A little birdie called up Child Protective Services after a mom made a goofy tweet.

Mom Investigated for “Trafficking” Her Toddler, Thanks to Silly Tweet

Alex McDaniel tweets a lot — about sports, books, politics. She’s fun, and not a punch-puller, and when she tweets about her life as a mom, usually it’s for laughs. For instance here’s one from when her son was two:

me: no eating cookies in the bed

2yo: i eating them in my mouth

Love that. So a couple weeks ago, after tweeting about her son using the potty and the funny things he said, she added: “3-year-old for sale. $12 or best offer.”

Which kicked off a human trafficking investigation.

As McDaniel writes on the blog MagnoliaStateLive:

The saga began when a caseworker and supervisor from Child Protection Services dropped by my office with a Lafayette County sheriff’s deputy. You know, a typical Monday afternoon.

They told me an anonymous male tipster called Mississippi’s child abuse hotline days earlier to report me for attempting to sell my 3-year-old son, citing a history of mental illness that probably drove me to do it.

Beyond notifying me of the charges, they said I’d have to take my son out of school so they could see him and talk to him that day, presumably protocol to ensure children aren’t in immediate danger. So I went to his preschool, pulled my son out of a deep sleep during naptime, and did everything in my power not to cry in front of him on the drive back to my office.

What happened next? “The most hellish week of my life,” she writes, “as I prepared for a home visit in which my case worker would inspect my home and the possibility of more interviews with my son. All because enough people believed I was actually trying to sell my son on Twitter for $12.”

She is kind enough to note that CPS has a hard job to do and that she isn’t blaming THEM. Presumably they have to follow up on tips, however ludicrous these might be.

But this is a perfect time to note that we need to do away with anonymous tips. It is far too easy to disrupt anyone’s life with one, “My neighbor is beating her kid.” Click.

Says McDaniel:

What upsets me more is the idea of anyone using an agency designed to protect Mississippi’s most vulnerable children as a weapon to take someone down for no legitimate reason.

In the end, with the help of an attorney, Alex got the charges dropped within days. Not everyone is as lucky.

Tweet THAT. – L.

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A little birdie called up Child Protective Services after a mom made a goofy tweet.

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85 Responses to Mom Investigated for “Trafficking” Her Toddler, Thanks to Silly Tweet

  1. Harrow October 18, 2017 at 7:35 am #

    You know, it’s against the law to pull the handle on a fire box when there’s no fire. It should be against the law to report child abuse when there’s no abuse. The penalties should be similar.

  2. invader October 18, 2017 at 7:40 am #

    Really twitter people you cant ask yourself, is this real, is it a joke, or you know maybe ASKING the person who posted in the first place. No we jump to conclusions, using worst first thinking.

  3. lrh October 18, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    My view seems to be one that’s less and less the case as time goes on, but I’ve always thought of the Internet as being an “alternate reality” where nothing said there is “real life” and should in fact be outside the bounds of the law, even if you post making suggestions about what should happen to people in the White House you disagree with, and I am NOT at all one for promoting threats in the least, but in terms of a person simply “venting” about how they feel, to me they should have absolute carte blanche to do it on the Internet with no bounds of law whatsoever. It’s as if it’s not even “real” in a way.

    Such is one reason why I’m somewhat anti-Facebook and especially Facebook commenting on news articles. I don’t like the idea of a real name being attached to such comments and then people finding themselves being investigated or unemployed simply because they voiced an opinion that’s not popular or tasteful. It’s considered to be the same as if a person said it to a news reporter on the air, and to me it’s not as I consider the Internet an “alternate reality” that way. I like commenting in forums or newsgroups (if the latter even still exist) under an “alias” where you can say whatever you want to and it not have any “real world” impact at all. The LAST thing we need is for it to be the case that there is NOWHERE but your home-confined composition book where you can “vent” and not have to answer for it. We’ve gotten too sensitive anyway, I can’t imagine Alice Cooper writing “School’s Out” today, people would be going nuts over “school’s been blown to pieces.” It’s just a song people!

  4. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    While I’ll agree that some of stuff they poke their noses is silly maybe don’t joke about putting your kid up for sale.

  5. Brandi October 18, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    Ha! When my daughter was about 9 months old we had a garage sale. I jokingly stuck a “best offer” sticker on her and took a picture and posted it on facebook. Super glad no one called CPS! My husbands ex did falsely call CPS on us when we were in the middle of a court battle though- with ridiculous claims. That sucked.

  6. lrh October 18, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    Theresa Hall To me ANYTHING except maybe something like joking about death at a funeral etc is fair game for jokes. That especially goes for the Internet where to me just about anything is fair in the realm of “venting.” If you can’t figure out which is “venting” vs a real threat, oh well, that’s YOUR problem.

    I’m sick of this nonsense about “don’t joke about this or that,” nonsense. Learn how to take a joke or get off the planet if you ask me. I don’t agree with his vulgar nature, but I’m totally with George Carlin on this one, you can joke about practically ANYTHING in my view. Even Joan Rivers speaking of that German model & how she hadn’t seen anything that hot since they were putting Jews in an oven, yes I agree that joke is in bad taste absolutely but in terms of their being this huge “outrage” with protests and especially repercussions in the form of investigations, nonsense, I say joke however and whenever you FEEL like it.

  7. Paul October 18, 2017 at 8:49 am #

    “maybe don’t joke about putting your kid up for sale.”

    Oh please. No one in their right mind reads a joke like that and comes away with any thought other than that the parent is having some fun at the expense of a child behaving badly.

    Lighten up Francis.

