It is the latest fad in child welfare: Use a computer algorithm that supposedly can predict who will abuse a child. The term commonly used in the field is “predictive analytics.” A more accurate term would be “computerized racial profiling.”
Child welfare is not the only field to embrace predictive analytics. It’s already in use – and proven to be racially biased – in law enforcement, for example. A few members of the New York City Council, including the chair of the council’s Technology Committee, James Vacca, see the danger. They’ve introduced legislation that would, at least, bring a small measure of transparency to how the city uses predictive analytics. Columbia Journalism Review reports that the committee’s hearing on the bill this week was among the best attended in recent history.
The bill comes just in time. The former head of the city’s child welfare agency, Gladys Carrion, expressed doubts about predictive analytics. But she “retired” as Commissioner of New York’s Administration for Children’s Services under pressure after a high-profile child fatality. Her replacement, David Hansell, gives every indication of embracing this new and dangerous fad. That is likely to make worse everything The New York Times found in its recent story about foster care as the new Jane Crow.
[For more on this story by Richard Wexler, go to http://www.socialjusticesoluti...iling-child-welfare/]