Wednesday, July 12, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending July 11, 2023

● Once upon a time, the family policing establishment insisted that they never, ever took away children because of poverty.  Then, when it was pointed out that the disproportionate rate at which Black and Native American children were torn from their families just might have something to do with racism, they said: No, no! We’re not taking them because their nonwhite, we’re taking them because of poverty!  Of course in the ridiculous debate over whether families are needlessly separated because of race or because of poverty the answer is: Yes.  

All of which leads me to a fascinating new data analysis from the New York City Family Policy Project. They found that if you’re Black, affluence won’t free you from the family police.  Here’s what they found: 

Latino, White and Asian children all show lower investigation rates in neighborhoods where child poverty is lower. Neighborhood child poverty rates do not appear to have the same protective effect for Black children. In fact, Black children face extremely high investigation rates in dozens of well-off and majority white neighborhoods, such as Brooklyn Heights or Boerum Hill. [Emphasis added.]

And a friendly reminder to the rest of the country: The New York City system is horrible - but significantly less horrible than most.  So wherever you are, it's probably worse. 

Vox is a news website known for explanatory journalism. They’ve just done a superb job explaining the family policing system.  From the story: 

It’s easy to fall back on imagining that more funding and more foster parents are the most urgent priority … But nearly everyone that Vox spoke with who works within the system itself thinks that foster care isn’t the answer and that the current child welfare system is one that traps families in poverty and then penalizes them for it. 

● Among those who understand this are the former director of the federal Children’s Bureau, Jerry Milner, and his Special Assistant, David Kelly. They now direct the Family Justice Group. In The Imprint they write: 

Relational health — the sense of connection, belonging and relationships that people have — is essential to our individual and collective well-being as human beings in the world. Somehow, however, this most essential and defining aspect of being human has been overshadowed or cast aside in the industry known as child welfare. 

Services reign supreme in the industry, and providers of them have an undue impact on policymaking nationwide. Their main interest is to remain in business. This has resulted in a fixation on clinical services and proprietary models rather than proactive family support. It sustains a narrative that pathologizes the conditions families are forced to live in or with, especially poverty and the trauma of racism. 

● Similarly, writing in Slate about the Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya, Dr. Mical Raz explains that 

The documentary’s dystopian depiction of child protection is not an anomaly. Children are regularly removed from their loving parents and placed in unsafe situations—from sleeping on couches in office buildings to foster homes where they are often abused—all in the name of child protection. … Yet this overpolicing of families and children is not a necessity and does not keep kids safe. Rather, the specter of child abuse has created a system that is harmful and even abusive. Perhaps Take Care of Maya, because of the unusual details of its case, will bring attention to the harmful impact of an overreaching family policing system. 

ProPublica reports on how, with near-unanimous bipartisan support, the Texas Legislature passed a bill giving families facing the family police the equivalent of Miranda rights, while in New York legislative leadership blocked a vote on a similar measure.  The story notes that the Texas law  “will in many cases benefit Black, Hispanic and low-income families who often have their lives and homes upended by CPS officers” and that “child welfare issues often defy typical partisan binaries.” 

● Both of those concepts are apparently beyond the understanding of The Texas Tribune, which continues to push the idea that any bill providing due process for families is a nefarious plot by “parents' rights” activists – even though the Miranda rights bill and others passed the Texas legislature almost unanimously.  I have a blog post about it. 

The Washington State Standard reports that Washington State is easing a policy that had required hospitals to automatically turn in to the family police the parents of any newborn “affected” by the mother’s substance use.  That’s the policy that, as Reveal and The New York Times Magazine exposed last week, has had tragic results for children across the country.  Of course, not everyone is happy about this.  In comments dripping with condescension, people at a center that institutionalizes these infants for days or weeks after hospital discharge don’t like this one bit. 

● There’s more about the harm of turning in substance-using mothers to the family police in this overview from Scientific American. The article cites multiple experts including Miriam S. Komaromy, medical director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, who says: 

“It’s critical that a pregnant person feels able to seek help, but mandated reporting sets up a dynamic in which she feels afraid to acknowledge that she has a problem and maybe even afraid to seek any prenatal care because of the fear that a doctor will detect that she has a substance use disorder.” 

● When parents divorce and one parent has custody, a court may require that the other parent still be allowed contact with the child – indeed, if the parents can’t come up with a voluntary agreement it’s the norm.  Yet when adoptive parents want to cut children off from any and all contact with their birth parents, those birth parents usually have no recourse.  The Imprint reports on a bill passed – for the third time -  by the New York State Legislature that would change that.  

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts is the latest state where some lawmakers are asking why the state is swiping Social Security benefits meant for foster youth and keeping the money for itself.  But the bill they proposed was tepid and still got nowhere.  Showing its signature callousness and cruelty, the state family police agency has dug in its heals in an effort to keep the kids’ money. 

● And the latest example of how the horror stories go in all directions comes from New Mexico.