Posts Tagged ‘Child Protective Services’

Child Protective Services symposium wraps up at Cato Unbound

My second and concluding round is now posted in this month’s Cato Unbound symposium on Child Protective Services and its power to seize children from homes. Excerpt:

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.

Symposium at Cato Unbound: “Children, Parents, and Child Protective Services”

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]

“The pros and cons of ‘mandated reporting.'”

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]

Poppy seed bagel triggers drug test (again), CPS gets involved (again)

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.

Schools and childhood roundup

May 30 roundup

  • “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”]

Schools and childhood roundup