When Caseworkers Tear Children from Loving Parents for Disgustingly Trivial Reasons

This New York Times piece on the new “Jane Crow” — poor black and Hispanic moms whose kids are taken away for trivial or even non-existent reasons simply because it’s assumed they are lazy, bad parents — will make you scream.

It’ll also make you see how the Free-Range Kids fight is for ALL parents. We fight for the right of parents to be imperfect without this being considered a CRIME. Kids don’t need perfect parents. And they certainly don’t need their parents arrested or harassed for not conforming to the June Cleaver (who was fictional!) extreme.

Maisha Joefield thought she was getting by pretty well as a young single mother in Brooklyn, splurging on her daughter, Deja, even though money was tight. When Deja was a baby, she bought her Luvs instead of generic diapers when she could. When her daughter got a little older, Ms. Joefield outfitted the bedroom in their apartment with a princess bed for Deja, while she slept on a pullout couch.

She had family around, too. Though she had broken up with Deja’s father, they spent holidays and vacations together for Deja’s sake. Ms. Joefield’s grandmother lived across the street, and Deja knew she could always go to her great-grandmother’s apartment in an emergency.

One night, exhausted, Ms. Joefield put Deja to bed, and plopped into a bath with her headphones on.

“By the time I come out, I’m looking, I don’t see my child,” said Ms. Joefield, who began frantically searching the building. Deja, who was 5, had indeed headed for the grandmother’s house when she couldn’t find her mother, but the next thing Ms. Joefield knew, it was a police matter.

“I’m thinking, I’ll explain to them what happened, and I’ll get my child,” Ms. Joefield said.

But no. The cops took her child and the Administration for Children’s Services put her in foster care. Then the cops charged Joefiled with child endangerment.

Horrifying. And reminiscent of other cases we’ve long discussed here, like this one, where a boy with autism wandered off and  his parents were cited for potential neglect. Or this one , where a 3-year-old’s nighttime adventure got the mom got a 20-day sentence. Or this case , where once again a tot wandered off and mom got charged.

The Times piece went on:

She was caught up in what lawyers and others who represent families say is a troubling and longstanding phenomenon: the power of Children’s Services to take children from their parents on the grounds that the child’s safety is at risk, even with scant evidence….

In interviews, dozens of lawyers working on these cases say the removals punish parents who have few resources. Their clients are predominantly poor black and Hispanic women, they say, and the criminalization of their parenting choices has led some to nickname the practice: Jane Crow.

The article quotes a public defender who said that in a more affluent community, “your kid’s found outside looking for you because you’re in the bathtub, it’s ‘Oh, my God’” — a wacky story.

In a poor community, it’s “child endangerment.”

One impact Free-Range Kids has had has been in making the public aware of how easy it is for the government to insert itself into family issues. Our middle class examples, like the Meitivs, investigated twice for letting their kids 10 and 6 walk home from the park, or Maria Hasankolli, handcuffed and thrown into a squad car when she overslept and her 8-year-old walked himself to school, or Julie Koehler, a suburban Chicago mom whose kids had to be examined by a doctor for signs of sexual abuse after she let them wait in the car for three minutes while she got a Starbucks (after all, if she’s that “negligent” she may well be abusive, too) — these stories have shocked and angered Americans who might not have heard of this same problem, so widespread, in poorer communities.

Free-Range Kids is fighting for the right of ALL parents not to be held to impossible standards, standards that even the Prime Minister of Britain failed to live up to the day he and his wife left their child at a pub, each assuming she was with the other parent.

To err is human, and parents with less money have even fewer resources to rise to superhuman parenting standards. When we pretend perfection is required, we create a police state for parents:

Vivek Sankaran, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, has examined short-term placements of children in foster care. He learned that in the 2013 federal fiscal year, 25,000 children nationwide were in foster care for 30 days or fewer, about 10 percent of the total removals.

“We’ve inflicted the most devastating remedy we have on these families, then we’re basically saying, within a month, ‘Sorry, our mistake,’” he said. “And these families are left to deal with the consequences.”

 Our fight, then, is to reverse the idea that blips are evidence of bad parenting, and that any unsupervised moment is tantamount to abuse. We fight to enlighten cops, social workers, the courts and the 911-dialers to all stop unnecessary interventions before they start.

Free-Range Kids states firmly: Parents don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly good parents. – L.