  8. Edward Hafner October 18, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    The future of anonymous tips?:
    Anony – Hello, CPS, I need to report some child abuse!
    CPS – Yes of course. But First I must have your name and contact information to verify for our records.
    Anony – What?
    CPS – It’s the law now. Anyone wanting to help a defenseless child must FIRST provide a verifiable name and address. Nothing we can do about it.
    Anony – But I just…
    CPS – If said data is found to be false in any way you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent…
    Anony – CLICK

  9. Jennifer C October 18, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Oh please, Theresa Hall–yesterday a close friend of mine made a post on FB asking if there was a place where she could drop off her 13-year-old son and have him returned to her when he was no longer a teenager. Anyone in their right minds would know that she was joking, and that she was not actually planning on abandoning her kid. There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of jokes–but there is something wrong with the person who doesn’t know that it’s a joke.

  10. lrh October 18, 2017 at 9:05 am #

    Edward Hafner That is EXACTLY how it should be. For the naysayers: I don’t want to hear about people who are too scared to come forward for whatever silly nonsensical reason, and how abuse will spread, don’t want to hear it. There’s too much of this sort of nonsense going on for it to continue the way it is. If you’re too chicken to own up to your accusation, that’s YOUR problem, and the continuation of the child abuse is YOUR fault, not the government’s for not catering to your nonsense because you’re chicken. The whole “good faith” thing has gone way too far, now anyone can call about anything without recourse and the resulting mess is every bit as wrong as child abuse itself is.

  11. Jennifer C October 18, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    Edward Hafner–maybe try not calling in when someone makes a joke on twitter or lets their kid play outside?

  12. Steve N October 18, 2017 at 9:18 am #

    To Edward Hafner: The problems with your suggestion are many. But here’s the kicker — the information that this anonymous person gave was not false. This mom did in fact post on Twitter that her child was for sale. So how do you deal with that?

    To me, the problem here is what CPS thinks is a proper investigation. This is clearly a joke. CPS needs to put its very limited resources where it will make the most impact, and that’s clearly not this case. So a proper investigation here would be to send one person over, ask the mom what’s going on, look around for a few minutes, and then leave. And the sheriff’s deputy can be excused from this farce and go look for some real criminals.

  13. Heather October 18, 2017 at 9:20 am #

    We do need to do away with anonymous tips. The tip-giver could be CONFIDENTIAL– meaning that the agency would never reveal who it was to the public or to the person accused– but it needs to stop being ANONYMOUS. People would think twice about doing this (and I bet 100 dollars that this was a person who knew the accused, didn’t like her, and just wanted to ruin her day) if they had to give their name and address when they called. There is literally zero chance that the tip-giver actually thought the child was in danger of being trafficked. Thankfully, CPS in this case did their job appropriately.

    And to the person who said “Don’t joke about selling your kids.” Um, I do that all the time with my best friend. She has two, and we’ve said she could put them up on Etsy as a matching set. I have one, and I’ve mentioned selling him on Ebay. Like, regularly, I say that, if he isn’t going to sleep on time, etc. Pretty sure nobody thinks I am interested in getting rid of my only child.

  14. Heather October 18, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    Steven N.
    Actually, that is a good point. The agencies seem to have a policy that they go in person to investigate EVERYTHING, but that is taking up way too much of their manpower. Surely, if the tip was related to a tweet, they could have looked at the tweet, looked at all of her historical tweets, and made the decision that the child was not in danger?

  15. Dienne October 18, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Seems to me it would have been pretty easy to investigate this. “Hello? Ms. McDaniels? Hi, I’m calling about the offer on your three year old – can you break a twenty?” I think it would have been pretty obvious pretty quickly that it was a joke.

    And speaking of joking about selling your kids, I have frequently joked about sitting my kids on the curb with a sign saying “Free to a good home. “Good” is negotiable.”

  16. Sylv October 18, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    My mother used to say (translated) ” babies are so sweet you could just eat them up; when they’re older, you wish you had”. I am glad she was never investigated for promoting cannibalism!

  17. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    To me the phony sale of your kid falls under things people shouldn’t take seriously but do.
    Hey if you want joke about it and hope that cps doesn’t end calling when some silly Billy thinks it’s real then good luck. Maybe when we were kids people didn’t take things so seriously but that was then this now

  18. JKP October 18, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    I think the anonymous element is less of a problem than that they have to investigate every tip. People call 911 for all kinds of stupid reasons like their pizza was more than 30 min late or the sparrows outside look cold. When that happens, there’s no investigation just in case. CPS should have the same discretion to not investigate a joke on twitter or a child playing in the backyard. If the “tip” doesn’t rise to the level of actual abuse or neglect, then no investigation.

  19. Tim October 18, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    Hopefully, she will use her website to shed more light on CPS overreach. Saying they must investigate every complaint is just allowing them to hide behind their protocol. Who determined that every complaint must be investigated? And what constitutes “investigated?” It’s not necessary to traumatize a family because of one clearly frivolous complaint.

    I’m not glad this happened, but I’m glad that she is an educated person with the means to fight back and publicize what CPS and the police do to people who are clearly not suspect.

  20. Karen October 18, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    The preschool at the church where I work got a visit from our local PD yesterday because an anonymous tipster called 911 to say she had witnessed an incident of severe bullying on the preschool playground. (which faces a public street). What she saw, according to our teachers, was two four year olds “swordfighting” with plastic sandbox shovels. They were imitating a pirate movie they are both currently obsessed with. Apparently, they both look forward to this game every day, complete with mimicking the exaggerated facial expressions of the pirates. (Thus why one of them looked, in the caller’s words, “menacing”).

    The teachers had to bring all the kids in off the play yard so other staff could watch them while the teachers were interviewed by the cop. The two kids involved had to speak with the cop. The school director had to spend an hour of her day contacting the parents of the two boys and explaining things to them as well as composing a note to go out to all parents notifying them of what had happened and why their kids might be talking about police coming to their school.

