Ethics Quiz: The Low IQ Parents

Eric Ziegler and his partner, Amy Fabbrini, have below-average IQs…well below average. His IQ is 72 and hers is 66.  After Amy delivered their son Christopher in 2013, other family members, especially Amy’s estranged father, alerted Oregon’s child welfare agency that the couple might not be fit parents. The Department of Human Services’ investigation found no signs of abuse or neglect. However,

In reports of concerns about the couple’s parenting skills, a MountainStar [a nonprofit Oregon group devoted to helping prevent child abuse] worker recalled having to prompt them to have Christopher wash his hands after using the toilet and to apply sunscreen to all of his skin rather than just his face. Fabbrini and Ziegler’s attorneys argue these weren’t sufficient reasons to keep them from their son.

Based on this, Christopher (shown above with his parents) was removed from the couple and placed in foster care, where he remains.

The couple’s  second son, Hunter, was removed by the state while Fabbrini was still in the hospital, with Oregon citing the couple’s  “limited cognitive abilities that interfere with [their] ability to safely parent the child.”

Your Ethic Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day…

Is Oregon’s removal of this couple’s children based solely on the parents’ low IQ scores ethical?

Before someone makes the argument, no, Oregon would not remove children from parents based solely on not reminding kids to wash their hands or use sun screen if the parents were not cognitively-challenged.

Reason, reporting on the treatment of the parents, writes,

[The Story in the Oregonian (linked above)] describes Ziegler and Fabbrini’s hard work in improving their parenting skills. It quotes other experts who are helping them and who believe the couple is capable of raising children. One volunteer mediator said she told caseworkers that she believed the couple was capable of raising Christopher. Her conclusion conflicted with the position taken by officials, and subsequently, she says, they told her that her services were “no longer needed.”

America, sadly, has a lengthy history of using state power to interfere in intellectually disabled people’s lives. What happened to this couple isn’t as bad as what might have happened to them a century ago, where people with low IQs were often forcibly sterilized. Today Fabbrini and Ziegler’s boys are hardly the only children to have been taken by the government because their parents have learning disabilities. Or any disabilities, honestly. According to the National Council of Disabilities, in 35 states it is perfectly legal to use a disability as a reason to terminate an adult’s parental rights. The council calculates that between 40 and 80 percent of parents with intellectual disabilities have faced having their children removed. (They don’t have more precise numbers because of a lack of research data.) One expert quoted in The Oregonian noted that IQ doesn’t really correlate with parenting problems until it drops below 50. And yet parents are losing custody of their children over fears of what might happen.

Yup. This is pre-crime, discrimination, and nascent totalitarianism…strangely from one of the Western Empires of the Left, Oregon, where Government is Wise and Beneficent. What has been done to Eric and Amy is heartbreaking and wrong. Anyone defending this obtrusive state action had better be prepared to explain why surrendering more and more autonomy and personal responsibility to government doesn’t inevitably lead to such abuses.

For it follows as the night follows day.

(Now excuse me; I think I’m going to cry.)

34 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Rights, U.S. Society

34 responses to “Ethics Quiz: The Low IQ Parents

  1. I’m working on a piece of fiction in which infant girls are taken from their parents, entrusted into facilities where they are trained to be model, submissive women, and then are auctioned off at age 16 at an annual event. The societal excuse for such a system is, “it is for the protection of the girls!”

    Looking at events like this make me wonder if my fictional premise isn’t quite as far-fetched as I was trying to make it.

    • Steve-O-in-NJ

      You and I should compare notes. I created the process of “listing” wherein all women of royal and sufficiently high noble blood are entered on a list, controlled by a high official, from which they can only be made available in marriage on his say-so, and are frequently offered as rewards to knights for completion of various quests, the more difficult or vital the quest, the more beautiful and better bred the women you get to choose from.

  2. My quick take on this is very similar to what I’ve held for a long time, and a discussion can follow, but in short:

    I think the damage to a particular child specifically, and to the institution of Family generally, when the the child is removed and the family broken by the State, is greater than the damage to the child & institution of Family caused by the reason under consideration in FAR more cases than we are comfortable admitting…simply because MOST of us come from families in which those reasons never presented themselves.

    Now, I know what I’m about to say is going to cause exasperated gasps:

    But, for example:

    a moderately alcoholic mother, in which most other acculturating forces in a child’s life are healthy…or maybe even a father who hits his kid once in a blue moon with a little more force than most would consider appropriate or for a reason that most would consider less than appropriate….

