AI tool used to spot child abuse allegedly targets parents with disabilities

Since 2016, social workers in a Pennsylvania county have relied on an algorithm to help them determine which child welfare calls warrant further investigation. Now, the Justice Department is reportedly scrutinizing the controversial family-screening tool over concerns that using the algorithm may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by allegedly discriminating against families with disabilities, the Associated Press reported, including families with mental health issues.

Three anonymous sources broke their confidentiality agreements with the Justice Department, confirming to AP that civil rights attorneys have been fielding complaints since last fall and have grown increasingly concerned about alleged biases built into the Allegheny County Family Screening Tool. While the full scope of the Justice Department’s alleged scrutiny is currently unknown, the Civil Rights Division is seemingly interested in learning more about how using the data-driven tool could potentially be hardening historical systemic biases against people with disabilities.

The county describes its predictive risk modeling tool as a preferred resource to reduce human error for social workers benefiting from the algorithm’s rapid analysis of “hundreds of data elements for each person involved in an allegation of child maltreatment.” That includes “data points tied to disabilities in children, parents, and other members of local households,” Allegheny County told AP. Those data points contribute to an overall risk score that helps determine if a child should be removed from their home.

Although the county told AP that social workers can override the tool’s recommendations and that the algorithm has been updated “several times” to remove disabilities-related data points, critics worry that the screening tool may still be automating discrimination. This is particularly concerning because the Pennsylvania algorithm has inspired similar tools used in California and Colorado, AP reported. Oregon stopped using its family-screening tool over similar concerns that its algorithm may be exacerbating racial biases in its child welfare data.

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Cop sexually abuses teen, so government launches probe of PARENTS!

A court case has developed in Missouri that raises the question of whether county officials are allowed to retaliate against the parents of a victim of abuse by one of its own employees.

The situation is that a 15-year-old boy was sexually abused by a deputy in Scott County, Missouri.

The parents threatened to sue the county because it allowed the deputy, who had been disciplined in previous employment situations, to have a job, and the authority of a deputy, in the county.

According to a report from the Institute for Justice, which is working on the case on behalf of the family, “Then, a few weeks later, the family heard a knock at their front door and found a juvenile officer and two highway patrol troopers accompanying a child-welfare investigator from the Scott County Children’s Division. The child-welfare investigator informed the parents that they were being formally investigated for child neglect, claiming that an anonymous source called the state’s child abuse tipline and reported the family.”

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NY mom arrested after she lets her 10-yr-old get a tattoo, but puberty blockers and breast removal is A-OK?

Does your young child want to take life-altering hormones? No problem. Would the kid like to remove her breasts or his testicles? New York state has got you covered. But God forbid you let your 10-year-old get a tattoo. That will get your kids snatched by Child Protective Services (CPS) and you’ll end up in handcuffs.

That’s the lesson learned by Crystal Thomas, 33, who was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child after she allowed her son to get a tattoo from an amateur artist in the motel room in which she and her two children were staying, the Daily Mail reports.

Following her arrest, Thomas was released on an appearance ticket, but it is unclear if her children have been returned to her.

The tattoo, which Lloyd Police Chief James Janso told the Daily Mail measures “around six to eight inches in length,” was “not a professional job.”

Thomas’s son discovered that the man in the neighboring room of the Highland Motel, located near Poughkeepsie, was doing tattoos and he wanted one.

Mom allegedly gave him permission, and he came back with his name emblazoned in block letters on his inner forearm.

Police were called by the school resource officer after the young boy went to the school nurse to get Vaseline to apply over the fresh ink.

According to Janso, the nature of the mother’s relationship with the tattoo artist is unknown, and the man has since left the motel, which caters to guests who are only interested in “transient stays.”

Lloyd Police Department investigators are currently following up on leads in an attempt to hunt the artist down.

Now, it is unlikely that many would support Thomas’s decision to let her kid get tattooed for life by a guy in the room next door, but the astounding hypocrisy of actions against her in a state that prides itself on offering the so-called “gender-affirming care” of minors has not been missed by users on Twitter.

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Police Need Warrants to Search Homes. Child Welfare Agents Almost Never Get One.

The banging on Ronisha Ferguson’s apartment door in the Bronx started on a Thursday afternoon as she waited for her two sons to get home from school.

Ferguson, a nurse working 16-hour double shifts, knew instantly who she’d find in her hallway that day in February 2019.

For years, caseworkers from the Administration for Children’s Services, New York City’s child protective services bureau, had been showing up unannounced like this and inspecting her kitchen, her bathroom and her bedroom — and her children’s bodies — without a warrant.

