Some things get under your skin and then you open your eyes and see injustice everywhere. For me, the most recent is the Abraham Cherrix case. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, Abraham is the young man recently ordered by a court to submit to chemotherapy against his will. I have been quite upset about this case. Whether or not one agrees with this young man’s course of treatment, it must be recognized that the state is overstepping its authority. The state charged his supportive parents with neglect and wriggled into their lives as a joint custodial entity. The Cherrix ordeal was the eye opener for me, and the brick in the head was the NYT Magazine article about Marie (not her real name), her five children and the Stamford, CT Department of Children and Families.
A year ago, Marie’s children were taken from her based on allegations of neglect. The DCF recently petitioned to terminate Marie’s rights as a parent and they have found potential adoptive parents for Marie’s boys. The Cherrix family seems to be a solid family while Marie is a former drug abuser. The Cherrix case is different from Marie’s, but neglect allegations link them in a war over parental rights. They are just two of the many American families fighting the system over subjective definitions of neglect.
On the surface, Marie’s case may seem like a slam dunk. At birth one of her children tested positive for marijuana and another tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. She is a single mother and her five children have three different fathers. She is married to the father of two of her children, but he was deported to the Dominican Republic. She dropped out before she made it to high school, and lives on state assistance. None of this makes for an ideal parenting situation, but Marie has been clean for the last year. Hair and urine tests show no relapses. She has gone through mandated parenting courses. Her home is “spic and span” according to one social worker, and her kids seem to love her, flaws and all. And her flaws seem to be many. She is, in fact, pregnant with her sixth child. The DCF recently petitioned to take that child too.
Daniel Bergner, the author of the NYT Magazine piece, was very thorough in his research. He covered the start of the “social engineering” project that gave birth to agencies like the DCF. It is not my intention to rewrite an excellent article. I merely want to bring to light how much control the state has over our families. I would never advocate irresponsible behavior during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and plan to carry to term, it is unwise to consume drugs. According to UCSB’s sexinfo website, there are many drugs that can harm a fetus in utero. Antibiotics and Accutane make the list, yet we never hear of children taken from their families over them. The public would go nuts over that.
Mr. Bergner’s interview with a law professor netted a very insightful observation:
I believe in the golden rule,” said Martin Guggenheim “” the N.Y.U. law professor, who represented hundreds of kids in juvenile-delinquency, child-protection and T.P.R. cases as a legal-services attorney “” when I described Marie’s situation. “Test this case against what we would want for our own families.” He spoke about race and class and suggested that we substitute someone influential for Marie and painkillers for cocaine. “If we imagine it was substances that important people use, we can’t imagine that we would be taking those children.”
We need to stand up and get the state out of our families. If we opt to take children away from families over what is essentially a morality war on some drugs, we will only have to wait a few years to see children taken from mothers who smoke or drink caffeine during their pregnancies. Marie was not acting in the healthiest manner by consuming drugs during her pregnancy, but how much do the moral busybodies in this country wish for her and her children to endure?
Did I mention that Marie’s 16 year old son ran away from the DCF and has not been found? Or that Marie, realizing that Connecticut is trying to take her unborn child without regard to her efforts, decided to have the baby in New York? I disagree with many of Marie’s actions. She and her children should not have depended on the state for financial benefits. She should not have used drugs during her pregnancy. I agree with her decision to flee. She may never again see her oldest son, but her flight has given her an opportunity to be a mother to her youngest. Perhaps she will forge a bond strong enough to break her cycle of dependence. A bond strong enough to give her courage to fight for the children that Connecticut stole from her.