July 8, 2007

From Pixel to Paper

Marc Comtois

Yes, that's my piece about DCYF's structural problems found on this morning's Providence Journal editorial page, nestled between the Editor's thoughts on NY Mayor Bloomberg's possible presidential run and Froma Harrop's piece on the house swallow. Of necessity--no surprise--I had to boil down the information I provided in my lengthier posts hereabouts (here and here), so if new visitors are interested on where I got the numbers, please follow the links. Finally, there is also an informative piece by the ProJo's Steve Peoples on well-meaning Child Advocate Jametta Alston, who brought the problems at DCYF more directly into the light.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.


Congrats on being published in the ProJo. Good piece and as always well researched. Quick FYI Marc the child advocate is Jametta Alston not Ometta Alston though you should probably refer to her as Your Royal Highness or Mother Theresa after reading Steve Peoples story. Personally methinks Ms. Alston is much more politically motivated in her world than she lets on. Had wondered why she didn't go after the Rhode Island family court in her federal lawsuit. The family court has let these kids down as much as any other agency in the state. Do you suppose that would have hindered her selection or Senate confirmation for a future judgeship with that court? Not quite a political virgin is she? lol Ms. Alston letting the court off the hook in her federal suit smells of backroom political patronage with eyes toward a future robe of her own.
Good to know it's all about the children!

Posted by: Tim at July 8, 2007 5:52 PM

"The problems occurring at DCYF are rooted in the same inefficiencies that plague the entire state government. Until overly generous increases in salaries and benefit packages regardless of individual performance, overprotective unions stonewalling against reform, and administrative bloat — to mention three practices — are changed, we will continue to shortchange both the end-users and the funders of government services."

Excellent, Marc.

And kudos to the ProJo editor who identified Anchor Rising without using the adjective "conservative".

Posted by: SusanD at July 8, 2007 7:49 PM

Tim, thanks for the catch and elaboration.I'll keep my eyes open.

Susan, Thanks!

Posted by: Marc Comtois at July 8, 2007 10:00 PM


That was an excellent piece. Definitely a huge step up from the usual Bakst, Kerr, and Harrop birdcage liner. Don't you think you're slumming a bit by getting involved with the likes of the Projo? Anyway, great work.

Posted by: Will at July 9, 2007 1:27 AM

Helen Glover on 920 WHJJ is talking about Ms. Alston's suit and just quoted from Marc's piece.

Posted by: SusanD at July 9, 2007 1:18 PM


Helen Glover gave you and your DCYF piece some nice exposure on her show yesterday. Got quite a chuckle when Ms. Glover called the Federal lawsuit filed by Jametta Alston a 'hissy fit' brought on by an internal power struggle involving Ms. Alston and DCYF and not motivated by the abuse of the children. May want to rethink your stance on this 'well meaning' Child Advocate.


You're so right! What sets Marc apart from Projo columnists is twofold. He researches and actually backs up his point of view with facts and more importantly people actually read Marc. lol

Posted by: Tim at July 10, 2007 7:55 AM

Reunify the Families

Two hundred thirty-three million dollars to run the DCYF for 2008, according to
Marc Comtois, is a staggering sum. Mr. Comtois may be on to something
by pointing out the per-worker average increase in salary as a contributor
to a structural problem at the DCYF.

To add to his analysis would be the recognition that Richard Wexler,
Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (see http://www.nccpr.org/) made
in the ProJo pages November 2005 where he asserted that Rhode Island tears
children from their families at twice the national average. Is RI really twice
as abusive to its kids? Not likely. It is more believable that DCYF suffers
from (1) the "when in doubt, yank 'em out" cover-the-rear hysteria that
results when a child is seriously abused at home. No DCYF worker
is admonished for removing a child unnecessarily -- a principle which
values the job security of the worker over that of the child or his family.
Combine this principle with "children never lie" and "believe the victim"
and you have a runaway process that rips kids from their families
almost unstoppably. DCYF observers are deeply mistaken
when they assert that most of the children deserve to be separated from
their families. And that most of the parents of these children are unworthy of parenthood.
Acording to Wexler's analysis most of the children and parents could have
remained together. See "The Evidence is in: Foster Care vs. Keeping Families Together: The Definitive Study" at http://www.nccpr.org/reports/evidence.doc

But money, as Mr. Comtois suggests, is part of the problem. At over a quarter
of a billion dollar budget, DCYF is a veritable industry of child abuse. Its product
is rescuing victims -- the more victims it identifies, the better for its survival.
All the more reason to "find" abuse even where it may not be.

These two reasons are very powerful incentives to needlessly tear children from
their parents.

Rather than asking the DCYF to take pay cuts in order to hire more workers
to handle the increasing caseload, I would propose instead that the Governor
order the DCYF to review the cases of the 3000 foster children to discover
which are the 1500 or more who were needlessly removed from their homes.
and then immediately initiate a process for reunification with their families
where statistically they would have fared better in the first place, according
to a recent large study (See Wexler above). Combine this with an apology to the parents
and especially to the children who have been traumatized beyond words
and ask their forgiveness. Then compensate them for the abuse of power
against them by the state and provide necessary assistance to resolve
the issues that led to the initial unfounded takings.

With this accomplished, put in place processes that prevent making the same
mis-steps with future cases. Perhaps halving the number of employees is
a good start. The savings can be redirected to direct family assistance.

It is not just about money -- but about state abuse of power over families.

Jay B. Gold

Posted by: Jay B. Gold at July 11, 2007 12:35 AM
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