    The cops determined that no bullying or injury had taken place and wished everyone a nice day.

    I think tips need to be confidential, not anonymous.

  21. Jennifer C October 18, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Theresa Hall ‘Hey if you want joke about it and hope that cps doesn’t end calling when some silly Billy thinks it’s real then good luck.’

    Some ‘silly billy’ wouldn’t make a frivolous vindictive call like that if they knew they actually had to put their name behind it. For someone to call CPS over something that is so obviously a joke is not being a ‘concerned citizen’. It’s harassment.

  22. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    It amazing how many things that people shouldn’t turn into a big deal but still do. I am not sure what is going through their heads but those silly folks always turn something that should barely raise an eyebrow into a big deal. Cps with all their policy takes forever to get done with something that could finished quickly so only those who survive without a ton of scars end up liking them

  23. SKL October 18, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    I have to admit I’m careful how I joke on Facebook (and that’s the only social media I’m on). Because I do have some fb friends who don’t really know me – we have a couple things in common but may have never met. I often joke in real life “I’m gonna beat my kids” [or sometimes worse] but I would not dare type it into cyberspace without a clear disclaimer.

    Have to say that every time I post anything that is pro-free-range or stop-the-helicopter-insanity, I get either crickets or negative reactions. Phooey. I just don’t trust anyone who doesn’t know me well.

  24. pentamom October 18, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Karen, that’s absurd. No reported incident involving four year olds not using lethal weapons and not being harmed by an adult should get any attention from the police whatsoever. The police should have been able to rule out any further need for investigation by carefully questioning the tipster, unless the tipster was outright lying about what she saw, in which case she should be charged.

  25. pentamom October 18, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Karen, to be clear, I don’t mean your comment was absurd, but that the situation you described was.

  26. John B. October 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    It’s simply amazing how stupid people can be and the media is right at the forefront of stupidity. After posting all the cute things her little boy said, it’s HIGHLY doubtful this loving mother would actually put him up for sale on twitter for $12.00. Have Americans lost all common sense?

  27. Kendra H October 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    What astonishes me is that I also read stories of abused children who are left with truly abusive parents even when there are multiple reports to CPS. How can both of these situations exist simultaneously?

  28. Peter October 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    It is far too easy to disrupt anyone’s life with one, “My neighbor is beating her kid.” Click.

    Out here in LA, one of the tricks on a slow news day is to report some celebrity is abusing their children. Then hang out by the house to get pictures of CPS workers investigating. Makes for a great headline.

  29. Richard October 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    JKP, how things are handled depends on the jurisdiction. One of the problems with this situation is we don’t know what the tip actually was. Whether someone reported the post with sufficient information for the agency to review it, or reported that there was a post from a mom trying to sell her kid. (Which unfortunately is not beyond the bounds of reality). In my state, for example, the tipline is answered by screeners who obtain all the information they can from the caller. The screener then must determine whether no response is required, it requires an immediate response, or a five or ten day response. The screener has access to both family cps history, if any, and the internet. If the tipster had provided the post information sufficiently for the screener to look at it in context, it would probably be evaluated out as many tips are. If the tipster reported this woman had tried to sell her baby with inadequate information for the screener to review it in context, it would probably be categorized as requiring an immediate response.
    As to refusing anonymous tips, I believe that would be incredibly counter-productive. Many of those types of tips come from people who are close to the family and terrified the parent will find out and cut them off from the child. They also come from neighbors to the meth. or gang house who are terrified that they or their children will pay a price for the report. Telling them the information is confidential won’t help. It’s all very well saying “Well, the abuse is on them, then” but the problem is that the abuse continues. Assigning the blame to someone else doesn’t help a kid being abused.

  30. Gina October 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    In our culture (Jewish) it is constantly said that we want to chew up, eat, beat, knock the teeth out of a baby who is so cute that it just cannot be stood for!
    ie-
    when he smiles it’s so cute, i need to knock out his teeth….
    those thighs (pulkies) are so fat, I am going to have to bite right through them
    She’s so delicious, I might have to hurt her….

    Believe me, we aren’t knocking out anyone’s teeth.

    It is CLEAR when someone is threatening to truly harm a child vs when they are just saying words….

  31. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    That situation Karen describe is exactly what I mean about silly Billy folks. They turn something that should barely raise an eyebrow into something that is a big deal and once someone decides it’s a big deal everyone in charge has to fuss and try to do something about this horrible thing.

  32. AmyP October 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    In theory, having complaints be confidential but not anonymous sounds good, but these days what’s really confidential? Information is stored somewhere. Think Equifax. 145 MILLION people had their deeply confidential information compromised. There is a solution to this problem, even if we haven’t discovered what it is yet, but making people provide their information is not it. There are valid reasons people don’t want others to know they made a report. Sometimes it’s just not wanting others to be angry but sometimes it’s more serious. There’s a reason witness protection program exists. There has to be the option of anonymous complaints since confidentiality gives one little comfort when there’s leaks all over the place. With that being said, a phone call to the mother and then verifying the tweet on the internet should have sufficed. No need to harass her.

  33. marie October 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    To me ANYTHING except maybe something like joking about death at a funeral etc is fair game for jokes.

    Funerals are the best places to joke about death. Nothing better than a case of giggles-in-a-church.

  34. Richard October 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    Kendra H, while there are neglectful or incompetent workers, during the normal course of operations in a competently run agency it often happens because there simply isn’t the evidence to act sooner. No matter how many referrals there may be, if the social worker goes out and there is no evidence of abuse and no one with personal knowledge who can testify abuse occurred, the agency can’t sustain its burden of proof to take action.

