Oct 20, 2017

USA: Children in the for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Ryan Grim" <ryan.grim@theintercept.com>
Date: Oct 18, 2017 6:53 PM
Subject: Children in the for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates

Yes, that exists.
Children in the for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated, and autopsies are not even being attached to the now-closed case files, a two-year bipartisan investigation by the Senate Finance Committee has found.
If that's not horrible enough, consider this: the report came out yesterday, and it zeroed in on a for-profit foster care provider, the stock price of that company sank. The next day, as it became apparent that nobody cared, the stock jumped back up. (The company is Civitas Solutions, trades as CIVI on the NYSE.) Look at this move from Oct. 17th-18th.

Longtime readers of this email may remember coverage from last year of the fight over the Families First Prevention Services Act. It's a bill that tried to flip the foster care system rightside up. As of now, all the incentives -- cultural, legal, political and financial -- push in the direction of pulling kids out of dysfunctional homes and sticking them into the foster care system, where they often wind up warehoused in group homes.
The first part of that has a natural appeal: it feels wrong to leave a child in what could be an unsafe environment, and if something bad happens, the judge or the caseworker who didn't remove the kid gets blamed. But nobody gets blamed when a kid dies out of sight in a group home, and this report shows kids are not necessarily better off removed.
The better approach is to try to leave them with families first -- hence the title of the bill -- and give that family the support it needs. In the end, it would cost the government a lot less money, and keep families together. And that's why a lot of conservatives actually support this reform. The problem, as I've written about before, is the weird lobbying power of group homes that profit off of separating children from their families. And so it was beaten by a single vote last year. This year, though, reform could finally happen, if enough pressure is applied.
My story with Aida Chavez here. Please forward to anybody who'd care, tweet it, share, etc.


CHILDREN IN THE for-profit foster care system are dying at alarming rates, but the deaths are not being investigated, and autopsies are not even being attached to the now-closed case files, a two-year investigation has found.
The investigation, conducted and released in rare bipartisan fashion by the Senate Finance Committee, looked closely at one of the largest private providers of foster care services, the MENTOR Network.
The companies and agencies charged with keeping foster children safe often failed to provide the most basic protections or take steps to prevent tragedies, the investigation found.
In the wake of the report, shares of the MENTOR Network's parent company, Civitas Solutions, traded sharply downward, but quickly rebounded amid a lack of press coverage.
By pushing the report to colleagues, Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee's top-ranking Democratic member, said he and panel chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are trying to "light a big fire around" how important it is to fix the child welfare system's flaws.
The report was prompted in part by a BuzzFeed investigation into the company two years ago. The committee found that 86 children had died in the company's care over a 10-year period, and the firm had conducted internal investigations in only 13 cases.
The political problem for foster children is a structural one. It would be hard to think of a group with less lobbying power in Washington, D.C., while the group homes that warehouse children are making significant profits off each one and are loath to see that income dry up. Late last year, Hatch and Wyden made a push to reform the system with a bill that would privilege family settings over group homes, but a Baptist group home network in North Carolina persuaded its Senate delegation to block the legislation.
Meanwhile, state agencies and judges tend to be quick to pull a child from their home at the first sign of trouble, reasoning that the safest move is to act rather than leave them with a parent. If tragedy strikes while a child is at home, media attention condemns the parents and the system that left the child there. But when tragedy strikes a child who was hastily moved into a group home, the death often passes unnoticed.
The failure of the child welfare system is a "real moral blot on the country," Wyden said, and children "aren't going to have an army of lobbyists behind them," so it's up to lawmakers to show how serious the failures of the system are. Wyden said he hopes this report shocks opponents of the Families First bill into taking a second look.
That image again....

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Oct 18, 2017

#NYC and beyond: 9/11 Tribute in Light Study Reveals Dramatic Impacts on #Bird Migration

Image from eNews: Migrating birds circle through the light beams during the 2017 Tribute in Light. Photo by Ben Norman.
The October 2017 eNews from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology presents some very interesting articles, including this one on how the 9/11 Tribute in Light affects bird migration. To me it is beyond sad and ironic to have to quantify such things, but the results are scientific and valuable. Please read the brief article and ask your elected officials even in rural areas to check how bright the lights really need to be and whether they might be "overkill." Citizens and entities can all check whether some dimming or removal could take place where overly bright lighting is impacting birds and other wildlife.

