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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

April 16, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Today we begin with a test. You the reader must decide, in the following scenario, who is the responsible adult. By “responsible,” mean which adult treated the children in a manner that traumatized them the least. Are you ready? Here we go:

Last Sunday, two parents allowed their two children to play at a park near their house. The children, who are 10 and 6 years old, had done that before, so the parents trusted them. Throughout their lives, the parents had carefully monitored how much freedom the children were capable of exercising responsibly. They only allowed them greater freedom if the children demonstrated that they could safely handle the amount already given. So far, that parenting approach has resulted in nothing untoward happening to the children.

In the scenario, the children were supposed to be home by 6 PM.

But someone noticed two unsupervised children playing at the park and called the police. The children were not injured or at any apparent risk, but the police came anyway, arriving at the park at 5 PM. The police coerced the children into getting into the police car and told them they were going to take them home. That was a lie. The police kept them in the police car for three hours, never called their parents nor gave the children anything to eat. They then turned the children over to Child Protective Services.

CPS held the children for 2 1/2 hours. They too failed to offer the children food and apparently failed to call their parents. Eventually, the parents located the children, went to the CPS office and retrieved them, finally reaching home at 11 PM. The children’s mother wrote on her Facebook page, “We finally got home at 11pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”

That’s the scenario. So who’s the responsible party here? The parents? The police? CPS? Turn your papers in when you’re finished and, by the way, anyone who gets the wrong answer has to stay after class for remedial parenting.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this is Phase 2 of the State of Maryland’s continuing assault on Danielle and Alexander Meitiv. Read about it here (Washington Times, 4/13/15). And here (Daily Mail, 4/14/15). You remember them. They’re the Silver Spring parents who, back in December, had the audacity to allow their two kids to walk home from a park located a mile from their house. Then too the kids were picked up by the police and CPS ordered Alexander Meitiv to sign a safety plan or see his children taken into foster care. So coerced, he signed.

Then it came out that the Meitivs had violated no law, the one cited by CPS being clearly inapplicable to the situation. Under that law, children of a certain age may not be left at home without adult supervision, but of course the Meitiv kids weren’t home.

Undeterred, CPS investigated the non-event and decided that the Meitivs had committed that most Orwellian of infractions, “unsubstantiated child neglect.” Among those of us who speak English, if “neglect” is “unsubstantiated,” it can’t be called neglect. But CPS isn’t much interested in logic. By categorizing the incident in that way, CPS effectively keeps an open file on the Meitivs for the next five years. No, the Meitivs have done nothing wrong and no, the children weren’t hurt or in any danger, but their parents are now under the watchful and none too benevolent eye of Big Sister.

That brings us to Phase Two of the process that may well lead to foster care for the Meitiv children. At CPS, the Meitivs now have two allegations of neglect in their file. In neither case was there any reason why CPS was alerted, but my guess is that it won’t take but two more such non-events for CPS to get very serious with Alexander and Danielle. Exactly what that will consist of remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the Meitivs intend to continue “free-range parenting” their kids. That means they’ll allow them to walk to the store or the park or to a neighbor’s house. And as sure as the sunrise, those kids will be picked up again, turned over to CPS and more paper added to the Meitiv’s’ file.

In short, there is a showdown looming between Alexander and Danielle and their parenting practices, and CPS. CPS doesn’t like to lose. In state after state, case after case, we see child protective services acting like a government thug. All too often we see perfectly responsible parents targeted for punishment by CPS for the crime of asserting their constitutional rights.

But all should remember that CPS, like any governmental entity is bound by the Constitution. Think of them as the police. Just like the police, they can’t enter your residence without a warrant and just like the police, you don’t have to talk to them.

You have rights against CPS intrusion into your private life, but if you choose to assert them, you may end up with a target on your back. Time and again we see CPS personnel expecting parents to roll over for their heavy-handed tactics and resenting those who don’t. And of course they wield one of the most awesome powers of any governmental agency, the power to take your kids from you. Once that happens, it may be a long, long time before your children are safely back in your care.

Now, taking children who aren’t at risk from their parents is terribly traumatic for them and living in foster care only adds to their suffering. Forcing that on a child who’s not at risk could rightly be called child abuse, regardless of who does it, which brings us back to the little quiz I gave you at the beginning of this post.

Supposedly in the name of keeping children safe from harm, the police and CPS harmed the Meitiv children. They frightened them into getting into the police car, lied to them about going home, kept them for 5 ½ hours apart from their parents and incommunicado. And of course they refused to give the kids anything to eat. All of that is terrifying to the children who by now may well fear to go outside alone. Why wouldn’t they?

So it’s fair to say that the police and CPS abused the Meitiv children, but of course there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. They were just “doing their jobs.” Where have we heard that before?

My take on all this is that, among many other things, it’s an educational exercise on the part of CPS. And it’s not just the Meitivs who are getting the training. Their first case was hugely publicized online around the world with appropriate outrage at CPS’s behavior flowing in from all corners. But CPS soldiers on.

The lesson is that CPS can and will do what it likes regarding your children. Caseworkers and their supervisors don’t like parents who fail to kowtow to CPS power. The Meitivs are learning that the hard way and countless other parents are attending to their travail. They too will learn the lesson CPS seeks to teach – parents, regardless of how responsible and loving, go their own way at their own risk. Do you think you know best about how to raise your kids? Think again. CPS makes the rules and those who fail or refuse to abide by them do so at their peril and that of their children. It matters not that your children aren’t harmed or placed in danger.

One of those rules is that you can never believe the facts about children’s safety in this country and act accordingly. Those facts demonstrate that, on average, the risk of harm to children, particularly from strangers, is vanishingly small. In neighborhoods like the Meitivs’, it’s even smaller. So parents like them are perfectly safe in sending their kids off to the park to play, particularly given the children’s careful upbringing.

But to an astonishing degree, the issue is not about children’s safety; the issue is about CPS’s power. Parents must conform or pay the price because Big Sister knows best.

For now, the Meitivs vow to file a lawsuit against CPS, for which I applaud them. But the simple fact is that CPS is an arm of the state and thus has resources undreamed of by Alexander and Danielle.

We’ll see how this one plays out.

#childprotectiveservices, #childabuse, #childneglect, #constitutionalrights, #Meitivs

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