Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Parental Rights Amendment

Parentalrights.org is forwarding a parental rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
This has been tried and failed before in various states. Repeatedly. Right concept, wrong way to do it. In 1996, Colorado lost this attempt, and I immediately saw why it failed. In response to this failure, I reframed the issue from children's rights vs. parents rights to family rights. That concept has caught on with grassroots activists, but evidently the merits of eliminating the competition between parents and children have escaped the monied activists. 

This should not be handled at a Federal level. The states pass the laws governing child welfare, the states administer the laws governing child welfare, the Feds maintain a "hands off" policy regarding child welfare to the point that they don't even exercise oversight over the federal funding they give the states to pass and administer their child welfare laws. A  family rights amendment  to the state constitutions is easier to pass and will be much more effective in reigning in child welfare abuses. Even better is an amendment which closes all the existing loopholes in the parental rights amendment. 

A Parental Rights Amendment is not going to work. In analyzing the tension of rights between parental rights and children's rights, the children's rights will win every time.  It is a waste of time and resources. Furthermore, it does not remedy the problems families face under our current scheme.

Notice the language "Neither shall the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served." Loophole. All the judge needs to do is recite the incantation, "The court finds the state's interest is of the highest order and not otherwise served," whether or not the evidence supports that finding. Just like they do with Reasonable Efforts now. It feels good but lacks substance. We must be smarter than this. . .duh.

more links on failed attempts:
other states and analysis http://parentalrightslegislation.blogspot.com/2006/04/brief-history-of-parental-rights.html

Previous commentary

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Controlling Adult Political Conduct by Holding Children Hostage

During the Civil Rights movement in our country, the state engaged in a hush-hush practice designed to quell any first amendment activities (petition the government for redress of grievances, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of religion) of civil rights activists.

We all know about the well-publicized efforts of local, state and Federal government agencies to classify the legal conduct of civil rights activists as crimes in order to silence the more outspoken by arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning them. We also know that these attempts ultimately failed because the government's strategies violated the constitutional rights of the targeted activists, and were effectively challenged repeatedly.

But one practice was not challenged. The practice of removing children from their activist parents in an attempt to control their political conduct. We don't know about it because it worked.

And it works, today, as well.

In 1996, I began publishing my web site, which was one of the first web sites that addressed child welfare abuses. At that same time, I forwarded the argument that as long as activists seeking child welfare reform engaged the issue on the existing terms i.e. Parental Rights vs. Children's Rights, our reform effort would fail. In a contest of these competing interests, Children's Rights would always prevail. So, I redefined our side of the issue to Family Rights. Who could be against the family? This principle stuck, and it has grown to the Family Rights grassroots movement.

This is a chaotic movement, without effective leadership, populated by many damaged people who indiscriminately lash out against friend and foe alike for the smallest real or imagined slight. Whether those people were unstable before the state intervened, or whether the state intervention made them unstable is a question I and my colleagues have debated often, without arriving at a consensus. It is evident that this particular kind of state intervention, more so than any other alphabet state agency intrusion, is emotionally, financially and psychologically devastating to all persons whom the state agency is helping.

I see one of the biggest problems is that these injured souls want reform. They inherently know they and their children have been wronged, but they don't know how or why. They claim that the state's actions are illegal and don't understand when the court says they are legal. They rabidly scream corruption and insist the world believe them because of the horrors they and their children experienced. Their self-professed leaders are angry, and exhort their mob to fight, fight, fight with useless tactics that have the single virtue of making the person feel better, at the expense of alienating the public and incurring retaliation from the courts and agencies.

This retaliation is exhibited by the gag orders I discussed yesterday, and by issuing other illegal orders like ordering parents to take down their web sites which are critical of child welfare agencies and service providers, to stop associating with similarly-minded reform activists, to censor their speech which is critical of the courts or agencies. Case workers, CASAs, GALs, and hostile foster caregivers troll the internet and online groups to find parents and use their political free speech and publications against them in their court proceedings. If the parents attend a public rally or a legislative hearing, these same hostile actors take down license plates and names of attendees from sign-up sheets. The courts allow the parent's political conduct to be used as proof of parental unfitness and lack of compliance with treatment plans. Parents who attend the wrong church have their children seized in order to compel the parents to remove themselves from the membership of the unapproved church.

Retaliation against activists is inevitable in any social reform effort. The powers-that-be want to maintain the status quo, their power base. . .their jobs.  Since the retaliation is inevitable, it should anticipated and exploited to effect the desired reform. History has given us the models, we only need to know and understand them in order to exploit them.

Alas, the current family rights leadership is only able to bitch and piss and moan about the violations of rights. These self-professed gurus don't "get it" and can't see past their own pain and anger. They can't anticipate the retaliation, they can't exploit it, can't enforce their rights and in so doing, they surrender their rights, and their children, and the rights of other activists and their children to the alter of child protection. Not an effective strategy in my mind.