Failure to Protect
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Experts Respond to The Caseworker FilesExperts Respond to The Caseworker Files

FRONTLINE asked four child welfare experts -- law professors Jane Spinak and Dorothy Roberts, and child welfare advocates Richard Wexler and Marcia Lowry -- to watch "The Caseworker Files" and give their reactions. In these four essays, they discuss some of the issues raised by the cases featured in the film, including the tension between protecting children and keeping families together, and the role of class and race in child welfare systems.

A NEW PARADIGM By Jane M. Spinak
Jane M. Spinak is the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. In this essay, she discusses how some child welfare and family court systems have begun to reevaluate the way they make decisions about families, with more empasis on viewing parents as participants in finding solutions to problems rather than as the problems themselves. To illustrate these reforms, Spinak discusses how a new "paradigm" of communication could have affected each of the families profiled in "The Caseworker Files."
WHEN THE MASK SLIPS By Richard Wexler
Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) in Alexandria, Va., says that children languish in foster care because child welfare agencies do far too little to keep families together. He says that the system, in fact, often fails to mask what he calls its "pervasive indifference, even hostility" to families.
RACE AND CLASS IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM By Dorothy Roberts
Dorothy Roberts, a professor at Northwestern University's School of Law, is the author of Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (2002). In this essay, she discusses the punitive nature of the child welfare system and how it disproportionately affects minority families. "The number of black and Latino children in state custody is a national disgrace that reflects systemic injustices and calls for radical reform," Roberts writes.
IN SEARCH OF PERMANENCY By Marcia Robinson Lowry
Marcia Robinson Lowry, one of the country's most vocal child welfare advocates, is the executive director of Children's Rights Inc. in New York City. Here, Lowry discusses the idea of helping children in the system find "permanency." Once systems remove children from their homes, she writes, "[they] must then do the even harder work of ensuring that children in state custody are quickly placed in appropriate foster homes, provided with all necessary services, and, most importantly, restored to a permanent family -- either the one into which they were born or a new one created through adoption."

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