Friday, February 1, 2013

A Sad Commentary Twice Over

So, I was standing in line at my sons' school yesterday afternoon waiting to pick them up.  A close friend of mine (I'll call her B) was a few people ahead of me in line, and we were chatting as we waited.

B told me a story she'd just heard from a friend of hers, whose kids attend a different area school.  The friend had been in the front hall of that school with her middle-school aged son, who did something boneheaded and exasperating, as boys often do in my experience.  In response, she bonked him on the head.  With an empty paper folder.  (Note that this made the kid laugh.)

Somebody at the school called Child Protective Services.  They showed up at her house that night and gave her the third degree.  That boggled my mind.

But here's the best (or worst) part.  Standing between me and B in that parent pickup line was one of our local policemen, whose daughter is in Thing One's class.  Great guy, salt of the earth.  We hadn't realized that he was listening in until he piped up, and rather bitterly--very out of character for him.

His comment?  "Your friend didn't have to worry.  CPS wasn't going to take her kids.  They don't want to.  When we really want the kids removed from a home, 95% of the time they won't take them.  We ask them all the time why they even bother to show up."

Remember, that was a cop speaking.  That boggled my mind again.

CPS shows up when a mom bonks her kid on the head with, again, an empty paper folder--but won't take kids out of their homes when policemen--policemen!!--are all but begging them to do so.

Insane.  Just insane.


  1. Think of it this way: CPS received a report that a woman struck her son. They investigated, found it a meritless claim, and moved on. Sure, a little embarrassing to the parent, but no serious damage done.

    To remove children from a home, however, requires a very high burden of proof. Why? Because removing children is EXTREMELY traumatic for them. Can you imagine somebody coming at 3 am, pounding on your door, and whisking away your children? Can you imagine how much that would set back Thing 2?

    And so even though we can KNOW that things are wrong in a home, the agency has to have PROOF. Otherwise, they will be immediately returned to a very bad place (a hearing must be held within 24 hours and a judge will immediately return if no evidence of abuse/neglect - this is LA law), and then the parents can just move to another jurisdiction where nobody knows what's up.

    IF the police want CPS to remove children, they need to get the evidence to support that. Because the stakes are SO high, being the trauma done to children. Even to the very best of foster homes (which sadly are too infrequent), it's not a good situation. A lot of times, a little abuse at home is better than the potential for egregious abuse in foster care, or even at the best being stuck with strangers. (Again, I've known some incredible foster families who positively changed kids' lives. And I've known a lot of ok ones, and some very bad ones. And placement with family - while preferred - is often no better. People don't become abusers in a vacuum.)

    Just the other side, from an attorney who represented abused & neglected kids. :)

  2. NOLA, that makes a lot of sense, but it is also truly frightening. I can't even imagine doing that job...I think I would probably become either clinically depressed or massively homicidal! Kudos to you for managing it...

    1. I loved that job because I got to make a real difference every day.

      Here's what's really frightening: the CPS officers who make the decisions are EXTREMELY poorly paid. They are making life and death decisions yet we cannot pay them a living wage, so most are woefully unqualified and there is very high turnover. I had to do some seriously checking of CPS on a not infrequent basis. Their lawyer told them to all stop speaking to me because I might find things out. Yeah, we're all working for the best interests for kids, right?

    2. That's even worse. Of all the people you would want to have making good decisions...

      I can only imagine that this system utterly fails some children and that must be very difficult to watch.

    3. As the children's attorney, I had great power to make sure the system didn't fail kids - I had oversight responsibilities and reported everything necessary to the judge, who very nearly always ruled in my favor.

      Much harder to be on the outside now!

  3. This is unbelievably sad to read...I can't even imagine how difficult the entire thing is to observe.

    1. I agree entirely, Ameena! I have a hard time seeing mistreated animals...can't even imagine what it would be like to work with abused children.


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