  35. Richard October 18, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    To those suggesting a telephone call may resolve matters, it really doesn’t. Just like anyone can be anything on the internet, they can be anything on the phone. The purpose of starting with an in-person visit is that seeing the child/parent/household provides information that can’t be obtained over the phone. It also provides notice so that if there is an in-person response, evidence can be disposed of or hidden and witnesses can be controlled. That would be one way to end up with the situation Kendra mentioned, where there is referral after referral but no action can be taken because the evidence just isn’t there.

  36. Liz October 18, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    I joked a few months ago about “does anyone want a used toddler, free to good home?” Thank goodness nobody hates me enough to report me to the authorities!

  37. EricS October 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    I keep saying. There should be a law for tipsters to be liable for their actions. You know, so they actually THINK before acting or speaking. Instead of a quick trigger finger and anything and everything. Too many of those people around, and ruining or disrupting other people’s lives for no reason. Other than they are just idiots in the first place.

    Yes, people can be stupid. But I seriously doubt a legitimate trafficker is going to post stuff like that on Twitter, when their twitter account can easily be traced back to them. You’d also think CPS and local law enforcement have enough common sense to see through those b.s. accusation as well. Anonymous bogus tips like this take away from resources for ACTUAL crimes against children. Just like someone can be charged for making a false 911 call, tipsters should be accountable as well.

  38. Donna October 18, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

    People here really need to understand the difference between anonymous and protected because those words seem to be used interchangeably on this board.

    Anonymous means nobody knows who called. No name was given.

    Protected means the identity of the reporter is known to CPS but not to anyone else. By law, the identity of a CPS reporter is 100% protected. It cannot be revealed outside of the organization. I can’t think of a single exception. The judge isn’t even entitled to that information. While witnesses do sometimes reveal themselves to be the reporter during their own testimony at trial, CPS absolutely cannot reveal or confirm the identity of the reporter and it cannot be contained in any documentation distributed outside the agency. The person can be identified as a person CPS spoke to about the situation, but that person cannot be identified as the initial reporter.

    I think many people take CPS’ statement that they can’t tell them who called CPS to mean that the report was anonymous. 999 times out of 1000 it isn’t. I currently have hundreds (over 300) of child clients in foster care. I can’t think of a single case that is the result of an ANONYMOUS call to CPS. In some cases, it is very easy to determine who reported from the facts of the case. In some cases, it is more difficult, but it is clear in all of them that CPS knows the identity of the reporter.

  39. Donna October 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    In fact, CPS is not allowed to reveal ANYTHING about the reporter to anyone, including whether that person is known or anonymous, so I am not sure why so many insist that they were reported by an anonymous person.

  40. Yocheved R. October 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Oh my, how times have changed! When I was little, my mom used to threaten to “sell me to the Gypsies.” She said they pay extra for the ones with blonde hair. Then she said she’d use the money to buy a poodle as a replacement.

    People thought it was funny. People used to have a sense of humor back in the day.

  41. Bmj2k October 18, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    So who benefited? As usual, the lawyer. In a case this absurd she had to hire a lawyer.

  42. Miriam Drukker October 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    Humour is very immoral. And will son be illegal. You might be allowed to laugh in your own home.

    She didn’t blame CPS (probably because she wants them on her side), but I would. Nothing has meaning outside context. Checking ‘facts’ without context doesn’t make sense.

    If I dress my daughter in a light pretty summer dress – is it a bad thing? (no). Is it abusive if it’s February? (probably) But if I live in Australia (probably not). And putting a snowsuit on my daughter – is essential in Canada on February, but might cause my daughter a heat stroke on August. Oh, depends where in Canada, there are places you need the snowsuit also on August (close to the poles, I assume…).

    What a waste of resources, time, legal fees, waste of tax money that could otherwise deal with real situation who need help. Maybe CPS workers DO want those false tips, because their job is so depressing, seeing kids in difficult situations, that they want a break from it once in a while, and just see how kids ARE thriving, for a change…

    People are afraid of other people, instead of being a real hero and showing that you care directly – they become coward snitches. 🙁

  43. lightbright October 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    My daughter is reading Judy Blume’s 1980 book, Superfudge, which is told in first-person by Peter, a fifth grader. Peter’s little brother, Fudge, is jealous when his baby sister is born. So he starts trying to sell her to other grown-ups. When that doesn’t work, he offers her for free. Finally, he offers to pay them to take her.

    We take ourselves so d@mn seriously these days.

  44. Richard October 18, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Because this board deals with situations of busybody and CPS overreach, the perception can get very skewed. Many reporters struggle with the decision to come forward, wanting to believe that the child is okay often out of love for or fear of the parent in spite of significant information suggesting otherwise. As to those suggesting some penalty for “false” reports, it’s not clear what you consider false. Even most of the stories we see here don’t clearly involve false reports. Rather, they more often seem to involve someone reporting observations that we don’t believe suggest abuse. There is a strong argument that such reports are constitutionally protected.

  45. SKL October 18, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    Oh, this reminds me of a second-hand t-shirt I bought my kid brother when he was little. It said, “kid for sale – cheap.” He wore it often since it was red and he couldn’t read yet. 😛

  46. SKL October 18, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    My mom used to say, among other things, “I’ll trade you in on a new model.”

    My dad said he was gonna shoot Santa. My brother believed him too. My dad also tried to feed me to the baby monster in the basement, but he didn’t make it all the way to the monster’s cage because I fought and injured him on the way ….

    My granny used to say she’d sit on us if we kept acting up. She was very large. 😛 We didn’t think she’d really do it, but we weren’t taking chances either.

