Friday, March 13, 2015

195.4 - Update: Parents accused of "unsubstantiated child neglect" for letting their children walk home from a park

Update: Parents accused of "unsubstantiated child neglect" for letting their children walk home from a park

Last month, I bestowed the Clown Award on a Texas school that suspended a 9-year-old boy for having made what the school called a "terroristic threat," the "threat" consisting of telling another boy that he could make that other boy invisible with a blue plastic ring he had, one he said was the "one true ring" from the Hobbit movie. Even the school admitted the "threat" was "imaginary," but suspended him anyway.

I discussing that, I asked just when it was that we became such a terrified people. "When did 'Be afraid, be very afraid' become our new national motto," I asked. As part of that, I mentioned several cases where parents were being treated almost as or even as criminals for, in effect, not maintaining 24/7 surveillance of their children, for not living in constant terror that their children will be kidnapped or assaulted or murdered if they - the parents - look away for more than a second.

I have an update on one of those cases which illustrates the kind of thing too many parents are being put through.

The case is that of Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Silver Spring, Maryland, who had gradually been letting their children, Rafi, who is 10, and Dvorah, who is 6, to have a little more freedom, take a little more responsibility. As a result, they would up being investigated by child services, with the risk of having their children taken from them, for alleged "child neglect" for letting the children walk on their own the one mile from a local park to their home, something they had decided the children were able to handle.

Well, child services has now told them of the outcome of their investigation. They were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect." And if you have no idea what that means, neither do I and neither do the parents and frankly I expect neither does child services.

Because it essentially says "You are guilty of child neglect even though we don't have any evidence the children were neglected and we can't say you're guilty because we don't have any evidence so we say you're 'responsible' even though that is pretty much the same thing so it's your fault the children were neglected even though it's unsubstantiated and we don't have any evidence they actually were. See?"

Danielle Meitiv and Rafi
What it means in actual practice is that local CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves the parents in limbo, with no idea of what would happen if their children are again reported for walking without adult supervision.

The implied threat to take their children from them if they don't join in the generalized constant fear that has become the expected norm for parenting today is very real: When this all started in December, when police picked up the kids halfway between the park and home, six cops and five patrol cars showed up at the Meitiv's home, demanded identification from the father, and entered the house without a warrant.

When Child Protective Services showed up a few hours later, Alexander Meitiv was forced to sign a promise to never leave the children unsupervised until CPS completed its investigation under the threat of having the children seized “right now” and without allowing any opportunity for him to get legal advice.

CPS workers questioned the children at school without the parents' knowledge or permission, during which the social worker told the 10-year-old that he should tell his parents that he doesn’t want to go off on his own anymore because it’s dangerous and that there are “bad guys waiting to grab you.”

Which means, if it means anything, that it is the considered position of local CPS that, even though crime is at its lowest level in at least 40 years, and even though the real incidence of child kidnapping was always very small and many of those cases actually involved custody battles, despite all that, parents and, it would appear, their children, should regard the world as drenched  in constant peril like some gory computer shoot-em-up game, with a murderer on every block and a violent pedophile at every intersection.

If this was an isolated case, it would be merely bizarre. But it's not. And it leads me to ask again: When did we become such a frightened people?

Sources cited in links:

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