Eli Hager


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Eli Hager is a reporter covering issues affecting children and teens in the Southwest.

He joined ProPublica from The Marshall Project, where as a staff writer for six years he focused primarily on juvenile justice, family court, foster care, schools and other issues affecting youth. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, two-time Livingston Award finalist and three-time finalist for the Education Writers Association’s national award, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Guardian, New York Magazine, USA Today, NPR and elsewhere.

Hager’s investigation of juvenile justice agencies that bill parents for their children’s incarceration led to the practice being banned in Philadelphia the day after the story published and later statewide in California. His investigation of foster care agencies that pocket Social Security money intended for disabled children led to the practice being banned in both New York City and Los Angeles. After he published a yearlong investigation of deaths, crashes, escapes and abuses on for-profit prisoner transport vans, the Justice Department launched a probe of the industry.

Hager is based in Phoenix.

An Expert Who Has Testified in Foster Care Cases Across Colorado Admits Her Evaluations Are Unscientific

Diane Baird labeled her method for assessing families the “Kempe Protocol” after the renowned University of Colorado institute where she worked for decades. The school has yet to publicly disavow it.

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Biden Administration to Overhaul Welfare Following ProPublica Reporting

The Administration for Children and Families has quietly proposed closing loopholes in the nation's cash assistance program for the poor that a 2021 ProPublica investigation found states had exploited for years.

Child Welfare Officials Have Searched Her Home and Her Son Dozens of Times. She’s Suing Them to Stop.

Despite no evidence a mother mistreated her child, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services continues to enter her home without a warrant. She has filed a lawsuit, citing ProPublica’s reporting, arguing her rights are being violated.

When Foster Parents Don’t Want to Give Back the Baby

In many states, adoption lawyers are pushing a new legal strategy that forces biological parents to compete for custody of their children.

Texas, New York Diverge on Requiring Miranda-Style Warnings in Child Welfare Cases

Supporters in New York said they’ll continue to pursue legislation requiring caseworkers to inform parents of their rights during investigations by child protective services. Meanwhile, in Texas, a similar law takes effect in September.

NYC Child Welfare Agency Says It Supports “Miranda Warning” Bill for Parents. But It’s Quietly Lobbying to Weaken It.

Despite publicly claiming to support a measure that would require child protective services agents to read people their rights, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services has privately proposed gutting the bill.

Juveniles Locked Up for Life Will Get a Second Chance in New Mexico. But the State Must Locate Them First.

A new law will grant parole hearings for prisoners given life or long sentences as children. But our reporting showed that New Mexico officials weren’t aware of at least 21 “juvenile lifers” in the state’s custody.

New Mexico Has Lost Track of Juveniles Locked Up for Life. We Found Nearly Two Dozen.

New legislation would require the New Mexico Corrections Department to help schedule parole hearings for prisoners given life sentences as children. But the agency wasn’t aware of at least 21 “juvenile lifers” in its custody.

Arizona Child Welfare Director Dismissed Amid GOP Attacks Speaks Out

Gov. Katie Hobbs said she appointed Matthew Stewart to “transform” Arizona’s troubled child welfare system. But as an election-denying Republican was gearing up to attack him, she gave up on her pick.

Arizona’s Governor-Elect Chooses Critic of Racial Disparities in Child Welfare to Lead CPS Agency

Matthew Stewart will become the first Black leader of the Department of Child Safety, which ProPublica and NBC News found had investigated the families of 1 in 3 Black children in metro Phoenix during a recent five-year period.

In Child Welfare Cases, Most of Your Constitutional Rights Don’t Apply

The child welfare system rarely offers the same rights as the criminal justice system, leaving many families facing permanent separation without due process protections.

The “Death Penalty” of Child Welfare: In Six Months or Less, Some Parents Lose Their Kids Forever

Twenty-five years ago, Congress passed a law aimed at speeding up adoptions of children languishing in foster care. In the process, it destroyed hundreds of thousands of families through the termination of parental rights.

For Black Families in Phoenix, Child Welfare Investigations Are a Constant Threat

One in three Black children in Maricopa County, Arizona, faced a child welfare investigation over a five-year period, leaving many families in a state of dread. Some parents are pushing back.

How We Analyzed Child Welfare Investigations

Reporters crunched data from millions of child protective services cases to understand who is most affected by the system.

Police Need Warrants to Search Homes. Child Welfare Agents Almost Never Get One.

Each year, child protective services agencies inspect the homes of roughly 3.5 million children, opening refrigerators and closets without a warrant. Only about 5% of these kids are ultimately found to have been physically or sexually abused.

Help Us Investigate Termination of Parental Rights in the Child Welfare System

If you’ve faced having your parental rights terminated in the past decade, ProPublica and NBC News would like to connect with you to understand how your case was handled.

Help Us Investigate Racial Disparities in Arizona’s Child Welfare System

ProPublica is reporting on the Arizona Department of Child Safety. We want to hear directly from the community.

Southwestern States Make Changes to Welfare After ProPublica Investigations

The moves follow months of reporting on punitive and outdated welfare policies in this part of the country and come amid a yearslong surge in the region’s cost of living.

Welfare Is No Substitute for a Child Tax Credit

Some in Congress say the child tax credit isn’t needed because Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a success. Our reporting found it’s marked by repeated failures.

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