Predictive Analytics is not a new technique. It has been used by many government agencies to find risk factors. The reviews that have come after have not been very complimentary. Some states have started using this software to try and prevent child abuse. They feel that it can help tip them off to parents that are more likely to harm their child before it happens, then they can stop it from happening. Unfortunately, their good intentions seem to have missed the mark on several occasions.
Suzy and Peter
Suzy and Peter Saad have a life and family in Tennessee. They are parents to two boys and just had a little girl. This should be a lovely story of a beautiful family, but that is not what happened. Before their daughter’s birth, the couple was traveling through Connecticut when Suzy began having pains. They rushed to the closest hospital, and this was when their nightmare began.
Once at the hospital, they were treated like criminals. The hospital believed Suzy was a drug addict and treated her very poorly even after a drug screen came back negative for her and the baby. They also accused her husband of being a terrorist and accused him of being on the run. Peter’s family is from a Coptic Christian group in Egypt, and he has been a citizen since he was a child. They could not understand why they were being treated as if they had done something wrong.
Very quickly, they realized that this was not going to be an easy fix. Suzy posted about the situation. She explained that they were on trial for “predictive neglect.” In Connecticut, all they have to do is convince a Judge that there is a 10% chance that they will neglect their daughter in the future. For the past six months, they have been separated from their daughter while their case unfolds. They are facing having their parental rights removed. They still have custody of their two boys and have no charges against them.
In 2017 Los Angeles put an end to a program that could have resulted in many innocent families, like the Saad’s, being accused. Project AURA (Approach to Understanding Risk Assessment) was able to find 171 cases of abuse, but it also incorrectly identified 3,829 cases. That is a 95% false positive rate. Luckily for the families of Los Angeles, the Predictive Analytics was only used on past reports and not the current cases.
The information that goes into this software can seem so innocent. Basic things like your age, race, income level, and whether you have reached out to agencies in the past. Reaching out for help should be seen as a sign of good parenting. However, according to professionals, it will be seen as a red flag. If this software gains popularity, at-risk mothers will pull away from the assistance available, to protect their families from being torn apart.