Child "Protection" Agencies Do More Harm Than Good

When do-gooding doesn't do good, stop doing it!

The budget discussions have made it clear that our federal, state, and local governments simply must cut costs by shedding some of the responsibilities they've accumulated over the years.  Having listed Child Protection Services as an area in need of cutting, we went into detail why protecting children is beyond a government's abilities.  Janice responded:

Such a negative and inhumane attitude - I guess its survival of the fitness in your world. Being part of the child welfare system as a social worker and now as a private practice clinician I have seen children's lives turned around in a positive way because they were given a better opportunity to grow and thrive in a healthier home. The media rarely covers these stories. As a tax payer myself I feel that helping the disempowered is an investment in our future because in some circumstances it does make a huge difference in a person's life.  [emphasis added]

Janice is entirely correct.  Not only is helping the disempowered, which includes most children, an investment in our future, it's an utterly necessary investment.  Unless we give the vast majority of our children the tools they need to take their places as responsible, productive adult members of our society, our high-tech civilization will collapse and half our population will starve to death.

We and Janice are in vehement agreement on that principle.  Where we differ is on how it can be achieved.

Janice believes that government programs can make a positive difference in children's lives.  Unfortunately, we're convinced by overwhelming evidence that Child Protection Services do far more harm than good.

Investigations and Interventions are Useless

American Child "Protection" Services are based on the Mondale Act which was signed by President Nixon in 1974.  The law requires that CPS agencies solicit anonymous reports of child abuse and that the agencies investigate each and every one.

This turns out to be a huge waste of time and money.  Even the New York Times, normally one of the bureaucracy's most vehement cheerleaders, has been forced to admit that child abuse investigations don't do much to reduce risk of harm to children:

Child Protective Services investigated more than three million cases of suspected child abuse in 2007, but a new study suggests that the investigations did little or nothing to improve the lives of those children.

The study cited by the Times pointed out that when investigation leads to action, the situation seldom improves:

A critical third barrier [to prevention efforts] is our limited understanding of the effectiveness of interventions after child maltreatment. Traditional CPS interventions such as family preservation and family support services after investigation are not associated with reductions in repeat maltreatment or foster care placement.  [emphasis added]

The Times says, "Traditional interventions," which are the cornerstones of our CPS system, "are not associated with reductions in repeat maltreatment or foster care placement."  In other words, even when children are being mistreated, government-approved CPS services do not reduce mistreatment or help families stay together.

Foster Care is Harmful

An MIT study has found that on average, abused children still do better when left in biological homes, even if those homes are very far from ideal.  MIT reported:

An MIT Sloan School of Management professor has for the first time used the analytic tools of applied economics to show that children faced with two options - being allowed to stay at home or being placed into foster care - have generally better life outcomes when they remain with their families.

Our government can't even teach kids how to read; why would anyone think they're able to substitute for parents?   The federal government pays state agencies money when they remove kids, however, so that's what they do even though the MIT study shows that government makes a lousy parent.

Why are government bureaucrats such bad parents to the needy children it's their job to help?  Is parenting rocket science?

Parenting is a great deal of work, but it's not rocket science.  A New Yorker article "The Poverty Clinic" cited research which shows that one of the keys to successful parenting is creating strong emotional bonds between child and parent.

A study in Oregon showed that overstressed children could be helped by changing the behavior of parents or caregivers.  The study encouraged foster parents to be more responsive to the emotional cues of their foster children.  A Delaware study promoted secure emotional attachment between children and their foster parents.  Both studies measured levels of stress hormones in children and found that teaching foster parents to bond emotionally to children reduced stress levels.

What kinds of parents have to be encouraged to bond with children?  Government-ruled parents, of course.  The New Yorker told of Monisha Sullivan, who had been placed in nine different foster homes and had had to adapt to nine different sets of foster parents.  How can any child bond emotionally to foster parents when she knows that she can be dragged away to another home at the whim of a bureaucrat?  How can a parent become emotionality bound to a child which might be taken away at any moment?

Our reader Janice is completely correct in saying that proper intervention can make a huge positive difference in a child's life, but that's not what government does.  By dragging children to and fro through the system, they mess up the child's emotions so badly that Monisha wasn't able to bond with her own daughter after giving birth.

