Not Smart Enough to Raise Their Kids

 

The State of Oregon has taken two children away from their parents because the parents aren’t smart enough to take care of them. I’m not kidding.

While driving in the car, I heard this story on Glenn Beck a few days ago. Beck was going to interview a young woman who had given birth to two children; she had been tested to have an IQ of 72. I expected her to sound like someone who had trouble putting her words together; what I heard was a young, articulate woman who was desperately trying to recover her children. Of course, the story is not quite that simple, so I’ll give you more background.

Amy Fabbrini, 31 years old, gave birth to her child, Christopher, four years ago. The Department of Human Services removed Christopher from his parents’ custody shortly after he was born. Five months ago Ms. Fabbrini had a second child, Hunter, whom the State took directly from the hospital. The parents now live together and have supervised visits with their children. Fabbrini’s partner, Eric Ziegler, tested at a 66 IQ. (Average IQ is between 90 and 110.) They both have high school diplomas.

As Samantha Swindler said in The Oregonian:

No abuse or neglect has been found, but each parent has a degree of limited cognitive abilities. Rather than build a network of support around them, the state child welfare agency has moved to terminate the couple’s parental rights and make the boys available for adoption.

It’s impossible to know the full story when child welfare officials are unable to comment, but the case has left the couple and their advocates heartbroken.

The case lays bare fundamental questions about what makes a good parent and who, ultimately, gets to decide when someone’s not good enough. And it strikes at the heart of the stark choices child welfare workers face daily: should a child be removed or is there some middle ground?

Last year, a volunteer with the State visited the family several times. She is a professional mediator and a board member of Healthy Families of the High Desert, and has credentials for working with children and families. She met with the parents from June through August of last year, and recommended that Christopher be returned to his parents. She was told her services were no longer needed.

Fabbrini has twins from a previous marriage, and shares custody with her ex-husband. Fabbrini’s mother, according to her father, provided most of the parenting for the twins, until his wife died from Alzheimer’s, right before Christopher’s birth; the twins now live with their father.

Fabbrini and Ziegler have taken classes on parenting, first aid, CPR and nutrition from the Women, Infants and Children agency and other organizations.

The State has put both Christopher and Hunter in foster care and want to put them up for adoption. The couple is trying to regain custody of their children. Fabbrini’s aunt, Lenora Tucker, serves as a state-approved chaperone for their visits with Tucker.

In the same article, Susan Yuan, a former associate director of the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at University of Vermont made this statement:

They (case workers) have very little experience of people with intellectual disabilities, and because all their orientation is for the safety of the child, they err on the side of overprotecting the child without realizing that the parent can do it,” Yuan said. “It’s coming from a good place, but they need more exposure to people with disabilities. She said there are many myths about parents with intellectual disabilities, including the idea that IQ is an important factor in parenting.

Research literature has found that the IQ really doesn’t correlate with parenting until the IQ is below 50. A parent of any IQ, a parent with a 150 IQ, can be a bad parent. … I would say that if the child can be safe and loved in their own family, that this is appropriate parenting and you can put other opportunities in place.

In one sense, the issue is simple: can parents with low IQs parent successfully? But there are other factors involved: both people are unemployed (Fabbrini used to work in a grocery store; Ziegler used to work as a carpet layer, but now collects Social Security for his mental disability). The couple lives in a three-bedroom home owned by Ziegler’s parents. To date, they have lost their efforts to regain custody through the courts.

In September there will be a court case to determine whether they can recover their parental rights.

How do you see this situation?

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  1. Doug Main Inactive
    Doug Main
    @DougMain

    You can’t even pump your own gas in most places in Oregon so you CERTAINLY can’t raise your own kids!

    • #61
  2. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):
    Yeah but we are talking about high schools in deep blue Oregon. Presumably all one needs to graduate is a pulse.

    I question their “diplomas” also along with the curriculum in the high school. Some are missing the point here. The parents aren’t married and are not self supporting, instead depending on the state for money and parents for a place to live. Furthermore, the woman has now given birth to four children, two of whom, from a past relationship, were raised by her mother until she died. So, one can assume her own mother didn’t think she could adequately care for them, and they are now being taken care of by the father or his family. These people are surely capable of loving their children, but are they capable of raising them? Only if taxpayers support them financially and send someone around to monitor their diets, cleanliness, etc. There is more to this than meets the eye.

