Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kicking and Screaming

In an earlier blog post we covered a story about a little boy who was kidnapped by his father with the help of police. (See Police/Judge Help Father Kidnap Boy) When people watch the video they are disturbed to see the police completely disregard the boy's pleas for help. It seems shocking to some that authorities would act so harshly and blatantly disregard a child's wishes.

Authorities certainly dropped the ball in many ways, not the least of which is that they altogether disregarded an allegation of abuse the boy made at the time. But I have yet to hear anyone point out a much more plausible reason for the seemingly callous behavior on the part of authorities: this is a normal reaction by the child anytime they assist in custody disputes or child welfare situations.

On TV, when child protective services or police officers intervene to remove a child, it's always shown with hugs and smiles towards the "hero’s" who are rescuing them from abuse. In real life, however, when children are "rescued," even from parents who are legitimately abusive, it's hardly a happy event. Children usually kick, scream, cry, bite, go mute, and otherwise plead not to be taken. It's an extremely traumatic experience. A child's home and their caretakers, no matter how abusive and imperfect those caretakers may be, are the most important thing you can take from a child. Yet take them away, kicking and screaming, we often do.

As I watch this video, I can't help but notice how much it resembles what CPS does on a daily basis. And I can't help but wonder if the public would still support such measures as a valid response to abuse if they could see the aftermath of what removal is really like. Given this knowledge, it's hardly surprising that the officers would brush off a child's pleas and cries for help. After all, this is just part of the job.

The unfortunate message in all of this is that the system IS NOT set up around the child's best interests, no matter how much people try to tell you otherwise. If it were, police would be helping the child pleading for assistance, not be asked to assist in his torment. If police weren't so often asked to (legally) kidnap crying children, all because some judge or social worker somewhere out there thinks they know what's best, this situation wouldn't have taken place.

A larger problem is that children are often taken, kicking and screaming, away from one parent and awarded to a parent they despise, because a judge, going on limited information of the family, got it wrong. Perhaps dad was more loving and attentive but he had a drug conviction, so the other parent received custody. Too often custody decisions rest on procedures that don't serve the child's welfare at all. Children are also taken, kicking and screaming, away from their abusive or neglectful family (which they happen to love nonetheless). Children are also taken, kicking and screaming, away from families who haven’t abused their children at all. Anywhere from a third to more than half of all removals come in cases where an allegation can't be substantiated. All in all, in most cases where authorities intervene, it very often means forcing a child against their will. Given the current situation, perhaps this is what we should take a look at.

In light of this recent tragedy, there will of course be self-righteous finger pointing and a call to correct the things that led to these egregious errors. The result of this action is destined to be shallow and meaningless. The only real solution will come when we have a system that truly does put the child's interests first. One that listens to them. When children truly are abused in the home, they want the abuse to stop, but rarely (if ever) do they want to be taken away from everyone and everything they know and love. A child's foremost desire in this world is for both parents to be involved in their life. When parents can't get their act together to make that happen, they want to spend their daily lives with the parent to whom their attachment is the strongest. This mayor may not be the same parent a judge deems the fittest according to the statutes-or hiss personal opinion. Of course, it would be nice if all parents merely grew up and realized that their conflict with each other will destroy their child. It would be nice if all parents were perfect and never abused or neglected their children. Yet the system frequently creates added conflict all its own, doing children serious harm because it's set up around rigid procedures and an "I know what's best" attitude, rather than people who help the child's wishes and desires come true. It would also be nice if we had a system that spent a lot more time listening to the kids and less time always pretending it knows what is best for them. While we can't change human nature, this we can change.

The only real solution will come when we have a system that does put children’s' desires first and all of that adult nonsense second, so that having to force an irate, screaming child somewhere with someone that they don't want to go with WILL strike authority figures as unusual.

