“Hard lemonade, hard price”

47-year-old archaeology professor Chris Ratte is perhaps not the most careful of parents; he says he didn’t realize when he bought a $7 “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” at a Tigers game, it was an alcoholic beverage (all of 10 proof), and let his 7-year-old son Leo drink the 12-ounce bottle. A vendor noticed the boy with the drink; the boy had no symptoms of inebriation but said he was nauseated; and stadium officials, in a prime example of defensive overreaction, summoned an ambulance, which found Leo fine with no trace of alcohol in his system.

Silly enough so far, no harm, no foul, but Michigan Child Protective Services intervened, held Leo in foster care for two days (refusing to release him to the custody of his aunts, who drove from New England on short notice for just such a possibility), and forced Ratte to move out of the house until a second hearing okayed his return. If Ratte and his wife weren’t upper-middle-class academics with access to the University of Michigan Law School clinic professors, it could have been much worse. “Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university’s Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple’s case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.” (Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press, Apr. 28 (h/t B.C.)).

Some policy proposals are for taxpayers to fund attorneys to defend parents victimized by Child Protective Services; some go so far as to call it a constitutional right, albeit one having nothing to do with the underlying text of the Constitution. But that would only treat the symptom and ossify the underlying problem of abusive government intervention into the home.


  • “Some policy proposals are for taxpayers to fund attorneys to defend parents victimized by Child Protective Services”

    [i]victimized[/i] is certainly the right word. I have now had several friends (5 that I can think of off the top of my head) have dealings with CPS over the years from several different perspectives (including a preschool owner who tried to report some legitimate issues), and not one of them has been handled justly. In fact, only one of them was handled in a way that should not result in jail time and a criminal record.

    That’s a pretty miserable track record.

  • Luckily the Ratte family has faculty friends to bring his son home expeditiously.

    A Washington, DC couple recently experienced a similar, bureaucratic response by DHS when they brought their infant to a hospital.

    Taking a child from his home should be a last resort. Apparently DHS has now become notorious for removals that are out of control.

    Illinois residents who would like to meet with attorneys concerning DCFS should meet in Chicago, April 30

    See: http://www.familydefensecenter.net

    Illinois attorneys are pursing the cert of the suit:

    Dupuy v McElwee formerly known as Dupuy v Samuels to the USSC.

    Meeting’s topic is parent empowerment. Solutions with deal with DCFS in IL and allied matters.

  • Leaving aside the fact that giving the child the drink was apparently an innocent mistake, what basis would Child Protective Services have had for apprehending him even if it had been intentional? I don’t know Michigan law, but as far as I know in every state it is legal for a minor to consume alcohol if the parent gives it to him. A 12 oz “hard lemonade” contains about the same amount of alcohol as a typical 5 oz. glass of wine. That is a bit more than one might give a 7 year old, but nowhere near dangerous.

  • Logical progression: “Did you know there are trans-fats in the hot dog you gave to your son, sir? Boy, come with me!”

  • When I read stories like this, I think about the tree of liberty being refreshed . . . .

    This is tyranny.

  • Hopefully one of the attorneys here can answer a question I have always had. What happens when these upper middle class familes simply move to another state and ignore the original state’s CPS?

    I don’t have any children, but if I did, this seemed like a viable option.

  • Congratulate the kid for being able to down that hard lemonade at the age of seven!



  • A very silly removal…

    Is there no right to an attorney in child neglect cases in Michigan? There is in many other states. Parents who can’t afford them (virtually all of them) are provided attorneys by the court. Or was this just a compliment to the clinic? (Not undeserved, certainly.)