    I donno. For most of us, we’d consider parents like that abhorrent. But I think it’s necessary to ask ourselves: is the child going to do well *enough* as an adult with those occasional negative influences in their upbringing that the destruction of their only source of normalcy in life (as is the only source of normalcy in any child’s formative phase of life is Family) would actually work more damage to them under the guise of rescuing them.

    I think the uncomfortable answer is Yes… a child will probably turn out generally better with a semi-abusive or semi-incompetent set of parents than in a world where government simply breaks things. And make no mistake, I don’t think for a minute, except in extreme circumstances, that a child sees their family being shattered as a rescue.

    • But I think the scarier state of affairs is that when the government does choose to break a family, it gets it more wrong than we should be content with. And when the government chooses NOT to break a family in question….it gets a lot of those cases wrong as well.

      Having known CPS to be called on my abject wreck of a sister-in-law whose children ARE being raised to the detriment of their ability to function as adults (though luckily the oldest has been able to get away from her….the youngest has not) the state still has found no reason to step in because there are NO surprise visits and plenty of time to prepare to FAKE the “check up” process.

    • My retired HHS lawyer single parent sister’s reaction: “It’s sad, but you can’t let people that handicapped raise kids.”

      • The scary thing is there’s such a gray area in interpreting fit vs unfit vs dangerous parents that any one person making that argument could be completely and blissfully unaware of any instances in their own parent’s conduct towards them as children that some of that conduct might have gotten them separated from their parents by their own slippery standards. Yet here they are adults and presumably well adjusted.

  3. deery

    No, it is not ethical. The lack of hand washing and sunscreen are the thinnest fig leafs to do what they wanted to do, remove children from their (low-IQs) parent’s custody. In all but the most dire circumstances, foster care is not better than being raised by parents/relatives who actually give a damn about the kid.

    • Well this comforts me.

      Of course both of us used incredibly guarded language in hinting at just the conditions necessary for a removal of a child to be justified.

      1) we should engage in an exercise that works on bounding the limits of what is acceptable grounds for removal.

      2) in any society that has to make this determination, we know we can reach a theoretical “red line” of conduct that definitively reaches a limit where a child *should be* taken from his or her parents. But in all judgements there WILL be observable conduct that implies that line has been crossed when in reality it hasn’t as well as times when observable conduct hasn’t reached that line but in reality the line has indeed been crossed.

      As in Justice, we err on the side of letting the actually guilty go free to minimize the times the actually innocent are punished, is that the proper way to err in cases like this?

      Is it better to err on the side of possibly keeping a child in a bad condition to ensure that for the most part children in marginal or on the “OK” side of marginal are not removed?

  4. Cynical John

    My experience with CPS (fortunately, only as an attorney) is generally
    CPS is an organization of unmarried, childless liberal arts majors who know how to raise someone else’s children better than anybody else.

    • Pennagain

      My experience with CPS (as a retired RN who had to work with them when doing home-care nursing one year) is generally that CPS is an organization of unmarried, childless, (and therefore) overworked, highly stressed and virtually untrained fresh-out-of-school (un-life-experienced) sociology majors who assess risk to a child by plugging numbers into a computer.

      They look at a home or interview parent(s)* on behalf of their confirmation bias, to gather evidence of abuse or neglect, not to disprove it. They assume guilt and bully the parent(s) with that assumption. They don’t know how to speak to children, usually ignore what they say anyway, judge the home by the dirty dishes instead of the clean, calm, healthy appearing child (whom they won’t understand even if they bother to speak to the child). I noticed they didn’t record or write down what the child said either.

      One caseworker told me it didn’t matter what was said. It was a required visit; they were going to take the children anyway.

      That was the last time I even thought about complaining about public health home nursing.

      * Parents are never told they have a right to not speak to CPS, but that’s probably just as well unless they can afford to have an attorney present (or somehow get legal aid ahead of time) since the CPS are tied to the police in any “suspicious” cases brought to their attention by the caseworker — and nothing is more suspicious than refusing to speak to a CPS worker.

      • My thoughts exactly.