A domestic violence survivor who previously lived in a shelter, Ferguson had never been accused of child abuse, ACS case records show. But she had faced repeated allegations of parenting problems largely stemming from her long hours at work, including that she’d provided inadequate supervision by having her 14-year-old daughter babysit the boys when they were 5 and 2, and had also allowed the kids to miss dozens of days of school.

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Journalist Calls Child Protective Services On Senate Candidate And Single Mom Over Columbus Day Tweet

Self-described “Award-winning multi-media journalist” David Leavitt called Child Protective Services on Virginia State Senate candidate Tina Ramirez, reporting her for “child abuse” because her opinion of Columbus Day differed from his.

The spat began with an apparent non-sequitur, when Leavitt replied to a tweet from Ramirez over reports that PayPal planned to fine people for spreading “misinformation” — a story broken by Daily Wire reporter Ben Zeisloft.

“Only women can be pregnant. Do I owe PayPal $2500 now?” Ramirez asked, to which Leavitt replied, “Why are you celebrating torture, rape, murder, and enslavement?”

Leavitt appeared to be referencing another tweet in which Ramirez wished her followers a happy Columbus Day, and Ramirez responded with a simple explanation: “I teach my daughter real American history. I refuse to join the radical left’s campaign to erase history.”

Leavitt responded by attempting to get some of his 330,000+ followers to harass Ramirez by reporting her to Child Protective Services.

“Can someone please call child care services on Tina Ramirez who’s teaching her child to be a racist?” he asked.

He then apparently decided to make the call himself — and complained about the long wait time to speak to someone at the hotline.

“The Virginia State hotline for child abuse has a 10+ minute hold and is experiencing ‘high call volumes’ with 14 callers ahead of me. This is absolutely unacceptable. How many people try to report child abuse and hang up? How many children will continue to be abused?” he asked.

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Study Finds ‘Concerning’ Trend in the Drugging of Foster Care Kids in California As CPS Scandals Grow

A recent study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology discovered that California foster care kids are being medicated with powerful psychotropic drugs, but the adults in charge of the children are not taking the appropriate steps to ensure that the drugs are safe for the kids. Currently, the Child Protective Services (CPS) system, which feeds young children to foster care, is under massive scrutiny nationwide.

The study, entitled “Antipsychotics in the California Foster Care System: A 10-Year Analysis,” found that drugging of foster kids supposedly became less frequent over the course of a decade in California. However, the system continues to use extremely “concerning” methods to medicate the kids with little regard for their safety from side effects. According to our recent NATIONAL FILE article “Exposed: Dead Children in the CPS System Near Bohemian Grove And Pelosi’s Pedophilia Links,” a teenager named Steven Gavin Unangst Jr. died in the Contra Costa County foster care system after taking prescription drugs, prompting his family to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the county.

The study states: “Psychotropic medications are defined as having a primary intended effect on the central nervous system. Among these, antipsychotic medications stand out because of their significant metabolic side effects, including weight gain and predisposition to diabetes mellitus type 2…The risk–benefit ratio for the use of antipsychotics may not be in the best interest of foster youth, particularly when other trauma informed multidisciplinary interventions, such as psychotherapy, may be more effective but are frequently inaccessible to this population…Additional ethical problems may exist when a foster child’s autonomy to decide is compromised by arrangements where housing is dependent on continued medication use…Media reports in California suggested that acceptance and adherence to such medications was used as a condition for continued housing…”

The study states: “Of the 7172 children who received psychotropic medications in 2020, only 5581 (77.8%) had the necessary TAR forms. In addition, of the 1764 children receiving antipsychotics, only 904 (51.2%) underwent appropriate metabolic screening. When considering the youth newly prescribed with antipsychotics, only 150/811 (18.5%) received screening, a decrease in performance compared with 2017 (239/913 screened youth; 26.2%).”

“The most concerning findings from this analysis are related to the proper authorization for using psychotropics and rates of metabolic screening. A significant proportion (22.2%) of California foster youth received psychotropics in 2020 without the necessary authorization incorporated in the CQIP policies. Stricter regulations could further reduce prescription rates, ensure safety, and respect autonomy and decision-making principles,” the study stated.

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CPS employee caught on camera telling 14-year-old girl to become a prostitute

Children’s Protective Services would more than likely remove a child from a parent who told them to become a prostitute.

“They should, and they would,” said family law attorney Mike Schneider.

