Parental Rights

300 Families Say Child Services Wrongly Accused Them of Abuse and Unjustly Stole Their Kids

"It’s an epidemic across our nation," one parent told NBC.


A mother from Michigan lost custody of her children after a pediatrician decided that red splotches on her 6-week-old's skin were signs of deliberate physical abuse.

Another mother, from Washington state, was separated from her children for more than a year because a child abuse specialist said she was exaggerating her 5-year-old's health problems.

A Florida mother took her 4-month-old son to the hospital after he suffered a seizure. A doctor contacted child services, claiming the child must have been shaken or beaten. The boy's father was charged with the crime. Charges were eventually dropped after other medical experts disputed the initial claims.

These are all examples from a terrific NBC/Houston Chronicle report on mistakes made by child protective services (CPS) agencies around the country: "Hundreds of parents say kids wrongly taken from them after doctors misdiagnosed abuse."

Lenore Skenazy and I have covered many of these cases of wrongful family separation for Reason. They are heartbreaking. They generally follow a pattern: Parents behave in a manner that is completely normal, some authority figure becomes suspicious anyway, the cops are called, and CPS takes the kids away on some slim suspicion that they are being abused. The enraged, confused, often traumatized parents must then scrape together a strong enough case to regain custody of their children from foster care. They often go weeks without even knowing what has become of their kids.

The NBC report focuses specifically on the false confidence of doctors who claim a child must have been abused by parents when in reality they have no idea:

By law, all doctors are required to notify authorities when they suspect a child may have been abused. Child abuse pediatricians go further: They then examine a complete picture of the child's injuries and try to confirm whether abuse has occurred, diagnosing not only a child's medical condition, but also what caused it.

The work is vital in a nation where 1,700 children die of abuse or neglect each year. But reporters found instances where child abuse doctors overstated the reliability of their findings, using terms such as "100 percent" or "certainly inflicted" to describe conclusions that usually cannot be proven with absolute confidence. There is no lab test to confirm that a baby has been shaken or to prove that a child's scalding burns were inflicted.

The doctors' opinions can have an extraordinary influence over the decisions of state child welfare agencies, sometimes triggering questionable family separations and criminal charges, the series found.

It's necessary, of course, for the government to intervene when kids are truly in danger. But separating children from their parents is itself an abusive and traumatizing act. This is a horrible thing to happen to a family, and these cases deserve much more attention from the national media.

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  1. By law, all doctors are required to notify authorities when they suspect a child may have been abused.

    Nothing could go wrong with that incentive structure.

    1. Is there a statute of limitations on reporting? Can my pediatrician, assuming he’s still alive, notify authorities that I may have been abused? I’m pretty sure normal disciplinary procedures of the time would line up with child abuse today. My parents didn’t even vaccinate me against chicken pox and forced me to play with other kids in order to contract it.

      1. That vaccine came out way too late for me.

        1. <a href=

        2. Right.

          Wow, screwed that one up.

  2. It’s necessary, of course, for the government to intervene when kids are truly in danger.

    So they can be put into greater danger?

    1. There’s always a line that can be drawn somewhere. Right now we’re way too permissive regarding when we allow the state to step in. But that doesn’t mean we need to erase the line.

      1. Child abusers are the worst of the worst. Scalding a child or making him stand in a cold shower for 20 minutes, beating with a bat. Those people need to be locked up for life.

  3. I’m sure some Antifa protester will be around to firebomb DCFS offices the way they firebombed ICE detention centers any day now.

    The same way I’m sure it will be front page news and the news media, Reason included, will be wondering aloud if Antifa isn’t a terrorist organization and calling for investigations of Antifa right alongside the Proud Boys.

    1. One of the main drivers for asset-forfeiture prohibitionism has always been making it legal for impotent mystics to kidnap other people’s children into Hitlerjugend brainwashing centers. A seed in the ashtray has for decades passed as grounds for this kidnapping, and even today is proof of “moral turpitude” sufficient to ensure deportation of a resident alien.

    2. To single-variable leftandright socialists, antifa means communist. What could be terroristic about a communist dictatorship? Look at how successful voluntary communism turned out as a populist religion in Guyana!

      1. ENB’s take was the best. That because of their loose-knit organizational structure Antifa couldn’t/shouldn’t be regarded as a terrorist organization and/or it would be too intrusive to investigate. Like Al Qaeda sets up lodges to meet at, the Klan all got together on Thursdays for bowling night, and Capone kept a well-documented and maintained call chain. Since the G-men were just following the call chain it was all OK and no rights were violated.

  4. When my daughter was in the hospital after having her first child, they wanted to x-ray something on the second day because the “labor took a long time”. The paperwork said they told the doctor and the doctor okayed it. They could give no other reason. She started to protest and the nurses immediately started with the “if you don’t allow this we’ll have to call CPS”. The baby was x-rayed and there was nothing wrong, of course.

    1. Well, then fucking call them and let’s get this party started.

      1. That’s a nice bit of bravado, but that is the absolute last thing you want. Getting involved with CPS is like playing russian roulette. If you get the wrong social worker, your life as you know it is over. There is no un-ringing that bell. Once they start down the path of confirming that you are an unfit parent, they will not alter course. Your only way out is through. They hold 100% of the power. You hold none.