        My gut feeling is that CPS when it makes a decisions either it’s barely the right decision or it’s horribly wrong (in either direction- that is, not removing a kid who really, really needs it or removing a kid whoreally, really doesn’t need it)

  5. Mark

    Kinda like Ceausescu did in Romania…

  6. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Did you see the movie “The Other Sister?” There’s just something…unsettling about two people who can barely comprehend many basic things, talk like they have marbles in their mouths, and walk with a funny little modified duck gait trying to raise a kid.

  7. It doesn’t take low IQ mess up a kid, and their odds are way better with earnest training and support around them. Foster care should not be because someone is offended by their IQ. The foster parents I knew had horrible stories.

  8. Inquiring Mind

    The real question: How many CPS agents remove the kids to make some sort of quota to show they are “doing their job” and that the department is necessary.

    • Isaac

      The answer is: a lot. The cause of any bureaucracy will eventually become less important than just sustaining the bureaucracy.

      • Cynical John

        There is a book, now out of print, entitled “The Kidner Report: A Guide to Creative Bureaucracy.” One of the things Kidner wrote that struck me as true (it was 1965, and I was only 18) was that the fundamental goal of any bureaucrat, whether public or private and no matter the mission of the particular bureaucracy, was the acquisition of FOSP. (Furnitoure, Office Space, and Personnel), because he who has the most FOSP wins. It was true in 1965 and even more true now.

      • In the army, we called functions and institutions that essentially manufactured reasons to exist “self-licking ice cream cones”.

        • John Billingsley

          There have been several threads that have discussed various aspects of CPS and rather than jump around to each one I want to make some observations that apply to several issues that have arisen. I am going to address the issue in Florida where the agency is known as the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). I think all states have similar laws and agencies. DCF has responsibility not only for issues related to child abuse but also to abuse of vulnerable adults defined as developmentally disabled adults and the elderly. I do not work for DCF but because of the nature of my work have had to have significant contact with them.

          The DCF does not have to manufacture a reason to exist. The state of Florida has done that by statute mandating that any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is abused, neglected or abandoned must report it to DCF. The penalty for not reporting is a misdemeanor unless the person not reporting is a mandatory reporter in which case it is a felony. The requirements for vulnerable adults are essentially the same.

          DCF does not have to look for work or make work as they have plenty of reports which the state mandates they investigate. Whether children requiring assistance are left in the home or taken out, DCF still has to maintain a case. Their workload is pretty much the same either way. There is no need for a removal quota. The workload is driven by how many reports they get. My observation in working with them is that like every large organization some folks who work in it are much better than others, most are competent and there are a few who should not be doing the job.

          Lastly I want to address the point Texagg raised regarding the decisions made as he characterized them “barely right or horribly wrong.” Look at the process as a two by two truth table. To simplify a little, there are really only four possible outcomes of an investigation. If there is actually abuse and action is taken, we can call that a true positive and likewise if there is no abuse and the case is closed that is a true negative. Both of those outcomes are what we hope to see. The world and people not being perfect though, we have cases where there is no abuse and action is taken, a false positive, and cases where there is abuse but no action is taken, a false negative.

          It is an invariable fact that in any screening process increasing the sensitivity of the screen will increase the false positives and increasing the specificity will increase the false negatives. In criminal law, our society decided on very high specificity. We accept false negatives, that is the guilty who go free, in order to minimize false positives, the innocent who are convicted. In child abuse investigation should we lean toward higher sensitivity or higher specificity? Do we want to have more episodes of intervention with children who are not actually at elevated risk or do we want to have more cases where there is no intervention when children are at risk? Keep in mind that intervention does not invariably mean removal of a child from the family and in fact intervention most often involves such things as family therapy, parenting classes, and such.

          Intervening when there is no real risk (false positive) is not harmless. Intruding into the family life can be traumatic for the family and in the extreme case where a child is removed from the family it is definitely traumatic. But the case continues and in most instances the damage can be ameliorated. In a five year period in Florida 477 children died when there was risk and DCF did not identify it and intervene (false negative). This is the horrible wrong in my opinion.

  9. I worked for two years with developmentally disabled individuals within the range of these two people. And, as much as it is sad and as much as I generally don’t like it when government makes these decisions, I am absolutely 100% certain that none of the individuals I worked for could properly raise children. As such, the state’s actions here are ethical, if the reasoning is somewhat dubious.

    Let me share with you just some brief highlights of my time working with this segment of the population. I will abbreviate their names, so as to protect their identities. Please note that all of these individuals had higher IQs than Amy, and they may have all been tested as higher than Christopher.

