Don’t Just Pray for the Kids, Pray for the Texas Doctors, Too

Many of you are praying for the welfare of the young children that have been taken away from their mothers and appear slated for the Texas Foster Care System. Some of you might be praying that the kids miraculously avoid the painfully large percentage of foster situations where children are physically and emotionally abused. Thank you! You might want to also add Texas doctors to your prayers. Since 2/3 of children in the Texas Foster Care System end up being required to take mind-altering drugs (according to a TV story by NBC displayed at Day of Praise), the doctors will face the difficult challenge of picking the right psychotropic drugs for most of these kids. And sadly, they have to do this with the annoyance of pesky outsiders second-guessing their work, outsiders like NBC News. It’s a lot of stress for these healthcare workers.

Kudos to Day Of Praise for posting a YouTube with the NBC story about the use of mind-altering drugs in the Texas Foster Care System. Kudos also to Dave’s Mormon Inquiry for some great coverage – and tough questions.

Given the well-known problems with foster care, I hope that it will only be used as a last resort when a child can be proven with reasonable evidence to be in genuine physical danger if allowed to stay with parent or relative. I think justice here requires attention to individuals, case by case, and not blanket treatment of groups.

Along these lines, Dave points to one of the painful ironies of this case with a tongue-in-cheek observation about rounding up Catholic kids, using the same logic (but perhaps with better factual evidence) that was applied to FLDS families. Ouch! (And remember, Dave’s not being serious. No more serious than I was in calling for raids on those poor Bunnies at Hef’s mansion. Humor-impaired and overly sensitive readers beware.)

Update: And yes, I know Child Protective Services folks are generally good people sincerely trying to protect children, having to walk a painfully difficult line between protecting children and respecting parental rights. Here in Wisconsin, they seem to be very careful. Based on what I know – yes, what little I know – I can’t imagine our Wisconsin agencies hauling away over 400 children from a community on the basis of such weak evidence. There are times when I think our folks could have taken more vigorous action, but in general I have pretty high respect for them. Maybe what happened in Texas was the right thing, but there are a lot of questions remaining to be answered. And I think it’s fair to ask, given the trauma now being inflicted on young children suddenly removed from their parents, perhaps permanently.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

121 thoughts on “Don’t Just Pray for the Kids, Pray for the Texas Doctors, Too

  1. Another good post Jeff. And after all the pre-judging of many posters from the last few days, we are starting to learn about the mysterious 33 year-old Sarah, who may have made the call as a hoax.

    Also CNN is now reporting (take that for what it means) that most likely the bed in the temple was not used for sex. Let’s have the facts come out 100% before making judgment.

    Don’t construe my comments for approval of the lifestyle, but I think it looks like everyone might have stepped over the line in supposing things before the facts came out. Of course, we in the America never do that…

  2. Now you’re going all Scientologist raising the red flag of drug therapy when you must be aware what the rate of antidepressant use within the LDS is.

    You really need to calm down and let the facts of this case emerge.

    Everyone is interested in the welfare of the women and children. And what that may be will only be clear when there are facts rather than conjecture or defensiveness.

    anonymous alice

  3. Dear Jeff,

    I want to preface my comments by stating that I am an avid reader of your blog. Although I am not a Christian, I am an avid reader of your blog. While I do not share your religious and political beliefs, I am sometimes awed by the depth and breadth of your intelligence concerning a number of issues. Most “Christians” seem to accept their faith uncritically, and I find the intricacy and passion of your apologetics to be incredibly refreshing. I wish most non-LDS Christians spent a quarter of the time reflecting upon the tenets of their own faith that you do. So, while I may disagree with your beliefs, I have a profound respect your beliefs because of the formidable critical thinking in which you engage.

    As a former social worker for CPS in another state, I have intimate knowledge into how these agencies operate. I would like to clear up some understandable misconceptions about the process currently unfolding in Texas. I can understand how many people feel that the state has abused its authority in this case. I will concede that it is certainly possible that CPS in Texas has in fact overreacted. If they have in fact done so, then there is no possible way that CPS will be able to keep these children away from their parents on a permanent basis.

    Contrary to popular misconception, it is extremely difficult to terminate parental rights, even in cases where abuse has been substantiated by a court of law. Because I do not have all of the information in this case, I do not feel comfortable commenting on whether or not Texas CPS has acted appropriately in this case. I would also like to remind your readers that although some information has been made public by the authorities, many facts cannot be released to the public due to laws regarding the confidentiality of minors.

