Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Madonna is under fire by human rights 'activists' who claim that her adoption of a black child from Africa broke Malawi law and should be overturned, despite the wishes of the surviving biological parent and the child's village. A mother is told by a social worker that her child is going to be taken away and adopted out to another parent, and murders the social worker and tries to escape with her child. An unknown number of children in foster care are beaten and raped, and even killed. Yet in some cases, clearly some parents simply should't be allowed to have children, because any child in their custody is at risk for their life.

A sentence in the last article above perhaps is the key to all these: We have all these people that are saying this little girl is being sexually abused and no one's opinion matters except the DHS worker.

Removing a child from the custody of his or her parents is a momentous decision. Yet it is being made by social workers who have little training or expertise (my experience with social workers as a teacher who had close contact with many of them during my teaching career is that they are, in general, rather dim and have rather enormous biases and blind spots), or by judges who have no training or expertise in child rearing or child psychology other than that which happened by them surviving their own childhood. Any single human being, or even this penguin, has biases and opinions that affect our judgement. That is why the U.S. Constitution set up a jury system.

But apparently the same "experts" who cannot maintain a safe foster care system, who make up phantom children to get more money from the state and feds, who break up relationships where there is no evidence that there is any danger to a child, who take children away who are not being abused because their parents are not well educated and who leave children in homes where they are being abused because their parents are well educated and capable of snow-jobbing the less-well-educated social worker, apparently lawyers turned judges who have no training or background in child psychology, apparently these "experts" are more qualified to detirmine whether a child should stay with or be taken away from his or her parents than a jury of twelve?

I'm sorry. That provision of the Constitution was put there for a reason. Yes, a judge knows the law better. Yes, a child psychologist knows child rearing better. But a jury of twelve knows justice better. And justice, in the end, is what is lacking here. The notion that one possibly-biased person can better judge whether a child should be permenantly removed from his home than a jury of twelve is simply un-American. What you end up with is kids who get killed by abusive parents because the parents are, in the biased opinion of one person, "good" parents, and kids being taken away because the parents are, in the biased opinion of one person, "bad" parents... and no justice. Especially no justice for the kids, who are fucked (often literally) either way...

-- Badtux the Justice Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 10/20/2006 02:17:00 PM  


I couldn't disagree with you more on this, BT. Maybe you are basing this on how seriously you would take your responsibility if you were BT the Juror Penguin. But having seen the actual functionings of juries, I'd say I am much more happy to have the decision lie with judges (most of whom are dedicated to a family law docket and therefore do have tremendous experience with these issues) and with social workers and the departmental lawyers they consult with before making parental termination decisions. The things your average juror will focus on in deciding "the facts" many times borders on bizarre. If you think the juries who would decide these types of issues would be largely people like you, I think you are very much mistaken. If you have any interest, wander into a municple courtroom in a large American city and see the quality of the jurors to whom you would entrust such significant (life and death, really) decisions. I think you would be appalled at the prospect.

I do not disagree with you that many social welfare departments are dysunctional. That many times the case workers are over-loaded, underqualified and definitely underpaid. But let's put that in the context of 20+ years of this mania to cut the "bloated government" by repeatedly cutting taxes. Those tax cuts from the state (and city) budget hit somewhere, and programs for the underprivileged or the dysfunctional were the easy targets. (They don't have lobbyists to protect their interests, except public interest groups, many of which are themselves underfunded.)

Do I wish these types of agencies functioned perfectly? Hell, even marginally better? Of course I do. And with some more resources, I believe they would function better. But I also believe that most of the people who choose to work in this field, notwithstanding the formidable challenges, by and large are well intentioned and dedicated people. I think they do the best they can under very very difficult circumstances.
# posted by Red State Blues : 20/10/06 4:18 PM  

I see that all the time, do gooders sticking thier noses where they don't belong. You have to wonder if they have children of their own, and how they are doing raising them. It's like I keep saying, I'm surrounded by fucking idiots.
# posted by BBC : 20/10/06 7:45 PM  

Juries are limited to a consideration of the "facts" presented upon oath of truthfulness.
That means that they should not consider the way mom has tattooed her wrist. Or the way dad cuts his hair. UNLESS that is presented as a relevent fact.
Experts operate on a different plane. One in which they have too much power and too little influence.
Who is served?
The parents?
The Department?
The culture?
The kid?

