Abolish Child Protective Services

Standing in an office while two kids beg me to go back to their home, I begin retreating back into my inner-child. I imagine how I would have felt if I was seven years old and a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator told me I couldn’t stay with my mom anymore. Their mother had committed the crime of respecting the children’s desire to play outside.

Paperwork has already been checked by the supervisor, the judge has backed it, and now I have to find a placement. I put them in my car and we drive. The tears continue, my guilt is overwhelming, and I grant them over to a temporary shelter. Two court proceedings, tens of thousands of dollars out of the mother’s pocket, and five bottles of ADHD medications for the kids later, the mom is given back her children. All because she let them play outside.

Guilt is what led me to where I am today. Guilt for kidnapping children for the state, and guilt for being an anti-drug warrior. It has led me to become a child advocate, an author of a book on the subject, and an anti-reformer. There is no reforming CPS, and there is no reforming the government.

The entirety of government’s power comes from its promise of reform. No one believes the government is perfect, but nearly everyone believes it can be changed to benefit them. When you see the tears of children begging for their mother, when you see children drugged because the government gives incentives for doing so, and when children die in part because of your actions as a CPS drone, you stop believing in reform.

I fell for political hope. I had faith I could be the good guy working for the state — that I would be different. We all imagine that we’ll be the hero in our story, but I was not. My faith is gone and reason has replaced it. The state is a religion and the political reformers are keeping the faith strong. The only way out is complete abolition.

Abolition Because of the Actions They Have Committed

There are over 400,000 children in Child Protective Services care in America. Eighty percent of those cases are not for physical or sexual abuse, but rather parental negligence. Negligence can mean the child is playing outside, is too fat, doesn’t like school, or — as in forty percent of cases — is for the parent using marijuana.

Foster kids are seven to eight times more likely to be abused than normal children, and nearly half will end up homeless when they age out of the system at eighteen. They are three times more likely to be put on psychotropic drugs, and they are seven times more likely to develop an eating disorder. They are more likely to have PTSD than veterans of war, and less likely to recover from that PTSD. They are more likely to become pregnant as a teenager. They are also twenty percent more likely to be arrested. And tragically, they are six times more likely to die than if they stayed in an abusive family household. These citations, and many other like them can be found on my website, Legally Kidnapped.

What makes all of this disaster possible is the horrendous (and expensive) CPS training practices, the perverse incentives to remove children, and the very basis of CPS’s funding. In training, we were told how to tell if people are lying by checking which direction they looked when they spoke (debunked), the unfailing validity of eyewitness testimony (debunked), and how the world is more dangerous for children than ever (debunked).

Perhaps CPS’s biggest problem is its evidentiary standard. CPS cases can be based on something that happened years ago and not even something that a witness saw firsthand. The agency uses evidence that is based on a memory of a story that a witness overheard years ago. How’s that for reliability?

The investigator is actually told not to record the information taken during interviews word for word. Instead, they’re instructed to take notes and to use their judgment in entering the notes into a database in narrative form.  In other words, the investigator creates a story based on their own memory of another person’s memory, which person may not have even seen the alleged abuse. Fantastic. This third (or even fourth) hand story is considered evidence strong enough for life-altering legal action.

All of this is done despite an array of information documenting CPS’s extreme faultiness. Yet, CPS maintains a massive budget subsidized by the very parents they terrorize. This is the nature of government. Abolitionism is the only ethical stance in the face of a coercive agency like Child Protective Services.

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