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Maisha Joefield and child, in New York Times photo by Kevin Hagen. When Joefields’s daughter unexpectedly let herself out of the home one night, Joefield was charged with neglect and her child was sent to foster care.

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47 Responses to When Caseworkers Tear Children from Loving Parents for Disgustingly Trivial Reasons

  1. Joan July 24, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    What gets me about CPS, cops, busybodies etc in these situations is that they claim to be acting “for the sake of the children” – but how can they possibly think a child is better off in foster care, or with their parent arrested? The standard for removing a child should always be “is this child’s life going to be improved by having a parent arrested, and/or being hauled away from everything they know to be placed with strangers who have a non-zero chance of being abusive themselves?” There are time when the answer is yes – if a kid’s being starved or beaten with a belt or something – but mostly it seems like the answer is no. Why do these people seem to think foster care is some magical wonderland for children?

  2. Dienne July 24, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    One of the biggest problems is that we’ve made child welfare a media matter – practically like a reality show mindset or something. Put yourself in the case worker’s shoes. I have several friends who are or have been in child welfare and, believe me, none of them want to be taking kids out of homes. It’s always an ugly process, the paperwork is insane, and they end up feeling terrible. But the alternative is to err on the other side and risk a situation in which a child actually is in danger and something worse happens later. How would you like to be the caseworker involved if that little girl got out again and something happened to her? Do you want to be the object of the whole city (or the whole country if it goes nationwide) judging you? “You mean that little girl was found wandering around in the middle of the night and you just gave her back to her mother? What were you thinking?? Now that little girl is dead because of you.” It’s bad enough that something terrible happened, but the media makes a feeding frenzy out of it.

    No one goes into child welfare with the intention of breaking up happy homes – they generally do it with the intention of helping. It’s a very stressful and low-paid field. We can’t blame workers for taking kids out of homes and at the same time blame them when something happens in the home – that’s not fair.

  3. BB8 July 24, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    Dienne – a case worker covering her a$$ is absolutely the worst excuse for a child being ripped from a loving family and taken to foster care. Really? Avoiding having to explain a perfectly defensible case is reason to destroy a family? Making the case worker uncomfortable or have to worry about future repercussions when there is zero evidence that the child was actually in danger is reason to put a mother through hell, and inflict lasting damage on children?

    I agree, it’s not fair. It’s reason to overhaul the system. But it’s an unacceptable excuse.

  4. common sense July 24, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    the best interests of the child are unfortunately the last thing on the list for many in cps. among the first things seem to be have the parents pissed you off some how, your own personal view of helicoptering[or free ranging] and what will best cover your own butt. many can claim other wise but children are often removed simply because cps really doesn’t think ripping a child away from their parents is traumatic and it will teach the parents a lesson. it does not even occur to them how much long lasting trauma this will cause. and sadly they just don’t seem to care whether it’s from being burnt out or from being on a power trip.

  5. Dienne July 24, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    BB8 – How long ago did you work in child welfare?

  6. Dienne July 24, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    Incidentally, in all these cases, we only have the parents’ side of the story. CPS and caseworkers are prohibited by law from commenting on cases. There could very well be more to this and any other story.

  7. Fink-Nottle July 24, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent!” was the actual motto of the PSAs developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, AdoptUSKids, and the Ad Council to encourage adopting from foster care. Not sure if those PSAs are still on or not.

  8. Michael Fandal July 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    Show me a parent who has no flaws and I’ll show you a parent hanging from the chandelier

  9. Sarah July 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    Dienee, every job has its share of narcs and the likes. In fact the “helping” professions attract a good number of them. Its a great position to be in if you like power and control. So to say they are altruistic all the time is not true.

    Thank you Lenore for your post.

  10. Jessica July 24, 2017 at 12:46 pm #

    It is absolutely true that in these cases (as in ALL facets) minority communities suffer. I am a well-off white woman and I don’t have any actual fear that my child would ever be taken from me. I could, at some point, get a humiliating ticket for child neglect. I could even have to do some community service. But a social worker take my (white) child and place him in a (probably minority) foster home? That would basically never happen. If you’re poor and black though? Different story.