Read more about children's issues. Visist

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Lucky Little Girl, A Rare Happy Ending

What was supposed to be a happy time of the year almost had a tragic ending for one Arizona family. On Christmas afternoon, 5 year old Natalie Rose Flores was playing with her two sisters (ages 7 & 9) outside their home at the Saddleback Mountain Apartments. According to the girls, that's when a man approached them with a camera taking pictures. After getting close to the girls, he reportedly pulled the 7 year olds pants down to take a picture. When she fought back, he then snatched 5 year old Natalie and pulled her into his truck.

At this point, the girls did the proper thing (though they missed an earlier opportunity to escape, but more on that in future posts) and ran for help. One of the girls knocked on the door of a neighbor, screaming, "You gotta help me, somebody has taken my sister!" Meanwhile, the man was speeding off with Natalie inside. In his haste, he hit a parked car. A witness who saw the crash got his license plate number and described the man with a frightened child inside. Of course, at the time the witness had no idea what had just happened.

Police responded and put out an Amber Alert a short time later. Police and everyone in Arizona who had access to the alert were told to be on the lookout for a small child with red shoulder legnth hair and freckles. (By the way, you can sign up to receive wireless Amber Alerts in your area at Later that evening after dark, an alert police officer spotted the brown ford Ranger the suspect was reported to have been driving. He tried to make a stop, and a chase ensued. The suspect then crashed and tried to flee on foot. After assaulting an officer, he was eventually subdued.

Now for the happy news: Natalie was found inside the truck, alive and as well as could be expected given the circumstances. It is a rare event when such things end so well. When someone alerted me to the situation as it was unfolding, the first thing I asked was how old the child was. The second thing I said is that she's probably dead already. I'm thrilled to be proven wrong.

Perhaps the ghosts of Christmas past came togeather to foil the plan of anyone so callous as to kidnap a child on Christmas. Perhaps it's just a lucky chain of events, or the kidnappers own bungling saved the day. Whatever the case, we can all be thankful it came to the happiest conclusion possible. I only wish all such cases ended so well.

You can help protect your child by learning about abductions from our website.

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Reasons to Get Your Child A Lump of Coal This Christmas

10 Reasons to Get Your Child A Lump of Coal This Christmas

#10: with rising energy prices, it may be worth its weight in gold someday

#9: Just to see the look on their face...priceless

#8: It can be crushed into a diamond...if they work hard enough. By that time, they'll have forgotten you got them a lump of coal for Christmas

#7: It can double as sidewalk chalk...which the police can then use to trace you, after your child kills you, because you got them a lump of coal for Christmas

#6: Because somebody's child has to grow up to be a serial killer

#5: They'll be able to say that nobody else at school got what they got for Christmas

#4: Just tell them its ninja face paint and can make them invisible

#3: It may be less toxic than toys from China

#2: If the job situation keeps going the way it is, they'll have to learn cat-burglary sooner or later. So have them use it to cover all exposed skin and have them see what gifts they can find in the neighbor's yard.. Consider it career training.

#1: C'mon, do you really need reasons from us? You live with the brat.

For Child Safety Information check out

Friday, December 18, 2009

Judge/Police Help Father to Kidnap Child

Child abductions by parents are not unusual. In fact, around two thousand children are kidnapped by non custodial parents in the US each and every day. But few are able to recruit and entire state department to help them.

That is exactly what happened in Texas, when a father who had his parental rights revoked, recruited Texas authorities to assist kidnapping his son. He went before a Texas judge with a fake custody order from Mexico. Since the order was in Spanish, the judge couldn't even read what it said. Never the less, he issued an order awarding custody to the father. The father then took that order to police, to stop the school bus. Jean Paul (the boy) was riding on. What followed is heartbreaking to watch.

Police then ordered the boy off the bus, despite pleas from Jean Paul. He repeatedly tells officers that he is not supposed to go with his father, that his mother has custody, and that he doesn't want his dad to take him. On more than one occasion he screams out for someone, anyone, to help him. When asked why he doesn't want to go with his dad, he tells an officer that his father hits him. Despite this, the boy is dragged off the bus and handed over to his father. The entire incident is caught on the school bus camera. The two disappeared and haven't been seen since, and are now fugitives on the run. Making matters all that more tragic, this is the second time the father had kidnapped the boy.

