Two years ago, BuzzFeed broke a disturbing story that gained little public attention at the time.
According to a 2015 report, widespread cases of physical and sexual abuse – including multiple deaths of healthy children – took place in homes that were part of the for-profit foster care organization known as the Mentor Network.
The report featured former Mentor caseworkers who accused the company of failing children because of its focus on extracting a profit from them – by cutting corners on expensive services, for example, or forcing social workers to carry extremely high caseloads.
“I went there because I care about services for kids,” said one caseworker. “I eventually became a machine that cared about profits. I didn’t care about kids.”
Buzzfeed’s report was thorough enough to prompt a Senate investigation.
But a key power-player, who has since left Mentor to form organizations influencing everything from juvenile recidivism to public education, has thus far been left off the hook.
Tripp Jones, now Principal at a company called 21c that specializes in developing the type of public-private partnerships that allowed the Mentor Network to flourish financially, served as member of Mentor’s executive team for eight years.
According to his company bio, Jones played a pivotal role in “building the systems” that enabled the company to grow from $250 million in revenue to $1.1 billion.
Then, Jones went on to serve as co-managing director at a company called New Profit, where he helped build a “social finance advisory firm” called Third Sector Capital Partners.
Jones and other perpetrators of this giant for-profit foster care firm are sheltered by powerful corporate cartels, making new demands for public-private profit opportunities. Jones sits on the boards of MassINC., New Profit, Time and Learning, Third Sector Capital Partners, MA Juvenile Justice PFS Initiative, and the Building on What Works Coalition.
And this is where education activists need to pay attention.
New Profit and Third Sector Capital, both major proponents of the controversial and highly unethical “Pay for Success” model of public financing, are now closely linked with powerful education organizations and lobbyists.
In 2014, New Profit – along with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative – sponsored a series of meetings with a group called Convergence, in which major education policy-players – including the presidents of both major teacher’s unions – developed what they dubbed a “Transformational Vision of Education” – a “vision” that is little more than a call to transform public education to a data-mining industry that will allow for-profit companies, much like Mentor, to profit off the backs of children.
Thus far, the coverage of the Senate’s investigation of Mentor has been watered-down at best.
Damage-control may be more accurate.
The Senate report and its recommendations call for further data-mining, which will inevitably serve to bolster these partnerships and the profits they generate.
Rather than demanding an investigation of the public-private structures and their architects (like Jones) that allow organizations like Mentor to profit off the backs of our most vulnerable populations, media outlets like the Intercept limit their coverage to this one firm.
Sadly, this should surprise no one.
(This is Alexandria Hill, who was killed in a Mentor foster home in 2013.)