Tuesday, October 24, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending October 24, 2023

● When I first saw that Mother Jones had published an expose of the horrors of a for-profit McTreatment chain’s residential treatment centers, I thought:  There’ve been so many exposes, what could possibly be new?  What could still shock? 

In fact, by zeroing in on foster youth, reporter Julia Lurie unearthed much that is new and even more that is shocking.  From referring to foster youth as “frequent flyers” because they can be counted on to come back again and again, to admonitions to not leave “days on the table” – meaning find ways to hold children needlessly as long as possible to bring in payments that can reach more than $900 per day per child, to marketing techniques eerily similar to how drug companies marketed Oxycontin, this story is a must-read. 

The reason McTreatment chains can get away with it was aptly summed up by someone who has worked to expose their abuses for decades, Dr. Ronald Davidson: “These are kids, by and large, who’ve been taken away from their parents,” he said, “so they have no family to watch out for them.” 

In addition to the magazine story, there’s a podcast, produced in collaboration with Reveal: 

● But of course, not everyone is listening.  In the Philadelphia Inquirer, a former foster youth, Christina Sorenson, writes that 

Today, Pennsylvania faces an overcrowding crisis, but rather than imagining a different solution, or investing in legislation to ensure the safety of our youth currently placed, there are calls to build new facilities.

● We’ve heard of one form of “ransom” in foster care – parents forced to pay part of the cost of foster care in order to get their kids back.  But in Los Angeles, The Imprint reports, when forced to jump through all sorts of other hoops first, they’ve actually had to pay for the hoops – in other words, these parents, almost all impoverished, had to pay for their own “counseling” “parent education” etc. 

A new California law may change that.  The law 

requires a judge to ask if a parent can afford court-ordered services during dependency court proceedings. It also clarifies that parents cannot be considered noncompliant with their case plan if they are unable to pay. 

Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers Executive Director Dennis Smeal [said]: “We’ve often heard parents say things like, ‘The department took my children and now I have to buy them back.  There’s no world in which that should ever be happening.” 

● The chief of New York City’s family police agency is running around bragging about new “training” for mandatory reporters in schools. The agency says it’s intended to discourage needless reports.  But training is always the cop-out agencies use to avoid real change.  

And, as this New York Daily News story makes clear the family police chief, Jess Dannhauser, is still embracing the Big Lie of American child welfare, falsely suggesting that child protection and “being fair with families” are opposites that need to be balanced.  On the contrary, being fair with families means not subjecting their children to the trauma of needless investigation and foster care, and not overloading the system so you’re more likely to miss children in real danger. 

● Professor Martin Guggenheim, the father of family defense (and also President of NCCPR) was honored with a big award from the New York State Bar Association. Here’s his acceptance speech. (It starts at about 17:00 in): 

­● From the you-sure-don’t-see-this-every-day file.  From the Grand Forks Herald: Instead of the usual hand-wringing story about a so-called “shortage” of foster homes, a story about a county that has all the foster homes it needs – because it’s not taking away so many children. Of course, that’s not all that difficult in North Dakota which, as of 2021, was tearing apart families at the fourth-highest rate in the country. 

● And this week’s example of how the horror stories go in all directions is from the Orlando Sentinel:

 Two nonprofits charged with administering Central Florida’s foster care system were negligent in their oversight, resulting in the sexual abuse of two girls placed in a Sanford home with a man who last year pleaded guilty to charges that he molested and covertly took video recordings of the school-age children as they changed in their bedrooms, a lawsuit alleges.