Alum highlights conflict of interests in Briggs & Al’s Run and Walk

Runners+gathered+on+Wisconsin+Ave.+for+the+2019+Al+%26+Briggs+Run.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Runners gathered on Wisconsin Ave. for the 2019 Al & Briggs Run.

The Briggs & Al’s Run and Walk is a fundraising event that has been put on by the Children’s Wisconsin Hospital for the past 42 years. Despite being one of the longest-running fundraising events in Wisconsin, an organization called Casa Maria has been protesting against it in recent years. 

Casa Maria is a ministry that focuses on opening their home to women and children in need of short-term housing, refugees and asylum seekers, and families with longer-term needs, according to its website. The ministry also participates in protests and other social justice campaigns. One issue Casa Maria has been focusing on is a contract between Child Protective Services and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which has lead to protesting at the Briggs & Al Run. 

Lincoln Rice is an alum of Marquette and has been volunteering at Casa Maria since 1998. Rice said at first he wasn’t very interested in the CPS issue until he saw a mom staying at Casa Maria lose her triplets because she had fed them a small piece of chicken when they were sick. The mother was eventually forced to take the triplets to the doctor. At the doctor’s visit, the mother said she had fed the triplets the chicken and the doctor felt obligated to call CPS because the triplets were not supposed to have solid food. As a result, CPS determined that the children should be removed and the mother ended up losing her children.

“The mom eventually got her kids back, but it raised questions regarding race,” Rice said. Children of color are labeled victims of abuse at twice the rate of white children, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau. He also found that children of color are four times more likely to be removed from their families.

“A unique issue in Milwaukee compared to the rest of Wisconsin is that in the other 71 counties, CPS is run by the county,” Rice said. “In Milwaukee, it’s been privatized.” 

Rice said he believes CPS has over 200 private contracts, the largest being with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. 

“The conflict of interest is not only does Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin deal with cases of the families and placing children in foster care, but if a child is about to be adopted out they also have the CPS contract,” Rice said. “If they can get a kid in the adoption line, they’ll make more money.” 

Rice said he feels that Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is part of a broken system.

“We don’t see them doing enough to correct it,” Rice said. “I think part of that is because they make so much money off it. Things like the run become a way for them to get more donations and receive even more money which makes them more powerful.” 

Amada Morales and Michael Komba are both volunteers at Casa Maria. 

Komba said that being a court support volunteer, he saw parts of the child welfare system in Milwaukee that were “immoral” and “problematic.”

He saw situations where he felt like homeless families were unfairly being targeted for child removals and he also witnessed similar situations with families of color.

“I felt like they were being looked at in a different light than white families,” Komba said. 

Komba also said children of color are more likely to be named a victim of abuse than white children, even though there’s no static difference in abuse. Komba said it’s “purely a racist system” and that the hospital contributes to this racist system. 

Morales said Casa Maria has been urging the hospital to drop their contract with CPS because the system is prejudiced against the homeless and poor. 

“We are making our presence at the Al run to bring awareness,” Morales said. They have been protesting this issue at the Briggs & Al run for the past three years. 

Morales said she wants to encourage people to urge Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to drop their contract with CPS. 

“We don’t want to be critical of the hospital or the clinics, but there is a conflict of interest,” Morales said. “The community is worried the CPS contract is a risk when families visit the hospital.” 

She said they don’t agree with the fact there’s money tied to child removals.

“Every child the hospital removes, they’re given about $1300 a month per child,” Morales said. 

Morales said the good reputation of the hospital along with the contract allows CPS to pass legislation that promotes the adoption of inner city kids to the suburbs. 

“We want to be able to use the hospitals, but we can’t use the clinics and hospital in good confidence until the contract is dropped,” Morales said.

This story was written by Matthew Choate. He can be reached at matthew.choate@marquette.edu.