Diane Redleaf led a symposium at Cato Unbound in November in which I participated (more here and here) on the formidable power of Child Protective Services. And now The Atlantic has published an article in which Redleaf explores some of the themes of her newly published book They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Protection System Puts Families at Risk. Not surprisingly, there are horror stories galore:
After detecting a second possible rib fracture, Texas CPS authorities demanded that the family abide by a restrictive safety plan. The parents, in turn, pointed out that the fractures were quite possibly the result of birth trauma or a potential genetic condition, and asked the state for an independent evaluation, but their request was denied. The family was compelled to use its own resources to gather five medical opinions from a geneticist, an endocrinologist, an obstetrician, a maternal- and fetal-medicine specialist, and a neonatologist. All took the family’s side, but the CPS-affiliated pediatrician still pressed to keep the investigation open, until the family’s lawyer intervened. The CPS investigation against the family stayed open for 71 days, with round-the-clock supervision imposed on the family for 55 days.
As well as ideas for improving the system:
The CPS system needs some sensible checks to protect the innocent. “When in doubt, call the hotline” inevitably leads to unnecessary stress for wrongly accused families. Unless there’s reason to fear imminent harm to a child, a medical review for “reasonable suspicion” should precede rather than follow the decision to place a call. States need to use neutral decision makers. Relatedly, doctors who work directly with the state need to disclose their roles so that parents have a genuine and fair choice about how to respond to allegations against them; parents shouldn’t mistake physicians tasked with evaluating the merits of a hotline call for members of their child’s medical-care team.
Full piece here.