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, 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.