  11. James Pollock July 24, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    “a case worker covering her a$$ is absolutely the worst excuse for a child being ripped from a loving family […] Making the case worker uncomfortable or have to worry about future repercussions when there is zero evidence that the child was actually in danger is reason to put a mother through hell,”

    If there was zero evidence, there’s no need to ass-cover.
    You get CYA when there IS evidence of abuse or neglect, but it isn’t obvious or immediate.
    What a lot of people don’t realize is that the CPS caseworker has choices besides “do nothing, walk away” and “seize the children immediately”. They can, and do, work with families to solve problems. The vast majority of CPS cases involve substance abuse, mental illness, poverty, or some combination of these.

  12. James Pollock July 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

    “It is absolutely true that in these cases (as in ALL facets) minority communities suffer.”

    But (and this is a VERY important consideration) is that because there’s actually a bias against minorities, or because there is a bias against poor people, and minorities are often overrepresented amongst the poor? Are we seeing a bias against minorities, or a bias against single parents, and minorities are often overrepresented amongst single parents? Are we seeing different results because the system rewards cooperation and punishes confrontation, and minorities are more likely to view government officials with suspicion and greet them confrontation?

    Isolating the root case is essential before much of anything can be fixed.

  13. Theresa Hall July 24, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    You got be kidding me! little kids pull disappearing acts all the time. I did when I little and I bet the rest of us on here did it to.

  14. John B. July 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    I don’t have the data or stats to back-up my feeling but I think it’s worse nowadays than it was 30 years ago. It seems as if child protective agencies back in the 70s would pull kids from the home as a last resort but nowadays, it seems as if they “err on the side of caution” and pull kids out of the home for any inkling of child abuse/neglect, even if nothing is confirmed.

    That’s how it is nowadays in any profession involving kids. If a school teacher, for example, presents a questionable lesson, something that might pee off the parents, instead of being counseled or scolded by the Principal in an effort to improve or change the employee’s performance like supervisors would do in any job, the teacher is usually fired. No second chances.

    I’m not a legal guru and I don’t know how this would work but perhaps it will take a Judge with guts to slam these agencies in court and award thousands of dollars to the parent in a counter lawsuit for taking away their kids for trivial reasons. Perhaps then these agencies will change their procedures and implement a little common sense!

  15. John B. July 24, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    @James Pollock:

    But how do you define “evidence”? If I allow my 10-year-old to walk 3 blocks to the city park by himself, is that evidence of child abuse/neglect?? I certainly don’t think so and neither do most people on this blog.

  16. SanityAnyone? July 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    Thank you. This really gets to the root of the issue. There should be a high barrier that includes actual harm and neglect in order to remove a child from the home. Less than that, there may be cause for investigation and attention. For trivial matters – let it go!

  17. Steve July 24, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Another example of man’s inhumanity to man. Fear your government.

    There’s always “evidence” of wrong-doing. The kid was outside late at night — that’s “evidence”. But there’s also evidence that I shot JFK and kidnapped Jimmy Hoffa. You need more than just one piece of evidence to build a case, but I get the feeling that these folks don’t worry about building a case. They take one piece of isolated “evidence” and run with it. Shameful. And disgusting.

  18. aebhel July 24, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

    I’m generally sympathetic to CPS–it’s a stressful, underpaid job, and the consequences of a bad call either way can be horrifying–but this is something we see over and over in poor/minority communities. I do roll my eyes a bit when upper middle-class free range parents angst about the possibility of having their children taken away for walking across the street along, or whatever, but for people with limited resources, it’s a real fear. It’s all part of the overpolicing of minority communities.

    I’m not even convinced this is a new thing for certain communities; the idea that Those People (black people, poor people, native americans, lgbt people, pick the group of your choice) are incapable of properly looking after their children is a very old one that’s been used to excuse a lot of abuse through the years. See also: Indian boarding schools.

  19. Dienne July 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    The University of Michigan link does not support your position, I’m afraid. It goes to an article that goes to great lengths to link the Mike’s Hard Lemonade guy (which does support the position) to the removal of the children from the Yearning for Zion FLDS Ranch in Texas. While the Mike’s Hard case was ridiculous, the only thing ridiculous about the YFZ case is that the kids were returned to that cult. FLDS has been studied extensively (as extensively as any cult can be, that is, considering the lengths they go to to keep out outsiders), and there is reams and reams of evidence of physical and sexual abuse of children. And, yes, they should be treated as a block because that’s how they behave. If individual families took individual responsibility for their kids, then I’d say they should be treated as individuals. But when all families are under the absolute domination of demented leaders like Warren Jeffs and his successor, then, yes, they all should be treated as a unit. Just go on Amazon and type in “FLDS” and you’ll get all the evidence you need that no child should be growing up in that sick environment.

