The Nanny State
When we think about child protection laws, we envision caring social workers and brave police protecting those most in need of it - our children. We envision neglectful mothers, callously leaving their toddlers alone for days on end while they go off on some selfish bender. We picture abusive fathers, beating their offspring for every little offense - real or imagined.
There are most certainly such cases (regrettably) but remember, as we have cautioned before, when you ask for laws to be passed, what you are really asking for is for government to potentially use force against its citizens to make them behave a certain way - and they get to decide what that way should be.
What happens when they redefine "neglect?" What happens when what had been considered normal is redefined as "abusive?" What happens when your refusal to allow an outside agency to inspect and analyze your home life is itself an offense? What happens when the law protects your children from something you don't believe is harmful?
What happens when the government decides that it knows best? It didn't take a great deal of internet searching to find out.
"I remember when...." (we didn't go to jail)
Many parents will wax poetic about "the good ol' days," when they stayed out all summer night as children. They'll reminisce about riding their bikes through streets or park trails at breakneck speed, while wind rushed through their unprotected hair. They'll speak wistfully of pickup basketball games that would last for hours, with nary an adult in sight. Perhaps they'll speak in reverent tones of watching the heavens unfold before them as they camped beneath the stars with their siblings, while their parents slept on in another tent or camper.
Few of those stories ended in, "until CPS showed up, took us into custody, held us for weeks, charged our parents with neglect, and then put us in foster care where my sister was murdered." Yet, nowadays, this is becoming a very real ending.
On two occasions in 2014, parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Silver Springs, Maryland, allowed their 6- and 10-year-old children to play in a park, unattended by an adult. In April, they were dropped off at 4:00pm and told to be home by 6:00pm. At 5:00, they were instead picked up by police and the parents were charged with neglect.
In December, the Meitiv children were walking back from another park, a mile away, when they were taken by police. The children were told that they were getting a ride home. Instead, per the parents, "[t]hey kept the kids trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before dropping them at the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours. We finally got home at 11pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”
In our homes
A New Jersey family is suing the state's division of Child Protection and Permanency for "unconstitutional home intrusion and civil rights violations."
The Zimmer family states that, on January 13th, 2015, a DCPP case worker, "without warning or advanced notice, knocked on the door and forced herself into the home by misrepresenting numerous facts, as well as New Jersey law." Per the parents, the case worker stated that they had "no choice," and refused to state the purpose of the visit - which later turned out to be centered around their choice to homeschool their 15-year-old son.
The case worker refused to leave despite repeated requests to produce a warrant or court order, even after the Zimmers called local police. They then endured an "aggressive two-hour interrogation" of the entire family, including the couple's son, and the worker attempted to gain access - through physical prying and without any type of warrant or cause - to the family's gun safe.
"According to the complaint, the case worker admitted that she had no information alleging abuse and neglect of the child, and instead stated she had the authority to conduct an investigation based on a confidential tip.... Following the questioning inside the home, the Zimmers allege that the case worker ultimately forced them to sign a medical release for access to the records of their son."
In our yards
This past April, two Florida parents were arrested, charged with neglect, and jailed overnight because they were delayed by traffic and arrived at home ninety minutes after their 11-year-old son. Because the boy had no house key, he whiled away the time waiting for his family by shooting basketball hoops in his own yard. A neighbor witnessed this and, rather than simply ask the boy if all was well, they called the police who "protected him." Because of the charges, his 4-year-old sibling - who was not at home at the time - was also taken into protective custody.
The older boy had shade, running water, and a backpack of snacks - but the parents were considered abusive. The boy had to beg to speak with a judge to tell his side and explain that no neglect had taken place. The children were, thankfully, returned, but the parents must still enduring a hearing on the criminal charges and, to comply with CPS orders, must attend parenting classes, go to therapy, and have both children attend "play" therapy. Further, they are required have their older boy attend day camp and the younger attend day care all summer.
Vacationing in the woods
In Michigan, the Hernandez family decided to embark on an adventure of "off grid living." Like many American families, they opted to spend the summer camping. Unlike many, they were lucky enough to do so on a 10-acre parcel of land they were planning to purchase. Nine days in, the parents left the campsite to do laundry and purchase food, leaving their nearly 16-year-old son in charge of his younger siblings as well as his older sister, who lives with Cerebral Palsy. They returned to find county sheriff's deputies and a CPS agent on their site - and taking their children.
According to CPS, this was justified because the family was not in a “stable living environment;” there was no electricity or water source; the children were playing in the woods, cared for by a 15 year old; the youngest child had a diaper rash; and the 17-year-old girl "was cold." This, despite the fact it was camping and wasn't supposed to be a permanent living environment (the family owns a home); the family had stored water supplemented by a rain catchment system, and had a generator as well as a propane stove; children have an odd habit of playing wherever they are and they happened to be camping in the woods; Michigan has no minimum age for babysitting, and the young man likely would have been charging families for his services in the suburbs; and the oldest sibling had a temperature of 96 degrees only after the "interviewing" agents left the tent flap open for ninety minutes while the girl was left without covers.
The children were removed from their parents for twenty-one days - far longer than they were "being abused" by their parents - and only returned that swiftly because the mother and children are eligible for enrollment in the Tlingit Native American tribe. Both the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and Michigan state law restrict separation Native American families. If the family had not had the Tlingit link, the case still would be ongoing, with the children still in foster care.
Making the most personal of decisions
Imagine being on the verge of legal adulthood, only to be diagnosed with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma. Imagine the horror you would feel, and how you would agonize over your fate. Now, imagine that you have decided, despite medical advice in the clearest terms, to decline treatment because of your personal beliefs.
And you're told, "Too bad, kid, you're getting it anyway. We know best. You're welcome."
That is precisely what happened in Connecticut, where a 17-year-old young woman was "protected from herself" - and the decision was supported by the state's Supreme Court. Months away from legal majority and being beyond the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, she was told that she isn't capable of making such mature decisions. After being forced to endure two chemotherapy treatments, she even ran away for a week - but was eventually brought back. She was forced to submit to surgery to install a port in her chest to administer the remainder of the chemotherapy chemicals.
Please wrap your head around that. A government agency compelled someone very nearly a legal adult to have a device installed in their body, so that medical treatments they do not wish to receive can be forced upon them.
Is this really the proper role of government?
Does the government have the final say?
Sadly, in our society, there are children suffering horrible abuse, with no one to speak for them or make the mistreatment stop. But the same laws that protect a three-year-old from a parent that would extinguish cigarettes on his or her back is now "protecting" children from loving, caring families - and their own values and decision-making.
Once again, a good idea has been allowed to grow into a mindless bureaucracy, following procedures and policies rather than common sense and respect for individual rights. It is up to us as citizens, to first be aware that this abuse by the system is happening, and then to demand accountability and a reining in of those at the helm. We cannot allow the system put in place for the defense from itself becoming an abuser of entire families.
We cannot relinquish our parental rights under the auspices of protecting the weak.