Judiciary OKs Dependency Bill

Steven Greenhut: Most of the attention at today’s Assembly Judiciary Committee was focused on the latest anti-immigration nonsense from Republican big-government types (AB26), but some significant business actually took place in the committee. Assemblyman Mike Feuer’s bill to open dependency courts passed 9-0 and now heads over to health and human services committee, where the closed-government types — i.e., the social workers and unions that want to keep their goings-on in the dark, and who can always be counted on to protect their worst actors — are likely to pull out the stops to dilute or stop this sensible legislation. Currently, the state can take children from their homes, tear apart families and make life-and-death decisions about kids all in the darkness, without oversight or media coverage. Those of us who have written about these heart-breaking issues realize that the current system operates on a Soviet model — the government knows best, families are guilty until proven innocent and what the officials do is none of your damn business. There is no accountability for bad behavior. Read about this Orange County case where social workers lied and falsified documents.

After writing about this bill, I heard from angry social workers. Their basic argument: “Our jobs are so important that we should be exempt from oversight and accountability.” That’s nonsense, of course, unless one wants to toss the whole idea of freedom and just trust government officials operating in secrecy and without oversight to do what’s best for us and our families. We know how those systems work out. Feuer’s bill has been widely supported by Left and Right, and by most of the state’s major editorial boards. It really is just the first step toward reform. The Assemblyman told me that openness will spotlight problems, and that’s when the best reform solutions will come to light.

The 9-0 vote was good. But expect the unions to come out at the next hearing. This is a good bill, so that means it will eventually face a tougher fight.

APRIL 5, 2011

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