  20. Dienne July 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    Incidentally, that article conflates “short stayers” with “unnecessarily removed”. Just because a child is returned to his/her parents within a short time does not necessarily mean the removal was unnecessary or unjustified.

  21. Emily July 24, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    What strikes me the most is, there are ways to prevent a child from wandering at night–such as locking her in her bedroom until morning–but such a practice would be, in itself, abusive. However, since it wouldn’t have resulted in Deja being found wandering at night, CPS never would have found out about it, unless she’d told someone at school or something.

  22. jimc5499 July 24, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    I know of a CYS worker who had a woman’s new born removed from her because of a dispute they had in high school. I was eating lunch with a friend who clerked for a Judge when we overheard her bragging about it to a friend. I had to testify in Court about it. The woman got her child back and the County paid a large settlement to keep it quiet. The worker was transferred to a different job.

    Concerns about the child’s welfare has something to do with it, but, many times it goes to “petty power”.

  23. Donald July 24, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    Q. What’s the difference between mankind and a stray dog?

    A. A stray dog won’t bite you if you feed it.

    I don’t know about CPS rules but these are the rules in Australia.

    An individual can recieve a fine up to 10,000 and 3 years in prison for not reporting suspected abuse.

    This means that these ‘stray dogs’ have very sharp teeth! If a case worker makes someone mad, the person can retaliate by ‘whistle blowing’ if they find out that the case worker fails to report anything. While they’re still allowed to use judgement of what’s relevant and what’s not, it’s quite minuscule.

    Here is another riddle.

    The news loves to print headlines of child kidnappings. It’s great for ratings! Q. What’s their second favourite headline? A. “A 2 Year Old Was Killed. The Authorities Were Warned but Failed to Act!”

    Our lust for drama/infotainment (information/entertainment) is a cause of many problems.

  24. Paula July 24, 2017 at 7:41 pm #

    This isn’t helped when foster parents like the darslings and the hodgins decide that they not cps should decide where the children should live and go to the press because illegal adoptions are overturned.

  25. David N. Brown July 24, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

    It sounds like part of the problem is the “majority” culture trying to solve problems they mostly project onto others. It does make “sense” that a wandering child would be in far more danger of abduction and such in a low income, high crime area. Except, it’s a lot easier to turn into that kind of criminal with a relatively high standard of living, spare time and access to media. Probably why “deviant” and “rich” were synonymous up to recent times…

  26. David N. Brown July 24, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    @Dienne: As someone living in Arizona, I consider the FLDS to be an egregious manifestation of elements already in the local culture. Then a lot of what gets reported as “abuse” seems to be mostly unintended consequences of living out their beliefs without any moderating influences. The prevailing attitude from the rest of us is straight-up pity, at least for the kids.

  27. Amy July 24, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

    @ Dienne I’d show you the “evidence” CPS used to remove my children for two months, but i don’t have enough printer ink. My youngest was molested in said foster home and now has ptsd and anxiety disorder because of it. My middle child which CPS targeted because shes autistic has a guilt complex now. And the main reason my children were taken is because i told the cps worker not to show up again without a warrant. she got pissed off and got five cops to break down my door 5 pm halloween night and steal my kids. WITHOUT A WARRANT.

  28. sexhysteria July 25, 2017 at 1:53 am #

    Busybodies are often people who don’t have any kids themselves, which is a red flag. Why are people who have no kids in their own lives (by choice or not) have so much interest in taking away other people’s kids?

  29. James Pollock July 25, 2017 at 5:19 am #

    “But how do you define ‘evidence’?”
    By using a dictionary? Or possibly a state evidence code?

