by Laura Castle
Radio demagogue Michael Savage recently spewed some hatred toward “the vermin in Child Protective Services” on his show (September 21, 2009.) Responding to an unfortunate incident in which little girls were temporarily removed from their home because of innocent bathtub photos, Savage blasted the “demented perverts in America who work at CPS whose entire goal is to take children away from normal families and give them to perverts.”
For decades the incidence of children in emergency rooms who have been beaten by their parents was merely whispered about by worried doctors who had no recourse, no legal right to intervene and nowhere to turn.
In 1962, the term “battered child syndrome” was introduced to describe the injuries seen so often by physicians that did not appear to be accidental.
In the beautiful, shining year of 1974, Child Protective Services (CPS) was established nationwide to investigate reports of child abuse. It was designed not only to protect children from abuse, but to encourage family stability.
Today the process of investigation includes interviewing, observing, and information gathering in order to determine the validity of the report and determine whether or not intervention is necessary for the child’s safety.
When CPS workers find problems in the home that do not warrant removal, they will encourage the family to take child parenting classes. An example might be a child who is spanked too hard and too often, but does not have the injuries that would warrant immediate removal from the home. Contrary to the hysterical rants of those who think being hit is good for a child, CPS does not forbid parents to spank children although it will help parents learn more effective methods of discipline.
Some Statistics: In 2004, approximately 3.5 million U.S. children were involved in investigations of alleged abuse or neglect and 87,000 children were determined to have been abused or neglected. Would the hate mongerers prefer that these children just quietly die because many other homes that were investigated were found to not be abusive? Or would their rants against CPS be less hysterical if they knew that 1490 children died in 2004 of abuse or neglect?
These were the children that CPS did not discover in time. When Mr. Savage spews fear and resentment towards an organization that saves as many children as CPS does, he makes it less likely that a worried neighbor will report the family next door whose child’s cries of pain pierce the night.
I take personal offense at Mr. Savage’s attack on CPS as I grew up before the United States had this agency, an agency to which teachers, doctors and neighbors are legally required to report suspected child abuse with guaranteed anonymity.
Would Mr. Savage and his ilk like to see a return to the days when a little girl could lie in bed night after night, terrified with blood pouring from her nose, with blistered buttocks and legs from a beating with a belt, hearing her mother and her brothers and sisters scream in pain as her father attacked them?
Would Mr. Savage want the teacher the next day to look at the bruised and cut, badly dressed, dirty little girl and be helpless to intervene?
I was that little girl and I would not sentence today’s children to the isolation and terror of a battered child in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Today this is what would happen: At the age of five, when I entered kindergarten, my teacher would observe that I was bruised, cut and dirty and that I seemed unusually terrified of adults. Knowing that she was legally required to report her concerns, she would make an anonymous call to CPS and express her worries about my home situation. Within 3 to 24 hours, a CPS worker would arrive at my home. Stunned by the incredible filth and stench that would greet him at the door (dirty diapers, layers of dust, clothing strewn everywhere, filthy, unwashed dishes, big Florida cockroaches swarming), he would urge immediate removal of me and my brothers and sisters.
I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if CPS had existed in the 1950’s and I had been rescued at the age of 5 instead of running away at thirteen.
What difference would eight years less of beatings, emotional abuse and neglect have made on my ability to handle stress? How much less anxiety would I experience today?
I will never know, but I send songs of praise and love to the organization that works so hard to rescue today’s battered children. Thank you CPS!
Yes CPS makes mistakes and we must work to make it more efficient and less prone to error.
Ranting against an organization that saves so many lives not only hurts children, but it can also place CPS workers in danger of retaliation.
We must choose to focus on the good that CPS does. I send a heartfelt and long overdue thank you to Child Protective Services on behalf of all the lives they save.
Laura Castle lives in Florida and she writes (among other things) about violence against women and children. She is a frequent contributor to POTB.