License to Seize Our Children

By Berit Kjos - 1994

See Child "Protection" Services? and When the state becomes parent




Can social workers remove children from parents without proof of abuse, without a court order,  without explanation, and without liability?

Yes, they can.  On April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a U.S. Courts of Appeals ruling that social workers are entitled to "absolute immunity from liability" which "ensures that they [social workers] are not deterred from vigorously performing their jobs as they might if they feared personal liability."[i]  The high court rejected an appeal from Ian Hoffman, a father who was arrested and stripped of his right to see his daughter resulting from false allegations of child abuse.  The two social workers who brought the allegations neither questioned the child nor allowed the father a chance to respond.

That Hoffman was later cleared by a jury and awarded permanent custody of his child doesn't change the effects of the high court's 7-to-2 vote. Given vast discretionary power to punish families believed to violate their standards, today's social workers may confiscate children and divide families without accountability to the public that they supposedly serve. Apparently parents have little or no recourse.

Which parents are at risk? 

 If you are "indoctrinating your children with Christian beliefs" and teaching them Biblical standards, beware!  Christian beliefs, values, and disciplines are considered too narrow and exclusive for the envisioned 21st Century global society. In her article, "Children are not Chattel," Kathy Collins, Legal Counsel to the Iowa Department of Education, summarized the growing hostility toward Christians: "The Christian fundamentalists who want the freedom to indoctrinate their children with religious education do not understand [that] the law that prevents them from legally teaching their kids prevents someone else from abusing theirs."[ii]  In simpler words, training your child according to Biblical truth is equated with child abuse.    

If "Parents As Teachers" - a parent training service mandated by Clinton's Goals 2000 - has already been implemented in your school district, beware! You will be taught how to teach your pre-schoolers according to politically correct guidelines.  Your Christian beliefs and values could put your child in the school's "at risk" category, since they prevent the child from starting school with an open  mind,  ready to embrace today's multicultural blend of the world's earth-centered religions.  Any resistance to this program will be noted in the computerized tracking system and could lead to the confiscation of your child.

If your public schools are already joined to on-site health clinics, watch out!  Parental rights to counsel and instruct their own children when they face moral, mental and physical challenges will be superseded by politically correct guidance from a team of educators, psychologists, and social workers. This team will be trained to equip students with the beliefs and values fit for the envisioned new world order where individuals will serve the common good.

If you use reasonable spanking as a means of loving discipline, watch out! A member of the special education team at a Reno, Nevada school asked a delightful eight-year old student,[iii] "Do your parents ever spank you?"  "Yes," answered the boy.  After a futile check for bruises on his body, a school official called the parents and informed them that if they ever spanked their son again, he would be removed from their home.

If you are trying to train willful children to live safe, moral lives in a culture wracked by violence and immorality, beware!  Hoping to find safety in America, Jio Saephan brought his family from war-torn Laos to San Francisco. Last January, seven-year-old Vourn "played recklessly"[iv] with a kitchen knife, frightening his grandmother. She told his father, who - according to Laotian traditions - disciplined him with a slap on his hand with the dull part of the knife, leaving a small bruise.  The next day, Vourn's teacher noticed the bruise which was next to a more noticeable scratch from playing with a steel gate. She asked what happened, and reported the boy's responses. Later, social workers entered Saephan's apartment and, without any explanation, took Vourn and his four healthy siblings and put them in foster homes.

Vourn's five-week-old brother, who always slept with his mother, died within weeks.  The social workers said he died from "sudden infant death syndrome," but the mother isn't convinced. When she visited her baby, his clothes stank of cigarette smoke. Seeking help from her social worker was futile. "She yell at me," said the mother. "I say, I worry about my baby. His clothes smell so bad."[v]

After her baby died, the mother wasn't allowed to come near him for four days. When she finally did see the tiny body, she noticed a bruise on his forehead. She believes he was dropped.[vi]

The state has forbidden the heart-broken father to visit his children without the presence of social workers.  To regain his parental rights, he must attend contemporary parenting classes. Sometimes pain and confusion overwhelms him. "In our culture, when a kid doesn't listen, you discipline him," he said. "In American culture, you don't lay a hand on the kid. When they grow up, they don't listen to parents.  They want to do whatever they want to do. I don't want my kid to grow up like that."[vii]      

The Coalition of Concerned Parents in San Jose, called little Seng's death "an indictment on the failure of the whole child protective services system in the state of California."[viii]  

Seng Saephan's death is merely one of a string of abuses. One week later another baby  died.  Social workers had refused to give the grandmother custody of little Jorge Millan because her "house was too small."  The toddler died from perforated intestines when the foster mother put a shower hose first into his mouth, then in his rectum.  During supervised visits, Jorge's family noticed cuts and bruises on his head. They filed complaints but apparently received no response.[ix]  Mounting evidence indicates that the system is quick to punish biological parents, but dangerously tolerant toward other abusers.