    “If I allow my 10-year-old to walk 3 blocks to the city park by himself, is that evidence of child abuse/neglect??”
    It might be. Are you letting him walk to the city park by himself at 3am? Is he walking down to the park to score some meth for you? Does he have “boy-in-the-plastic-bubble” disease? Are you “allowing” him to walk to the park by putting him outside and locking the doors? Are you so schizophrenic that you don’t realize that your “10-year-old” is only 3? Were you aware that when your 10-year-old tells you he’s walking to the park, he’s actually out with a car-prowl gang? Does your 10-year-old have an autism disorder that renders him unable to navigate street traffic?
    There’s all sorts of cases where you letting your 10-year-old walk to the park unsupervised would be evidence of abuse or neglect (beyond the examples I actually spelled out). Generically,. If your 10-year-old is capable of making the walk and handling himself when unsupervised, then being unsupervised at the park is not a big deal. If your 10-year-old is not yet capable of handling himself unsupervised, but you (generically, I’m sure YOU are in the first category) just let him roam because keeping up with him is difficult and challenging and you just can’t be bothered, and anyway, the cops will bring him home when the time comes, then yeah, letting him walk to the park might be a sign of neglect.

    “I certainly don’t think so and neither do most people on this blog.”
    Making up your mind about something before learning all the facts is not something to brag about.

  30. common sense July 25, 2017 at 5:27 am #

    amy..this is what I mean about cps being on a power trip. i’ll just bet she went to the police and said kids were in danger no time for a warrant the mom’s out of control and threatened me. they think they’re gods and you’re something they scrap off their shoes. when they are then questioned by the press they cite privacy concerns and don’t comment. and then you’re told if you talk to the press it just proves you’re lying and will never get the kids back. as a matter of fact just about anything you say or do will “prove” you’re lying if it suits them. it happen more then you know and people are then scared to go public because they want the kids back.

  31. Steve July 25, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    The USA is obviously creating a police state.

    The police shoot people and totally get away with it.

    If you get pulled over and you have some cash the police can take it on the pretext that its ‘obvious drug money’ and you have no hope of getting it back without an expensive legal battle.

    The whole drive toward government control of parenting. Its going to lead to children being raised in ‘hatcheries’ like in Brave New World.

    The authorities in the USA are out of control. I used to be skeptical at the militia nuts who are paranoid about ‘government conspiracies’ but now that I live north of the border its becoming clearer to me that you Americans really do have something to be paranoid about.

  32. Anna July 25, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    I have a friend who used to work for CPS in a particularly troubled city. She got out after a few years, not just burned out, but convinced that even the goals and aims of CPS were wrongheaded. As she put it, she took kids from parents who were to varying degrees abusive and/or neglectful but still basically loved their kids, to place them – at best – with foster parents who might not abuse them, but didn’t care about them. And that was only at best, since abuse and neglect are quite common in foster homes, especially given that in our area placements of minority kids involved substantial stipends, so many foster parents were in it for the money. My friend became convinced that however hard she tried, her job did more harm than good.

  33. John B. July 25, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    @James:

    James, I’m talking about a normal 10-year-old under reasonable conditions.

  34. Rachael July 25, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

    So, this happened just this morning, I cleaned up my two year old’s potty accident and sent him to his room to get fresh underwear. A few moments later my five year old comes yelling ‘J’s outside!’ I run out the front door to find my two year old strolling naked through the front yard. He had pushed out the screen and gone out the window, about three feet off the ground.
    Either no one saw or they just had a good laugh. Crap happens when you have kids. I’m glad my neighborhood seems to understand that.

  35. Tim Gill July 25, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Great piece Lenore. There’s an urgent need to build the case for good parenting (which is what free range parenting used to be called) regardless of the race or social class of parents.

  36. Michelle July 25, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    The whole idea of CPS taking children just to cover their asses reminds me of a case in my city. A grandmother called CPS because her daughter was a drug addict, and she was worried about her grandchildren. Nothing happened. Months later, a case worker finally came around to investigate, but by then the daughter had willingly given the kids to her mother, and they were safe and well cared for. Unfortunately, because the case worker was supposed to have investigated earlier, and she was worried she’d get in trouble for not having done anything (this is by her own admission), she took the kids and put them in foster care anyway. IIRC it took a year to get them back, and the city ended up paying out on the resultant lawsuit.

    https://www.thsc.org/2012/03/cps-illegally-takes-children/

  37. Donald July 25, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    “the best interests of the child are unfortunately the last thing on the list for many in cps.”

    Unfortunately, that’s true. The child’s best interest has become low on the priority list. I don’t know about CPS rules but these are the rules in Australia but I assume that there are similar. An individual can receive a fine up to 10,000 and 3 years in prison for not reporting suspected abuse.

