● New England Public Media has an excellent story about how Massachusetts is piloting the most promising innovation in the country for safely reducing needless foster care. There’s a link to the story in this NCCPR Blog post – in which I discuss who is trying to undermine the program. (If you know Massachusetts “child welfare” you know the answer.)
Two stories illustrate that there’s no such thing as “Minnesota nice” if you’re poor, and especially if your poor and nonwhite. In fact, Minnesota can be unsurpassed in calculated cruelty.
● Minnesota is one of 22 states where parents can petition to restore their children’s right to live with them after those rights have been terminated. The law sets severe limits on this option, few families know about it, and, among those who do, The Imprint reports, few win their cases. From the story:
Ramsey County Commissioner Rena Moran, who authored the House version of the bill when she was a member of the state Legislature, said she wasn’t surprised by the numbers in a system that has a “long history of demonizing parents.”
“If they are denied, then what progress are we making to even change the culture of how we know that family’s important?” she said.
● She should have gotten probation. Instead, a judge decided there wasn’t enough “remorse” in her tone, so Victoria Lopez was sentenced to seven years in prison – just as she gave birth to twins. As she explains in an essay she wrote for The Marshall Project, she gets to spend the first year with them – but after that, what the judge really did was sentence the children to seven years without their mother. Perhaps when Ms. Lopez leaves for prison the judge should stop by and check to be sure her children’s cries have enough “remorse.”
Oh, and one more thing: The crisis that led to all this actually began with a botched family police intervention involving Ms. Lopez’s oldest child.
● Tearing apart families because of foster-care panic is common; admitting that’s why you’re doing it is not. But this story from WitnessLA includes the case of a Los Angeles mother who was investigated but initially allowed to keep her children. But then …
Three weeks later, her social worker surprised Lacie when she announced DCFS would be taking her children, after all.
Lacie asked for an explanation. Why, she asked, if DCFS believed the children were unsafe, did social workers not remove them immediately?
The social worker told her that while they were not going to take her kids initially, they ultimately did so because a little boy had died in Lancaster after social workers neglected to remove him.
● The problem in Los Angeles, and everywhere else, starts with mandatory reporting. In The Imprint, Tamara Hunter, executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families, discusses efforts to reform mandatory child abuse reporting in the county. Unfortunately, the effort puts too much faith in “training.” There’s no mention of pressing the state to abolish mandatory reporting.
Despite the difficulty of reporting on child welfare, Roxanna Asgarian’s investigation of the Hart murder-suicide, We Were Once a Family, wades through the complexities of this system to render the reality legible to readers. Her nuanced journalism makes clear how much mainstream adoption stories rely on tropes. It also shows the damage of these stock tales: The belief that birth parents are “unfit” and that relatives are enablers led to the children’s cross-country adoption; the idea of the perfect white moms led caseworkers to praise the Harts rather than probe their story further.
● The Imprint reports that New York State is planning a guaranteed income experiment in which 150 families in three counties facing neglect allegations will receive $500 a month for one year. The commissioner of the state’s family police agency calls this a bold step. Obviously, it’s the right thing to do. But we’re talking about 150 families for one year in a state with a population of 20 million. It tells you a lot about the state family police agency that this is their idea of bold.
● This week’s reminder that the horror stories go in all directions: The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has the horrifying details about the abuse allegedly inflicted on seven-year-old Ja’Ceon Terry by staff at the “residential treatment center” where he died. It turns out, he wasn’t the only young resident abused there. But the story doesn’t answer the most important question, the one I addressed last year in the Lexington Herald-Leader: Why is Kentucky institutionalizing seven-year-olds?
● Time to bestow an award: We are pleased to announce that the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Division of Children and Family Services is the winner of NCCPR’s first Family Policing Euphemism of the Year award!
● And finally, a thought experiment. Read this op-ed column in the Arizona Republic, but everywhere the author says "foster parent" substitute "poor parent" or "Black parent" or "Native American parent." Do that, and you'll get a nearly perfect description of how family police agencies operate.