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1. Democrats Rediscover the Importance of Parental Liberty

By Daniel E. Witte

It is no secret that three of the most important special interest constituencies in the Democratic Party – social workers, public school unions, and lawyers – tend to be hostile to parental liberty. For this reason, many Democratic politicians have tended to support government schemes hostile to parental rights. However, this is beginning to change due to important economic, political and demographic trends.

Many of the most egregious violations of parental rights are committed against disadvantaged demographic groups, including racial minorities, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and lower-income families. This is due to the fact that government special interest groups have effectively criminalized poverty in order to create a legal pretext for removing children from their families for foster placement or adoption.

Government paternalism eventually impoverishes the people it is supposed to help. That same paternalism then impels the government to seize children from the impoverished families for failing to provide the economic standard of living that the government itself has proven incapable of affording.

As the extended economic downturn drags on, anti-immigrant sentiments rise and dissatisfaction with subpar education increases, key sectors of the Democratic base are now experiencing an intensified pattern of suffering due to deprivation of their parental rights. Today child seizures are not just affecting Native Americans, African-Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, all of whom have a long history of suffering such deprivations; the plague is increasingly reaching working-class Caucasian families devastated by the national financial crisis.

A recent example involves Brian and Cathy Carpich, a homeless couple attending the Occupy Dallas camp protest with their infant son, Zacharia.1 The Carpiches have been on a list for assisted housing since March and were utilizing a heated tent at the rally. Citing Zacharia’s “screaming and crying all night” – a rather common event for most healthy young children – the Dallas Police Department and Child Protective Services took custody of the infant despite the fact that he was apparently being clothed, fed and diapered. This occurred in the wake of a “tent-to-tent” dragnet conducted by social service workers. The sweep was supposedly organized by Dallas law enforcement authorities “to ensure the safety of any children living in the camp” instead of for the purpose of, say, retaliating against participants in a protest unpopular with local government officials and commercial interests.

Regardless of the merits of the Occupy Wall Street (or Dallas) movement, we should all denounce use of government child removal as a means for stifling political dissent. Government interference in private homes and politically motivated seizure of children has always been a hallmark of despotism.

Meanwhile, here in Utah, Rep. Christine F. Watkins (D-Price) has been conducting an 18-month investigation of the Department of Child and Family Services Eastern Region after “being overwhelmed with complaints from constituents.”2 In the Carbon and Emery county region – a Democratic stronghold – economically stressed households are being victimized by DCFS.

Representative Watkins observes that the court and child welfare systems work against parents, especially those with limited resources. Often the victims are women with children who now find themselves without a job or a breadwinner in the home. Representative Watkins also correctly described other troubling aspects of DCFS conduct. This list of grievances includes affording inadequate time for parents to try to regain their children, placement of children with foster parents rather than relatives, and an unnecessarily high rate of children in foster care. In 2010, DCFS spent $94 million on foster care, compared to a mere $7 million on in-home services to help families correct problems that supposedly put their children in jeopardy.

Rather than demanding narrowly tailored legal solutions – as the Utah and United States Constitutions actually require – Utah courts rubber-stamp parental rights terminations a suspiciously high 97 percent of the time.3 Meanwhile, parental access to competent legal representation, adequate expert witnesses, and access to legal resources is often inadequate or nonexistent. As an organization, the Utah Bar does very little to address the needs of indigent parents or discuss such issues in the same balanced manner employed for other areas of the law. The Utah Bar has failed to take such modest steps as organizing pro bono representation or conduct a balanced academic exploration of the issues arising in this area of the law.

DCFS continues to be unduly intrusive, vindictive, over-reaching, and prone to removal of children. Says Representative Watkins: “If you don’t do everything they tell you to do, exactly as they tell you to do it, then you’re done. They will take your kids. It is tragic.”4 She describes some of the incidents as “astonishing in a very negative way” and says “There were a lot of things very wrong here.”5

Democrat parents, like Republican ones, oppose needless government removal of their children. Parental liberty and educational opportunity are issues of great importance to Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and other demographic groups with increasing importance to the body politic. This political dynamic presents encouraging opportunities for civic leaders and families from across the political spectrum to find common ground and work together to protect core civil liberties. We must curtail the destructive efforts of various special interests who lobby both parties to undermine parents. Deprivation of parental rights should never be used as a tool to suppress free speech, nor should it ever be used to help special interests take financial advantage of downtrodden families and children.

Representative Watkins deserves praise for shining a light on a genuine problem. Reporter Brooke Adams and The Salt Lake Tribune should be credited with reporting on an important substantive issue. Let’s hope that Utah’s political leaders will build upon this opportunity to unite people of good will. Needless dissolution of families has no place in a state that claims to uphold family values.

ENDNOTES

1. Bud Gillett & Jack Fink, CPS Seizes Baby From ‘Occupy Dallas’ Site, Nov. 11, 2011, available at http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/11/04/cps-seizes-baby-from-occupy-dallas-site/.

2. Brooke Adams, \”Lawmaker: Mom’s struggle to keep her children shows problems with DCFS,\” The Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 3, 2011, available at http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52788018-78/stark-jennifer-brandon-foster.html.csp. Portions of this article repeat verbatim the rendition of facts reported by Adams’ article.

3. Ibid. (citing a statistic provided by the Utah Department of Child and Family Services).

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

 

2. Student Loan ‘Relief’ Undercuts Self-Reliance Teachings

By Kathryn Zwack

Late last month, President Obama unveiled his student loan relief plan, which he intends to impose by executive authority. According to the White House, this new plan would allow student loan borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income beginning in January 2012, regardless of how much they owe. In addition, if a graduate is unable to pay back the entire loan within 20 years, the remaining debt will be forgiven.

Does this sound like a great deal for students? Perhaps, but as a parent I have a problem with this proposed scheme. …

To read more of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, go tohttp://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/blog/2011/11/21/student-loan-%E2%80%98relief%E2%80%99-undercuts-attempts-to-teach-self-reliance/

 

3. Computer-Adaptive Testing: An Innovative Tool

By Matthew Piccolo

Remember the days of pencil-and-paper tests and Scantrons? You probably do because we\’re still in those days, but a new kind of testing that could improve education in Utah by leaps and bounds may soon be coming to a school near you.

Recently I attended an information session at Cherry Hill Elementary School in Orem where we learned more about computer-adaptive testing (CAT) and saw it in action. The students we observed taking CAT exams seemed to enjoy the format (as much as one can enjoy taking a test) and their teachers raved about its benefits. …

To read more of this post on the Sutherland Daily blog, go tohttp://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/blog/2011/11/09/computer-adaptive-testing-an-innovative-tool-for-teachers-students/