● It’s hard to believe that family police agencies still go around “training” mandated reporters of “child abuse” to report anything and everything because if they’re wrong, it won’t do any harm. In this essay, Prof. Kelley Fong, author of Investigating Families explains why they are so wrong.
● Another key theme of Prof. Fong’s book is that mandatory reporting drives families away from seeking help. Case in point: Stephanie Land, author of Maid and Class. In an essay for The Washington Post called “The biggest fear of a parent in poverty: Being seen as neglectful” she writes:
I couldn’t admit to her teacher or the principal that we sometimes didn’t have enough to eat. I was scared someone might report me to child protective services and I might lose custody. … Those times that we really struggled — when I went to bed exhausted, cold and hungry — I feared that someone would find out about us living in that awful studio apartment. I was scared they’d find out about the peanut butter sandwiches, or the mold in the walls that made us sick, and come and take my daughter away from me. And so we continued to struggle.
● And yet, when a jury awarded the family in what is widely known as the “Take Care of Maya” case $261 million in damages for what a Florida hospital did to them, the hospital said it will appeal because it was simply doing what it was required to do – as mandated reporters! If so, then it’s hard to imagine a better case for abolishing mandatory reporting. Here’s the story from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which was the first to cover the case. That story puts the damages at $211 million. Those were the compensatory damages. Later the jury added $50 million in punitive damages. And now, Maya Kowalski has filed a criminal complaint alleging that she was sexually assaulted while she was in the hospital.
For those unfamiliar with the case:
● The best defense against these abuses is high-quality family defense for all families – from the moment the family police show up at the door. Jey Rajaraman, now associate director of litigation, children and the law for the American Bar Association, talks about the pioneering “pre-petition” family defense program she led at Legal Services of New Jersey on The Imprint podcast.
● A few years ago one community was so resistant to this kind of defense that after family defenders won a state grant to cover 100% of the cost, the politicians stepped in and turned it down. Fortunately, Monroe County (metropolitan Rochester) New York, now has a better class of politician. As a family defender told The Imprint, this time “county officials did not allow ‘fear-mongering to carry the day.’”
● Public opinion about family policing is changing too – even when the people framing the questions for a public opinion poll don’t want it to. I have a blog post about it.
● The outstanding series of stories about what the family police in South Dakota are doing to Native American families continues in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and South Dakota Searchlight – with stories about how hard the family police make it for extended families to take in children and the strains on tribal child welfare.
● Ever wonder why official figures for abuse in foster care are so much lower than what independent researchers find? This week’s installment of The Horror Stories Go in All Directions offers a clue. WTVF-TV in Nashville reports that:
Two whistleblowers at the Tennessee Department of Children's Services said top leaders within DCS ordered them to cover up dangerous conditions at homes where abused and neglected children are staying.
A former and current DCS employee told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that Commissioner Margie Quin did not want written inspections of the homes because she was concerned about reports falling into the hands of the media.