Blacklisted for Not Seeking Unnecessary Treatment

Cases like this are why the Parental Rights Foundation works to demand due process through child welfare reforms.

Recently, a West Coast couple had their names added to their state’s child abuse and neglect registry for not getting their child medical attention that the child didn’t need.

If that sentence made sense to you, you may need to read it again.

The couple were blacklisted for not getting the child medical attention when the child did not need medical attention.

Where I come from, we call that “parenting.” But for Carl and Doreen (names changed to protect their privacy), it has been labeled “neglect.”

That’s why the Parental Rights Foundation is on the case.

What happened is a parent’s nightmare. The baby, not quite a toddler, had learned to scoot herself and managed to find the top of the stairs.

Doreen set the baby down for just a minute so she could wash out the bottle, and she did so knowing that, yes, the little one had begun to scoot, but she had never scooted away from Mom or Dad before.

In Doreen’s experience so far, setting the baby down for a minute and trusting her to stay put—or certainly stay within a couple of feet of Mama—was a perfectly reasonable expectation.

But then there was the tumble down the stairs. Fortunately, the stairs are carpeted, babies are resilient, and Doreen’s almost-toddler was no worse for wear.

Doreen scooped her up, comforted her, and checked her for any sign of injury. In less than a minute, the baby was calm and quiet again. So Doreen did as any good parent would do: she conscientiously watched for any sign in the baby that things weren’t right and otherwise trusted she was fine.

Later that night, when the child got fussy, Doreen’s thoughts went back to the tumble. To be safe, she called a local nurse line for advice, and the nurse recommended a visit to the emergency room.

No sooner had Doreen hung up than the baby released a lot of gas, settled down, and went to sleep. It had been a big day, it turns out. Not only was there the tumble, but the little one had also tried a couple of new foods for the first time.

Mom was relieved to realize one of the foods simply didn’t agree with her daughter. So they both settled back in to sleep.

But the nurse hotline wasn’t sleeping. When the worker checked with the hospital and found that Doreen hadn’t brought the child in, she called in Child Protective Services (CPS).

The next afternoon, CPS arrived on the doorstep and insisted the baby see the doctor. Within just a couple of hours, the baby’s pediatrician checked her and gave her a clean bill of health; there were no injuries from the fall and no reason the parents needed to have taken the girl to the ER. She was fine.

So that should have been the end of it.

Instead, CPS added Doreen’s name to the abuse registry because she didn’t follow the nurse hotline worker’s recommendation to take the child to the ER (even when Doreen realized that the fussiness was due to gas!).

This simply shows that CPS has too much power. It is far too easy to put a name on the registry, deserved or not. And the consequences can be life shattering.

So we wrote a letter to the local CPS department, appealing their decision and asking that Doreen’s name be removed.

In an ideal world, Doreen would have gotten a hearing before being labeled an abuser instead of having to ask CPS to please reconsider. But this is very far from an ideal world.

Doreen is a teacher. Though for now she has chosen to focus on her growing young family, if she decides to return to her profession, she will face serious challenges while her name is on that registry.

School districts and even private schools don’t hire teachers who are found listed on a child abuse registry. After all, if they did, would you send your child there?

 The price for being listed is high. That’s why no one should be included without a chance to defend themselves first. We call that “due process.”

That’s why, if it comes to it, the Parental Rights Foundation will represent this family on their appeal. We hope it won’t be necessary and that CPS will rethink their decision and remove her name voluntarily.

But if they don’t, we’re ready to stand with Doreen on a very solid case.

Nationally, about 80 percent of such cases are overturned on appeal. And this one is even better than most. Mom was never charged with abuse or neglect. CPS never elected to remove the child from the home. The pediatrician gave the baby a clean bill of health barely a day after the fall, and well less than a day after the nurse hotline call.

If there had been any “process” at all involved in getting Doreen’s name onto that registry, it is highly doubtful CPS would have taken up the effort. They would know going in they wouldn’t be likely to succeed.

But with no one to review their decision unless the family appeals and no penalty if CPS loses the appeal, CPS had no reason not to just put her on the list.

It’s a huge problem, and it happens all the time.

That’s why we’re representing this “poster child” case, which so clearly illustrates the problem. And it’s why, this summer at the American Legislative Exchange Conference, we’re championing reform legislation that will require a hearing before a name goes on the list.

Child welfare resources are too scant to keep wasting them on good parents who are in homes where accidents happen and no one is hurt. And our families are too precious to keep traumatizing the innocent because investigators can so easily add them to the registry without cause.

Will you stand with us as we get the word out about this innocent family and the wrong they have suffered? Will you support our efforts to get Doreen’s name off this list where it doesn’t belong?

Please make your most generous donation to the Parental Rights Foundation today to defend this family and spread the word. Together, we can both end their injustice and see to it that what they’ve already been through was not in vain.

Thank you for standing with us to protect families by supporting parental rights.


Michael Ramey
Executive Director