“Kentucky social workers are failing to have courts properly scrutinize and approve the drastic step of taking some children from their homes, relying instead on blank removal orders with pre-signed judges’ signatures, which is illegal according to several attorneys and judges.” The practice, now ended following an investigation by local broadcaster WDRB, was rationalized by the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services as a way to speed things up on evenings and weekends when family court judges are not sitting, although on-call judges are supposed to be available during those times to review removal orders. The practice raises grave due process concerns, since it means that judges had not (and perhaps would not have) signed off on removal orders after individualized review, and if need be questioning, of the underlying allegations. It also permits allegations to be filled in after a child is taken, perhaps tailored to whatever household conditions were or were not discovered during the seizure. “In addition, cabinet workers have allegedly called judges after hours and told them about the need to remove one child from a home, but then used multiple copies of pre-signed emergency custody orders to take more than one juvenile.” [Jason Riley, WDRB via Robby Soave, Reason]
- Stop active-shooter drills in schools: “Preparing our children for profoundly unlikely events would be one thing if that preparation had no downside. But in this case, our efforts may exact a high price.” [Erika Christakis, The Atlantic] “Lockdowns and active-shooter drills have led to officers firing blank rounds to simulate live fire, mock executions of teachers, and students tearfully writing out wills while hunkered down. …Last year, The Post reported an estimate that the odds of a child being fatally shot while at school any given day since 1999 was 1 in 614,000,000.” [Jonathan Blanks, Washington Post/Cato]
- After ordeal with Child Protective Services based on drug test fluke, Western New York mom “is certain of one thing, she’ll never eat a poppy seed again.” [WROC]
- Answer: no. “Should access to a public education be a constitutional right for all children?” [Jessica Campisi, Education Dive; Mark Walsh, Education Week, covering AEI debate on holding of 1973 Supreme Court case of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez against such a federal right]
- Pay attention to the politics of schools of education, because they help determine what you’ll see in the classroom down the road [Jay Schalin, Martin Center] More: University of Washington’s Secondary Teacher Education Program “is a 12-month immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism.” [Quillette]
- “The Regressive Effects of Childcare Regulations” [Cato video with Ryan Bourne]
- “Court revives Obama-era rule that incentivizes racial quotas in special ed” [Liam Bissainthe]
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.
As I mentioned in my earlier comment, there are agencies willing, as policy, to snatch children from parents over marijuana use in the home, over letting Junior sit in the back seat while Mom picks up the dry cleaning, over playing alone in the park at age 8, and over a host of other infractions within past or present normal range. Ten years from now, maybe the triggers will be cigarette smoking in kids’ presence, moderate drinking during pregnancy, or a snack-food-based diet. Being popped into the care of paid strangers through multiple and shifting placements may involve getting yanked into a different school system, losing touch with your old friends, and crying yourself to sleep each night from missing your real family – but never mind, agencies record a low rate of formal abuse findings in situations like yours. Above all when shifting policy and value judgments get framed in the language of claims to expertise, families fear CPS, and they are right to fear CPS.
The discussion is led by attorney Diane Redleaf, author of the just-published book They Took The Kids Last Night, with Prof. James Dwyer of William and Mary Law School as the third participant.
This month I’m participating in a Cato Unbound symposium on Child Protective Services and family rights. In its lead essay, attorney Diane Redleaf details some of the ways in which CPS agencies can arm-twist parents into so-called interim placements and safety plans that separate families with little or no judicial review. Participant James G. Dwyer, in a response essay, takes a relatively positive view of the agencies’s work. My essay, by contrast, generally backs up Redleaf’s critique of CPS as a species of government enforcement agency gone wild: far too often, these agencies seize children from parents based on flimsy evidence, second-guess everyday parental behavior and decisions, or act on misguided Drug War zeal.
Redleaf in her essay then goes on to raise distinctive objections about how the agencies negotiate with parents before a judge has ruled on their cases, which I paraphrase thus:
…what sorts of policy response should apply to agencies’ practice of proffering to parents ostensibly voluntary interim placements and “safety plans”? What happens when parents regret—the next month, or the next day—having agreed to those conditions? Can they reopen the concessions they made, and how? Does it matter whether the agency has withheld information from them or menaced them with worst-case scenarios?
