Thursday, December 4, 2008

MJS Editorial Board Fails To Support Foster Children

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board sounded off on the murder of Christopher L. Thomas in this morning's paper. Overall, they did fairly well. But not surprisingly, they came up short when it came to putting all of the pieces together.

The editorial starts out well:

The tragic case of 13-month-old Christopher L. Thomas Jr. - who police say died at the hands of his aunt while in foster care - has taken on Orwellian overtones. As protesters outside a Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare office demanded Wednesday, the bureau must be held accountable in Christopher's death.

That means state officials in Milwaukee need to respond to the public's outrage and demand for answers. In particular, Denise Revels Robinson, bureau director, has to stop stonewalling.

So far, so good. In the third paragraph, however, they show their cluelessness on the whole situation (emphasis mine):
Madison officials have responded to questions, but attempts to reach Robinson by the Journal Sentinel's Crocker Stephenson, who has led the reporting on this story, continue to be met with silence. Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Legislature need to get involved - as state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) already has - to make sure that the bureau starts talking, is held accountable and changes its ways to lessen the odds that this will happen again.


They must not even read their own paper. As I stated over a year ago, the system is screwed up to the point that it will be damn difficult to get it back to a functional program again. In that post, I talked of one of the many, many shortcomings of the child welfare system. Namely, the refusal of the state to adequately support foster parents. And in that same post, I cited a couple of paragraphs from this MJS article, noting that Darling is on the oversight committee.

I'm starting to feel like a broken record, or to be more up-to-date, a scratched CD, but Darling has NOT stepped up to fix anything. She created this mess. She was supposedly overseeing it for the past ten years. And just like Denise Revels Robinson has repeatedly done every time a foster child is killed, Darling wrings her hands, states that some thing has to be done to fix the system, and then crawls back to whatever cave she lives in until the next time she feels there's a chance to get some publicity.

Can anyone tell me just what in the world Darling has supposedly done for the foster children in Milwaukee County in the past ten years? I can not think of one substantial thing that she has done. She says that foster parents deserve better pay, but then votes down any chance for that to happen. She says that the kids need services like therapy and medical care, but then refuses to provide funding for this to happen. The list goes on and on. She just provides lip service, but nothing of substance.

And before commenter Dan or Dad29 have a chance, I will say this: Doyle is just as responsible. While he does not micromanage every office of every state department or division or bureau, he must have heard about this story by now. I find his silence to be disheartening and very disappointing.

But Doyle is not the one on the advisory panel having direct oversight of the Bureau. Darling is that one. And Doyle is not the one who is seeking every opportunity to get some face time on TV or in the papers to grandstand the issue. Darling is that one too.

To go after Revels Robinson, and not Darling, is akin to blaming the helmsman of the Titanic for hitting the iceberg, but exonerating the captain who had ordered the reckless behavior in the first place.

For the editorial board to give kudos to Darling for her abject failure to do her job, and even more so, for her hypocrisy, is absolutely disgusting.

All this shows is that the powers that be at MJS are not really the liberals that the right wants us to believe or that they don't have one whit of understanding of what's really going on or both.

For what it's worth, I do want to commend Journal Sentinel reporter Crocker Stephenson for his diligent efforts to get some answers regarding Christopher's tragic death.


  1. I'll go you one better.

    Ms. Robinson was appointed by Joe Leean (really, T Thompson.)

    Further, while it would be nice if the Governor spoke up, I don't see it as his responsibility---yet.

    Should be DHSS Sec'y...

  2. I don't know if it was Leean, or Susan Dreyfus, who was the head of the state's children services at the time.

    I don't have much love lost on her either. She is as bad as the rest of them.

  3. capper - your insider knowledge of all of this is invaluable, but I am curious as to what you would change? I agree that Revels Robinson should lose her job, at a minimum. But is seems the state took this over in 1998 because of the abject failure of the county at protecting children from this type of treatment and death as well. The county was completely run by Dems in 1998 if I recall. So what this has shown to me is that the children suffer regardless of what political party is in charge.

    As a mom, these stories make me physically ill. So in all seriousness, what (other than giving the responsibility back to the county) can be done to make this better?


  4. No system is absolutely perfect. I've been following a story in Seattle that is also as heartbreaking as Christopher's.

    But the takeover in '98 was not due to the abject failure of the County. I've written some history here.

    In a nutshell, the State, under Tommy Thompson, was short-changing Milwaukee County by about 25%. In response to the federal lawsuit, three independent studies were done, and all three came to the same conclusion that the county was underfunded. The state denied that and claimed it was mismanaged and used that as the reason to take over. As soon as they did, they pumped tens of millions of extra dollars into the system, but instead of using it for services to the kids, it was used to pay off the multitude of agency administrations.

    As for fixing it, I've put some recommendations in this earlier post. Fire Revels Robinson, bring it back to local control, and make it public, with the watch dogs back into place.