Stories about parents "kidnapping" their own children always catch my attention for I do not immediately assume that the state is automatically right in taking
custody away from parents, and think that the "kidnapping" charges are, well, like using a three-ton slab of stone to swat a mosquito. The Paynes emerged the other day and gave a lengthy interview to The New York Times. Their side of the story sounds like an over-eager system, ready to take children from parents because they are poor and not white. Child welfare authorities are not talking.
TO ACT, OR DO NOTHING?
In the interview, the Paynes said the trouble all started when one of their boys showed up at school with a bloodshot eye, a result, they said, of a squabble between the boys. We don't know if there were other suspicious acts, because child welfare authorities would not talk about the case. In any event, the kids were removed from the home and placed in foster care. Some of the children have been in foster care for three years. From the Times:
“It’s either do something or let your kids get swallowed by a system that does not have a heart,” Mr. Payne, 35, said. “To do nothing would have been more hurtful, more reckless.”The couple have jobs--Mr. Payne is a construction worker, and Mrs. Payne is a beautician. During the time the children were in foster care, they said they showed up at every child visit with platters of food, home-baked cakes and even a juicer, they said, and they were devastated to hear that several of their boys had been medicated for things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They were terrified, they said, when two of their children complained of not being fed enough and showed up to visits with split lips and bruises. Agency officials said those claims were not reported.
The Paynes, teenage sweethearts, said they learned in mid-September that Children’s Services had set a goal of adoption for the children--they range in age from 11 months to 11 years--and it was as if a switch had flipped. At one visit to the Forestdale agency, Mrs. Payne simply led the kids out to the car waiting out back, and off they went. During their life on the run--they went to South Carolina where they once had lived and then to Harrisburg where their family still had land.
“Acres of land, produce growing out of the ground,” Mr. Payne said, a smile reaching each side of his lean face. “It was going to be that freedom to see our kids just running around — to be happy, to be safe — with their mother and father.”Describing their odyssey, Mrs. Payne recalled, her son Shalee, 6, awoke with a start. “He said: ‘I thought this was a dream. Thank you so much for taking us,’ I know that what I did was right because I heard it from my son.” They said they had stayed at motels, paying with cash so as not to be traced. They listened to music rather than the news even though the oldest boy had seen newspaper reports about the family. Their last evening together sounds like a party--which is how they described it--because after a chicken dinner in the van, they ended up at a park in Harrisburg where some of the boys got up on a stage and showed off break-dancing moves, the girls and Mrs. Payne watched cheerleaders.
Then came sirens, the order to "Freeze!", the barrel of a gun pointing at Mr. Payne. The baby began screaming. Mr. Payne collapsed and had to be taken to a hospital. "All I could hear was my baby screaming," he said.
OVER MEDICATED KIDS IN FOSTER CARE
Okay, this story hardly requires comment, but it aptly demonstrates what people will do to keep their children. At the same time we are reading this, here comes an alarming report from the Government Accounting Office:
Psychotropic drug use among American foster children is horrific and startling: in 2008, children in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas who’d been removed from their parents and placed in the care of state child welfare agencies were being prescribed psychiatric drugs at rates 2.7 to 4.5 times as high as non-foster care children on Medicaid. Thousands of children were taking medications at doses that exceeded FDA-approved maximum levels. Hundreds of foster children were taking more than five medications at once and some were taking up to ten drugs simultaneously. Even some infants were being prescribed psychiatric medications.
And if you have not seen the video of Loretta Young making a pitch for a foundling home (just added), check out the previous post: Loretta Young's 'adopted' daughter wasn't adopted at all