“Lose one child … then lose them all.”

by Walter Olson on July 17, 2012

“Parents who transport a youngster without a car seat and lose the child in a fatal traffic accident may have their surviving children removed by social welfare authorities, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously.” [Maura Dolan, L.A. Times via Ann Althouse, whose commentary is borrowed for the headline]

{ 11 comments }

1 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.17.12 at 6:55 am

I saw this thoughtful comment on Ann Althouse’s blog:

> Matthew Sablan said…
>I don’t have kids, and I know that you don’t do that with small children. I think though, in this case, that is just the excuse to act on this:
>”County social workers received a report a week later that Valerie’s siblings, Ethan, 3, and Jesus, 8 months old, were being neglected.
>The county investigated and determined that the children lived in a household with about 20 people. They also found evidence of unsanitary conditions and reported that the children were dirty and appeared unsupervised. Ethan was suffering from severe developmental delays and had rotten teeth that required extraction, according to the court.”
>Which isn’t how law is supposed to work. But, I can see wanting to help the other kids if this is true.
>7/6/12 9:25 AM
[end of quoted post from Ann Althouse's blog]

HSC: It sounds like the NYPD using overzealous enforcement of jaywalking laws to trawl for people carrying illegal weapons or ignoring arrest warrants. The end may be desirable (eg NYC’s vastly lowered murder rate), but the means is troubling.

2 Robert 07.17.12 at 7:57 am

Many times, when a parent loses a child through gross negligence, the parents aren’t prosecuted under the odd legal theory of “hasn’t the parent suffered enough?”

It’s refreshing to see a court abandon this theory.

3 Stella Baskomb 07.17.12 at 9:12 am

“It’s refreshing to see a court abandon this theory.”

Yes.

It would be even more refreshing to see the courts try to prevent the automobile deaths of children in the first place.

What I mean is, let the courts immediately order removal of all children of licensed drivers, and place them in the custody of the state.

This would be only a start–but it’s a start. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

4 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.17.12 at 10:07 am

@Robert–
I don’t see “gross” negligence in an accident caused by the other driver. But it sounds like there may have been cumulative neglect on other issues.

@Stella Bascomb–

[irony continued]
And don’t forget, most cases of child abuse involve close relatives and family members. State authorities must remove all children from their families now! If even one more child is abused during delay, we could never forgive ourselves!
[end irony]

5 DEM 07.17.12 at 11:16 am

Let’s focus on this part of the story and forget, for now, the other allegations of neglect:

“William was en route to a hospital in June 2009 after his daughter, Valerie, fell off a bed and injured her arm, according to court records. William said he had loaned his car, which contained a car seat, to someone else and drove another vehicle to the hospital with the injured daughter on her aunt’s lap. He suffered “extreme remorse” after the accident, the court said.”

This does not sound unreasonable; it is the sort of thing many responsible parents might do in a situation where the child needs urgetnt medical care. Yet the “solution” to this tragedy will be to break up what is left of this family and tell two small children that they can’t see their father again.

6 robert 07.17.12 at 11:24 am

Well, what do you think about this case

http://blog.thenewstribune.com/crime/2012/03/14/3-year-old-accidentally-shoots-kills-himself-at-tacoma-gas-station/

where no charges were filed. Surely there’s some “child endangerment” statue on the books….

7 anon 07.17.12 at 11:59 am

let’s see what they mean by filthy. i once crossed paths with cps; their report stated my house was “filthy with dirty dishes all over the house and animal feces through out.” the actual fact was one cobweb on a bookcase, the dirty dishes were plates the kids were eating off of at the time and the only animal feces were in the litter box. so don’t forget that grain of salt.

8 spo 07.17.12 at 12:39 pm

One slip and you lose your kids forever. Glad I live in a free society.

9 AMcA 07.17.12 at 4:41 pm

To think I rode around in an open basket in the back of my mother’s MG-TD roadster.

Seriously, though: it seems to me the Supreme Court might have something to say about this. Family relationships are highly protected under the Constitution. This kind of speculative protection – the kid might get hurt by negligence as opposed to intentional harm – strikes me as a nice bright line.

10 blhlls 07.17.12 at 6:28 pm

The stories reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of California law. The opinion concerned the legal basis for a finding of dependency, which is a prerequisite to removal (except for a short period if serious harm is threatened before an initial detention hearing can take place). The prosecuting agency must still establish a current threat of serious harm by clear and convincing evidence to justify removal.

11 single dad 07.22.12 at 6:59 pm

I had an employee whose child was removed from school by DSS (what we call CPS in my state) in the middle of the day and placed in protective custody because a teacher thought she overheard something which indicated (to her) child abuse. It cost my employee an enormous amount of money and time, plus he nearly lost his main employment as a firefighter over this. DSS’ motto: ‘Guilty until proven innocent’.

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