    1. K. Having to grab her after she walked out in front of a van. Me: “K., what would happen if that van hit you?” Her: “It would bounce off of me.”
    2. S. Ordered a $7,000.00 piano to be delivered to his home, even though he had about $400.00 in his bank account. Not really clear why he chose this because he didn’t know how to play.
    3. C. Finding out that she had no sense of time. You couldn’t say to her “I’ll take you in five minutes.” You’d have to point to the clock and say “When this big hand hits the 3, then we’ll go.” Also, she had no ability (or desire possibly) to say no to the opposite sex, and had been found in the presence of multiple young men sans clothing multiple times.
    4. B. Lacked the ability to read and write. He also struggled to make himself understood verbally. He had a TBI, rather than a disability he was born with, so he was a bit different from the others.
    5. C.B.: Couldn’t stop asking strangers for gifts, even though we explained the dangers of doing so many, many times to her. (Of the nine people I worked with, she was without a doubt the closest to being able to handle the responsibilities of a child, but even she wasn’t there.)
    6. A: Prone to physical violence, and had very little patience. Would run away if frustrated. Called for an ambulance at least once a week due to her inability to process her emotions.
    7. L: She suffered from the inability to hear due to her age, which meant that whenever she didn’t quite catch what someone was saying, she assumed they were saying means things about her.
    8. AZ: She cried for about an hour and a half after I asked her to put her seat belt on. (To be fair, I think she cried because I asked her to do this, and not because she had to wear her seat belt-she felt I was yelling at her).
    9. S.C.: Had to be reminded that she needed permission to approach/touch other people’s children. Also, often needed to be reminded to drink water-as she would get super agitated on hot days because she hadn’t thought to drink anything. She absolutely adored children, and I always felt bad she couldn’t have the adventure of having them, because there was absolutely nothing wrong with her heart. The issues were all intellectual.

    The reality is that persons with IQs under 70 are simply NOT SMART ENOUGH to raise children. Trying to protect them from that reality because we, as a society, don’t want the burden of telling them is irrational, cruel, and arbitrary. It does so much damage.

    For instance, one of the individuals in our agency, who I never worked with, had had multiple children. Every time she had a new one, the state would take the child away (the state had to), and every time she would just go about having another baby. The cruelty of that is much greater than the one-time cruelty of telling someone they cannot have children.

    I know Buck v Bell is considered one of the worst cases in U.S. Supreme Court history, but having worked extensively with that population, my only issue with it is that the Justices didn’t seem to have the right facts. I absolutely think the state should be able to limit the ability of some persons to have children because some persons simply lack the necessary capacity to engage in the act of child-rearing. I know that seems cruel, but it seems to me that only a great fool wouldn’t except a little cruelty in order to avoid a far greater amount of cruelty.

    My only issue with the facts as you’ve outlined them, is that the overruling of Buck v. Bell required the state to make up nonsense facts (the sunscreen and the washing of the hands) to take away the children. The children were removed because persons of this intellectual level are not smart enough to raise children. To me, that’s all that should be necessary.

    Two further points: I graduated top third in my law school class, so I imagine I’m not a complete imbecile, but even I sometimes run out of emotional and intellectual tools while dealing with my infant son. Raising children is intellectually and emotionally difficult. Persons with limited intellectual tools, which usually means also limited emotional tools, will always have an incredibly difficult time doing it.

    Secondly, the one expert who says that “IQ doesn’t correlate with parenting problems until IQ drops below 50” is a self-serving moron. There’s no way in the world that’s true. Persons in the borderline IQ range, 70-79, have difficulty using appliances like microwave ovens and stoves. You’re going to tell me that raising children is less complicated than using those appliances? Furthermore, you’re going to try and tell me that the inability to use those appliances safely doesn’t affect your ability to parent-making formula is about as complicated as using a microwave oven, and last I checked, many babies need formula to survive. (Snark is intended towards the expert, not the writer of this blog.)

    So, yes, I have to come to the conclusion that the final decision is ethical, though I do feel sorry for Eric and Amy. I assume that their problems are all intellectual, and nothing is wrong with their hearts or their souls. Unfortunately, no matter how good your intentions are, raising children requires a high degree of intellectual tools, and no amount of wishing and hoping that emotional and spiritual tools will be enough is going to make it so.