In my response essay, I argue that the problems with these practices are real but that legal attack on the voluntariness of interim plans is likely to be of at best limited helpfulness because our courts follow a strong presumption of enforcing settlements as written. More promising in the long run, I argue, may be to impose direct obligations on agencies to respect families’ autonomy without attacking the settlement process as such. “Safeguarding every family’s rights will, as one of its benefits, shore up families against unwise surrenders of their rights.” [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]
Advocates are pushing for laws much expanding the ranks of private actors required by law to inform to authorities on suspicions about child abuse (“mandatory reporters”). Naomi S. Riley quotes some of my misgivings: “As Walter Olson of the Cato Institute notes, increasing the number of mandated reporters could ‘incentivize’ people ‘to resolve uncertain, gray areas in favor of reporting.’ It will multiply “investigations based on hunches or ambiguous evidence which can harm the innocent, traumatize families, result in CPS [child protective services] raids, and stimulate false allegations,’ he says.” [Weekly Standard]
Suburban Chicago last month: “A mother faced a visit from police and an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigation after she allowed her 8-year-old daughter to walk the family’s dog around the block alone.” [Joel Shannon, USA Today]
Sitcom plots come to life: mom of newborn reported to state after poppy seed bagel triggers positive opiate test, baby kept in hospital for five days [Zuri Davis, Reason; Chaunie Brusie, Everyday Family; Baltimore County, Md.]
Longtime readers of Overlawyered know that this is not the first time around for this fact pattern. See “Mom ate poppy seed dressing, state holds baby for 75 days” and earlier; Radley Balko reported in 2014 that two lawsuits involving the same western Pennsylvania hospital and county children’s services department were both settled for substantial sums and a third case had been filed against another hospital in the same region. See also re-jailing of halfway house inmate from 2010 (Florida), as well as Dubai airport madness.
- Judge greenlights lawsuit claiming right to literacy under California constitution [Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week] Whatever its surface appeal, legal right to literacy (or access to same) not in fact a good idea [Scott Greenfield on Michigan suit]
- “Teachers’ unions plan to become ‘more political, not less political'” [Frederick Hess and Grant Addison] “The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Strikes: Evidence from Argentina” [David Jaume and Alexander Willén, Cato Research Brief] Worsening human capital outcomes: “The Long-run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining” [Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willén, NBER via Tyler Cowen]
- D.C.’s credentialism will hurt families: “Childcare Regulation and Quality” [Ryan Bourne, Cato, earlier here, here, here, and here]
- “The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong for Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law” [Gail Heriot, parts one, two, three]
- “Mom Brings Coughing 10-Month-Old to the Hospital. Days Later, Cops Take the Baby.” [Lenore Skenazy, Minnesota]
- “The New Head of the Office for Civil Rights Charts a Very Different Course” [George Leef, Martin Center profile of Kenneth Marcus]
- “Leave your 13-year-old home alone? Police can take her into custody under Illinois law” [Jeffrey Schwab, Illinois Policy]
- So many stars to sue: Huang v. leading Hollywood names [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
- Morgan Spurlock’s claim in 2004’s Super Size Me of eating only McDonald’s food for a month and coming out as a physical wreck with liver damage was one that later researchers failed to replicate; now confessional memoir sheds further doubt on baseline assertions essential to the famous documentary [Phelim McAleer, WSJ]
- If you’ve seen those “1500 missing immigrant kids” stories — and especially if you’ve helped spread them — you might want to check out some of these threads and links [Josie Duffy Rice, Dara Lind, Rich Lowry]
- “Antitrust Enforcement by State Attorney Generals,” Federalist Society podcast with Adam Biegel, Vic Domen, Jennifer Thomson, Jeffrey Oliver, and Ian Conner]
- “The lopsided House vote for treating assaults on cops as federal crimes is a bipartisan portrait in cowardice.” [Jacob Sullum, more, Scott Greenfield, earlier on hate crimes model for “Protect and Serve Act”]