Here are some of the stories I’ve been catching up with since returning from vacation:
● Even the new head of New York City’s family policing agency says: “We have to eliminate false and malicious reporting.” The Imprint reports on the harm done by false, anonymous reports alleging child abuse (and by the way, data show the term “false anonymous report” is almost redundant) – and what can be done about it.
● Also in New York, the state’s advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will investigate racial disparities in New York “child welfare.”
● In Los Angeles, The Imprint reports, activism by the Reimagine Child Safety coalition is getting results – including first steps toward providing families with high-quality interdisciplinary family defense from the moment the family police get into their lives.
● And there is this promise of more excellent journalism to come about Los Angeles “child welfare.”
● The book I wrote in 1990, Wounded Innocents, began at one of the worst hellhole institutions in America, L.A.’s MacLaren Hall. The institution was subsequently closed – but now the survivors are speaking out, and bringing lawsuits. Turns out the place was far worse than anything I described. Yet somehow, we never seem to learn the lesson: Hideous institutions warehousing children are not rotten apples – they’re rotten barrels.
● While New York City and Los Angeles move forward, the “child advocate” in Massachusetts continues her efforts to drag that awful state family policing system even further backwards. I have a blog post about it.
● If you need an example of how backward Massachusetts is already, consider this case from Boston: A 17-year-old from a family with a history of strokes goes to the school nurse saying he feels weak, shaky and numb. But the nurse refuses to believe it’s a stroke and refuses to call 911. She calls the boy’s mother, who uses a wheelchair, and, nevertheless, demands she pick up the child. For at least half an hour, the mother pleads with the nurse to call 911. Instead, the nurse has a colleague call the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families – the family police – apparently to report the mother for not picking up her child. Finally, after 30 to 45 minutes they relent and call an ambulance. The boy was indeed having a stroke. Do I need to tell you the family’s race?
● In Hawaii, when an impoverished parent doesn’t show up for even a single court hearing, judges sometimes respond by taking away the parent’s court-appointed lawyer. That can lead to children having their rights to their parents terminated at a hearing where the parent is, literally, defense-less. But, Honolulu Civil Beat reports, an appellate court in Hawaii has now stepped in.
● Two editions of The Imprint podcast deal with the harm done by the vast expansion of “central registries” listing people deemed by caseworkers to have committed child abuse or neglect. In the first one, Scott Pham of BuzzFeed News discusses his comprehensive story, “The Black List,” about families harmed by such listings. In the other, Prof. Colleen Henry of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College discusses her CUNY Law Review article “Marginalizing Mothers: Child Maltreatment Registries, Statutory Schemes, and Reduced Opportunities for Employment.”
● In The Imprint, longtime family defender Diane Redleaf writes about ways to narrow broad, vague definitions of “neglect.”
● When the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act passed, we warned that a provision paying states bounties for increasing adoptions, it would lead to quick-and-dirty slipshod placements that were more likely to fail. By 2006, NBC News was reporting (scroll way down after clicking the link) that exactly that was happening in Kentucky. Now, as part of a major investigative project on failed adoptions, USA Today unearthed a 2012 Washington State report that declares
Permanency initiatives are often ‘numbers driven’ and ‘time specific’ which can adversely affect both practice and placement outcomes. When the driving force behind permanency initiatives is numbers, rushed and inadequate placements, adoption disruptions, multiple moves and longer stays in care result.
● Finally, if anyone is wondering if Australia is doing any better than we are at addressing racism in family policing, the answer is no.