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As I was saying about child protective services

Our CPS horror story last time, about a year ago, that kicked off this post, was from Canada. Today's is about the United States: Pennsylvania, to be specific. (Cue liberal commentators: "That's just one side of the story. Maybe it didn't really happen that way." We'll take that as read and move on. I'm inclined to believe the circumstantially detailed version the HSLDA gives of the story. Remembering that the HSLDA, being a bunch of lawyers, is no doubt well aware that they themselves could be sued for libel if they are recklessly spreading a false story, especially since they name the social worker involved.)

What's so particularly frightening about this story is that a) the parents were near-helpless to avoid a situation in which they were put in the way of a power-ravenous social worker, who behaved in a wildly irresponsible manner and b) there was no way of predicting nor of preventing what happened; it came out of nowhere.

On point #1: The parents were trying to have the baby at home with a midwife, presumably partly in order to avoid the busy-bodying one sometimes encounters when having a baby in the hospital. But because the baby was coming early, the midwife "got the wind up," as the saying goes, and told them to go to the hospital quickly, and the baby was born in an ambulance. Short of flouting the midwife and having the husband deliver the baby at home (which heaven knows might have caused still more trouble had the Almighty State gotten wind of such a wilful and reckless decision), the parents didn't have much choice but to put themselves in the power of the medical establishment. Once in that power, they were on the conveyor belt. Or in the jaws of the beast. Whichever metaphor you prefer.

On point #2: The social worker, Angelica Lopez-Heagy, evidently became involved because of some sort of misunderstanding to the effect that the mother had refused a Vitamin K shot for the baby. (Lopez-Heagy tried initially to refuse to reveal the dreadful allegations against the parents, but they came out along the way.) Should a social worker be called in because parents refuse a Vitamin K shot? Isn't that absurd? Doesn't that make a mockery of the idea that parents can refuse? If some treatment is so incredibly important that refusal for your child means instant committal to the harassment of CPS, why not just give the Vitamin K shot without parental consent? The "consent" would end up being virtually meaningless anyway if parents were given full information. "Do you consent to my giving this shot to your baby? Oh, by the way, if you don't consent, I'm going to call CPS on you." In any event, the mother claims that she did not refuse the Vitamin K shot. Who knows how the misunderstanding arose. Did the father perhaps refuse it and forget in all the flurry of going back to the other children to tell the mother? Did the father or mother have some vague conversation with the nurses about their reasons for having wanted a home birth that gave them the impression that a Vitamin K shot was being refused? (Hostility from the medical personnel because of their attempted home birth, apparently based on the fact that the baby was born in the ambulance, seems to have been evident from the outset.) We'll probably never know.

Once Angelica Lopez-Heagy was involved, she was determined to harass the postpartum mother. I pause to ask: What sort of person acts this way towards an innocent mother who has just given birth and is alone and vulnerable? Only a wickedly self-righteous person who loves power and considers herself justified by the evident "badness" of the mother. One can only guess what caused Lopez-Heagy to be so hostile. Probably the dreadful report of medical neglect caused by the alleged refusal of the Vitamin K shot. Maybe she heard that they'd initially planned a home birth. Maybe she learned that they were home schoolers. And then, to make matters worse, the mother actually hesitated over consenting to a Hepatitis B shot and asked for further, specific reason for giving it to her child. Shocka! She's obviously an abuser!

So Lopez-Heagy tried to force the mother to sign a legal document, a "safety plan," which is another in social workers' bag of tricks for coercion over parents. The mother added to her crimes by refusing to sign it until she could consult her husband. Dreadful!

And that's when they took custody of the baby and threw the mother out of the hospital.

The balance of things was partially restored the next morning when a court officer returned custody of the newborn baby to the horribly harassed parents.

But I want to know where the redress is. I suggested in the post linked above that state congresses should create a cause of action for such cases to punish CPS for this sort of behavior. The HSLDA is bringing suit. But couldn't such suits be made easier by reference to explicit state law against unjustified harassment of parents by state or county officials? What if the state itself had a bureau that would receive such complaints and actually help you bring suit--perhaps file the suit for you and bear the costs in egregious cases? That might cause CPS to think twice. We do have such bureaus for discrimination suits. Sometimes they refuse a case and leave the individual to bring the suit on his own. But sometimes they take up the case.

I suppose HSLDA may be able to handle such a case better than any state bureau. But we all know that EEOCs are staffed by people thoroughly committed to their mission. Why couldn't a parental rights bureau be similarly staffed? I'm sure Patrick Henry College and Ave Maria Law School could provide them with some great job applicants!

The shrewd of eye will have noticed that the HSLDA is using this case as a fund-raising opportunity. It's unclear whether the parents were HSLDA members at the time that the outrage occurred, and it did not explicitly involve home schooling. So HSLDA is pointing out that it could use a little more $$ above and beyond member dues to help bring the suit.

This doesn't bother me. I would go so far as to suggest that you might want to contribute to HSLDA if you're looking for a hard-line right-wing organization that does good work to be a recipient of your donation dollars.

Angelica Lopez-Heagy should be made to pay dearly through the legal system for what she did. She and her agency should be assessed large damages including compensation for mental anguish caused to the parents.

