Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Feedback on Dec 10 forum with Congressman Charles Rangel

As most of you know for the last few years my goal has been to reform an obviously broken system.

I try to attend as many events as possible to obtain this goal.

One of the events I attended in December was the- December 10, 2007 forum on over-representation of African American children in foster care with Congressman Charles Rangel.

First let me say, I think Congressman Charles Rangel gets it!

The impression he left on me was one of a family oriented man.

This morning I received this email-

Thank you very much for attending our December 10, 2007 forum on over-representation of African American children in foster care with Congressman Charles Rangel. We regret that we ran late, and did not have sufficient time for questions and comments. We would appreciate if you could give us some feedback by email at this time.

Based on what you heard and learned at this forum, if you could identify three national fiscal, regulatory, or legislative priorities for system change, what might they be? (For example, 1. More flexible federal child welfare funding formulas, 2. Increased spending on in-home services and supports to keep families together, 3. Subsidized Kinship Guardianship. These are offered as examples only.)If we can reach a broad consensus on these priorities, perhaps we could coordinate select action steps to address the racial disparities in foster care placement.

If you use the "Reply All" button to respond to this email then we can establish a kind of dialogue. CWOP will collect and correlate the responses, identify and summarize the most broadly shared priorities.

Thank you,

Michael Arsham, Executive Director
Child Welfare Organizing Project
East Harlem Neighborhood Center
80 East 110th Street, 1E
New York, NY 10029

Many of the replies to this were awesome [I was going to keep those off of this blog, however I've changed my mind and will include the suggestion just not the persons name that said it.] Except for my name- I gave me permission lol laugh!

I have hope for our children today I feel that there may be change coming sooner than we originaly anticipated.

My Reply..

Good Afternoon Michael Arsham and all,

Unfortunately one must follow the money to find and fix problems.

Right now the money from federal funding has been used to "adopt" children out of the system therefore causing "incentives" to tear families apart.

I feel the children in America will not be safe until.:

(1) 99.9 % of federal dollars are used to keep children in the home ie helping poor families buy the items [furniture/food/clothing] or pay the bills that will help them function on a level that the children will be comfortable and not deemed abused.

(2) When it is obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt - when the State is able to convict the family of abuse in a criminal court of law, then the children MUST be removed, however if federal funding was given to that child's extended family as fast as it is given to foster care agencies then those children would be placed with loving family where they belong.

Keeping children out of the "foster care system" as it is today is essential to the future of America!

Perhaps if every federal dollar was spent to make the extended family of today the foster care system of tomorrow children would leave the "new" foster care with values, a solid education, respect and self worth, not to mention a respect for their culture.

In addition, I also agree more needs to be done for Non Custodial Parents [mainly fathers] that have been taken out of these children's lives due to the way Title IV D and E now operate. There are many awesome men/women Non Custodial Parents out there that are never given a chance to love their children and visa versa because those children are worth more money to the state in the hands of a stranger or with a narcissistic/sociopath mother/father.

Thank you,

Louise Uccio
ROC [Regin 7] United Civil Rights Councils of America

In response to your question the systems that I would most like to see change in right now have been listed just as you have stated: 1. More flexible federal child welfare funding formulas, 2. Increased spending on in-home services and supports to keep families together, 3. Subsidized Kinship Guardianship.

In response to your question, I would like it see 1) Increased flexibility in how states may spend their Title IV-E funds to better provide for prevention services to keep families together, and rehabilitation services to reunify families after a child has been placed in foster care, 2) subsidized kinship guardianship, 3) some sort of initiative to promote the involvement of fathers in their children’s lives in the case of out-of-wedlock births (I think you could make a case that this falls under the “prevention” category).
Good morning, thank you for arranging this important forum. I enjoyed the comments of Congressman Rangel, the moderator and the esteemed panelists.

I would like to see the following:

1. Funding for subsidized kinship guardianship

2. Increased funding to hire more judges in the family court. (Currently in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens cases often continue until 8 or 9pm). I believe cases in Manhattan do not go past 7pm. This is problematic to clients, children and attorneys. Clients often are not paid when they miss work while waiting for their case to be heard and often have to arrange for someone to pick up their children from school.

