May 6, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
There’s an old saying among attorneys that “bad facts make bad law.” The same is true of journalism. All too often, the press seizes on the latest scandal to demand dramatic changes in public policy without stopping to consider whether one bad case means the whole system must be scrapped.
Such is the case here (Lexington Herald Leader, 5/4/18). The article is about changes made recently to Kentucky law regarding foster care. Amazingly, the piece begins, not with a headline, but with what looks like a meme from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, i.e. the state’s child welfare agency. The meme says “There are 9034 Kentucky children in state care, up from 7,917 a year ago. They were removed from their homes for their own protection.”
Oh, really? I suppose Kentucky must be that rarest of all states in which the child protection authority never removes a child who isn’t in danger. That’s remarkable because everywhere else, we read day after day about overreach by CPS caseworkers. Indeed, my last two posts were about Idaho CPS that had taken perfectly sound children from their perfectly fit and loving father for no reason at all. The state kept them in foster care for four years and lied, obstructed justice, committed perjury and forced the father to submit to multiple evaluations despite there having never been any finding of abuse or neglect on his part. I’ve written countless pieces about other similar cases over the years.
So Kentucky’s claim that every kid in foster care is there for his/her “own protection” is predictably untrue. They’re in foster care for many different reasons, some legitimate, some not.
Having presented as fact that which is not fact before the article even begins, it comes as no surprise that the writer, John Cheves is utterly incurious about the true nature of the child protective/foster care system. He begins his piece with a foster mother in anguish about two kids going back to their parents. His sole reference to those parents comes here:
The girls had spent nearly all of their short lives in the Mullins' Lee County home while their biological parents tried to convince caseworkers that they were learning responsible behavior. Mullins was the only mother they knew.
Notice that, according to Cheves, the parents hadn’t successfully completed what the agency demanded of them, which they plainly had, or completed parenting classes, or pulled up off of drugs. No, according to Cheves, all they were doing was pulling a fast one on caseworkers. Did he pick up the telephone and ask the parents for their side of the story? He did not. He’s content to let readers draw the conclusions he wants them to draw instead of figuring out whether his preferred narrative is accurate or not. Needless to say, balanced reporting doesn’t follow.
[R]eunification with family is twice as likely to be the identified goal of child-welfare cases in Kentucky as adoption.
Cheves considers this to be a nefarious situation, but wouldn’t dream of asking why family reunification is preferred to adoption. Had he asked some simple, basic questions, he’d know, but he didn’t. For one thing, it’s a matter of federal policy that reunification be the first option. Why is that? For one thing, parents have rights, a fact Cheves seems not to know. State child protection agencies can’t simply terminate parents’ rights without due process of law. Plus, on average, children do better in parental care than in any other caring arrangement and foster care is the worst arrangement of all.
Finally, adoption’s not the best alternative because there are far, far too few qualified adoptive parents for far, far too many children who need to be adopted. There are about 75,000 stranger adoptions completed in the U.S. every year, but over 400,000 kids who have no parents and need to be adopted. And the two children in Cheves’ article aren’t among them. In other words, if their parents can do a good enough job caring for them, we want to give them every opportunity to do so.
But that’s exactly the opposite of what the real subject of Cheves’ article will accomplish. He refers to House Bill 1 that passed the Kentucky Legislature this year and was signed into law. Among other things, it will establish,
Stricter deadlines for biological parents to turn around their troubled lives or — failing that — for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to ask a judge to sever parental rights so it can permanently place children with adoptive families.
Termination of parental rights could begin after a child has been in state care for any 15 of the last 48 months. The cabinet would review the case and make a recommendation to a judge about the child's future within six months. The court would get updates every three months after that until the child is permanently placed.
Cheves is enthusiastic, but he shouldn’t be. He’s drunk the CPS Kool-Aid that has him believing that every delay in the case of a child in foster care is the fault of the parents failing to get their act together. But of course that’s simply false. See my previous two posts about Doug Bressie, the Idaho man who fought the foster care system and its malicious caseworkers for four years. None of the delays were his fault; all were the fault of the state.
And of course House Bill 1 in Kentucky sends a clear signal to the child protection system that, the longer they delay a case, the more likely it is that they can wrest custody from the parents, place the child for adoption and reap the federal largess that comes to every state that does so. Cheves is oblivious of those basic facts.
Later in the article, Cheves admits that the Kentucky system has been plagued with a 24% annual turnover rate of caseworkers, that they’re underpaid and overworked, i.e. the same scenario that plays out in state after state after state. But of course it never occurs to Cheves that, with the passage of HB 1, the very delays in cases occasioned by too few caseworkers might result in fit parents having their rights terminated. It’s plain as day to everyone but the guy writing the article.
As I said, bad facts make for bad journalism.
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