Amongst the next few posts, we are going to discuss a few aspects of this situation in more detail. In the meantime, you can learn more at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Your World In Review: Struggling Charities, No Kids Allowed, Gun Laws

BPA Exposure
A new study by Consumer Reports found that 1 serving of canned green beans or canned beef stew would give a child a dose of BPA close to the level that has been shown to cause harm in animal studies. BPA, or biphenyl-A, a plastic additive, is an endocrine disrupt or that mimics the hormone estrogen. You can read about it in our article: The BPA Debate.

No Kids Allowed
In an effort to keep the swine flu at bay, kids are being turned away by security at the doors of many hospitals. You might want to check on the policy of your hospital if you are planning on visiting a loved one.

Gun Laws
A recent Gallup survey on gun laws found that 44% of 1,013 adults surveyed in October of 2009 believe gun laws should be stricter. That's down from 62% in 2000 and 78% in 1990. Kind of surprising considering the recent publicity involving mass shootings.

Safe Outdoor Adventures
Outside magazine unveiled a new area of their site filled with stories and instructional videos that show you how to beat the odds in life threatening situations. Outdoor adventure junkies and their families might find it useful. Go to:

Struggling Charities
A survey of the nation’s 400 largest charities in the journal The Chronicle of Philanthropy says they expect giving to decline by a median of 9% this year. That's on top of the 2% drop last year, when charitable giving fell to $308 billion, the first decline since 1987. The tough economy is cited as the primary reason for the decline. Individuals account for about 75% of all charitable giving.

An Appetite for Human Flesh
A report in a recent Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences tested the carcasses of two notorious man-eating lions that attacked Kenyan laborers more than 100 years ago, once believed to have killed and devoured 135 people. The new research suggests that one Lion likely ate 11 humans and the other consumed 24 people during their final 9 months of life. Either way, it seems safe to say that African Lions can be dangerous and should probably be avoided. Just in case you didn't know.

A new study out from the-California Department of Public Health shows that the death rate for children under 18 who have been hospitalized with the HINI flu strain is 2%. This rate does not include those who may have contracted the virus but weren't hospitalized.

Druggie Day Care
Officials in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, say they found a meth lab inside a home day care center that was caring for 8 kids. Police discovered three currently inactive meth labs and chemicals, says Curtis Spiers with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County. Four people were arrested.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your World In Review: Roadkill, Little Delinquents, Super Junk Food

Not Your Average Roadkill:
Driving comes with risks, and one of those risks is the possibility that you may have a run in with some of the other wildlife we share this earth with. Most accept the possibility that you may hit a deer, or antelope, or raccoon on your way home. But how about an elephant? That is exactly what happened to one Oklahoma couple driving home from church last Wednesday night. While driving down a rural highway, their SUV collided with an elephant that had escaped from the family fun circus at the Garfield County fairgrounds. Thankfully, the couple was not injured seriously. The 29 year old elephant suffered a broken tusk and an injured leg.

Little Delinquents
"I'm sure we've got many other devious kids in the district who are trying to figure out -how to duct tape a spoon and fork to their switchblades right now." -David Resler, vice president of the Christina Board of Education, in defense of zero-tolerance policies, speaking after a 6-year-old was suspended for bringing a multi-purpose utensil that including a knife, fork, and spoon to Downes Elementary in Newark, Delaware. Quoted In USA Today, 11-2~09, p. 3A.

See its statements like that which make school officials seem stupid. Seriously, you can't tell the difference between a 6-year-olds show N' Tell and a switchblade with a spoon duct-taped to it? And if you're really this lousy at determining intent among children, who put you in charge, anyway?

