In 2018, about 5 children died from abuse every single day. Every single day! The agencies charged with handling abuse and neglect of children — Child Protective/Welfare Services — are mismanaged and unorganized. Ultimately the children, not CPS, are the ones who pay the price. Children and families suffer at their hands.
When I tell people about anarchist views, most of the time their first question involves the fate of children. What about abused children? How do we prevent sex trafficking? What about neglect? In this essay we will go over how the government handles children, the debate on children from a libertarian perspective, and possible solutions.
CPS Sometimes Moves Kids From One Bad Environment to Another
In Out of Control: Who’s Watching Our Child Protection Agencies, author Brenda Scott writes, “Child Protective Services is out of control. The system, as it operates today, should be scrapped. If children are to be protected in their homes and in the system, radical new guidelines must be adopted. At the core of the problem is the antifamily mindset of CPS. Removal is the first resort, not the last. With insufficient checks and balances, the system that was designed to protect children has become the greatest perpetrator of harm.”
Overcomplicating and Overcorrecting
There’s a history of both overcorrecting by being heavy handed in mild situations or of underreacting to serious abuse. Government officials have a history of either doing everything in their power to keep a child in the wrong family, no matter how unstable the environment is, or of deciding to take a child away at a whim based on a difference of opinion on how a child should be raised. Are we really okay with letting the government telling us how to raise our own children? Government can’t even figure out who is being neglected.
The Govment Took Muh Baby
I got this idea for writing this paper at a personal request from a friend of mine. She told me her story and it was horrifying. She had a neighbor who was abused by his father. Eventually, the government got involved. CPS was focused on keeping the child in the family; they moved the boy to his mother’s.
Sounds like a win right? Not quite. CPS did no real research on the boy’s mom. Unfortunately for the child, his unstable mother was addicted to methamphetamines. The boy was neglected and left to fend for himself. This prolonged trauma led him to eventually murder someone and now he is in prison. The boy was failed by one government system and is now at the mercy of another. I’m no psychiatrist but I think his childhood may have had to play a part in his mental state. Now he is just another statistic.
In hearing my friend’s story, my curiosity for how many people have interacted with child “protective” services was sparked and I decided to ask around. It turns out almost everyone has stories about the government interfering with children’s lives. Sometimes it’s too late.
Florida Foster Parents
One individual told me about his wife’s story. She was placed with a foster family that had 8 children. The foster parents were friends with the social worker. Although visits from CPS are supposed to be a surprise, the parents received a notice a week before every visit because they were all personal friends. When the social worker visited, the fridge was full and the children seemed to have normal lives. However, when the foster parents weren’t under supervision, they only fed the children bread and water and that was if they were lucky.
These kids were starving when the social worker wasn’t around. When you become a foster parent, you receive a handout from the government called WIC (Women, infant, children) aid. This will get you free food and other essential items. So these people only became foster parents to make money off the state for housing children. The kids were being used. They had no intention of caring for them. This isn’t a one off situation. It begs the question, how many lives have been destroyed by people looking to make a buck off of the lives of children?
One individual while living in California, told me about how his wife after giving birth to their daughter, had post-partum depression. She voluntarily checked into a mental health facility. After being honest with her doctor, CPS visited them several times in a month at random. They were only given an hour notice. According to my interviewee, they were treated like they abused their child.
On one specific visit, the father was teaching his daughter how to walk. Every now and then he would tickle her feet to get her to move her legs so as to strengthen her legs. He was scolded by the CPS agent that she was too young to learn to walk and that this was child abuse. Obviously all children are the same and need to be raised the exact same. So according to the government, if you are part of the 15% of women who suffer from this and you do the right thing by seeking help, you will be treated like a criminal. If you raise your child in a way the government doesn’t approve of, they will scold you as if you are the child. If you screw up at all and miss a random appointment, then — whoops — it looks like you lost your child privileges!
Maybe the government should research where they are putting kids before they throw them into potentially threatening and mentally damaging environments. But, that seems like a lot of work, so…
The lives of children are one of the most debated topics in the libertarian community. Experts to this day still cannot agree on solutions to the question of children. I personally believe in what Rothbard has to say. Children fall under the parent’s property rights while they are the parent’s responsibility. It sounds harsh calling children property and several of the younger anarchists in the community have definitely voiced their concerns on that topic. However, if children had natural rights, then how are we as parents or future parents supposed to discipline our children?
A World Where Parents Can’t Parent
If I am to ‘ground’ my child, then according to the Non-Aggression Principle, I am violating their property rights and they can use physical force to deter me for it. Do we really want to live in that world? When it comes to neglected children, we have been shown that the state not only complicates the process for people who actually want to have a child to care for, but also makes it easy to neglect our own children and get away with it.
Murray Rothbard, economist, and political theorist, believes that people should be able to buy and sell children. While this sounds terrible at first, he goes on to say that if someone is willing to sell their child, then they are most likely going to a better environment than the one they were originally in.
Another question that was proposed was, “what about sexual abuse?” My answer to that is it already happens even with the Child Protective Services system in place. The problem is that they only have to fool the government. They will be less likely to be able to get away with malfeasance or abuse if an entire community is watching and the price of neglect is that an angry mob drags abusers out in the street for public execution.
As in all things liberty, it isn’t perfect, but it’s better. Maybe it’s time that we get out of our comfort zone and start thinking of the children.
Dedicated To Joey