Friday, October 31, 2008

As the FLDS case evaporates

    The Associated Press reports that the FLDS case, in which 439 children were torn from their parents, warehoused in hideous makeshift compounds and then shoveled into foster care "has largely evaporated…"

    So it has. Cases involving 402 children have been dropped, only 37 children remain under court oversight, and only one child has been returned to foster care.

    What remains is the enormous damage done to these children in the name of "child protection."

    One of the lawyers assigned to represent a child taken in the raid – not the parents, the child – told Dallas television station KTVT of the lasting harm she has seen:

Younger children who've regressed to wetting their beds.  Toddlers who've regressed to wanting to breast feed, when they've already been weaned. They pulled off the raid very well, but they didn't pull off the cleanup well at all.

    In response a flack for the Texas CPS agency said the children got "the best care the state could provide…"

    The really scary thing about that comment is, it's true: The care those children got really was the best the state could do. And, in case anyone has forgotten just how great that care was, here are the statements of the only independent observers to witness that care, mental health professionals brought in by the state itself. Excerpts are here. Links to the full statements are here.

    And all that suffering was for nothing. The State of Texas accomplished nothing by tearing apart all these families that it could not have done with a careful case-by-case examination, followed by going to court in those cases where it could make a case for court supervision.

    Texas CPS will argue that just because they've dropped almost all the cases doesn't mean there was nothing wrong. They'll argue that they dropped the cases after the parents agreed to sign service plans or jump through other hoops.

So what? There's nothing to indicate they couldn't have gotten the same agreements without resorting to the child welfare equivalent of the nuclear option.

    And the fact that almost all the cases have been dropped doesn't mean all the children are safe. Consider this disturbing excerpt from the KTVT story:

Despite everything that's happened,[FLDS parent Ben] Barlow says it's part of their religion for older men to marry underage girls.  He had this interchange with reporter Jack Fink.

Fink:  "It's against the law… having an underage girl marry an older man."

Barlow:  "That's true, that's true.  But the state says you must put on your seatbelt.  Do you always wear your seatbelt?  Not always.  If the girls choose to, heaven bless them.  That's none of my business what they choose to do."

F ink:  "Do they have a choice?"
Barlow:  "Yes, they do."

Fink:  "So they can say no, 'I don't want to marry an older man'?"
Barlow:  "Yes, they can."

    But the fact that some children of some ages in some families might be in danger does not justify taking all children of all ages from all families. And because Texas CPS grossly overreacted and cried wolf so often, it's going to be that much harder to protect those children who might, in fact, be in real danger.

    But then, all along, Texas CPS has responded to criticism by saying that the way they responded to the allegations against the FLDS is the way they handle every case. That's true. And that, of course, is the greatest tragedy of all.