Wednesday, September 7, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending Sept. 6, 2022

● The drop-everything-and-read-it item this week is from Irin Carmon in New York Magazine: A profile of legal scholar, activist (oh, and NCCPR Board Member) Dorothy Roberts. It’s called Dorothy Roberts Tried to Warn Us: The legal scholar and sociologist wrote about the criminalization of pregnancy 25 years ago. Why didn’t more listen? 

Prof. Roberts understood before anyone, that family policing – a more accurate term than “child welfare” – is a reproductive justice issue. 

My favorite quote from the article: 

It’s not unusual for an academic to say they want to inspire movements, but to an extent more sweeping and durable than most, Roberts has accomplished that. 

Second favorite: 

“Dorothy is like a Harriet Tubman of law,” says her friend and fellow law professor Michele Goodwin. “She opened the gates for so many others, including myself.” 

● One of those quoted in the New York Magazine story is Joyce McMillan, founder of JMac For Families.  Gothamist has a story about how she raised $40,000 for an ad campaign to tell families their rights when the city’s family police agency, the Administration for Children’s Services, is at the door.  In the story the current head of that agency Jess Dannhauser, says: "It is very important that parents understand their rights when ACS comes to their homes.” Does that mean he’s ready to support the Miranda rights bill ACS previously opposed?  I hope somebody asks him.  And here’s one of the ads:

● In June, a Vice News story raised serious concerns about the accuracy of drug tests performed by a company called Averhealth. That story focused on Michigan, but Averhealth performs drug tests for the family police in many states, including Utah.  KSL-TV in Salt Lake City reports that on Aug. 11 a spokesman for that state’s family policing agency told them they were not “aware of any concerns regarding reliability” of Averhealth test results.  But six days later, a family police agency official confirmed they did know – but they are continuing to rely on Averhealth test results anyway.  As one mother who says she was a victim of false positive test results – and has a lot of evidence to back her up – put it:  “My kids are riding on these tests.” 

But don’t think for a minute that kind of fanaticism about alleged parental drug use is limited to states like Utah … 

­● Eleven years ago, The New York Times published a story about the persecution of families by the agency mentioned earlier, the Administration for Children’s Services, if a parent smoked marijuana.  Since then, marijuana has been legalized in New York and the law specifically instructs family police agencies not to do this.  Problem solved, right? Not according to this excellent story from Gothamist. 

● Joyce McMillan (see above) is among the authors in the new issue of Family Integrity and Justice Quarterly, co-authoring with Angela Burton: Liberate the Black Family from the Family Policing System: A Reparations Perspective on Ending Anti-Black Racism in ‘Child Welfare.’  NCCPR’s contribution takes readers deep into the weeds of “child welfare” finance – and how all the financial incentives work against families.  And don’t skip the Foreword: Lexie Gruber writes about how "[E]nthusiasm for inclusion wanes when newly included voices speak truth to power.” She diagrams the “cycle of co-optation.” Here’s the diagram:


There’s much more.  (And if you hate flipbooks as much as I do, look for the icon that let’s you download the issue as a .pdf) 

The Imprint reports on how, probably in response to excellent reporting from NPR, Washington State will stop forcing parents to pay ransom to get their kids back from foster care.  (Well, no they don’t call it that, but if someone takes your children and makes you pay money to get the children back, no other word is appropriate.)  Unfortunately, the change applies only to new cases.  An agency spokesperson told NCCPR they’re not sure if they can legally wipe out the debts of families already paying.  In fact, they almost certainly can. 

● The news is not so good in Oregon.  I have a blog post on how white middle-class foster parents try to play the bonding card to prevent relatives from taking custody of their Asian-American niece while, as usual, Oregon’s Senator Soundbite has a plan that would make everything worse. 

Also on the NCCPR blog: A lawsuit in Pennsylvania seeks modest changes in the process under which a caseworker can check what amounts to Pandora’s Box on a form, and blacklist someone as an alleged child abuser for life – increasing the chances that the family will be driven further into poverty, among other harms to children.  But even modest changes are mighty upsetting to the state’s take-the-child-and-run extremists find this mighty upsetting. 

● Wyoming is the latest state to consider legislation to bolster protection for Native American children – in the wake of the threat to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.  Wyoming certainly needs it.  The state tears apart families at the third highest rate in the nation. 

The Imprint reports on that American Bar Association Resolution that comes within an inch of calling for repeal of the Adoption and Safe Families Act and other awful family policing laws.  Our own take is here. 

● And the Indiana Capital Chronicle reports that Advocates say overmedication of children in foster care still a problem.  That’s obvious, you say?  Not to The New York Times.