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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Triggered By a Master's Degree

I've mentioned before that I'm in Grad School.  I'm working on a masters in Health Care Law.  (Not to brag but I have a 4.0 at law school. I think my undergraduate GPA was like a 2.7 and not because I was out partying either.  Its not a fake island based law school either.  Its a well known brick and mortar Catholic university with a campus and dorms and everything. (I will admit I picked this one because I can actually walk graduation in cap and gown and ceremony like that is important to me.))

My program is on-line and so I have yet to actually go to campus. We have a fancy cloud based classroom where teachers give live lecture and all of your homework is on-line.  I'm not going to lie.  This whole working mother thing has made juggling all of this very hard at times and tonight I had class and then was able to get everyone in bed in time for me to sit down and do some of my reading.

I had to read the following Supreme Court case from 1989 ( I give you my two second overview below if you don't want to read the legal mumbo jumbo):

DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services (No. 87-154)

DSS in Wisconsin became aware of a child who was being abused by his father, failed to remove him from his abusive father, who despite being visited by DSS (who was documenting the suspicious marks) continued to beat him until he was beaten so badly he suffered traumatic brain injury and was left severely retarded.

The mother (non-custodial parent) sued the state for violating her son's Due Process Rights to life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The Supreme Court had to decide if the lower courts properly decided if Wisconsin denied the child those rights.  The answer was no - they did not violate his Due Process rights because the constitution does not mandate that the state protect citizens from private harm. And because the state did not remove him, they did not contribute to his situation being more worse than if he had never been on their radar in the first place.

Two Supreme Court judges disagreed with the ruling.  Both found that because DSS was involved and DSS is the end all be all of child protection in the state (making decisions, being notified, investigating), their failure to remove him was just like failing to give a prisoner reasonable medical treatment, thus violating Due Process.  I have to say I agree 100% with the dissenting judges.

It totally derailed my studying for the night. It triggered all of my feelings about protecting my kids and protecting Solana from the same experiences that Sarah has had. The court cases swirling at the Texas and New York State levels calling for kids to be moved out of the system in a reasonable time frame because it is denying their rights to safely and permanency. And how ridiculous is it that we live in a country that doesn't seem to get that kids need stable, safe, loving homes.  That our laws are written in such a manner that a man beat his child so severely that he ends up institutionalized and the state that was aware had no responsibility to that kid. The fact that the judges compared this case to the landmark cases about the care of prisoners, tells us something. 

Let that sink in.  To determine if what the state did was right or not, the facts were compared to the case about the mistreatment of a prisoner.

This boy, could have been my kids.  The case was from 1989 but it seems, not much has changed.  Sure my children weren't physically abused but they were neglected. Neglected so severely that they had no idea how to form basic relationships or trust adults. They had no idea how to be apart of a family.  Incident after incident and they kept returning my kids to their Mom.  Made me think of Cherub Mamma's kiddos.  Daisy who is still bouncing around the system with her sister and the adorable Russell who was abused so badly that Cherub Mamma is undergoing an investigation because he re-fractured a previous break at her home. And the state finally steps in to remove these kids and still, does nothing to move them along into stable, permanent homes, even when they are in an adoptive home, within a reasonable timeframe.  Stella has been bouncing around for 11 years now.  I think 11 years is long enough.

This particular week's lesson is on Public Policy vs the Rights of individuals.  I have a feeling this is going to be a tough thing for me to separate.



  1. I am also getting my master's degree through an online program (USC), in Public Health, and I find that many of our topics seem to relate to foster care. So many of the examples about health disparities remind me of my kids' moms, who just plain don't understand what doctors are telling them. It's sad that "the system" doesn't address the underlying issues that brings kids into foster care, and only manages emergencies. Permanency and prevention are not the priorities at all.

  2. Crazy stuff. Good luck studying and good for you getting your master's degree! Interesting stuff. It's crazy how being a foster parent colors everything we see, know or learn. It has fundamentally changed my world view. But, sending support.! oh btw I have a blog too and read all the above blogs. you all are awesome!!