Tuesday, March 19, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending March 19, 2024

It’s stories like this, from ProPublica, that make me glad someone invented the word “gobsmacked.”  If you drop everything and read it right now, you’ll thank me. No one excerpt does it justice, but here’s one that gives at least a hint: 

Had she considered or was she even aware of the cultural background of the birth family and child whom she was recommending permanently separating? (The case involved a baby girl of multiracial heritage.) Baird answered that babies have “never possessed” a cultural identity, and therefore are “not losing anything,” at their age, by being adopted. Although when such children grow up, she acknowledged, they might say to their now-adoptive parents, “Oh, I didn’t know we were related to the, you know, Pima tribe in northern California, or whatever the circumstances are.” 

"The Pima tribe is located in the Phoenix metropolitan area." 

There’s also a fascinating discussion of the internal disputes roiling the very prestigious and very influential Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect.  As that suggests, the story focuses on cases in Colorado – but it’s happening everywhere. 

● In California a bill would chip away at one of the most odious practices in family policing – tearing children from their mothers because those mothers are themselves victims of domestic violence.  The bill would make clear to “mandated reporters” that they are not required to report battered mothers to the family police.  (Yes, that should be obvious – but, in fact, it’s routine.)  

As the Orange County Register reports: 

With looming threats that they could lose their child, even temporarily, or be charged with child neglect, oftentimes domestic violence victims opt against reporting abuse, said Chris Negri, the associate director of public policy strategies at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. (The coalition has signed on to support the bill.)  And abusers can use that threat — the fear that their children will be taken away — to coerce victims from reporting abuse, he said. 

“The current system is really counterproductive. It punishes survivors, and it encases them in this Catch-22,” said Negri. “We’re saying you have to leave, you have to get out of this situation so your child doesn’t witness a domestic violence situation, but if you do, your child might be taken away from you.” 

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he said. 

The Imprint reports on legislation in New York that would add new curbs to another odious practice of family policing: making some parents Upstate pay what should be called ransom to the state when their children are in foster care.  (To its credit, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services has already put a stop to it.) 

● But ACS still does a whole lot of other awful stuff. And though they say they’re doing it in the name of “children’s rights” and “child protection” the lawyers who actually represent New York City children in these cases disagree.  They write about it in City Limits, citing both the groundbreaking report from the NYC Family Policy Project discussed here, and the groundbreaking lawsuit against ACS from the Family Justice Law Center 

They write: 

[T]he aggressive and coercive tactics ACS employs to investigate, and the volume of children and families that it investigates, have created an apparatus that harms more children than it protects.

● And in AMNY, Eve Stotland of the New York Community Trust explains why they’re supporting the Family Justice Law Center suit

● There's some good news in Massachusetts, where, NBC10 Boston reports, a federal judge is allowing a lawsuit by parents whose young children were dragged out of their home in the middle of the night based on a false allegation from a hospital. 

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

● Lawmakers in two states have responded to allegations of horrendous abuse in residential treatment centers with laws that sound good but do almost nothing. 

In Alaska, Mother Jones updates an expose of a residential treatment center where 

Despite the facility’s troubling track record of assaults, escapes, and improper use of seclusion, state officials have admitted what foster youth have long suspected: Foster children are warehoused at North Star when there’s nowhere else for them to go. 

So what do lawmakers propose to do about this? One bill would require a hearing within 72 hours of placement to determine if children really need to be there.  But, of course, everyone already knows they don’t need to be there, but there’s supposedly “nowhere else to go.”  But that’s because, for decades, Alaska has torn apart families, especially Native Alaskan families, at one of the highest rates in America – currently more than two-and-a-half times the national average! 

Another bill would require unannounced visits by state regulators – twice a year.  And each time they’d have to see at least half the children.  So, one visit per year per child?  And remember, because there’s supposedly “nowhere else to go,” officials have an enormous incentive to ignore any abuse they may see or anything an inmate – which is really the best term for those forced to live in these places – might tell them. 

● The response to Indianapolis Star revelations of abuses at RTCs in that state is, if anything, even more pathetic. Indiana takes away children at a rate that’s merely about 50% above the national average.  But fear not!  The same state authorities who investigated and ignored abuse of children under age 18 for all these years will now be authorized to investigate and ignore abuse of youth aged 18 to 21. 

Reading quotes from lawmakers bragging about this is offensive.  For those victimized, it must be like rubbing salt in their wounds.  And the Star, which did a good job exposing the problems, should know better than to pretend this means anything, just because some politicians praised their stories. 

● Remember all those revelations about horrors at a residential treatment center in Rhode Island? Remember how a gullible lawmaker was fooled by the scent of Pine-Sol?  Now, the Boston Globe reports, the state's Child Advocate was only partially fooled.  She still believes such places should exist - but at least she doesn't believe this one has cleaned up its act.  The Child Advocate said the institution's response 

minimizes the profound concerns raised and deflects attention away from those who this should truly be about, the children

● In New Jersey on the other hand, where New Brunswick Patch reports on a $25 million settlement for a victim of abuse in one foster home after another in the 1990s, they’ve done the one thing that makes it less likely that the same will happen today: They’ve significantly reduced the number of children they take away.  

● And in Augusta County, Va., WHSV-TV reports:

Jessica Duff, 44, of Raphine, pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse charges in Augusta Circuit Court and was sentenced to five years in prison. The victim of the abuse was Duff’s adopted daughter.