Poor Parents Lose Kids to Authoritarian Welfare State December 5, 2007
Posted by Daniel Downs in Constitution, family, news, politics, welfare.
Tags: government abuse, Kentucky Child Protective Services, parental rights
(Parental Rights 11/27/07) While it may take weeks, months or years to take someone’s freedom away, on May 16, 2005, it took only 17 minutes to take three children away from their mother.
Vanessa Shanks of Hardin County, Kentucky, is one of the many parents each year who lose their children to the state, often in confidential hearings. Shanks was originally charged with truancy, but social workers later declared her home to be unsafe after they discovered an open bleach bottle on the floor: left out because she had just finished doing the laundry. Apalled by what they had found, Kentucky Child Protective Services moved to terminate Shanks’s parental rights to three of her six children.
The state accused Shanks of educational and medical neglect. The evidence? The social worker testified that Shank’s eleven year-old child had a kindergarten reading-level, and that some of the children had missed days at school, though no records or testimony from the school was produced. The evidence for “medical neglect” was equally spurious: the social worker testified that one of the three children, who had been diagnosed with spina bifida, had missed some doctor’s appointments.
But this scanty evidence was more than enough for the family court judge, who ruled after only seventeen-minutes that the children should be placed in the custody of the state.
“I didn’t see my children for 11 months. It is the hardest thing you can go through,” said Shanks.“It’s like someone close to you just dies, like you don’t have a part of you anymore.”
When Shanks decided to appeal the decision, the unthinkable happened: CPS came after her again, this time removing her other three children, as well as fourteen children from her extended family.
“The first thing they came to us and said was,‘Well, you started an appeal,’” Shanks said.“Nothing else.”
Shanks turned to local attorney Bob Bishop for help, who said he couldn’t believe what he saw when he took Shanks’s case.“There has to be something, some evidence of wrongdoing that has placed a child in danger or has hurt the child, and a pattern of conduct not due to poverty alone,” said Bishop.
In response, CPS removed Bishop’s adopted daughter from his home.“They said if you don’t cooperate with us, we’re going to take all of your children away, and we’re going to charge you with emotional abuse,” said Jennifer Bishop, the attorney’s wife.
In 2006, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that the judge made a mistake in removing Shanks’s three children, unanimously ruling that the state had acted in haste and offered no proof of abuse or neglect. But reunions like this are rare: terminations of parental rights have been upheld in the majority of such cases before the court over the past 10 years.
Shortly after Shanks’s children were restored, the director of Kentucky CPS said that the state would review the way parental rights are terminated. Yet earlier this month, a report issued by the state inspector general found that some social workers have been accused of “suspicious conduct” by fellow social workers, including lost records and conflicts-of-interest in termination proceedings.
Vanessa Shanks’s story highlights the dangers that parents face when the state steps in and takes the role of the parent. It can take years to bring a shattered family back together, but it only takes seventeen minutes to tear one apart.
Please join with us to protect parental rights. Join the campaign today at https://www.parentalrights.org/petition .
To see the full report on Vanessa Shanks’ story, see this report done by Channel 32 News, Louisville, Kentucky.