Super Junk-Food
Kellogg's is receiving flak for advertising on its Cocoa Krispies box that the sugary cereal "Now helps support your child's IMMUNITY." Kellogg’s claims that because it increased the vitamins A, C and E in their cereal from 10% to 25% of daily value, and since these vitamins help support the immune system, that their claim of Cocoa Krispies as an immune bolstering food is correct. Critics aren't so impressed. "This one belongs in the hall of fame," Kelley Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity told USA Today. (11-2-09, p. 3A) "By their logic, you can spray vitamins on a pile of leaves, and it will boost immunity." This comes as the FDA is cracking down on what it considers misleading labels on cereal and other food products.

Sewage in the Water Supply
In Iowa, raw sewage is being dumped into streams that provide drinking water for up to 500,000 residents, The Des Moines Register reported. ( In some stretches, the waterways carry almost nothing but sewage, and paddlers and fishers report seeing human waist. One in every five of the state's 1,910 city and commercial plants discharged more pollution than permits allowed over the last 5 years, and $3.5 billion will be needed from Iowa communities over the next 20 years to bring sewer systems up to Clean Water Act standards.

Busing low SES kids
USA Today reported that more than 60 school systems now use Socioeconomic Status (SES) as a factor in assignments, busing certain low income students to different schools. Since low income children tend to have more learning problems and do better amongst middle-class students, schools see it as a way to spread the burden.

Bear Thievery
The Journal of Mammaology reported that black bears at Yosemite National Park have begun to discern which cars have the goodies. They found that bears seem to have taken a special liking to breaking into minivans, which seem to get ravaged by bears more than any other type of car. Can't blame the bears. If I were after juice boxes and snacks, I'd probably head for the minivan too.

Vitamin D Deficiency
A new study in the journal Pediatrics estimated that around 6.4 million children, or 1 in 5 U.S. kids ages 1 to 11, are vitamin D deficient. Minorities are especially at risk...the survey suggested that nearly 90% of black children and 80% of Hispanic kids this age could be deficient. Learn more about this problem in our article: Vitamin D Deficiency in Children.

Child Poverty
"When I was 8-years-old, my dad went bankrupt and lost his business. I remember entering our apartment, and all the furniture was gone, our two cars were sold, there was no air-conditioning. Our whole life changed. My parents took me to the park where all the orphans sniffed glue to deal with the tragedies of their own lives. That made such an impression." -Singer Shakira, who grew up in Columbia, speaking about why she got involved in combating child poverty. It might also go to show that as bad as things may seem too many struggling families amidst this economy, there is almost always someone in a worse situation.

Teenage Adventures Gone Too Far?

How far would you let your child go in following their dreams and desires? Would you let them go camping with friends? Take a missionary trip to South America? How about sail around the world alone? The reason I ask is because on July 16, 2009, 17-year-old Zac Sunderland became the youngest person to sail around the world solo. The journey took 13 months, and was riddled with problems. Yet he completed it safely and earned himself a place in the record books as one of the youngest persons to ever complete the journey.

He's got competition. 16-year-old Jessica Watson, From Sidney, Australia, just left in early October attempting the same feat. She planned on taking a more difficult, nonstop version of the journey, with the intention of shattering Sunderland's record in the process. But what really takes the cake is that a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Sailor Laura Dekker, also is planning to embark on the trip and put her name-in the record books. She had planned to launch earlier this year, that is, until Holland's child-protection services took custody of her for two months to block her voyage. She's back with her family, and still planning the trip. Now 14, she plans to wait until the school year ends to complete her voyage, assuming an Amsterdam court allows it. "Before I made the plan, I didn't expect (so much publicity), but now I'm trying to make the best of it," she said in a television interview. Laura has been sailing solo since she was six and says she began dreaming of a quest around the world when she was 10.

Sailing around the world is a daunting task, and accomplishing such a feat puts one in an elite club. Since Joshua Slocum became the first to do it in 1898, fewer than 250 people have solo-sailed around the globe. To put this in perspective, more than 3,000 people have reached the top of Mount Everest in only 56 years of climbing it.

