No, Colorado, You Don’t Need To Institutionalize 6-Year-Olds

From Colorado Newsline comes this piece — by Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform — on the state’s “take-the-child-and-run mentality” dominating the child welfare system and the harms of institutionalizing young children deemed at risk of suicide or violence: 

To their great credit, an interim committee of Colorado legislators is meeting this summer to try to figure out how to fix the state’s abysmal “child welfare” system. Unfortunately, there are signs that, like so many other commissions and task forces, they’re being suckered by the industry that promotes the worst option for children, “residential treatment.”

We all know the party line: There is a terrible shortage of placements for children, especially those with the most serious problems. So the only way to stop them from being warehoused in terrible makeshift placements is to warehouse them in “residential treatment” instead.

The well-documented horrors of residential treatment run the gamut from abuse of institutionalized children to runaways dying. Yet we are told the solution is to pump even more money into these places because they can’t scrape by on an average of $155,000 per year per child. The industry says we also should make residential treatment more like jail, allowing locked doors and physical force against youth. And even as they say they’re needed for the most difficult youth, they reject the most difficult youth unless they get “incentive payments.”

Now, the industry has reached a new low — conjuring up nightmare visions of 6-year-old demon murderers in order to justify institutionalizing even the youngest children.

So the head of the industry’s trade association, Becky Miller Updike, told the committee: “We’re seeing suicidal, homicidal 6-year-olds … and they do not belong in foster care.”

Apparently, no one asked Updike for evidence of a plethora of 6-year-old likely murderers in Colorado. But it turns out there’s been a little bit of research on this. While, of course, no one knows for sure and the database I found is short on citations, that database found 10 children age 6 and under have committed murder — over the past 131 years. Ten children in the entire world. None was from Colorado.

If young children are depressed enough to contemplate suicide, those children desperately need a loving family; the worst thing you can do is institutionalize them. They absolutely do belong in foster care — or, better yet, in their own homes.

In fact, institutionalization is among the worst things you can do to any young person. The research is overwhelming: Even when residential treatment centers are not rife with abuse they are terrible for children.”

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