June 9, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Remember, you read it here first. I’ve discovered something on which President Trump and Hillary Clinton agree. No, really! I believe I’ve scooped all other media outlets on this one.
President Trump’s recently released budget includes massive increases in funding for what originated in the late 90s as a Hillary Clinton initiative, the Adoption and Safe Families Act. Read about that here (Chronicle of Social Change, 5/26/17).
President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes a slate of deep cuts and eliminations of programs aimed at serving youth and families, but includes a hefty increase in the amount spent on an entitlement for foster care and adoption assistance.
Title IV-E of the Social Security Act is an entitlement, which matches the cost of foster care services and adoption subsidies with state agencies. Trump’s budget proposal would boost spending to $5.5 billion for foster care and $2.9 billion for adoption.
The comparable levels in fiscal 2016 were $4.8 billion and $2.6 billion, meaning Trump has included $1 billion more for IV-E, a 13.5 percent increase.
Notice that the moniker attached to all this is “child welfare.” It’s anything but. As readers of this blog probably recall, the ASFA is that magical piece of legislation that pays hefty bonuses to states to take children into foster care and then adopt them out of foster care. In short, it’s a bounty system for the destruction of families.
Unquestionably, there are families that need to be broken up for the sake of the children’s health and well-being. But of course there were those families before the advent of the ASFA, child protective agencies knew about them and, to some extent, removed children who were in danger. But until the federal government started paying states to take kids from their parents, caseworkers could at least potentially make their decisions on the basis of their best estimate of the risk to the child.
Thanks to Clinton’s ASFA, federal largess was added as a factor in their decision-making. And guess what. Following the effective date of that law, CPS agencies started taking kids hand-over fist. Some years ago, I did a piece on the plight of indigenous American kids on whom the State of North Dakota had placed the label of “special needs” kids. That meant the state got even more money from Washington for taking them from their parents.
And sure enough, according to former state senator Bill Napoli,
"When that money came down the pike, it was huge," Napoli says. "That's when we saw a real influx of kids being taken out of families."
That’s what Clinton did and what Trump is so enthusiastic about, he’s sharply increasing spending to continue doing it.
But make no mistake, these aren’t just any families that are being broken up. No, they’re the most vulnerable ones. Here’s perhaps one of the most reliable authorities on foster care and adoption, Richard Wexler, writing in 2016 (Daily Kos, 2/16/16).
The law is called the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). But that’s one of those Orwellian titles Congress loves. It’s not about adoption and it’s not about safe families. Passed in 1997, one year after the welfare law, it had exactly the same target. ASFA was about demonizing impoverished women, especially women of color, and taking away their children.
That’s just par for the course. I’ve said it many times – the child-protection system falls most heavily on those who don’t know their rights or are too poor to fight back. Just look at what happens when CPS targets the wrong family as it did in Maryland to Alexander and Danielle Meitiv two years ago. The parents were highly educated and affluent and didn’t take their outrageous treatment by Montgomery County CPS lying down. The last we heard, they’d filed a civil rights lawsuit against the agency, one they are all but certain to win.
So naturally, those most impacted by the ASFA are the poor and of course indigenous Americans.
Here’s what ASFA did:
ASFA encouraged a take-the-child-and-run mentality on the frontlines of child welfare. Thousands more families, overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately families of color, were destroyed by wrongful removal of the children.
Instead of reducing the foster care population, ASFA increased it, trapping thousands more children in a system that, according to one major study, churns out walking wounded four times out of five.
It did that in part by resort to an absurdly flawed assumption – that there was an army of well-to-do but childless parents abroad in the land just waiting to adopt children. That of course was belied by the fact that only about 75,000 stranger adoptions are completed in this country in any given year, despite there being over 400,000 kids in foster care. Clinton, apparently working on the “if you build it they will come” theory, figured putting more kids in care would somehow result in more of them being adopted out of it. That of course made no sense and predictably didn’t work.
So even as child abuse continued to decline, the number of children in foster care on any given day kept increasing, peaking in 1999. It didn’t fall below the number when ASFA became law until 2003. The number of children taken away over the course of a year kept increasing until 2006. Now, after slow declines, both figures are increasing again.
Notwithstanding all the talk, and the bounties, adoptions increased marginally, while the number of “legal orphans” children who languish in foster care for years and then “age out” with no home at all, soared 40 percent.
In other words, we have the worst of both worlds – too many kids taken from their parents and too few of them adopted. That’s what Hillary Clinton started and Donald Trump is doubling down.
Bi-partisanship – ain’t it grand?
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