Hearing such stories sorta gives you a new perspective about teen freedoms, doesn't it? Just think about this the next time your teen wants to go out with friends. I can almost hear it now: "But mom...Zac's parents let him sail all the way around the world, and you won't even let me spend the night at Jessy's house? Man you suck!" Whatever you do, be sure not to tell them about this article, because you'll never hear the end of it.

All in all, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this. If it were my child, my tendency would be to say "You'll do such things over my dead body, because as soon as you leave, I would drop dead of a worry-induced heart attack anyway, so I might as well go down fighting." But there's also a part of me that wants to say "way to follow your dreams, kids." Often times I think society gets way too over-protective of children and adolescents in a way that hinders rather than helps them. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that 13-year-olds would be building their own huts, hunting wilder beast on the plains, and having children of their own. And if a child is really hell-bent on completing such a task, there may be little qualitative difference between letting them do it now versus waiting two to five years until they are eighteen. A lot would also depend on what safety measures could be put into place, and I'm afraid I don't know a lot about sailing. After all, you put your child at risk every time they get in the car to go somewhere. Still, it begs the question: Is this pushing the boundaries too far?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your World In Review: Falling Wages, Buckle up or Loose Your Livestock

Wage Drops & Child Support Payments
USA Today (10-16-09) reported that average weekly wages have fallen 1.4% this year for private sector workers, and wages are expected to stay depressed for quite some time. Colorado recently became the first state to drop its minimum wage, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index. Nearly 80 million people have either wages or benefits tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index, including union workers, food stamp payments and some child support checks. More difficult news for struggling families. The positive: Amidst times like this, it's a darn good thing to remember that money has little to do with happiness. ;-)

Food Stamps
The number of people receiving food stamps has jumped from 29.1 million in July 2008 to 35.9 million in July 2009, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture recently reported.

Buckle Up . . . Or Loose Your Livestock
Highway safety campaigns across the USA are tailoring messages according to ethnic diversity, as is required of federal laws. Since Somalia essentially has no government, the phrase "click it or ticket" is meaningless, since Somali's generally have no comprehension of the word "ticket." Instead, the safety slogan aimed at Somali refugees is translated as "strap it, or lose your livestock." Seriously? This is the best we could come up with? The NHTSA says that since livestock is a family's primary means of income in Somalia, losing livestock is equated with losing livelihood. I still think there's got to be a better translation out there.

Grumpy Teachers
A new survey finds that 40% of teachers in the USA are "disheartened" about their jobs, and that most of this group consists of the older and more experienced teachers. The biggest drawbacks: testing, children’s' "discipline & behavior issues" and poor support from administrators. A mere 37% overall are "contented" with teaching as a life-long career."

Don't Infect Your Kids
Health officials are warning parents not to intentionally expose their children to the H1N1 flu. A September poll by Consumer Reports found that 69% of all parents would rather have their children build a "natural immunity" to the virus by getting sick. Yet when you're talking about a strain that has already killed 100 children nationwide, and hospitalizes around 1% of its hosts (mostly children), this isn't wise. One mother, whose 3-year-old daughter spent 3 months in the hospital with IV needles and a tube down her throat, compliments of H1N1, says to USA Today (10-2109) "I don't even have an enemy I would wish that upon."

Bioterrorism Warning
A new report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says the nation isn't doing enough to protect itself from bioterrorism, warning that a crop-duster spreading anthrax spores could "kill more Americans than died in World War 2." Programs to develop vaccines against such attacks are not being properly funded, and surveillance programs fall short, the bipartisan commission found.

"Baby Einstein" Refund
Disney announced it was offering a full refund on all of its 'Baby Einstein' DVDs. The move comes to stem potential lawsuits over false marketing. The DVDs have been shown to have no educational value for babies, and since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding television exposure in children under 2, critics claim they are harmful by substituting for quality interaction with adults.

