The group, led by Dwight Mitchell, a father who says his son was illegally taken from him for 22 months, first filed a civil rights complaint in April, and this week they vocally publicized their call to shut down the child services agency, which they claim engages in systemic lying, withholding information, and fabricating evidence. They are asking the federal court to suspend the state’s agency from enforcing child protection laws, and according to a petition signed by almost 5,000 people, are also demanding changes to the laws themselves.
Back in April, Mitchell said: “Someone reported I spanked my child on his bottom. I was put in jail. My three children were taken away from me,” citing other states that have enacted laws to protect a parent’s “ordinary corporal punishment” rights. Though the practice of spanking is increasingly recognized as harmful to children’s well-being, it is highly questionable as to whether confiscating kids and placing them in foster homes is any better for their mental and emotional health.
According to the petition, which Mitchell started:
“I am fully aware there are children who do need to be removed from wretched situations and need protection, but their protection must be balanced with the constitutional rights of the mothers and fathers.
“Child Protection Services (CPS) chooses to ignore those laws the legislature, made. Even when notified of those laws, they fabricated evidence, lie and go about their illegal activities with a brazen arrogance totally without fear of reprimand, reprisal or the consequences of their illegal actions.”
Among the changes to the law Mitchell and the group are calling for are making lying, fabricating evidence, and withholding information a felony, requiring more publicly available information so parents know their rights, eliminating total immunity for state agents, and requiring all parental termination cases to be jury trials.
Local Fox outlet KMSP interviewed Amanda Weber, who is participating in the action. She says that after taking her ten-month old son to the hospital for a cough, doctors said he was stable, though they recommended she should stay. She chose to go home because, as she told the outlet, “After waiting, I had asked to leave because I wanted to put my kids to bed and I had my three-year-old with me.”
“I asked if there was anything else that had to be done,” she said. “They said ‘No, there was no other testing or anything that needed to be done.’”
But two days later, police showed up at her home to take him back to the doctor, and there was already a foster family lined up to take him. “She checked him out, all his vitals were stable,” she said. “They already had a foster parent in the room, in the room to remove my son before they ever proved … before they ever proved there was an emergency situation.”
He has been in foster care for over a week. Weber was supposed to get her him back on Tuseday, but the judge postponed the case because no county attorney could make it to court.
“I need to share my story and if I need to share it a hundred times, a thousand times – I will,” she told KMSP.
Mitchell believes the problem has become so pervasive simply because of money. “[CPS] can’t even start collecting the money until the child is taken out of the home, put into foster care, then they can start billing a minimum of one social worker a month and one supervisor a month per child,” he said.
He says the support he and the group are receiving is growing every day. “Our phones have not stopped ringing and our email inboxes are overflowing. Our association had 250 members — we have now grown to 1,265 in less than 30 days,” he told KMSP.
Further, he believes the problem is not limited to Minnesota. From the petition:
“Parents are outrage[d] over this legal kidnapping, its happening to families all over the country, and disparity between minorities families is beyond belief. This is a matter of extreme importance as it relates to the child protection service reform bills that are currently being considered, and the need for the protection of the constitutional rights of parents.”
For example, earlier this month, Georgia’s child services agency removedan epileptic teenager from his parents’ care because they provided him with cannabis to treat his seizures. The day he was placed in a group home, he suffered a seizure for the first time in over 70 days.
Back in Minnesota, Emily Piper, Department of Human Services dismissed the groups’ claims and charges. “To call their work ‘kidnapping’ is an affront to the extraordinary service they perform for all of us,” she said, arguing that they are “working to strengthen the system and address disparities.”
Nevertheless, Mitchell and the other parents are not backing down. As he wrote in his petition:
“Unless you’ve been targeted by Child Protection Services, you cannot even begin to imagine the feeling of pain, grief, financial loss, helplessness and depression caused by having your children removed without due process, and the nightmare involved to get out. This is happening all over the United States.”
He says his main goal after dealing with the problem in Minnesota, “is to go state to state, starting with the worst ones, reviewing state statutes, and seeking federal injunctions for the preservation of families due to unconstitutional laws or non-compliance with federal mandates for funding.”