Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Police vs. Parents - where do we draw the line?

Such an ugly topic... and yet so necessary. We have state-run agencies that are in charge of investigating charges of misdeeds towards children - both abuse and neglect. This is as it should be. There certainly needs to be a system in place for the protection of the powerless, and children are definitely powerless. One needs only to read the daily news to know the horrendous things of which humankind is capable. 

The question is, though, where is the appropriate place to draw the line? At what point do we say, "Hey. That's completely twisted. You just can't do that." Who gets to decide? 

I have finally found a news story in which I am holding back on having a firm opinion. The more than 460 children who were seized by the state authorities in Texas have been ordered home and began the process of returning to their families on Monday. 

Why no firm opinion, you ask? Well, it's a good question. I am, after all, one of the most opinionated people I know! I had no problem whatsoever in forming opinions about the strangeness of the women as they were being filmed in their puffed sleeve dresses and funky hairdos. I must confess, I watched them on television and thought, "There's something very wrong with those women. I don't think they're quite right upstairs." But does the fact that they're weird mean that they're not fit to raise their own children? Probably not. 

I don't think they're probably raising their children in what I would call the healthiest of environments. I don't even think that too many people would debate me on that. But the state doesn't take children away from families simply because they're not healthy families. A traditional family structure is not required by state law for a child to remain in the home. 

I know that there were allegations of sexual abuse, but from what I've read there wasn't any clear finding of any. The investigation continues even as the children are reunited with their families... the judge ordered a "lengthy list of caveats pending the conclusion of the investigation, including surprise home visits by caseworkers, possible psychiatric evaluations of the children and a ban on travel outside Texas." 

A group of girls had sewn themselves navy blue dresses to celebrate their reunion. Some of the youngest children cried at being separated from the workers at the shelter they were in. Toddlers, being pulled from the home they know, put in the care of others for a long period of time, then pulled from them back to the home they no longer know? Sad.

So don't get me wrong. I think the parents are definitely strange. I think that the children are being raised in an environment that is not good. But where do we draw the line and say that it's SO not good that the government can come along and take away the children? I certainly don't want someone to be able to decide I'm just too weird to raise MY own kids...  

The judge's final order requires every parent from this particular religious compound to take child-rearing classes. Does anybody really think this is going to help? I don't know... And it also says that any interference with the state's investigation would violate the order. 

Some of these parents are not going back to their "ranch" at all, opting to obtain a separate residence to convince the state that they're capable of putting the interests of the children first. These are not the actions of people who don't love their children. 

I must say, I don't understand any woman willing to sign up for a religion that allows her husband to have more than one wife. I would NEVER be willing to share my husband with another woman - to me, that's insanity. And I don't understand any woman being willing to constantly drape herself in black, face and all, in order to make sure she doesn't lose her honor, either. That's all goofy stuff and I wouldn't put up with it for a second. 

But I do subscribe to the idea that my husband is the head of my family. I do willingly place myself in his care and submit to him. I am raising my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I try to teach them good character. I encourage forgiveness seventy times seven. These are all things that another person might consider to be very weird. Dangerous, even. Stifling. Definitely not a healthy family. For this, I don't want them to take away my kids from me. So where do we draw the line -- and who should be the ones to draw it?

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