Target Discount
Target announced a plan to give customers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag they use to pack up their purchases. The move is an attempt to prompt customers to use less plastic bags and reduce waste for the environment. Target claims a pilot program claimed to result in a 58% reduction in plastic bags used. But C'mon, Target, 5 cents? If they were serious about this, let's go for something real. How about a 1% discount on total purchases, something that can actually be realized?

Study Less Weight Gain During Pregnancy
A new Kaiser Permanente study aims to see if obese women can eat healthy during pregnancy without gaining any weight. Normally, weight gain is required for a healthy baby, but in obese women, their pregnancy already puts the baby in higher risk because of excess weight. Those extra pounds are associated with numerous pregnancy complications and birth defects.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

-The Scariest Thing on Halloween Night-

I get a little loopy during the holidays, (even without too much egg-nog), and it's sometimes fun to get a little off-topic and silly on occasion. So this piece was written for your literary enjoyment.

If you find it pleasing, then I'd like to congratulate you in advance for your good taste, and encourage you to please send your friends our way. If you think this poem might be good at performing the same function as a vacuum cleaner, don't worry, I haven’t quit my day job.

Do you know about the scariest thing on Halloween night?
That something that gives parents everywhere a fright?

A something so scary it strikes fear in us all,
You- never know where it be lurking, on the street or in the mall.

This thing, it even scares all the monsters away,
It's frightening whether you encounter it at night or during the day...

This hideous beast, with a mind of its own,
Ferocity greater than anything this world has ever known.


The first time I ever encountered this thing,
It struck me off guard, pounced without warning.

We were just walking along; times as good as they go,
When it started with a simple little word, known as "No."

It happened so quick I was caught by complete surprise;
I saw my whole life flash before my very eyes,

I stared at this thing with a look of surprise,
And it stared back at me, its mouth open wide.

Baring its teeth, its eyelids shooting out a sprinkle,
Its hideous face all contorted and wrinkled,

What before was a child now looked more like a raging beast,
Hungry and angry, seeking parental blood upon which to feast.

Surely, this irate screamin' demon was no child of mine,
My child must be trapped somewhere inside.


At first I wasn't quite sure what I should do,
You would know the feeling, if it happened to you.

What to do...what to do...should I run? Should I hide?
Should I try to protect all the people passing by?

I yelled and I screamed, I made a big fuss,
I pleaded and I begged, yet it wasn't enough.

There's little one can do when this beast rears its ugly head,
Other than take its wrath while wishing you were dead.

Kryptonite won't work; no type of medication would be enough,
There is no holy water strong enough to tackle this stuff.

I called out for an old priest and young priest, but they
Got one look at this scene, and promptly ran away.


Yet there are some things this monster of all monsters can't stand,
The first thing is kindness, with a calm yet firm hand.

If you can just stand your ground, and stay calm through it all,
Just maintain your composure and the beast will wither and fall.

For time is the enemy of the beast, you should know,
This monster is fierce but it's fleeting, it comes and it goes.

You might think that it can never happen to you,
I assure you it can, and you best be prepared if it do.

So on this Halloween night, amidst the cool breeze of fall,
Be on guard, and be aware, of the scariest monster of them all.

The End.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everybody.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Your World In Review: Face paint, Abduction in Florida, FDA & Sugar, Love at First Sight

The FDA is asking parents to report any problems with face paint (rashes, etc.) by calling its adverse event hot-line at 800-332-1088. The request comes after 43 girls at a girl scout event got a rash from face paint.

Sadly, another Florida girl was abducted this past week (10-19-09) on her way home from school. She was last seen running ahead of her group of kids on their one mile walk home after getting into an argument with another child. Seven year old Somer Thompson, from Orange Park Florida, was later found murdered. Her body was recovered in a dump, and police are desperately searching for her killer. Hopefully the predator is found before another child looses it's life. Now might be a good time to use some of our abduction prevention materials with your kids.

The FDA has gone public with its plan to crack down on food manufacture labels, which it says are misleading the public. Products that contain as much as 50% sugar are often marketed under smart "choices labels."