        Once they decide you are unfit, your only play is to suck up to them and beg forgiveness and comply with any hoops they force you to jump through. Any resistance will simply be met with a hammer. You could spend all your money fighting them in court, and maybe you could produce enough witnesses and have lawyers with enough connections to eventually prevail – after losing your kids for a few years and spending several hundred thousand or even a few million. I would hardly call that a win though.

        1. unfortunately true. Best not to play with fire when you can’t put it out!

        2. You’re right…you can retain an attorney, but there’s no avenue for appeal, and no judge can reverse their decisions. They have absolute power and are accountable to no one but themselves.

    2. My niece went through sort of the same thing except it was only a couple of hours after giving birth and they wanted her to sign some paperwork despite the fact she was drugged out of her mind. Fortunately her mother was there and when she went into She-Hulk mode on them they backed right off. You really don’t want to mess with any of my sisters when they’re pissed off.

      1. Sounds like Jerry spent a lot of time in dresses and makeup.

  5. Did the CPS folks arrive in a white van to take the kids?

    1. Low hanging fruit.

    2. A clown in a white van with a “Free Candy” sign on the side. He said he was with DFACS anyway.

  6. Friends of mine who live in flyover country,after they successfully raised their own kids, decided to adopt a new handful out of the local foster care system. I think maybe half a dozen, from three or four different family groupings. Things went along well for some time, until some neighbour with a critical spirit, lots of time on her hands, and a warped sense of self-righteousness, called in CPS to ‘investigate” some “issues”. The county dweeb who showed up to open the case saw some things…. reported them…. arranged to have the kids seized. WHAT did she see?

    They homeschooled these kids, like they had their own. Perhaps this triggered the call.. school age kids seen at home during school days. Totally legal, all paperwork in place for their state, etc.

    Their clothing was all home made, well done, of matching material, (so what?)

    The kids all had “bibilcal names’ (most of which came from their birth parents, names like Joe, Pete, Sarah, Becky, Luke….. funny thing no one ever caught, or ignored if they did, the county dweeb was names something like Rachel or Esther. Hmmm. in MY bible I find HER name, yet she uses that as “cause” to remove and hold the kids? Hmmmmmm…

    The county threatened to charge the Mom with certain crimes of abuse (not a mark was found on any of them until AFTER they’d been in their new foster HOMES (plural, kids separated….. someone tell the borderjumping champions, quick) so the couple agreed HE would take the fall, and leave HER with the kids back in their own home. (“justice” can sometimes be stretched beyond comprehension) . So HE ended up sentenced to some 20 years in prison, for being a good Dad, providing and caring for his adopted kids. Judge and prosecutor were crooked as the Atchafalaya River…..) After he had served about five, that judge got voted out, the prosecutor did too… so they applied to have the case reexamined. The new trial reversed a number of the charges, dropping them, and left the stupidest one hanging, but that sentence was for less time than he’d already served. He is now free.. and reunited with his Wife and adopted children, who missed him terribly.

    Justice? Of COURSE not. HOW can this stuff happen?

    There is one aspect of most CPS divisions… seems there is a federal fund that disburses huge amounts of money to the state and county agencies that handle foster care services. I’ve seen figures in the $5000 per month range for each child. I’ve also known families tha take in kids for foster care, short and/or long term. The money they get is minimal, SOMEHOW the difference between the FedBux the agency gets for each inmate, er, squeeze me, foster child, is many multiples of what the foster family ever gets, the folks who feed, clothe, care for, educate, raise, pour their lives into the foster children.

    Anyone else wonder WHY these agencies are so EAGER to find/make up scenarios to “justify” ripping kids from their own homes and putting them with strangers many of whom are ONLY in it for the money, as ilittle as it is? This is an YUUUUGE government boondoggle.

    That award to the agencies to pay for foster care needs to be reexamined, the amount adjusted to actual cost plus a reasonable and objectively quantifiable amount to PAY FOR THE PROGRAMME, not pad CPS budgets to radically enrich county workers.

    1. Yep, it is federal funding, you are correct. For child support (another way to separate children from one of their parents [usually Dad] for the bulk of their lives) states get MATCHING federal funds for every dollar collected under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, plus, wait for it… incentive payments for performance. Seeing as how many courts and other assorted bureaucratic agencies operate at a fiscal loss, you think they’re going to stop suckling the federal teet? Oh, right, but they CARE about children. Sure. That’s why they exist.

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  8. And my grandson was taken by DCF with a hospital filing a 51A on his dad stating he was hit with a belt the father was also absent from his child all the 5 years of his life and had been with me and DCf gave him to the dad ! I haven’t seen him in 9 months and since then my grandson has stopped eating stopped talking stopped playing n just continues to say bring me home to ma that’s all he says yet no one will even let him see me and they DCf put abuse n neglect on me . My grandson is being terrorized and it’s unfair and NOONE will help n I know because he works for the state we work in we had many documents of other abuse and still father got child and now child is suffering!!!

  9. The only shocking thing about this is that they only found 300 families whose children were stolen by the government.

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