Arizona’s Department of Child Safety is Out of Control

In Arizona at the end of February, a family lost custody of their 3 children to the Department of Child Safety, or DCS, because of a fever. And now in late March they still don’t know when or even if they will regain custody. That will be decided by the DCS and the state’s court system. Not by the children’s parents.

This is about the state’s (in both the general and the specific sense of the word) treatment of parents who do not abide by their rules and regulations. And yes, it’s also – tangentially – about anti-vaxxers.

Let me be clear. My 8-year old son has been vaccinated thoroughly. As a child in Venezuela in the oil fields way back when, I along with my brother and sister used to get big mutha booster shots every year (with a bar of chocolate afterwards if I didn’t kick the nurses – imagine what happens today in our militarized world if a 7 or 8-year old kicks at a nurse). While my ability to do statistics or differential calculus is to be polite, limited, I don’t seem to have developed autism.

Are there some children who may be more vulnerable to conditions like autism, and who are affected by vaccinations, which might be a factor amongst others in their developing the condition? Perhaps yes, although that’s a debate that’s still ongoing. Should parents vaccinate their children? Yes, at least from some fairly serious diseases.

Like meningitis, for example.

Last February 25, a family brought a young child to a doctor in Tempe, Arizona because of a fever. Here’s azcentral.com with the story:

On February 25, the mother took her 2-year-old boy to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine clinic in Tempe, according to Chandler police records.

It was dinner time. But the toddler’s fever had spiked to over 100 degrees.

The doctor asked if the child had his vaccinations.

The mother said no.

Concerned that a lethargic child with a fever and lacking vaccinations could have meningitis, the doctor instructed the mother to take the child to the emergency department at Banner Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, according to attorneys at a March 7 court hearing following the removal of the children.

The child reportedly improved while at the doctor’s office and the parents took the child home and took its temperature and found the fever had gone. They called the doctor to say they wouldn’t take the child to the hospital, but the doctor insisted they should.

What followed was a staged escalation going back and forth between the DCS who had been informed presumably by the doctor and the family and the police. It ended like this, as azcentral.com reported:

It was after 1 a.m. when officers kicked down the family’s door. One officer carried a shield, while another was described as having “lethal coverage.” Officers pointing guns yelled, “Chandler Police Department,” and entered the house.

The father came to the door. Officers placed him in handcuffs and took him and the mother outside. Inside, they found a juvenile who said she was sick and had thrown up in her bed.

Officers said the home was “messy” with clothing piles and concrete floors. In the parent’s room, a shotgun lay next to the bed, according to police records.

The caseworker spoke with two of the children without their parents present. He told officers it was “necessary to obtain a temporary custody order” for the parents’ two other children, according to police records.

Since there was no “criminal incident” and because the mother refused, no photos were taken inside the home, according to the police records.

Neither of the parents was arrested.

Officials took the parents’ three children to Banner Cardon Medical Center.

Next stop for the 3 kids: foster care, as in 3 separate foster homes for them. Separated with strange people in a strange home because their sister or brother had had a fever (and apparently had RSV, a respiratory disease which can cause serious problems … like most minor infections can).

According to the parents’ attorneys the DSC is out to punish the parents because of their lack of cooperation with the bureaucracy that indeed has the power to remove and hold your children. And they can and will use a SWAT team to achieve that.

But the problem is far deeper and broader. It’s the fact that the DSC exists at all. That a government agency has extensive powers which it can and does abuse by reaching into homes and tearing apart families. Arizona passed legislation requiring warrants before this type of home invasion by DSC officials and police could be done, but it hasn’t helped much. Here’s azcentral.com again:

DCS placed 4,649 children into the foster-care system in the six-month period that ended December 2018, according to DCS data. In the six-month period prior to the July law, DCS removed 4,887 children.

That’s down from a high mark of 6,815 in fall 2015, when nearly 19,000 children were in the foster-care system and families and child-welfare advocates began pushing for a warrant law.

Is the anti-vaxxer movement a conspiracy-ridden fringe group? Maybe in some eyes, like that of the family doctor or the DSC officials, or the police officers or even the judge. But when you read the facts of this story, it’s hard not to think that anti-vaxxers’ paranoia is sometimes justified.

What is the situation like now?

On March 15, the father told The Republic that DCS had placed their three children with his parents.

“We get to see them again,” he said. “Thank God.”

He still can’t shake the night police kicked down their door and entered his home with guns drawn. He still can’t believe they took all three of their children.

He said he has asked DCS why the caseworker never presented himself and showed a warrant for removal, but he hasn’t received a clear answer.

“I know people have the right not to let the police into their home,” he said. “But if the caseworker had called me or knocked, and shown me their warrant, I would’ve let them in.”

He said home security video showed police had stated they had a DCS warrant for removal, but the family didn’t hear them because they were sleeping in the back bedrooms with their sick children.

The judge’s approval of DCS’ request for psychological evaluations has created another barrier to regaining custody of their children, he said. The wait for an evaluation is months, he said.

Just to be clear, the psychological evaluations will be done on the parents to ensure they are “fit” to have custody of their children. This is Gestapo/Soviet tactics. Break down your door in the middle of the night. Take away your children. Evaluate you and your spouse psychologically to see if you answer the right way and then decide if you can have your kids back.

This is an out-of-control bureaucracy acting in conjunction with a police force in a state that has something of a reputation for heavy handedness in its police departments (the exterminator from out of state that was shot in an apartment or hotel hallway as he crawled on his belly towards heavily armed policemen, as he was trying to satisfy the psychotic instructions of an unseen sheriff, for example). The result has been a nightmare for those parents.

There’s another story about anti-vaxxers in Oregon whose son came down with tetanus (lockjaw it used to be called because that’s what happens when muscles clench uncontrollably in your body) after getting cut playing in the yard. Here’s Alex Berezow of ACSH (American Council on Science and Health a sort of activist pro-all-things-chemistry/science group that does some interesting work) on his opinion of the parents of that boy who came close to dying a horrific death and who still reportedly hasn’t had a tetanus shot:

In my opinion, this is a clear-cut case of child abuse. There’s no moral difference between this case and that of parents who for bizarre religious reasons decide not to provide medical care to their children. The parents should lose custody of the boy, and they should do time in prison.

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, there should be consequences for your irrational, self-centered, destructive behavior.

In other words, the traditional weight of a family has zero valence here. And even in the case in Arizona, I suspect. That’s the thinking that leads to the DSC ripping 3 kids from their home.

Yes, perhaps at some point authorities have to intervene to protect children. But the possibility of abuse, as illustrated in Arizona but not in Oregon, is an unintended consequence we should all be wary of.

I’m sorry, that’s not right. The abuse of power by agencies like the DSC in Arizona is not an unintended consequence. It’s the raison d’etre:

To “rationally” deconstruct the family rather than only interfere in clear-cut cases of abuse.

Comments