Oh, and while we're at it: Angelica Lopez-Heagy had to call the police to take custody of the baby. Can't we get a little creative and dream up some state laws that would make that more difficult? Social workers shouldn't be able to use the police as their private army. (See Tony M.'s related post, here.) Police should be told that they are not droids. When a social worker yells, "Take that child into my custody!" police do not have to jump to obey. Let's find some way in state law to make that explicit.

Comments (50)

BTW, I posted an update on a case I'm pretty sure you were following. Didn't look good for the homeschooling family. Did you see it?

Remembering that the HSLDA, being a bunch of lawyers, is no doubt well aware that they themselves could be sued for libel

Actually, probably not: the litigation privilege generally bars defamation suits against attorneys for statements made in the course of or in the run-up to a lawsuit.

a cause of action for such cases to punish CPS for this sort of behavior.

Violations of civil rights under color of state law are already compensable by way of a federal cause of action created by 28 U.S.C. § 1983. The CPS brownshirt who abuses her authority is just as guilty of a 1983 violation as a police officer who does the same thing.

What if the state itself had a bureau that would receive such complaints and actually help you bring suit--perhaps file the suit for you and bear the costs in egregious cases? That might cause CPS to think twice.

(I'm genuinely not trying to thread-jack here)You have a similar problem with police and prosecutors in that bad actors are protected by various immunity statutes and court rulings, and what legal avenues remain are designed to target the institution, not the individual perpetrator. Given the fact that institutions can buy insurance against such suits, even a $1m judgment can be little more than a nuisance. What they do is they pay a higher premium, assuage the fears of the insurer by "beefing up training" and then it's business as usual. I would contend this is what conservatives should do instead:

1) Abolish all immunity statutes and pass laws the explicitly override the Supreme Court's rulings on immunity for any state actor. The state legislatures should make it clear to the judiciary that they and they alone set all rules which govern accountability by any state employee.

2) Make individual state employees liable personally for any abuse or violation of the law under color of authority at the state level. At the federal amend 42 USC 1983 to make the institutions directly liable (that is, insurance policies may not cover their losses) if they hire someone they knew or would have known had they done a proper background check had lost a 42 USC 1983 lawsuit. Additionally, pass a federal mandate that says that no state or local agency may receive any federal funds if it continues to employ anyone who has lost a 42 USC 1983 lawsuit or been party to more than 2 within a 20 year period.

3) Reduce the burden of proof for abuse of authority/violation of the law under color of authority to an extent that explicitly prohibits "good faith" defenses and substitutes objective criteria. If the Vitamin K is objectively not needed for the reasonable health of the baby, her "good faith belief" should literally have no bearing on her liability before 42 USC 1983 or any other statute concerning abuse of authority. Ignorance of the law is no excuse; ignorance of the parameters in which you should enforce it shouldn't be either.

** or at least limits good faith to only such cases as where the state employee has consulted at least one person whose credentials or experience would lead a reasonable person to believe that they are more or less an expert in their field.

Violations of civil rights under color of state law are already compensable by way of a federal cause of action created by 28 U.S.C. § 1983. The CPS brownshirt who abuses her authority is just as guilty of a 1983 violation as a police officer who does the same thing.

Titus, I believe you, and that's presumably what the HSLDA is using for its suit.

But I think you would agree that states can augment this and be more pro-active about it. They could for example create a special _state_ definition of parental rights and a special class of state civil suit for violations thereof, with specific reference to abuse of power by social workers. I tend to think that that would get the attention of social workers. What if "Removing a child with insufficient justification" were a specific cause of action under a special state law? What if there were a state parental rights commission empowered by the state congress to bring suit under that law? What if the law were spelled out in such a way that ol' Angelica's actions would clearly fall under it? For example, the law could include something about a social worker who obtains the help of police to suspend parental rights and take custody of a child, even temporarily, without "grave and urgent cause of severe, immminent danger to a child as perceived by a reasonable man, or without a concluded investigation that takes at least x period of time and that allows parents access to legal counsel and to the allegations against them" or something like that. And the training required for social workers could use cases like this as case studies of what would fall under censure.

And we could also have provisions for direct, severely career-damaging censure in the files of social workers if the commission determined that they abused their powers.

Cases like this seem to me like a call to action for lawmakers. If state lawmakers _cannot_ craft legislation to rein in this kind of thing, I want to know why not.

Also, such laws should address any policies that CPS has that "you can't close your investigation unless parents sign a safety plan" or (something else one sometimes hears) "you can't close your investigation until you have entered the house, looked in the fridge for food, even if this has nothing to do with the allegations, and interviewed all the children alone."

Social workers either lie and say that they are bound by these policies or else they really are bound by them. Someone makes up those protocols. They are artificial and give CPS way too much power. In this case the social worker told the mother she *could not* close her investigation unless the mother signed the "safety report." Even so, the social worker presumably could have gone away and continued her stupid "investigation" another day. So she was using that as an excuse for behaving in a fascist manner. But why should there be such a policy? It's utterly stupid. It leaves no room for a situation in which the parents are as innocent as innocent can be and in which a frivolous allegation has been made against them.

That could be legislatively addressed: "No child-related state agency shall have a policy that uniformly requires all parents to sign a legal document committing them to a specific plan of action as a requirement for closing an investigation." And so forth.

I have dealt with many social workers. Every one of them, as far as I could tell, suffered from the vice of a controlling personality and the desire to control others (for their own good, of course). Is that surprising? What other kind of person would want to be a social worker?