    Cover your a$$ has become the priority. If the child gets scarred for life (kids always blame themselves) for causing so much pain in the family then so be it.

  38. James Pollock July 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    “I’m talking about a normal 10-year-old under reasonable conditions.”

    You act like that makes a difference to my answer. It doesn’t.

    Thing is, I don’t know your kid is normal just from observing him once (or even several times). I’m being careful not to assume facts not in evidence. Maybe your 10-year-old is the most capable, responsible minor in the entire world. Maybe he’s a juvenile delinquent of the highest order. Maybe he suffers from autism or developmental delays.
    As to “reasonable conditions”, you’re now moving the goalposts.
    If by “reasonable conditions” you mean “there is objectively no abuse or neglect”, then (duh) nothing you do is evidence of abuse or neglect, because there is no abuse or neglect for it to be evidence of. As noted, however, there ARE conditions (which, obviously, involve there being objective abuse or neglect) in which allowing a 10-year-old to walk to the park unsupervised is evidence of that abuse or neglect.

    Am I stopping random passing 10-year-olds to ask them about their parental supervision? No. If I read body language (or actual English) that said “I need help, please” I’d try to help find a parent or other person responsible for the child.

    There’s benign neglect (“I’ve taught you everything you need to know to be responsible for yourself. Go do it. I’ll assume that if you need me, you’ll ask for guidance, and if you aren’t asking for guidance, it’s because you don’t need it.”) which is not harmful to the child. Then there’s the other kind, which is or can be. If little Johnny or Susie is outside because they’re capable and responsible and have earned their parents’ trust, then an investigation will show that they’re capable and responsible.and have earned their parents’ trust. But if lettle Johnny or Susie are not yet capable and responsible, and are either being pushed beyond their readiness or are the less-important considerations for their parents (not unusual in cases of substance abuse), well, hopefully, an investigation will discover that fact, as well.
    Sorting out which one it is (there is no abuse or neglect, or there is abuse or neglect, and thus a need to document it and address it) is why there are investigations. It is true that not all CPS workers are as diligent, motivated, and aware as we might like. Sometimes, they get it wrong, for any of a great number of reasons, and it’s bad when they do.
    But it’s kind of funny to demand perfection of CPS workers (who are human, and thus fallible) while also criticizing the demands of perfection of parents, who of course are human, and thus fallible. Most of us can point to an incident or two when, in honesty, we took our eyes off the ball, and only because of luck or the intervention of someone else that tragedy was averted. Mine’s past the statute of limitations, so I can talk about mine. It was at Multnomah Falls. For those who don’t know, this is a site near Portland which is very popular with tourists. Visitors can get off the freeway and walk just a short distance to the bottom of the falls. The adventurous can hike the trail to the top of the falls, about a mile and quarter of zigzagging and around 700 feet of ascent. Then you can go to a viewpoint and look down at the parking lot from right next to the top of the falls. The REALLY adventurous can continue hiking another 7 or 8 miles, past several other, smaller waterfalls, but 99% of people go to the top of the falls and then back down again. I used to take my daughter there about once per year. When she was young, say sixish, we got to the top and she ran ahead of me down to the viewpoint. There’s a wall there, for good reason, it’s about 3 feet tall and firmly establishes where a visitor should be, and where they should NOT be. My three-foot-tall daughter, however, found the wall to be an impediment to her viewing the scenic vista. So she climbed on top of it. An alert fellow visitor grabbed the back of her shirt and prevented her from climbing down the other side of the wall, before I’d caught up. It’s a 620-foot fall from the viewpoint to the pool at the bottom of the falls, but my little daredevil was utterly unafraid of heights.
    A person who observed those 30 seconds, and nothing else of my or my daughter’s lives, might have found me to be a neglectful parent. In those 30 seconds, I was. I knew my kid was a climber, I knew she wasn’t afraid of heights, and I let her run ahead of me anyway. It was luck that there happened to be someone at the viewpoint who saw her, and was willing to make the instant decision to grab her. Should the local CPS agency, seeing the risk my daughter was under, have acted to remove her? Of course not… I learned that I needed to discuss the role of walls (both literal and symbolic) in our decision-making process, and having done that, I could have (and did) safely let her roam ahead on the trail. (I took guidance from Jean Kerr’s classic “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”) I hadn’t explicitly said “stay on the right side of the wall”, so my daughter’s decision-making process went like this: I can’t see because of the wall. If I was on the other side of the wall, I’d be able to see. I can climb over this wall. Problem solved! Like people do, she made a decision based on the information she had; she didn’t have the information “climbing over the wall gives dad cardiac trouble” so it didn’t factor into her decision.

