Chronicle of Social Change: States Should Take Children from Fit Parents

November 27, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This article’s not only bad, it’s dangerous (Chronicle of Social Change, 11/23/15). Written by former child welfare worker, Marie K. Cohen, it’s a plea for state intrusion into family life, the rights of parents and the well-being of children that’s as outrageous as it is unheard of. And that’s barely the half of it. Cohen’s errors of basic fact and logic are astonishing to behold.

Fortunately for all concerned, Cohen only worked for five years as a caseworker in the Washington, DC agency charged with protecting children. Her thesis is that there are too few adoptions out of foster care. Getting to that conclusion is quite the literary and logical misadventure.

Cohen begins with her understandable joy at seeing adoptions of foster children.

What could be better than seeing a child who had been abused or neglected permanently united with a family that had already proven their love and nurturance by fostering?

But then she regretfully recalls cases in which, instead of foster parents adopting them, children ended up with their birth parents. Now, to most of us, that’s what should happen if at all possible, but to Cohen, it’s wrong per se. Such an attitude is hard to imagine, but nowhere does she admit that, in fact, biological parents can be perfectly fit to care for their kids even though, in the past, they’ve proven somewhat abusive or neglectful.

Cohen’s willingness to eschew basic logic is a constant throughout her narrative. So she mentions four adoptions during her term as caseworker that were finalized and two in which biological parents kept their children. According to Cohen, the four adoptions were good things and the two non-adoptions weren’t. But amazingly enough, she nowhere provides follow-up.

That of course is one of the oft-cited failings of CPS workers everywhere; they look into a complaint and then fail to follow up to see how the child is doing weeks or months later. Often, that failure is what permits caregivers to do serious damage to children.

But in this case, Cohen’s failure to follow up is of a literary nature. She never got around to ascertaining how the various kids are doing months or years later. Are the adopted ones really faring so much better than those with their birth parents? Who knows? She never got around to answering that most basic of all questions. For Cohen, her assumption that adopted kids do better than those who remain in their original families is all that’s necessary to her conclusion that the same must be true. Hey, it’s hard to be wrong when you never test your hypothesis.

Turning now from her lack of logic to her lack of facts, I wonder if Cohen’s enthusiasm for foster care and foster parents would extend to this case out of King County (Seattle), Washington (King 5, 11/24/15). I don’t have space to go into the horrible details of a badly disabled teenage girl, abused for years by her foster parents, who took her in solely for the money they were paid by the state to “care for” her. Suffice it to say that one of the EMS personnel who finally saved her from the hell in which her foster parents forced her to live described the girl’s situation thus:

"We all thought this was the worst case of neglect we’d seen on a person that was still alive," said Foster.

Compare that with Cohen’s assumption that foster parents have “already proven their love and nurturance by fostering.” No, Ms. Cohen, becoming a foster parent proves nothing. What proves one’s ability as a parent, one’s love and nurturance is, well, being loving and nurturing toward a child. That’s true of biological parents, foster parents and anyone else.

Of course there are many fine, loving foster parents. Good for them. But on average, foster parents do a worse job of caring for children than do biological parents, even those who’ve been somewhat abusive or neglectful in the past. Those are facts, brought to light by numerous studies that track how foster kids do versus kids with their biological parents.

Naturally, they’re facts entirely ignored by Marie K. Cohen.

Just as naturally, she doesn’t mention the federal money that encourages states to take children from their parents and place them in foster care, or the additional federal money paid to states for every child adopted out of foster care. Reading Cohen’s article, you might believe that states have to fight to get adoptions finalized when in fact there’s every incentive to do just that, as former state elected officials have admitted.

And of course the many studies showing horrifying levels of physical and sexual abuse in foster homes don’t get a mention from Cohen any more than the fact that children age out of the system when they turn 18.

No, the basic, known facts about foster care are of no interest to Cohen. They frankly contradict her narrative that has all foster parents to be good and loving, while biological parents, who might get in the way of the adoption of their children, are nefarious agents of child abuse.

Fathers? Cohen doesn’t like them. In her telling, about all they’re good for is showing up at inopportune moments to lodge parental claims to their own children. The nerve! In so doing, they interfere with those adoptions that Cohen values above all else.

All of this is clear enough, but then Cohen’s article jumps from being just logically shoddy and factually uninformed to scary.

District of Columbia law allows for a child to be adopted against a parent’s consent if it is in the child’s best interests. But courts will generally not waive a parent’s right to consent if the parent has complied with court orders or, as in the case of Davon’s father, was not guilty of abuse or neglect.

You read that right. Cohen actually believes that courts should be able to permanently take children from parents who are “not guilty of abuse or neglect.” Does she realize that, assuming she has children of her own, that includes her? Does she know anything at all about constitutional law as it applies to parental rights? Is she aware that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have no interest in interfering in the decisions of biological parents absent a showing of abuse or neglect? No, along with everything else, those facts, being inconvenient to her brave new world of state care of children, are to be waved aside.

For Cohen, the state is some sort of free-wheeling intuiter of the best interests of children. To her, if the state spies a child who, in the opinion of state agents, might be better off elsewhere, then off it goes to that place. Is your child in public school? Might its interests be better served if it were in private school? If you can’t afford private school, then surely your child must be taken from you and handed over to someone who’ll give it the education to which the state considers it’s entitled.

Absurd? Certainly, but Cohen’s brief points directly there. The need for the state to prove some form of parental unfitness before interfering in parents’ decisions about their children is the one and only thing that stands between children and governments that daily prove their own unfitness when it comes to childcare. Cohen would remove that requirement.

Do you think I exaggerate? Consider countries other than the U.S. that protects its people via the Bill of Rights and other constitutional amendments. For example, there’s the Canadian father who was sued by his 12-year-old daughter several years back. Her cause of action? He punished her for spending too much time on social media by withholding his permission for her to go on a class field trip. The judge ruled for the daughter on the theory that her father’s punishment was excessive. Was he abusive or neglectful of her? No, but the state stepped in anyway to undermine his authority and second-guess his parental decision.

What about Scotland? By law, there is now an adult, employed by the state, to oversee the parenting provided for every child in the country. Each kid has his/her own non-parental adult who can look into medical decisions, educational decisions and the like and simply overrule the parents’ decisions. Sound like a good plan? Can anyone point to anything, anywhere, any time to suggest that governments do a better job of parenting than do parents?

Nope, but governments don’t seem to care. And shills like Cohen are always ready to make their arguments, illogical and non-factual as they are.


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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#adoption, #childabuse, #childneglect, #fitparents, #fostercare

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