December 2004

Grant Results

SUMMARY

In January and February 2003, WGBH Educational Foundation, a PBS affiliate in Boston that produces the PBS series Frontline, aired a three-part Frontline series called "Failure to Protect," which addresses problems with the child welfare system in America.

Key Results

  • Aired three one-hour broadcasts that were distinct Frontline episodes. The series aired on 300 public television stations and reached an audience of 6.25 million viewers:
    • "Failure to Protect: The Taking of Logan Marr."
    • "Failure to Protect: The Caseworker Files."
    • "Failure to Protect: A National Dialogue."
  • Project staff developed a companion Web site, which expanded on the issues and themes explored in the broadcasts.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $400,000 to support the production and dissemination of the series. PBS contributed more than $715,000 toward the project.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROJECT

"Failure to Protect" is a three-part documentary that aired in January and February 2003. The three one-hour broadcasts were distinct Frontline episodes:

  • "Failure to Protect: The Taking of Logan Marr," which focused on the nationwide reexamination of child protection policies after the death of Logan Marr, a five-year-old girl who was killed by her foster mother after being taken away from her biological mother, a single parent with no history of abusing or neglecting her children.
  • "Failure to Protect: The Caseworker Files," in which the Frontline film crew followed a small group of child welfare caseworkers, giving viewers an in-depth look at the usually hidden process by which states decide whether to remove a child from his/her parents.
  • "Failure to Protect: A National Dialogue," which was cosponsored by Fred Friendly Seminars (a New York-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that develops public television forums on critical issues) and Columbia University's Institute for Child and Family Policy, featured a televised panel discussion on America's child protection policies. The panel consisted of prominent government leaders, policy-makers, child welfare advocates and journalists, as well as individuals with firsthand experience within the child welfare system.

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RESULTS

The nationally broadcast series aired on 300 public television stations and reached an audience of 6.25 million viewers. To publicize the broadcasts, project staff:

  • Developed a companion Web site which expanded upon the issues and themes explored in the three television broadcasts.
  • Implemented a mini-grant program to encourage local PBS stations to develop locally focused original programming on the issue of child welfare. Staff received 20 applications for the program and selected 10 stations to receive $5,000 mini-grants. The stations that received grants were:
    1. WPBT/South Florida
    2. Maine Public Broadcasting
    3. KLRN/San Antonio, Texas
    4. Idaho Public Television
    5. WSIU/Carbondale, Illinois
    6. KSPS/Spokane, Washington
    7. WBGU/Bowling Green, Ohio
    8. KNPB/Reno, Nevada
    9. Mississippi ETV
    10. Nebraska ETV.
  • Partnered with the Child Welfare League of America to use the series as an educational tool. Twelve hundred Child Welfare League of America member agencies and 50 board members received VHS copies of the series.

Staff also hosted an event, "Failure to Protect: A National Symposium on Child Welfare," in January 2003 at Columbia University in New York City. The event brought together a diverse audience of policy-makers, social workers, advocates, journalists and former foster children to discuss child welfare issues. See the Bibliography for details.

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AFTER THE GRANT

Educational videotapes of Failure to Protect are available for purchase by schools, libraries and other educational institutions through Shop PBS for Teachers or through PBS Video by calling 1-877-PBS-SHOP. Transcripts may be downloaded.The series received the duPont-Columbia University awards for excellence in television and radio journalism and was nominated for an Emmy Award.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Frontline Documentary on the Child Welfare System and Foster Care

Grantee

WGBH Educational Foundation (Boston,  MA)

  • Amount: $ 400,000
    Dates: November 2002 to January 2004
    ID#:  046801

Contact

Jessica Cashdan
(617) 300-3773
Jessica_cashdan@wgbh.org

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Audio-Visuals and Computer Software

Failure to Protect: The Taking of Logan Marr, a one-hour videotape of the documentary. Boston: WGBH Boston, 2003.

Failure to Protect: The Caseworker Files, one-hour videotape of the documentary. Boston: WGBH Boston, 2003.

Failure to Protect: A National Dialogue, one-hour videotape of the documentary. Boston: WGBH Boston, 2003.

World Wide Web Sites

www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fostercare. "Failure to Protect" on the PBS Web site includes:

  • Interviews with figures appearing in the documentary.
  • Audio excerpts from police interviews with Logan Marr's foster mother.
  • Essays reacting to the documentaries from four child welfare experts.
  • An overview of U.S. child welfare policy.
  • Statistics on children in foster care.
  • An online discussion board for viewers to share their comments and reactions.

    Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2003.

www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fostercare/etc/tapes.html. "Failure to Protect" transcripts may be downloaded.

Sponsored Conferences

"Failure to Protect: A National Symposium on Child Welfare," January 22, 2003, Columbia University, New York. Attended by policy-makers, social workers, advocates, journalists and former foster children to discuss child welfare issues. Sponsored by Frontline, the Columbia University School of Social Work and Columbia's Institute for Child and Family Policy. Two panel discussions.

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Report prepared by: Barbara Matacera Barr
Reviewed by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Dwayne C. Proctor
Program Officer: M. Katherine Kraft