In 2011, the American right-wing blog Scrogged declared: ‘The budget discussions have made it clear that our federal, state, and local governments simply must cut costs by shedding some of the responsibilities they’ve accumulated over the years. Having listed Child Protection Services as an area in need of cutting, we went into detail why protecting children is beyond a government’s abilities’.
An article in The Guardian (May 16, 2014) stated: ‘The power to take children away from their families could be privatised along with other child protection services under controversial plans the government has quietly announced. A DfE consultation paper published last month argues that enabling local authorities to outsource children’s social services will encourage innovation and improve outcomes for at-risk youngsters’. This article quoted Kathy Evans, chief executive of Children England: “What is of most concern here is the function of deciding whether a child is at risk, assessing the family and making recommendations to court, making decisions about how resources will be allocated to children on taxpayers’ behalf. It’s in that process where the profit-motive could really undermine whoever is trying to do that very difficult work”.
The profit-motive will do far more than undermine child protection services. The UK government merely introduces carbon copies of American ‘free market’ policies. Paul Buchheit analysed the failure of these policies in America in an article appearing in Commondreams.org in 2013: ‘Forty-two percent of sick Americans skipped doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs … A 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services … With each prisoner generating up to $40,000 a year in revenue, it has apparently made economic sense to put over two million people behind bars … The notion that charter schools outperform traditional public schools is not supported by the facts. An updated 2013 Stanford University CREDO study concluded that privatized schools were slightly better in reading and slightly worse in math, with little difference overall … Just as with prisons and hospitals, cost-saving business strategies apply to the privatization of our children’s education. Charter school teachers have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate. Non-teacher positions have insufficient retirement plans and health insurance, and much lower pay’. The article could have mentioned the utter failure of the American workfare scheme, a plagarised version of which has been foisted on the UK. It certainly could have detailed the abject failure of the American child protection-for-profit system:
It is a paradise for profiteers. Parents are ordered to attend parenting classes, anger management classes, counseling classes, therapy classes, etc., sometimes having to pay for these, and on completion, which may take years, they may have their children returned. Private companies in the child protection business employ psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, caseworkers, and therapists; others are involved in sourcing foster and adoptive parents.The system is a gigantic pig trough of competing snouts. The bonus for an adoption placement can be between $4,000-$6,000, more if the child has ‘special needs’.
State Departments of Human Resources (DHR’s) and private affiliates work on a baseline number of expected adoptions based on population. Each bonus is multiplied by the percentage that the State has managed to exceed its baseline adoption number. Thus, there is monetary incentive for increased numbers of adoptions. Extra funds are paid when a child is placed in a mental health facility.
Adoptive parents receive cash subsidies until the child is 18, which continue if the child goes to college, ranging from $410-$486 per month per child. They also receive Medicaid for the child, a clothing allowance, and adoption costs, including legal fees. The same child’s mother may have been on a welfare program, before losing her children, in which she would have proven she had no assets in order to collect $539 per month for herself and two children. This begs the question: why isn’t the same level of support given to the children’s parents in the first place? It may be added that the ‘welfare scrounger’ who loses her children is tested for various addictions, but, oh surprise, surprise!, those adopting her children are not!
The reality is that states, counties, and contracted private blood-sucking companies receive $30,000 for each child removed from their home and put into adoption Those funds go up to between $40,000 and $150,000 if the child has special needs. Who is making a sick profit?
Children to adopt in America can be browsed on adoption sites, or viewed at ‘Adoption Fairs’. The latter are called ‘adoption parties’ in the UK, where up to 50 children meet with as many as 30 adoptive parents. Not much fun if you keep going to the party and never get picked, a bit like ‘plain Jane’ who was never asked to dance.
An article in prwatch.org in 2013 quoted The Denver Post, which ‘found a shocking pattern of abuse when it conducted an in-depth investigation of the privatization of Colorado’s foster care system a decade ago. The Post reported that numerous children were molested, abused, and even died in foster homes after the state started contracting with businesses that failed to ensure they were placed in safe homes. The state also paid three times as much to place a child in private foster care as it did in homes that were supervised by the counties’. The article quotes Bob Jacobson of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families: “If you’re a corporation whose very mission is to increase shareholder value that is automatically in conflict with a social service agency whose sole purpose is to meet the needs of people in the program.” It also quotes In the Public Interest, a privatisation watchdog: “Numerous state and local governmental entities are finding that turning over these programs to private contractors not only fails to achieve projected cost savings but also decreases access to these important services …’.
DHR’s are contracting out their services to escape liability from families and penalize the private providers when mistakes are made. The private providers initially promise that no one will lose their jobs, but then proceed to shut down local offices, and eliminate ‘unnecessary’ staff. Staff are innundated with training classes, provided by private companies, of course, which can be taken online. ‘Courses generally take between one to two hours to complete’, and ‘can be retaken as many times as is needed to pass the final assessment, at no extra cost’. Not too rigorous, then? Staff quit under the stress of increasing case loads. New workers are employed on more ‘flexible’ contracts. The high turn-over of staff is deeply unsettling to children and their families.
This is a business of naked greed, and, as in the case of NHS services being contracted to companies financially connected to hundreds of UK parliamentarians, the planned apeing of the American system of child ‘protection’ is one that will enable those that have to have even more, and those that have not to have even what they have taken from them – their children.
If you think for one moment that outsourcing (flogging off) children’s services to the private sector will not lead to a duplicate of the American experience, then that moment was a delusional one. Corporation-serving politicians introduce new schemes of privatisation (by a thousand cuts) so gradually that their cummulative effect is not immediately obvious, rather like nails being driven into a coffin – once the last few are in place there is no return.
Georga Hackworth, a freelance writer, wrote of the American social worker assigned to her 7 children, and gave this isight into what will follow in the UK: ‘If she could get them adopted out there would be a nice bonus of $28,000 minimum’.
Like prisoners and the elderly, children are turned into a profit-making commodity – as in the child pornography industry.
This sick scheme will not be overturned by 36 senior social services academics writing to The Guardian, bless their bleeding hearts, nor by appealing to the UK Labour Party, itself a slave of ‘free market’ ideology. It will not be overturned by treating it as a single issue. Public sector workers of all specialities should unite to confront if-it-moves-privatise-it ideology dictated to governments by their corporate paymasters.
Sadly, there will be no such united opposition. You lay in your individual coffins and imagine the noise of the nail being hit is from a distance, as spineless survivalists.
To you all, my utter contempt – the contempt of all that in the past truly opposed.
lenin nightingale 2014