Tuesday, January 9, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary roundup weeks ending January 9, 2024

● Looks like another task force on “mandatory reporting” laws might be pushing  a bit beyond  what back a bit against the lawmakers who appointed it had in mind. [This new language reflects a correction: To it's credit, the Colorado Legislature gave the task force more leeway than I'd realized.]  It was a clear case of pushback in Massachusetts when the members of a task force in that state found out that the chair, the state’s “Child Advocate” Maria Mossaides, had been misleading them.  But in Colorado, things may be different. 

In Colorado the task force also is led by the state’s child advocate, Stephanie Villafuerte, – called the “ombudsman” in that state.  But the legislature’s charge to this task force was a little broader than: “Who else should we force to report?” From the beginning Villafuerte said this task force wouldn’t just look at how to expand these laws – which have been shown to backfire, driving families away from seeking help and deluging the system in false reports.  

And from the beginning, she allowed the task force to hear from a wider range of perspectives than the one in Massachusetts.  Now the Colorado task force members say they won’t recommend a damn thing about who should report and when they should report it until they first come up with proposals to the Legislature for ways to narrow the definitions of “abuse” and “neglect”  According to The Denver Post:

Colorado’s definition of criminal child abuse and neglect is too broad and should be narrowed to avoid conflating circumstances like poverty or homelessness with neglect and abuse, the task force members wrote in the report. 

The 12-page report itself is well worth reading. 

● The case is unusual only in that it made it all the way to the California Supreme Court – where it led to a very good ruling.   But in every other respect, it’s like thousands of others mishandled by the Los Angeles County family police and its counterparts across the country.  I write about six key lessons from the case for WitnessLA.

● In Iowa, a father tells the Des Moines Register: 

“The sad part is that these doctors don’t realize that even if the kids aren’t taken away, even if the parents are innocent, how it can mess up an entire family.  They have no understanding of what it does when somebody comes to your door unannounced with the threat of taking away your kids.” 

I have a blog post on the case, with a link to the Register story. 

St.Louis Public Radio reports on a bill that would curb an inherent conflict of interest built into the family policing system in Missouri.  But the bill doesn’t get to the heart of the problem with Missouri’s so-called Juvenile Office – the fact that it shouldn’t exist.  I wrote about that in 2021. 

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

● Among the many ways the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act fosters adoption-at-all-costs is a national Adoption Excellence Awards program. (That’s in addition to the bounties the law pays for every finalized adoption over a baseline number, even if the adoptions later fail.)  

Wyoming News Now reports that the winners of one of those awards now are in the news for a different reason: 

Natrona County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Steven Marler, a formally nationally recognized foster parent.  Over the years, Marler and his wife, Kristen, have fostered over 60 children at their home on Casper Mountain. Now, Steven Marler is facing 26 felonies, including counts of child endangerment. 

Cowboy State Daily reports that one of those counts of endangerment is for allegedly kicking a child off a roof and not getting him medical attention.  The charges also include 20 counts “related to alleged sexual abuse of minors involving four children.” 

● And in Rhode Island the headline on this Providence Journal story about a “residential treatment center” sums things up well: Overdoses, assault and restraints: Inside a damning report on St. Mary's Home for Children