Letters to the Editor

From the week of March 18, 2004

I became aware of this last August after the removal of my godchild, Sunshine Gates. Her case inspired Senate Bill 117, currently under consideration in the state legislature. The fact is, sometimes social workers become overzealous in their attempt to protect children, and they remove newborns without justification. Because they work with complete autonomy under current Colorado law, their decisions are sometimes colored by cultural insensitivity, personal prejudice and confusion of poverty with neglect. Conspicuously absent in this scenario is due process for the voiceless new citizen of a nation that was founded on democratic principles. Even though a hearing is mandated within 72 hours, the reality is that the parents won't have their say in court for several months. Meanwhile, their baby is beginning to bond with his/her foster parents. Often, the birth parents lack the education, language skills and financial resources to negotiate the legal system effectively. When their case is finally heard, it rarely goes their way in this state, precisely because of the bonding argument.

Having to obtain a court order prior to such removals, as SB 117 would mandate (with certain exceptions), would be a step toward preventing grievous errors at the outset. A judge could ask pertinent questions that would ensure due process for the infant: Are you sure? How do you know? Is there another relative able and willing to care for the baby? Have you received input from other professionals and advocates for the family? Have you explored every alternative? Had these questions been asked in Sunshine's case, she might not have suffered the trauma of being removed from her mother, father and siblings while social services took the time to determine that her family was not actually homeless and that a mistake had been made. Such swift resolutions are highly unusual; in Sunshine's case, both the Indian Child Welfare Act and outraged members of her family's church who quickly mobilized to seek justice played critical roles.

Finally, I want to mention that I am so impressed with lawyer Jack Davis's integrity and his willingness to be true to his convictions despite the professional risk involved. What a good, brave and humble man he must be. God bless him for going out on a limb and taking a stand for justice. The world needs more attorneys like Jack Davis.

Karen Petersen
via the Internet

Rush to judgment: More than three years ago, Julie Jargon offered a 7,254-word paean to tearing poor people’s children from their parents and rushing them into middle-class adoptive homes in the name of “expedited permanency planning.” She accepted as fact the absurd claim that agencies really would try to keep the birth families together first.

In a letter to Westword at the time, I asked “who’s going to enforce that when all the praise from politicians and the press go to taking away more children and rushing to terminate parental rights? And when the services are not provided, won’t advocates of the new approach say: ‘Gee, that’s too bad, but now the child has bonded to the foster parents, so tough luck.’”

Now Jargon apparently is shocked -- shocked! -- when child protective services confiscate Albert Galvan’s daughter at birth because Albert had the temerity to be young, male and Mexican. It must have been even more shocking when, having done nothing to help Albert for nineteen months, everyone said, "Gee, that’s too bad, but now the child has bonded to the foster parents, so tough luck."

No wonder Jargon retreats behind the comforting myth that only parents are hurt in such cases. In fact, EPP and the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act do enormous harm to children. They encourage a take-the-child-and-run approach to child welfare, overloading the system with children who never needed to be removed from their parents -- many of whom will never be adopted at all. Nationwide, there are more children languishing in foster care today than on the day ASFA was passed. There have been 147,000 more terminations of parental rights than actual adoptions, creating a generation of legal orphans with no ties to birth parents and little hope of adoption, either.

For those still enamored of EPP and its theory of “bonding,” one question: If I kidnap a child at birth, take him to Mexico for nineteen months, take good care of him and then return, can I keep him?

Richard Wexler, executive director
National Coalition for Children Protection Reform


Adams Family Values

Law and ardor: Regarding David Holthouse's "Cruisin' for a Bustin'," in the February 26 issue:

Though he uses colorful language -- "brown, gurgling stream whose banks are lined with towering, prickly weeds" -- your writer fails to identify the stream as Clear Creek. Did David Holthouse ever go to court in Brighton? There he could have seen, on any given day, 39 gentlemen lined up, very ready to admit to a lesser charge of making a noise -- and paying $250 per man. You do the math.

Maybe people should start making noises about the sexual politics that allow the county of Adams to so demean justice by preying upon men in closets and lining its own pockets in the process. Maybe the sheriff's "illegal-sex issue" is really about the money. If your writer had been more interested in the causes and effects of sexual arrest, he would have done more than simply try to tantalize his readers. Then again, maybe tease was the object of the article. "Cruisin' for a Bustin'" appears on pages whose other newsprint half, in the advertising section, is all about sex in our city -- or so your paper would have us think.

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