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Occupy Child Protective Services
May 2, 2012 permalink
A Mayday protest by Occupy Oakland targeted child protective services. Several speakers compared services offered by child protective agencies, such as foster homes, to state prisons
May Day protesters call for reforms of child protective services
OAKLAND -- An Occupy Oakland offshoot group on Tuesday -- a day of May Day actions nationwide -- protested the Alameda County agency entrusted with protecting children and investigating reports of child abuse, prompting some of its employees to stay away for the day.
At a morning rally at the county Social Services Agency at 4th and Broadway streets, several speakers criticized the Department of Children and Family Services -- and their counterpart agencies throughout the nation -- for failing to help children and hurting minority families in disproportionate numbers.
The "Anti-Patriarchy" rally featured several speakers who compared services offered by child protective agencies, such as foster homes, to state prisons, saying their failures symbolized a corrupt system that must be reformed.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in Oakland and various cities around the world, the system is doing its best to destroy the village," said protester Bella Eiko.
Siaosi Namomo, 19, of Oakland, said he was under the care of child protective agencies from infancy until the time he was "aged out" of the system at 18, spending his entire childhood being shuttled among an endless number of foster homes around the state.
"When you become an adult, it's 'You're 18, now get out,' " Namomo said. "I was kicked out of my group home two days before high school graduation and ended up sleeping at the school football field."
Sylvia Soublet, media relations officer for the Department of Children and Family Services, countered several of the speakers' comments, saying that race or ethnicity never plays a role in the agency's mission to help children and families in crisis.
"One of the misconceptions about us is that we actually go out looking for people abusing children," Soublet said. "In fact, we receive reports of abuse and neglect; we have a hotline for that. There is no way we can identify if that caller is a minority, and it is not an issue that is relevant to us."
Soublet added that removing a child from a family's home is always a last-resort option.
"Even then, we're looking at how we can return this child as safely and quickly as possible," she said. "Most times we're looking for relatives, because we know children will do better with people they're familiar with."
Soublet pointed to the agency's successes, saying that it has reduced the number of county children in out-of-home care from 2,700 to about 1,450 in the past half-decade or so.
"There are a lot of families who just need support -- support with their parenting or in choosing healthy lifestyles," she said. "We try to provide families with support and resources."
The morning protest, sponsored by Occupy Oakland Patriarchy, a group of self-described "feminist and queer radicals," was one of several morning actions held in downtown Oakland on Tuesday.
The crowd of more than 100 people then marched to the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse at 12th and Oak streets, where marchers blocked traffic for a few minutes.
The Occupiers were targeting Alameda County Family Law Court, which works with Children and Family Services and other agencies involving troubled families.
Harry Baker, executive board member for SEIU Local 1021, which has supported the Occupy movement, agreed with calls for reform at agencies such as Children and Family Services, along with the nation's banks and financial institutions.
He reminded the audience that child protective services employees are dealing with layoffs and longer hours with less pay, like so many other struggling workers.
"This is an opportunity," Baker said. "If both sides are willing to talk, then the system can be improved."
Source: San Jose Mercury News