Despite Election, 2024 Brings Medicare Child Welfare Reform Effort

Photo credit: Kim Raff for ProPublica, originally published in the ProPublica article “Biden Administration to Overhaul Welfare Following ProPublica Reporting” from 11/28/23.

Moving this to the top of your 2024 civil justice reform list: Welfare reform sending money meant for families to actual families, and not for investigation of families.

The Biden Administration changes, which might seem wildly optimistic in an election year, come on the heels of a scathing investigative report from ProPublica, the non-profit journalism folks.

In a follow up last month (Dec. 2023), ProPublica reminded that it had “… found that in Arizona and elsewhere, money meant to help parents struggling to raise their children is instead used to investigate them for alleged child maltreatment — which often stems from the very financial circumstances that they needed help with in the first place.

The story by Eli Hager, who is fast becoming a sort of Bob Woodward of family law, continued to say that “.. the proposal, drawn up by the federal Administration for Children and Families, is open for public comment until Dec. 1. Once comments are reviewed, officials plan to issue final regulations that could take effect in the months after that, heading into the 2024 election.

Hager outlines key points of the reform: “The first change would prohibit states from counting charitable giving by private organizations, such as churches and food banks, as ‘state’ spending on welfare, a practice that has allowed legislatures to budget less for programs for low-income families while still claiming to meet federal minimums.”

And if that fails to meet your daily dose of civil justice rationing, then check out Hager’s previous milestone Child Welfare coverage.

That  reporting includes: “You get more due process protections when facing a couple months in jail than you do when you’re facing losing your kids forever,” said Josh Gupta-Kagan, founder and director of the Family Defense Clinic at Columbia Law School and an expert on civil liberties as they apply to child protective cases.

And then point: “The right to remain silent, the right to a public jury trial, the right to face your accuser and so on are not recognized and enforced by the courts in the child welfare system, according to our interviews and a review of case law. Neither is the related ideal of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or the standard that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

It is not for the faint of heart. But if 2024 is going to be a year of family law reform, then reporting like ProPublica’s is going to become increasingly important.