    Related to that last memory, I just read the other day that some fat lady killed a kid by sitting on him/her. With the parents right there allowing it. So that actually does happen. Interestingly, this child had a case file with CPS. They are investigating whether the case had been handled appropriately prior to the murder.

  47. Donald October 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    “She is kind enough to note that CPS has a hard job to do and that she isn’t blaming THEM. Presumably they have to follow up on tips, however ludicrous these might be.”

    I wish more people would make an effort to see the other side. I applaud her for her insight!

    Now for my ritual CPS bashing. Actually, my attack isn’t against CPS. It’s against artificial intelligence. When we hear about AI, we usually think about computers. However, bureaucracies blindly follow rules, policies, and procedures to such an extent that they are not allowed to use their own judgment.

    Here is an extract from my bureaucracy page.

    This is a scathing attack on bureaucracy while at the same time it’s standing up for bureaucrats.

    Q. How can you be on both sides?

    A. I’m not. I’m highlighting the concept of a third side. A bureaucracy is like a ship. The bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the ship AND THE MORE LIKELY THAT IT HAS NO CAPTAIN! This is the third side. I want to show that the system has taken on a life form of its own. Many bureaucrats have little or no power. They can only follow procedures or get fired. (even jailed!)

    Many bureaucrats are only the crew members without a captain! The ‘enemy’ is its own growth that spreads uncontrollably like a noxious weed! The bureaucrats themselves have lost control and became slaves to their own creation! Regulations and procedures rule the roost. If they encounter any circumstance that isn’t covered under the procedures, they find themselves ‘stuck’. That’s because their authority to use judgment has been greatly undermined!

    http://www.psychologyinpictures.com/bureaucracy

  48. Donald October 18, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    “You know, it’s against the law to pull the handle on a fire box when there’s no fire. It should be against the law to report child abuse when there’s no abuse. The penalties should be similar.”

    Imagine if you were to reward people for pulling the fire alarm when there is no fire. Think about a world were we give candy out for making false reports.

    That’s what’s happening. The busybody got to make CPS react. This is the same as when an eight-month-old baby keeps throwing a spoon so that he can watch mommy pick it up.

  49. James October 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    Wow. If that’s human trafficking, I’m guilty–I’ve jokingly asked cashiers if they accept little boys as payment! Usually older ladies, and they and my sons all get a laugh out of it.

    It’s a sad, sad day when a commonplace piece of humor is investigated as a crime!!

    @Richard:

    “As to those suggesting some penalty for “false” reports, it’s not clear what you consider false.”

    If you make a report in good faith, and it turns out to be wrong, it is an error, not a false report. I knew a girl that started seeing a new boyfriend, and joined a swordfighting group. She had bruises up and down her arms. Eventually someone asked if her boyfriend abused her. THAT is an error–there was every reason to believe that the new boyfriend was the cause. It was wrong, but they were acting in good faith.

    Someone reporting the quoted tweet to CPS is not acting on good faith. It’s obviously a joke, as is made clear by the context of the account. You can also tell because $12 is far, FAR too low a price; you don’t do high-risk illegal transactions for that low a price. Plus, you could sell the kid’s blood for more money; it’s bad business. Further, it’s something every parent has said at some point. I could go on. Reporting this is so egregious that no rational human being would take the accusation seriously, and it’s a sign of the insanity of our culture that anyone did. Can’t tell the difference? Then what possible justification is there for trusting you to tell us how to raise our children? Self-confessed incompetence does not inspire confidence.

    There is NO argument that such an accusation is Constitutionally protected. Libel, slander, and harassment are not protected speech. These are crimes.

  50. Andrew October 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

    Look up the Twitter Joke Trial, when a guy was prosecuted in England after his flight was delayed and he sent a tweet: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

    It was clearly a joke, and treated as not a credible threat, but he was actually convicted, fined, and lost his job The conviction was upheld on appeal. Only on a second appeal did common sense break out.

  51. Richard October 18, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    James, if the person reporting provided accurate information, it probably is protected. We vest the responsibility for evaluating the report to cps. The fact is that irrational people have constitutional rights, too. You provide information suggesting the facts do not suggest abuse to reasonable, rational people with knowledge of certain facts, not that the reporter did not sincerely believe the information might suggest abuse or neglect. While repeated reports against particular parents might be considered harassment, it would have to be part of a pattern. As to libel and slander, they are not protected because the statement is false. That’s why generally only statements of fact are actionable. False reports of abuse do carry criminal penalties in 29 states and are not immunized from civil liability in others. I haven’t seen any studies on the impact of such laws.

  52. James October 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    Theresa Hall:

    “Hey if you want joke about it and hope that cps doesn’t end calling when some silly Billy thinks it’s real then good luck.”

    It shouldn’t require luck to avoid being harassed by people with as much sense of humor as a turnip. Turning normal behavior into a real risk is the sort of thing totalitarian states do, not free countries! I don’t care if that’s the direction our culture is going–we should fight such a cultural trend tooth and nail.

    As a start, there are two things that need to happen:

    1) CPS has to stop being required to investigate all claims, or has to have “investigation” defined such that they are allowed to include things like the twitter account the “questionable” tweet came from to determine if the preponderance of evidence indicates abuse/criminal activity. It actually should go MUCH further, but this is a good first step.

    2) We as a culture need to grow up and actually talk to people. If you have a problem with someone, and there’s no legitimate immediate danger (ie, if the person doesn’t have a gun in their hands or something similar), your first step, as an adult, should be to talk to the person. The idea that legal institutions are a security blanket provides cover for harassment, libel, and slander, allowing our culture to be dominated by those most willing to press charges.