    If there’s evidence that points to you being an abusive or neglectful parent, make sure anyone who has authority over you gets access to all the evidence that points towards you not being an abusive or neglectful parent. If you can’t do this, then maybe take the caseworker’s advice, and take that anger-management class or whatever.

    Do I think a parent allowing a 10-year-old to walk to the park IS abuse or neglect? Very probably not. But I wouldn’t commit (either way) based on that little information.

  39. James Pollock July 25, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    ” I don’t know about CPS rules but these are the rules in Australia but I assume that there are similar. An individual can receive a fine up to 10,000 and 3 years in prison for not reporting suspected abuse.”

    I know, I just put up a wall o’ text above. This is a different tangent. Bear with me (or don’t).

    There was a case here locally. Our story involves a woman, her second husband, her daughter, and the church organization that they were part of. The stepfather was a fairly important personage within the church heirarchy. The daughter disclosed to the church daycare provider that she was being sexually abused. The church daycare worker discussed the matter with other top-level church leaders.. they just could not believe that the stepfather, well-known by all of the church leaders, was capable of raping a child. So they did nothing. On the one hand, they were right, the stepfather was not capable of raping a child. The daughter, however, was not naming the stepfather, but rather, her actual father. because the church daycare worker and leadership did not report the disclosure, the girl enduring another year and half of rapes before she disclosed again, this time to a public school teacher, who did report to the police.

    We have “mandatory reporters”… folks who interact with children regularly, and can be expected to have or get information about child abuse, most specifically on spotting the signs of it. Other people are not required to report evidence of child abuse… in part because they aren’t in regular contact with specific children, and partly because we aren’t trained in how to provide accurate assessment of evidence of child abuse.

  40. Donald July 25, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

    “I know, I just put up a wall o’ text above”

    You’re good at that. (supplying text and sometimes supplying good information)

  41. Parenting July 26, 2017 at 6:21 am #

    I agree with you that Parents don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly good parents. It is very nice article and you write it very well.

  42. John B. July 26, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    @James Pollock:

    Your complicating the issue. But if you feel a need to accompany your healthy and normal minded 10-year-old child a mere two blocks to the city park in the middle of the day under nice weather and with no North Korean nuclear attack going on, go for it. I’ll let mine walk by himself.

  43. James Pollock July 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm #

    “Your complicating the issue.”
    Life is complicated, yes. You asked a complicated question, and got a complicated answer, and apparently didn’t like it. Sucks to be you, I guess.

    You asked “If I allow my 10-year-old to walk 3 blocks to the city park by himself, is that evidence of child abuse/neglect??”
    The answer to that question was, and still is, “it might be”, and I’ve explained why.. Your subsequent attempts at goalpost-moving didn’t change this.

    Now you’re assigning an opinion to me that in no way resembles my own, which I have expressed at considerable length. If you still cannot determine what needs I feel, it is either because you are willfully misinterpreting what I have written, or it is because you are stupid. So that I may best respond to you further, which is it?

    “I’ll let mine walk by himself.”
    Good for you. With whom, exactly, are you arguing this point?

  44. Don Saxton July 26, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    Murdered child Gabriel Fernandez is a case to the contrary. LA County now has on trial, one parent, one boyfriend, and four caseworkers. It is a county with evidence that black and brown parents are more likely investigated, but the deeper, more fundamental problem hurts all children with the same fickle policy and implementation. Until recently workers didn’t know they could not remove a child without a warrant. That had to be corrected by a court. Where are the adults in charge? Well, you might question their parenting abilities as if workers were kids gone wild.

    The problem is no one can admit there are two kinds of decision errors — false positive and false negative. You would think everyone would know that, but when you ask judges, workers or department heads you get crickets if they are remotely connected to County Child Protection policy, Family Court, Dependency Cout, or DCFS.

