Since November 8, I cannot watch the news anymore and hear about the ludicrous tweets of the man with a toupee. I now confine myself to the paper and the radio.
This morning on the Brian Lehrer show, I listened to the 30 minutes weekly interview with the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. A caller asked the mayor about hiring more people at A.C.S (Administration for Children’s Services), which is under attack after Zymere Perkins’ death. The mayor was rather evasive.
I have not followed the tragic case of Zymere Perkins’ case closely, but the question to the mayor let me wonder about ACS and its critical role between families and the justice system. On the one hand, ACS is all that children coming from low income families like Zymere Perkins’ have; on the other hand, A.C.S. handles cases like mine (and this of more well-off folks like Anthony Wiener) and its conclusions about child abuse don’t matter much, because the plaintiff carry on in court. I stick to what I said about A.C.S. 8 years ago: time to take them seriously and staff them properly.
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Two weeks ago, there were tea party protesters in Washington. To me these folks are zombies. Public health services in the US are not at par with those of any developed country, there are monstrous gaps in health insurance coverage because the industry is dominated by a few fat private corporations, and these folks were asking for less government? David Brooks in his last New York Times op-ed piece claims that these demonstrations have nothing to do with racism, that this is just the expression of the Jeffersonian strain in the American political debate. Maybe. Yet, if anything, people should ask for more government, not less. And given the state of affairs in the American public health system, the public option better be strong.
There is another area where more government is urgently needed: family courts. What you have here is a scrawny public element working with an expanding and prosperous private family industry. If you are part of a sixish- year long (!) child abuse trial in family court, you figure out that the judge and the law guardian are in the business of giving access to the pie to their private cronies in the system. Who are those? Forensic psychologists,social workers and family service agencies; not the best and the brightest. Are they necessary to the process? In my case, the answer is a resounding no. Public A.C.S (Administration of Child Services)had done the forensic job, which judge Sturm chose to sit on. Was it for the best? The private forensic evaluator Berrill produced a job which everybody acknowledged as less than mediocre and again, the judge chose to sit on it. The necessity of supervised visits by family services agency? If you have a law guardian who reads visit reports, does her investigative work with the family and warns the mother that alienation of children will not be tolerated, you can easily divide by five the number of these visits (I had some forty visits from 2002 to 2005). But the law guardian who was supposed to represent the interests of my girls was a non-entity who conceived of her role as an umpire counting the strikes made by each camp during the course of the trial.
The consequences of a stronger public, family judiciary? An increase in taxes, which in final analysis, will be good for the tax payer’s purse. These public servants will take away most of the load from the private family industry: hence you cut the fat where it is and you get faster, less painful and less onerous trials. And you might even end up with the birth of a public good: family justice. Priceless.
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