Child Protective Services – An American Evil
By James Donahue
I was working in the White Mountains as a news reporter in December, 1997, when
I worked on a story about a couple in Show Low, Arizona, making a public plea to recover their children from state government
It seems that the parents had a problem with alcohol and consequently, after neighbors
complained about some loud nights and a couple of nasty arguments, Child Protective Services got involved. The children were
removed from the home.
I went in their mobile home with a photographer at my side for the interview.
It was a sad pre-Christmas story. It seems that the grandparents, who lived in a nice home a few blocks away, were given custody
of the children. So we interviewed the grandparents, and also the children.
The CPS agents involved refused to comment. They pointed out that everything they
did was a private matter between themselves and the families involved, and that all information about their operations was
protected by law.
What was sad for the entire family was that Juvenile Court would only allow visitation
once each week and under guarded conditions, in a special room assigned by the court. The family could not consider getting
together for the holidays.
There was no indication that the children were ever harmed. In fact, the children
wanted to go home. They missed their mother. Everybody in this family was visibly shaken by what was happening.
I wrote a tear-jerking Christmas story about this family, complete with pictures
of the people involved. It caused a big reaction in the community, but not what you might expect.
Not only were people angry about what Child Protective Services did to this family,
I began getting calls and letters from numerous other families with similar stories about their own battles with the agency.
The more I dug the more sordid the story became. It was not long before I had
a state senator, who was clearly opposed to the abuses generated by that agency, contacting me with more stories from all
I was even visited by a delegation of members of an organization of Parents Against
Child Protective Services that was very active in Phoenix. They supplied me with volumes of information and legal documents
showing that there was a state agency in Arizona that was running amok.
Through all of this, the state Child Protective Services was keeping a lid on
its actions. I communicated regularly with a public relations person in Phoenix who was skilled at political double-talk.
What I began to discover is that there is big money to be made in foster care,
and Child Protective Services and the juvenile courts are right in the thick of it.
I was fortunate enough in those days to have the support of a courageous publisher
in a small newspaper chain that got behind me and published my stories. Even though we didn’t have circulation reaching
beyond Apache and Navajo Counties, from Show Low East to St. Joseph and up to the New Mexico County line, the stories had
As the battle continued, cracks developed in the state’s armor. High officials
for CPS agreed to meet me in the St. Joseph County courthouse. The parents of the children in the Show Low case also were
invited. The state officials brought stacks of documentation that they claimed proved their case for removing the children.
It was an all-day session. I spent the day reading every single page and going over them with the family.
In the end, we found nothing to substantiate the legal action that was taken against
that family. We said so in our newspaper the following day.
We presented the good side of the story with the bad. The parents admitted to
excessive alcoholism, and they admitted to public scenes during some of their drinking bouts. But there was no proof that
the children were ever harmed, or that they were not being well cared for. And the parents joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and
claimed to have been sober for months at the time of our report.
We didn’t do it in time for the Christmas holidays, but before I left that
newspaper, I had the thrill of seeing that Show Low family reunited with their children. The children were returned to their
Unfortunately, I was unable to help a growing list of other tortured families
that appeared equally abused by this agency that legally operates behind closed doors.
As far as I know, Child Protective Services or agencies like it exist in every
state in the union today. There is an obvious reason for this agency’s existence, since child abuse is a growing phenomenon
all over the country. But there also is abuse within and it involves money. Someone needs to be a watchdog, making sure the
agents operating inside the secret walls of CPS know and understand the difference.
More To Come