Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Killing Trust

America has come a long way in the area of child welfare. In this day and age, there are very few youths who do not have all that they need, and more. There are rare instances where children fall through the cracks and get abused, but let's be honest; it isn't the norm. It is a shocking news event to hear about a malnourished or neglected child in these United States, and that is progress.

That being said, I believe the government is getting too extreme with their policing of child welfare.

Back in the old days, children had no rights. They were essentially the property of their parents, and they could be beaten, starved, or abused in any way, and the government really didn't care. I've heard stories from old-timers about kids who were beaten with chains to "get the devil out of them." Some parents viewed their children as livestock, to be used however they saw fit, and discarded if they didn't measure up. Again, these were abnormal instances, but the incidents were far more frequent than they are today, for there was no social welfare structure in place to address the problem.

I recently read an interesting account of early child neglect due to poverty. Jackie Cochran, an early female flyer, grew up in a Florida shack with nothing. She didn't own a pair of shoes before she was 8, and her only clothing was a burlap sack. If she wanted to eat, she had to forage in the woods for weeds. Her adopted parents didn't really care for her, and there's no telling how they got her to begin with. They might have bought her for a pack of cigarettes or won her in a poker game. Kids weren't the government's responsibility back then. It was the parents' job to raise them however they saw fit.

It was because of this sort of abuse that the new "nanny state" of social workers was created. Today, the government takes a very proactive interest in the upbringing of children, and sometimes they go too far.

This Monday, my wife received a call from a social worker. The Department of Health and Human Services had received an "anonymous tip" that my kids were "dirty," so one of their agents showed up and spent 3 hours interrogating my entire family. In the end, all she could find is that my 7 year old daughter was wearing a pair of stained pants and "should take more showers." Now, Sylvia wasn't wallowing in filth, and was not wearing pants caked with crap, so was it really a case for DHHS? Is it really the government's job to make sure everyone's child is wearing a pressed and ironed shirt every morning?

When the "welfare of children" is involved, parental rights are quickly being thrown out the window, and the omnipresence of government is taking the place of mom and dad. It's one thing to make sure kids aren't being raped and tortured, and to set a standard of education, but the role of DHHS is going way beyond that. There is a growing assault on the family from high-up individuals who feel children should be the property of the State.

The most memorable case of DHHS malfeasance in modern Maine has to be the Logan Maher case, where a 5 year old girl was taken from her mother for questionable reasons and given to a foster mother who duct taped the little girl to a chair and suffocated her to death. This case caused outrage, and should have done more to restrain the heavy hand of DHHS. It has had some impact, but not nearly enough, and the system continues to expand and grow beyond its original intent.

We have a fine line to walk between Constitutional Rights and child welfare. We must be careful that we do not cede too much under the auspices of preventing neglect and abuse. Before you know it, we'll be locked into bondage, "for the children."

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the govt has to have their mitts in everything, thinking they know best. A family member had a similar anonymous tip made and had to undergo interrogation, as well. It is believed the anonymous person's call was grounded in revenge. Of course, social workers found no evidence of abuse, but to have to put the family through that. Please!
    I think things have gone too far, as well. Very thought-provoking post. I am glad you have called awareness to this through your blog.