While we all decry unnecessary government interference in people’s lives, when there are children involved, the situation becomes more complex. When young people are being neglected or abused by their parents or other family members, it may be necessary in some cases for the state to step in and take action to help protect those who are not capable of protecting themselves.
It seems fair to say that most social service workers take their responsibilities to children seriously. And when they do decide to intervene and remove a child from the custody of his or her parents, it is only because a clear and present danger to that child exists. But the problem with a system that gives government agencies and their worker bees so much power over our lives is that in the end there are no real checks and balances for anything they might choose to do. When government bureaucrats are not responsible and careful, and when they use the almost absolute authority they frequently have to spread their petty tyrannies, there is very little anyone can do to stop them.
Something happened this fall in the city of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, that illustrates perfectly the kind of outrages that out-of-control government bureaucrats are capable of perpetrating when the spirit of the Jacobins has infected their souls. As hard as it may be to believe, this October the Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s Department of Children and Family Services actually removed a nine-year old boy from his home and put him into foster care. This occurred not because his parents had been beating him or denying him food, clothing, and shelter, but rather because he was overweight, which this department has decided to unilaterally redefine as a form of “parental abuse.”
The boy, who was forced to spend his ninth birthday separated from his family, first came to the attention of authorities in Ohio when his mother checked him into the hospital in 2010 because he was having breathing problems. Eventually, the child was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and he was sent home with a special breathing apparatus to help him deal with that problem. Because the boy was severely obese, it was determined his health problem was likely weight-related, which gave social services all the excuse they needed to become permanently involved in his family’s life.
Losing weight is of course incredibly difficult for most people. However, after working with the child’s mother for a few months without getting the results they were looking for, social services got frustrated with her and decided that enough was enough. Acting as a law onto themselves, on October 19 they grabbed the boy from his school and whisked him off into foster care. In doing so, they informed the mother after the fact that from now on she would only be allowed to see her son once a week for two hours until the legal system decided what should happen next.
On December 15, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court judge responsible for the case issued his ruling – the boy was to be taken out of foster care and placed in the custody of his uncle effective immediately. The judge noted that while in foster care the child’s weight had dropped from 200 pounds to 192 pounds, and because progress was being made, he felt is was appropriate to reunite the boy with his family – but not with his mother, at least not at the present time. Nevertheless, out of the kindness of its heart, the court did announce that the boy would be allowed to spend one week with his mom over the holidays, before being returned to the custody of his uncle after New Year’s.
A Constitution in Tatters
The child’s mother is now being represented in the case by the ACLU, which has expressed its concern over the dangerous precedent that has been set by a government agency removing a child from a home in which no crime of any type has been committed – neither against society nor against the child in particular. It does not take a lawyer, however, to realize that allowing meddlesome government bureaucrats to break up families based entirely on their own personal interpretation of what “abuse” is represents a massive violation of our Fourth Amendment rights to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures.
One of the most disturbing developments in this sad and outrageous story is the ruling by the judge, who rather than doing his job and ordering the boy to be returned to the custody of his mother, instead reaffirmed the right of Cuyahoga County social services to do what they did by turning the boy over to an uncle while limiting his mother to visiting rights only. He even went so far as to rationalize the actions of social services by pointing out that the boy had lost weight during his time in foster care, as if to underscore his point. Of course, it is entirely likely that the only reason the boy lost any weight is because he was too sad and upset and depressed to eat after having been unceremoniously ripped away from his mother’s care. One interesting fact about this boy is that he is an honor roll student, which would seem to suggest that his mother must have been doing something right in the way she has been raising him.
Parenting is a tough job, and despite their best efforts, all moms and dads make mistakes. It is certainly possible that the mother of this child has not done a very good job of helping her son develop good eating and exercise habits. But then again, it is also possible that he has such a strong genetic predisposition to obesity that he will always be seriously overweight no matter what anyone does. Whatever the truth of the matter is, it is clear that this is not the kind of situation that any government bureaucracy should be involving itself in. But if the courts are going to start refusing to do their constitutional duty by putting a stop to actions like the ones that were taken in this case, the question has to be asked – what could anyone ever possibly hope do to protect themselves should they be targeted someday by their own local version of the Committee on Public Safety?
Insanity, Hypocrisy, and Injustice: Another Day in America
As far as the precedent that is being set here, even if it never moves beyond this one particular type of situation, the threat is still significant, given the fact that approximately 12% of all children in the same age range as the Cleveland Heights boy suffer from severe obesity. Thanks to what has been allowed to happen in Ohio, from now on the moms and dads of overweight children everywhere will have to be watching over their shoulder all the time, just in case Big Brother and his Health Police have an eye on them, too. Meanwhile, the fast food and processed food industries will continue to reap obscene profits from selling us the imitation foods that are responsible for this obesity epidemic, completely supported and protected by the same government that stands prepared to tear families apart – all in the name of promoting health, of course.
©2012 Off the Grid News