At best, social workers and agencies such as a "cps" are necessary evils. I don't believe "child protection" agencies are necessary; they are among the many means by which normal people are tyrannized and by which the modern state wages war against the family and other independent institutions.

Social workers shouldn't be able to use the police as their private army.

When I see those kidnapping alerts, I sometimes think..."uhh...Am I looking for a shady stranger who plucked the kid off the playground, or are you just using me as a custody enforcer?" But I digress.

Once in that power, they were on the conveyor belt. Or in the jaws of the beast. Whichever metaphor you prefer
.

How about the medical division of N.I.C.E.?


P.S. On a lark I did a Google search and there is an actual National Institute for Clinical Excellence http://www.nice.org.uk/ [shudder]

It is interesting to note that on the Pennsylvania Turnpike just east of where this happened is a billboard showing a female with a rolled up sleeve and a flexed muscle. The caption is "Social workers make society strong". I should have stopped to take a photo of it.

Is that surprising? What other kind of person would want to be a social worker?

Steve P., that's an interesting question. I actually can easily imagine some well-intentioned young lady (especially a young lady) who gets a MA in "social work" because she is a genuine sweetheart to begin with and wants to help people. Maybe even a good Christian girl who wants to bring the light of Christ to hurting people or something like that. She talks to some counselor or even does some googling and gets the idea that if she wants to help children or work with neglected children, the little ones most in need, etc., she should pursue a degree in social work. Then once she has the degree, this is the kind of job that is offered to her.

The sweethearts may still be out there, and I just don't hear about them. Or maybe they get weeded out of the system along the way. Or maybe the sweetness gets brainwashed out of them as they are taught all manner of stupid prejudices and drilled in classes like How to Be a Fascist Control Freak 101.

Scott W., I've had that _very_ same thought about "kidnapped children." I guess it's politically incorrect to make a distinction between children "kidnapped" or "missing" in a custody dispute where neither parent is a convicted molestor (or anything horrible like that) and children kidnapped by strangers.

Ah, yes. The absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, life-essential Vitamin K shot. Someone is getting rich off of that one.

Ah, yes. The absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, life-essential Vitamin K shot. Someone is getting rich off of that one.

Unfortunately, it won't be the social worker paying for it. This is why we need to limit the ability of agencies to use insurance as a cover. We need to make it so that they have a big incentive to fire such people.

Lydia,

"I actually can easily imagine some well-intentioned young lady (especially a young lady) who gets a MA in "social work" because she is a genuine sweetheart to begin with and wants to help people."

I can imagine young ladies like that, too. I reckon many or most of them, along with their sweet hearts and many virtues and good intentions, have the vice of wanting to control other people for their own good. It would be much better for the world and for their own souls if they chose professions that did not give them too much power over others.

I think the best and least dangerous social workers are people who have sweet hearts but do not want to control others. Of course those kinds of people wouldn't want to be social workers.

It would be much better for the world and for their own souls if they chose professions that did not give them too much power over others.

A few years ago I might have agreed with this unthinkingly. After all, the world could do with a lot fewer social workers. However, I'm now, watching my children and their friends, becoming acutely aware of the difficulties young people face in launching into the world. A young woman may want very much to get married and have children, to have control only over her own household. Do we older adults who desire that young lady's best good have a set of eligible Christian husbands to offer her, fully primed with a job of their own and capable of supporting a family? Nope. And what if she is not a highly intellectual type, so going into IT or the academic world isn't an option? And what if she's a nurturing and caring type of person. Among the various suggestions of a life's work, in case Mr. Right does not come along, that will offer such a young woman the opportunity to be able to care for herself and "launch," social work is likely to look fairly plausible. Would I recommend it? Well, no, I wouldn't, because I think the profession is irremediably corrupt and that she will in all likelihood be either corrupted or crushed. But from the perspective of young people and parents puzzled to find an avenue for a daughter's gifts, it's not always so obvious.

Do we older adults who desire that young lady's best good have a set of eligible Christian husbands to offer her, fully primed with a job of their own and capable of supporting a family? Nope.

In fairness to young Christian men, most of the Christian women I've met in my age range are not suitable wife material either. This is unfortunately what happens when you have a cycle of broken marriages that lead to men not having a father in their life (thus not knowing how to be a man) and women not having a father to raise them to be ready to be mothers and wives.

CPS, along with no fault divorce and other anti-family laws and agencies, has done much to exacerbate the problem. I would say that any Christian family that doesn't recognize this is pretty much clueless. Most of the conservative Christians I know (actual conservatives based on actions) would be horrified at their daughter making a career in that.

How about the medical division of N.I.C.E.?


P.S. On a lark I did a Google search and there is an actual National Institute for Clinical Excellence http://www.nice.org.uk/ [shudder]

Posted by Scott W. | March 30, 2012 1:53 PM

Yeah, that's who does the rationing.

Seriously.

And what if she is not a highly intellectual type, so going into IT or the academic world isn't an option? And what if she's a nurturing and caring type of person. Among the various suggestions of a life's work, in case Mr. Right does not come along, that will offer such a young woman the opportunity to be able to care for herself and "launch," social work is likely to look fairly plausible. Would I recommend it? Well, no, I wouldn't, because I think the profession is irremediably corrupt and that she will in all likelihood be either corrupted or crushed. But from the perspective of young people and parents puzzled to find an avenue for a daughter's gifts, it's not always so obvious.

