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Every Child Matters
October 29, 2009 permalink
In an effort to draw attention to the problem of child deaths, a group called Every Child Matters (ECM) has produced a document We Can Do Better (our local copy pdf) highlighting 51 cases of child death from abuse and neglect. The cover pictures 48 of the children.
In the US, even with the family destruction apparatus, a majority of children still live with two parents. Around one per cent live in foster or adoptive homes, the rest with a single parent or a parent and a new partner. If all these arrangements were equally safe ECM could be expected to find zero or one case of a death in foster/adoptive care, over 25 cases in two parent care, and the rest with single or re-partnered parents. That is nothing like what they really found.
Fixcas summarizes the cases in a table. There are 51 cases, one for each state and the District of Columbia, one case (Louisiana) is of twins. Five of them are not abuse deaths at all, but shaken baby allegations. The social services system contributed to the deaths of fifteen of the children: twelve were wards of child protectors or adopters, in two cases (Nevada and Michigan) parents failed to get medical help out of fear of CPS and in one case (Massachusetts) the parents followed orders to give their child a lethal dose of a drug. Three of the dead children were cared for by one parent only and 26 were cared for by a parent and a new partner. Only five of the children lived with their mother and father.
ECM advocates reducing the death rate by increased funding for programs to intervene in families. Their own cases show that foster care is incomparably more dangerous than parental care. The best way to reduce child deaths is to preserve the bonds between natural parents and their children, and to cut foster care to a minimum, the exact opposite of what ECM is advocating. In the corrected words of the report: children at grave risk of being killed require the protection of their government mother and father.
ECM quotes government statistics, but regrettably many official statistics are fantasies.
Here is one issue on which ECM gets it (almost) right:
Restrictive Confidentiality Laws Shield the Press, Elected Officials and the Public from Shortcomings in the Child Protection System.
Originally intended to protect living child victims from publicity, confidentiality laws have become a hindrance to a better public understanding of child abuse and neglect fatalities. Sometimes used to shield the public from the details of a child’s death, confidentiality laws also interfere with journalists gathering and reporting facts about the incident. Even lawmakers are sometimes denied access to information surrounding an individual case, information that is critical to strengthening the child protection system. The withholding of such information benefits no one.
In spite of the observation, ECM does not go on to advocate for abolition of secrecy in child death cases.
Addendum: Without analysis, here is a local copy of the 2010 edition (pdf).