    Here is the process mandated by federal law that must occur before the rights of these parents can be terminated:

    1) Even though the judge in this case has determined that there is just cause to keep the children in custody for now, this does not mean that the parents have lost their parental rights. The next step in this case is called “dependency investigation” in which CPS has the burden of showing that the children must become wards of the state. This is a rather intensive process where social workers must meet with the families and determine whether or not abuse has occurred on a case by case basis. The social worker must provide a report along with evidence to the judge to justify making each child a ward of the state. Clearly, not all of the kids on the ranch have suffered abuse, nor are all children in danger of suffering immediate abuse. At this point of the investigation, it is likely (indeed probably) that some children will be returned to their parents.

    2) For those cases in which actual abuse has been substantiated and the children have been declared wards of the court, federal law dictates that CPS must begin to provide family reunification services.

    3)For children under the age of 3, federal law dictates that family reunification services can last 6 months. For children over the age of 3, family reunification services may last from 12-18 months (and in some cases an additional 6 months). The court has the discretion to deny family reunification services in circumstances where the abuse is of such a nature (sexual abuse, severe physical abuse) that return to the family is LIKELY to result in further abuse of an egregious nature that poses a direct threat to the child’s life.

    The type of family reunification services mandated by the court depend upon the type of abuse perpetrated by the parents. In the case of children who have not been subjected to sexual abuse but have bee found to suffer from physical abuse, I would imagine that the court-ordered case
    plan would involve parenting classes, psychological evaluations,individual therapy for parents, supervised visitation of children with parents (except in the case of sexual abuse, which most likely applies to the fathers) and a court order prohibiting the parents from participating in illegal activities (such as polygamy, although this remains to be seen).

    The CPS agency must provide these services to the parents because federal law dictates that CPS must make “reasonable efforts” to reunite families. If the parents meet the goals of the case plan, the court has no choice but to return the children who have not been sexually abused to their parents. If the parents refuse to cooperate with the court-ordered case plan, then the social worker may recommend a hearing for the termination of parental rights.

    Terminating parental rights is not exactly an easy process. I have had cases with parents who are crack addicts that have physically abused their children in unspeakable ways without making the first effort to follow the court-ordered case plan.

    Despite the misconceptions of many people responding to your blogs, courts are NOT eager to terminate parental rights. In fact, federal law sets the bar rather high for doing so.

    I share the frustration of many of your readers with how this case was handled. I also feel incredible pain for the children and mothers who have been torn apart. While I find the beliefs and practices of the FLDS members to be repugnant, I do believe that the wholesale removal of every child from the compound was an overreaction (based on the information reported in the media, which, I would like to remind your readers does not contain the whole story due to the confidential nature of many aspects of the hearings because of the involvement of minors).

    Given the unorthodox nature of how the initial hearings were conducted, I suspect that the attorneys for the parents (and many of the children) will file a flurry of appeals.

    I agree that the removal of children who were not being abused by their parents is doubtlessly traumatic for the children. However, CPS may have very well saved many girls from being raped again by adult men in the FLDS church.

    I suspect that many of the children will ultimately be returned to their parents as the process unfolds. However, your readers who believe that the fact that authorities cannot locate the girl who originally made allegations of abuse means that CPS has no grounds to investigate the allegations do not understand that CPS agencies do not have a choice in investigating allegations of abuse.

    So before you guys begin circling the wagons and start getting paranoid that CPS might be coming for your kids next, relax. If you aren’t raping or beating your kids, you have nothing to worry about. Unless there is a dramatic change in federal law permitting the removal of children from religious groups with “unacceptable doctrines” (that do not involve impregnating underage girls), all of you LDS folks are safe. And the US Constitution prohibits the establishment of just such a law.

    I would refer your readers to the following link to learn about the family reunification imperative in federal law: http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm?doc_id=210483

  4. i realized that I started off in my previous entry writing something akin to the “Department of Redundancy Department”. My apologies.

  5. Should have proofread before submitting:

    The paragraph that reads:

    “Terminating parental rights is not exactly an easy process. I have had cases with parents who are crack addicts that have physically abused their children in unspeakable ways without making the first effort to follow the court-ordered case plan.” The next sentence should have been: “In many cases, their rights were not terminated”

  6. Good points. In fact, I have a hard time understanding some of the horror stories – real, documented, reliable horror stories – that they report with their experiences with CPS in some states like Texas and Michigan, when my arms-length experiences with CPS in Wisconsin has been positive, with my main complain being that they seem to have ignored some problems I thought were really obvious. But in general, I have to tip my hat to CPS people in Wisconsin for being pretty careful and respectful, in my opinion. Sorry if I’m wrong – it happens!