It's Systemic

Janice is undoubtedly correct in saying that some children benefit from CPS intervention, but the agencies do more harm than good.  The problem is that government agencies operate by fixed rules which make no provision for common sense.  Some time ago, we discussed a particularly idiotic CPS outcome:

In an article "Hard lemonade, hard price," the Detroit Free Press reports:

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.

Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic[emphasis added]

Everyone involved said that the police and social workers were "only following orders" based on agency rules.

The Freep quoted Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university's Child Advocacy Law Clinic, as saying that the emergency removal powers of CPS, though "well-intentioned" are "out of control and partly responsible for the large numbers of kids in the foster care system," which is almost universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened.

Here we have a bureaucracy which experts in the field say is "out of control" and is "universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened."  In other words, everyone familiar with the system knows it's out of control, yet there are no protests and no one wants to fix it.

Consider the effects of this "out of control" bureaucracy.  Unjustified child removal traumatizes children.  My friends who were wrongly removed during their childhoods distrust government deeply; their parents see government as a vast conspiracy to trash as many citizens as possible.  Is it sound public policy to turn good parents into enemies of government?  Is it a good idea to mess up children like Monisha so badly that they can't bond with their children?  It's good for the bureaucracy because they can increase their budgets by providing services to the messed-up children of children whom they abuse, but it's bad for society overall.

Starving the Beast

The more money CPS agencies get, the more children they can afford to abuse.  As far back as August 1989, the page-one article "Child-Abuse Charges Ensnare Some Parents In Baseless Proceedings," in the Wall Street Journal reported that two-thirds of children who removed from their homes as a result of child abuse interventions turned out not to be abused at all.

Abrupt removal is always traumatic for a child and MIT has shown that it generally leads to worse outcomes.  This means, mathematically, that our government abuses twice as many children as parents do.

When this history of our time is written, it will be shown that government Child "Protection" bureaucracies abused and harmed far more children than parents ever did.  One good thing about the upcoming cuts in state spending is that we taxpayers will be funding less child abuse.

What, then, of Janice's concern for helping the disempowered?  As with education, that's best handled by the private sector as we'll explain later.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments

And of course a more sinister issue, that of human trafficking which has been tracked back to officials and organizations in the child protection services should not remain unmentioned.

ww

May 12, 2011 5:21 PM

It costs a childless couple between $30,000 and $60,000 in legal fees, etc., to adopt a child. Social workers tend to create situations where foster girls become sexually active and have babies. If they can show that the girl is too young to be a competent mother, they can usually get a friendly judge to terminate parental rights.

Infants are relatively easy to place. Where do you think the money goes?

A friend of mine knows a girl / young woman who kept having babies until the social workers "let me keep one." Willy is right, it's a racket.

May 12, 2011 8:11 PM

Julia, what does this statement mean?

>Social workers tend to create situations
>where foster girls become sexually active
>and have babies

May 12, 2011 8:14 PM

Spot on about a lot of things, Will. The only thing I'm curious about is the study you mention showing that kids allowed to choose foster care or staying with parents do better when they choose to stay with parents. I'm thinking this is probably not a random selection of kids; presumably more severely abused children would not be given a choice to remain with their parents. Under what circumstances were some children allowed to make a choice? I can only imagine that they were very mild cases of abuse where parents looked likely to have changed their ways.

You are correct that much that is wrong with the CPS system is due to the way the money flows. My own state was rated worst in the nation for abuse of foster children, and its agency's answer was (predictably) that it was terribly underfunded. This is after oversight placed more than one child into the hands of abusive foster parents who killed them.

CPS is especially pernicious as "everyone knows" its entire purpose is to "save children". No politician wants to be seen doing anything but giving more money to an organization that "saves children", no matter how horrible a job it does. It's just too risky politically.

Much the same said here could be said of the various Departments of Child Support Enforcement. After Reagan got smacked down for going after welfare moms, he tried to recoup some welfare losses by encouraging states to actually collect child support (which repays the fed when collected in welfare cases). His encouragement included an offer of a percentage of the money collected to be returned to the states. Almost overnight, child support awards doubled or tripled as states realized that the more money they forced the NCP to pay the CP, the more money they got in federal kickbacks. While well-intentioned, this has led to many of the more egregious and grotesque abuses perpetrated by DCSE and the "family" courts. Meanwhile anyone who tries to report them is painted as either a disgruntled (and probably dangerous) "deadbeat dad" or someone who wants to deprive innocent children of food -- and the beat goes on.

To anyone interested in learning more about this situation, I'd highly recommend reading Glenn Sacks. He's one of the most fair and balanced fathers' rights activists and is willing to give the feminists their due when they are right.

May 13, 2011 4:22 PM

@Werebat

The MIT study of foster care versus leaving children with their families did not involve children making any choices at all. In all cases, the decisions to remove or not to remove were made by either judges or the agencies.

To read about the study, you can click on the link "Kids gain more from family than foster care" above.

May 13, 2011 10:51 PM

There are 700,000 mentally ill people in U.S. prisons. How many are unloved children? Families need help. We have 730 billion dollars for war. Imagine if we spent that on families?

May 15, 2011 8:19 PM

You are assuming that spending money helping families will do some good. It doesn't - government agencies harm far more children and families than they help. Read the articles.

May 15, 2011 9:58 PM

the state laws do cause a lot more problems because they don't let parents be parents, kids read about it and think that they can do anything they want to, and the parents can't do anything about it. there are a lot of kids that abuse their parents because of this broken system and often is the child that ends up hurting him/her self because of the government.

June 12, 2011 4:18 AM

THINGS NEED TO BE CHANGED IN THE ROLES OF GOVERNMENT IN THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD. OUR CHILDREN DO NOT BELONG TO GOVERNMENTS, THEY DO NOT BELONG TO SOCIAL SERVICES, THEY DO NOT BELONG TO COMMUNITY, THEY DO NOT BELONG TO THEIR FATHERS, THEY DO NOT BELONG TO SOCIETY, THEY DO NOT BELONG TO ANYONE - EXCEPT THEIR MOTHERS!

Several thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of children have been savagely ripped from the arms and homes of their mothers all over the world by greed social services representatives and corrupt family courts for the favor of greedy selfish, sadistic men who want to control or harm the childrens mommies. NO ONE SHOULD HAVE THE POWER TO TAKE A CHILD FROM ITS MOTHER! If ou want to do something to help children - help their mothers! We did not create this warped and twisted society we all live in. We did not make the laws or the rules or the businesses or the destruction of the planet or the waste of resources, or the building of tanks and guns and weapons of mass destruction! WE, MOTHERS AND CHILDREN DID NOT DO ANY OF THIS. YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO DESTROY, YOU'VE GOT TO DESTROY OUR FAMILIES TOO?

Mothers and grandmothers and fathers and families and children ARE ALL SICK OF SOMEONE ELSE BUTTING INTO OUR LIVES AND STEALING OUR JOY AND CREATING CHAOS, AND COSTING US HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS AND CREATING GRIEF, AND MAKING US MAD AS HELL BY MESSING WITH OUR CHILDREN!

If you are all so CIVILIZED then stop destroying the world by destroying mothers. If this were a movie and I was a character it would be AVATAR and I would be Neytiri, and if you came NEAR MY CHILD, CHILDREN OR FAMILY you would pay by the wrath of the wild animal in me that protects my young and the helpless and innocent of MY WORLD!

This is not a movie, it is more like a nightmare I used to have where I would be running and running to get away from the scary thing that was chasing me, and every time I was caught I would wake up...

I have to say this more and more every day or we will never get our children back: We can no longer "go back inside and play nice" we have cried and begged and screamed into our pillows and we have asked nicely, over and over and over "please give us back our children" THEY ARE OUR CHILDREN, first after God, children belong to their mothers. And whatever it takes, however many times i have to say this, no matter who i have to argue with, there is no GOOD ENOUGH ARGUMENT for taking children away from their mother on a long term or permanent basis. NONE, we try to rehabilitate murderers and pedophiles and release them back out into an unsuspecting, innocent society, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on criminals that REALLY HURT PEOPLE, INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN and we let them go... I must say everyone, if you have read everything I have written, or even if you have not, it is time to know that we must DEMAND OUR CHILDREN BACK NOW because we are NOT GOING TO GET THEM ANY OTHER WAY!

If you read my open blog you will see some of the stories and some of the moms and my own daughters story about her children being taken by evil men with wealthy families. There is so much proof against them for all of their crimes and lies to take her children from her in sneaky, illegal, conspiratorial ways, but she has yet to be heard in court... we haven't seen or heard from the boys in over a year and they want to be with their mommy... but no one listens to them, and the baby girl adores her mommy and needs to be with her more than four hours a week at a public venue. THESE CHILDREN BELONG AT HOME WITH THEIR MOMMY just like many others do and if we do not do something pretty soon they are all going to grow up without their mothers...

February 29, 2012 11:31 PM

It has been state that if foster children could sue the state for neglect and abuse the state would go broke. It is now on record more children are sexually abused,physically and emotionally abused while under state care. Foster homes are not under the severe strict guidlines cps has for the average family.I know of a mom who was washing clothes when the doorbell rang and she set down her bottle of bleach to answer the door. It was cps..a neighbor in revenge called cps on her. She without thought let the women in(never never allow cps in your home)The cps spotted the bleach and removed her young children. When those children were finally returned their spirits had been so damaged.At nights the mom had to sit with her children until they fell asleep as they feared every car door or sound outside fearing it was the cps and they once again would be ripped from their loving parents arms. Cps had become the monster in the closest.

May 12, 2012 11:57 AM

THE CPS IS A DOG AND PONY SHOW..

October 26, 2013 1:46 PM

I wish it was only a dog and pony show. In fact, it's a bunch of bureaucrats who kidnap children for the same of federal subsidies. They don't want kids who have really been abused because they're hard to handle. They want to mess them up enough that they are in need of services so they can provide services for the rest of the kid's life.

October 26, 2013 6:29 PM

CPS goes after parents on some minor issue, while ignoring the families who truly abuse and neglect their children. My granddaughter is well taken care of and my daughter is working on doing better. Yet Nazi CPS says she cannot be with her daughter without supervision. My daughter has back problems that cause her a lot of pain and she has taken medication that is not prescribed to her for it, yet CPS treats her like she is a drug addict who is endangering her daughter. She has been in treatment programs, is currently in IOP and is doing very well, yet CPS still says she cannot spend time with her daughter alone. She had to go back to the emotionally abusive father in order to see her daughter at all. She and my granddaughter were in a stable environment in my home, yet she had to send my granddaughter to the father who lives with his parents where there is constant bickering and fighting. How is that good for the child? CPS has emotionally damaged more children than they have helped. My granddaughter wants to live here with me and my daughter, but because of the Gestapo CPS, she can't. Yeah, they care about the child's welfare alright! Just like all the other corrupt, evil government agencies who destroy people for their own greed for power! CPS is truly a monster!

March 21, 2014 11:00 PM

CPS has been allowed to run amok and ruin lives because all they have to say is that they err on the side of caution where children are concerned. They have medical people so afraid of being investigated that doctors and nurses call CPS at the drop of a hat, not realizing the horrors they are inflicting on families. Soon no one will want to take their children to ER with injuries etc. CPS investigators have waaaaay too much power, and no consequences when they violate civil rights and/or cause extreme emotional damage to families for little to no reason. The big question is, not that we have allowed this mess to get so big, how do we back track and clean it up?

April 13, 2014 10:36 PM

The major corrective is to recognize that all people have a constitutional right to petition their elected representatives, and the public, fir redress of grievances. the Mondale act requires that all child protection hearings be confidential. Secrecy is the main tool of tyranny, and CPS workers use it. They threaten parents with jail if they complain when CPS acts illegally. Making it clear that parents can go public would be a big first step.

The second step would be to remove immunity from social workers. It's been demonstrated that they can be sued personally if they act illegally enough, but it needs to be made clear that they must follow the law and that lying in court is a crime for which they will be punished.

Immunity is the second tool of tyranny.

April 14, 2014 5:05 PM
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