Wednesday, June 29, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending June 28, 2022

● A single mother dies in a car crash.  Her own mother, who has been part of her grandson’s life since his birth, steps forward to take custody. Normally it wouldn’t even be an issue.  But in this case the child is in foster care.  As Honolulu Civil Beat reports, that allowed the family police and courts to do “comparison shopping,” place the child with strangers they simply liked better, and destroy the child’s bond with his grandmother. 

● Also in Hawaii, there’s good news concerning the “grab and go” case that was the subject of this Civil Beat story.  A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the child and her mother.  Their lawyer says that opens the way to a large damage award, “but we’re also talking about appropriate changes so the social workers on their own don’t play God and just take children.”

● In another case involving a grandparent denied custody in favor of strangers, a grandfather of two young children is suing. The children are dead.  The adoptive parents the family policing system preferred to the grandfather have been charged with their murder. 

● As the racial justice reckoning finally reaches family policing, one big mainstream “child welfare” group after another has been trying to launder its reputation – hoping we’ll forget all the harm they’ve done, as they co-opt the rhetoric of reform in service to the status quo. NCCPR’s new publication, “Child Welfare” heads to the reputation laundry, includes a guide to how to recognize reputation laundering, and what real change is all about. 

● In spite of a mountain of evidence of the harm of institutionalization, there actually are extremists in family policing who want philanthropists to put even more money into institutionalizing children.  In the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Sixto Cancel explains why this is a horrible idea, and what philanthropy should do instead.  It is based both on that mountain of data and his lived experience.  He writes: 

I had spent time in and out of foster homes. My brother, by contrast, was deemed too emotionally troubled to be placed with a family following the sudden death of his adopted mother and was put in a state-run institution. 

Those diverging paths eventually turned into a chasm. By the time I was in my twenties, I had founded Think of Us, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming child welfare. I testified before Congress. My brother spent most of his twenties incarcerated or homeless. 

The Takeaway does a segment on children at risk of being taken away: They talk to experts about the harm done by the use of “predictive analytics” in “child welfare.” 

During the program, Nico’Lee Biddle, who lives in Allegheny County, Pa., which may have the nation’s most Orwellian predictive analytics algorithm reminds listeners of a group that faces special risk as a result:  

I did experience foster care as a teenager. I was in the system for about seven years before aging out. This was years ago at this point and so this was before the algorithm or anything like that. The thing that concerns me, especially now as a person who I've been able to acquire a lot of privilege. I have a good education and a good job and the house and a car and all those good things that we don't necessarily see for a lot of former foster youth. What I'm concerned of is that there's data in that [Allegheny County Department of Human Services] warehouse on me and on my time of being in foster care and the services that I had to use as I transitioned out of care. 

Let's say that there's a [child abuse hotline] report made against me that, I don't know, my child showed up to school dirty or something.  I'm using a really simplistic example here. Let's say that that happened and that the call hotline worker that they received this algorithm score that says, "Oh, this person has a higher score because they were in foster care or because they were on Medicaid when they were 23 or just whatever it says in there. We don't know what the impact that is on the score. For me as a former foster youth is the system rating that I'm at a higher risk of having my child in the system because of that?

Two notable podcasts: 

● On The Imprint podcast, longtime family defender Diane Redleaf talks about the need to do what reputation-laundering groups like Prevent Child Abuse America still resist: Narrow broad, vague legal definitions of “neglect.” 

● And Prof. Dorothy Roberts is the guest on the first edition of “How is that legal?” the new podcast series from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. 

She talked about one of her early experiences learning about the system. She was teaching a course at Northwestern University in which her students could observe court proceedings and later, question the judge: 

And so one student said, why would you keep this mother's children in foster care because of the conditions of her apartment, it's not her fault. It's the landlord's fault. The landlord has an obligation to make the apartment habitable so she could have her children back. And the judge said, "well, I don't have jurisdiction over the landlord. That's for housing court to deal with. I only have jurisdiction over her and her children and I can't let the children back." And I knew that this was a terrible system that punishes people for being poor, especially being poor and black. 

● In Minnesota, individual counties are in charge of family policing.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a story about a legislative audit that finds, to what should be the surprise of no one, that there is wide variation in when children are torn from their families and the efforts, if any, counties make to keep families together.  The range is from awful to horrendous.  And while it is true, as the story says, that Minnesota is tearing apart fewer families than it used to, its rate of removal is still among the highest in the entire country – more than double the national average. 

● WBEZ public radio has a follow-up to the story it produced for NPR on Illinois housing foster youth in jail. 

● Every local newspaper in America that had a so-called “boarding school” into which Native American children were forced should do what the Everett Herald in Washington State has done and done well: Tell the story. 

From the Herald’s three-part series: 

There was no use running away, Harriette Shelton Dover recalled, when the Tulalip Indian School matron thrashed her with a horse whip from her neck to her ankles, swinging “as hard as she could.” 

“Years later,” she said, “I found out that kind was also used in penitentiaries and outlawed. But it was used on us. And what were we doing? We were 9 years old and we were speaking our language.” … 

From 1857 to 1932, thousands of Pacific Northwest children passed through a federally mandated school at Tulalip, about 30 miles north of Seattle, where students lived under a strict military regimen. Abuse was by design, to eradicate Native culture, at hundreds of similar schools across the nation.