Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Time to Have a Conversation About Race, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Can we have an open, honest discussion about race? I’m not making a request to have such a conversation, what I am wondering is if it is possible. There are a lot of obstacles. Media coverage, through where most people get their information, doesn’t always contribute to the discussion.

In this era of 24-hour news and intense competition for stories, outlets are tempted to skew stories in ways that emphasize or deemphasize race, and not always in a consistent fashion. The inconsistency is pretty easy to understand though; it boils down to the bottom line. Readers and viewers translate to money, and controversy is more entertaining than facts.

The recent case of George Zimmerman was full of examples. Many liberals thought he should be found guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, while many conservatives thought he hadn’t done anything wrong. The media didn’t help. It is clear for instance that NBC editors  altered the 911 call in a way that made Zimmerman appear racist. For many on the right end of the political spectrum (which is predominantly white) this was evidence of a liberal agenda. Let’s remember, though, this same media’s coverage of blacks, especially males, has perpetuated dangerous stereotypes. This isn’t just on Fox News either.

In Harlem, the Peaceful Ruckus of a Basketball Tournament to Remember Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

NEW YORK — The thousands strong, raucous crowd grew louder and louder with each thunderous dunk in the storied basketball courts of Halcombe Rucker Park on 155th Street in Harlem earlier this week. Children sprinted up and down the sidelines with unbridled enthusiasm, unable to sit still amidst the intensity generated by New York City’s top two streetball teams pitted against each other for the rights to the inaugural, gold plated, championship trophy.


However, as the spirited madness swept through the stands Tuesday night, Tobias Harris remained somber.

The 21-year-old rising star for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and former Mr. New York Basketball helped lead the Sean Bell All-Stars to a first-place finish in the first annual Trayvon Martin Invitational, an accomplishment that Harris said ranks amongst the closest to his heart.

Harris, a Long Island native and current Orlando resident, lives just 10 miles from The Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community of Sanford, Fla., where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012. Harris also spent most of his high school career at Half Hollow Hills West in Dix Hills, a 30-mile trek from Club Kalua in South Jamaica, Queens, where Sean Bell was shot and killed by NYPD detectives in the early morning hours of November 25, 2006.


Child Abuse in Army Families Rises 40 Percent.  What’s Being Done to Stop It, Children’s Rights

An investigation by the Army Times found 3,698 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Army families last year, a staggering 40 percent increase from 2009. According to a Huffington Post report, the military has yet to come up with an explanation for the increase. Meanwhile, the cases of horrific child abuse and neglect keep mounting:

John E. Jackson, 37, a U.S. Army major and his wife, Carolyn, 35, were charged in May with “unimaginable cruelty to children,” NBC Philadelphia reported. The two allegedly abused their three adopted and three biological children, but the adopted kids bore the brunt of the torture.

According to the news source, the parents forced their kids to eat hot sauce, withheld water, broke the kids’ bones and told their biological children that such practices were a form of “training,” and that they should not tell anyone about the horrors they witnessed.Some of these cases are even unfolding on Army bases, as was the case with Pvt. Connell Williams’ family. Williams and his girlfriend killed one of her two children while living in Army housing:

It was there that Williams and his girlfriend starved Marcus, beat him with a bat and forced the little boy to march around wearing 50-60 pounds of gear, according to court documents obtained by the news outlet. Marcus died on May 5, 2011, weighing just 44 pounds.

The U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program offers seminars, workshops, counseling and intervention services to prevent such tragedies, and the Army is building child and behavioral health centers at major bases. However, significant obstacles stand in the way of more being done about this worsening problem.

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

2 Groups got Huge Sums for Adoptions, The Japan News

Two adoption agencies for young children in Tokyo received a total of about 83 million yen in donations from adoptive parents in the three years to fiscal 2011, it has been learned.

The two organizations almost always asked adoptive parents to make contributions, The Yomiuri Shimbun has found, and one entity received nearly 2 million yen for a single case.

The Child Welfare Law prohibits arranging the adoption of young children for profit. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has told local governments to research adoption agencies, as it suspects that such large donations could be considered de facto payments for these organizations’ services, a violation of the law.

Under the special adoption system for young children, children aged younger than 6 should in principle be adopted by a married man and woman who are both at least 25 years old, following approval from a family court. Upon adoption, these children lose legal connections–such as inheritance rights–with their biological parents. In other adoptions, legal connections are maintained.

The Child Welfare Law prohibits agencies from making a profit through adoption arrangements, to prevent human trafficking. In 1987, the welfare ministry said agencies can only charge adopted parents actual costs for their services, such as transportation and communication fees. In 2006, the ministry clarified that donations from adoptive parents should be made on a voluntary basis.

The two organizations in question are Baby Life, a foundation in Higashi-Kurume, Tokyo, and Wa no Kai, a nonprofit organization in Shinjuku Ward.

From the Streets of New York, Voices of Anger, Anguish and Resignation in the Wake of the Zimmerman Verdict, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Trayvon Martin wasn’t from any of New York City’s five boroughs, but his death and the acquittal of the man who shot and killed the unarmed teen after a confrontation in a gated community courtyard in Florida, nine states, one capital, and nearly 1,200 miles away, resonated with many residents — black, white, and Latino — as if he was one of the city’s own.

Reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Martin ranged from quiet frustration, embittered resignation, and overwhelming sadness. Some conceded that the jury was left with little option and that it was the fault of a Kafkaesque criminal justice system that legally permits an armed adult to kill a child; others expressed their rage on the avenues of Manhattan and made calls for a type of street justice that has no place in a courtroom.

But in Union Square Park, just after 6 p.m on a sweltering Sunday night, a rancorous crowd of protesters who had gathered to protest the verdict pointed to something deeper than the law or the American criminal justice system for the Zimmerman decision. The animated crowd said they blamed the same pernicious culture of racism that expresses itself in stops and frisks on the streets of New York for the exoneration of a killer in Sanford, Fla.

A few dozen protesters pulled hoodies over their sweat-drenched heads despite the suffocating humidity, others wore buttons and stickers with hoodie silhouettes. Signs peppered the crowd with black and white images of the young, slain Martin.

District of Columbia Falls Short on Investigating Child Maltreatment Allegations, Report Finds, Children’s Rights

The District of Columbia’s Children and Family Services Agency (CFSA) has struggled to conduct quality investigations into alleged child abuse and neglect and has fallen short of meeting other court-ordered mandates, according to the latest report from independent monitors tracking the status of the District’s child welfare reform. A status conference to discuss report findings will be held Monday, July 15th at 10:00 a.m., at the Federal Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, NW.

The progress report, covering July-December 2012, reviews the court-ordered reforms spurred by LaShawn A. v. Gray, the federal class-action lawsuit brought by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights. The report, issued by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, is the second since Brenda Donald became CFSA director 18 months ago.

During the review period, Washington, D.C. reached four mandated standards for the first time. CFSA increased efforts to identify and locate known relatives in situations when children had to be removed from their homes, and offered pre-removal “Family Team Meetings” to help make relative placement more successful. The agency also facilitated more visits between siblings who were placed in separate homes, and provided the minimum 15 hours of training to new foster parents.

However, serious concerns remain. Caseloads for investigative social workers continued to be excessive, which, the monitors noted, almost certainly has had “a direct impact” on aspects of their work. Only 62 percent of abuse and neglect investigations were found to be of acceptable quality, well short of the 80 percent benchmark. Workers initiated investigations rapidly enough only 75 percent of the time, rather than the required 95 percent. And for the last two monitoring periods, the number of maltreatment investigations to be completed on time has steadily declined.