parents Vs. Family Court
Harry X. Davidson, Ph.D
the eve of the “Million Family March” an unpublished paper
by Woody Henderson, chair of the National Action Network’s
Committee on the Administration For Children’s Services
(ACS) “Are the Family Courts and ACS Destroying our Communities
Even more than Police Brutality?” confirmed my suspicion
that America’s family courts are arbitrarily placing Black
children at-risk under the guise of protection.
To quote Mr. Henderson: ACS’s philosophy is: “When in
doubt take them out.” Calling it the most devastating
and de-stabilizing force to be sent into our communities
since slavery, he indicates that New York’s Administration
for Children’s Services get billions of dollars from the
government to finance the unconstitutional removal of
children from their families.
children are subsequently placed into foster care agencies
that are subcontracted to subcontract out the children
they remove, at a rate of $42,000 per child, per year,
based on a per-diem, thereby removing the incentive to
expeditiously reunify the child with its family.
New York City, 97 percent of the children removed by ACS
are Black or Latino. Seventy-five percent of the children
in foster care end up in penal institutions (the prison
would like to see a commitment to protect and provide
for children who are at risk ... 75 percent of the children
who are being removed by ACS, by ACS’s own account, are
low risk cases where there is, and was no immediate risk
Oct. 13, 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals, of the Second
Circuit ruled, "It is unconstitutional for the Administration
for Children’s Services to remove children from their
parent’s custody without a court order unless there is
an imminent Risk of Harm."
language is being loosely applied to fit any given caseworker’s
interpretation. Workers are told they don’t need a court
order before removing a child from its home, if there
is believed to be an imminent risk. This is endorsed by
the Family Court’s willingness to issue court orders after
the fact. The comparison to police brutality is, "We
shot him 14 times because we thought he had a gun."
accusations are levied, delays and postponements in Family
Court, hearsay evidence, worker biases, and improper investigations
prohibit any chance of a speedy resolution. Parents are
guilty until proven innocent. The process takes an average
of one year to complete and the chance of a just ruling
is less than 50-50, with or without legal representation.
assault is not just taking place in New York; it’s blitzing
the country. Over the years I have been involved in several
white vs. Black court battles for the custody of Black
appears to be a growing trend for the courts to award
custody of Black children to white foster parents. In
the past foster-care parents were warned not to become
attached to the children they afforded temporary care.
Today, not only are they developing emotional ties, they
are winning custody in the courts. Becoming a foster-parent
has become a strategy for gaining custody of Black children.
like another Elian Gonzales case to me," I told one
hearing officer. I was objecting to a white foster parent’s
scheme to adopt a Black child despite the fact that his
mother had successfully complied with the court’s stipulations
for reunification. Their justification? The child said
he wanted to live with the white foster parents.
a result of my opposition the court simply created more
obstacles for the mother, while postponing the matter
another case the Family Court granted custody of Black
child to a single older white female foster parent, ruling
against the child’s uncle and aunt, despite the fact that
the child’s had already been placed with the Black relatives.
The relatives were devastated.
a frustrated Black mother told a white social worker she
was going to take a baseball bat and beat some sense into
her daughter, the social worker reported her to the child
abuse hot-line despite my insistence that the mother meant
another case, a Black attorney asked me to assess his
client’s ability to function as a mother to her six-year-old
son and five-year-old daughter. The two children were
taken from her when her ex-mother-in-law told authorities
the mother’s boyfriend had put a snake on one of the children.
A white female worker insisted that the child was referring
to the man ‘s sexual organ.
the court discovered that the boyfriend actually had a
pet snake, not to be outdone, he was accused of threatening
the child with a snake, an act of child abuse, and the
mother was charged with failure to protect the child.
report of a court-ordered evaluation by a white psychologist
was filled with unsubstantiated assumptions, speculations,
and opinionated interpretations.
example, he interpreted the mother’s high Moral-Religious
Emphasis score as a tendency to turn her problems over
to God rather than to assume personal responsibility.
He wrote, "the low anxiety trait score indicates
that she is not aware of much anxiety and feels generally
composed and tranquil." He assumed she was faking.
Likewise, he questioned her low average score on the Suspiciousness
trait, which reflects individuals who are trusting and
accepting of conditions.
quote the white psychologist, "She perceives that
she tries to be understanding and tolerant, and she says
she is ready to forget difficulties."
failed to understand that the tolerance and forgiveness
reflected in her high Moral-Religious values score are
consistent with the teachings of the Baptist Church she
is a member of.
white psychologist concluded that the mother was paranoid,
aloof, secretive, lacking confidence, and recoiling from
life. He failed to recognize that Black people are far
more likely to score high on this scale as a direct result
of a legacy of discrimination, injustice and unfair treatment.
he stated, "Her low score on the Corporal Punishment
scale indicates a belief in the value of corporal or physical
punishment, such as spankings, whippings, slapping, etc.
She does not try to avoid using physical force when disciplining
children, and feels it is her duty to do so. Parents with
scores in this range usually lack a knowledge of alternative
a Black psychologist I know that Black culture and the
Black church maintains the belief that "to spare
the rod is to spoil the child." The test measures
attitudes and beliefs. It does not measure actual behavior.
Whereas, many Blacks believe in corporal punishment they
do not practice it because there are laws against it.
according to the white psychologist, she is socially and
occupationally-impaired despite the facts that she has
held a supervisory position for the last seven years,
has been promoted on five different occasions and has
maintained perfect attendance until two recent absences
as a result of her battle for the custody of her children.
the mother is found unfit, the child will be placed in
Henderson and the ORRCF are calling for the support of
a push for corrective legislation, to find more sensitive
and effective solutions for monitoring and protecting
children that are at risk at home and in the custody the
family courts and foster care.