New story at The New Republic:

This recognition that poor parents need help, not suspicion and condemnation, represents a substantial departure from the understanding many families have of ACS. All too often, family defense advocates say, ACS caseworkers visit families in the middle of the night—a tactic that is supposed to be reserved for emergencies in which children are in imminent danger—demanding that parents wake their children so they can inspect their bodies for bruises, interview them alone, check their bedrooms, and take stock of the food in the kitchen cupboards. Preventive services like parenting classes or counseling sessions for mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence—technically voluntary, but refused at parents’ risk—are often preventive in name only and do little to address at-risk families’ greatest needs, only increasing the burdens on parents who are already stretched thin, making it more likely that they will be forced to relinquish their children to foster care. “With some cases, I almost struggle to use the word ‘services,’ because I think most families wouldn’t describe them as services,” said Chris Gottlieb, the co-director of the Family Defense Clinic at the New York University School of Law. “People call me all the time, saying, ‘I reached out to ACS for help, and it destroyed my family.’”

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