Hiring on to charity groups is usually better-- all the upsides, without the corrupting power. CS Lewis had a really good point about tyrannies which expands to most any sort of power....

(argh, forgot this site auto-ends italics after the first paragraph....)

As the son of a Social worker (who works with the vulnerable elderly) I feel compelled to stick up for them.

The vast majority of them are caring souls who do the best to help people who are in genuine need of it; and do the best they can to facilitate that help by determining their needs and getting the appropriate organisations involved (be that health professionals, the police, nongovernmental organisations such as the local church etc etc).

Sure you get the nurse ratchet's whose compassion has been surgically removed, but they are a tiny minority.

As an aside there was an interesting programme aired earlier this year on the BBC that looked at social workers dealing with vulnerable children in my hometown, the three families featured were clearly no place for a child to grow up (parents who brought children up in conditions that would make a pig turn up its nose, parents living with people they knew to be paedophiles etc). The social workers felt themselves to be under extraordinary pressure and felt that they were dammed if they took no action (following high profile instances where failing to take action resulted in a child's death) and dammed if they did (instances such as the one that Lydia mentioned), personally I wouldn't do their job if I was paid a million bucks a year.

PS they are constantly demonised by the media, the government and the general public, have little job security and face having their budgets cut year on year, although I wish that the family court system in the UK was more open I do have sympathy for the vast majority of social workers.

I read the article and, while I do not have problems with the interpretation that the hospital and social worker badly mistreated the mother and family, I do not think the medical facts about the shots are accurately portrayed. The vitamin K injection has been standard care since 1961. It is intended to prevent a rare (1-2% incidence) but serious-to-fatal bleeding event in the newborn due to vitamin K deficiency. The so-called Hep B shot almost certainly was the hepatitis B vaccine which also is routine for newborns. It is not something that one would do a test to determine if it is needed. Obviously the mother did not know that, nor is there any reason in particular that she should have, but the author(s) of the article should have made themselves aware of the facts before writing.

That said, I also agree that there are entirely too many minor bureaucrats running loose, making up rules as they go that insert them in between parent and child for no good reason. CPS is notorious for this. The public schools have bee taking on similar traits for some time now, also. Yes, I believe when these minor officials grossly overstep their authority and do damage, they should be held personally responsible. The problem there is, of course, that they all tend to cinch the wagons together and tighten them around the offender knowing that tomorrow it may be them.

The vitamin K injection has been standard care since 1961. It is intended to prevent a rare (1-2% incidence) but serious-to-fatal bleeding event in the newborn due to vitamin K deficiency.
-------
The literature provided to me after my last son's birth was that the shot reduced the chance of hemorraghing from 6 out of 1000 births to 3 out of 1000 births which of course was sold as an incredible 50% reduction in risk. Of course mother who eat their greens and dairy during the pregnancy mitigate this risk in their children.

Alphonsus: Just because something is "routine" doesn't mean that people are necessarily ignorant if they hesitate to consent to having it administered to their children. I don't actually want the thread to become derailed to a discussion of this, but I'll say this briefly: Hepatitis B is one of those routine shots that give routine shots a bad name. Not because it is likely to do any actual harm to a baby (though any doctor will admit a small probability that a vaccination will have negative side effects) but because the disease for which it is an injection is not a common childhood disease and not spread by casual contact. It is spread by close exchange of blood products and body fluids, by dirty needle sharing or dirty needle pricks and the like. We're not talking measles here. The mother's request for a test was not an indication of ignorance but an indication of protest: "I do not accept that this is something newborns need to be given as a routine matter. If you can show me a specific reason for administering it I'll agree but not otherwise."

Very likely the social worker understood that quite well and it made her all the more angry.

And I note again: The mother did not refuse the Vitamin K shot. No one knows how the social worker got the idea that she did.

Why should the writers of the article go into a digression on medical arguments pro. and con. any of this? They were giving the facts of an insane harassment of a family. They didn't need to talk about the pros and cons of the medical issues, unless these were truly _emergency_ treatment being denied. I think we can all agree that that was not the case.

In fairness to young Christian men, most of the Christian women I've met in my age range are not suitable wife material either. This is unfortunately what happens when you have a cycle of broken marriages that lead to men not having a father in their life

It's true, Mike, and I know young ladies who are screwed up and not eligible for the class of "nice girl" to become wives and mothers. But the proportions are definitely not equal. The vast majority of young men who are not strongly devout and dedicated Christians are in the grips of sexual vices - particularly porn - and are incapable of viewing women appropriately (much less of intending true fidelity in marriage). Whereas such vice exists in women but is far from universal.

CPS, along with no fault divorce and other anti-family laws and agencies, has done much to exacerbate the problem.

True again, but the no-fault divorce and anti-family, anti-morals laws came first. Breaking down the family and morals results in the conditions that created the need for such pervasive CPS agencies. The fact is that the legislators and bureaucrats who pushed for a stronger CPS role were simply reacting to the symptoms of the problem instead of thinking about where the problem comes from and addressing that. No, we CAN'T try to "turn the clock back" to an earlier era when most families were whole, that would be anti-progress, don't you know?

PS they are constantly demonised by the media, the government and the general public, have little job security and face having their budgets cut year on year, although I wish that the family court system in the UK was more open I do have sympathy for the vast majority of social workers.

