Monday, November 8, 2010

Child Protective Services, Abuse Registry Questioned

It takes a whole village to raise a child. - African folk saying

A fax machine in the offices of a state social services agency in downtown Houston whirred into life one evening long after quitting time.

As the allegations scrolled out of the electronic gizmo, a social worker at a suburban private mental health facility that focuses on addictive recovery issues built a case of severe satanic ritual abuse based on innuendo and accusations unsupported by anything but uncorroborated and highly confidential treatment records of a woman struggling with a failing marriage and a chronic case of drug and alcohol abuse.

Her child was living at the recovery center with her because she had no other place to go – at a hefty per diem cost borne by the father's hospitalization insurance plan.

The man found himself in a heap of trouble when Child Protective Services workers became involved in the investigation. The insurance company maxed out its benefits and cut him off, an issue that bought him a world of friction with his employers, and he was placed on a list of men and women accused of – but not proven – to have abused children.

The unhappy episode became one of hundreds upon hundreds that eventually led to a multimillion dollar settlement with the parent company of the psychiatric services division that operated the facility, and dozens of others nationwide, and some 28 insurance carriers who alleged fraudulent health care claims against the corporation.

Needless to say, the man whose family had broken apart at the seams suffered to a huge extent with the reality of a system that was only too willing to rush to judgment with no due process of law and no shred or scintilla of the rule that demands strict proof and a presumption of innocence until guilt has been established beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.

It doesn't always work that way. Sometimes the CPS workers arrive unannounced with police and interfere with the dynamics of a functioning family. Based only on an anonymous tip, they place children in foster care and raise utter hell in the lives of the parents – all with no proof – who find themselves on a dreaded child abuse registry and have no prospects of ever being cleared of unproven allegations.

Conservative activists are beginning to question what happens when a whole village takes on the raising of children, but a major component of the village is not terribly interested in establishing the truth of serious allegations leveled by unknown accusers who are not required to support their cases with evidence in open confrontations with those they have accused.

In the wake of a research report that appeared in October chronicling the release of a comprehensive social study of the CPS industry in the “Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine,” such noted anti-feminist and conservative commentators as Phyllis Schlafly are beginning to agree with the journal's editorial, titled “Child Protective Services Has Outlived Its Usefulness.”

“If it's a crime, call the police; if it's neglect, call a public health nurse; if it's an unsuitable living situation, call the appropriate social services,” she wrote in a November 5 column that appeared in “Eagle Forum.”

Aside from her conservative activism and anti-feminist campaign against the controversial Equal Rights Amendment, Ms. Schafly is a well-noted constitutional scholar and attorney who practices from a home office in St. Louis.

Of three million 2007 children's cases investigated by CPS by a team of social scientists over a period of years, researchers tracked the cases of 595 children age 4 to 8. Indexing the factors known to increase the risk for abuse or neglect, items such as social support, family functioning, poverty, caregiver education and depressive symptoms, child anxiety, depression and aggressive behavior, they found that CPS intervention “did little or nothing to improve the lives of the children, and there was no difference between children in the families CPS investigated or did not investigate.”

Their conclusion: CPS should not be involved in law enforcement.

Shortly after Congress passed the Child Abuse and Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974, taxpayers' money started to flow to the CPS bureaucracy and there has been no discernible scientific evidence generated that it has proven of benefit to the welfare and safety of children.


In millions of cases, there are people suffering over the destruction of their good name, men and women who continue to be punished for complaints that were never proven, criminal offenses that were never filed in any court of law.

More than 800,000 people are listed on California's child abuse index, a factor that raises havoc in their lives, since employers often check the lists before making a decision to hire or promote.

“The child abuse registry puts men on the list who have never been proven guilty of anything or even charged with a crime, a punishment that is entirely contrary to our legal assumption of being innocent until proven guilty,” Ms. Schlafly concluded.

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