Outraged by cases of child protective services taking children from their competent, loving parents on flimsy medical grounds, a group in Minnesota has filed a motion in federal court to do what their organization's name suggests: "Stop child protective services from legally kidnapping children."
Fox 9 reports that Dwight Mitchell, the founder, had his child taken away from him "unfairly" for 22 months. His group now has over 1,000 members. One of them is Amanda Weber, whose son was taken from her for a week after she brought him to the hospital to be examined for a cough:
The doctor deemed him stable and notes show the diagnosis was, in fact, a cough. However, the recommendation was that the patient should have stayed. Weber took him home.
"After waiting, I had asked to leave because I wanted to put my kids to bed and I had my three-year-old with me and I asked if there was anything else that had to be done," said Weber. "They said 'No, there was no other testing or anything that needed to be done.'"
In a couple of days, police were at her door and took Zayvion to the doctor.
"She checked him out, all his vitals were stable," she said. "They already had a foster parent in the room, in the room to remove my son before they ever proved … before they ever proved there was an emergency situation."
This practice—overly suspicious government officials seizing children from their parents—isn't confined to Minnesota. In Chicago, a mom named Stephanie took her toddler, "A," to the doctor because the girl's arm seemed tender. The doctor said it was probably just a case of "nursemaid's elbow," but suggested mom follow up at the hospital, where it was discovered that the girl had a fracture. Emergency room doctors assured Stephanie that fractures were very common in toddlers learning to walk. However, the one doctor on staff who specialized in "child abuse pediatrics," thought otherwise.
The Family Defense Center in Chicago took the case. In its newsletter, the group writes that the Department of Child and Family Services allowed the child to go home:
….but only on the condition that Stephanie move out of her own home and have supervised contact with A. Because Stephanie has no relatives in Chicago, her parents flew to Chicago each week from the San Francisco Bay Area to care for A. This exhausting ordeal continued for nearly four months.
During the investigation, DCFS blatantly ignored the opinions of the leading orthopedists and relied exclusively on the child abuse doctor's opinion. In March, the State's Attorney's office filed a petition to take custody of A., initiating a court proceeding that lasted for two and a half months.
Finally, in mid-May, the State's Attorney's office concluded that it did not have enough evidence to proceed further, and it asked the juvenile court judge to dismiss the petition. Eventually, the "child abuse" doctor rescinded his conclusion that abuse had caused the fracture.
While the Minnesota group would like CPS to shut down immediately on the grounds that its practices are unconstitutional, there are, of course, horrific tales of children truly abused by their caregivers. In those cases, CPS can save lives.
Emily Piper, commissioner of Minnesota's Human Services, released a statement saying:
Every day, trained professionals in counties across Minnesota go to work to protect our children and families. To call their work 'kidnapping' is an affront to the extraordinary service they perform for all of us, particularly the most vulnerable children in our community. Our highest priority is keeping children safe and Minnesota's child protection system is an integral part of that work.
Mitchell, the Minnesota dad who started the anti-CPS group, thinks financial concerns improperly influence the agency's practices. He told Fox 9, "[CPS] can't even start collecting the money until the child is taken out of the home, put into foster care, then they can start billing a minimum of one social worker a month and one supervisor a month per child."
Diane Redleaf, legal director of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare and author of the forthcoming book, They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Welfare System Puts Families At Risk, summed up the problem in an email to me:
Far too many children in far too many states are being taken from parents for reasons that defy logic and common sense, magnified by racial and class biases. Instead of supporting reasonable parent decisions, child protective services has become an integral part of the surveillance society. This has become especially insidious where health care providers work hand in hand with police and caseworkers when children show up for routine or not-so-routine care.
We need to get back to a system in which only cases in which there is clear and convincing evidence of serious imminent harm to the child at the hands of the parent [warrant intervention]. The Minnesota parents are simply demanding a child welfare system that protects children and families—something that is everyone's right.
The answer is to stop incentivizing both worst-first thinking and the seizure of kids whose loving parents are just trying to do their best.
Photo Credit: Aviahuismanphotography