Jack, CPS workers are not much demonized by the mainstream media in this country, except for the rare and notable instances where the MSM finds out about a huge lapse, like repeatedly sending 3 kids back to live with a convicted drug addict (single) mother who doesn't even feed them. The problems that social workers face in the conservative media would be completely solved if they would simply apply a dollop of common sense and stay within the law. CPS shouldn't be out to get nuclear families who are not breaking the law and whose lapses are the ordinary forgetfulness of just plain life. Or out to get families whose views on raising kids with strictness (or laxness) would have been considered wholesome and ordinary a mere 40 years ago. Yet they do go after just such families, and when they do they deserve to be demonized.

Tony

It sounds like you are saying that the whole service must suffer for the sins of a few of its members, that seems to me to be very dangerous ground , according to that logic we should judge BL. Cardinal Newman and Cardinal Manning by the actions of Fred Phelps and co.

Jack, Tony is right. I don't know who is demonizing social workers in the press generally in the UK, but it just ain't happening in the U.S. It's only "extreme right-wingers" like me, and like HSLDA, who speak up for parental rights in the U.S. and regularly speak out on the excesses of CPS.

I certainly agree with you that it sounds like a daunting and a thankless job. I also agree that there are real cases where intervention is needed. But these things are not black boxes. A CPS worker who faces a real-life situation has judgement and ought to use good judgement. If that were done, it would make things much, much better. Two types of things get in the way of good judgement, and I think they feed off of one another:

#1--At least in the U.S., social workers are obviously _trained_ to have really destructive prejudices. Specifically, these prejudices are anti-parent and especially anti-father. I knew of one case in which naive and foolish young parents who had their child in daycare became concerned that their child came home with a bruise on his back--something totally non-serious in terms of his health in itself--and deliberately took him to a doctor to report it because they thought it might indicate that some adult in the daycare had hit him and bruised him. Social services were called in, because the pediatrician was a "mandatory reporter," and the social workers were *determined* to fix a charge of child abuse for this one bruise, which the parents themselves had (in my view, stupidly) decided to bring to the attention of authorities. It may well have been that the bruise just happened in the course of play, but by making this big reporting thing of it, they got the incredibly biased CPS down on them, determined to force them to go through parenting classes and the like and determined to argue that the child's innocent (too innocent) father was an abuser. It was a nightmare. They ended up in court where, fortunately, the judge gave a stern dressing-down to the representative of CPS, and the incident was over. Where is that coming from? Where is the behavior in the main post coming from? It's coming from anti-family bias, anti-parent bias. These biases are _pervasive_ in CPS in the United States. I would be surprised if they were less pervasive in the UK. Knowing that, can you blame parents who look with dread upon any contact with social workers working with CPS?

#2--Many CPS agencies, perhaps all, in the U.S. have, or claim to have, rigid policies which the social workers themselves must follow in order to "complet an investigation." To begin with, an investigation _must_ be opened on even the most unsubstantiated and wildest anonymous complaint. So if your neighbor doesn't like the fact that your dog barked at him, he can place an anonymous and bizarre, totally made up, accusation against you with CPS, and they will have to put you through the wringer of an investigation. Most agencies also have, or claim to have, policies that these investigations (which, remember, can be opened on the basis of frivolous anonymous complaints against totally innocent people) cannot be closed unless invasive and humiliating procedures are followed, which usually include coming into the home and often interviewing children without their parents present. Sometimes even strip-searching children. HSLDA is challenging these policies, sometimes successfully.

When you put #1 and #2 together you have a terrible, terrible, toxic situation for many innocent families. Social workers confronted with any resistance to the invasive demands made on the basis of #2 will often become incredibly hostile (see #1) and begin threatening to remove the children from the home.

Also, some (many) CPS workers claim that they don't have to tell you the allegations against you. This _must_ be stopped. It is entirely unjust, and criminals in the United States cannot be treated in that way. It's specified in the U.S. Constitution that they can't be. The irony is that because the CPS isn't actually charging the parents with a crime, the parents have _far fewer_ procedural rights than accused criminals.

What all this amounts to is a combination of systemic badness. Well-intentioned social workers will have both their attitudes and their actions formed by this system, and parents have every right to be horrified at the thought of ever having anything to do with this system.

Does that mean every social worker who works for a child agency is a bad person? No, it doesn't. But it means that parents can justly hope that those who work for such agencies will always ply their trade elsewhere. In the words of the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof: "May God bless and keep the Czar...far away from us!"

Lydia, this is what the article says about the HepB "shot".

[i]Then the hospital demanded that they give Annie shot for Hepatitis B. Jodi said that she would agree only if they tested her or Annie to see if either of them were positive. If so, then she was quite willing to have the shot for Annie. The hospital claimed that they had forgotten about this earlier when it was still possible to test that day, and that they needed to give the shot anyway without any testing.[/i]

So what "shot" is the author talking about? The standard HepB vaccine or the anti-HBV IgG given when the infant tests positive (a dose of vaccine also is administered. This is my point about the ambiguity on the author's description. Those two different things and I think it ought to be made clear. At any rate, I do not wish to argue the pros and cons of vaccination, particularly in the presence of overwhelming evidence of their value to personal and public health. I do agree, as I said, that some of the hospital staff and the social worker badly mistreated the mother and I think they should be accountable for that.

