

● In Hawaii, a state legislator is urging that state’s family police agency to stop stealing foster youth’s Social Security benefits, a practice exposed last year by The Marshall Project and NPR.

● In Massachusetts, children in family policing proceedings already get a lawyer charged with advocating for what the child wants – not because that’s always what should happen, but because judges can’t make informed decisions unless everyone has a zealous advocate for their point of view.  But now, the governor wants to spend $50 million adding a fifth wheel to the process – a guardian ad litem (GAL) whose job would be to act on his or her own adult whims and prejudices and, quite possibly, fight against the child’s wishes if they don’t match those whims and prejudices.  In other words, something a lot like the quintessence of racial and class bias in child welfare, Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).  CommonWealth Magazine has an excellent commentary on why the GAL proposal would make the state’s atrocious system even worse. 

The motivation for this terrible idea is a horror story – the disappearance of 7-year-old Harmony Montgomery.  But it was Massachusetts’ fanaticism about tearing apart families that made that tragedy more likely in the first place.  So, of course, leave it to the governor and his human services leadership team to propose doubling down on their failed approach.  In my own commentary for CommonWealth Magazine last month, I suggested some alternatives. 

● In the Albany Times Union, Madelyn Freundlich, policy research consultant for the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York writes in support of legislation that would replace anonymous reporting of alleged child abuse and neglect with confidential reporting.