Wednesday, April 3, 2024

NCCPR news and commentary round-up, week ending April 2, 2024

WABE Public Radio in Atlanta and ProPublica have another story about children kept from their families for months, sometimes years, only because their parents can’t meet housing requirements vastly more stringent than anything necessary for health or safety.  

The story includes one small example of what passes for “thinking” in family policing: The closest thing to justification for this odious practice comes from a longtime juvenile court judge who says, well, if we send the children back too soon they might have to be placed again and that’s traumatic. 

As opposed to prolonging foster care and putting the children at greater risk of being moved from foster home to foster home – which, of course, is no problem at all.  

● Also in Georgia, Reason reports on the case of a family repeatedly harassed by police and child protective services because their seven-year-old stopped in at the local grocery store for a free cookie while walking about two blocks home from the YMCA, and also for a "flagrant act of unaccompanied bike riding."  The case illustrates the need for Georgia to join the other states that have passed "reasonable childhood independence" laws.

● Still in Georgia, WXIA-TV truly honors Child Abuse Awareness Month by reporting on families who say they were needlessly torn apart due to the actions of  “child abuse pediatricians.” 

● On this blog we have our annual reminder about why it really should be called Child Abuse Hype and Hysteria Month.  

● And the Associate Commissioner of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in charge of the Children's Bureau, Aysha Schomberg, reminds us that making sure families know their rights is, in fact, a crucial part of child abuse prevention. 

● The Georgia stories reflect how the journalism of child welfare is improving.  But some places are still promoting the big lie of American child welfare, and in the process encouraging foster-care panic.  I have some examples in this column for The Imprint. 

● There’s better news in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports that the largest hospital system in that state 

will no longer report suspected abuse or neglect to state child welfare officials solely because a baby is born exposed to drugs, targeting a practice hospital leaders say has long stoked fear in women in recovery from addiction. 

Sarah Wakeman, the system’s senior medical director for substance use disorder, explained what can happen without this change:

She recalled a patient roughly six years ago who had an opioid use disorder; because she feared being reported to DCF once she gave birth to her baby, she declined the medication offered to help her recovery. She later overdosed, Wakeman said, and “both she and the fetus died.” 

“I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than getting reported with the possibility of losing one of my babies,” said Wakeman, a mother of three. The current approach to reporting, she said, has had “a chilling effect on access to the most effective treatment we have for opioid use disorder.” 

● For journalists who want to do better, pediatrician and journalist ChrisAnna Mink writes about what she learned exploring the issue of children taken from survivors of domestic violence in this essay for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. 

● Think you know all about the harm the “troubled teen industry” does to kids?  There’s still plenty to shock the conscience.  You can hear some of it in this documentary from Reveal.