April 8th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Hard on the heels of yesterday’s post about a young British man whose career was destroyed by a single allegation of sexual impropriety with a six year old boy at his place of employment, a daycare center, comes this. (Baby Center Blog, 4/7/13). In the case of Keiron, the British man, the police knew the claims to be false well before they were ever made. That’s because the daycare center staff was able to place both the boy and Keiron throughout the day in question. Turns out, they were never together that day and therefore any abuse was impossible. Nevertheless, the police charged Keiron, placed a restraining order against him that prevented him from doing his job, took away his computer and took away his wife’s computer. She of course had never been charged with anything and needed her computer for her employment, but they took hers anyway. Four months later and the loss of earnings that were vital to the young pair, the police said “never mind,” dropped the charges and presumably think all is back to normal. But of course it’s not. Keiron’s police record will forever show him to have been accused of child molestation and, well, there goes his career in the childcare business.
All of which is to answer the question posed by the short but incisive blog piece linked to. Its title is “Why Are We Terrified to Let Our Children Go Outside?” Now, in times past the answer to that might be “it’s dangerous for them,” but no longer. The short answer to the blogger’s question is “we’re not afraid for the kids, we’re afraid for ourselves.” The boy Keiron was accused of harming isn’t his, but he principle is the same – at all costs, stay off the radar screen of Child Protective Services or whatever the name of your local child welfare agency might be.
The blogger, Stacie Lewis is writing on one of the many parents’ websites that concern themselves with children, parenting, medical issues, schooling and the like. And sure enough, child protective services is a big topic in their small niche of the blogosphere.
Last week, the parents of a six-year old girl learned that Child Protective Services might take their little girl from them. Their crime? They allowed her to walk a couple of blocks to the post office alone.
She doesn’t live in a busy city. She had to cross one road, a “T” intersection with a stop sign and traffic light. It was a very common walk for her, but her parents rehearsed her doing it independently as well. She had a cell phone on her just in case. And now, she might be removed completely from her family.
Yep, someone in this town decided a little girl walking two blocks to the post office by herself along a familiar route on which she was virtually immune to traffic hazards was in danger. So much danger in fact that the state had to be called in for the child’s “protection.”
Now, it’s pretty much a given that the child was in essentially no danger at all. Somehow, in this mad, mad, mad, mad world, a child walking two blocks has become an act of parental irresponsibility of such gravity that only the state can rescue the situation. Whoever reported the matter believes that assertion and CPS agrees. But I wonder if they’re aware of what they’re opting for when the state enters the picture. After all, both the person reporting the situation and CPS workers had a choice; they could ignore the child’s walking to the post office or they could intervene. Both opted for the latter choice, so it’s worthwhile comparing the two alternatives in order to decide which is the more abusive of the child.
Had the reporter simply ignored the little girl, she’d have walked to the post office, perhaps delivered a letter for her parents and maybe picked up whatever mail was there waiting for them. She’d have then walked home and reported back to Mommy and Daddy. In the process, she probably would have felt very adventurous, maybe a bit thrilled. She probably would have felt quite responsible and grown-up too. She might have felt a touch of pride in herself for having carried out her mission successfully. In short, she’d have taken a small step toward adulthood; she’d have gotten the idea of herself as an independent person, someone who could get things done on her own. Bravo for her.
But, of such positive, healthy steps for a child, the person who reported the matter and CPS workers wanted no part. Whatever the consequences to the girl’s parents may have been, the unambiguous message to the child was “Be afraid. Don’t believe you can do what’s within your capability; believe you can’t.” For CPS the mantra for children seems to be “No I can’t.”
Meanwhile, the knock on the door by CPS is enough to terrorize any parent. Everyone with any awareness of the power of CPS knows the knock can come at any time, for any or no reason. Like the KGB, CPS can show up at your door and inform you that “you have been charged.” Your accuser remains anonymous while you desperately try to prove yourself to be a good and responsible parent. Your six year old daughter looks on in horror as something she did terrifies and upsets her parents. How does that make her feel?
And all of that happens even if the child isn’t out of her parent’s care for a single second. But of course all too often, he/she is. All too often, the fallback position of child welfare agencies is to take the child from the parents while they sort things out, as if no harm is done to the child that way. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, few things terrify a child more than being taken away from his/her parents and dumped in an unfamiliar home with unfamiliar adults and unfamiliar children for an indeterminate period of time. Will the child ever return to the only home and parents he/she’s ever known? The child has no idea and CPS isn’t telling. Neither is the judge and neither are the parents. Neither are the foster parents. The child is left with no certainty in the world and no way to get it. Nice.
So, comparing the two options of the person who reported the heinous act of a child’s walking to the post office, which looks better – intervention or doing nothing?
Truly, what did the person think the dangers to the little girl were when she walked the two blocks to the post office. One could be the danger of traffic, but she only had to cross one street, and that was a T intersection controlled by a stop sign and a stop light. Not much danger there. Child abduction? I’ll let Stacie Lewis deal with that one.
I’m geniunely unnerved by this state of fearfulness. Fear of your child being snatched from your peaceful suburban town. Fear of CPS knocking down your door if you allow them to explore safely. Fear of your child being kidnapped from your locked car when you run inside to grab your forgotten purse off the counter.
The statistics about child abduction may surprise you. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children says, “More missing children come home today than at any time in our nation’s history. And the total number of missing children has been on the decline over the past 10 years.”
David Knowles, from AOL News reports that, “A 2000 Justice Department study found that of the 800,000 kids who were reported missing that year, half turned out to be runaways. And most abductions turned out to involve family members. Only 115 of all the cases reported were a version of the nightmare scenario that most troubles parents: abduction by a stranger.”
That’s right, the vast majority of missing children are those who ran away themselves and those who were abducted by a parent. Neither is an ideal situation, but likewise, neither is something that CPS is able to or tasked with preventing.
So if child abduction isn’t the problem, what is? Recall Stacie Lewis’ words “Fear of CPS knocking down your door if you allow them to explore safely.” Right. What’s the real danger to the children of intact families? One of the gravest is finding yourself in the crosshairs of CPS that stands ever ready to substitute its own ideas of good parenting for those of good parents. Yes, the allegations may prove groundless and the whole thing dropped in the end. But between “J’accuse!” and “never mind” a whole world of damage can be done to children and parents alike. It’s the way the state operates. Don’t believe me? Just ask Keiron.