Once and a while I just have to rant. Almost every day I am contacted by shocked families faced with absurd allegations; accused of abusing their child by shaking or some other form of abuse. Behind the allegations are a massive “Child Protection” infrastructure funded by equally massive state and federal funding. In theory the system is designed to protect children from their own parents or other caretakers.
In this system, we fund CPS investigators, courts, prosecutors, service providers and medical doctors. All of whom routinely line up to testify against parents. On the other hand, parents are, for the most part, left to their own devices to figure out how to defend themselves from the false allegations that the system produces.
With a zeal that exceeds that of most religious organizations, child protection team doctors and CPS investigators accuse parents of horrific acts of abuse when they bring their sick child to the emergency room trying to get medical help. A child with seizures, vomiting, dehydration or fractures is certain to be examined by the child abuse pediatrician and given a full work up for child abuse.
A parent that cannot explain an injury is typically deemed to have abused the child. A parent that can explain an injury is often deemed to be lying. The medical history is dismissed out of hand as not adequately explaining the medical situation. CPS, police and prosecutors typically rush to court and remove the children before the child is discharged from the hospital. Why? CPS workers and police typically have no medical training and defer to the child abuse pediatrician. And the child abuse pediatricians work in a system that is propped up by huge amounts of money coming from the federal coffers.
Very little of that money goes to help parents. For the most part, the monies that are supposed to go to parents are spent on service providers and court-appointed attorneys. This leaves parents with a significant disadvantage. How do they stand up against an overgrown federal and state bureaucracy trying to put them in prison or take their children away? In many instances, they don’t. They can’t.
The reason that many parents can’t stand up to the system is because they don’t have the resources. Most of the funding from the federal and state budgets flows to the government’s side. Parents are often left with court-appointed attorneys who don’t understand the complicated medical issues often involved in child abuse cases. They are also left without the assistance of medical doctors who could provide expert witness testimony in court on their behalf.
Money talks! And we spend lots of it on prosecutors, CPS and police investigators, social workers, and counselors. And yet, by any objective standard this colossal effort is an astounding failure. Now we spend billions of dollars every year to combat child abuse, put more parents in prison and terminate more parental rights than ever before. And what do we get for all that effort? More child abuse; at least according to the child protection lobbyists who each year succeed at getting more federal funding for the cause.
Of course, child abuse is bad. Of course, child abuse really happens. However, the worst form of child abuse I can think of is to take a child away from an innocent parent. And a system designed to “err on the side of caution” is a system designed to err (meaning to get it wrong.) Those errors can be avoided by making the system fair. No parent should have to face a child abuse allegation without an adequate defense. In most cases that means a competent attorney working with competent medical experts. If the government has virtually unlimited resources to outspend parents ten to one, we might not have a fair system.