|Geographically, Castle Rock and Aurora are less than 30 miles away.|
But when it comes to what happens to those investigated for "child neglect"
they can be worlds apart.
All over the country, there are efforts to pass what should be called “right to childhood laws” – that is, very good laws specifying that, no, it is not “neglect” if you use your common sense to decide when your child is old enough play by himself in a playground, or walk to or from school by herself, or watch younger siblings while you work late on evening, etc. – in other words, all the things children did routinely before the days of fearmongering, helicopter parenting and endless messages to call child protective services about anything and everything.
In Colorado, news accounts have focused on the story of Brinley Sheffield, who took a solo run around her neighborhood in the affluent community of Castle Rock when she was seven years old. She’d previously run the same route with her mother, Christa. Brinley did have a scary experience -- she thought she was being followed. And she was. But not by a kidnapper. She was being tailed by a local busybody who was apparently horrified by the sight of a child getting some exercise in the neighborhood, and then walking into her own home – by herself!!!
But that was only the first scare for Brinley. The busybody, no doubt proud to be performing her civic duty, called the police. That, of course, was even scarier. The prospect of being under police investigation is enough to scare any seven-year-old – and to make any parent second-guess her or his every move. Both are inherently harmful to children. As Brinley said: “I started to cry because I was scared. I thought I was going to get in big trouble.”
But that is as bad as it got.
Christa Sheffield said the police officer was “respectful and understanding.” So the case was closed – in fact, no case was ever even opened.
Meanwhile, in Aurora…
Now, let's go less than 30 miles north of Castle Rock, to Aurora. Vanessa Peoples was at a family gathering in a park when her two-year-old son wandered away. He was gone for all of a minute, but by then another woman and found him – and called the police.
One month later, police entered Peoples’ home – guns drawn – along with child protective services caseworkers. As family defense attorney Diane Redleaf writes in Reason magazine, (I’ll link to it below) by the time they were done
police had hauled Peoples out of her home and hog-tied her: wrists handcuffed behind her back and tied to her legs, which were in shackles. “You know how you tie a pig upside down and his feet are hanging from the stick?” Peoples tells Reason. “That’s how they carried me.”
But you don’t have to take Ms. Peoples’ word for it. Watch the bodycam footage – but don’t watch it quite yet, since it might prompt you to jump to a conclusion that some of America’s leading child welfare “scholars” want you to know couldn’t possibly correct.
It concerns what could possibly account for why these two families, living in towns less than 30 miles apart in the same state facing remarkably similar allegations, were treated so differently.
Because, you see, if you do look at the photo of Brinley Sheffield and her mother in one of the news stories, and then if you watch the bodycam footage in the Reason story about Ms. Peoples, (OK, you can look now) you might be tempted to conclude that there is racial bias in child welfare.
But of course, that can’t possibly be. Notwithstanding cases such as these, and notwithstanding a wealth of data, we have been assured by everyone from Emily Putnam-Hornstein, America’s foremost evangelist for using “predictive analytics” – or, as it should be called, computerized racial profiling -- in child welfare, to Dean Richard Barth of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, that child welfare practitioners are so vastly superior to their counterparts in every other walk of life that they have eradicated racial bias in their field.
So I guess we’ll never know why Christa Sheffield and Vanessa Peoples were treated so differently.