But For Video: Parents Doing Stupid Things Edition

An acquaintance posted this video on social media today, asking parents for comment. Go ahead and watch it, then answer the following question:

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

It’s perfectly natural for your first, visceral reaction to condemn the parents and feel horribly for the kids. On first viewing it’s hard to make it past the youngest child openly bawling, professing his innocence.

But what to do about it? Do you call for government intervention? Is your first instinct to call for the Department of Children’s Services? Many people, well intentioned parents included, saw the video and demanded the family’s local DCS hotlines get flooded until something happened.

This reaction leads me two two fundamental assumptions about those who call for DCS intervention over a stupid video:

  1. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’re most likely not a parent.
  2. If you’re calling for DCS intervention, you’ve most likely never interacted with DCS.

If you’re serious about the Department, Child Protective Services, or the family’s local equivalent getting involved after viewing that video, this is what you’re asking for that family:

You’re asking for a bunch of social workers, most likely flanked by police, to tell the kids to put their clothes and a few comfort items in a trash bag while the parents loudly protest their removal and tell the kids they love them. You’re asking for the kids to ride in the back of a car to a foster home together, if they’re lucky. Most likely they’ll get split up into several foster homes. Worse yet, there’s a good potential for the children as a unit to head to a group home where they will be assaulted by staff, neglected, or mistreated in some fashion.

These kids will next see their parents after Mom and Dad appear in court, flanked by attorneys that are most likely court-appointed. They will have to relive their “prank” video as evidence presented by the State that probable cause exists for the children to remain outside their home. Mom and Dad will have to submit to and pay for drug testing. Most likely, they’ll both get urine tested and hair follicle tested.

Attorneys will call the children as witnesses. The kids will have to relive the entire experience again, and this time get cross-examined over any inconsistencies in their testimony. If the family is lucky, the juvenile judge or magistrate judge will find by clear and convincing evidence the parents didn’t neglect the children or commit child abuse with their prank video.

If the judge or magistrate finds otherwise, the parents will be placed on a “permanency plan” designed by well meaning social workers to put them back on the “right” path. Steps may include weekly drug testing, maintaining a stable source of legal income, and completion of an anger management course. All of which will be paid for by the parents.

It’s going to be really hard for the parents if either of them works with or around kids, too. There’s a good shot they’ll get “indicated” for potential child abuse and placed on a registry of people who were actually found guilty by a judge of committing child abuse long before they reach trial over this video. That means when either parent goes to work, they might be out of a job. Getting off a registry like that takes substantial time, energy, and luck. And money.
Back to the permanency plan. If the Department’s workers don’t find within a year the parents have “substantially complied” with the permanency plan, there’s a good chance the Department will file to have the parents’ rights terminated. This is critical mass. At this point the State throws everything at the parents to prove them completely unfit to parent, and will pressure them into signing “surrender” documents that allow the kids to find their biological parents once they become adults.

If a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence the parents’ rights should be terminated, the family is severed forever. The kids will then be put up for adoption.

Now that you’ve read the entire hypothetical of what happens when you involve DCS, CPS, or any similar government agency, go back and reevaluate your answer to the original question.

Do the parents deserve punishment for this video? 

Not comfortable answering that? Let me rephrase the question.

Does this family deserve to be forever torn apart for this video?

The parents did something stupid and put it on the Internet. The world is already calling them vile and mean spirited. They will probably suffer social consequences for their actions. They’ve suffered enough. Destroying the entire family by calling in DCS doesn’t help.

 

Cut a break for the lawyer in hard times.

There’s a local, very prominent attorney experiencing rough times. People are happy to spread memes and info regarding the incident all over social media. I cannot and will not support this, and those of you who benefit from the services of an attorney, no matter how great or small the issue, honestly shouldn’t either. All you’re doing is participating in a public shaming of someone who’s fought for the rights of so many citizens in court.

It’s fun participating in online lynch mobs. I get it. You get to sit behind a keyboard and call someone an asshole, call for their firing, and create neat cat pictures featuring your jokes on a person. You have that right, and it’s one I’ll defend, no matter how reprehensible I personally may find the practice. It’s also fun exposing double standards, and who doesn’t like a great lawyer joke? Most of us have a great sense of humor, but when you’re turning on a guy going through hard times who’s probably walked a few of you from criminal charges you might want to reconsider participating in a public pillorying.

This job requires commitment to all others but yourself first. It’s a profession where those in private practice help others unsure if the final bill will ever be paid. Substance abuse is rampant as those who bend or break under pressure tend to take the easy way out. When the law school bubble burst around the time I was sworn in, I saw first hand how eager this state was to fuck attorneys and their clients. I kept to my oath, defended those charged with offenses, and never bitched about it.  I imagine this brother in the Bar was of like mind when he started his practice.

None of this changes my commitment to free speech or the open exchange of ideas. If it’s your desire to make fun of someone going through a rough patch, go ahead. Just remember it might happen to you some day, and make sure you have thick enough skin to withstand the internet assault coming with criminal charges.