A family torn apart when zeal overcame sense in a child safety case.
We were forwarded a heart-breaking story from yesterday’s Washington Post and thought we’d share. What’s the scariest thing that can happen to a parent? Not college tuition. Having your kids taken away from you, right? Recovering taken kids is the stuff of epics and apparently most of the plot of the show Lost. A couple in DC is just barely starting to recover from the shock of having their twin daughters taken from them by child services.
And now the back story; the DC couple’s nightmare began with a bump on the head. Or actually, a bumped head with no actual ‘bump.’ After a short fall and some strange behavior, they took their daughter to a local children’s hospital. There was evidence of retinal hemorrhaging (a warning sign of shaken baby syndrome). While the hemorrhaging was later diagnosed as a probable preexisting condition but the wheels of justice were already turning.
Any evidence of shaken baby syndrome is taken very seriously (and with good reason). But that’s where reason left the building. With incomplete medical evidence and no in depth investigation, DC’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) seized the now healthy girl AND her twin sister in a temerarious midnight raid.
A modicum of pretext existed. DC’s mayor (not the one who smoked crack and got reelected) Adrian Fenty, had recently canned six CFSA employees for failing to save 4 children from getting killed in the Banita Jacks case. So, human nature took over, asses were covered, redemption was sought, and hides would be nailed to walls by an overzealous DA’s office and CFSA. Even after a police investigator and a judge found that there was no evidence of abuse the case recklessly proceeded. And a family was forcibly separated.
And when a court ruled in the couple’s favor, the city decided to drop charges only if the couple would agree to anger management and unannounced visits from social services. The couple rejected the deal feeling that it would be a de facto admission to guilt. So, until an independent expert rules in their favor the couple gets their names on a registry of abusers and any nick, bruise, or scrape is automatically suspicious. While it’s in everyone’s interest to treat every case of child endangerment with the maximum seriousness, it’s also the American Way to treat everyone as innocent until reasonable proof of their guilt can be produced, is everyone's personal judgment so flawed that they can't be trusted with any decisions, or as the husband put it, "Do you believe innocent families have to get caught up in this? This is a false choice. What has to happen is not overreaction, but competence."
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