    That’s all well and good, but none of it rises to the level of incompetence requiring the state to play Brave New World. There are “parents” all over the country who fit the description that you just laid out–broke, unmarried, uneducated, depending on public assistance, relying on relatives to raise the children, etc.–that don’t have their children taken from them by the state. Simply being financially destitute should not be the low bar set to allow state abduction of children. Sure it sucks, but if we are going to say that we shouldn’t kill children (abortion) for economic expediency, then we certainly should not be comfortable with state abduction for economic expediency.

    • #62
  3. Nick Hlavacek Coolidge
    Nick Hlavacek
    @NickH

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Either raising your own children is a fundamental right, or it is not. If the message is “Other parents could raise this child better” then there is no stopping the state. We cannot use the State to give every child the perfect upbringing. We cannot. This is hubris and a will to power. It is evil.

    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents? Lets face it, there are lots more parents who don’t live up to the responsibilities of parenting and should lose their rights than there are parents who are unfairly having their rights taken away. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be protesting when that happens, but we can’t presume that every case of parents losing their rights is unjustified. No, we can’t give every child a perfect upbringing, but we can try and protect those who grow up in truly awful situations. We do not live in a black and white world of perfect evil and perfect good. We live in a fallen world of fallible humans and we do the best we can.

    • #63
  4. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):
    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents?

    Exactly.  We can’t allow a parent’s claim to their natural and constitutional right to raise their own children be used to allow children to be abused.

    That’s the easy part to agree on.  Where it gets hard is to decide as a society what behavior merits government intrusion. Being intellectually below average is not enough by any state’s standard to terminate parental rights. There must be more.

    There are certainly abuses of power and such is the human condition, but this doesn’t strike me as being likely in this case.  If the government was out of control, it is very easy for the parents’ lawyers to hold special hearings or appeal decisions of the lower court.

    • #64
  5. Nick Hlavacek Coolidge
    Nick Hlavacek
    @NickH

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    Are two parents like this that much worse or even better than a single parent with an 85 IQ?

    There’s no easy answer to this question. IQ is a number we use to represent how “smart” someone is, but that’s not really what it measures. Not exactly anyway. Most IQ tests end up telling us more about how quickly or how easily one can learn new information. That’s obviously one facet of overall intelligence, but it isn’t the whole picture. Some people learn very slowly and have a low total capacity for knowledge. There’s a limit to how much they can practically learn. Other people learn slowly but have more capacity. It takes them longer, but they can eventually be just as “smart” as someone with a higher IQ. When you also look at different aspects of intelligence (simply absorbing information vs analyzing and making new connections) it’s even harder to represent with just a single number like IQ.

    It sounds like this mother is someone who learns slowly, and possibly has some sort of learning disability, but is able to learn more than one might expect based on IQ alone. IQ really shouldn’t be used to say whether or not someone will be a good parent, because that’s not what it’s trying to measure at all. The question here isn’t whether these parents are smart enough to raise children, but if they’ve demonstrated that they’re incapable of doing so already. Just like we have a presumption of innocence in a criminal case, the presumption must be that they can do it until proven otherwise.

    • #65
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    Are two parents like this that much worse or even better than a single parent with an 85 IQ?

    There’s no easy answer to this question. IQ is a number we use to represent how “smart” someone is, but that’s not really what it measures. Not exactly anyway. Most IQ tests end up telling us more about how quickly or how easily one can learn new information. That’s obviously one facet of overall intelligence, but it isn’t the whole picture. Some people learn very slowly and have a low total capacity for knowledge. There’s a limit to how much they can practically learn. Other people learn slowly but have more capacity. It takes them longer, but they can eventually be just as “smart” as someone with a higher IQ. When you also look at different aspects of intelligence (simply absorbing information vs analyzing and making new connections) it’s even harder to represent with just a single number like IQ.