Alphonsus, I understand your point about an ambiguity between two possible shots. It may be that the mother herself named one shot when it was really the other, and the article took the name of the shot from her report of the incident. But really, who cares?

I was not making any statement about "vaccination" in the abstract. People shouldn't do that, either pro or con. I was making a statement about the means by which Hepatitis B, specifically, is contracted.

It sounds like you are saying that the whole service must suffer for the sins of a few of its members, that seems to me to be very dangerous ground

Actually, in the US it's more accurately that the few are condemned by the sins of their organization because American social work organizations are notorious for being ideology-driven.

Steve P., that's an interesting question. I actually can easily imagine some well-intentioned young lady (especially a young lady) who gets a MA in "social work" because she is a genuine sweetheart to begin with and wants to help people. Maybe even a good Christian girl who wants to bring the light of Christ to hurting people or something like that. She talks to some counselor or even does some googling and gets the idea that if she wants to help children or work with neglected children, the little ones most in need, etc., she should pursue a degree in social work. Then once she has the degree, this is the kind of job that is offered to her.

The sweethearts may still be out there, and I just don't hear about them. Or maybe they get weeded out of the system along the way. Or maybe the sweetness gets brainwashed out of them as they are taught all manner of stupid prejudices and drilled in classes like How to Be a Fascist Control Freak 101.

Lydia,

Anecdotally, I happen to have rented a room to one of the sweethearts, who literally was a nice Christian missionary girl who was just back in the States for a couple of years to get an MA in Social Work. It was never clear to me why she'd want to do that, but it wasn't my business to know so I didn't ask. In any event, what happened was that she chose to just go back to the Philippines and keep up her work there.

I would imagine that what Jack refers to as "demonizing" the profession really just amounts to exposing one outrageous abuse of power after the next in the media. Every family member of a teacher I have ever known has said the exact same thing about teachers--that they are all "demonized" and that the problems that do exist are limited to an infinitesimal, teeny tiny little portion of a fraction of the actual teachers out there. Well. Leave us say that there is every probability that the problems in the UK, so luridly highlighted by their media, are real problems, and that the loved ones of people who work in that system are falling prey to the notoriously specious "man-who" heuristic. Most of all, they would like for the real, existing problems to just be hushed up and for everyone to move along, lest their loved one get a bad rap or something.

As you can probably tell, I am wholly unsympathetic to this response. I wonder if Jack would have been satisfied, during the height of the investigations into rampant institutional malfeasance by the Catholic hierarchy respecting the sexual predation of minors, had I assured him that most of the priests in this world are really good folks and that therefore it was just mean and unfair to "demonize" the Church by airing these abuses and trying to actually do something about them. The plain fact is that there IS a serious problem with CPS in this country, and there almost certainly IS a serious problem with its UK equivalent, and the protests of the Jacks of the world do nothing but add lots of emotional special pleading to the discussion. If he's really worried about the reputation of his loved one, then the best way to protect it is to get busy exposing the abuses and working to end them.

Sage, you're quite right.

I've come more over the years to understand what people mean when they blame "the system" for something. All people, good and bad, who get involved in building or influencing an institution, try to put in mechanisms for continuing a particular institutional culture. What I'm realizing is just how powerful those mechanisms can be.

The puzzle is why mechanisms for continuing good institutional culture seem so much weaker than mechanisms for continuing bad institutional culture.

Ok Lydia I can see that you have a point.

Now as someone who is in favour only of necessary government I would like to see the functions of many governmental organisations such as the CPS devolved to the community in the sense that a 100 years ago it was often the Church and Trade Unions that helped the local needy, enforced the moral law and made sure generally that people are called to account.

HOWEVER short of effectively rebuilding the Faith in the West, some of these functions are inevitably going to be the responsibility of the Government whether we like it or not, the short-term solution is in my view; is to get the government to realise that the family is the basic social unit, that Parents do have the right to Home school, raise the Children in their religion etc etc and that quite frankly it is none of the governments business.

In a Response to Sage regarding my 'special pleading' I would say that I was not, I was attempting to make the case (as someone with a relative directly involved in Social Work, albeit with the vulnerable elderly) that contrary to the opinion of the majority of posters; Social Workers do not mutate into the agents of the Devil the minute they are employed. I was attempting through my second hand knowledge to make the case that many social workers are tirelessly dedicated to the job of helping vulnerable and potentially vulnerable people, be they adults or children in the face of constant vilification and constantly dwindling resources; I would invite WWWTW bloggers and posters to spend time with a social worker; ask them about their motivation for going into the profession the daily struggles of their profession and I think that the vast majority would hold a completely different view of them.

From my own point of view would suggest that part of the problem of social workers with an overbearing attitude stems from the vilification that arises if they make a bad call which ends in the death of a child, this leads to a check ticking mentality, not unlike the extreme to which Health and Safety laws can go; where every bruise on a child must be accounted for and every scratch must be documented. Naturally a social worker with this mentality will see a mother and child as a set of risks that must be managed rather than as two human beings, therefore when a mother cannot account for a bruise the social worker may think that it is ‘safer’ to separate the two now and perhaps have them reunited later than to let things be.

Just my two cents and please forgive the length of the Post, even at this length I have had leave some stuff out.

