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.