Wednesday, May 31, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending May 30, 2023

--Colorado makes it incredibly difficult for impoverished parents to get their children back – and incredibly easy for foster parents with enough money to keep any child they damn well please.  That’s the upshot of this investigation from 9News in Denver.  Foster parents have carte blanche to intervene in a case – and play the bonding card – if they have a child in their “care” for just three months.  And if they do, the odds are nearly four in five that the child is never going home. 

--“What’s really frightening is that it happens a lot. What was unique was our ability to hire an attorney,” said Joshua Sabey about why he and his wife were able to get their children back after they were falsely accused of child abuse.  They told the Associated Press that's why they're suing in an attempt to force more accountability for all families forced to confront the family police.  And AP made a point of looking not only at what happened to this white, middle-class family but also at the experiences of families who are neither, with comment from Joyce McMillan and Prof. Dorothy Roberts. 

--In Los Angeles, the family policing agency – which takes away children at one of the highest rates among big cities – is known as the Department of Children and Family Services.  But, as the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition explains in a new report, DCFS Stands for Dividing and Conquering Families. 

Particularly interesting is the section on the bias built into the two methods DCFS uses to assess “risk,” Structured Decision Making and, in some offices, a predictive analytics algorithm co-developed by Emily Putnam-Hornstein.  She also co-developed the Pittsburgh algorithm that is now reportedly under investigation for bias by the U.S. Department of Justice. 

But if there’s one thing Putnam-Hornstein and her colleagues really are good at, it’s p.r. So while the algorithm used to label some families “complex risk cases” now the families are labeled as in need of “enhanced support.” 

--Want to see a classic example of “health terrorism”? Check out the fear and smear campaign a Texas group is waging against some good legislation in that state, a bill to replace anonymous reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect with confidential reporting, and how two news organizations got suckered.  I have a blog post about it. 

--The Imprint reports that the Texas Legislature passed another excellent bill - it would provide the equivalent of Miranda rights for families facing the family police. It also would put some limits on "hidden foster care" in a state which may abuse this practice at the worst rate in America.  

--That puts Texas ahead of New York, where The New York Post reports on the fight for similar legislation.

--A 12-year-old Native Alaskan girl in foster care says she wants to commit suicide.  What could be better for a child like that than to ditch her in a hospital for a week, all alone, without telling her family, or anyone else, where she is?  As the Anchorage Daily News reports that is exactly what Alaska’s family police agency did.  That’s not unusual. But this time a judge was so outraged that he refused to let the agency hide its incompetence behind confidentiality. 

But the judge got one thing wrong: He blamed a lack of staff at the family police.  But there are more than enough family police in Alaska – or there would be if they would stop tearing apart families at one of the highest rates in the nation.  Alaska also is a state in which nearly three-quarters of Native families will be investigated by the family police. 

--Every few years Child Trends takes on the Herculean task of trying to figure out exactly how much every state spends on “child welfare,” where that money comes from and what it’s spent on.  Because it’s so arduous, it takes awhile. So the latest report, just released, covers 2020.  But spending doesn’t change much year to year, so, like its predecessors, this report is likely to be a useful snapshot.  NCCPR will be using it in the next few weeks to update our Rate-of-Spending index.