● DROP EVERYTHING AND READ THIS ONE: NBC News and ProPublica have just published a massive, in-depth report on the enormous harm of mandatory child abuse reporting laws.
The story uses as a case study Pennsylvania, and the expansion of mandatory reporting following the scandal surrounding former Penn State football coach and foster parent Jerry Sandusky. According to the story:
A flood of unfounded reports followed, overwhelming state and local child protection agencies. The vast expansion of the child protection dragnet ensnared tens of thousands of innocent parents, disproportionately affecting families of color living in poverty. While the unintended and costly consequences are clear, there’s no proof that the reforms have prevented the most serious abuse cases, an NBC News and ProPublica investigation found.
Instead, data and child welfare experts suggest the changes may have done the opposite.
And don't miss part two, exposing the enormous harm done to children and families by needless investigations - and how the family police trample on children's Fourth Amendment rights.
● The 74 reports that in New York City alone “…between August 2019 and January 2022, city school employees made over 13,750 false alarm reports to the state child abuse hotline.” The story goes on to explain why that actually understates the problem. As for the notion that the problem can be fixed with “more training” here’s what one school social worker said her training was like:
[T]he training sessions she has attended have begun by projecting the names and pictures of young people who have died by parental abuse, the social worker said, a tactic she considers “fear mongering.”
And see also The 74’s interview with Darcey Merritt, associate professor of social work at New York University, discussing why CPS should stand for Child Poverty Surveillance.
● While other news organizations run stories about children trapped in makeshift placements suggesting that the answer is to institutionalize more of them, the Nevada Current reports on the real solution: institutionalizing fewer of them. (They got a little help from the U.S. Department of Justice.)
● One of the things that happens to children when they’re institutionalized is they are often doped up on potent, sometimes dangerous psychiatric medication. The New York Times recently sought to reassure us that, when it comes to foster children, that problem had been curbed. But, as The Imprint reports, that’s sure not the case in Indiana.
● Texas caseworkers quit and sign an amicus brief admitting that they’ve been taking away children and placing them in a system “riddled with actual abuse.” But why didn’t they speak up before? What changed? I have a column in Youth Today on how those Texas caseworkers give us a lesson in whose lives matter.
● The White House has issued what it calls a “Blueprint for an Artificial Intelligence Bill of Rights.” The Associated Press reports that the document may have been influenced in part by concerns over the use of predictive analytics in child welfare – particularly the algorithm in Allegheny County, Pa., that once was the subject of so many news organization puff pieces. Unfortunately, the document is only advisory.
● Interesting things can happen when what used to be a garden party for the “child welfare” establishment starts inviting in some skunks. I have a blog post about a remarkable outbreak of white fragility on the part of some garden partiers.
● While the state’s “child advocate” and a lawmaker with a poor track record on these issues send the state careening full-speed backwards, one group in Maine is pushing back. Spectrum News reports on real solutions offered by the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
● Last week I highlighted a law review article by Prof. Tarek Ismail of the City University of New York School of Law, that builds a path through the thicket of confusion about family policing and the Fourth Amendment – and charts a way forward. Another new article, from Prof. Anna Arons of New York University, builds on that analysis, linking the whole mess to the whole “problem-solving court” mentality of the family police judicial branch.
● A drug test is not a parenting test – even when it’s accurate. But in Utah, the family police don’t seem to care if it’s accurate or not. KSL-TV has a follow-up to its investigative report on false positive drug tests.
● I’ve previously highlighted stories about an innovative plan in some Wisconsin counties designed to help families with the housing they need to reunify with their children and how one of the counties voted it down. But now, the plan may be revived, with some modifications.
And finally …
● An essay in Salon documents how a 529-year-old papal decree contributed to the massive oppression and abuse of indigenous children in Canada at Catholic-run “boarding schools,” and calls on Pope Francis to repeal it. Only a portion of the essay is about child welfare – but it’s by one of my favorite authors and journalists.