    Smoking Gun: Former top LA County Dependency Judge Michael Nash in his new role as head of County Offiice of Child Protection recently wrote this report. Note he only mentions false pos/negs in regard to Predictive Analytics which he disfavors and not Structured Decision Making (SDM) which he favors, nonetheless, he can’t support it with any probabilities (he uses %) better than a coin toss (50%). That’s not fickle?
    http://file.lacounty.gov/SDSInter/bos/bc/1023048_05.04.17OCPReportonRiskAssessmentTools_SDMandPredictiveAnalytics_.pdf

  45. Donna July 26, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

    There is a huge danger in trusting first person accounts of why their children are in foster care. I have yet to have a parent who doesn’t leave out half the facts to make it sound like they were far better parents than they were. For example, I have a client who will give you very much the same story as above. She will leave out the fact that this was the third time in less than a month that her toddler left the apartment while she slept. She will state that she ran out of the house frantically searching for her child as soon as she realized she was gone – which is true – however, she will neglect to to you that the toddler had been gone for 2.5 hours before she realized this. My clients very much function under their own set of facts that have varying levels of connection to the reality of the situation.

    That said, the system is very biased towards poor people and, since minorities make up a larger proportion of the poor, minorities. First, they live in financial circumstances that make actionable situations more likely to occur. Take my example above. The mother was not a bad parent. She was a single parent who worked 3rd shift, got no support, financial or otherwise, from the fathers of her children and couldn’t afford daycare for her toddler or a babysitter to watch her while she napped during the day. Not something that is likely to happen to someone with more financial means.

    Second, they have less room to fall and one minor hiccup can lead to more severe problems. Again, take my example. Kids went to stay with their grandma while CPS made sure that nothing more was going on, mom came up with a supervision plan for while she slept, and locks were installed on the doors. They were placed in foster care so that grandma could receive money to support them during this time. Case should have resolved very quickly with the kids back home with mom. Except the landlord evicted mom as a result of these incidents and it took mom more than a year to find new housing, leaving the children in foster care for much longer than anyone planned (mom could have moved into a shelter with the kids, but she chose to leave them with grandma). Again, a series of events much less likely to occur in families with more means who own their residences or have a better credit history, income to pay rent and ability to pay deposits, etc.

    And third, there is a societal stereotype of poor people being poorer parents. Middle class people, and particularly middle class white people, are given the benefit of the doubt far more often than poor people and people of color. There was an episode of What Would You Do? several years ago that showed a mother screaming at her children and then leaving them on a bench to walk home for punishment. When the family was dressed in rags and driving a beater car, onlookers berated the mother, soothed the children and called the police. When the exact same actors said the exact same lines in designer clothes and driving a mercedes, the onlookers viewed it as reasonable discipline and didn’t intervene. Some even cheered on the mother. It is obviously very easy to edit this to show what you want it to show, but it rang true to me based on things I hear people say about the poor.

  46. Sally July 26, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    What’s funny is that there are all these advertisements around to be foster and/or adoptive parents. And their slogan? “You don’t have to be perfect to be a parent-adopt today!”

    And then 2 years later the poor kid is sent through the CPS system as their “perfectly imperfect parent” who qualified to adopt made a tiny error….

  47. Lois Marshall July 31, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    My youngest two children did not have the advantage of my undivided attention, as the oldest did. As a result, both of them, at about the age of two or three, managed to slip outside while I was occupied with the others, both of them absolutely jay-bird naked! The across-the-street neighbors caught each of them (different neighborhoods, so different neighbors) and returned them immediately, without calling the police. These things do happen, and I had the additional advantage of having a husband, so I could count on some added supervision of the children. The police never became involved, so neither did DCF (division of children and families).
    Later, when the children were older, but I no longer had another adult in the house, I was investigated three times by DCF, with the report coming back as “unfounded” each time. It terrified both me and my children that a random nameless adult could cause such disruption in our lives, just because one of them was seen outside without me visibly present, apparently with no other problem.
    In the first two instances, the investigator was reasonable, but the third investigator was determined to find some justification for her presence. She arrived at very early times, very late times, without warning, or with very little warning. She required me to apply for assistance even after I told her that I had recently been turned down for that assistance and that I had to take off time from work to do so. In short, she made life very difficult for me and my children, and probably caused many of the problems which surfaced later in one of my children.
    In short, there need to be some severe changes because of the difficulties the system itself causes.