More on CWS


More On Child Welfare Services

The recent articles in the Mountain Messenger Newspaper and the Sierra County Prospect regarding child welfare services has brought a lot of comment, some of it quite informed. It is usually the case that people make comments in the post office or grocery, or even send emails, but won’t send a letter to the editor. (Note: the Prospect does not automatically publish letters sent to; only emails sent to "letters to the editor" or are automatically published.)

In this instance, though, there is even less willingness to speak in public, with some families afraid to draw CWS attention to themselves.

This is what it is to live in the state of total control. Our laws are so constructed that families are at risk if they help each other, and they feel at risk if they speak out.

Notice the term "at risk?" It is the term used to intrude in to families, indeed, there is even a category of "substantial risk" in CWS which is the judge’s way of punishing someone for something that hasn’t happened. CWS gets involved because something "might" happen.

In this instance, the families are at risk from the government.

We accept this, I submit, because we are afraid. Families and friends see CWS ride roughshod over kin, and are unable or too frightened to get involved. The government has us by our most precious possessions: our children. The IRS is terrible in it’s quasi-legal status as tax collector, but it can only take your house and your wages, it can only make you poor. Child welfare services can break your heart, and take the future of your line.

In the land of the brave, people are free. In California, people simply want to keep their children and grandchildren, so they are afraid to speak out.

Several of the comments I received were from people who supported the system, saying that some kids were really being abused and social workers really wanted to help. Absolutely! I’m not saying dismantle CWS, and I’m not saying social workers are bad. Like everyone who works for the poor, social workers are poorly paid, for the most part. A similar investment in an MBA will reap much higher rewards for work much less distressing. I recognize the need to help families, and I completely support and respect social workers.

My criticism is of the system itself, and those contextual features which encourage social workers, judges and other bureaucrats to "err on the side of caution" or "use an abundance of caution" and to refer to the "precautionary principle". The precautionary principle is a logical scheme which states that the risk assumable is the inverse of the potential harm. In "common sense" terms it means that if there is a small chance of danger, you can accept a high degree of risk (learning to ride a bicycle is an example) but where there is a high degree of danger, you accept a low degree of risk (like learning to drive a car, which is much more controlled by parents and instructors). The precautionary principle is used to great effect by environmental groups and the U.S. State Department; "pre-emptive strikes" are based on the precautionary principle.  As a philosphical scheme, it is fine, but the "threshold" has to be set correctly.

Otherwise, this approach completely negates the inherent right of the family to have children and to raise them in their image.

It should be up to us, as a community, to decide where the line lies, where we want CWS involved, and where we don’t. We should have a community discussion that takes into account the sanctity of the family, the need to protect kids, and the problems of state oversight. It shouldn’t be up to legislators in Sacramento or Washington D.C. which kids are taken away. It should be up to our own community standards.

The Press in Sierra County has taken a leadership role in calling for this public discussion on our children and families. It’s up to you, the readers, to be brave, so you can be free.

Call for public discussion on CWS.

What can be done? It is almost impossible to talk about individual cases or families, because of court control of CWS information.   However, we can have a community discussion in a neutral location so that all parties will feel safe. The more of us there are at such a meeting, the safer those of us "at risk" will be.

There are several ways such a discussion would become public.
1.  The Director of Health and Human services could detect a problem and hold community meetings.
2.  The Health and Human Services committee of the Board of Supervisors could hold a hearing.
3.  The Grand Jury could investigate.

There are other means, including a request on the part of the public.

Let's meet to make the system better, not to call workers to task.



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