There is nothing dumber or more sinister than Child Protective Services (CPS) stealing kids who are simply playing outside unsupervised and having what anyone born before 1980 would call “a totally normal childhood.” CPS regularly puts families through judicial hell by removing healthy kids from parents who consider themselves “free-range kid” advocates. The idea that a movement has to even exist labeling the normal human experience of discovering the world through play is bad enough. But imagine fighting for years in court because you allowed your eight-year-old to play at a neighborhood park alone, a thing that all of us did with no interference by the nanny state for generations.
Texas has passed a law making it illegal for CPS to claim that normal childhood experiences constitute “neglect.” The bill covers more than kids playing alone. In fact, it covers many of the abuses that CPS has been getting away with for years. The bill makes it illegal for the state to take children for the following reasons:
- A parent charged with a non-violent crime
- A parent providing TCH to child with a prescription (yes—you read that right. CPS regularly takes children from parents who were instructed by medical professionals to treat them with prescribed marijuana.)
- Declining immunizations for matters of conscience or religion
- Allowing children to play unsupervised while engaged in normal childhood activities
The bill also amends the definition of neglect to mean “immediate danger” instead of a supposed or imagined “substantial risk” of danger. This is a major sticking point with many wrongful child removals. In many cases that I’ve investigated, CPS often takes children without a signed warrant using “exigent circumstances” which is supposed to mean “immediate danger” or loss of life or limb but is twisted to mean whatever social services want it to mean. This is an outrageous loss of due process for parents. It puts them in a disadvantaged position right from the beginning because the state is always given the benefit of the doubt by judges. If the state has removed your children before you get your day in court, the judge is already biased against you, believing social services must have some good evidence and rarely caring to see what it was.
Currently, there is a family I know whose children have been confiscated by another state for nebulous and dubious reasons, improperly, without a warrant or exigent circumstances. They’ve been separated from their children for more than six weeks and have not been allowed to show evidence of their innocence in court. In fact, their attorney tried to present evidence that exonerates the parents and was told the decision was already made with the judge only having the state’s evidence in front of him. I am unable to divulge the identity of this family as the judge has issued a sweeping gag order disallowing them from engaging in any way with the media or the public about what is being done to them. How does this happen? Why is this system so screwed up and will laws change it?
These stories are so numerous, and CPS abuses so vast, that my inbox is choked with people begging for help. And it’s not just CPS involved in the wrongful removal but guardians ad litem (GAL) and other court professionals too. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to get to all of them but the ones I do get to all tell the same story: social services in the United States hold unchecked power and use it maliciously without any worry of retribution or accountability. After all, if they do get sued one day, it’s not their money that will be paid to the victims, but the state’s — and the negligent players involved all get immunity. And that’s only if the family can cobble together money to hire a lawyer to sue them! Most of these removals go unchallenged for lack of ability to pay. As Missouri GAL Venus Jackson famously quipped, “My clients complain all the time but most of them don’t have money for…anything.”
I don’t have high hopes that CPS will start following new laws. They never followed the old ones so why would they start now? It’s worthwhile to try out the new legislation and at least acknowledge on paper, as this bill has done, that CPS is out of control, full of wanton law-breaking, and puts children in danger, not to mention constantly violates the due process rights of parents.
Andrew Brown spoke in favor of the bill in front of the committee in March saying:
For most of the last decade, the number of Texas children removed from their families and placed in the custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services increased. It is well documented that the mere act of separating a child from his or her family, even for a short period of time, is a traumatic event that carries significant risk of long-term harm to the child. A seminal study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, found that children who entered foster care experienced higher rates of negative outcomes like juvenile justice involvement, teenage pregnancy, and economic instability than similarly at-risk peers who remained with their families. Other studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates among foster care alumni were equivalent to, and in some cases greater than, that of U.S. combat veterans…
In Texas, the majority of children who enter foster care enter due to allegations of neglect, and roughly 75% of child maltreatment victims are victims of neglect only—meaning no physical or sexual abuse was alleged. Our research found that a child living in one of the 25 poorest counties in Texas is statistically more likely to be separated from their family due to an allegation of neglect than a child living in one of the 25 wealthiest counties in Texas.
Brown and other supporters hope this bill will stop the wrongful removals. I hope so too, but I doubt lawless government goons will, by the passage of this law, suddenly get a dose of Jesus and start respecting laws. Much like gun violence is never stopped by gun laws, CPS violence against families will probably never stop unless caseworkers start going to jail for violating the rights of families.
This bill is missing a “jail for bad guys” clause and it should be amended to include the following language I wrote (since some of my commenters are always asking, “Well, what would YOU do about it?”):
Any officer of the state or county acting in their official position under the color of law who removes children from a family unlawfully shall be charged with a felony and serve a mandatory minimum 12-month prison sentence or more to equal the amount of time the family was separated; and shall be required to pay a monetary fine that is equal to or exceeds the legal expenses incurred by the family when the removal was perpetrated. Any officer of the state found to have orchestrated or participated in an unlawful removal will be banned from working in an official capacity for any state, county, or federal agency for life. Any officer of the state who carries out an unlawful removal of a child will also lose all claims to immunity and will be liable for damages in civil court.
Without the addition of real consequences, the law has no teeth and there’s no reason for corrupt officials to behave. The new Texas law is scheduled to take effect in September of 2021.