    It sounds like this mother is someone who learns slowly, and possibly has some sort of learning disability, but is able to learn more than one might expect based on IQ alone. IQ really shouldn’t be used to say whether or not someone will be a good parent, because that’s not what it’s trying to measure at all. The question here isn’t whether these parents are smart enough to raise children, but if they’ve demonstrated that they’re incapable of doing so already. Just like we have a presumption of innocence in a criminal case, the presumption must be that they can do it until proven otherwise.

    Very well said.

    • #66
  7. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Ideally the mother and father should have custody of their own children. We can argue the merits of  their case until the cows come home, but we have only heard one side of the story. The plain facts, as we know them, are that the mother lost custody of her first two children with another man and is now seeking custody of the latest two children with someone else.  Perhaps the reasoning on the part of Oregon in this case has something to do with why she lost the first two.  One thing for sure @susanquinn, you have certainly helped to sharpen our critical thinking skills with this post!

    • #67
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    It’s interesting to look at this issue in relation to the babysitters families rely on–very often older siblings.

    Is a ten- or eleven-year-old competent to look after a younger child? I don’t think so, but I am in the minority.

    And at what age can a child be a “latch-key child”? There was a lot of controversy surrounding this issue in the 1990s, and the law varies by state.

    IQ is not a substitute for a measure of judgment anyway. Most ten-year-olds have the cognitive ability to understand how cars work and how to drive them. Need I say more. :)

    • #68
  9. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    I share Aaron’s position and admire his contained fury here. But just to throw some more good sociological and biological good cheer into this distressing tale, here is a list of countries where the young couple’s IQ would fall well within the normal range and even exceed the average IQ (Lynn/Vanhanen). Do you imagine the same metric could possibly used as an aspect of our immigration policy? Use a metric to take an American couple’s children from them, but malign it when admitting young fertile immigrants. That’s progressive logic.

    A little off topic, but my guess is most of that IQ differential is likely due to childhood malnutrition rather than pure genetic differences. If they had children in America they would probably experience a huge “Flynn Effect.” I’ve also read that men with IQ’s in the 80’s are most likely to be violent, so if a country’s IQ goes from below 80 to the mid 80’s they will probably experience a large uptick in violence. When you drink alcohol, I believe your IQ can drop by as much as 20 points which could explain why there’s the stereotype of the “mean drunk.” I also believe average African American IQ hovers around the 80’s, which is probably also caused enough by childhood malnutrition that fixing it would have huge positive impacts.

    • #69
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):
    One thing for sure @susanquinn, you have certainly helped to sharpen our critical thinking skills with this post!

    . . . and you folks are making me work on mine, too! I love it!

    • #70
  11. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I think many here may be underestimating the degree of disability reflected in an IQ score of 66 or 72.  70 was the traditional cut off for “mental retardation,” now typically called “intellectual disability.”  I am not an expert on the practical implications of such a low score.

    I do note that SCOTUS has barred execution of the intellectually disabled, and has ruled that an IQ cutoff of 70 is not permissible as a sole cutoff for such intellectual disability — i.e. SCOTUS ruled in Hall v. Florida (2014) that a murderer with a tested IQ greater than 70 may still present evidence of intellectual disability that would preclude execution.  One of the major issues in the Hall case was test-to-test variability, with a standard error of about 2.5 IQ points (this means that there is a 95% chance that a person’s “true” IQ score is within 5 points of a specific measured score).

    A number of other states were using an IQ of 70 as some sort of execution cut-off, though usually not as a stand-alone line like Florida’s.  (To be clear, the Florida rule didn’t say that the state could execute a person with an IQ over 70 and could not execute a person with an IQ under 70; it stated that a measured IQ over 70 meant that a person was not intellectually disabled and could therefore be executed, while additional evidence would be considered if a person had a measured IQ under 70.)

    I cannot evaluate the report in the OP, but wanted to give my general impression that an IQ of around 70 is a quite severe disability.  I think that 70 is sometimes (perhaps often) a cut-off used in adult guardianship proceedings.

    In principle, I do not oppose the idea of removing children from the care of severely intellectually disabled people.  There will be a point at which a person is so severely intellectually disabled that he or she is unable to properly care for himself or herself, and it seems to me that it follows that such a person should not have custody of a child.  This is a tragic situation, of course, but I think that it is warranted in such extreme circumstances.

