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Friday, April 22, 2011

When child protection workers lie

A case that has received a high profile in the United States revolves around the integrity of evidence presented to support intervening and apprehending children. Critics of child protection will see this as the tip of the iceberg representing a general issue of concern versus an isolated one. The two social workers were found to have lied and the state of Oregon faces an over $9 million penalty.

In addition to the lying, there are two features of this case that are perhaps most concerning. The first is that the state of Oregon did not appear to conduct a good investigation itself into the behaviours of the social workers. This is an important part of ensuring that the public can have confidence in child protection. The second is, of course, that children may have been unnecessarily subject to disruption of their family life. That is not a benign impact but one which will have long term sequalae for them.

Cases like this are examples where professional regulating bodies might have been effective. One wonders of something more effective and expedient might have occurred with that or the use of a state child advocates office. There are several good examples in various jurisdictions where those bodies can be useful. If these social workers are part of a professional regulating body, one wonders where they have been.

This case and the criminal prosecution of social workers I spoke of in an earlier post may be indicative of a new way for consumers to challenge child protection. This would be unhelpful but, if the public does not perceive that the profession can self regulate or have effective oversight, then they may see the courts as a place where behaviour can be challenged. By this, I mean, of course, courts other than the family court where some critics feel there is too cosy a relationship between the courts and child protection (although this has certainly not been my experience).

The media report can be seen at

1 comment:

  1. Great blog and wonderful post. I couldn't agree more ... the relationship between (some) courts and child protection agencies can be a sticky issue. As a former Guardian Ad Litem, it breaks my heart to see children removed unnecessarily from the home. Just one minor detail ... I believe the case you're referring to actually occurred in Seal Beach, California - Orange County (a minor point, indeed, as this theoretically could have happened anywhere).