Tuesday, June 6, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending June 6, 2023

--All you had to do was read between the lines to see that when New York City’s family police agency, the Administration for Children’s Services, claimed if favored letting families they investigate know their rights, they were lying. Now, thanks to some great reporting by ProPublica, you no longer need to read between the lines. 

In noting the opposition to the bill from the State Senate Majority Leader, who is in other respects known for her progressive stands on issues, the story makes a crucial point: 

But advocates say that progressive politicians, not just in New York but across the country, have so far failed to understand how fighting against child welfare agents’ abuses of power is part of the same agenda. 

--In contrast, as both ProPublica and The Imprint noted in its story on the bill, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who used to oppose the bill, changed his mind: 

“When in life do you want Americans not to know their rights?” he said. “The only time you need them not to know their rights is when their rights are about to be violated.” 

Also pending before the New York State Legislature: A bill to replace anonymous reporting with confidential reporting. 

--Also in New York City, The 74 reports, 

Across the nation’s largest [school] district, parents of students with disabilities who speak up on behalf of their children say they are being charged with allegations of child abuse or neglect — a tactic advocates say schools use to intimidate parents and coerce them into dropping their concerns. 

And, the story notes, it’s not just New York City: 

[S]pecial education parents nationwide recount instances of being punished for speaking up on behalf of their children. 

--In Los Angeles County, WitnessLA begins a multi-part in-depth series on the failure of the child welfare surveillance state with a look at battered mothers afraid to seek help because of the entirely justified fear that the family police might take away their children. 

--Another group afraid to seek help because of justified fear of the family police is pregnant women with substance use issues,  As NBC News reports: 

That's why a growing number of experts — including maternal/fetal specialists, federal health officials and people who treat addiction — are calling for changes to the laws. 

"We should remove criminalization of women who are pregnant and taking drugs," Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said in an interview. "That needs to stop." 

Doctors have been saying things like this for decades.  But what’s notable now is the specific criticism of the law that encourages these awful policies – the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.  According to the story: 

a growing number of experts worry CAPTA and its state interpretations have gone too far when it comes to the definition of "abuse" in utero. 

"The intention of the law may not have been punitive, but the way it plays out in any particular community or in any particular child welfare office can sometimes feel punitive," said Dr. Marian Jarlenski, associate director of the Center for Innovative Research on Gender Health Equity at the University of Pittsburgh. 

And Dr. Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy in Nashville adds this: 

"What is the problem we're trying to solve?" said Patrick. "I treat far more complications from untreated diabetes in the NICU than I do from opioid use disorder." 

"Imagine if we approached someone with uncontrolled diabetes and said, 'Listen, if your baby's born weighing 12 pounds because you have uncontrolled diabetes, you may have child welfare involvement,'" Patrick said. "That sounds crazy." 

--Citing NCCPR’s blog post, the Kokomo, (Indiana) Tribune demands to know why Indiana is subjecting Black families to the terror of child abuse investigations at the highest rate in America – nearly four out of five Black children will have to endure such investigations.  As the editorial put it: 

Let's hope officials take these horrific numbers to heart and efforts are made for Indiana's children.

But so far, the family police agency’s response has been a mealy mouthed statement acknowledging that Black children are: 

"over-represented in child-welfare systems nationwide." And "Indiana is no exception, but we are committed to reversing that trend and making promising strides," 

While it is true that this is a problem nationwide, in one respect Indiana is an exception.  When it comes to family police investigations of Black families Indiana. Is. The. Worst. 

--9News Colorado has another example of the tragedies that result when middle-class foster parents are allowed to formally “intervene” in a court case after only three months and use their money and power to take a poor person’s child forever. 

--Here’s one for the “Every time you think the family police can’t sink any lower…” file: We’ve previously highlighted the obscene practice of family police agencies swiping foster children’s Social Security survivor and disability benefits to reimburse themselves for the “care” they provided. NPR and The Marshall Project exposed the practice in 2021.   

Now check out the new twist, as reported by WBBM-TV in Chicago.  It involves a nine-year-old girl trapped in a psychiatric hospital only because the state family police agency had no place to put her.  (Though not mentioned in the story, this is because a foster-care panic in Illinois has led to a sharp increase in needless removals.)  According to WBBM-TV: 

The Cook County Public Guardian said this girl's case is a first: taking money from the accounts of vulnerable kids, money left by their deceased parents to reimburse for pricey nights in the hospital that the kids didn't need. 

So you see, there is no depth to which the “child welfare” establishment won’t sink. 

--When it comes to racism against Native American families, could there be places even worse than Minnesota? The Appleton Post-Crescent reports on a couple of counties in Wisconsin that are giving Minnesota a run for its money in the racism derby. 

--There's some good news in Oklahoma where, The Frontier reports, the state is taking a small step to bolster legal representation for families.

--Here’s another reminder that the horror stories go in all directions. In Arizona, Courthouse News Service reports, Trever Frodsham is suing because 

He says his foster father sexually abused him from age 2 to age 14, when David Frodsham was arrested in 2016. He’s currently serving a 17-year prison sentence for leading a sex abuse ring, forcing multiple children he fostered to perform sex acts on both him and his friends, sometimes in the presence of his wife, Barbara. … The state allowed the couple to retain custody of their foster children and later adopt them despite nearly 20 complaints of misconduct. 

But the state says it is immune because the caseworkers who kept placing children in that home over and over and over and failing to notice the abuse there over and over and over were sincerely acting in what they felt was, yes, “the best interests of the child.” 

Oh, and by the way, each time the Frodshams adopted a foster child, it helped the State of Arizona collect bounties of $4,000 to $10,000 per child under the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.  When things like this happen, states are not required to give any of that money back.

--And here’s still another reminder about those horror stories, from WFLA-TV in Tampa

Within days of Chance Witherington’s first breath, he was taken from his mom by the Department of Children and Families and placed in foster care in Polk County.  Two months later he was dead.