    • #71
  12. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I have known couples involving pairs of people with little intelligence or other psychological impairments. They are often aided by neighbors, friends, and family with better judgment and/or more stable personalities. With help, they are capable of much more than they could accomplish alone.

    There are plenty of couples who harm their children by neglect or abuse. And I’d venture to guess that the vast majority of them involve one or more welfare dependents. But pre-crime penalties are unjust, especially in regard to our most fundamental and natural rights.

    I appreciate @goldwaterwoman‘s caution to not presume too much about this specific case while arguing general principles. The latter is our more common focus, I suspect, even when the two become somewhat confused.

    • #72
  13. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I think many here may be underestimating the degree of disability reflected in an IQ score of 66 or 72. 70 was the traditional cut off for “mental retardation,” now typically called “intellectual disability.” I am not an expert on the practical implications of such a low score.

    I do note that SCOTUS has barred execution of the intellectually disabled, and has ruled that an IQ cutoff of 70 is not permissible as a sole cutoff for such intellectual disability — i.e. SCOTUS ruled in Hall v. Florida (2014) that a murderer with a tested IQ greater than 70 may still present evidence of intellectual disability that would preclude execution. One of the major issues in the Hall case was test-to-test variability, with a standard error of about 2.5 IQ points (this means that there is a 95% chance that a person’s “true” IQ score is within 5 points of a specific measured score).

    A number of other states were using an IQ of 70 as some sort of execution cut-off, though usually not as a stand-alone line like Florida’s. (To be clear, the Florida rule didn’t say that the state could execute a person with an IQ over 70 and could not execute a person with an IQ under 70; it stated that a measured IQ over 70 meant that a person was not intellectually disabled and could therefore be executed, while additional evidence would be considered if a person had a measured IQ under 70.)

    I cannot evaluate the report in the OP, but wanted to give my general impression that an IQ of around 70 is a quite severe disability. I think that 70 is sometimes (perhaps often) a cut-off used in adult guardianship proceedings.

    In principle, I do not oppose the idea of removing children from the care of severely intellectually disabled people. There will be a point at which a person is so severely intellectually disabled that he or she is unable to properly care for himself or herself, and it seems to me that it follows that such a person should not have custody of a child. This is a tragic situation, of course, but I think that it is warranted in such extreme circumstances.

    If only these decisions could be made by a private charity and/or the surrounding community rather than the heavy hand of the state…

    • #73
  14. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    I guess I don’t know enough about IQ, but on rereading I found this quote by Susan Yuan to be a little hard to square-

    “Research literature has found that the IQ really doesn’t correlate with parenting until the IQ is below 50.”

    I’d have to see what the markers were for “parenting.” From my experience with two children with similar IQ to the OP there is a more than just “smartness” at stake. Someone with a low average IQ can be articulate (however that is measured), seem quite normal, and have absolutely no intuition or deductive reasoning skills. “I thought if I tied the pacifier around his neck he wouldn’t lose it during the night” is an example of this kind of thinking. Or “the baby kept spitting up the formula so I stopped giving it to her.” In other words, you can teach the low IQ person A and B and assume they will intuit C and D, but they don’t.

    • #74
  15. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

     

     

    The reality of this situation is that there are too few foster care homes as it is. States will not apply this notion of low-IQ barriers to parenting because they can’t. Meaning that it will be applied arbitrarily and therefore unjustly.

    Let us wait until we see there is a real problem, and even then let us afford the parents due process. IQ is a stupid criterion to put in place.

    We need to rethink social services mandates. Asking them to prevent abuse and neglect from ever occurring is not realistic. As we do in all other areas of law, we must return to acting only when something bad has actually happened.

     

    • #75
  16. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    For me this conversation raises another question.  If low IQ parents are such a danger to their children that they must be removed from the home, is it OK to force sterilization?

    Why not?

    It’s wrong to take away their ability to have children, but it’s right to take away their children once born?  Which is more cruel? To the parent, and the child…

    In the end, short of cruel abuse or neglect, no child is better off a ward of the state than with a parent who wants them.  Taking children from their parents is seldom in their best interests.  (I said seldom, not never!)

