The New American magazine, July 23, 2007http://thenewamerican.com/node/4632
Imagine your terror and panic: you are awakened by an armed SWAT team in the middle of the night, demanding to be let into your home to take your children away. The grim-faced agents show you no warrant, no court order, and no mercy. They give you no reason for their presence, other than having received an unspecified report about child abuse. They bark commands and menace you and your children with their weapons. The children are taken out of your home screaming, shoved into cars, and whisked away into the night.
Some may dismiss these concerns as hyperbole, but the numbers are appalling. In 2005 alone, over 3.3 million reports involving six million children were made to state child-abuse hot lines, the vast majority of which eventually proved to be untrue. Over 500,000 children currently are in foster care. Another 300,000 or so are forcibly removed from their homes by the system every year. Tens of billions of dollars are expended every year on the care of these children, and on the juvenile court systems which enable it, along with costs of therapy, drugs, lawyers, and related services.
Your Day in Court
Juvenile or family court is where the fate of millions of children is decided. Not many years ago, these courts were a sleepy sinecure for a few political hacks. Now, with the child-abuse industrial complex in overdrive feeding them, juvenile courts have come into vogue. Crowds of sad-faced parents shuffle around the court’s waiting areas, lining the halls. Lawyers, forgetting the indescribable pain that their clients are enduring, openly laugh and gossip with CPS attorneys and therapists.
At court hearings, the parents usually cannot speak, and the children’s wishes are almost never heard or considered. Hearings often last only a few minutes, or even seconds. The traditional rules of evidence and notions of due process are rarely observed in these special courts, which are neither criminal nor civil. Hearsay on top of hearsay, sometimes three or four layers deep, is often admitted into evidence, which would never be allowed in any traditional court.
The burden of proof for taking children away from parents on a temporary basis is merely to show by a “preponderance of evidence” that the child was abused, which is a weak and ill-defined standard. By contrast, the state has to prove guilt in a speeding ticket case beyond a reasonable doubt. A final termination of parental rights requires that the state prove unfitness by “clear and convincing evidence,” still well short of the quantum of proof required to prove jaywalking.
Most juvenile cases end with a judgment against the parents, allowing CPS to keep the children until they are 18, or to farm them out for adoption. The home team — that is, the CPS prosecutor and social workers — are in front of the judge every day. The process becomes a choreographed dance, like a Mozart-era minuet, with all the players moving in lockstep and the outcome often determined before the first witness is called.
By looking at the numbers, one would conclude that there is an epidemic of child abuse in America. However, the evidence shows that there is actually an epidemic of hysteria about child abuse, because most of the official complaints are either false or greatly exaggerated. It is a squalid business. Big “non-profit” companies have arisen to service the insatiable demand for warehousing children and providing therapy, education, and other services. Special needs children can sometimes fetch thousands of dollars per week for these sub-contractors from the state and the feds, which make millionaires out of the subcontractors owners and officers.Tens of thousands of parents have their parental rights terminated every year, and their children taken for adoption to other persons or families. In 2005 alone, 67,000 children were removed for adoption. Another 110,000 were waiting for adoptive homes. Each of these children has been through a painful removal from parents, a lengthy court process, numerous foster homes, large amounts of drugs and therapy, and sometimes years of waiting.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act, passed by Congress in 1997, sets out adoption quotas for the states, with money bonuses for exceeding them, and even larger bonuses for processing a larger number of “special needs” children. Thus, adoption becomes the goal for many children who should not be taken from families in the first place. For CPS, it becomes just a commercial sales transaction: meet the quota, collect the cash.
Some parents do abuse children, and states have comprehensive criminal laws to deal with those cases. Most persons would likely disagree with CPS in how it defines abuse or neglect. Families are attacked for home-schooling or spanking their children, for not overseeing all play activities, or for when a child has an accident. Sometimes a child’s illness, poverty, or parents who are going through a time of conflict will trigger CPS involvement. There is also a palpable animus against families who are religious, or who do not like state interference. Only a very small percentage of the 3.3 million reported cases annually prove to be genuine abuse, and the system does a bad job of sorting them out.
There are reasons why the system does a bad job. Colleges churn out hordes of 23-year-old social-work graduates, childless and clueless, who are sent into homes to make life-changing decisions. Their formal education is grounded in doctrinaire Marxism and feminism, and they believe in their viscera that the state should communally raise children.
Another disincentive to changing the system is the fact that social workers are given legal immunity for almost any discretionary decision no matter what harm results to the children. Social workers exercise virtually unlimited power over families, with little accountability to anyone for overreaching or even for egregious offenses.
Federal reimbursement is the locomotive that drives the child-protection business. Regardless of what families actually need, CPS determines where to place its resources based on what returns the most reimbursement. The vast percentage of federal reimbursement (90 percent) comes from taking children into custody, while only a tiny fraction (10 percent) is available to help intact families. In other words, taking children pays, helping families costs.
The game of cadging federal CPS dollars has become so intense that states often hire multi-million dollar consultants to assist them in maximizing federal reimbursement for the children they take. For instance, Massachusetts hired the now-defunct Arthur Anderson Consulting, at an estimated fee of about $8.6 million, to structure the state program to take advantage of as many federal reimbursement categories as possible.
What Can Be Done?
Is the system really as corrupt, incompetent, destructive, and ineffective as this article portrays it? No, it’s actually far worse — if you ask a parent whose children have been victimized by it! The public perception is that CPS is doing a tough job, and standing against child abuse. However, any family caught in its web would testify to a completely different reality. When I take on a new case and forewarn a family about CPS dirty tricks, they usually think I am exaggerating. Surely it can’t be that bad. However, after the first court hearing, or if their children are removed, those families uniformly confirm that I didn’t tell them the half of it.What should be done to address the problem of child abuse and the problem of abuse by the system of parents and children? It won’t be easy because CPS policies and actions are based on a deeply flawed world view. Moreover, the agencies are run by inept and agenda-driven managers and social workers, and are enabled by a dysfunctional legal system.
Real reform would cut at the very heart of the premise of child protection — that the state is a better parent, a legal doctrine called parens patriae in Latin. Some fixes are obvious — end federal standards for and funding of state child protection agencies, set objective standards for child abuse, require traditional due process in juvenile courts that are open to the public, and eliminate immunity for social-worker malfeasance.
Millions of children are imperiled by this imperious, abusive CPS system, which works quietly without much public scrutiny. Change will likely come only when its cruelties have been exposed, and the public reaffirms that raising children is the responsibility of families, not the state.
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United Family Rights Association