- Jane Weiss
You Do Not Have the Right to Remain Silent: The Lack of Miranda Within “Child Welfare”
Reform within the “child welfare” system is widely discussed due to the systems prejudicial nature. The system is called many names: the family policing system, the family regulation system, and the family destruction system. Many Black and Brown families, specifically, struggle with systemic racism embedded in the “child welfare” system that causes constant fear that minor flaws will lead to family separation. While many activists call for the system to be abolished, many supporters of abolition understand that the goal can only be achieved through reforms that hold the perpetrators accountable. However, many activists have had little luck fixing a system that is so broken, as reform legislation constantly fails due to new horror stories of child harm and neglect that flood the media. Child deaths, such as that of Jace Eubanks, that force the media to call for stricter regulations, however, are rare.
Families forced to encounter the Administration for Child Services (ACS) and Child Protective Service (CPS) are unaware of their rights. Through the abundance of cop shows on television, most Americans are aware of their right to remain silent and have a general understanding of their Miranda Rights in criminal proceedings; but there is no equivalent in the “child welfare” system. The lack of transparency from CPS workers to the families they are investigating provides an extreme disadvantage, as families may be misrepresented in court by the ACS investigators. ACS refuses to adopt these methods because it may make it harder for social workers to assess the safety of the children. This, however, completely disregards the harm and rights of the accused family members. The workers may initially come across as a third-party investigator who are there to help the families; but in reality, they are not. They are government workers sent to investigate. They may be called social workers, but they act more like family police officers.
If CPS workers were to provide families under investigation proper instructions at the beginning of a case through Family Miranda Rights, parents would be protected from the unnecessary harm that ensues from lack of knowledge. Individuals who have disabilities, are commonly discriminated against. Some caseworkers urge parents to invite them into their homes and tell their side of the story in order to prevent further interference. Some parents and guardians are unaware of the possible ramifications from this. For example, if a house lacks cleanliness or lacks organization, it may be used against the family in a future hearing.
So far, bills proposed to the New York State Senate and the New York City Council to help amend the system were dismissed. The New York State Senate bill failed because the framers would not concede and give family protection agencies more power. The lack of transparency within the family policing system causes more harm than good. The amoral nature of the family policing system is perpetuated at the beginning of a case due to the limited disclosure, which would be remedied by Family Miranda Rights.
 Andy Newman, Is N.Y.’s Child Welfare System Racist? Some of Its Own Workers Say Yes., New York Times (Nov. 23, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/22/nyregion/nyc-acs-racism-abuse-neglect.html.  Urban Matters, Why a Child Welfare ‘Miranda Rights' Law Is Essential: A Q&A with Advocate and Organizer Joyce McMillan, New Sch. Ctr. For NYC Affs (June 2, 2021), https://www.centernyc.org/urban-matters-2/2021/6/2/why-a-child-welfare-miranda-rights-law-is-essential-a-qampa-with-advocate-and-organizer-joycemcmillan.  Newman, Is N.Y.’s Child Welfare System Racist? Some of Its Own Workers Say Yes., New York Times (Nov. 23, 2022).  Lisa Kelly, Article, Abolition or Reform: Confronting the Symbiotic Relationship Between “Child Welfare” and the Carceral State, 17 Stan. J. Civ. Rts. & Civ. Liberties 255, 319 (2021).  Alice Gainer, Father sues New York City Administration for Children's Services After 4-Year-Old Son's Death Allegedly at the Hands of Mother's Boyfriend, CBS New York (Oct. 18, 2022), https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/jace-eubanks-child-killed-nyc-acs-lawsuit/.  Id.  L. Frunel & Sarah H. Lorr, Lived Experience and Disability Justice in the Family Regulation System, 12 Colum. J. Race & L. 1, 17 (2022).  Joyce McMillan, Defenders, Advocates and Impacted Parents Urge Passage of Legislation Requiring ACS and Other Family Regulation Agencies to Inform Parents of Their Miranda Rights: Black and Brown Parents “Live in Fear” of Losing Children to a Racist, Dysfunctional System, The Bronx Defenders (Oct. 22, 2021), https://www.bronxdefenders.org/defenders-advocates-and-impacted-parents-urge-passage-of-legislation-requiring-acs-and-other-family-regulation-agencies-to-inform-parents-of-their-miranda-rights/.  Frunel & Lorr, Supra note 7.  Newman, Supra note 3.  Michelle Burrell, What Can the Child Welfare System Learn in the Wake of the Floyd Decision?: A Comparison of Stop-And-Frisk Policing and Child Welfare Investigations, 22 Cuny L. Rev. 124, 145 (2019).  Id.  Id.  Frunel & Lorr, Supra note 7.  Id.  Burrell, Supra note 11.  Frunel & Lorr, Supra note 7.  Burrell, Supra note 11 at 131.  McMillan, Defenders, Advocates and Impacted Parents Urge Passage of Legislation Requiring ACS and Other Family Regulation Agencies to Inform Parents of Their Miranda Rights: Black and Brown Parents “Live in Fear” of Losing Children to a Racist, Dysfunctional System, The Bronx Defenders (Oct. 22, 2021).  Urban Matters, Supra note 2.  McMillan, Supra note 19.