    • #76
  17. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Part of the challenge here is that we have government doing what might be better done by a more local and flexible system. Government has to be (or at least is supposed to be) rule based and rigid.

    As a society we have outsourced what might otherwise be family and community functions to the government, which means those functions may be performed more consistently but often more poorly. In this case, what if these parents had local “platoons” of people who knew them and their individual capabilities (extended family, neighbors, church, social clubs, local charities, etc.), and could work with them to fill in where the parents’ capabilities fell short, or help the parents acquire capabilities that they currently lack but might be able to obtain, or (if the people who know the parents know that they are not up to the task of parenting) to work with the parents to help the parents understand that they are in over their heads, and there are others in the community who could give their children a better future. Instead we have an inflexible government with mostly a binary “all or nothing” choice.

    I know there are millions of complications to trying to build my idealized world of an engaged and responsive community, but the more we transfer family and community functions to government, the more we are going to have to fit complicated individual situations into rigid and ill-fitting “solutions.”

    • #77
  18. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Arizona Patriot (View Comment):
    I think many here may be underestimating the degree of disability reflected in an IQ score of 66 or 72. 70 was the traditional cut off for “mental retardation,” now typically called “intellectual disability.” I am not an expert on the practical implications of such a low score.

    Another way of looking at it, an IQ below 70 puts one in the bottom 2.5% of the population.

    • #78
  19. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Just keep in mind that even seemingly high IQ parents have had to fight off CPS:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/free-range-parents-cleared-in-second-neglect-case-after-children-walked-alone/2015/06/22/82283c24-188c-11e5-bd7f-4611a60dd8e5_story.html?utm_term=.560d4b9d7555

    The standard for when the state takes children from parents must very narrow indeed.

    • #79
  20. Isaac Smith Member
    Isaac Smith
    @

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    Just this afternoon I was listening to The Federalist interview with Charles Murray in which one of the points I think I heard him making (near the end) is that the same people who claim that IQ doesn’t exist (or doesn’t measure anything meaningful) typically have high IQ, and live and act as though those with high IQ have an inherent right to rule over those with a lower IQ.

    Arrgghhh! Don’t get me started, FST. We keep getting this message from the Left, over and over and over again. It is so arrogant, so condescending and so misguided. I have a friend who assumes that if a person has a doctorate, they must be smart. She has one herself. I tried to tell her tactfully that I disagreed.

    You are free to share my explication of academic degrees:  “We all know what B.S. is.  M.S. is “More of the Same,” and PhD is “Piled Higher  and Deeper.”

    Ummm, is it important that she remain a friend?

    • #80
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Isaac Smith (View Comment):
    You are free to share my explication of academic degrees: “We all know what B.S. is. M.S. is “More of the Same,” and PhD is “Piled Higher and Deeper.”

    Ummm, is it important that she remain a friend?

    I try to be open to suggestions, Isaac. Although she can be a little misguided at times, she has proven to be a wonderful and generous friend. Thanks for trying to help out! ;-)

    • #81
  22. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Just for the record, without knowing much of anything about this case…

    I am a dependency attorney, and while I don’t practice in Oregon, I do know a bit about this area of law.

    Anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written or said already knows that I think the state has too much power, which it can exercise somewhat arbitrarily, and also knows that I generally favor a system that limits that power as much as possible.

    All that said, this story does not, at face value, have what I’d call a ring of truth to it.  I would be willing to bet that there is a lot more to the story than what we’re being treated to.  But I’d have to look at the documents.  I have seen a few cases where parents’ rights were indeed terminated based on what I thought was little more than intelligence – but again, it was a lot more complicated than that.

    So, just playing devil’s advocate for a moment, let us take this scenario.  You have a child with some sort of medical condition, like diabetes or a heart condition or asthma or something else, and you have parents who are simply incapable of learning how to care for that child.  It seems inarguable that the child’s safety is indeed at risk, but it could also be argued that the only “parental deficiency,” so to speak, is the intelligence of the parents.

    How do you resolve a case like that?

    • #82
  23. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Without due process and proof of severe neglect resulting in obvious physical harm, no government has the right to infringe on parenthood. Few violations of authority could be more grievous. It’s basically kidnapping.