From my own point of view would suggest that part of the problem of social workers with an overbearing attitude stems from the vilification that arises if they make a bad call which ends in the death of a child, this leads to a check ticking mentality, not unlike the extreme to which Health and Safety laws can go; where every bruise on a child must be accounted for and every scratch must be documented. Naturally a social worker with this mentality will see a mother and child as a set of risks that must be managed rather than as two human beings, therefore when a mother cannot account for a bruise the social worker may think that it is ‘safer’ to separate the two now and perhaps have them reunited later than to let things be.

Unreasonable people always have and always will exist. The major problem that CPS faces is similar to what law enforcement faces (my parents were in law enforcement). That is that every time overzealous behavior and abuses of authority happen, let alone are tolerated, some reasonable people begin to think the unreasonable people are less unreasonable in their criticisms. With CPS we've reached such a near total lack of tolerance because they are notorious for being supremely intolerant, self-righteous to a fault and cheerfully oblivious of any duty to abide by state or federal constitutional restrictions. The latter part, in particular as it is often backed up by law enforcement, makes many reasonable people see unreasonable people coupled with a high degree of latitude to inflict that unreasonableness with a terrifying and disproportionate level of force.

Jack,

This is an example of how things can be resolved in the US.

Jack, my father was a social worker, dealing with some of the hardest cases you can imagine, and he went into it for the best of reasons. He also stayed in it a lot longer than I ever could have. But he was a minnow swimming in a sea of sharks. It never occurs to me when reading something like this post by Lydia, after years of watching him be outnumbered 10:1 by brutal bureaucrats and power-tripping feminist harpies with less of a sense of duty than my border collie, that my first response ought to be, "Hey wait a second! My sweet old dad was a social worker! How dare you criticize Child Protective Services!" Because that would be sort of stupid. He is just one man, he's not the social working profession, and he sure isn't the whole of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

And no, I'm really not buying the notion that a major part of the problem with these agencies is the fact that they're so "vilified." How in the world do you think they came to be vilified in the first place? At one time they had the esteem of the public. They lost it. Now how did that happen?

That's about as credible to me as the claim that Muslim radicalism is really just an expression of outrage against "Islamophobia." If I was worried about being vilified, I'd try extra hard not to be, you know, villainous.

From my own point of view would suggest that part of the problem of social workers with an overbearing attitude stems from the vilification that arises if they make a bad call which ends in the death of a child,

Well, Jack, I hope you would agree with me in saying that that isn't even remotely an excuse for the kind of behavior that actually takes place. Look at the behavior in the main post. Seriously, was there any plausible causal route by which it was going to result in the death of a child if the social worker didn't call the cops, seize custody of the child, and have the mother thrown out of the hospital? Obviously, not even remotely.

Look, I understand the problem of trigger-happy reporters and of the social worker, who, once called in, has to "make an investigation" and "complete an investigation" and all that jazz. And the hospital obviously was trigger-happy. Mandatory reporter laws or not, "We think the mother and father refused to have a Vitamin K shot for this child" is _not_ something that should trigger calling CPS.

But the CPS worker could have recognized that. She could have been reasonable. She could have said, "Look ma'am, I think this is ridiculous. There is no health emergency for your child even if you did refuse to have a Vitamin K shot. Unfortunately, now that the hospital has jumped the gun and called me, I have to complete my report, but we can take our time over that. I'll just interview you and your husband over the next day or two, and if everything goes as I expect it to go, we'll consider this incident closed."

Oh, and I would go this far: If a sweet, wonderful person works for an agency that requires that sweet, wonderful person to refuse to tell people the allegations against them, the sweet, wonderful person needs to find another line of work. I know that may be hard. I know that may be brutal. But confronting parents with, "I'm from the government, I've been called in to investigate you as possibly bad parents, and I'm not going to tell you what has been alleged against you" is horribly unjust. Plain wrong. If it's really true, the social worker should either break the rules or look good and hard for another job.

Without the ability to tell parents what the allegations are, the social worker lacks an absolutely crucial tool for working with innocent parents in situations like this where CPS is called in unnecessarily. Those situations need to be resolved with the minimal trauma and injustice to innocent citizens, parents and children. If you have to conceal the allegations, you are treating them as helpless pawns of a totalitarian state, and you should refuse to be an agent of such a state.

My impression is that the HSLDA has actually gotten some guidelines put in place at both the federal and state levels that social workers *must* disclose the allegations. The more quickly this news is disseminated to the rank and file, the better.

Lydia

I'm not condoning the behaviour, I am simply explaining how such an institutional mentality can arise.


Sage

I can't speak for the US but in England the public demonisation of social services started 12 years ago a young girl called Victoria Climbié was murdered by her guardians (not parents) the subsequent public Inquiry found that there were at least a dozen instances where social services COULD have taken her into care but was not, it also criticised poor interaction between social services and other agencies e.g. NHS and the Metropolitan police relating to how they shared information. As shocking as I might sound to yankee ears, I actually sympathise with a social worker who faces the choice of being publically condemmed if she makes the wrong call which leads to an abused child being murdered or being branded as a heartless banshee should she make the decision to remove a child from its home (PS in the UK they need a court order to do this.)


