Recently the state of Massachusetts has been awarded custody of a teenager. Her name is Justina Pelletier. She is from Connecticut. Her family, on the advise of her physicians, took her to Boston for some more treatments. Justina was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease but was being treated and was able to have an active life, ice skating, going to school. A minor complication arose and her physician recommended she see a specialist in Boston. This is where the story takes a terrifying (for any parent) turn. In Boston, instead of being allowed to see the recommended specialist, she was seen by a resident in the ER, who decided she didn't have mitochondrial disease, instead she had somataform disorder- essentially physically symptoms with no physical cause, its all in her head. When the parents disagreed and wanted to take her back to her doctors the Boston hospital said the parents were committing medical child abuse and took custody of her. This was 13 months ago. Since then her parents have been allowed hourly visits. She has not been able to attend school since she was taken into custody (and her treatments for mitochondrial disease discontinued) because her condition has deteriorated so much. And now the judge has ruled the state of Massachusetts has custody.
This should scare parents to death. It scares me. We are living in a country that is beginning to adopt the idea that children do not belong to parents, they are community property. Parental rights are being taken away at an alarming rate. I would love to be honest with my pediatrician but I live in fear that if I admit I'm not always following the recommendations- not LAWS- my child could be taken away. I'm talking about things like car seats. AAP recommends rear-facing car seats until 2 years old, but the law only requires 1 years. I have, at times, slept with my newborn just to stop the screaming. Uh-oh.
What is real child abuse anymore, if the state can decide that a child should be taken away from their parents even when the child is getting worse in the care of the state.
Here are some situations I see that should illustrate my point:
Will they one day consider it child abuse if a mother decides not to breastfeed?
Will it be child abuse if the school decides the parent is not packing a healthy enough lunch, even though what the government considers healthy changes constantly?
Will it be child abuse if the parent has guns in the house locked up unloaded in a safe?
What about those parents that do not vaccinate their children? Could the state take a child away because they don't get the flu shot?
This one is already causing problems, spankings. Can a parent spank their child or will that constitute child abuse?
How about those parents who home school their children? With this new common core crap I foresee more and more proactive parents pulling their kids out of school. Will that be reason for the state to take the children?
The list goes on and on. I agree that there are some situations where interventions is needed for the well being of the child, but it seems that using that definition leaves a wide margin of abuse.
My two week old baby, over the weekend, developed a clogged tear duct. We knew what to do and had a doctors appointment on Monday so we dealt with it at home. It was almost completely cleared up by the time we got to the office. I wasn't concerned but mentioned it anyway. The doctor agreed it was probably a clogged tear duct but decided cultures should be taken just in case, an attitude born from the defensive medicine culture because of so much litigation. I would need to go to a lab in the hospital for the test. Here I am, with a brand new baby and an almost 2 year old toddler who spends all day throwing tantrums and I had to take them to the hospital. I did not want to even think about how hard that would be. I also looked and thought about taking two healthy children, one a newborn, into a hospital lab waiting room during flu season when we already knew what was wrong and it was almost gone anyway. My husband and I made the decision not to get the test done. Was this child abuse, NO. As parents, we believe that was the best thing for the health and well being of our children, and lets be honest here, that is OUR job. Not the doctors, not the states. They are there to help and advise but I am my child's parent and I have their best interests at heart. My baby is two months old, fine and has nothing wrong.
When I was 16 my dad took us to the shooting range, we had been many times before and we all were well versed in gun safety. While I was shooting a handgun I made a slight mistake and the gun hit me in the forehead on the recoil. It was an accident and I did go to the ER later that day when it didn't stop swelling. I had a hematoma and a headache but I was fine, better in fact, than many injured in football or other sports. My dad was scared to death child services was going to get involved because a gun was involved. A parent should not be afraid to seek medical attention for their child. I don't care if you like guns or not. I was not in danger, there was no abuse involved but every parent today knows that it doesn't matter. If someone with perceived authority decides you were abusing your child, that is it. It is no longer innocent until proven guilty.
We need to be reluctant to take children from their parents. I was reading an article somewhere about a Neo-Nazi father whose children kept being taken away because he was a Neo-Nazi. I adamantly disagree with his beliefs, I am sickened by his opinions, but he was not abusing his children. He was not physically, mentally, or emotionally abusing his kids. He was not endangering them with his activities. He was however, teaching them his beliefs. Does that give the government the right to say he shouldn't raise his children? If it does, where does it end? I am Mormon, and because I teach my children that the act of homosexuality is wrong, should the state say I am harming them and remove them? Never mind that I'll teach them all sexual acts before marriage is also wrong. We should only remove children under the most extreme circumstances and we need to start limiting what we allow the government to get away with. We need to be proactive parents who speak out for right, whether we agree with another's beliefs or not. I vaccinate my children for everything but the flu and I think it is irresponsible not to, but I will fight any law that takes away a parent's right to make that choice. I do not want to home school my children but that does not mean the school owns my kids, I will monitor what they are taught and make the it clear if I disagree. If that means fighting against common core now when my children aren't even in school yet, so be it. I also think parents should have the right to home school without being thought of as nutjobs. And yes, I know kids who would be better off in a different home but that does not mean they are being abused and should be removed.