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When Your Feelings Are More Valuable Than A Child’s Life

Our culture is funny.  Maybe even a little ironic.  Certainly schizophrenic.

Because while we pamper our children more than ever, while we shelter them and give them fewer and fewer responsibilities, and still see them as “children” as they head into their twenties and even thirties, we see rulings like this one:

tammy-larabie.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxDaycare Operator Successfully Sued After Making Complaint to CAS

Tammy Larabie, a daycare operator, reported a suspected case of child neglect.  The CAS (Children’s Aid Society) found cause to investigate and did so.  They found that the suspicion was unfounded.

It should have stopped there.

Instead, she was sued.

Judge Lewis Richardson decided that even though Tammy was acting in the child’s best interests, she shouldn’t have done so.  She should have put the parents and their feelings first.  She should have considered what the family would be put through, even though she had reason to suspect that a young child, a member of our society that may not have been able to speak for himself, was being mistreated.

The fine for failing to report child abuse is $1000.  And now, because of the precedent that Judge Richardson has set, the fine for reporting child abuse is $10,000.

Where does that leave our children?

I’ve worked in the child care industry, I’ve worked in schools, I’ve worked in Children’s Ministry.  I have always trained my workers and my volunteers to report a suspected case of abuse because a child’s life is more important than an adult’s feelings.

I guess I shouldn’t say that anymore.

Because even though I believe a child’s life is far more important than anyone’s feelings, I don’t have the cash to back that up.

And hey, I’m not speaking from an absence of experience here.  I’ve seen a little bit about how child protection works where I am.  I’ve seen both sides of this issue.  I’ve known several instances when the CAS has been called.  In some cases, the investigation has revealed issues, and in others, the investigation has revealed nothing because there was nothing to reveal.

That’s what the CAS is paid to do.  It’s their job to find out if an allegation is true or not.   It’s not my job, and it certainly wasn’t Tammy Larabie’s job.

And yet, Judge Richardson feels that it was.

The next time I care for a child with what appear to be cigarette burns all over her little body, I’ll be thinking “Is it worth $10,000 to call the authorities about this?”.  The next time you see a child backhanded by an adult when they think no one is watching, you might be tempted to think the same thing.

There is more to this story, but the take-away that the general public will be left with is that they will be charged if they report suspected child abuse.

And if anything is an injustice, THAT is.

 

Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!

20 Comments

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    It’s a slippery slope and without knowing what exactly what she reported, it’s hard to comment on. What one person thinks is abuse may not be and I probably would have sued, too, if I had been put through that turmoil unfoundedly.

  2. swell conditions

    I haven’t heard of that story, I’ll check out your link though – thanks.
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  3. firststepstogreatstrides

    Did she discuss her concerns with the family first? Or just called CAS? From what I have heard was she was concerned about the child’s diet and that he was sleeping a lot. I’ll check out your link. When accusations are made and in the end there is no abuse it can be very hard emotionally on the family. Isn’t there a record til the child is 18 regardless if the case is closed. I see both sides…But like I said I’ll check out your links to learn more. Great post.

    • Megan Elford

      I agree, there are always two sides to every story. This article has some more of the back & forth. I do believe she was in the right and was operating her business the way it should have been. When victims of neglect aren’t brought to the attention of the authorities because people are worried about the problems it will cause for the family, we end up with stories like that of Jeffrey Baldwin. My concern is that this ruling will cause others to refrain from reporting abuse, because they are afraid of being sued.

  4. harriet

    That is quite the predicament. I hope that all ends well.
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  5. Ursula Stouffer

    I feel that it was poor judgement on her part to take the parents to small claims court for the two week’s payment. After all, she can’t expect them to want their baby to stay with her, once they knew she reported them.
    And as far as I can see, the baby’s diet was fine, too.
    Reporting them was poor judgment as well.
    Still, being ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for sincerely believing the child was in danger and reporting the parents is definitely over the top!
    She also should have talked to the parents about her concerns first. It wasn’t like the child had bruises and burns, or fractures, which would be OBVIOUS signs of abuse! And I am sure he wasn’t filthy, covered in sores and dressed in rags, either.

    • Megan Elford

      Yes, I totally agree with you. I would have written off the two weeks’ payment, however, she was obviously following her own policy, which the parents agreed to. Still, she could have let that go.

      If I were in her position, I would not have spoken to the parents first. If they were mistreating their child, they might have taken out their anger on him.

      But, regardless of the variables and the should-have, could-haves, reporting a suspected case of child abuse should never result in being sued and fined. It is quite possible that more children will be at risk because of this.

  6. Maggie

    I see the point you are trying to make here and while I think that this particular case was poor judgement on her part there is a bigger picture here. Being fined for reporting child abuse is just absurd and scary. People will be thinking twice, maybe even 3 or 4 times before reporting this and that could cost a child it’s life.
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  7. Crystal

    As a mom I don’t understand child abuse. It made me sick that two kids were found dead in a freezer in Detroit.

  8. The Pinterested Parent

    I agree with all of the above. There must be more to this story. In today’s world where giving your child a spanking can put you in hot water, I find this a little strange. Although, I do not understand a lot of decisions made in the world these days, so if this was the case it would not be too shocking. I would risk the fine if I truly thought a child was in danger.
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  9. Cyndi

    I couldn’t imagine being a teacher or working in a daycare everyday and dealing with situations like this. It’s hard to imagine what I would do if I suspected child abuse unless I were in that situation.
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  10. Liz Mays

    I guess I can see it from both sides if I just visit both sides of the argument. Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s a real winning solution here. It’s troubling.
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  11. sojourner

    Oh my goodness, this is terrible. I worked as a teacher for ten years, I’ve made numerous reports, all were dismissed, but I can’t imagine getting sued in turn or facing hostility for trying to protect a child.

  12. Carly

    Wow, as a teacher and a mandated reporter….this seriously upsets me!

  13. Christine

    Child abuse just makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t understand how someone could mistreat someone else…regardless of age, but especially those of the age who can not even attempt to defend themselves or ask for help when needed.

  14. Esther

    Wow. Sometimes I just really wonder how on earth a judge comes up with a verdict. I don’t know the whole story but that seems wrong on so many levels. If a person is just reporting what they see how can they be held accountable for all of that. I am planning on teaching preschool pretty soon and I will still report if I feel someone is being abused but it is sad that I will have to be worried if there will be any backlash because of doing so.
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  15. Jillian Fisher

    I am an adult now…obviously, but I was abused as a kid. After social services took me out of my home after I went into their office myself at 12 everyone said how they thought about calling. No one did. From teachers to even Aunts and friends. I went through over 3 years of abuse because people “thought of calling”. My story could have ended much differently and I hate that this woman is being sued when she was acting in the best interest of the child.
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  16. Tracy

    For more information regarding Tammy or to support her please visit- GoFundMe.com/supporttammy

  17. Dhemz Apdian - Dias

    wow, how upsetting!
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  18. JJ

    http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/260057386 In case anyone wants to read the court transcripts.

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