    I like the idea that we should prosecute clearly false claims like this one; however, I don’t think that would require a change in the law. That would merely require acting on existing laws, and pressing charges against a few people who make such claims. I also think that anyone who makes a claim that turns out to be false should foot the entire legal bill for the investigation. Harsh, yes, and it would prevent a lot of people from calling in. However, right now the lack of penalties means that there’s no cost whatever to making an accusation, which encourages frivolous accusations.

  53. James October 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    “James, if the person reporting provided accurate information, it probably is protected.”

    Possibly. However, the same could be said of yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Would you say that doing so is protected speech as long as you’re holding a lit lighter? Would you accept “I was talking about the grill they were using to cook hamburgers” as a defense? Because that’s the level of “defense” we’re discussing here.

    This person clearly did not include the relevant information. The way they presented the claim obviously distorted the facts of the case. That IS NOT protected speech, no matter how you want to twist it. If I pulled that crap in my job, I’d be in jail within the week. The fact that I didn’t include any actually false information would not be a defense.

    “The fact is that irrational people have constitutional rights, too.”

    This is true. However, when someone who clearly is not taking their required medication tells the cops “My neighbors are trying to kill me! I know because of the messages encoded in the lawn mower engine noises!” we do not treat the accusation as serious.

    This isn’t an issue of constitutional rights; it’s an issue of how we interpret the law. There are two relevant standards: “Innocent until proven guilty” and the Reasonable Person Standard. A reasonable person, reading that tweet, would not think the mother was serious; ergo, it is not actionable. The accusation may be libel/slander (I forget which; same concept, different media), or–as your post is suggesting–the person may not be reasonable. Either way, no need to do more than open the Twitter account.

  54. Shirley October 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    This could have been more serious. There are horror stories of those that are. I know a man who said something stupid to an adult woman he had been chatting with online in another state. She contacted authorities… Exploited and Missing Children. Since he had given the woman his info, detectives appeared at his home to take him in after returning with his son from baseball practice. Following that he was not allowed to see or speak with his son for over two months until the court had a little mercy. Could have been much longer.

    Due to this unnecessary action by the so called detectives, who had done absolutely no investigation prior, his son developed anxiety, health issues, plus deep black and blue eyes from lack of sleep. The daughter went into depression thinking she had done something wrong. Instead of helping children, the detectives and court system destroy children.

    The man was just having fun with the woman. Those who contact authorities, without checking the situation further should be assessed for any money spent, including legal fees.

  55. Anna October 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    I really don’t see how this case speaks against anonymous reporting. Rather, it seems to me to speak in favor of CPS agents being permitted (and indeed required) to make better executive judgment calls. The CPS officer in question should simply have dismissed the case immediately upon viewing the report. After all, the initial reporter didn’t lie – they simply exhibited very bad judgment about the facts in question. When the reported facts – even if 100% accurate – don’t support an inquiry, there should be no inquiry and no fishing expedition. It’s as simple as that.

  56. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    Personally I would love if cps didn’t have turn everything into a big deal but I don’t think they will be changing anytime soon.
    And yes people need to talk to others before they cry wolf or whatever but we still have deal with the reality of people who see something and don’t like it and so yell wolf to those in charge. Because when they yell we have deal with the craziness that follows. Sometimes it just easier to avoid the craziness than try to deal.

  57. Richard October 18, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    James, the exception to protected speech you refer concerns a very narrow class of speech which is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” A report of suspected child abuse to cps is neither “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action”nor “likely to incite or produce such action.” Whether a particular act constitutes abuse or neglect is an opinion, not a fact. Even on this blog, you see varied opinions of whether specific parental decisions constitute good parenting, a reasonable parental mistake, or neglect or abuse. Neither of the legal standards you reference play any role in reporting suspected neglect or abuse, or investigating those reports. They both refer to the determination made after an investigation has resulted in gathering sufficient information to come to some conclusion as to whether legal action is indicated (though neither is really used in cps legal matters).

  58. Andy October 18, 2017 at 6:58 pm #

    I wondered how this could be possible. Then I saw “Mississippi.”

  59. Richard October 18, 2017 at 7:02 pm #

    Shirley, you’re faulting a woman who has limited information and so is not in a position to evaluate whether there is something real going on for reporting her suspicion to an agency that has the ability to do just that. The fault lies with a reporting/investigatory process which was not done. Obviously, I am only familiar with the jurisdiction where I practice, but those procedures were developed in accordance with constitutional mandates. Before the child can be detained, the social worker has to provide sufficient cause to get a detention warrant (and our judges don’t rubber stamp such things). Within 2 days of such a detention, there would have been a court hearing at which the parent is represented by appointed counsel and the son typically present. At that hearing, the social worker has to prove that the child is at substantial risk of harm by clear and convincing evidence, and that lesser measures would be inadequate to protect the child. It is not that someone can yell “abuse” and a child gets detained.

  60. Heather October 18, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Donna,
    I called CPS to report a student (I’m a teacher) who I thought was being abused. My report was anonymous– they answered the phone and said “You do not need to give your name,” so I didn’t. They definitely did investigate it, though, because the student later told me that some social workers had come to his house.

  61. David (Dhewco) October 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    In a country where criminals can sue in the invent they’re injured while invading your home and where people who try to help by doing CPR are also sued, I get why reporters are protected or anonymous. We’re litigious. Especially if I barely know the kid, I’d be reluctant to report. I have a heart, but the people I live with need me. I can’t afford to go bankrupt by a lawsuit from someone I try to help.

  62. Backroads October 18, 2017 at 8:23 pm #

    When I ran the waterfront at Scout Camp, we’d often tell the Scoutmasters we could make Scouts “disappear” for a fee. They all thought it was funny.