    Taking a child because of presumed likelihood of neglect is worse than taking a person’s firearms or gagging the person because of presumed likelihood of criminal intent. If a person has committed no severe violation, the state has no authority to act. Family precedes all levels of government.

    But authority and power are not equivalent. There have been other examples of official kidnapping.

    Agreed, of course.  But this really doesn’t happen.  It probably didn’t happen in this case.

    • #83
  24. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Skyler

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    As I recall, this is only one side of the story. Sure, the parents aren’t too bright, but remember that the government is most likely not allowed to comment on the case as it is sealed. You have no idea if the parents are doing well or not, or even why the children were removed. It could very well be that they have endangered the children with their behavior, such as by doing drugs or by getting into violent domestic altercations.

    Glen beck is not a reliable source on such things.

    Point taken, Skyler. I’ll track the case, but no one suggested anything about mistreatment or drugs. And it was her family members who reported the situation. They would have been free to say anything they wanted to say to validate their actions.

    I don’t know Oregon, but I’m intimately familiar with Texas CPS. I work as a lawyer representing children and parents in the CPS courts. Texas has probably the worst CPS in the country, so I’m guessing that other states are going to be at least that level.

    This is interesting, since we appear to do the exact same thing for a living…

    Skylar, take a look at the ORS 419, particularly with regard to terminations, and tell me what your initial impressions are.  At cursory glance, it did appear to me that standards in Oregon (far more reliant on “best interests” than in Washington) do indeed seem to give a bit more flexibility to the state than I’m comfortable with.  That is, without reviewing any of the case-law that very likely narrows that standard a great deal.

    • #84
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    This is interesting, since we appear to do the exact same thing for a living…

    Skylar, take a look at the ORS 419, particularly with regard to terminations, and tell me what your initial impressions are. At cursory glance, it did appear to me that standards in Oregon (far more reliant on “best interests” than in Washington) do indeed seem to give a bit more flexibility to the state than I’m comfortable with. That is, without reviewing any of the case-law that very likely narrows that standard a great deal.

    I so appreciate the attorneys who are chiming in, @Skyler and @hammer,the (Ryan). Even if it doesn’t support what’s going on. I think all of us want to know the truth, and unfortunately the case won’t be heard (they say) until the end of Sept. You can be sure I’ll keep tabs on it. Especially since the case originated four years ago. Isn’t that odd to have the kids in foster care for that long? And wouldn’t the parents ordinarily be told the specifics of why they’ve lost custody other than their IQs? 

    • #85
  26. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    This is interesting, since we appear to do the exact same thing for a living…

    Skylar, take a look at the ORS 419, particularly with regard to terminations, and tell me what your initial impressions are. At cursory glance, it did appear to me that standards in Oregon (far more reliant on “best interests” than in Washington) do indeed seem to give a bit more flexibility to the state than I’m comfortable with. That is, without reviewing any of the case-law that very likely narrows that standard a great deal.

    I so appreciate the attorneys who are chiming in, @Skyler and @hammer,the (Ryan). Even if it doesn’t support what’s going on. I think all of us want to know the truth, and unfortunately the case won’t be heard (they say) until the end of Sept. You can be sure I’ll keep tabs on it. Especially since the case originated four years ago. Isn’t that odd to have the kids in foster care for that long? And wouldn’t the parents ordinarily be told the specifics of why they’ve lost custody other than their IQs?

    I can tell you a few things that are almost certain.  First, you do not have all of the information.  The department is not authorized to make statements or release any information, as they are bound by confidentiality.  Parents are not so bound, which means you necessarily get an extremely biased version of events.  I could give you some examples of statements made by parents (or defendants in criminal trials, even) vs. the truth of what is actually happening.  News organizations love to run with stories that sound awful, so I’ve read dozens.  They can generally not be trusted to get the actual facts, which don’t make for great news.

    It is and it is not odd to have kids in foster care for 4 years.  It’s certainly not the idea, but it certainly happens.  Very often, this is because services are being offered to parents, hiccups happen, etc… etc…  Oregon, as with Washington, specifically has a statute that says the goal is 15 months to reach some sort of resolution.  I’ve fought against this on occasion because sometimes that resolution is termination, and it may be that my client would rather be in foster care with some hope of returning home.

