Reforming child removal

We can start by opening up court hearings

The author is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (, in Alexandria, Va.

Thank you for telling the side of the child-welfare story we almost never hear and that too many reporters won’t report, because it’s so much harder than simply bashing all birth parents.

Our organization has compared the propensity of California counties to take children from their families. Of all counties large enough to measure, Butte is second worst, tearing apart families at a rate 70 percent above the state and national averages, and a rate far higher than other California counties that do a better job of keeping children safe. Details are on our website here:

That counties taking fewer children often keep children safer should come as no surprise. In addition to the enormous harm done to children when they are needlessly torn from everyone they know and love, all the time, money and effort wasted destroying these families is, in effect, stolen from finding those relatively few children in real danger who really do need to be taken from their homes.

And you’re right about those adoption bounties—except that, in some cases, states now can pull in $12,000 for every foster child adopted over a baseline number.

We suggest a number of solutions on our website, but for starters how about opening up court hearings to press and public in these cases, as more than a dozen other states have done? (No state has closed them again because none of the fears of opponents came to pass). A proposal to do that in California died a few years ago, in part because of strong opposition from the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

And this is an issue that crosses ideological lines. As you mention, the Pacific Justice Institute is conservative. My organization is best described as “the family-values Left”—we’re even funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. But we’re pleased to be working with Pacific Justice and a wide range of other groups on a case soon to come before the Supreme Court on interrogating children in child-abuse investigations.

Unfortunately, too many of my fellow liberals forget everything they’re supposed to believe about civil liberties as soon as someone whispers the words “child abuse” in their ears. And too many “family values” conservatives, like Newt Gingrich, think it’s a great idea to throw poor people’s children into orphanages.