Lawmakers set up the system with the best intentions: The goal is to protect abused children and save lives. But one result of pervasive pressure, reinforced with potential civil and criminal penalties for nonreporting, is a skyrocketing number of hotline calls. According to a 2016 report, 7.4 million children came to the attention of child-abuse hotlines in a single year. ...No, I do not think that the system was set up with good intentions.
I had seen doctors work hand in glove with CPS to decide the merits of the hotline calls that their own hospitals had placed — a recipe for confirmation bias. They rarely used independent forensic specialists — a common practice in settings where controversies may arise over contested facts. A select group of child-abuse pediatricians served as the liaisons between accused parents and the state authorities. Later, if cases were filed in court, state prosecutors relied heavily on these same pediatricians to provide medical-expert testimony against the accused parent. None of the families I represented were informed about their assigned pediatrician’s entanglement with CPS. ... The treatment of families such as the Weidners raises serious questions about whether the system runs contrary to the American Medical Association’s codified ethics standards. ...
The CPS system needs some sensible checks to protect the innocent. “When in doubt, call the hotline” inevitably leads to unnecessary stress for wrongly accused families. Unless there’s reason to fear imminent harm to a child, a medical review for “reasonable suspicion” should precede rather than follow the decision to place a call. States need to use neutral decision makers.
While a prior medical review with independent forensic specialists seems like the most fair and prudent course of action, it is a criminal offense under CPS law in most or all of the 50 states. The law says that suspicions must be reported to CPS. Physicians who consult a specialist before calling CPS are occasionally criminally prosecuted, because the consultation is considered proof that the physician had suspicions, and it is a crime to have suspicions without calling CPS.
The article is summarized:
Her basic point is that, once CPS decides a parent may have abused a child, that parent is in for a long, uncomfortable ride through the CPS system, pretty much irrespective of whether he/she abused the child or not. With the police, we call that “You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.” The same is true of CPS. Caseworkers can put the fear of God into any parent, even those who know they’ve done nothing wrong.Yes, CPS has far too much power to harass innocent parents.