I’m From the Government and I’m Here To Stop Your Child From Being Abused and Killed

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/08/14/im-from-the-government-and-im-here-to-stop-your-child-from-being-abused-and-killed/

More children are being hurt in their homes; at least, more cases are being reported in my state of Maine.

An excellent piece of reporting by Eric Russell of the Maine Sunday Telegram in Portland focuses on the overwhelmed state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The caseworkers dealing with family abuse cannot keep up. Their department is described as “High staff turnover. Low Morale. Unmanageable caseloads.”

The story was prompted by tragedy:  the killing of two children, two months apart, as the result of abuse. Two girls, ages 4 and 10, fell through the cracks.

Certainly, the state’s social-services agency can do a better job and, certainly, more caseworkers, would help.

But why is this needed?

Because more and more families are imploding and, in the worst of cases, the result is violence.

The two deaths bring the issue to the forefront, but the story also focuses on this telling, disturbing statistic:

“Physical abuse cases increased 52 percent, from 686 in 2008 to 1,042 in 2016, while reports of suspected child abuse and neglect climbed 31 percent, from 6,313 cases in 2008 to 8,279 in 2016.”

Statistics can be tricky. Maybe reporting methods changed.

But, still, a 52 percent increase in physical abuse cases …

That cannot be blamed on a government agency, which constantly strains in a never-ending, uphill battle. The head of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services said 75 more caseworkers will help (after previously saying that staffing levels are fine).

But what happens when the abuse cases continue to rise?

Caseworkers must be invasive to make judgments. But how invasive should they be without morphing into Big Brother, George Orwell’s reference to a government that monitors everyone? (For those who have not yet read 1984; please read it, soon.)

As parents of nine children, my wife and I have visited our share of emergency rooms. In certain cases – my then-3-year-old’s gash when he jumped off a couch and landed on the coffee table, or my then-6-year-old’s broken arm when she fell after playing with her brother on the stairs – we endured extra questioning. Part of me was assured that the hospital staff was being cautious; but another part worried that I was on trial. What, if in their judgment, these were not accidents?

I don’t envy a caseworker’s job. How do they know the truth?

According to the story, “out of an abundance of caution,” more children are being removed from their home – a 40 percent increase in the number of children placed under the state’s protection since 2011 (1,852, from 1,322).

Yet is taking kids from their parents a cautious approach?

As Russell points out, “those children don’t always have somewhere to go immediately … they stay with caseworkers in hotels, sometimes for multiple days … Some caseworkers said they neglect their own children to protect Maine’s most vulnerable.”

Is this a system that can be sustainable?

Even removing a child is no guarantee. The 4-year-old girl who was fatally abused last year was taken from her home and placed with a grandfather and his fiancée. The woman goes on trial for murder this fall.

These stories of abuse are heart-wrenching. The sadness is overwhelming. So is the anger. We want to blame somebody, or something. A government agency is an easy target. (And some finger-pointing is allowed.)

But what about the families? So many are broken. Is there a caring mother and father in a committed relationship (a.k.a. marriage)? What is their priority?

Please read As Marriage Fades, Who Cares About the Kids? It speaks of what’s clearly best for children.

Here are paragraphs from another source:

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.”

“[Married love] is a love which is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience.”

“The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life.”

“The family is the primary unit in the state …”

The source is Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is a letter, written 50 years ago, that is usually ridiculed for its condemnation of artificial birth control. (I’ve written before about this seemingly out-of-touch document.)

Out of touch? Please read those excerpts again. Then read about all the awful abuse cases. Tell me what the true solution is.

Hint:  It’s not more caseworkers.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.