    Circa 1990, a friend of mine down the street was being a butthead. We were in kinder/first grade. We walked to school together, adultless. Anywho, butthead friend irritated his mom so much she shoved him out of the house with his backpack, where he cried and cried and pounded on the door. My mom saw it… and called up her friend and pretended to be CPS–purely as a prank. They thought it was funny after the friend mom’s initial terror. Probably couldn’t do that now.

    And of course the Shel Silverstein classic poem “One Sister for Sale”.

  63. Theresa Hall October 18, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    If I ever call CPS I will be fairly sure this kid needs help. Not some silly little joke that taken way too seriously but someone who really seems to need help. When people can’t figure out the difference between the two life gets crazier then it needs to be. I don’t know if these incidents are because of people who just want to be heroes or maybe they have it out for the family but anyone who wants to call should be fairly sure a kid in trouble nothing else.

  64. amy October 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    @ Richard

    My family was almost torn apart by false allegation from a CPS worker and a disgruntled teacher. we were not given a hearing until a week after the removal. the judge did rubber stamp the removal. obviously you don’t talk to many family’s who deal with cps. my case is not news. happens all the time.

  65. Richard October 18, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    Amy, I don’t know how long ago that occurred or in which jurisdiction, or what additional evidence was available or presented. I have spoken to many families involved with CPS, but only within a few counties which operate under the same state laws. During the last two decades,case law has shifted providing greater constitutional protections to the parent/child relationship and some agencies have responded to those shifts more readily than others. Unfortunately, politicians will never be elected based on how well their social service agencies protect the parent/child relationship, just as prosecutors will never be elected based on how well they enforce defendants’ rights to discovery. Obviously any judge who rubber stamps a protective detention warrant, just like one that rubber stamps a search or arrest warrant, should be removed. If only enough voters cared enough to vote on those issues. That does not mean that some, or even most, are not doing their jobs appropriately. No one complains when a report is evaluated out without further response or a social worker responds to a referral for neglect by assisting with the family’s needs for food and shelter, or otherwise assists the parent resolve the underlying problems leading to the neglect. Those things happen all the time.

  66. Donna October 18, 2017 at 10:44 pm #

    Heather – I didn’t say that there are never anonymous calls. I said that (a) they don’t make up many of the cases that end up in foster care and (b) a family involved in a CPS investigation has absolutely no idea whatsoever if the report was anonymous or not as CPS is not allowed to reveal any details about the reporter other than the very basic content of their allegations. They are not allowed to tell who called or even whether the caller was identified or anonymous. When people start insisting that the report was anonymous it sends up red flags to me that they are making assumptions about things they do not know.

    The reason that there are not a large number of kids in foster care based on anonymous calls are twofold. The main one is that an anonymous call can’t be used as evidence to support any action by CPS in any court hearing. It can be used as an explanation as to why CPS opened an investigation to begin with, but CPS has to actually find evidence to support removal themselves. They cannot rely on any information given in the anonymous call.

    The second reason is that the majority of cases that come into foster care come through mandated reporters. Mandated reporters tend to give their name both to provide usable evidence and to cover their own ass. I have made a handful of CPS reports as a mandated reporter and I always give my name so that I can prove, if necessary, that I fulfilled my duty as a mandated reporter even if CPS did nothing with it. The last thing I want is for a kid to be killed, a bunch of family members saying they told me how dangerous mom’s boyfriend was before he killed the kid and I have no proof that I did anything with that information since that would mean the end of my job.

  67. Gina October 18, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

    JUST FYI..I am a mandated reporter and I would NOT have called CPS on this obvious joke.

  68. Richard October 18, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

    Gina, neither would I.

  69. Donald October 19, 2017 at 5:05 am #

    “I really don’t see how this case speaks against anonymous reporting. Rather, it seems to me to speak in favor of CPS agents being permitted (and indeed required) to make better executive judgment calls.”

    I agree with Anna. I actually see this as good news. It shows how ridiculous the rules and regulations currently are and that changes are needed. We have seen several times on this site that there are many times that CPS dance like a puppet on a string. This is because the judgment calls they are allowed to make are severely limited. The humor of this tweet is obvious. However, CPS was not allowed to overlook it because currently, the rules and regs don’t allow it. Furthermore, they were required to give this poor woman a barbwire enema!

  70. pentamom October 19, 2017 at 6:48 am #

    Andy, tell the assumptions about geography, politics, and the appropriateness of CPS involvement to the Meitivs. I’m sure they’ll be fascinated to hear that living in a conservative, southern state is the reason they were persecuted in a liberal, northern one.

  71. Richard Stanford October 19, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    “I think the anonymous element is less of a problem than that they have to investigate every tip. People call 911 for all kinds of stupid reasons”

    Its completely reasonable to expect CPS to investigate every tip, Its unreasonable to assume that the investigation needs to last more than a few minutes for easily identified spurious tips like this one; reading the offending tweet and surrounding context should count as investigation.

    Other tips may require a home visit, sadly there’s probably no good way to remotely determine whether or not any given tip is from a crank if its well formatted.

  72. Shirley October 19, 2017 at 11:09 am #

    Richard. No social worker involved. Good home environment.. Nothing found in home and home computer. Online conversation with woman who made no effort to try to ask questions or tell the man this was not Ok. If so, she would have found he was not serious.

  73. Ricky October 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

    Karen October 18, 2017 at 10:30 am
    Your account of the 4 year old “pirates” sword fighting with plastic sand shovels resulting in a police investigation reminded me of another bizarre incident.

