Wednesday, June 21, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending June 20, 2023

● The big news this past week, of course, has been the stunning victory for Native American children and their families at the U.S. Supreme Court.  There’s lots to link to, but the two journalists who know the Indian Child Welfare Act – and the case that led up to last week’s decision – best are probably Rebecca Nagle, who produced the This Land podcast about the case – she discusses the decision here – and Nancy Marie Spears of The Imprint, who wrote about the decision hereNCCPR’s perspective on the decision is here.  Nagle also discusses the case on The Imprint’s podcast.

● As we note in that post, the court victory is huge, but it doesn’t solve one big problem with ICWA: the failure to enforce it. ProPublica has that part of the story 

● The ICWA decision was not the only good news. The nation’s first Family Miranda Rights bill was signed into law in Texas.  I’d link to a story from a Texas news outlet but I can’t find one.  I guess the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Tribune are just waiting for the next child abuse fatality so they can claim it “raises questions” about the law – because, after all, no Texas child ever died of child abuse before this law was passed, right? 

So we turn for analysis to Prof. Robert Latham, associate director at the Children & Youth Law Clinic of the University of Miami Law School, who wrote this on his excellent Blog: 

And lest you think this law has no teeth, the law prevents admission of any statement made by a parent without the notice being given. It also prevents admission of anything discovered as a result of statements made without notice. That’s a full Miranda. Cool. 

The bill also curbs the abuse of "hidden foster care" - a practice Texas uses at what may be the highest rate in the country.

Also in Texas: 

● The governor signed the law described here, which partially replaces anonymous child abuse reporting with confidential reporting.  No big stories on this either, except the one before the bill was signed in which the Texas Tribune featured fearmongering in advance.  Because, after all, there were never any child abuse deaths in Texas before these bills became law, right? 

● In what may turn out to be the most significant of the bills, the governor signed into law a measure with the potential to significantly boost the quality of family representation in Texas.  I could find no stories on that. Perhaps certain news organizations are waiting to scapegoat a family defender under the new program for a child abuse fatality.  Because, after all – well, you know. 

All this will be particularly upsetting to longtime Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau Chief Robert T. Garrett.  He's spent decades writing news stories that are, in fact, de facto editorials condemning any attempt to bolster civil liberties and curb the power of the family police to discriminate against poor and nonwhite families as somehow a right-wing plot.  But all of these bills passed with bipartisan support; two of them were approved nearly unanimously.  The Vast Bipartisan Conspiracy has struck!

● The Arizona Capital Times reports that Arizona has now banned the state family police agency from swiping foster children's Social Security benefits to "reimburse" itself for the children's "care." It's a practice exposed by NPR and The Marshall Project in 2018.  San Diego County, California, which, until recently, did the same also has now stopped the practice, and is formally urging the state to ban it. 

● Of course, that assumes the youth taken from their homes will live long enough to collect. In still another reminder that the horrors go in all directions, KNSD-TV, San Diego exposes the numerous warning signs that were ignored before 11-year-old Arabella McCormack was, in effect, adopted to death.  (And remember, the adoption helped San Diego County collect the bounties paid by the federal government for finalized adoptions of foster children under the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.) 

● And, speaking of horrors: The headline on this Sacramento Bee story says it all: “Sacramento County to remove foster children from cells, avoiding state fines.” But the county is lying about why the children are there at all. It’s the usual lie: The kids supposedly are too difficult, there’s supposedly no place else for them, blah, blah blah.  In fact, the places these children could go are being taken by all those other children the county never should have taken in the first place.