Beyond this, NACC’s focus over the first 30 years of its existence was remarkably
hermetic. It focused in a narrow, sealed way on two things above all else. First, it focused on itself
as an organization devoted to the principle that children deserved to be represented in all child
welfare proceedings. This became its mission and involved an intramural fight with CASA, its
leading competitor. But NACC refused to offer critical commentary on what should have been a
preeminent concern: the degree to which child welfare practice had been turned into something
bad for poor children, including the break-up of poor families at an unprecedented rate. When
children were needlessly removed from their mothers merely because the mothers faultlessly were
themselves threatened or assaulted by an intimate adult partner, NACC was silent. 106 Over the
period of NACC’s existence, both the child poverty rate and income inequality grew. 107 One would
never know this by reading NACC’s publications during its formative years. 108
Nor is this a matter of important leaders of NACC being unaware of the need to pay
attention to things outside of the four corners of the child welfare system. Consider the sage views
of Don Duquette, who played an exceptionally large role in NACC for most of its history. In 2007,
as part of a celebration of thirty years of child advocacy work he had done at the University of
Michigan Law School, Duquette explained that child advocates need to “address child poverty and
strengthen its policies supporting children’s families and the institutions that help children grow
and develop into healthy and productive citizens.” 109 His goal was to help create a society that is
“better at preventing child abuse and neglect.” 110 He worried about, and condemned, “overzealous
state intervention.” 111 Duquette wanted court orders designed to “minimize the disruptions to a
child’s life [and] generally provide for more contact between parent and child.” 112 He also wanted
to see fewer terminations of parental rights and bring in “more persons [to] participate in the
permanency decisions.” 113 It is precisely this kind of critique and advocacy that was missing from
NACC during too much of its formative years.
Even when NACC acknowledged some of the most pressing real-world problems in child
welfare, its proposed solutions have been stunningly meager. In 2005, for example, NACC
published in The Guardian the first article that I could find that paid serious attention to the “heavy
toll” foster care exacts on children, including “the severing of ties with all that is familiar to the
child, often including siblings and extended family.” 114 The article, written by Miriam Krinsky,
highlighted how miserable foster care has proven to be for too many children forced to endure it.
106 See Nicholson v. Scoppetta, 344 F.3d 154 (2d Cir. 2003).
107 Writing about child poverty in the United States during NACC’s formative years, Peter Cicchino reported that
“[t]he child poverty rate has gone from about 15% in 1974; to about 22% in 1993; to between 24% and 29% [in 1995].
Peter M. Cicchino, The Problem Child: An Empirical Survey and Rhetorical Analysis of Child Poverty in the United
States, 5 J.L. & POL'Y 5, 20 (1996).
108 NACC’s behavior over much of its history is akin to a group of professionals deeply committed to children’s health
and well-being who see children being placed in a hospital when they don’t need to be there, and the hospital is
astonishingly ill-equipped to serve the children well. The hospital lacks adequate food, clothing, shelter, education,
for the children residing within it. These professionals work on those problems, trying to get better food, better beds,
better education. But they entirely overlook that the children should not have been there in the first place.
109 Duquette, supra note 2, at 317.
114 Miriam Aroni Krinsky, NACC and ABA Join Call for Reform of Foster Care System, THE GUARDIAN 1, 1 (Summer