You may have seen our story in the paper or on TV. You may have heard some of it via blogs or radio programs. Here’s the whole ugly (yet ultimately uplifting) saga:
On the afternoon of December 20, 2014 (while I was out of town), my husband dropped our children, then 10 and 6, off at a local park. On their way ome, they were picked up the police and brought home. My husband was told that kids were not allowed to walk without an adult. After a tense exchange, during which five patrol cars and six police officers showed up, the police left. A few hours later, a Child Protective Services (CPS) worker showed up at our house and forced my husband to sign a “safety plan,” stating that the children would be supervised at all times. When he refused to sign without showing the document to me or a lawyer, he was told that the children would be taken away right then, a threat that was backed up by a call to 911. He signed.
A few weeks later, another CPS worker showed up on my doorstep without a warrant, demanding to be allowed inside to “inspect” my house. I refused, invoking my Fourth Amendment rights. He left. I later learned that this worker had just been at my children’s school, where took them out of their classes, and interviewed them without my knowledge or permission.
We were outraged. We told our story to the media and the kids’ adventure became “the walk hear ’round the world.” A CPS investigation ensued, and a month later, my husband and I were found to be “responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect.” (How someone can be found guilty for something that is, by definiton, without proof is still a mystery). A DC law firm stepped up to help us, and we vowed to fight back.
On April 12, 2015, after a six-hour car ride, we dropped the kids off a another local park, with the understanding that they would be home by 6:00pm. When they failed to return home at that time, we started to search the neighborhood. At 8 p.m. the phone rang. CPS had the kids at the County Crisis Center and we had to go there to “answer questions.” We raced there and demanded to see the kids. “Have a seat,” the man behind the glass told us. (Have a seat? What was this, the dentist’s office?) We were there for an hour-and-a-half before anyone would speak with us, and it was another half hour before we were allowed to see the kids, and then only after we were forced to sign another “safety plan.”
It had been six-and-a-half hours since we had dropped them at the park and CPS had had them for more than five of those hours. During that time they never fed my children. Never assured them that their parents had arrived and would be with them soon. When they snuggled together to comfort one another, the CPS supervisor watching them told them to sit on separate couches. These were the people who claimed to know better than I how to take care of my children?
Television cameras were waiting outside. We stepped out under the glare of lights. When a reporter asked my son about the ordeal, I learned for the first time that Rafi and Dvora had been held in the back of a police car for two-and-a-half hours. During that time they were denied access to food and a bathroom, and no one contacted us even though the patrol car was just three blocks from my house. My son later told me that he thought he was being sent to an orphanage and would never see us again.
We continued to stand up to CPS. And we won.
In mid-May we learned that CPS had reversed their first finding on appeal, changing the “unsubstantiated neglect” to “ruled out.” And a month later, we received word that they had also “ruled out” neglect in their second investigation. On top of that, the State of Maryland Department of Health and Human Services issued a “clarification” of its guidelines for CPS, stating, “[it] is not the Department’s role to pick and choose among child-rearing philosophies and practices.”
But the fight is not over. No family should have to go through what we have suffered. No parent should have to stop doing what they know is best for their children under threat of losing them. And no child should grow up smothered and suffocated, coddled and controlled, unable to develop into the mature, capable adults they deserve to be. Whatever it takes, we will fight to change modern American culture, which harm families by underestimating kids and undermining their parents. For our children, our families, and the future.