On CPS: “The progressive case for parents’ rights is worth taking seriously”

The critique of Child Protective Services agencies advanced lately by the free-range kids movement should find a readier echo on the left, writes Michelle Goldberg in The Nation. “Progressives have not, in general, seen CPS as worthy of the same suspicion as other forms of law enforcement,” yet minorities and poor persons are exposed to its scrutiny and pressure if anything more intensely. “Most of the time, when CPS is called, no proof emerges that the parents did anything wrong.” Yet they may still keep coming around inspecting your refrigerator and so forth: “once CPS enters a poor family’s life…it can be hard for the family to extricate itself….A social worker may discover that the woman is living with a man who has a criminal record. And that’s enough to keep the case open.” One Twitter response, from Isaac A. Patterson:

More: Radley Balko.


  • “Most of the time, when CPS is called, no proof emerges that the parents did anything wrong.”

    Forget about them keeping coming around, there are plenty of examples out there where lack of proof hasn’t stopped them from taking the kid out of the home.

  • I have held the belief for a while that CPS causes more upheaval in families than they reduce. If the stress level isn’t high enough, a visit from CPS can make it so.

    Before professional social workers, we had neighborhood busy bodies. At least while they were a pain if they interfered and tried to tell you what to do, they knew you somewhat or well, and had no power, other than persuasion. They probably did as much social work than the pros.

    . The idea that someone can report child abuse as anonymous doesn’t seem right. It seems you should know who your accuser is. I knew a lady (wealthy) that didn’t like her daughter in law (working class) and reported her to CPS, and MIL was pretty proud of herself just to have the young woman harassed. This was a decade or so ago. I don’t know if they changed the reporting rules.

  • Certainly, there are significant issues of overreach-especially as we have apparently criminalized what used to be considered questionable (or even legitimate or wise) parenting decisions. However, an anonymous report is no more than a “tip.” It is the surrounding circumstances identified by the responding “professionals” which determine if any action (including further investigation) is warranted. The problem is when everyone treats the “tip” as more than that.

    • I can’t disagree enough Richard.

      A “tip” that results in a so called “professional” coming to your home and demanding to see your kids is more than a “tip.” That same professional contacting your children’s teachers and administration at their school is more than a “tip.”

      The “tip” results in parents who made decisions having to justify those decisions to someone sitting in their living room and facing them taking the kids away because their judgement disagrees with that of the parents.

      The actual process is a penalty no matter what the outcome.

      That is no more than a “tip” than a robber with a gun taking your money and it being called a “charitable donation.”

  • Richard- that is the real problem. any tip, no matter how insane, is treated as the gospel truth and cps workers are going to prove it, no matter what lies need to be created. they will take something as simply as 1-2 dishes in the sink and turn it into ” dirty dishes and food all over kitchen and floor” [ this was actually in a report on me]. since they are pros and you are just a rotten parent guess who gets believed? even with pictures?

  • At least in some areas the problem is not simply overreach. Here in British Columbia, on the one hand there are stories of overreach such as these, but at the same time we have had quite a few cases in which children should have been removed from abusive situations, were not, and died as a result.The system has been widely recognized as broken for more than twenty years, through the governments of two parties, but no one seems to be able to fix it.

    • ” but at the same time we have had quite a few cases in which children should have been removed from abusive situations, were not, and died as a result.”

      The US has a not insignificant number of cases where children have died as a result of abuse suffered in foster homes.

      It would be interesting if we could get aggregate statistics for the number of children who die in foster care vs the number of cases where children are killed by their biological parents after CPS got involved but didn’t remove the kids from the home.

      Personally, my gut feel is that the former (children who die in foster care) would be larger than the latter.

      • Rare I find myself in agreement with MattS, and perhaps it is media sensationalism lodged in my memory, but my gut leans as his does re: deaths w/o CPS removal vs deaths after CPS removal.

  • Problem is, when a child dies as a result of parental neglect, the air raid sirens go off. Every editorial board, politician and man on the street proclaims that “the system failed”. So, the agencies start looking through refrigerators. As with so much else, our society wants it both ways: children and youth agencies that are smiling, friendly and non-interfering, and the perfect preservation of child safety.

    A simple parental licensing scheme would be better. In order to procreate, two parents must be over 18, legally married, and have at least one source of income that is not welfare. They must both appear before a bureaucrat whose job it is to ensure this, and upon assurance, they will be issued a joint PARENT CERTIFICATE. Children born outside this common-sense scheme are, ex utero, charges of the child agency.