    • Fascinating post. I have one Comment of the Day ahead of you, but this is another one.

    • Did you work with this population in such away that you were making these kinds of decisions for the State?

      You see, there’s a disconnect there:

      1) Yes, there are clear situations where children should rightly be removed from their parents.

      2) Does the state consistently make the right decision in this regard while minimizing the number of wrong decisions it makes.

      3) Can IQ really be a sufficient standard for removal?

      4) If so, or whatever standard we choose, how well is the State equipped to make that decision?

      • I’m a little confused. Let’s go through your questions one at time.

        No, I did not work in such a way that I was making decisions for the state in regards to children, except insofar as (dirty little secret) most direct care workers strongly discourage sexual encounters between individuals with developmental disabilities. This is, of course, another and related issue. If birth control was used properly, direct care workers would be less worried about sexual intercourse between those who are disabled, which is a natural, normal, and healthy part of life. Finally, the fact that I worked for two years with this population in direct care may very well mean that I am more qualified to answer this question than those who actually make the final determination.

        I’m not really sure how there’s a disconnect, but there very well could be.

        1.) This isn’t a question, but I agree with your statement.

        2.) I have no idea whether the state consistently makes the right decision overall. I wasn’t asked that. I only think they made the right decision with regards to this particular child. But, even if the state is making an incorrect decision 25% of the time, the state would be protecting children the remaining 75% of the time, correct? I mean, we can’t really expect any entity to get a complicated issue like this right 100% of the time. I don’t think that’s realistic. I understand hostility to the state, but this is clearly one of the things the state absolutely should be doing, isn’t it? Is there some better entity to make these decisions, and if so, what entity?

        3.) Not only can it be a sufficient reason, YOU must know that it’s a sufficient reason. For instance, imagine that a intellectually disabled person with the intellect of a small infant gets pregnant due to abuse. You would absolutely remove that child. Clearly, there is a point where intellect is a bar to child custody, the only relevant question is the level at which this occurs. Please note that if their child is normal, then Eric and Amy’s child will definitely be smarter than them by the age of nine, and may be smarter than them as early as the age of six or seven. I don’t think that’s fair to ask of a child, and frankly, those who are asking, I think, are asking it because they want to feel better about themselves-not because they are acting in the child’s best interest. Further, it seems to me that this inquiry has to start with the question of what’s best for the child, not at whether or not we trust the state.

        4.) I think the answer to this question is that they’re the best equipped, even if we would prefer them to be better equipped.

        Also, it’s possible we’re arguing semantics. Intelligence is not this immeasurable, mystical thing. If you have an IQ under 80, it generally means that you will have difficulty making life decisions, difficulty operating simple machines like microwaves and stoves, and will be easily confused by simple problems. Often, it means the state needs to provide protective services for you. What I’m saying is that’s per se unfit for being a parent. I’m not saying the state should remove the child because the parents aren’t smart, I’m saying the state should remove the child because the parents are unfit due to their lack of intelligence.

        I’m of the opinion that those who think persons with an IQ under 80 can be fit to be parents, only think so because they haven’t spent sufficient time working with such a population. At some point, the lack of intelligence is going to harm the child. Here, the parents forgot to put sunscreen on the whole body. Not a huge foul, but what happens when they’re told by a doctor to give medicine three times a day, but they forget and give it only once? What happens when they’re told to put a medicinal cream over the whole body, but they forget and only put it on one part of the body or visa-versa? What happens when if the parents forget about the child in the bath-or in the car? With intellects this low, it’s not a question of “if”, it’s a question of when. And when that happens, haven’t we spared the parents the pain of having the child removed by the state, only to have them face the possible pain of losing their child and the guilt of their mistake? And that’s just considering the parents, what about the child? Doesn’t every child have a right to a minimum of competence from their parents-how are you going to get minimum competence with the segment of the population who can hurt themselves using a microwave oven?

        Please note that I’m not at all hostile to the intellectually disabled population, but they have limitations. And I don’t think it’s good for them, for society, or for children to pretend that raising children isn’t one of those limitations.

        I may have misunderstood some of your points or questions. If I have, let me know.

  10. Mrs. Q

    This is not surprising considering state lawmakers are aggressively pushing SB494, which would allow doctors/family to supercede a person’s advance directive and stop feeding a patient should they become mentally incapacitated. One could argue that the folks more likely to have their feeding stopped would be mentally ill/challenged, the elderly, and the poor.