3. Increased state funding to hire more law guardians (attorneys for children). The national standard (National Association of Counsel for Children) for attorneys representing children in foster care is 100. Please see information below. The current caseload for a law guardian practicing for over 1 year starts at 125 families or 200+ clients, depending on how long the attorney stays. There is a significant retention problem. Law guardians often have 8-9 cases per day, are in court until 7-8 pm and must interview clients after school in most instances. There is new state legislation which requires an assessment of case caps by OCA. We need to retain lawyers that are committed to keeping families together and advocating for services in the home. The time to focus on this issue is now, while the assessment is being done. Community organizing around this issue is critical.
NACC Recommendations for Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases was produced as part of the NACC's objective to establish the practice of law for children as a legitamate profession and legal specialty. As part of that objective, the NACC periodically produces standards of practice or guidelines for the representation of children.

The document was drafted by the NACC Program Committee and the prinipal authors listed below.
The document was adopted by a unanimous vote of the NACC Board of Directors on April 28, 2001.

Children need attorneys with adequate time and resources. The system of representation must include reasonable caseload limits and at the same time provide adequate compensation for attorneys representing children.

Comment A: The NACC recommends that a full time attorney represent no more than 100 individual clients at a time, assuming a caseload that includes clients at various stages of cases, and recognizing that some clients may be part of the same sibling group. This is the same cap recommended by the U.S. Dept. of HHS Children's Bureau and the American Bar Association
[1]. One hundred cases averages to 20 hours per case in a 2000-hour year.

4. Increased funding for attorneys that represent parents in abuse and neglect proceedings.

5. Increased funding for more comprehensive counseling and continued services for foster children aging out of care. Services should continue up to 1year once a foster child ages out of care for “after care” services with contracted agencies. The first year a young adult ages out of care is very stressful. There is funding available to continue payment for higher education if started before the young adult ages out. There are regulations which can assist young people aging out of care.

6. Increased state funding to hire more ACS attorneys (they have caseloads of over 100 families) and ACS and agency caseworkers with more education (MSW’s) and life experience.

7. Increased funding for continued training for ACS and agency caseworkers. Training on cultural competency, domestic violence, substance use and mental illness should be ongoing.

9. More funding for preventive services.
10. Training at the Department of Education re: education issues facing children in foster care. (Special education services and placements can take a very long time to obtain; transfers, etc.)

I look forward to brainstorming about the ideas that are shared.
I agree with the three areas mentioned from a post placement perspective. However, greater consideration must be given to the decision making process... that is, pre-placement. Further exploration must be given to creating greater screening and assessment tools, strengthening internal cwa infrastructure and capacity for decision making processes and eliminating bias, cross agency collaborative and capacity building and communications (ie., HHS, DOJ, DOL, HUD, etc) that support strengthening families.

Post placement funding s/b directed towards Increased in-home family centered supportive services as well as subsidized kinship guardianship in addition to ongoing internal infrastructure and cross agency development.

Hello, i totally agree with Ms. XXXX when she writes the "most effective way to alter the disproportionate representation of minority children in our placement system is prevent their entering the system." i am a former youth and caseworker of the New York City child welfare system and over the years i have become more of a proponent of preventative services (even though resource parenting is in record need!).
I agree that the most important thing is to avoid children entering the system. Taking away a child from the people he loves and trusts the most is a inhuman and cruel act that is thousands of times more damaging than any abuse real or alleged. Taking way a child from their parents is 100% Child Torture. It is an experience similar to a death experience of a very loved one and scars psychologically the child and the family.