    Nearly 20 years ago at a local elementary public school a teacher witnessed a 6 year old boy kiss a 6 year old girl “against her will” on the playground. She hauled the little rapist to the principle’s office, The principle decided the incident met the legal definition of sexual assault (“possibly, if he was old enough to know what sex was”) so she called the police for the purpose of having him arrested. When a pair of city uniformed officers arrived in their cruiser and listened to the complaint they realized their first priority was to remove the boy from the obvious crazy people. One of the officers rode in the back seat as the security screen may have frightened him. They distracted the child on the way to the police station by being very kind and playing show and tell with some of their cruisers equipment. The female city DA was waiting at the station and calmly asked the boy what happened. He said he and a few other boys and girls were playing kissing tag. The girl caught him so he had to kiss her. By this time the parents had been reached by the dispatcher and were on the way to take him home. The DA said it was the craziest thing she had ever heard of. The parents wisely transferred their Son to a private school that my 8 year old Grandson now attends. The academics are far superior and the staff is not insane.

  74. Shirley October 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

    James, 2) You were on target when you said the first thing to do, would be to talk to the person. The legal system is definitely not a security blanket for anything.

  75. Richard October 19, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    Shirley, I don’t expect random people on the internet to be comfortable that they have the expertise to evaluate the potential for abuse. I do expect law enforcement, judges and Cws workers to do their jobs. The situation doesn’t provide any information showing that evidence was presented sufficient to legally justify detention of a minor. Unfortunately there are jurisdictions where the judges do not embrace their role as gatekeepers against unwarranted state intrusion.

  76. Gina October 19, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

    Ricky, I remember that story! A child (anyone) should never kiss (or touch) another person against their will. BUT, “sexual harassment”???? C’mon!!!!! TIme to talk about body boundaries and consent, not time to call the police. Thankfully the police were reasonable.

  77. Donna October 19, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    “I think the anonymous element is less of a problem than that they have to investigate every tip. People call 911 for all kinds of stupid reasons”

    CPS does not have to investigate every tip. They screen out lots of calls without a follow up investigation. However, for CPS to screen it out without investigation, the facts given have to constitute something that even if proven to be 100% true would not be abuse.

    What was reported to CPS in this case was that a mother, who has a history of mental illness, is currently attempting to sell her child. Had that been actually true, it would have most definitely lead to at least family preservation services or a safety plan, if not foster care so they are not going to just assume the mother was joking and ignore the report.

    You people here (Lenore included) seem to think that the initial report to CPS contains all the information CPS knows when the investigation is complete, and then determine that CPS was stupid to even look into them to start with. This was a PHONE CALL report. The tweet was not provided. Even once they saw it, CPS doesn’t know this mother or her sense of humor. Half the stuff I deal with on a daily basis – both criminal and CPS cases – is completely ridiculous crap that most people can’t believe happens in real life so I am not okay with CPS ignoring things that would clearly be problematic if true on an assumption that they are made up because they seem a little far-fetched.

  78. Steve N October 19, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    Donna, wouldn’t the person taking the call for CPS ask the caller how he knew that the mother was trying to sell her child? Wouldn’t this person ask how the caller knew that this mother has a history of mental illness? It just seems to me that some of these questions could have been answered (and certainly should have been asked) long before three people, including a sheriff’s deputy, knocked on this poor woman’s door.

    CPS has a tough job — no question about that. A big part of the problem is that CPS doesn’t have enough resources. So it seems to me that in order to do its job better, CPS should look for ways to screen out the obvious wild goose chases. This would leave them more resources to pursue to the really serious cases.

  79. Donna October 19, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

    “Donna, wouldn’t the person taking the call for CPS ask the caller how he knew that the mother was trying to sell her child? Wouldn’t this person ask how the caller knew that this mother has a history of mental illness?”

    That would depend on how they do phone intakes in the state. Ours all go through a central hotline. I do mine via writing rather than phone so I am not sure how much conversation there is between the caller and the agency. Whatever interaction there is is definitely not with the person who will be doing the investigation or even someone the investigator has good access to.

    That said, the reporter says he saw the mother advertise the child for sale online and whatever he knows about her mental illness. I don’t see how that information makes it less necessary for CPS to begin an investigation or really provides any clarity to the situation at all. CPS still needs to investigate the nature of the sale advertisement and the mother’s mental status.

  80. Holby October 19, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    Edward Hafner. As a school teacher, I am a mandated reporter. My calls about the welfare of a child are absolutely NOT anonymous. I am personally interviewed at length, even though I, as a trained professional, should have a pretty good idea about my student’s safety. I am actually questioned more thoroughly than a random stranger who may or may not have had any contact with the child. That should not be the case. I’m not advocating that teachers are t interviewed. I’m advocating that EVERYONE who files a complaint is. My involvement remains confidential and it has never stopped me from calling because….my (and anyone who calls CPS) concern for a child’s safety should be my primary concerns s should also have a recognition of the enormity of the charges I am leveling against another parent.

  81. Joan Simpson October 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

    As a school teacher myself, I certainly agree that ALL individuals who file a complaint be interviewed. Every effort should be made to minimize the number of spiteful and false claims that can disrupt a person’s life and that of their family. Hope to see that change in policy soon.

  82. Ricky October 19, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    Donna: I know what you are talking about. The central hotline is now common. When calling 911 it is important to first identify your city or town before giving an address or street intersection.

  83. Ricky October 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm #

    Joan Simpson: The huge problem is determining which complaints are true or false. A wrong interpretation could be tragic. As an example police. EMT’s. and firefighters have to respond to every call. Pranks requiring this response are far worse than pranks.

  84. Anne Charming October 22, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    You should do an article about the MotherRisk scandal in Canada. How many children got taken away by a false postive.

  85. Steve N October 24, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

    Ricky:

    A wrong interpretation could be tragic. True. Do you know what else can be tragic? Not having enough resources to pursue the really serious cases. And the way to free up more resources is to not waste them on obvious jokes.

    So many people here are talking about how CPS works. But that’s not an argument for how CPS should work.