Copyright (c) 2006 New York University School of Law
New York University Review of Law & Social Change
ARTICLE: THE NEGLECTFUL PARENS PATRIAE: USING CHILD PROTECTIVE LAWS TO DEFEND THE SAFETY NET
30 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 255
Jessica E. Marcus*
Two-month-old Tyler Walrond died of malnutrition on August 27, 1997 in the Bronx. His mother, Tabitha Walrond, had tried several times to obtain medical care for him, but was turned away each time by public assistance caseworkers and medical clinic staff who told her she needed Tyler's Medicaid number before he could receive care. 1 These denials of aid to Tyler were unlawful. He should have been automatically provided with Medicaid coverage because his mother was on Medicaid. Unfortunately, Tyler's case became part of a pattern which was later uncovered in federal investigations and a federal lawsuit. The City had been wrongly turning away poor parents who sought assistance to which they were legally entitled. 2
The forces at fault in Tyler's death were clear: an unresponsive public benefits system that turned away Ms. Walrond and her son in their hour of need, and doctors and administrators in the newly privatized Medicaid managed-care system who should have recognized this need. The federal government had recently enacted the Welfare Reform Act, creating financial incentives for states to limit access to benefits and to place strict conditions on their receipt. 3 The City's response was to place barriers in the way of needy families seeking help. Families applying for assistance were met with a presumption that they were not truly needy, and were forced to overcome a slew of bureaucratic obstacles blocking access to the benefits they so desperately needed. Simply by making the application process difficult and discouraging, the ...
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