    Parents are always told the specifics.  They aren’t just told specifics, they are given the opportunity to contest it in court.  There are lengthy hearings regarding those specifics, and there are generally at least 3 and sometimes as many as 5 different attorneys working on the case from all different perspectives.  In my experience, there is no such thing as a removal because of low IQ.  That may be someone’s interpretation, but it is almost certainly not the court’s ruling.

    • #86
  27. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    Either raising your own children is a fundamental right, or it is not. If the message is “Other parents could raise this child better” then there is no stopping the state. We cannot use the State to give every child the perfect upbringing. We cannot. This is hubris and a will to power. It is evil.

    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents? Lets face it, there are lots more parents who don’t live up to the responsibilities of parenting and should lose their rights than there are parents who are unfairly having their rights taken away. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be protesting when that happens, but we can’t presume that every case of parents losing their rights is unjustified. No, we can’t give every child a perfect upbringing, but we can try and protect those who grow up in truly awful situations. We do not live in a black and white world of perfect evil and perfect good. We live in a fallen world of fallible humans and we do the best we can.

    Where is the line drawn? Beating children? Clear line. How about if you are a homeless family? Then? Jobless? Then?

    You say a truly awful situation. That has not been proved in this case at all.

    And yes, I think the right of parents to be parents trumps everything short of clear abuse or neglect. And by clear I mean beating, sexual molestation, or not feeding.

    • #87
  28. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):
    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents?

    Exactly. We can’t allow a parent’s claim to their natural and constitutional right to raise their own children be used to allow children to be abused.

    That’s the easy part to agree on. Where it gets hard is to decide as a society what behavior merits government intrusion. Being intellectually below average is not enough by any state’s standard to terminate parental rights. There must be more.

    There are certainly abuses of power and such is the human condition, but this doesn’t strike me as being likely in this case. If the government was out of control, it is very easy for the parents’ lawyers to hold special hearings or appeal decisions of the lower court.

    I have a right to raise my children as I see fit. Period. And you have to define, “abused” because we have already seen examples of how fast that gets stretched.

    • #88
  29. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):
    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents?

    Exactly. We can’t allow a parent’s claim to their natural and constitutional right to raise their own children be used to allow children to be abused.

    That’s the easy part to agree on. Where it gets hard is to decide as a society what behavior merits government intrusion. Being intellectually below average is not enough by any state’s standard to terminate parental rights. There must be more.

    There are certainly abuses of power and such is the human condition, but this doesn’t strike me as being likely in this case. If the government was out of control, it is very easy for the parents’ lawyers to hold special hearings or appeal decisions of the lower court.

    I have a right to raise my children as I see fit. Period. And you have to define, “abused” because we have already seen examples of how fast that gets stretched.

    Well, “abused” is very well defined.  You may say that it gets stretched, and it is easy to imagine, but these are questions that get hashed out in a pretty serious manner.

    Bryan, I’m curious what you think about my scenario in comment #83.

    • #89
  30. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Nick Hlavacek (View Comment):
    Even if raising your own children is a “fundamental right”, don’t the children have rights as well? Is there a “fundamental right” to not be abused or neglected by your parents?

    Exactly. We can’t allow a parent’s claim to their natural and constitutional right to raise their own children be used to allow children to be abused.

    That’s the easy part to agree on. Where it gets hard is to decide as a society what behavior merits government intrusion. Being intellectually below average is not enough by any state’s standard to terminate parental rights. There must be more.

    There are certainly abuses of power and such is the human condition, but this doesn’t strike me as being likely in this case. If the government was out of control, it is very easy for the parents’ lawyers to hold special hearings or appeal decisions of the lower court.

    I have a right to raise my children as I see fit. Period. And you have to define, “abused” because we have already seen examples of how fast that gets stretched.

    Also, you do not have a right to raise your children as you see fit.  I mean, by law.  You simply do not have that right.  You might say that you should have that right, and that’s a perfectly valid argument.  But as it currently stands, you do not.  You are obligated to feed and clothe your children, to not abuse them sexually or physically …  the right you claim is also a responsibility, and while we might argue about where to draw the line, it is generally accepted that this responsibility does exist.

    • #90
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