More on poverty’s being treated as a crime
If you become poor, the state, rather than helping the family, takes away the children. I disagree with this approach: the default should be that family is helped and remains together. Alex Kane at Alternet:
The following article is part of an AlterNet series, Hard Times, USA, which shines a light on poverty in America. Click here for other stories in the series. Shakieta Smith needed a place to go. The homeless mother of two called a Washington, DC shelter hotline last year, but was told there were no available spaces. Then the intake worker told her that “if she and her kids had nowhere safe to sleep, she’d be reported to the city’s Child and Family Services Agency for a possible investigation into abuse and neglect,” the Washington Post reported. 
Smith is not the only mother to fear having her children taken away and put into foster care due to homelessness. According to the Post, 32 other families in DC have been threatened in a similar way. And about 25 states in the country “list a caregiver’s inability to provide shelter as part of their definition of abuse and neglect,” though some of those laws have been challenged in court. It’s yet another heartwrenching reminder of the myriad legal troubles that accompany being poor and homeless.“These people are simply walking in the door for assistance and people don’t have shelter and they’re saying, ‘We’re calling [Child Protective Services] on you?’ It’s ridiculous,” homeless advocate Ruth Anne White told the Post.
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, “homeless children are at particularly high risk for being placed in foster care. 12% of homeless children are placed in foster care compared to just over 1% of other children.”The center also notes that “placement in foster care” is a “risk factor” that predicts family homelessness during adulthood.
Poverty expert Kathryn Baer relayed a story she was told by a father at Washington, DC’s main intake center for homeless families. The father told her he was afraid of having his children taken away. “I think of him now because the Family Resources Center has started reporting all homeless families with no place to stay to the Child and Family Services Agency, the District’s child welfare program,” wrote Baer in May 2012.  “This means that the parents can be charged with child neglect — and their children put into foster care — just because the District won’t provide them with shelter or other housing.”This is despite the fact that DC law stipulates that “deprivation” due to lack of financial means is not considered neglect.
Homeless advocate Diane Nilan, the founder and president of HEAR US, an advocacy organization for homeless youth, has also seen this happen firsthand. “The foster care cloud hangs over every single homeless family that is out there. They, on their own, figure out that homelessness can likely get the kids taken away. So that fear, it’s a big dark cloud,” Nilan told AlterNet.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. What if, instead of investigating and intimidating homeless families, we ensured they have a place to go when they fall on hard times?As the story of Shakieta Smith shows, a core problem driving this process is that there are not enough shelters for all the homeless families. Cities should spend more money on building more shelters and expanding already existing shelters. And federal housing vouchers for homeless families could be expanded to get families into real, permanent housing. As the National Alliance to End Homelessness states , “Housing vouchers are successful in helping families exit homelessness and can protect poor families from becoming homeless.”
Advocates have also called for . . .