The second thing that we must do is to stop the forced and illegal Adoption Industry. Family Court is an Institutionalized System of Injustice set in place with the only purpose to give an aura of legality to the Racketeering Enterprise of Family Destruction. For more than 5 years ACS has promised the statistics of the outcomes of the 1028 Hearings. We are still waiting. But a generous estimate is that parents win about 2 case out of every thousand. So to be found abusive or neglectful by a NYC Family Court Judge has nothing to do with reality. All it means is that you are not rich and on top of that you are probably Black or Latino.Third, we need to get organized and obtain political power. Until that happens, the protections that the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights give us, do not apply to us. The powers that be (Judges, ACS, Law Guardians, Foster Care agencies) just ignore them and they get away with it.The Roles in the scripted tragedy:The role of the Family Court Judges is to rubber stamp any innuendo against the parents and take it as fact. They preside the Institutionalized Family Destruction Industry. They even call themselves Honorable.The role of the Court Appoint Attorneys is to be Gatekeepers and make sure that Parents are not able to defend themselves properly. They make sure that there is nothing on the court record in favor of the parents so they can not make a successful appeal.The role of the Law Guardians is to make sure that children stay as long as possible in Foster Care and that eventually their parents rights are terminated and the children sold as slaves in the adoption market. When the children are originally kidnapped from their parents and the children want to be returned to their parents, they ignore them. But if months or years later the child says that he wants to stay with the Foster Parents, they take this as an excuse to stop visits and even go for termination of parental rights. They chose to ignore the Stockholm Syndrome where the hostage (the child) eventually gets attached to the hostage taker. So convenient.The role of ACS is to kidnap as many children as possible under any imaginable excuse in order to justify their jobs and existence. Of course being a predatory industry, as any predator they prefer those who have the least political power are thus the easiest targets. In the case of NYC, poor people, preferably Blacks and Latinos.One does not have to be a genius to see that all the partners in this scheme have a bested interest in perpetuating and even expanding these Industries even if they both Social Cancer and Social Cancer producers: prison, homelessness, mental illness, etc.

Five Needed Changes:
1. Close down the CPS Division of ACS and use those resources for Voluntary Preventive Services. They are the Greatest Child Abusers and Orphaners: for every child they help, they destroy 1,000. They create Orphans of children who have loving parents. They are also the Greatest Educational Neglecters: almost every child kidnapped by them fails in school thanks to the trauma of being ripped off from their best protector, their parents.
2. Stop the Forced and Illegal Adoption of Foster Care children: 20, 000 plus in the last 5 years. They have parents who desperately want them back. Parents only win about 2 cases out of every 1,000 in Family Court.
3. Bring Jury Trial and Due Process to Family Court by making law Assembly Bill 1266 introduced by Dinowitz from the Bronx to incorporate Family Court into the Supreme Court. At present Family Court is an Institutionalized System of Injustice set in place to give an aura of legality to this Social Control and Population Control scheme.
4. Abolish the Law Guardians. They are the most biased, racist, anti-child and anti-family component of the Child Welfare System: The only thing they "Guard" is the business interest of this Racketeering Criminal Enterprise.
5. Create the Office of Parent Representation. Most 18B attorneys are just Gatekeepers to assure Parents lose.
Please allow me to weigh in with a cautionary note. I have heard and learned from many experts over the past decade including Dr. Hill, Sania Metzger, Brother Khatib Waheed, Dr. Ruth McRoy and others. I am convinced that we will not make the necessary changes to the system from the practice, agency or public policy areas if we believe that this is an "either or" proposition. This is an "and" proposition, where we will have to change policy AND practice AND laws and ... If we keep that in mind then we have a better chance at getting to the outcomes that we seek. If we keep our ultimate client.customer, the children and families in mind, we can get to the outcomes that we seek. I have heard it described as the "genius of the AND, and the tyranny of the "BUT". Food for thought. Thanks and have a blessed holiday season.
All your stats on poverty are true and yes the AA child is more highly represented in single parent households and these are factors that have been found to be indicators of risk, however the event does not or rather should not define the resulting response to the event. We can/or at least ought to be able to see some value in improving our family preservation strategies, decreasing our systemic neglect and supporting stability of our families without removing our children from their homes. I believe if you would compare the children of the AA families with the children from the majority families who have the same risk indicators who are referred to our system you would find that the assessment of whether to place or implement some family preservation/support strategies are disproportionate and there in lies much of the problem. Disproportionate, basically I believe, not due to any nefarious intent but just from lack of understanding or being able to truly discern the strength and resilient elements that exist in these AA families.
I agree completely that a social worker’s response should not be predicated on, or influenced by, the income or any other characteristics of the family she is investigating, and I strongly suspect that if you were to do a study, you would find that social workers let a lot of affluent, married couples slide for instances of documented abuse they would not let poor, single parents get away with. In fact, I’m sure of it. This is a gross double standard and absolutely should be addressed.

I also agree that family preservation families are woefully underutilized. Title IV-E waiver demonstrations have shown that permitting states to allocate IV-E foster care maintenance funds toward prevention and rehabilitation services safely reduce the number of children entering foster care and speed up the reunification of families. I think more flexibility for prevention services and rehabilitation services, as well as subsidized guardianship, are the best things we could do at this time, legislatively speaking, for African-American children.

