MICHIGAN — Hundreds of thousands of parents have been flagged as “child abusers” in a huge database maintained in secret by Michigan’s Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. The names are entered into the database without due process, without a judicial hearing, without an opportunity for defense, without a conviction, and without even letting the individuals know they have been targeted.
The list is called the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. It reportedly contains the names of 275,000 “abusive” parents currently in that state alone, as WXYZ reported.
Most people on the list have no idea they have been put there. They have not received convictions, a trial, or even notification.
“In our constitutional system, they can’t cut off your electricity or welfare benefits without giving you a fair hearing first. But in Michigan, they can put you on the black list of child abusers, and they don’t have to give year a hearing, and that’s written in the law,” says attorney Elizabeth Warren.
Getting on the CPS database is like a scarlet letter that can negatively affect the lives of those who have blacklisted. Many good names have been smeared through unproven allegations.
“I can’t foster, I can’t get a job anywhere, and background check, I can’t get a job,” said Helen Miller of Battle Creek, who had been unfairly labeled a child abuser.
The list has grown so large because CPS staffers can enter names easily — “by the push of a button” as Warren described — with no oversight. Meanwhile, it is very difficult for a flagged person to get his or her name removed.
Current law is set up to keep the names on the list for life. The only recourse is for the accused person to go before a judge and attempt to prove his or her innocence — since the guilt has already been assigned in the eyes of the state.
“Across the country there is abundant data that says that these registries are unreliable,” says Warner. “So, it’s of no use to anybody to protect children.”
CPS ringleader Colin Parks says it just doesn’t make sense to give everyone due process. The agency’s intervention in 80,000 families per year would produce a volume of judicial hearings that the state isn’t willing to pursue.
“Out of all of those cases, the expectation that somebody would be able to review those decisions would be a very time consuming task,” Parks said.
Michigan CPS has had a colorful record of violating families. The case of Maryanne Godboldo, a single mother from Detroit, stands out as one of the most offensive. When she took her daughter off of the psychotropic drugs that were causing her harm, CPS bureaucrats labeled her a neglectful mother. A SWAT team was sent to abduct the child and see that she was drugged by force. Police held an armed standoff outside the home when Godboldo resolved to protect her daughter by any means necessary.
In September 2014, a reform law goes into effect which will change the state blacklisting system. Among the changes, parents will be notified via letter as they are entered into the database — still without due process. The list of reasons to be entered will be narrowed. Unfortunately, the accused individuals will only have 6 months to appeal before they lose that right, permanently.
The reforms don’t nearly go far enough to reign in the agency that profits from abducting children and breaking apart families. CPS has earned similar criticisms in every other state, although it is unknown what sort of secret databases other states are keeping. Increased awareness and citizen activism will be required to defend families from the unrestrained state power.
Via ABC-7 WXYZ:
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