"The seemingly unlimited power of child welfare agencies and the case workers they employ has some parents too demoralized and fearful to discipline unruly kids,"[x] writes  Washington Post editor Dana Mack.  She quotes a mother who just endured a painful encounter with Texas' child protection agency.  "You're never able to be the same with your kids after you go through an investigation. I've become paranoid... and less able to discipline."[xi] 

In her article, "Child-Abuse Bureaucracy a New Parent Trap," Mack reports that "While 39 percent of the over 2.6 million reports of child maltreatment each year are substantiated, only 3 percent of these cases involve injury to a child requiring any medical attention. Indeed, substantiated cases of child abuse include incredibly mild transgressions. A Florida couple was convicted of abuse for restricting a foster child's television viewing.

"A San Diego grand jury recently found that the local child protective system had 'isolated itself to a degree unprecedented in our system of jurisprudence and ordered liberties.' But our lawmakers have for the most part failed to respond to such warnings. Aware of the enormous media attention given to the subject of child abuse, they are unwilling to appear 'insensitive' to the sufferings of children.  By not acting, our elected officials are helping to maintain a system that has proven unfriendly to family life and ultimately hazardous to the well-being of American children."[xii]

Ian Hoffman's damage suit which ended at the Supreme Court, demonstrates the alarming shift from parental rights to state controls.  Only two justices, Clarence Thomas and Atonin Scalia, voted to hear his case.  Seven refused, in spite of the federal civil rights law which promises that "Every person who under [state law]... subjects... any other person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution... shall be liable to the party injured."  Today, the police and other investigators can be sued if they violate "clearly established" rights of citizens.  Social workers apparently cannot.    

               "The District court held that the social workers were absolutely immune from damages liability for this conduct. Relying on its decision in Salyer v. Patrick, 874 F. 2d 374 (CA6 1989), the Court of Appeals affirmed.  ...the decision below and other decisions granting absolute immunity to social workers may be premised more on the notion that absolute immunity serves important policy concerns than on either historical or functional analyses. See, e.g., Meyers, 812 F. 2d, at 1157. To the extent they are so based, they are misguided: The federal courts 'do not have a license to establish immunities from section 1983 actions in the interest of what [they] judge to be sound public policy.'

                "...We should address the important threshold question whether social workers are, under any circumstances, entitled to absolute immunity. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent."                                                               

                                Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting in the Supreme Court's denial                                                                     of petition for writ of certiorari in Hofman v. Harris,  April 25, 1994.  

                We shouldn't be surprised  this legal and political assault on the family. The Biblical disciplines that established and sustained freedom in America have faded from public life.  Since our nation know longer knows God nor follows His Word, our rights have eroded along with our values. That God assigned parents the role of training children (Proverbs 22:6) means little to officials who scorn His ways. Let us pray like Daniel (9:3-19) to our sovereign Lord, confessing personal and national sins, and asking for His gracious mercy for children and parents who are now at risk  from harmful government intervention.

[i]Salyer v. Patrick, 874 F.2d 374 (6th Circuit, 1989).

[ii]Kathy Collins, "Children are not Chattel, "Free Inquiry, a publication of CODESH (Council, for Democratic and Secular Humanism).   Cited in Free World Research Report (Des Moines, IA), February 1993. 

[iii]The son of a personal friend of mine. The mother described the circumstance and cited the words in a telephone conversation. To protect the privacy of the family, I prefer not to give the name unless necessary.  

[iv]Benjamin Pimentel, "Grieving Laotian Family Mourns Infant," San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1994.

[v]Marilyn Lewis, "Infant's Death is Tragedy in East-West Culture Clash," San Jose Mercury News, February 19, 1994.



[viii]"Justices Allow Immunity for Social Workers," San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1994.

[ix]Elizabeth Fernandes, "Tot's death cuts short a tragic life," San Francisco Examiner, February 27, 1994.

[x]Dana Mack, "Child-abuse bureaucracy a new parent trap, The Sacramento Bee, February 20, 1994.



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