Tuesday, May 9, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending May 9, 2023

● We begin with a quote from an extraordinary eight-month investigation by WOUB Public Media in Athens Ohio.  A little girl in foster care whispers to her mother during a “supervised visit”: 

‘Mommy, I’m scared. Please, please don’t make us go back,’” [her mother] Theresa recalled. “She says, ‘Please don’t make us go back to this foster home. Please Mommy, don’t make us go back there. They’re so mean to me and Everly and we don’t feel comfortable there. Please, Mommy. Please.’ 

Over the course of eight chapters, WUOB tells a story that strips away all the excuses for the family policing system – a more accurate term than “child welfare” system.  What makes this series so horrifying is it doesn’t focus on a horror story – it focuses on a case that is remarkably typical, and concludes: 

The agency removed her children based on allegations for which it appears the agency did little to investigate and never provided much evidence to support. What evidence is available shows most of the allegations were false. 

Still, it took Theresa months to get three of her children back. In the meantime, her daughters suffered abuse at a foster home and her younger son descended into a mental health crisis. 

It’s a long read that’s worth every word, and every minute of your time. 

● Rylenn isn’t the only child whose anguished cries were in the news last week. Listen to the there-year-old son of Joshua Sabey and Sarah Perkins as he is forcibly removed by Massachusetts family police in the middle of the night. 

 The parents are suing.  And there’s an important lesson for other middle-class families in why they’re suing.  As WBZ-TV reports: 

They say they’re bringing the lawsuit against the public employees who took their kids because they are in a position of privilege and want to see change in DCF’s practices. “We’re educated,” Sarah Perkins explained. “We have really involved family members. We have access to resources and financial assistance, and I think the vast majority of families in the system are impoverished, or, you know, just have way fewer resources at their disposal. And I think because of that, we feel a real responsibility to do something that can help families in this system that don’t have this sort of capability to change laws, to change statutes.” 

And as Sabey told The Boston Globe: The system “just churns out injustice after injustice.”  

See also NBC10 Boston’s story about the lawsuit, an in-depth examination of the case from The Washington Post, and our take in this blog post. 

● On The Imprint podcast, professors Vivek Sankaran and Christopher Church discuss the enormous harm inflicted on children by family policing’s mad rush to termination of children’s rights to their parents. They show how this approach undermines the very “permanency” the family police claim to favor.  And though this kind of termination is often analogized to the death penalty, Sankaran and Church show that it’s actually worse.  Their law review article on the topic is here.  I wrote about their findings on this blog here. 

● And speaking of “permanency”: Remember that distinguished professor at Penn State who said even aging out with no family at all might be better for foster youth than reunification or guardianship?  She claimed that’s because aging out foster youth have access to “additional resources” – in other words, money is more important than love.  Youth Today reports on a new study which finds that’s not working out too well. 

● Another study by Professors Youngmin Yi, Frank Edwards, et. al,  provides new insight into how far the termination madness has gone in some states.  In West Virginia, for example, 14% percent of Black children will have their parents taken from them forever.  In Maine, it’s 15% of Hispanic children. I discuss the findings, with a link to the full study here.  And NCCPR has summarized some of the findings in the NCCPR Index of Family Police Oppression:

● Movement for Family Power, Reimagine Child Safety, the Maryland Office of Public Defender and several other groups released a groundbreaking report, Drug Tests Are Not Parenting Tests.  (And for those who share my aversion to the flipbook format, the report can be downloaded as a .pdf) 

The report reminds us: 

In healthcare settings, pregnant people who use drugs are often vilified and deemed unfit or dangerous to their children based on their drug use alone. This social stigma causes individuals to fear physicians, social workers, and other healthcare providers, and often discourages pregnant people from engaging in routine prenatal care or, when there is an actual substance use disorder, from seeking treatment.35 This is why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposes non-consensual drug testing and punitive responses to drug use during pregnancy such as criminal prosecution or the threat of child removal. 

The report also reminds us of the unreliability of drug testing: 

Even poppy seeds can trigger an opiate positive if eaten close enough to the time the sample was taken. 

● I single out that example, because as this story from NJ.com makes clear, it is not just a hypothetical.