Sunday, October 07, 2007

Who Is Talking To Your Child?

Chris O'Donnell recently wrote about a family he knows who are in trouble with their local (not in my state) Child Protective Services department for "inappropriate discipline."

You can read all about what happened and decide for yourself whether this child was disciplined appropriately. From what I know of the situation, it seems reasonable and logical.

What is most appalling about this is that someone--who?--got CPS involved and the child was asked all kinds of questions about her home life and never knew who she was talking to. She was interrogated by a state official and her parents were neither present nor notified. The CPS worker did not identify herself or her reasons for asking questions. Then the girl's parents received a letter from CPS stating that they are under investigation for inappropriate discipline!

Suddenly, there is a case open against them and they must justify their parental decisions to the state. The parents have been notified that the state believes the discipline was "inappropriate and bizarre" and although they have not been charged with a crime, this case file will remain open for 3 years!

Now don't get me wrong. Children must be protected from abusive families. But who defines abuse? I'd love to see my state's objective definition. In fact, let me look it up: okay, I tried to find it, but I can't. I'm sure it's there, but I'm not allowed to see it, as a taxpayer and a parent. The closest I came was a definition of deprivation:

The code lists four circumstances in which a child can be considered "deprived". When the child:

  1. is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for his physical, mental, or emotional health or morals;
  2. has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law;
  3. has been abandoned by his parents or other legal custodian; or
  4. is without a parent, guardian, or custodian.
Okay, I get #2, #3, and #4. #1 seems really vague though. Oh! Here's some clarification. Or not (emphasis added):

Since the main definition of deprivation in the Juvenile Code is purposefully written without specific language, you may have difficulty in certain circumstances determining if a child should be considered deprived. Your DFCS policy manuals can provide you with assistance in these situations. You will often need to refer to the DFCS guidelines for determining who is a deprived child and when it is appropriate to file a petition. (See Child Protective Services Manual).

I looked for DFCS policy manuals and then gave up. Plus, I've had wine (am I unfit to have children?) and my brains don't want to function at that level just at the moment.

Here's my point, and I think I have one (wine and all). Until and unless objective definitions of abuse are determined, parents need to look out. The government officials can talk to your children without your knowledge or consent. Heck, they can do it without the kid's knowledge and consent. The burden of proof in these cases seems to be on the shoulders of the parents. And we can't trust the government officials to be objective or honest or just.

I don't like that, is all I'm saying.

1 comment:

Monica said...

I read the original story. Pretty darn disturbing. Makes me want to move to Cicely, Alaska. I bet kids have to walk 5 miles to school. Each way. Uphill. :)