Child-welfare agencies’ rush to go woke is terrible for the kids

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How do we prevent child abuse? First, we have to stop racism. That message has lately invaded the child-welfare system. The triumph of today’s fashionable ideological nonsense in this particular field carries exceptionally high costs — and abused kids will pay them.

Witness a recent educational offering from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, whose members can now earn a certificate in “Systemic Racism in Child Welfare.”

Classes are offered as part of “APSAC’s commitment to work ­toward ending racism and implicit bias in the field of child maltreatment.” A class on “Hip Hop as Prevention and Intervention for Youth” includes readings such as “Hip-Hop-Based Intervention as Pedagogy/Therapy” and “Rap-Music Attitude and Perception Scale: A Validation Study.”

Neither the society nor the ­instructor replied to my queries asking how exactly hip-hop will prevent child abuse.

Academics and leaders in child welfare are single-mindedly focused on racial disparities in the system. They note that black kids are more likely to be removed from their homes than white ones. Never mind that black children are more than twice as likely to be the victims of maltreatment as white children.

These scholars and activists ­argue that we have to make the numbers come out even. But child abuse is highly correlated with family structure: Children living with a nonrelative male are 10 times more likely to be abused than those living with two married parents. And family structure varies significantly by race. So the disparities are hardly surprising.

Yet in New Orleans, a judge has been almost solely responsible for the number of kids in foster care being reduced by 75 percent between 2010 and 2018, all because she doesn’t like how many black kids are being removed. Rhenda Hodnett, Louisiana’s assistant secretary of child welfare, told me: “Race is absolutely something that impacts [the judge’s] decision-making. She makes no bones about that.”

In New Jersey, the number of kids in foster care plummeted to 4,500, from about 7,500, between 2014 and 2019 — the opposite of what one might expect in a state racked by drug overdoses. But racial equity seems to be at the top of the agenda for the Department of Children and Families.

The department has placed thousands of children in the care of relatives and all but closed down recruitment of nonrelative foster families. Many of these relatives don’t have to pass the same background checks as foster families do, and the department doesn’t keep tabs on the kids afterward, the way it does with foster families. But hey, at least the kids aren’t being raised by someone of a different race.

In New York, according to a new policy, the city’s public hospitals won’t be able to test new or expectant mothers for drug use without explicit permission; private hospitals are also likely to reduce testing as a result of an inquiry by the city’s Commission on Human Rights.

Why? Because there are disparate rates of testing. Never mind whether the tests are positive, or whether the reports of those tests turn out to be worth investigating. In fact, two-thirds of reports are substantiated. The problem, of course, is the spreadsheet numbers don’t look woke.

Though child welfare is mostly run by states, the federal Department of Health and Human Services oversees their funding. And Xavier Becerra, Joe Biden’s pick to head the agency, has been outspoken about racial disparities in these fields. So this is all likely to worsen.

The wider culture, too, now reflects these unhealthy obsessions. A Times reader recently wrote in to the paper’s “Ethicist” column to describe a neighbor, “a single mother of color,” routinely beating her young children and their “wailing in response.” But, the writer notes, “I do not want to involve the police for obvious reasons.”

We would rather listen to the screams of abused children than subject a woman to some imagined instance of racism. Child welfare has lost its way.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow of the Independent Women’s Forum.

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