Some stories of the state taking kids for their own good make sense. Parents who participate in physical, sexual or emotional abuse, cruelty, or neglect make sense. But as I've said before, the state doesn't seem to use common sense when it comes to snatching children from parents.
We've already discussed the woman sent to jail for hugging a child, and for the case regarding parental alienation syndrome. Now comes the lemonade case.
And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.
The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.
Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic.
Ratte is a tenured professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, which means that, on a given day, he's more likely to be excavating ancient burial sites in Turkey than watching "Dancing with the Stars" -- or even the History Channel, for that matter.
A couple of questions came to mind. First, why didn't the guy selling the drinks say something when the man gave his son the hard lemonade? This is, of course, assuming he gave it to him at the concession stand, not terribly unlikely, but possible.
The second one is why did the state determine a parent can't do this? It's my understanding that parents can serve their children alcohol (beer, wine) but that they are responsible for the underage drinker's behavior. In other words, the laws against minors drinking is largely designed so that parents are responsible for when and whether their children drink. Is this just not true anymore?
I understand the guard taking the drink from the kid. But according to the story, the kid was taken to the emergency room where he was given a blood alcohol test which showed he had no alcohol in his system. And the state still took the child away from his parents. Worse yet, the system stuck the child in foster care with strangers, even after telling the parents qualified relatives could take the child while the investigation continued.
It looks like it took about a week for the boy to be returned to his parents. I have to wonder what went on with this child while he was in custody and what he thought was going to happen. Did he think he'd ever see his parents again? Did anyone explain the charges to him, which would have probably made the situation worse? Will there be any long-term affects on this child in relation to his parents or authorities?
Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university's Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple's case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.
Duquette says the emergency removal powers of CPS, though "well-intentioned" are "out of control and partly responsible for the large numbers of kids in the foster care system," which is almost universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened.
CPS has frequently gotten a bad rap for not moving quickly enough in child abuse cases. It seems to me, however, that CPS usually ends up taking children from households where they feel they will get the least (physical) resistence; in other words, from families who think the system works rather than those who fight.
The state has become a bully when it comes to dictating how, when and where parents raise their children. There's no doubt parents make errors, sometimes terrible ones. But the harm done by an overzealous government is far worse.