Monday, December 20, 2021

Lesson from an appalling case in Michigan: If you don’t conform in EVERY way, the family police are gunning for you.

It took the intervention of Michigan Attorney General
Dana Nessel to undo some of the damage done
to the children at the center of this case.

This one is so bad that it’s getting national attention, thanks to some great reporting by Roxanna Asgarian, who wrote about the case for New York Magazine. 

Here’s the story in a nutshell, though it no way does that do justice to the case, or the journalism: 

The mother, Katee Churchill lived in small, rural, conservative Clare County, Michigan.  She was in an abusive marriage – the father admitted to being violent and, at one point, Churchill took out a restraining order against him.  Starting when one of her children was three years old, he said he wanted to wear dresses and, sometimes, he wanted to be known by a girl’s name. (The child is now 11 and currently identifies as male.)  His mother consulted experts and followed their advice to allow him to express himself and not do anything to shame or stigmatize him. 

But then an anonymous caller turned the family in to the Michigan family policing agency. (Since all states allow and often encourage anonymous reporting, whoever did this to the family will never be held accountable.)   

All of the children were taken away.  Two of them were placed with the abusive father.  

And there is so much more: 

● Like the psychiatrist who implied that Mom was to blame for being a victim of domestic violence.  (He didn’t literally say “she was asking for it” but he came awfully close.)  The children wound up placed with the abuser. 

● Like the fact that, because states allow, even encourage, anonymous reports, (as opposed to confidential reports, in which the family policing agency itself must know who made the call) the person who initially did all this harm to the children by making such a call will never be held accountable.

● Like the fact that either this tiny Michigan county really is a cesspool of depravity, with proportionately nearly twice as much child abuse as Detroit – or they’re running around labeling poverty (yes, that also was an issue) being a domestic violence victim, supporting a child questioning gender identity and anything else they don’t happen to like as child abuse. 

● How, after a judge returned the children, the family police brought new charges.  And this time the prosecutor exploited a rarely-used demand for a jury trial to get the outcome she wanted. 

● How it took the intervention of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to stop things from getting even worse. 

● How the mother is still barred from certain jobs – because she’s on Michigan’s registry of “child abusers.” 

The story also makes clear that all parents of children questioning their gender identity have to expect that the family police are gunning for them and they need to be ready for it. 

From the story: 

Asaf Orr, the transgender youth project director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and one of the attorneys who represented Katee in her CPS case, said parents of trans kids are advised to compile a “safe folder” documenting their child’s transition with letters of support from pediatricians, pastors, and community members. “The whole purpose of the safe folder is to be able to show it to the CPS worker who knocks on your door because a teacher called CPS, or a community member or a parent of a friend,” Orr said, “to show the child-welfare systems you are not creating something in your child; this is you following your child’s lead.” 

And though it’s not in the story, someone might want to ask the group that calls itself “Children’s Rights” something like this: 

You have a consent decree (one of their worst, by the way) in Michigan.  (They’ll say these sorts of issues are not covered by the consent decree, which, of course, is exactly the problem, but they still have enormous influence over the system.)  In your endless fundraising emails you now claim that you actually care about keeping families together – though there is still no concrete evidence for this. 

So, Children’s Rights – what are you going to do about this?