Fred Foldvary on Whose Child is This?
|December 13, 2001||Posted by Fred Foldvary under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Fred Foldvary’s Editorial
Whose Child is This?
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
To whom do children belong? Does a child properly own himself, or does he rightfully belong to his parents, or to the state?
If we accept the moral equality of all persons, each human being rightfully owns his own body and time, even children. The parents have custody over his upbringing and have parental rights, but only as in effect trustees for the child.
So the government has some role in enforcing laws against harm to the child, including murder, abuse, neglect, and theft of the child’s rightful property. But so long as no coercive harm is being done to the child, the state should not interfere. It is the prerogative of the parents to pass on their culture to the child.
Americans criticize countries like Cuba for making children the property of the state. But in the US, increasingly children are being taken by force from parents and put under the custody of government, when no crime has been committed against the child.
Often it is the poor who lose their children when they come under the authority of government welfare agencies, such as battered women shelters. The children can be seized just because the police or social worker consider the house to be a bit too messy.
A “Child Protection Act” can easily be misused to kidnap children and put their lives in danger. In Florida, the 1999 Kayla McKean Child Protection Act was used by an investigator to take custody of the siblings of a child who died in his crib, even though the police had found nothing wrong.
In New York, a child fell ill and died in the hospital. The parents had not been willing to get their children immunized, and the state seized their other children.
In Los Angeles, Karissa Dameron, 2.5 years old, was taken to the hospital for bronchitis. Because they did not have immunization records, a social worker inspected their house and found it “dirty”. Later the children were seized by force. Karissa and her twin brother Kameron were placed in foster care. In visits, their mother discovered Karissa had a broken arm; the children also had bruises. The mother’s reports to social workers were ignored. Kameron was later one of six children murdered under the supervision of the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services — see
Several organizations are fighting such abuses. One is CPS (Child Protective Services) Watch (tel. 1-877-cps-watch). According to their web site, New Mexico leads the US in removing children from their homes, removing children at a rate 18 times the national per-capita average.
The magazine TCB Chronicles reported in its July/August 2000 issue that 18% of children placed under foster care in 1998 were cases where accusations of abuse or neglect were unfounded. In some states, this approaches half the cases.
What is the motivation to take children from happy homes and put them in danger? It’s money and power. States provide funds for foster care, and the federal government provides funding for care of children of low-income families. Thus, children in poor families are much more vulnerable to being seized.
CPS watch reports that children are ten times more likely to be abused under state care than in their own homes, and they are murdered several times more often under state custody.
Another organization concerned with governmental child abuse is the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. They state that “Being taken from everything loving and familiar is among the worst emotional blows that any child can suffer. It can leave lifelong scars. In addition, there is far more abuse in foster care than generally realized. Wrongfully removing a child from his parents can actually place that child at greater risk of child abuse and neglect.”
Clearly there are cases of child abuse where the children should be removed. But it is equally clear that there is much abuse also under governmental agencies. Along with the reforms of existing practices, it would help to decentralize child services so that the people in a neighborhood get involved to prevent abuses both in homes and in agencies. More nonprofit and less governmental involvement would probably help.
Meanwhile, parents should realize the dangers of government social services agents and demand search warrants if they want to intrude. Too often state agents abuse their authority by intimidating their victims into waving their legal rights. Seek the help of an attorney before signing away your parental rights. There are, of course, many sincere, good, hard-working social workers, but folks also need to protect themselves from the greedy ones.
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Copyright 2000 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.