Tuesday, April 2, 2024

NCCPR in The Imprint: Foster Care Panic in Minnesota? Not So Fast; Legislators Don’t Seem Fooled by Recent Media Coverage

Former Illinois DCFS director Jess McDonald's "EKG chart"

More than 25 years ago, when he was running the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Jess McDonald created what he called his “EKG chart.”  Resembling an electrocardiogram, it tracks huge spikes in the number of children caseworkers were tearing from their families immediately after stories about deaths of children “known to the system” are on newspaper front pages. 

McDonald was charting one of the nation’s early foster-care panics. Sometimes these panics are set off by misleading news coverage, sometimes by politicians. 

Most of the time, those who set off foster-care panics, like most who work in the system itself, mean well but don’t know any better. Less often, reporters sacrifice nuance for prizes — what legendary journalist David Simon calls “Pulitzer-sniffing.” 

But as our understanding of what should be called family policing has matured, things are starting to change. … 

Read the full column in The Imprint