    And I would imagine that the vast majority of CPS workers in every state are legitimately doing their best to protect children, based on what they know, what they are told, and what their operating rules are. If there is a serious error, as I fear there may be in Texas, it may be due to a small number of people in power as opposed to a general fault to be laid at the feet of CPS workers in general.

    Good grief, we live in such a difficult age when there are terrible risks faced both by children and by parents who are wrongly accused. Balancing these risks is a delicate matter, and requires strict attention to proper procedures, respect for rights, etc. Blanket actions taken against a community strike me as raising prima facie doubts about justice and due process.

  7. Alice, I’m not the one who raised the red flag of psychotropic drug use on children in foster care in Texas. Nor was it Tom Cruise and his pals. It came from a seemingly credible news story that has not been refuted, as far as I know. So do you have evidence to the contrary? Is the report of 2 out of 3 foster kids being on mind-altering drugs in error? Is it only 50%, for instance? 40%?

    Alice, I’m not sure it’s correct – news stories are often wrong and slanted. But there are some credible people being interviewed pointing to problems with excessive medicating of foster kids (heck, regular kids with healthy parents seem to be too medicated for my tastes, but it doesn’t take a Scientologist to ask questions about that). And one of the realities of the Texas Foster Care system is that many kids placed in it will fall through the cracks and/or be given mind-altering drugs that their real parents might object to. So let’s hope the doctors are careful in what they prescribe. Seems worth a moment of prayer to me.

    But for the record, I am not a Scientologist and try to stay as far away from their compounds as possible. When the authorities haul their kids away, I don’t want to be close.

  8. Yet another correction: AFSA took place in 1997, not 1980. Sorry, I typed this out in a hurry as I have a lot to do today 🙂

  9. The neverending comments of the above CPS worker:

    As far as the ASFA of 1997 is concerned, republicans in Congress refused to fully fund the act. This leaves CPS agencies in the unenviable position of having a federal mandate to pursue family reunification without the resources for doing so. I am not trying to spark an ideological war here, but the fact is that the unwillingness of Republicans to fund ASFA has placed CPS social workers in the unenviable position of having to feed the 5000 with a few crumbs of bread and some rotten fish heads. As a result, the family reunification rate is shamefully low. Regardless of your political affiliation, I would encourage you and all of your readers to write your representative in Congress and demand that they fully fund ASFA. Otherwise, parents will not have the resources to improve their lives so that they may be reunited with their children.

    As a PhD student, I have done a great deal of research on this issue. Until ASFA receives adequate funding, CPS is helpless to provide these families with the resources that will empower them to meet the requirements for reunification. I would imagine that LDS members in particular would have no trouble in seeing the injustice perpetrated on these families when the services they are required to receive by law are woefully inadequate, thereby resulting in the dissolution of families that may have had a chance if Congress actually provided the funding needed for CPS to provide these services. I know many LDS people are Republicans, and I don’t begrudge them their political beliefs. However, I hope that you will see the horrible injustice the Republicans have perpetrated on children and families by requiring family reunification without giving states the means to achieve this goal.

  10. Response to Jeff from the verbose former CPS worker:

    Jeff, you may be wrong about some issues, but I think that by and large your thoughts and opinions tend to focus on facts, with the occasional foray into a emotionally-induced diatribe. But who doesn’t do that from time to time.

    Your blog has a great deal of impact, and for good reason I might add. I really am in awe of how carefully researched many of your entries are. If you would be interested in talking to me about CPS so I can address some of your concerns (many of which I happen to share), let me know and I will contact you via email and perhaps we can have a chat by phone.

    I am NOT a huge CPS supported for a variety of reasons, so you won’t have to worry about talking to a mindless CPS-indoctrinated zombie 🙂

  11. “So before you guys begin circling the wagons and start getting paranoid that CPS might be coming for your kids next, relax. If you aren’t raping or beating your kids, you have nothing to worry about.”

    I assume, then, that you are convinced that every one of those mothers whose 400+ children were taken away were raping and beating their kids, right? Otherwise they would have had nothing to worry about, right?

    Or is it that they were congregating with and associating with a few people who may have been abusing their kids? So maybe you mean we’re OK as long as we aren’t part of a group, church, community, neighborhood, ethnic group, or apartment complex where child abuse might occur, in which case we should worry?

    That’s good enough for me, so I’m taking your advice and relaxing. But you can bet I’m not letting anyone know I used to associate with a questionable and abusive group like the Republicans! Based on what I read in the comments above, it sounds like they are the ultimate sources of child abuse (not to mention foreign policy abuse and domestic fiscal abuse). Might be a good time for another anonymous call.