My argument was not with any of this. My argument was with the suggestion that we should put some kind of quota system in place whereby states and cities are not permitted to have a higher percentage of African-American children in foster care than in the general population. Such a system presupposes that African-American children and non-African American children are being abused or neglected at the same rate, which simply isn’t the case. NIS findings have shown that when social factors are taken into account, race is not a predictor of a child’s risk for abuse and neglect. But because various social factors affect African-American families to a greater degree, African-American children *are* being abused and neglected at higher rates than children in other ethnic groups. Setting a quota system would do a grave disservice to the hundreds or thousands of African-American children who would be left in dangerous, abusive environments because they are the wrong race to enter foster care.
MR. XXX wrote: Until factors such as poverty and single parenthood are addressed, you will not see an equitable representation of African-American children in foster care absent quota systems like the one proposed above that would be absolutely disastrous for children. . . . As child welfare advocates, we must put the well-being of children above community pride.

Allow me to challenge the underlying assumption of Mr. XXX's statement: that foster care promotes the well-being of children. Every study that has been made of foster children has found that they do much worse as both children and as adults than children who remain with their parents, even when those parents have been abusive or neglectful. Foster and former foster children are vastly overrepresented in our jails. Removal and detention in foster care are traumatic and harmful for all children, no matter had bad their home life. Plus the rate of abuse and maltreatment in foster care is higher than that of the general population, meaning children would be better off if we picked foster parents at random off the street than use our current selection and screening methods. Our office has represented far too many children who have suffered sexual abuse, permanent brain damage, and even death, in foster homes. Preventive services would enable most children to stay home.

Foster care is about protection: protecting jobs for agency workers and stipends for foster parents, protecting payments for agencies and federal reimbursement for states, protecting elected officials, government bureaucrats, caseworkers, judges, and law guardians from criticism. And way down on the bottom, after everyone else is taken care of, it sometimes protects a few children. But not as many as it hurts.
I would like to echo XXX on the idea of thinking in the "and". There are no "all or nothing" attitudes that will solve these problems. Having been a foster child myself, I know there are many children who would do well remaining at home as well as a large number of children who have saved by being removed from situations that were unsafe. We are talking about a system that took generations to develop. There is no one easy answer.

I elect to focus more on preventive services that keep children home and safe. Services that include the community of which the family exist.

Remember that fathers could help whereby a system disregarded them. Let's remember that welfare (public assistance) gave a family more benefits if a man was not in the house. Is it any wonder that welfare families are more likely to be single female headed households.

Review Kinship Guardianship as it exists in other states. Include both sides of a child's family.

First let me say that I enjoyed the forum very much. Perhaps it should be done on a quarterly basis. By doing so if any quota system where to be put in place concerning African American children in the foster care system it can be tracked. It could be tracked by way of state by state trends. In one state African American children as well as other children might come in to care at a higher rate due to drug use while in another state it may be due to domestic violence. These and various other factors may or may not be interrelated. However it should be tracked and data collected. By tracking this data we may be able to predict trends prior to them occurring thus putting preventive measures in place, thus preventing unnecessary placements. For instance Crystal Meth is a big problem in the Mid West thus causing families to have involvement with the child welfare system. Is data present to suggest that it may become a big problem in the North East? Income and is also a factor in children being placed.

For example a parent who is poor brings his/her child into the emergency room with a suspicious injury. That individual more than likely will have a case called in against them. However a wealthy parent brings his/her child to their private doctor with the same injury, that case is less likely to be called in. Why this occurs should be seriously looked into.

I also agree that single father’s should be given more consideration even prior to P.G.M.’S / M.G.M.S. If they are able to take care of the child let them do so.
I do not believe that the problem of rampant racism in the child welfare system can be solved by giving the system more money, even for preventive services. The system will simply use the new money in the same racist manner as it uses the current money. Here are the numbers:
In New York City, in 2000, African Americans made up 24.5 percent of the population; whites made up 35% of the population, and Hispanics are 27% of the population.

However, African-Americans are vastly overrepresented in foster care, while whites are vastly overrepresented in receiving the much more desirable preventive services, which keep children out of foster care.

