Federal Legislation Under Bill Clinton Created Cash Incentives For States To Remove Kids

by William Skink

In yesterday’s post I highlighted the claim trumpeted by local media that 27 kids are now safe after being removed from a private facility in Lincoln County. Hopefully everything goes by the book, claims of abuse are substantiated, and facilities like these will be on notice that they can’t operate without any scrutiny from state authorities.

But state authorities also deserve scrutiny. Just a few days ago it was reported that some parents in Pennsylvania received a threatening email that their kids would be taken by the state and placed in foster care. Why? Because the parents hadn’t paid the school lunch bill. From the link:

Dozens of families in Pennsylvania received an alarming letter from their public school district this month informing parents that if their kid’s lunch debt was not settled, their child could be removed from their home and placed in foster care.

Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state as measured by per-pupil spending, is located in a former coal mining community in Northeastern Pennsylvania, known affectionately by locals as “The Valley.”

When officials there noticed that families owed the district around $22,000 in breakfast and lunch debt, they tried to get their money back.

That’s when district officials sent out the now-infamous letter to about 40 families deemed to be the worst offenders in having overdue cafeteria bills — those were children with meal debt of $10 or more.

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” said the letter signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District. “This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food. If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care.”

Quite the contrast to Montana, where 12 kids who were being abused and neglected ended up dying because the state failed to remove them in time.

While state efforts to remove children can vary from state to state, some blame the Federal government under Bill Clinton for changing the dynamics of removal by adding cash incentives:

Under Bill Clinton’s Administration he signed a law which gave cash incentives to CPS for every child taken from their parents and placed up for adoption. Clinton’s law gives CPS $4,000 per child with an additional $2,000 added for special needs children that are taken from their parents and put up for adoption.

On November 19, 1997 President Bill Clinton signed the law – The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, Public Law 105-89) after having been approved by the United States Congress in early November of 1997.

Back in 2008, Nancy Schaefer, a Georgia State Senator, tried to bring attention to the corrupt business of Child Protective Services. She became quite the advocate for families who claimed the financial incentives transformed state authorities into a cash-for-kids kidnapping racket.

A few years ago a report highlighted serious concerns about whether kids were truly being protected in this for-profit foster care system:

CHILDREN IN THE for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated, and autopsies are not even being attached to the now-closed case files, a two-year investigation has found.

The investigation, conducted and released in rare bipartisan fashion by the Senate Finance Committee, looked closely at one of the largest private providers of foster care services, the MENTOR Network.

The companies and agencies charged with keeping foster children safe often failed to provide the most basic protections or take steps to prevent tragedies, the investigation found.

This is the system Nancy Schaefer was trying to bring attention to. And what did she get for her efforts? She was killed in an alleged murder/suicide.

Creating financial incentives for removing kids was a big mistake. Or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all. Anyone who has spent time looking into human trafficking knows corruption and abuse exists everywhere.

Kids have been commodified, and not just by a black market that generates billions of dollars trafficking them for sexual exploitation. Thanks to Bill Clinton, cash-for-kids became Federal policy in 1997. I’ll leave it to readers to speculate why.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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