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Teenagers in foster care often call the abuse line, hoping an investigation will allow them to return to their parents, which almost all children prefer to foster care. Children know that even the worst parents love them. -- Foster Parent Trainer,

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Parental Rights

Mullen: Jensen case unfairly stigmatizes child-protection agencies

J. Holderbaum responds to Holly Mullen's August 31, 2003, Salt Lake Tribune Opinion Editorial [The orignial article is no longer available, a replacement is being used]. Ms. Mullen states in her article, "Here is an accurate picture that doesn't play well for the TV cameras: In the staggering majority of cases, the state offers parenting classes, counseling, home visits and more before ever taking a child."

Dear Ms. Mullen:

I was struck by some of your comments in the article regarding the Jensen family and their son Parker.

"Supporters of the Jensens have succeeded in painting them as martyrs -- decent parents defending their rights against the club- wielding DCFS.

Too bad it isn't true. Statistics simply do not support the bleating of the parental rights crowd. Not that it matters; emotion has ruled this case all along. The Jensens will forever stand in too many minds as helpless victims of Big Brother."

You are completely wrong about this. According to current U.S. government statistics, three million American families (affecting about five million kids) were referred to child protective services (CPS) in the year 2001. Over two million of those referrals (affecting about three and one half million kids) resulted in investigations. Findings of abuse and neglect were made on less than one million of those kids. In other words, out of three and one-half million kids, more than two and one-half million were needlessly strip searched, interrogated and subjected to home inspections.

How do you explain 5 million kids referred for services when less than 1 million of them were substantiated to need services, the majority of them neglect cases due to poverty. The persons responsible for making those calls to the hotline had an accuracy rate of 1 in 5 and misinterpreted poverty as abuse and neglect. Whatever happened to reaching out to help your neighbors? Now we pick up the phone and report them to the authorities.

"DCFS more often errs on the side of keeping families together than ripping them apart.

In the staggering majority of cases, the state offers parenting classes, counseling, home visits and more before ever taking a child."

More than two and one-half million children are needlessly strip searched, interrogated and subjected to home inspections.

Statistically, the overwhelming majority of parents accused are innocent of any wrongdoing. Most cases referred for services are neglect cases. Neglect is usually the direct result of poverty. What would benefit a poor family more? Parenting classes, counseling and home visits, or a job, decent housing and daycare? In cases where parents are being wrongly accused, why should they be coerced into taking parenting classes, counseling and home visits or face losing their children? If you believe that innocent parents are not being wrongly accused, you have some serious homework to do.

"There are hearings on top of hearings. The process can be grindingly slow."

Slow Process

Not only is the process slow, but it causes good parents to lose their children, their jobs, their health insurance, their homes to bankruptcy, and their sanity and sense of security. Only superhuman beings can survive a CPS investigation resulting in a court case.

The number of children murdered and abused in foster care is steadily rising.

No matter what the parents do or say, the courts ignore them, the caseworkers lie, the evidence is hearsay, the court appointed attorneys just try to work out deals, the children suffer in foster care. Even when parents are exonerated in court, the stigma is with them for life. Worst of all, the children are never the same. They lose their joy, their innocence, their trust. This is a monstrous system. You simply haven't been paying attention to what has been going on across the U.S. since the inception of The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in the 1970's.

"And there are kids who remain at risk because DCFS and juvenile court gambled on leaving them with parents who should have thought better than to ever procreate."

The number of abuse related homicides affecting children has remained tragically consistent over the past several years despite more funding and training than ever before in the history of the child welfare system. However, the number of children murdered and abused in foster care is steadily rising.

Reform Needed

While the advocates are working at a grassroots level (or bleating as you put it), they are growing in numbers and working very hard to bring about reforms so that no family, no child will suffer at the hands of misguided bureaucrats who appear to be more interested in generating income for their counties with each child taken into custody than providing a genuine safety net for children.

Bottom line here is that the family has the absolute right to pursue a second, third and fourth opinion if they so desire. That is not neglect. No hospital has the right to force them to bring their child to their hospital. If it were me, and it turned out that indeed my child did need chemotherapy, I would not take my child to Salt Lake City's Primary Children's Medical Center. A second opinion cannot be objectively obtained within the same hospital. The parents have an oncologist willing to examine their son and they are being denied this opportunity.

Visit Child Protection Reform for more information. You will find links to many sites with information about what is going on across the country. I hope you will take the time to understand another point of view in this hopelessly complicated problem.

Sincerely,

J. Holderbaum,
Child Protection Reform

Updated September 24, 2006