Keisha Bazley has nine kids. She turned to Child Protective Services to help her with her 14-year-old daughter, who she says was running away and causing trouble at school,

“My daughter told me that the worker had been telling her she should do these things, so she said she decided to video her,” Bazley said.

CPS is housing the girl at a hotel. She’s one of dozens of foster kids living at hotels in Harris County.

In the video, the girl tells the CPS employee she wants food. The CPS worker tells her to be a prostitute.

“And giving her an incentive to do so, and almost a threat of not having her needs being met, if she didn’t do what this woman very explicitly told her to do,” Schneider said.

“If me, the parent, was to do something like this to my child, I would be bashed,” said Bazley. “I would be called a horrible parent. I would lose my kids.”

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Algorithms are being used to help determine if kids should be taken from their parent

The limitations of algorithms today in terms of accuracy regarding context and nuance is evident even to a casual observer, most notably in the often blundering automated censorship on social networks.

Notwithstanding that state of affairs as far as limitations of the technology itself, without even taking into account intent of those behind it, social workers in the US have started relying on predictive algorithms in deciding when to investigate parents suspected of child neglecting.

The stakes are higher here than having a Facebook post deleted – these parents can eventually end up having their children removed, and the algorithm that is now in use in several US states, and spreading, is described by the AP as “opaque” – all the while providing social workers with statistical calculations that they can base their actions on.

Other concerns raised around the algorithms like the one used in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County – that was the subject of a Carnegie Mellon University study – are reliability, which is entirely expected, as well as the effect of “hardening racial disparities in the child welfare system.”

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An algorithm that screens for child neglect raises concerns

Inside a cavernous stone fortress in downtown Pittsburgh, attorney Robin Frank defends parents at one of their lowest points – when they are at risk of losing their children.

The job is never easy, but in the past she knew what she was up against when squaring off against child protective services in family court. Now, she worries she’s fighting something she can’t see: an opaque algorithm whose statistical calculations help social workers decide which families will have to endure the rigors of the child welfare system, and which will not.

“A lot of people don’t know that it’s even being used,” Frank said. “Families should have the right to have all of the information in their file.”

From Los Angeles to Colorado and throughout Oregon, as child welfare agencies use or consider tools similar to the one in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, an Associated Press review has identified a number of concerns about the technology, including questions about its reliability and its potential to harden racial disparities in the child welfare system. Related issues have already torpedoed some jurisdictions’ plans to use predictive models, such as the tool notably dropped by the state of Illinois.

According to new research from a Carnegie Mellon University team obtained exclusively by AP, Allegheny’s algorithm in its first years of operation showed a pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a “mandatory” neglect investigation, when compared with white children. The independent researchers, who received data from the county, also found that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the algorithm produced about one-third of the time.

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The State Took Their Children For 467 Days After An Alleged Slight. Now The Family Is Suing.

A family is suing the state of Illinois, a child welfare investigator contracted by the state, and others, alleging their three children were taken away for more than a year over the investigator’s hurt feelings.

The Center Square reported that Jacob and Patricia Krueger’s three children were taken into custody by the Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS) in 2019 after their child was supposed to be discharged from a hospital for a complex medical issue. Aaron Rapier, the attorney representing the family, told the Center Square that Dr. Channing Petrak, the contractor for DCFS, was at the hospital and prepared to discharge the child following a year-and-a-half long investigation, but reneged after she was slighted by Jacob Krueger.

“While [Petrak] went into the meeting intending to discharge this child home to the family, which means of course that she didn’t suspect any abuse or neglect at that time, she did a complete 180 after she was embarrassed in front of a colleague,” Rapier told the outlet.

The three Krueger children are referred to as AA, BB, and CC, in the lawsuit, which was filed on January 20 in the Peoria Division of the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The oldest of the Krueger children was three when they were taken from their family for more than a year, and the youngest was just three days old.

The Center Square reported that the middle child, referred to in court documents as BB, was being treated for a complex medical issue and about to be discharged when the nightmare began.

“Petrak was not BB’s doctor,” the lawsuit says. “Jacob told Defendant/Petrak he did not want her involved in BB’s care, treatment, or discharge planning. Defendant/Petrak was offended and embarrassed by Jacob’s statements. She left the room, as requested, but Defendant/Petrak was not done with the Krueger family.”

The lawsuit alleges that Petrak contacted the others named in the lawsuit and told them her investigative finding was that the child was medically abused.

Rapier, the family’s attorney, said that the family had previously endured a 17-month long investigation that had found no medical neglect of the middle child being treated, but because Petrak changed her finding at the last minute, according to the lawsuit, all three children were taken from the Krueger’s for 467 days.

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