  11. John Billingsley

    I read an article about this couple yesterday. In their photographs, they appear to be a nice couple, the home they have prepared for their children is inviting, and their heartbreak is obvious in their expressions. I have no reason to doubt that they are loving, caring people who would do their best to provide a nurturing, safe environment for their children. My heart went out to them and I was near tears at their situation and yet I believe the state has almost certainly acted in the best interest of the children.

    Valentine has provided examples of 8 cases of the thought processes of individual with a degree of mental retardation no more severe than what this couple has (I am not including the case with TBI as that is a different situation). I could easily give as many more examples as could anyone who has worked with this population. As I said above, I have no reason to doubt that they are loving and want to do their best to raise children but the fact is that they simply do not have the mental capacity do to that and no amount of wanting it will make it so.

    The fact is that people with their IQ level have brains that are functioning somewhere around a 3rd to 6th grade level at best. Valentine has mentioned some of the problems that arise from that. One not mentioned, is that they have have poor insight and do not have the capacity to “know what they don’t know” which may lead them to believe they are functioning far better and are more capable than they actually are. Who in that mental age range, no matter how much they want to do it, has the capacity to cope with the total care of an infant or child. The general recommendations I’ve seen are that a child should be about 12 or so to be left alone at home for any length of time and about 15 prior to being trusted with the care of younger siblings. Should the care and safety of totally defenseless infants and children be entrusted to people who are functioning at a mental age where we believe children are barely safe to be left by themselves much less care for younger sibs?

    I think deery is probably correct that the hand washing/sunscreen issue was the stated reason for what the state was going to do anyway. But I have to add, just as with legal cases, what you read in the paper is not the whole enchilada. Should the state have waited until there was some real harm to a child before acting? How much harm would be necessary to constitute “dire circumstances?”

    In an imperfect world in which it is impossible to predict the future with certainty, should we err on the side of removing children who might not actually be in “dire circumstances” or on the side of letting some die horrible deaths? Over the course of five years in Florida, 477 children died of abuse after decisions were made to leave them in the home. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell just how dire a situation may be.

    Jack said, “What has been done to Eric and Amy is heartbreaking and wrong. Anyone defending this obtrusive state action had better be prepared to explain why surrendering more and more autonomy and personal responsibility to government doesn’t inevitably lead to such abuses.”

    Is it heartbreaking? Definitely. Wrong? Only if it is wrong to prevent an individual who is incapable of performing a task, and is unable to appreciate that they are incapable of it, from attempting it and very possibly causing serious harm to another. Surrendering any autonomy and personal responsibility to the government is inevitably going to lead to some abuses. The fact that giving the state the power to remove children from the home has led to incidents of abuse doesn’t negate the fact that it is a power we have decided the state must have. We expect the state to step in and protect children who are abused by their parents and we are rightfully incensed when they do not do so and children are seriously injured or die.

    This unfortunate couple exercised their autonomy and had a child. They both almost certainly lack the competence to safely raise the child they bear personal responsibility for producing. Given the fact that this couple mentally has the parenting ability of a pair of preteens, should the state give them a chance to raise the children until something goes horribly wrong and then step in or should it step in now? Stepping in does not have to mean removing the children. The state could pay for a full-time live in nanny to help out until the children are grown.

    • Isaac

      Hmmm….just want to make sure I’ve got this right. Walk me through this.

      -If Scenario X makes abuse, accidents, or harm more likely, then the State should intervene.

      -If statistics can show that children die disproportionately when living in Scenario X, this is evidence to the effect that the State should intervene.

      -If raising a child is provably more difficult and would require a great deal of additional help from one’s loved ones in order to make it work…then the State should intervene. Perhaps by taking away the child. Or perhaps by forcibly inserting a live-in nanny, provided by the State, of course.

      -Anecdotes suggesting horrible parenting skills, and real-life nightmare scenarios from the news, are valid evidence that children in Scenario X should be taken away from the parents, or otherwise have the State intervene.

      -Although we know the couple MIGHT do a good job, we also know that kids in those situations are in much more danger of abuse, neglect, or even death. And even if we know that MOST kids in that situation will PROBABLY turn out well enough, we cannot err on the side of risking children’s well-being and safety. Therefore the State must intervene.