Foster care in New York City in 2007:

9,695 African American In ACS care and custody (56% of foster care population)

4,879 Hispanic (28%)

671 White (4%)

1,969 Other/Unknown (11%)

17,214 total children


Preventive services in New York City in 2006:

16,484 White (including Hispanic) (46.1%)

15,976 African-American (44.7%)

27 Native American/Alaska Native (0.1%)

488 Asian (1.4%)

2,785 Unknown (7.8%)


To receive racial parity in foster care without increasing the number of white children in care, the City would have to reduce the total foster care population to 1,917 children, of whom 671 (or 35%) would be white. The City would have to discharge 15,297 children from care (about 89 percent of the TOTAL foster care population), all of them minority, in order to achieve racial parity.

I would favor laws requiring parity -- specifically, that the foster care population cannot have a higher percentage of African-American Children than the population in the City as a whole, and that preventive services cannot have a higher percentage of white families than the population as a whole. I am not optimistic about the chances of persuading either Congress or the New York legislature to pass such a law.
First, let me say I often miss working in NYC. I always appreciate being in the company of good advocates.

I tend to agree with XXX in that addressing and resolving this issue will require fundamental changes in how we do business and challenging much of what we have come to take for granted as we go about the day-to-day business of child welfare. I would also support, among other things, more intensive preventive programs and practices, stand-by custody and guardianship agreements for a range of circumstances, family involvement in every decision-making point of an investigation and foster care case, and subsidized guardianship.

Another thing to consider is institutionalizing ICWA-like standards for African-American children.

“I would favor laws requiring parity -- specifically, that the foster care population cannot have a higher percentage of African-American Children than the population in the City as a whole, and that preventive services cannot have a higher percentage of white families than the population as a whole. I am not optimistic about the chances of persuading either Congress or the New York legislature to pass such a law.”

If you favor laws requiring parity, then you are not looking out for the best interest of children. There are a number of reasons why African-American children are overrepresented in foster care. In addition to differential response on the part of social workers, the African-American community has higher poverty rates and much higher rates of single-mother households than the white, Hispanic and Asian communities. If you completely eliminated the differential responses on the part of social workers, you would still have higher percentages of African-American children in foster care because these two factors correlate with maltreatment of children. Laws requiring parity would mean hundreds, if not thousands, of children remaining in abusive and/or neglectful homes—simply because they are the wrong race to enter the child welfare system!

As mentioned in the GAO report, the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS) found that children of all races are equally likely to suffer from abuse and neglect… when other factors have been controlled for. However, it is wrong to interpret this statement to say that African-American children are suffering abuse and neglect at the same rates as children of other ethnicities. They are not; they are suffering from abuse and neglect at higher rates because they are disproportionately affected by factors such as poverty and single parenthood. Consider the following findings from NIS.

“Compared with their counterparts living with both parents, children in single-parent families had a 120-percent (or more than two times) greater risk of being endangered by some type of child abuse or neglect. In 2005, 65% of African-American children under 18 lived in a single parent household, versus 36% of Latinos, 23% of whites, and 17% of Asians.” Thus, any given African American child in 2005 had a 50.4 percent greater risk [(65% - 23%)*1.2] of being endangered by some type of child abuse or neglect relative to any given White child simply because of the different percentages of single-parent households between the groups.

“Compared to children whose families earned $30,000 per year or more, those in families with annual incomes below $15,000 per year were more than 22 times more likely to experience some form of maltreatment under the Harm Standard and over 25 times more likely to suffer maltreatment of some type using the Endangerment Standard. The NIS-3 executive summary states flat out that this difference cannot be plausibly explained on the basis of the higher visibility of lower-income families to community professionals.”

Eliminating racism among social workers and subsidizing guardianship are noble goals, both of which I support. But the truth is that African-American children are being abused and neglected at higher rates than children of other ethnicities because of social factors, as spelled out above. Until factors such as poverty and single parenthood are addressed, you will not see an equitable representation of African-American children in foster care absent quota systems like the one proposed above that would be absolutely disastrous for children.

I was very, very disappointed that these important factors were ignored at the conference and I am very, very disappointed that they are being ignored now. As child welfare advocates, we must put the well-being of children above community pride.


This is my opinion again, but after reading all of these replies I have hope for our foster care.

Dont get me wrong I wasn't born yesterday, I said I had hope!

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