SUBCOMMITTEE ON SELECT EDUCATION
COMMITTEE EDUCATION AND LABOR
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
SEPTEMBER 8, 1976
STATEMENT OF KENNETH WOODEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL
COALITION FOR CHILDREN'S JUSTICE
Mr. WOODEN. I thank you, Congressman Miller, and I thank you for
your continuing interest and I commend you for these hearings. I also
commend the Congressman to your right. Living close to New York
City, it has been a sad pleasure to read what has been taking place in
New York City on foster care, and I commend you, Congressman
Biaggi, for defending children who cannot defend themselves.
I would like to submit my testimony for the record and just make a
few points to reinforce my testimony and then open it up for any ques-
tions that you may have.
[The statement referred to follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF KENNETH WOODEN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COALITION FOR CHILDREN'S JUSTICEMr. WOODEN. I would like to give a little credit to a young girl who
My name is Kenneth Wooden. I am Executive Director of the National Coalition for Children's Justice at 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey.
For the past three years, I have been travelling the country, investigating conditions in residential child care institutions, including county jails and lock-ups, juvenile correctional facilities and institutions for the emotionally disturbed, through whose doors approximately half a million youngsters pass each year. The chronic neglect and, in many cases, the outright physical abuse inflicted on incarcerated children prompted the formation of a National Coalition to focus public attention on their plight and to work with other citizen organizations to monitor and upgrade the treatment of children in public care.
One of the surprises which I encountered in my investigation was the large number of youngsters lacked up and being denied their basic rights even though they had committed no crime. It has been my experience that there is little difference in the background and characteristics of these children regardless of whether they have been labelled "dependent," "neglected," "status offender," "CHINS" (Children in Need of Supervision), or "emotionally disturbed." There is some evidence that the number of youngsters labeled "neglected and dependent" warehoused in large institutions is declining but the numbers can be misleading. It is my impression that a shell game is being played with the labeling process, and that dependent children, relabeled "disturbed" or "hard to place," are being shuttled off to private, often profit-making institutions in ever greater numbers. Instead of orphanages, we now have so-called "treatment centers"--a "growth industry" which feeds on unwanted children just as the nursing home business depends for its existence on large numbers of the unwanted elderly. And, as is the case with the elderly, the systematic neglect and maltreatment of children in these facilities is being subsidized by the federal government.
The vast majority of youngsters in public care are cast-outs of an uncaring society, victims of parental neglect or abuse the effects of which have been compounded by their experiences with other social institutions, such as the schools, the courts, and even the "helping" agencies. A high percentage come from poor, minority families. Because of their early histories of deprivation and brutalization in the home, these children by the time they come to the attention of the courts or welfare, are in desperate need of personalized care and remedial attention. Not surprisingly, many exhibit emotional, physical and mental scars from their previous battles with life which make them poor candidates for placement in a traditional foster home situation. While babies and very young children, even from minority families, have a good chance of finding permanent homes if they can be freed for adoption, older children, especially those with physical or emotional problems, are hard to place. The public agencies often don't want abuse, foster care, etc.--leads inevitably to a bunching up of limited financial and human resources around that issue, and a corresponding lack of attention to other areas of need. Today we are reaping the harvest from a child care system that has been allowed to grow topsy turvy with no underlying philosophy to bring the various pieces together. In order for the federal government to play a role in bringing some coherence to the current child care picture, it will have to first get in hand its own procedures for developing, initiating and overseeing policy affecting children and youth.It is hoped that Congress can make some Progress in this direction in the next session starting with its own committee organization system.
The children are waiting.
Good words do not give me back my children. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not give my people homes where they can live in peace and take care of themselves. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises.