Effective Ways to Care For Children

Child "protective" agencies are a miserable failure.

As far back as 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.  Any abrupt removal is always traumatic for a child.

This means, mathematically, that our government abuses twice as many children as parents do.

We've explained that since then, numerous studies have shown that children do much better being left in their homes than when they're removed into government-regulated foster care.   To top it off, the New York Times reported that "traditional CPS interventions" don't help:

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]

That is why we argued that now is a good time to cut CPS budgets - the less money they have, the fewer children then can afford to abuse.

One problem still remains: what should we do when children are at risk of harm?  As with most of the pressing problems of our day, the solution is to get the federal government out of an area to which its abilities aren't suited.

Bureaucracy is effective for making sure that all the dogs are vaccinated against rabies or that only registered cars are on the road, but it's not suited to areas where individual needs differ.  How, then, do we take care of children whose familial situations put them at risk of serious harm, when as Leo Tolstoy observed, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"?

Keep Child Abuse a Crime

Under current law, child abuse can be prosecuted as a civil offense.  The idea was to make it easier to punish abusers when the evidence might be scanty or the witnesses underage.

One of the major problems with child protection is precisely that it is too easy to punish the accused without actually proving a crime.  In family court, normal rules of evidence are not followed.  A judge is permitted to take away your children based on what social workers tell him someone else said about you.

The accused are not always even told who accused them, or allowed to confront their accuser as the Constitution specifically requires for criminal cases.  This makes it hard for to point out conflicts of interest, or to explain reasons why your accuser might want to lie about you.  Messy divorces have become notorious for leading to mutual accusations of abuse, generally as a weapon to pry out a bigger settlement.  This perversion of justice undermines our entire legal system.

When children are genuinely harmed, there is evidence - medical, forensic, or testimonial.  Assault is a crime; rape is a crime; statutory rape is a crime, and certainly attempted murder is a crime.  Criminal law is fully adequate to deal with what social workers and judges call "grievous bodily harm;" we don't need special laws and special legal procedures to deal with real child abuse.

Let Civilians Handle It

I have a friend who's taken in 29 foster children.  He asked for no money, which was very important.  Kids can tell the difference between adults who take care of them out of love or duty and adults like teachers or social workers who get paid.  The fact that he wasn't being paid, the fact that he and his wife did it out of love, made a huge difference to the kids.

His only condition was that the state butt out.  If the child wanted to leave, that was OK, but the state had to agree not to just come take the kid away on a whim.

He and his wife were well aware that agencies jerk kids around.  He hadn't heard of the specific child whom the New Yorker described as having been through nine different foster homes, but he knew how the game was played.  With some assurance that the kids would stay a while, he was able to develop emotional connections.

One child was having trouble reading.  He bought a stack of comic books to give the boy something worth reading.  All summer, he sat on a log every day for an hour or two, listening to the boy read about Superman, Spider Man, and the Mighty Thor.  Whenever the boy made a mistake, he punched him very lightly on the shoulder.

Between being given something that he believed was worth reading and an adult who cared enough to pay attention, react to mistakes, and praise success, the boy gained four grades in reading level over a summer.  There was nothing wrong with his ability; he just hadn't had any adult care about him.

I have another friend whom I've known since she was in Sunday School.  She came from the wrong side of the tracks, but her heart was big as all outdoors.  She married and had five kids of her own.  When her oldest daughter went to college, she decided to take in a foster child.

She knew that their horses would help the girl emotionally; her daughter was certified in therapeutic horseback riding which helps injured people connect with animals.  After a week, she came to us in tears - the social workers had taken the girl away with no explanation.  She never saw her again.

How can adults make emotional connections to children when the government treats them this way?  Without emotional connections to adults, how can children's emotions develop properly?

The foster girl whom the social workers had yanked through nine different families was not able to connect to her own child after giving birth; she didn't know how, as she'd never learned from anybody who cared about her since she never lived anywhere long enough for people to care about her.  This was bad for her and for her child, but good for the social agency - the new baby soon became yet another a "Child in Need of Services" to the greater glory of the agency budget.

Throwing Weight Around

I know another homeschooling couple who're trying to help a single mother raise her daughter.  The father has certain visitation rights but isn't all that cooperative.  My friends have a power of attorney from the mother.

One day when the mother was out of town, they got a call from the school - the girl hadn't been put on the school bus because her father wanted a visit.  The social worker planned to drive the girl to the father's place even though the father hadn't filed the proper papers for this visit.

Having power of attorney, they absolutely forbade this.  Rushing to the school, they found the principal, the school security officer, and the school social worker waiting for them.  After a blistering tirade at their lack of cooperation, my friends calmly pointed out that they had power of attorney, the girl was their responsibility, if anything happened at an undocumented visit to the father, they would be in trouble.  If the social worker wanted the father to have a visit, a judge's order or proper paperwork as specified in the visitation decree would suffice, but nothing less.

After threatening to come after them for "educational neglect," the social worker walked out.  They brought the girl home per their power of attorney, and nothing further was heard - but anyone less confident in their legal knowledge and paperwork preparation would have thrown in the towel then and there.

Bureaucracy is Bad for People

This rule-based, power-driven method of raising children doesn't work because children are individuals who don't fall neatly into bureaucratic categories.  Threatening parents and foster parents that a child will be removed unless they are utterly cooperative is extortion at best, but seems to be typical of government-funded agencies.

So how should we take care of children?  The old-fashioned way - let people of goodwill take them in, as always happened before the government got into the child-raising business.

Unfortunately, as with money, bad child care drives out good child care.  My friend who raised 29 foster kids at no cost to the government and kept them all out of jail isn't taking in kids any more.  Why not?  The social workers decided that they needed to be able to take kids away from him at will and wouldn't meet his conditions - so he refused to take any more.

Jerking people around so that they can't make emotional connections with their own children is evil, pure and simple.  It doesn't matter whether the agency staff who write the rules and jerk kids around are deliberately trying to mess them up; that's what they're doing.

The fact that our bureaucracies are doing evil makes me angry; the fact that they're using my money to fund the evil they do makes my blood boil.  Fight Evil!  Slash their budgets!

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

I'm glad to see Scragged taking this issue on. Dig a little deeper into the custody and child support debacle and you'll find plenty that will make your blood boil, as well as make your jaw drop in disbelief.

CPS and the DCSE are rampant bureaucratic monsters that get away with much evil partly because they've duped the public into believing everything they do is "for the children". It is not.

In the words of Zack Richards, "Revielle! Revielle! C'est les Goddamns qui viennent, voler les enfants!"

June 9, 2011 10:23 AM

Good read. Really these same principles apply everywhere in government, not just with child services.

June 9, 2011 1:21 PM

I agree, there is nothing more cruel than cold heartless bureaucracy.

This was a very good read.

June 9, 2011 1:45 PM

There are no words to accurately describe the anguish that results from this process. My son is currently in foster care due to an accusation of abuse by his mother's brother. I have dealt with four social workers in the last six months, each one telling me that no action can be taken until they get the facts of the case. Decisions made about my son are done for the expedience and convenience of the agency. The social workers are careless, demeaning, and sarcastic, and the supervisors are no better. Any response I make other than "yes, ma'am" is treated as hostility. I am required to attend "therapy" sessions and am being held to an undefined definition of "progress" while never being told precisely what I did wrong.

The system is set up for quick dispositions of easy answers. God help you should your situation need more than a snap judgement.

June 15, 2011 10:59 AM
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