Child Seizures Unjustified

In the National Review, Timothy Lynch explains how Texas’s Child Protective Services ignored state law and common sense in seizing 465 children from members of a strange religious sect that advocates polygamy (FLDS).  Texas’s CPS, he says, overreached in many ways, treating lawful teenage marriages as sexual abuse, parents as guilty until proven innocent, and the sect’s religious teachings as emotional abuse per se.  CPS also interfered with parents’ right to counsel, he says.  As he notes, “A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas’s Child Protective Services (CPS) failed to justify the seizure of the very young children and teenage boys. The Court said there was simply ‘no evidence’ of immediate danger to them.”  Law professor Eugene Volokh gives the highlights of the court’s ruling and summarizes it here.

I earlier explained how Texas CPS violated the Constitution by seizing children without any showing of imminent harm.  In the absence of a serious risk of imminent harm, parents are entitled to a full judicial hearing at which the government must prove them guilty of abuse or neglect, before the government can seize their children.  That includes first giving parents an opportunity to present evidence defending themselves against abuse charges.

Allowing children to be seized even temporarily based on unfounded abuse allegations can have lasting consequences.  One court refused to return a child to her parents based heavily on the bond she  developed with her foster parents, even after the abuse allegation that triggered the seizure turned out to be false.  Moreover, even when parents later get their child back, the child may continue to experience devastating, long-lasting psychological harm as a result of abusive treatment in foster care and the trauma of separation from her parents.