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Sunday, December 04, 2022

United States: Child welfare system hurts families

(New York, November 17, 2022) – Child welfare systems in the United States too often consider poverty as a basis for neglect charges and decisions to separate children from their parents, Human Rights Watch said. and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a report released today. The disproportionate impact of the system on Black and Indigenous families and those living in poverty, as well as the large numbers of children who are unfairly segregated, has made this a national crisis that requires immediate attention and action.

The 146-page report “‘If I Were Not Poor, I Was Not Unqualified’: The Family Separation Crisis in the US Child Welfare System” “Family Separation in the US Child Welfare System”, documents how conditions of poverty, such as rent As a family struggles to make payments or maintain housing, it is misinterpreted as neglect and interpreted as evidence of incompetence and lack of ability to be a parent.Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in participation in the child welfare system. Black children are nearly twice as likely to be investigated and more likely to be separated from their families than white children.

“The child welfare system punishes parents for poverty by taking their children,” said Hina Naved, Aryeh Nier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU and author of the report. “Parents need resources to support their families, but what they get is surveillance, regulation and punishment.”

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU analyzed national and state data on income and poverty levels, child abuse, and the foster care system and spoke to affected parents and caregivers, including lawyers, government officials, local advocates, state and national Interviewed 138 people. other.

One in three minors in the US will be part of the child welfare system investigation by the age of 18. Nearly eight million were referred to child abuse hotlines in 2019, resulting in three million of those being investigated. It was determined that no more than 80 percent had suffered abuse or neglect.

A woman told us that her son got injured when he slipped on water while dancing in the kitchen. “I took her to the emergency room when she hurt herself. The doctors asked me questions and I told them everything.” She was shocked to learn that she had been reported to child protective services for suspected abuse, setting off a cascade of interventions she says deeply harmed her children and damaged their relationship.

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found that nearly 75 percent of child abuse cases nationwide in 2019 involved “neglect,” according to the system’s definition.

A 52-year-old Oklahoma mother said the condition of her tiny mobile home was a factor in the child welfare investigation that cost her custody of her 8-year-old son. “They said that [una de las razones] It was that we didn’t have running water, but I had like 12 gallons in my caravan,” he said. we were looking for a place [más grande] to rent and we haven’t found any yet.”

Counties with higher poverty rates tend to have higher rates of misdemeanor investigations. But even countries with low poverty rates have higher testing rates for black households.

Black and Indigenous families are disproportionately affected. Black boys and girls represent only 13% of the US child population, but account for 24% of child abuse or neglect reports and 21% of children entering foster care. White boys and girls make up 50% of the US child population, and 46% of children reported being abused or neglected and entering foster care.

Indigenous children enter the foster system at almost twice the national rate. Indigenous parents are four times more likely to take their children from them than their non-Indigenous peers.

On November 9, 2022, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case bracken vs holland, which challenges the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which requires state courts to take proactive steps to keep Native families together. This case can have significant consequences for children, families and native communities. A decision is scheduled to be issued by June 2023.

Investigations are often very stressful, even traumatic, for children and their families, and involve unannounced home and school visits, as well as body checks.

The state’s broad and vague definitions of abuse and neglect allow social workers to make subjective decisions. If a caseworker or agency determines that abuse or neglect has occurred, the parent or other caregiver is listed on a central state registry, often for years. This negatively affects their employment and their ability to care for other children, including members of their own family.

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU have stated that separating a child from its parents even for a short period of time can be very traumatic, with long-term consequences. In some cases, children placed outside the home experience abuse, including sexual or physical abuse, leading to further trauma.

Parents who work to reunite with their children are allowed to meet, but often under the supervision of a caseworker, leading to awkward conversations that are cited as evidence of a lack of parental bonding. In can be used against parents.

One mom in California said, “When the visit is over I feel overwhelmed.

More than 250,000 minors entered the foster care system in 2019. Parents of approximately 61,000 minors had their parental rights taken away that year. Parents said their families were “torn” or “devastated” when they suspended their parental rights.

Poverty conditions, including unstable housing or the inability to take time off from work or pay for travel and other expenses, make it difficult for parents living in poverty to reunite with their children.

The number of children placed in foster care due to parental alcohol or drug use has more than doubled over the past two decades. The child welfare system indiscriminately punishes parental use of any substance, legally or medically indicated, without clear evidence of harm or risk to the child. In some cases, parents who have recovered said that prescribed medical treatment plans were used against them.

Parents have fewer procedural protections in child welfare cases than in the criminal justice system. “I want this to happen in criminal court,” said the California parent. “At least we’ll have a jury trial.”

Parents often lack information about their rights and limit their ability to assert their rights, respond to allegations, and appeal when they fight to keep their children. Many child welfare interventions take place without judicial oversight.

Federal, state and local officials must take immediate action to reduce the harmful effects of child welfare interventions and strengthen and support families and communities to prevent child abuse. The expansion of social security programs, such as child tax relief, can provide much-needed financial support to families that can help reduce and prevent abandonment, which is rooted in poverty as defined by states.

Officials should hold public hearings to hear affected families, ensure poverty-related circumstances are no longer criminalized, replace anonymous reporting with secure confidential reporting, reduce unnecessary interference, and provide due process protections for parents Extend, and give parents more meaningful supports to meet their needs without subjecting them to monitoring and regulation.

“The damage done to the child welfare system is so severe that the entire system needs to be reconsidered,” Naveed said. “Long-term change requires addressing the severe economic hardship that lies at the heart of many child welfare cases and the corrosive effects of systemic racism.”

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