Monday, May 15, 2023

A reminder: The horror stories go in ALL directions

 Several years ago, I made an offer to America’s latter-day “child savers” – the term their 19th Century counterparts proudly gave themselves as they tore impoverished immigrant children from, their parents: I suggested a mutual moratorium on using horror stories to influence policy. 

I knew they’d never take me up on it.  Because when it comes to advocating for a take-the-child-and-run approach, horror stories are all they’ve got.  The actual evidence of the inherent harm of foster care and the high rate of abuse in foster care is so overwhelming, that all they can do is try to distract us with horror stories. 

But that only further overloads the system with false allegations, trivial cases and cases in which poverty is confused with neglect – so workers have even less time to find those very rare cases that will become the next horror story. 

Whether the target is impoverished immigrant children as it was in the 19th Century or Black and Native American children as it’s been forever, a system built on extrapolating from horror stories makes all children less safe. 

But as long as the child savers insist on regurgitating horror stories because they have nothing else, those of us who have the evidence on our side can’t unilaterally disarm. 

So here’s a reminder: The horror stories go in all directions.  These stories appeared just in March and April of 2023: 

● In San Diego, KNSD-TV reports, 

A San Diego mother filed a $10 million wrongful death claim against the county last month, saying Child Welfare Services failed her 11-year-old biological daughter, Aarabella McCormack, who died in the hospital last August. Prosecutors say she was severely malnourished, weighing just 48 pounds at the time. They also say her body was covered in bruises and doctors found 15 still-healing bone fractures. 

The mother says Arabella was taken because she’s witnessed domestic violence, a tragically common reason for wrongful removal.  She was placed with foster parents who adopted her.

Prosecutors say Aarabella’s adoptive grandmother, adoptive grandfather and adoptive mother worked together to torture and physically abuse Aarabella and her two surviving sisters, ages 7 and 6. They say the children were hit with paddles and sticks, deprived of food and water, isolated in their rooms, denied access to bathrooms and forced to participate in rigorous exercises. 

● In New York City, WNBC-TV reports: 

A 34-year-old Bronx man was arrested on a bevy of charges when two children -- a 14-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy -- were found badly bruised inside his apartment earlier this week, authorities say, after they were allegedly held captive for months while being starved and even pistol whipped. … 

According to the criminal complaint, the 14-year-old girl told police that [Michael] Ramos would threaten them and hold a pistol to their heads. The 13-year-old boy was severely underweight, with swollen eyes and bruises.

"The defendant used a fork to jab [the girl] on the right side of her face and knees, causing bleeding puncture wounds and small lacerations to the right side of her face and knees," the complaint alleges. "On more than one occasion, the defendant struck [the girl and the boy] repeatedly about the head and various parts of their body with a wooden bat, a metal bat, a black tension rod, and an electrical cord."

And The New York Post added this detail:

Ramos allegedly taunted the siblings with the weapon, holding it to their heads and saying, “Someone is going to die today.”

“Do you want to die today?” he allegedly told them. “Open your mouth!”

In Ohio, the Lima News reports, investigators repeatedly ignored allegations of abuse against a foster parent.  When a 12-year-old boy says the foster parent sexually assaulted him, administrators went on the offensive – against the child.  From the story: 

“I just can’t believe a search warrant is being considered off solely what (redacted) is reporting knowing his past,” Brent Bunke, a former program administrator who oversaw the agency’s adoption and foster care division, wrote in a text message to colleagues, according to messages recovered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

 “If they find out (redacted) is lying I hope they charge his little (expletive) for this (expletive),” Staci Nichols, a fellow program administrator from the agency’s intake division who has since resigned, wrote in another text message that evening.

 The boy wasn’t lying. The foster parent was sentenced to 94 years in jail.

 ● In Clearwater Florida, WFTS-TV reports

 A new lawsuit describes claims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse against boys under the care of Clearwater foster parents that date back to 1997.

 Close to a dozen agencies that are tasked with keeping children safe are named as defendants in the lawsuit. … [P]laintiffs in the lawsuit report little to eat, manual labor from sun up to sun down, and what they thought was only happening to them, sexual abuse by their foster father. …

 Twenty men and children shared stories about the abuse they endured in the foster home dating back to 1997.

 ● In Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on still another litany of horrors alleged at still another “residential treatment center” a place called “Never Give Up.”  From the story:

 In October, the Department of Justice released a report finding that … the state relies on segregated institutional settings such as hospitals or residential treatment facilities and does not provide adequate community-based services.

 The report does not mention Never Give Up, but it paints many of the critiques of the private facility as institutional, statewide problems.

 And recall what the top official of the Devereux McTreatment chain said when the Philadelphia Inquirer exposed abuse at their facilities:

 “This is not an aberration that happens at Devereux because of some kind of lack of control or structure.  This is an industry-wide problem."

● A lawsuit accused a politically-connected Indiana “residential treatment center” of being rife with sexual abuse.  As the Indianapolis Star reports

A psychologist’s report prepared for the lawsuit said [the center] “showed deliberate indifference” to the rampant sexual abuse of young boys, interfered with the ability of residents and staff to report to DCS, and “emboldened sexual predators.” 

The center denied the charges and the lawsuit was settled.  But the center wasn’t done.  They pushed for a state law granting them immunity from future lawsuits.  Fortunately, as a result of the Star's revelations, the bill was withdrawn. 

 The Altoona Mirror reports on the case of three children needlessly taken from their families and placed with foster parents who ultimately were jailed for abusing them.  According to a civil suit, the foster parents;

 – Used racial slurs in referring to the three children, who are African-American.

– Beat the children.

– Would force the youths to stand against a wall for hours.

– Would allow the children to be bitten by dogs.

– Told the children their parents were dead.

--Threatened physical punishment for eating food unless it was approved by the adoptive parents. 

None of this stopped the family police from proceeding full speed ahead with terminating parental rights and allowing the abusive foster parents to adopt the children. 

 As the Mirror reports:

 According to the lawsuit, despite the arrest, the children still remained in the foster care system until they became of adult age.

 At that point, each of the (children) reunited with their families and “have been welcomed home and receive the love and support from which they had been deprived for the majority of their lives,” the lawsuit concluded.