by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
This past week (April 2018) a group of Minnesota parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing Dakota County and the State of Minnesota for kidnapping their children and placing them unnecessarily into foster care.
The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Dwight D. Mitchell, who founded an association of parents called Stop Child Protection Services From Legally Kidnapping, which has about 250 members in Minnesota.
Mr. Mitchell and several parents held a press conference at the State Capital last week, and Mr. Mitchell was interviewed by several local media sources.
Mr. Mitchell explains how he had his three children removed from his home because a family babysitter reported him to CPS for a “bottom spanking” with one of his children. It took him almost 2 years to get his son back home.
According to the Star Tribune:
“It was every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Mitchell, 57, a management consultant. “My children were legally kidnapped for a bottom spanking that was done out of love, because I want my children to grow up to be hardworking members of society.”
The child, Xander Mitchell, was kept in state custody for 22 months, during which time his father was refused all contact. Mitchell’s other child was removed for five months, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Mitchell said his involvement with child protection began on the night of Feb. 16, 2014, when he and his wife went to dinner and a movie and left their children in the care of their longtime babysitter. A day earlier, Xander had received a “bottom spanking” from his father for stealing and other acts of disobedience, including failing to do his homework and playing video games when he should have been sleeping.
When the babysitter called to report the alleged maltreatment of the child, police were dispatched to Mitchell’s residence and his three children were taken to the police station for questioning, he said. Days later, Dakota County filed a court petition seeking protection for Mitchell’s children, who were removed from his home and placed in foster care while the county investigated.
Mitchell said his son Xander, now 15, has never been the same since. The once-gregarious and athletic child, who loved soccer and skiing, has become increasingly introverted and now spends most of his time indoors, he said. “The abduction by child protection services ruined my son’s life and changed it forever,” Mitchell said. “Can you imagine if you thought that your father abandoned you?”
In Minnesota it is reportedly illegal to use corporal punishment with one’s own children, but not in schools where it is allowed by teachers.
The lawsuit claims that Minnesota unfairly targets Black families and other minorities in removing children from homes. TwinCities.com reports:
“Every night, I went to sleep not knowing where he was,” Mitchell said, describing the experience as traumatic and comparing it to a legal kidnapping.
“The abduction by (child-protective services) ruined my son’s life and changed him forever,” Mitchell said. “Without a doubt, this has been the most horrific experience of our life.”
Mitchell’s lawsuit claims Minnesota laws regarding corporal punishment by parents, such as spanking, are unconstitutionally vague. Child protection can investigate parents for any action that causes pain or mental injury.
Mitchell says state and county officials enforce that and other child-protection laws inconsistently and black families are considerably more likely to end up in the system and lose custody of their children.
State data show black children are three times more likely to be involved in the child-protection system and be taken from their parents. Black parents also are more likely to lose their parental rights than their white neighbors.
The disparity is even higher for multi-racial and American Indian children and their families.
When children of color are removed from their homes, they are often placed in white homes for foster care that some parents feel is culturally inappropriate.
ABC affiliate KaalTV interviewed Dwight Mitchell about the federal civil rights lawsuit for kidnapping children:
Richard Wexler, the executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, wrote an op-ed piece for MINNPOST earlier this month on why Minnesota’s approach to child protection makes children less safe.
Citing statistics that Minnesota takes children away from their families at the sixth highest rate in the country, a rate more than double the national average, Wexler points out that this has been a long-standing problem in Minnesota that has nothing to do with abusive parents on drugs:
No, this is not because of opioids or any other drug plague. Minnesota has been an outlier since at least 1999 and probably far longer.
Everything was made worse by the state’s bungled response to the death of Eric Dean in 2014. The governor promptly named the obligatory task force. Incredibly, the task force concluded that a state which for nearly two decades was among the most extreme in tearing apart families was not extreme enough. The result was predictable: a foster-care panic – a sharp, sudden spike in children torn from their homes.
Of course all of this was done in the name of making children safer. After all, New York City, with its much lower rate of removal, has had horrible cases of deaths of children known to the system so clearly – oh, wait. Minnesota is still seeing such tragedies as well, in spite of taking children at a rate more than six times higher.
In fact, foster-care panics actually make such tragedies more likely. (Source.)
Wexler points out that the main reason children are taken away from their families is not because of abuse, but because of poverty. He cites studies showing that children left in poor, troubled homes, fare far better than the ones taken out of those homes and put into foster care:
Far more common are cases in which family poverty is confused with “neglect.” Other cases fall between the extremes. The problem is compounded by the sort of racial bias cited by the Minneapolis NAACP.
So it’s no wonder that two massive studies involving more than 15,000 typical cases found that children left in their own homes typically fared better even than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care. A University of Minnesota study, using a smaller sample and different methodology, reached the same conclusion. (Source.)
If one wants to find the main cause of child abuse in America today, look no further than foster care homes:
That harm occurs even when the foster home is a good one. The majority are. But the rate of abuse in foster care is far higher than generally realized and far higher than in the general population. Multiple studies have found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes. The rate of abuse in group homes and institutions is even worse.
But even that isn’t the worst of it. The more that workers are overwhelmed with false allegations, trivial cases and children who don’t need to be in foster care, the less time they have to find children in real danger. So they make even more mistakes in all directions. That’s almost always the real reason for the horror stories about children left in dangerous homes.
That’s why Minnesota’s longstanding embrace of a take-the-child-and-run approach to child welfare, an approach that’s only worsened in recent years, makes all children less safe. (Source.)
Here at Health Impact News, we have been covering this issue for several years now. See:
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