Little Emily was only in her kindergarten class for one day. During that time, she managed to make quite the impression on another 5 year old boy. You see, Emily suffers from a rare genetic condition. So when she was forced to leave school for a kidney transplant, her classmate wanted to help. He came up with the idea all by himself, of selling vegetables from his wagon around the neighborhood to raise money for her medical costs. He managed to raise $380 thus far. When asked why he does this, he responded: "Because I love her ... She's nice and she used to sit by me, and I really like her." And they say love at first sight doesn't exist. Emily, who is now battling cancer, is still in the hospital. What would really make this a feel good story is if she can manage a full recovery. So if you have an extra prayer or two to send her way, it couldn't hurt. CNN News reported this story October 27th.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Adventures With Balloon Boy: What should Happen Now?

Oh, what to do about good 'ole balloon boy. It seems like just yesterday when I watched the charade unfold on television, thinking to myself, 'In 20 years of following safety issues, I've never seen anything like this.' But then again, the general rule is that if you have anything in your house or backyard that through some freak chain of events might get a child into trouble, then somewhere, somehow, it's bound to happen sooner or later. Children are masters at initiating the right combination to unleash mayhem, if for no other reason than that curiosity tends to lead them to flirt with every possible scenario. As it turns out, my first instinct was right, and police now say the whole thing was a hoax.

Sure, like most everyone else, I was a little perturbed to find out it was all a sham. I haven’t felt so used since that time I passed out at Uncle Jed's house. CNN cut away from two hours of regular programming,(Of course, anyth1ng that gets Rich Sanchez to shut his trap is a plus) and I, like much of America, wasted a lot of perfectly good worry and a precious tear or two when it appeared that 6-year-old Falcone might have taken a land-dive at 3,000 feet. It's not as though worry is hard to come by, and granted, I also cry during Bambi, but still, I feel a little bit cheated by the whole thing. Apparently, such sentiment is common all across America.

Yet what bothers me more about this whole situation is to hear pundits on news stations or Entertainment Tonight talking about how the state should take the kids away. Now, I'll be the first to point out that this mother and father won't be winning any parent of the year awards anytime soon. And if there was ever anyone who needed to be on medication more than Richard Heene, I wouldn't want to meet him. The kids seem ill-behaved, rambunctious, and out of control. Watching little Falcone throw up on television while (allegedly) being made to lie about it all was almost as heartbreaking as the incident itself. But what would you expect? After all, according to Dad, the entire family is descendants of aliens. Yet is this enough to justify placing the kids in foster care? To those who answer yes, we would say to you: I don't think you realize just how damaging such an action really is.

How many of you would support a person who lurked outside a park, wait for the first child whose parent looked away or wandered off, only to decide they knew better and moving in to snatch them away, bring them home, and keep them in a strange house for months or years? Would we view such a person as a hero or a monster? CPS workers may be wearing a state issued name tag, but to the child involved, it couldn't matter less whether the person is sporting a ski mask or a smug smile of superiority. It's still someone snatching them away from everything they know and love in life, (even if those people and/or environments are imperfect, neglectful, or abusive) and plopping them down into a strange situation with strange people.

As imperfect as a child's caretakers may be, a child's family is important to every child, as is everything else in their environment. (Siblings, schools, their home, their bedroom, all those things familiar that serve as a source of comfort.) Attachment, or a child's bonds with caretakers, is a youngster’s most important need. In fact, the major problem with child abuse is not necessarily the actions themselves, but the fact that when children are abused or neglected repeatedly, their attachment with caretakers is injured. The action of removing a child from their home often causes a profound injury to attachment and emotional security, doing in one swift swoop what even years of abuse might only whittle away at. In fact, if you compare long-term outcomes for foster kids to studies of children from other abusive or neglectful situations, it's not even a close call. Foster care, by leaps and bounds, predicts the most harmful adult outcomes when compared to any other type of abuse. It's an act so severe that in terms of trauma from the child's point of view, it rivals the most brutal assaults or violent rapes. It's not uncommon for kids to go mute afterwards or show other signs of acute shock, something generally only brought about by the most brutal of attacks. Foster care attacks what is more important to a child than anything else in the world: their sense of belonging to a family. Taking a child away from their family may be legal for CPS works, but it’s still an act of child abuse, and a serious and quite devastating form of abuse at that. It shouldn't be taken lightly.