Sep 25, 2017

#WA and beyond: Anecdotal "Evidence" is Unhealthy for #Deer and the Urban Humans' Environment

Public Outreach and Environmental Education are important components of many governmental organizations. To protect and serve are laudible goals which are enhanced through their appropriately educating the human inhabitants.

With regard to the movement of deer (or other wildlife) onto property "owned by people" anecdotes are sometimes used as arguments. This is dangerous especially when people's stories are written up in newspapers, and elected officials on governing boards have their words forever available on YouTube or other video sites. Simply saying the population of deer is definitely out of control does not make it true. Leaders saying on tape that they personally see more deer now than they did six decades ago is injudicious.

According to an article at the Bellingham Herald, "...the deer population is increasing in Bellingham and other urban areas" but the journalist then goes on to say "...the city doesn’t track deer numbers." Anyway, deer are often on the move. They search for food and safe places traveling mostly at night. They don't recognize city, county, state, or international boundaries.

The good news though is that hard data, statistics and other information exists that has been compiled by governmental agencies and other organizations. I would prefer to see newspapers and elected officials stick to just the facts. When they use subjective phrasing they are likely inciting misguided wrong-doing among some members of the public.

For example, a wealth of info is available at DeerFriendly.org. The opening paragraph on their deer population control page is:
Deer Culls used to manage suburban deer create a public safety issue and provide only a short term solution, requiring a perpetual killing program. Examples of the Perpetual, Annual Deer Cull.  Although degraded habitat is a major cause for the decline of the U.S. deer population, suburbs often provide excellent deer habitat.  Deer are edge dwellers, living at the interface of the meadow and the thick forest.  A lush suburban habitat can support more deer, the carrying capacity, than a forest.  Communities wanting fewer deer can reduce the carrying capacity (see figure above) using fences, deer resistant landscaping and repellents.  Careful use of dogs or other deterrents can replicate the effect of a predator in a natural environment, keeping deer on the move and restricting their access to food.  Examples of non-lethal approaches, news below for contraception, sterilization, and relocation. A ban on feeding deer is often a first approach, sometimes a required approach. Also a deer population survey.
The population growth of humans in Washington is tracked by the Office of Financial Management. You can see an examples of their work in this WA trends page and in the map below that shows the human population change from 2000 to 2010. Whatcom County which is where I reside has had an increase in human population of  >=30% for those years. The state is as big as New England and it seems only two counties had a decrease in population - Pacific and Garfield.

Population Change, 2000 - 2010

Another source for facts is The Federal Highway Administration which, among other things, keeps track of how many vehicles are owned in the USA. Then the Bureau of Transportation Studies reports "Nationwide, about 88 percent of persons 15 or older are reported as drivers (table A-1). Interestingly, while the mean number of vehicles in households is 1.9 personal vehicles, households in the United States on average have 1.8 drivers who are 15 years or older (table A-2). Thus, it appears that households on average have more vehicles than drivers." There are statistics available regarding the nation's and the world's per capita ownership of vehicles. The onus for deer and motorists colliding is on people.

"Crossing Paths" is a longtime newsletter published by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.  An excerpt urges motorists to avoid collisions with deer and elk:
October 2016Watch out for deer on the roads this fall
Did you hear about the folks who called the Department of Transportation to request removal of the "Deer Crossing" sign on their road? They said that too many deer were being hit by cars and they no longer wanted them to cross there.
Fall is deer collision time on our roadways in Washington for a number of reasons.Some are about deer behavior at this time of year. Deer generally move to lower elevations in the fall for easier foraging, and that's often near human development, including roads. It's also the rut or breeding season for deer, when bucks are less wary and all deer are moving around more.Some are about our behavior at this time of year. Shorter days and the shift to daylight savings time put more drivers out on the roads during dimly lit hours when everything is harder to see.(...)
For the moment, deer are found nationwide. Often the departments of fish and wildlife and parallel agencies have a vested interest in catering to hunters even though they are supposed to govern on behalf of all people, but that is a separate subject. Non-hunters can achieve peaceable living with wildlife by following their own common sense and guidelines that have been researched and published by reputable experts.

Sep 21, 2017

Bellingham WA and USA: Cities dominating #deer habitat, journalists taking liberties with news

#Deer I saw in #Bellingham #WA 5/6/2017
See several photos of Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) by clicking HERE to go to Wikimedia Commons.