As a culture we denigrate kids.

Then we wonder why they are _ _ _ (fill in your own answer)

-- ml the disgruntled Dum Luks
# posted by Dum Luk's : 20/10/06 8:18 PM  

I was in foster homes after the age of 12. Things were different in the foster homes but only that different things were happening. I am sure there are good families who welcome foster children into their family structure and provide safe and nurturing homes. At least, I fervently and truly hope so. You said that "removing a child from the custody of his or her parents is a momentous decision." I believe that most of the time it is necessary, and sometimes it is the difference between life and death.
# posted by The TechnoBabe : 20/10/06 8:35 PM  

Well, there's a saying, "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I've had a fair amount of contact with social workers in my time. And yes, they're overloaded, underqualified, underpaid, and well intentioned. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I simply do not trust one person, no matter how well intentioned, to make decisions of this importance to a child and his family. And one person is, in the end, who is making these decisions. Once a social worker has proven her chops, virtually nobody double-checks her decisions -- everybody from the review committee to the judge simply rubber-stamps it perfunctorially. That's how the system works. That is how it has worked since 1973, when the current system was set up by the Mondale Act which took child welfare decisions away from the regular courts and put them into special courts that operate under "guilty until proven innocent" rules under conditions of utter secrecy with no scrutiny or oversight by ordinary citizens.

I have one question to you: Are fewer children being raped or killed today than in 1973, when the current system was set up? Has Big Government, secrecy, and lack of public scrutiny delivered anything that the prior system which included normal jury trials did not deliver?

As a Libertarian I am extremely skeptical of social engineering efforts on the part of government, no matter how well intended. I don't agree with the "spare the rod and spoil the child" types, but I don't think it's my business to tell them how to raise children as long as the child's life is not in danger. As a Tuxologist I am extremely skeptical of the tactics that are shown by the movie "Jesus Camp" for indoctrinating children into what I consider to be a heretical faith, but those kids will survive it and generally become productive members of society, so I don't think it's my place to tell those parents they're committing child abuse. But I've personally witnessed children being yanked from loving parents because said parents were poor and ignorant and lacked the education and resources to cope with their child's mental illness. I've seen children being yanked from their parents because the parents are practicing Wiccans and the social worker is a Christian fundamentalist. I've seen children being yanked from their parents because their parents are traditional Baptists and the social worker is a left-wing Marxist atheist.

We are putting too much power into the hands of a single fallible person who may not even realize that he or she is biased. Do you really believe that the human rights group is objecting to Madonna's adoption of an African child due to legal issues? Or is it because they do not agree with her moral values? If you think that single social workers are immune to the same biases, you, sir, are living in a bubble, and need to get out in the world more.

In the end, life-changing questions of this sort are simply too important to be left in the hands of one person -- no matter how bizarre you think a jury's decisions are, at least it's a jury's decision, not one person's. There's a reason why Thomas Jefferson wrote that whole trial by jury thing into the Constitution, and it ain't 'cause he thought twelve ordinary people were better lawyers than a trained judge!

-Badtux the Libertarian Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 20/10/06 9:35 PM  


Once again I agree with you. This decision is too important to be made by one person. I've seen the results myself and it wasn't pretty to watch.

Life is going to be difficult for the boy Madonna wants to adopt. No matter if he stays where he is or if he goes with her. If he goes with her he has more chances at a good life. Period. I survived living in a mixed race household and my parents didn't have money.

Besides, in a hundred years the world should be relatively homogenous in color, kids do have a tendency to go their own way.
# posted by Deb : 21/10/06 9:11 AM  

here's my take on social workers. while they're in grad school they read one book. they then use that one book to diagnose themselves and begin their course of self-treatment. once licensed, by some strange quirk of coincidence, every single client that comes through the door is, you guessed it, a fellow sufferer of that same self-diagnosed and treated disorder! what a funny funny world.
# posted by The Minstrel Boy : 21/10/06 2:13 PM  

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