47-year-old archaeology professor Chris Ratte is perhaps not the most careful of parents; he says he didn’t realize when he bought a $7 “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” at a Tigers game, it was an alcoholic beverage (all of 10 proof), and let his 7-year-old son Leo drink the 12-ounce bottle. A vendor noticed the boy with the drink; the boy had no symptoms of inebriation but said he was nauseated; and stadium officials, in a prime example of defensive overreaction, summoned an ambulance, which found Leo fine with no trace of alcohol in his system.
Silly enough so far, no harm, no foul, but Michigan Child Protective Services intervened, held Leo in foster care for two days (refusing to release him to the custody of his aunts, who drove from New England on short notice for just such a possibility), and forced Ratte to move out of the house until a second hearing okayed his return. If Ratte and his wife weren’t upper-middle-class academics with access to the University of Michigan Law School clinic professors, it could have been much worse. “Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university’s Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple’s case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.” (Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press, Apr. 28 (h/t B.C.)).
Some policy proposals are for taxpayers to fund attorneys to defend parents victimized by Child Protective Services; some go so far as to call it a constitutional right, albeit one having nothing to do with the underlying text of the Constitution. But that would only treat the symptom and ossify the underlying problem of abusive government intervention into the home.