Recently I noticed discussion in the news about the City of Bellingham considering a regulation to prohibit citizens intentionally feeding deer. I don't know that they might not be reinventing the wheel. What they are talking about at the City Council seems to be the same as "negligent feeding" and is already illegal based on (Revised Code of Washington) RCW 77-15-790 the first line of which goes like this:
RCW 77.15.790
Negligently feeding, attempting to feed, or attracting large wild carnivores to land or a building—Infraction.
(1) A person may not negligently feed or attempt to feed large wild carnivores or negligently attract large wild carnivores to land or a building.
Journalists are taking liberties with the story, according to numerous hits I see in a search engine. Maybe they don't think the news is scandalous enough so they embellished. I am still searching for which news bureau is originally responsible for this embellishment, but they are passing around the notion that the deer are launching an "invasion" in Bellingham. Deer don't invade like Europeans invaded North America. They just live.

One journal, the Spokesman Review, included in their version a photograph of mule deer in Idaho. There are no mule deer in Bellingham (see WDFW). Black-tailed deer are common and they are a subspecies of mule deer, but the point is a good news bureau should include a photo of black-tailed deer who are inhabitants of Bellingham WA, not Idaho.

At least KOMONews.com used a photo of deer who live in the geographic area under discussion. Their making fun by using the term "Oh deer" in their headline is inappropriate however.

It is important for wildlife that journalists refrain from exaggeration that may inspire new acts of cruelty against deer by evil people.

I am not a professional journalist, paid by a government or business, a paid legislative policy analyst, an expert in species identification, or lawyer versed in municipal vs. state vs. federal regulations, just a citizen pining for objectivity because nature matters.

I don't believe people should intentionally or sloppily feed deer or other wildlife. A ban would be fine if it is not redundant, if it were enforced, and penalties paid. I also believe it would be wise to prevent cattle raisers from using public land. Litter laws should also be enforced.

People should take care of their garbage so skunks, raccoons, bears, birds, bees, deer and all are not attracted to it. They should stop feeding bread to seagulls, ducks and geese. Governments should plan roads appropriately and humans should drive cautiously so as not to run into wildlife. Wildlife corridors should be planned, implemented and respected. Homeowners and property managers should plant native gardens, not tulips for example. Many common sense practices facilitate living peacefully within nature.

Sep 19, 2017

Salish Sea: Resident #Orca surprise, as well as Biggs and Transients, Humpbacks, Grey Whales too

If you haven't seen an edition of the Orcanetwork Whale Sighting Report, you are in for a treat. There are many photos and some videos in this Sept 18, 2017 report. Below is a bit of contact info and further links re the long-standing Orcanetwork and whale watching in general. As they have written in this email (click HERE for entire message),
"This world was meant for us all. Lets all do our best to respect their need for space, their need for healthy food, and their need for clean and healthy waterways; it is the only home they have." 
Orca Network is a 501 c3 nonprofit organization, dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. 
Orca Network's Whale Sighting Network involves citizens in helping researchers track the movement of whales, and encourages people to observe whales from their homes, businesses, ferries, and beaches.
Whale reports are sent in to our Sighting Network and emailed out to researchers, agencies, and citizens on our network, and posted on our website (MAP of sightings also on website). Whale reports and observations are sent in by a variety of sources, and Orca Network does not guarantee the accuracy of any report or whale identification.

To Report Whale Sightings:

Killer whales have special protection in Canadian and U.S. waters.
Be sure to educate yourself about new protections, including regulations with specific distances and recommendations for viewing killer whales.

DO NOT APPROACH or position your vessel closer than 200 metres/yards to any killer whale in the U.S.(100 meters/yards in Canada). DO NOT APPROACH or get closer than 100 metres/yards to any other marine mammals or birds, whether on the water or on land.
 The rules apply to all types of boats, including motor boats, sail boats and kayaks, in Washington.

For more information on the Federal Regulations:  NOAA Fisheries website. 

To Report Harassment of Whales:
  • In US waters call NOAA Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964 
  • In CANADIAN waters call DFO Observe Record and Report (ORR) Violations Hotline at 1-800-465-4336
Report the boat name &/or a description of the boat, & get photos/video if at all possible.