By Saeed Shabazz ~
One of the most horrendous stories to make the headlines across the nation in 2011 concerned a New Jersey father, and the murder of his two-year-old baby girl. The police said the baby was strapped to her car seat and dropped in a New Jersey river on Nov. 23. The newspapers said the baby was with her father for their court approved visits.
Chicago, Ill., Nov. 24, 2011, a four-year-old dies, the child’s mother and her boyfriend are charged with murder. The mother of a 13-month-old baby is charged with murder in St. Louis, Mo. on Nov. 16, 2011. Because of headlines such as these there is concern in some child advocacy circles that these headlines are being used as a basis to remove more children from American homes, and disproportionately from Black families.
In early Oct. 2011, the British Broadcasting News Corp. released a print and radio documentary entitled “America’s child death shame”. The BBC piece aired on the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, proclaiming an “epidemic” of child abuse deaths in America. “Over the past 10 years, more than 20,000 American children have been killed in their own homes by family members,” stated the BBC.
A group known as the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, in a press release congratulated the BBC “on airing a story on a topic that has yet to get much attention in the U.S. media”.
Richard Wexler, executive director of the Va.-based National Coalition for Child Prevention Reform cried foul immediately; and put together an eight-page complaint to the BBC’s editorial complaint unit, decrying what he called “blatantly false statements”.
When contacted Mr. Wexler said he would be the first to admit that child abuse, neglect and maltreatment that lead to a child’s death is a very serious problem in America, but there was no epidemic. He argues that those who say there is an “epidemic” of child abuse deaths in America use the sensational headlines to further their agenda that has nothing to do with protecting children.
In his letter of complaint to the BBC, Mr. Wexler notes a study from the federal government’s Dept. of Health and Human Services released in Jan. 2010, saying child abuse in America was down. “And while that is great news for children, it’s terrible news for the foster care industrial complex, the agencies that need a steady supply of foster children to stay in business.”
He added that this new industrial complex was “spreading hype and fomenting hysteria” to gain control of “billions” of federal dollars to hire more child abuse investigators, not to help families in distress. The bottom line for the foster care industrial complex is more family interventions: Take the child and run, Mr. Wexler argues.
The Independent Budget Office noted in 2010 that the average cost of keeping a child in foster care was $49,000 a year; compared to just $10,000 a year to keep the child in the home, while helping the family work through their issues.
Helping families is too easy, particularly Black and Latino families, according to Sharonne Salaam, founder of the Harlem-based child advocate organization People United for Children. “It is unfortunate that the only people society sees having problems are Black families,” she said. Ms. Salaam said Black children are the ‘cash cow’ for the foster care/child protective agencies; and while she doesn’t disagree with using the word “epidemic” – her concern is that people are looking under the wrong rock for the culprits in child abuse deaths.
“Our children who go into foster care are killed at a higher rate there, than would have happened in their own homes,” states Ms. Salaam.
The Associated Press reported in July 2011 that the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), in their latest annual report for fiscal year 2009, estimated that 1,770 children had died from abuse or neglect while in the custody of child welfare agencies.
The Government Accountability Office in their latest report to the House of Representatives’ Human Resource subcommittee stated that three states reporting to NCANDS undercounted maltreatment deaths by 55 to 75 percent.
Ms. Salaam says that discrimination runs deep in the protective service industry – not only in how the system is constructed – also in the mechanisms used for reporting of data – discrimination makes sure the playing field will never be level.
A Rutgers Univ. School of Law report entitled “Color of Violence: Feminism, Race & Adoption Policy” states that Black children make up 35 percent of the children awaiting adoption in the nation’s public welfare agencies, while constituting only one-fifth of the total population.
The report said that in Chicago, almost all of the children in the foster care system are Black. And Black children in New York are 10 times as likely to be in state protective services.
The Dayton Law School noted: “racially discriminatory distribution of social services [by states and cities] also contributes to the disproportionate number of Black children in foster care.”
In 2010, a national study sponsored by the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital researchers found after studying 39 pediatric hospitals that “Black children are more likely to be evaluated for abuse than White children with comparable injuries.”
In 2002, PR Newswire issued a press release from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia stating that a study by their researchers uncovered that “minority children were more likely to be evaluated for physical abuse; while abuse in White children may be overlooked”. Black and Latino children in the study area were found to be three times more likely to be reported to child protective services.
Ms. Salaam wants a serious discussion to begin in the Black community on how to stop Black and Latino children from being taken out of the homes for reasons such as the child being out of school for too many days; or for being sent to bed without dinner. “It is the way the laws are written, that is what needs discussing; and of course the discrimination issue,” Ms. Salaam said.
Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based child psychologist says America is a “capitalist driven society” and the federally funded child protective agencies feed a lot of people.
Dr. Abdullah-Johnson, founder of the African American Psychological and Educational Services for Children (www.drumarabdullahjohnson.com) said, “We must stop asking the same people who we are fighting to help us, that won’t work.”
We must disconnect the economical umbilical cord from the federal government and White philanthropy, Dr. Abdullah-Johnson said.
“We have enough disposable income in the Black community to build at least one school per neighborhood; and then we need to develop and control our own social programs,” Dr. Abdullah-Johnson said.
As posted on TheBlackList Pub