  12. Jeff, it’s clear we come down on a different side of what the children’s best interest is, but I hope it’s equally clear that the children’s best interest is what we all hope will be accomplished.

    Can I ask sincerely if you think it’s possible for there to be a culture of abuse? And if YfZ turns out, when the facts are established, to be a culture where children were denied education or any awareness of or access to alternatives, where physical abuse happened with regularity, where individuality was extinguished, where behavior was rigidly controlled by force and/or other intimidation, where a significant number of the adult males were predatory toward young females and where adult females were infantilized so that they were incapable of defending the safety of their underage daughers — IF being the key word — what would your response to the CPS’ removal of children for the purposes of gathering information be?

    anonymous alice

  13. Mormanity wrote:

    “I assume, then, that you are convinced that every one of those mothers whose 400+ children were taken away were raping and beating their kids, right? Otherwise they would have had nothing to worry about, right?

    Or is it that they were congregating with and associating with a few people who may have been abusing their kids? So maybe you mean we’re OK as long as we aren’t part of a group, church, community, neighborhood, ethnic group, or apartment complex where child abuse might occur, in which case we should worry?

    That’s good enough for me, so I’m taking your advice and relaxing. But you can bet I’m not letting anyone know I used to associate with a questionable and abusive group like the Republicans! Based on what I read in the comments above, it sounds like they are the ultimate sources of child abuse (not to mention foreign policy abuse and domestic fiscal abuse). Might be a good time for another anonymous call.”

    Holy straw man batman!

    Did you read what I wrote? Apparently not.

    It is a fact that the Republicans refused to fund ASFA. How does that lead you to the conclusion that I stated all Republicans abuse their children?

    C’mon Jeff. You are smarter than that. If your neighbor reported you to CPS and they came in and investigated, would they find evidence of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect (such as not feeding them, not sending them to school or homeschooling them, etc)? If not, then you do not have anything to worry about. They will investigate and go away.

    Please stop putting words in my mouth.

  14. Yo, that was a facetious comment. Sorry if you thought I was serious. I guess I need to put more {sarcasm on}{sarcasm off} signals to help out here. I thought the reference to Republicans would be clear enough. It was a satirical or hyperbolic way of making the point, though, that one person’s worldview might just be another person’s culture of abuse.

    Punishing people (rounding them up, taking kids away, etc.) for their culture and beliefs as opposed to documented, specific, individual violations of the law opens up a dangerous trend. And when something like the Cultural Revolution takes place, jailing Republicans for their thought crimes suddenly becomes a little less of a hypothetical strawman from a sarcastic blogger and a little more of a matter of life and death for those who don’t yield. It’s happened in several nations in this century – why not ours?

  15. And if you think dealing with the authorities after being falsely accused by a bitter neighbor or hoaxster from Colorado is always a simple matter, you’re dead wrong. This is where the real horror stories of many people come in.

    It’s far worse than having the IRS accuse you of cheating on taxes. Now even when you are an honest tax payer, if an IRS official believes you’re cheating, you can spend months, maybe years, and a lot of money trying to prove that you are innocent.

    Is it possible that at least one of the women in El Dorado was not an abuser and was a good, kind, protective mother who was keeping her young children safe, perhaps even preparing to leave and return to normalcy? Could there be a mother there whose only sin was believing silly stuff and who would never have let her child be physically harmed and who would have trained him to be kind and respectful to women? If so, will justice be swift and easy as you suggest? Will the authorities be back to her with her crying six-year-old son tomorrow and say, “Sorry, Ma’am. Here’s your boy back. Took us a couple days to realize you weren’t a rapist after all. Sorry for any inconvenience.” Or is there a chance that she’ll have to hire attorneys and spend months or years fighting to prove her innocence and convince the system to let her have her children back?

    I appreciate what you’re tying to say, and we all would like to think that the system would work that way, but government agencies in practice tend to be Kafkaesque rather than Utopian. It’s best to stay out of their gunsights, and it will take a whole lot of healing to recover once they pull the trigger.

  16. Jeff,
    Great post, as usual. One small nit to pick…DayOfPraise. (not DayOrPraise. Sorry, but I’ve got proofreading OCD. -cp

  17. Put an “)” in my post. AAARGHH! A typo!!

    And my post was in reference to the hyperlink in the article. The link is correct, but you’ve got “DayOrPraise” in the paragraph.

    v/r -cp