But Jack, be honest, now: In the UK, are you really saying that both of those possibilities are equally plausible? That is to say, if the CPS worker doesn't remove a child and the child dies or is later found to have been horribly abused, I would guess it is *overwhelmingly likely* that the social workers will be condemned. But if they do remove a child unjustifiedly, are they as likely to be condemned, or condemned as widely? I know that the answer to that in the U.S. is a resounding "no." The public bias, not to mention the media bias (which influences the public bias), is *unequivocally* on the side of intervention. Social services will get far more excoriated for not removing and having things turn out badly, one way or another, than for behaving like the social worker in the main post. Please note: Only the HSLDA and other "right-wingers" are even talking about this case. There has been no public outcry at all. And that's how it usually is.

You make it sound like a social worker in some terrible dilemma is facing an equal probability of condemnation either way. I would be willing to bet that isn't the case. Around here, over-zeal is rarely condemmned. After all, it was well-intentioned, you can't take chances, it's all for the children, blah, blah.

Moreover: Why even bring up such dilemmas in the abstract? In any real-world situation the social worker is confronted by real-world facts and evidence and can either use good judgement or bad. _Regardless_ of public opinion, the social worker is more justified or less justified in snatching the child. Why are we talking about "sympathizing" with social workers in some sort of abstract dilemma situation? There are no abstract cases. The social worker has *evidence*, and that evidence may not justify removing the child, or may justify it, or may be borderline. We should "sympathize" more or less with the social worker insofar as the social worker appears to show better or worse judgement based on the actual evidence of the case! Not just as a general rule.

Somebody needs to establish an internet law like Godwin's: As a debate between an American and someone from the UK proceeds, the likelihood of the fellow from the UK making a sneering remark about heartless Yanks approaches 1.

Jack,

I take it you didn't bother to read the link I posted for your benefit. We allow our local governments to do that sort of thing with damn near impunity. What makes you think then that most Americans actually routinely condemn local government agents who "get it wrong?"

We refused the Vitamin K shot and the vaccines for our son (born Jan 9th of this year). They claimed they would call Florida DCF but we didn’t back down. The worst consequence was that we were dropped by the Pediatrician (the horror!).

Bruce, that's terrifying. That they would threaten to call DCF on that basis alone. Evidently this is common. Your experience was in Florida and the main post occurred in PA. This can't be coincidence. I wonder if there has been some training manual or something for doctors published and used all over the country that tells them to threaten to call DCF if parents refuse any "routine" newborn vaccinations.

They told my wife they were obligated to call DCF which made it sound like it was a required procedure if you refuse the shots. It was a hospital staff member not the doctor that told her this.

Somebody like the HSLDA should research that: Is it becoming standard procedure in hospitals? That's something for them to dig into.

Good heavens, I just looked back at this and realized that I mis-cited the Bivens statute: it is 42 U.S.C. § 1983 like MikeT says.

It is Easter, Titus, so you shall be absolved. :-)

Good heavens, I just looked back at this and realized that I mis-cited the Bivens statute: it is 42 U.S.C. § 1983 like MikeT says.

And section 1983 cases are harder to bring thanks to other rulings and statutes. The best example of them is qualified immunity. I was reading a case brought down by that just the other day. It's here for anyone wanting a good example of why "law and order conservative" appeals to "there are remedies" for corruption are usually based in ignorance of how many ways the legal system has actually blocked wronged citizens from bringing cases.

I'm disturbed by this notion of any routine vaccinations for newborns. My kids are almost-6, almost-4, 18 months, and in-utero, and the only vaccine schedule I've ever heard of begins at two months postpartum, in a pediatrician's office.

The idea of an OB nurse jabbing my minutes-old infant with HepB vaccine creeps me out and kind of astonishes me.

But (ssh!) I guess we haven't had a hospital delivery since the almost-4-year-old was born. Maybe things have changed? I suppose it might vary from state to state?

Golly, Ben, the newborn-in-the-hospital shots have been "routine" for more than four years. Thirteen, at least, by my count. Don't know how you missed 'em. Hep B is one, Vitamin K another.

Good luck getting away from the gendarmes. As you see from this thread, apparently in some hospitals they'll call Child Protective Services on you if you utter a peep about having a nurse jab your newborn with a HepB vaccine or Vitamin K shot.

Ben, here's something interesting: I was doing some googling on neonatal vaccinations yesterday before writing that response to you. Something I found is that in the medical literature there is a _huge_ push to do more brand-newborn vaccination, specifically on the grounds that it's a widespread "point of contact" with healthcare. Unfortunately for the poor fellows who are pushing this, newborns have immature immune systems, and they find that many shots they'd love to give don't actually work if given to a newborn instead of even two or three months later. They experimented with the pertussis shot and ran into that problem. In fact, it *seemed* to me (I speak under correction) that one article was even saying that giving a pertussis shot to a newborn resulted in a failure of a later pertussis shot to be as effective; hence the newborns used in this experimental trial got *less* protection overall against whooping cough than if the shot schedule had begun at two months instead! Oops, sorry. In our enthusiasm to push as many shots on parents and newborns when we've got 'em under our eye in the hospital at birth, we ended up protecting babies less from the very thing we were trying to protect them from. Notice, however, that if one raises any such questions one will get pompous lectures such as I received from Alphonsus, above. (In fact, I was lucky to get only a _short_ pompous lecture.) The generic goodness of vaccination in the world at large is supposed to cover all sins, including experimental attempts to do more and more vaccination on newborns for whom their effectiveness is questionable! Just shut up and do what we tell you, peons.

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