Tuesday, December 20, 2022

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending December 20, 2022

● There’s Another outstanding installment in the series from ProPublica and NBC News, documenting the enormous harm family policing does to children.  This time, the story looks at child welfare’s “death penalty” – termination of children’s rights to their parents.  There’s a special focus on West Virginia, which is both the child removal capital of America and the termination capital of America.  The story is notable for many things, including its clear understanding of the stakes.  The story notes that  

According to a recent study, the risk that a child will experience the loss of their legal relationship with their parents roughly doubled from 2000 to 2016. [Emphasis added.] 

This is a story West Virginia media have not touched.  But it’s not only media in that state that have blind spots: 

● When you’ve spent decades lionizing foster parents (especially white, middle-class foster parents) and demonizing birth parents, and then a white middle-class foster mother allegedly kidnaps a nonwhite foster child, that can really louse up your “master narrative.”  So now, even after the Washington State foster child was found – in Vietnam! – and returned safely to his real mother, the Seattle Times has written not a word. 

Fortunately, Mother Jones has provided the coverage the Times would not.  Check out their story, to which we were proud to contribute.  And KING5 continued to cover the story diligently.  On the day media found out the child was safely home, they broadcast and published this story and this one, to which we were proud to contribute. 

● As Dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Alan Detlaff devoted his career to fighting the racism that permeates family policing.  That’s why he’s no longer the dean. (He continues as a professor.)  The Imprint has a story, and so does The Houston Chronicle

● What happened to Detlaff is just one example of “child welfare” and the moral bankruptcy of social work.  I have a blog post about it.  I also have a post about another one-time social work dean who devotes himself to denying that family policing has a racism problem.  He, too, is no longer a dean – but he left voluntarily and has another prestigious position. 

● There’s a new issue of Family Integrity and Justice Quarterly. This one takes on what may be the most dangerous phrase in the family policing lexicon: “best interests of the child.”  The phrase is an invitation to inflict the whims and prejudices of a white middle-class “child welfare” establishment on families that are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately nonwhite.  The theme of this issue is summed up in the first article: “Securing and Restoring the Family Is in the Child’s Best Interests.”  In that article, Alexandra Travis writes about her own experience with family destruction and then asks: 

Tell me, if you knew our story, would you still advocate so fiercely for adoption and termination? Would you permanently separate us as a family and prevent five siblings from having a life and future together? Would you allow these traumatic actions that caused a seven-year-old to consider suicide and a young boy to pluck out his own eyelashes, eyebrows, and hair? 

Honolulu Civil Beat has another good story on the failings of Hawaii’s family policing system – this time it’s about the lengths the system will go to cover it all up

● There are so many ways in which family policing systems reveal that their hatred for families is far greater than any “love” they profess for children.  One of those ways is using visits between children in foster care and their parents as a weapon.  So, for example, in Michigan, children could be denied visits with their parents if a parent didn’t pass three consecutive drug tests – even if the failure involved marijuana.  Now a state appeals court has ruled that Michigan family police can’t do that anymore.  As an attorney for the mother told Michigan radio

“So, imagine being that child, having parenting time, having it for some time and then, unbeknownst to you, not seeing Mom for a while because Mom tested positive for marijuana. It certainly had a negative effect on the children.” 

Added Prof. Vivek Sankaran, director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the  Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School added: 

“For kids in foster care, seeing their parents is their lifeline, and we have to be very, very diligent in making sure that happens unless it is absolutely necessary to cut it off because of harm to a child.” 

● The Anchorage Daily News reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has found the state regularly violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by needlessly institutionalizing children with mental health problems. From the story: 

A girl from Bethel had first gone to North Star [hospital] at 12, when she was “feeling sad and irritable, and exhibiting some aggression toward her younger siblings.”  An expert found that she could just as well have stayed home with her family and gotten treatment like intensive case management. Instead, she’d been almost continuously institutionalized at North Star for four years. 

“She appears to be more accustomed to life in an institution than at home,” the report said. 

And before anyone claims it’s because of a “shortage” of family placements, remember: Alaska tears apart families at one of the highest rates in the nation, two-and-a-half-times the national average. 

● Police in Texas put a 14-year-old and her parents through a terrifying ordeal in a case so absurd even the family police agency couldn’t stomach it.  Now, after a long legal battle, the family has won the right to sue.

Wisconsin Watch reports on that state’s draconian law concerning substance use during pregnancy, a law passed “in 1997 amid a national ‘crack baby’ hysteria.”  The law drives women away from seeking prenatal care.  From the story: 

Some women told [the Pew Charitable Trusts] the fear of losing their newborns or other children caused them to hide their pregnancies while seeking treatment, or to avoid treatment altogether. In all, Pew concluded: "This barrier potentially puts pregnant women and their child at greater risk of harm than they would be if this policy did not exist." 

● New York City’s family police agency loves to brag about how far they’ve come since the days when the city warehoused 50,000 children in foster care.  They do not mention that the commendable decline has come with a concomitant, appalling surge in family surveillance.  They also don’t mention that they’ve done nothing to ease the ongoing trauma that kind of massive policing inflicts on impoverished communities. 

In a call for community healing Nora McCarthy writes in The Imprint that 

Nationally, historical trauma is a piece of what drives the extraordinarily high rates of Native American and Black families separated by child welfare. In New York City, a mapping of community loss tracked concentrated stress from “unpredictable and uncontrollable” losses like incarceration and foreclosure, and found that foster care placement “represents the most severe community loss in the high-loss neighborhoods.” Considering that roughly 50,000 children were in New York City foster care every year a generation ago, this cumulative burden alone is severe. 

Much of this loss and pain has been directly fueled by government policy. Yet little public or private funding is devoted to repair. 

● Children are still being taken from their families in New York City, of course.  One such foster child, three-year-old Shalize Carter Clarke, complained during Facetime calls about being abused in her foster home.  At one point, her grandmother says:  “She said, ‘Ya Ya, you got my car seat in your car?’  I said, ‘Yes.’  She said, ‘You and my sister Gigi come get me. I want to go home.’" 

Two days later she was dead. WPIX-TV reports the cause of death was acute amphetamine intoxication. 

● And finally, "child welfare's" version of a Christmas miracle, as described in this tweet thread from Josh Michtom, a Hartford City Councilor and family defender. The thread prompted me to once again pose the question in this 2018 post.