Tuesday, December 5, 2023

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending December 5, 2023

● Take a step back, see – and hear – how the family policing system really works in this report from NPR, featuring perspectives from JMAC for Families and NCCPR: 

● You know how defenders of computerized racial profiling in family policing (more accurate terms than “predictive analytics” in “child welfare”) defend their biased algorithms by a. claiming they’re not biased and b. claiming the algorithms are just advisory and humans still make the decisions?  Well, the U.S. Dept. of Justice is investigating claim a.  As for claim b – check out this post to this Blog based on a story from the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal

● Whether the decisions are made by humans or machines, in most of the country, the power of family policing agencies is nearly absolute.  For the latest massive debunking of claims that the courts serve as a check on this nearly absolute power, check out part two of a three-part series from WBTV and The Assembly in Charlotte, N.C.  

● Last week theBoston Globe exposed the state family police agency’s bias against Latino Families The story begins this way: 

Growing up Latino in Massachusetts carries a greater risk of entering the foster system than anywhere else in the nation, and for those who end up in foster homes — as well as those who are the subject of child welfare investigations — the consequences can be devastating. 

Then the Globe editorial page added additional reporting in this excellent commentary

● Although family police agencies call it “child support,” when you take someone’s child and make the parents pay money to get the child back, the proper term for that money is – ransom.  Yes, states actually do that.  Thanks to some excellent reporting by NPR two years ago, some states and localities are curbing the practice.  Now, The Imprint reports, California has taken the biggest step of all, not only abolishing ransom but wiping out the debt of parents who owe it. 

­● For The Conversation, Prof. Ashley Landers discusses her research on the enormous trauma endured by generations of Native American families, thanks to the massive needless termination of Native American children’s rights to their parents (a more accurate term than “termination of parental rights”).  Any claim that rushing to tear apart these families regularly leads to happy endings is belied by one fact from Prof. Landers’ research: “more than 80% of Native American people who were fostered or adopted eventually reunify.” 

● In New York, a bill that would allow children continued contact with their parents even after their legal rights to those parents have been terminated has – again – been passed by the State Legislature.  Two New York governors have pandered to the middle-class foster and adoptive parent lobby and vetoed it in the past.  Theresa Moser, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of New York’s juvenile rights practice - which represents children in these cases -- told The Imprint why such a law is needed. 

Without such protections, Moser said, “relationships with the biological parent, extended family members and sometimes the siblings” can be disrupted, as well as “an understanding of their culture and history.” 

And Professors Abigail Williams-Butler and Frank Edwards explained the need for the legislation in the Albany Times Union: 

Given the vastly disparate impact and harm that Black children and children of color experience within this system, it is important that the law allow for every opportunity for children to maintain relationships with their families of origin, including being able to have access to their racial, ethnic, religious and cultural histories, which are critical to developing a sense of self.

The Imprint reports on how family police in Minnesota – long one of the most fanatical states in the nation when it comes to tearing part families – are responding to legalization of marijuana. The answer seems to be: by finding every excuse possible to keep right on harassing families where someone smokes pot. 

MedPage Today has an update on the scandal over a child abuse pediatrician in Pennsylvania – and how one prominent politician is trying to thwart accountability. 

Upcoming event

Check out the Preventive Legal Advocacy Virtual Summit on December 15:

By providing legal guidance, social services, and resources to at-risk families, early legal advocacy programs across the country are working to promote family integrity, protect against the trauma of child welfare interventions, and reduce entries into foster care.

There's more information about the event, and about preventive legal advocacy here.

New resources

● I have previously written about how parents of older children somehow must be better than parents of newborns and infants.  This must be true, since why else would children be far more likely to be taken from their parents forever just because those children are really, really young? 

Since we know there is absolutely no racial or class bias in family policing, it can’t possibly be because poor people’s children are a market, and the data reflect supply and demand. It can’t be because caseworkers are more likely to have their own rescue fantasies triggered by a “kiddo” (they love to say “kiddo,” have you noticed?) about whom they can gush, “Awwww, he’s so cute!” so they rush those “kiddos” into homes with parents who have more money and lighter skin.  Nah, that can’t be it. 

Whatever the mysterious reasons for this phenomenon, the New York City Family Policy Project has new details on the extent of it nationally and in New York – and excellent ideas about what to do about it.

● While we continue to wait for the federal government to put out the annual AFCARS report, its official foster care statistics for the year ending September 30, 2022, The Imprint has released its own survey, covering the year ending March 31, 2023.  Though answering The Imprint’s questions is voluntary, their data tend to closely track the official AFCARS figures, so they are probably roughly equally accurate.  But The Imprint does not ask about entries and exits over the course of a year, and both databases don’t track hidden foster care. 

The Imprint survey does ask some questions AFCARS doesn’t.  And, as I read it, it confirms NCCPR’s longstanding suspicion that it’s ridiculously easy to evade the federal Family First Act restrictions on paying to institutionalize youth by simply getting your cruddy old “residential treatment center” relabeled a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program.” 

In this week’s edition of The Horror Stories Go in All Directions 

From The Indianapolis Star and ProPublica: 

…It was the third time since 2019 that police or child protective services formally accused a female staffer at Pierceton Woods of sexual abuse or misconduct involving male residents.  In response, the state’s Department of Child Services temporarily stopped referring children to Pierceton Woods, a nonprofit residential facility which treats boys for substance use disorders and sexually harmful behaviors. 

That lasted 11 days…. 

From the Detroit News: 

Attorney General Dana Nessel charged two Lansing area couples Monday with 36 criminal child abuse charges, months after other similar charges against the foster and adoption families were dismissed.

 The DeWitt couples are being charged in relation to eight of the 30 children who have been in their charge since 2007. Nessel alleged the couples' collected more than $1 million tax free through the adoption subsidy program.