If it does turn out that this thing is a hoax, I'm sure the Heene family will pay dearly for it as it is. The ironic thing is that this stunt will probably eliminate the possibility of them ever getting the reality show they were striving for, so in this regard, it's a little bit of poetic justice. The reality charade they did get will probably not be nearly as much fun as they were anticipating. As for the criminal charges, probation would probably be appropriate, especially since that whole rescue effort looked expensive, and I'm sure restitution is in order. Above all, we need to remember that as imperfect or abusive as families or parents may be, we can't simply swap them out for what we deem to be a better situation, at least not without doing a child the gravest of harm in the process. It's easy to criticize and act superior. But if we do so in a way that incidentally causes a child much more harm than was necessary, doesn't that make us the real child abusers, the real monsters of society?

While we're at it, rather than pointing fingers at a family who (quite obviously) have enough problems as it is, perhaps we should ask ourselves why parent's would be moved into taking part in such an ill-thought-out stunt. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why viewing the naughty, malicious, and self-destructive behavior of other has become a favorite pass-time for hundreds of millions of people. After all, if we didn't watch, if we didn't make it a sport to revel in other people making fools of themselves on television, there wouldn't be families out there who feel a need to stage such things to get on television, or even considers such self-deprecating fame so important to begin with. This episode is as much a reflection on the state of society at large as it is on this family.

These kids will have to face enough as it is, without us screwing them up even more by yanking them out of their home. Look on the positive side: I don't know about you, but after a couple hours of non-stop balloon-expert testimony, I now know more about flying hot air balloons than I ever imagined, which should come in handy if I ever need to make stealth James Bond-like getaway in a hot air balloon.

General references:
1. Nina Bernstein, 'The Lost Children of Wilder,' New York: Pantheon Books, 2001

2. J. Hodges & B. Tizard, "Social and family relationships of exinstitutional adolescents." Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 30, 77-"'97

3. J.J. Doyle Jr., "Child protection and child outcomes: measuring the effects of foster care." MIT Sloan School of Management & NBER, Working Paper

4. Global Children's Fund, “Child Maltreatment: A Cross-Comparison,” unpublished manuscript, Chapter 36,

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your World In Review: Bad Psychology, Racism, Milk Safety, and More

In case you missed it ...

In the October 12th issue of Newsweek, Sharon Begley reported on the escalating abuse between research psychologists and clinical psychologists. A new yet to be published study scolds clinicians for ignoring science and employing methods that lack credibility and may even do harm.

The scoop: This is the latest chapter in an ongoing feud between psychological research and private practice. Belief and perception is such a powerful force in our mental health, psychologists can hurt as well as help.

"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. I feel the children will later suffer." - Justice Keith Bardwell, after refusing to wed an interracial couple.

The scoop: The only reason children might suffer later is because of bigotry dished out by people such as Keith Bardwell.

Where do babies come from? No, not the biology question, but the distribution of the world births. A Newsweek compilation found that 57.4% of the worlds babies are born in Asia, 26% in Africa, 11.5% in the Americas, 4.6% from Europe, and 0.5% from Oceania. (Australia and surrounding areas.)

Milk wars are heating up all across the country. The FDA says, drinking raw unpasteurized milk in dangerous. Advocates say it tastes better and boosts the immune system. The sale of raw milk is legal in 28 states, and many laws are being mulled over as we speak.

The scoop: I avoid the hasle and get my milk straight from the nipple. Sure, the cows give you a strange look and farmer Jim has chased me out of the barn a time or two, but it doesn't come any fresher. (Ha Ha)