“Sharon” is a successful artist who was in her mid-forties at the time her daughter was taken into CPS. She felt particularly targeted on a few fronts: as a single mother, as a religious minority member, and as someone who doesn’t conform to middle class norms because of her career path. She described herself as middle class on a working class or poor income. Sharon’s story is particularly interesting because she won back custody of her child.

A friend was watching her daughter for a few days while Sharon delivered paintings to a gallery out of her home state. While she was gone, someone alleged that the friend had sexually abused his (then) adult daughter when she was a child—no case was ever raised at the time she was a child though. CPS intervened and took custody of Sharon’s daughter while she was gone. No case was ever made against her friend for this alleged, past abuse. Nearly two months later, Sharon was reunited with her daughter and they were put on probation, not permitted to leave that CPS jurisdiction. When Sharon left the region for a funeral, she found out a warrant was issued for her arrest. With the help of a lawyer and an attitude that refused to admit she had done anything wrong, she was eventually acquitted. She now has full custody of her daughter again and plans never to live in that state again.

Looking back, having her child placed into foster care was “in no way whatsoever” in the best interest of her daughter. She does not believe that the social workers, legal personnel, or experts that interacted with her or her daughter were advocating for them in any way. “They did not care about either of us, even after the acquittal. In fact, they became more determined to continue the harm through escalation and harassment.” She says she would also liked to have filed charges against the person making false anonymous accusations that led to her daughter being taken.

The social workers, child protective services workers, court workers, psychologists, and lawyers were all summed up together as “extremely ignorant and dangerous. [They] get pleasure from controlling others’ lives with impunity. [Family court] is the only court where accused is considered guilty until proven innocent.” She believes the job of the foster care system is “to collect money and attack people who are different in their jobs, choices, lifestyle, looks, etc. and punish them for being so.”

Insights:

Sharon may be special in that she had a certain kind of knowledge that helped her navigate the bureaucracy and legal systems involved. Although her income was low, she was still able to get a good lawyer to defend her and her daughter. Perhaps most importantly, it seems clear that Sharon never did anything wrong and even the probation seems unjust. If anything, we should be wondering why it took two months for her to get custody of her daughter back in the first place. Even in a case where it is obvious that a parent was innocent, and that the child was unharmed, the process is laborious and disruptive to a family. One can argue how removing the child while the friend was investigated was an appropriate course of action is the “best interest” and protection of the child (a better-safe-than-sorry approach); but why was she not immediately reunited with her mother? We need to examine as a society if there is any disruptive and less costly way of operating.