      Seeing that all of those risk factors also go along with single parenting, live-in-boyfriends, and divorced parents…what are your thoughts on those dangerous scenarios? Should the State take kids away from single moms or moms who are cohabiting?

      Consider that according to the AAP, kids living with Mom and Mom’s boyfriend are FIFTY TIMES more likely to die from household violence.

  12. Isaac

    The following may be a little bit of a generalization.

    I am automatically skeptical when a Leftist says they are doing something “for the children.” The Left/Statists/Progressives do not care one bit about evidence-based polices on what is best for children. I have never in my life been able to convince a Leftist to move his or her opinion one millimeter based on statistics in regards to the well-being of children.

    Leftists are allergic to statistics about children. Getting a Leftist to even look at a statistic about the well-being of children is like getting a cat to look into the mirror. Leftists do not want to know any statistics about what is best for children, what works best for children’s development, what hurts children, or what is working for children. As far as a Leftist is concerned, if a statistic doesn’t imply that children need more government and less family, than that statistic must be racist. If every statistic ever gathered in the history of statistics showed that socialist policies were literally killing children, and that faith, family, and limited government could end all child poverty and abuse if implemented tomorrow, the Left would respond by calling on the Southern Poverty Law Center to designate sociologists as a hate group. If a Republican discovered a cure for child cancer on Monday, Kamala Harris would call it the Hitler Drug and Leftists would have #StopTheHitlerDrug trending on Twitter by Tuesday.

  13. Al Veerhoff

    Let’s start out by acknowledging that IQ is NOT a valid tool for assessing intellectual disability. In fact, the US Supreme Court has said so. The only value of IQ is to those who try to quantify data rather than make quality assessments. Numbers can be treated as absolutes, no matter what they actually represent.
    Other EA readers may already know that I have twin sons with Down syndrome and congenital heart defects that have been repaired. I mention their hearts because a commenter in an earlier discussion (not knowing about the existence of Jamie and Will) had suggested that a neonate with Down syndrome and heart defects might be an example of medical care that would drain assets best used elsewhere.
    That said, let me talk about my sons’ prospective parenting skills–at this time. They have none. Yet, within a month they will be moving into their own apartment… with counselor support. A social-service worker may look at the numerical data and say they are not ready to do this. Another would say that no matter what skills Jamie & Will may not have, they deserve independence. (Oh, they vote, too.)
    At some future time, one or the other may find a woman they want to spend the rest of their life with. Assuming they are capable of having children, should they do it? The families of a couple with Down Syndrome who were about to marry had them care for a borrowed baby for a weekend. The couple decided, together, that caring for children would be too much work for them. I’d give the betrothed the same kind of test.
    Let’s get back to the couples whose children were taken: What will those children be told about their birth parents? Having been told, might they not grow up hating the system that broke up the family? We’re not talking about abusive parents here, just people who need support and encouragement. Like my sons will have when they move out.

    • John Billingsley

      Al, I was the commenter you are mentioning above. I am happy to hear your sons are doing well and gaining more independence. I believing providing support and encouraging the maximum degree of independence is the proper thing to do. I have worked with many people in that circumstance who are doing quite well.

      When we help adults in that circumstance increase their independence we do so knowing that increased independence cannot be divorced from increased responsibility. We try to minimize risks for harm but accept that with increasing independence there is increasing risk for problems to arise that may result in some type of harm. We accept it because to truly be independent adults they must have the autonomy to make decisions, including what we might see as bad ones.

      It is one thing to be responsible for making decisions for self and accepting the consequences but quite another to be tasked with making all of the decisions for an infant, who is dependent on the decision maker for its very life, and have that infant accept the consequences. To take the case of the couple with Down Syndrome. I think what the family did was good and for the moment produced a good result. But what if after caring for the child the couple decided they loved having a child to care for and in that short time had actually provided adequate care and then wanted a child? As I’m sure you know, in this case the chances of them actually being able to have a child are very small because very few men and only about 30% of women with Down Syndrome are fertile.

      In the case of the couple in Oregon, there is no doubt that they feel they are able to care for a child, want children, and are able to have them. You say, “We’re not talking about abusive parents here, just people who need support and encouragement. Like my sons will have when they move out.” I agree that there is nothing to indicate that they would be deliberately abusive. In my experience, pretty much all of the couples I have seen who are in a similar situation have ended up being supported by their extended family with it typically being the grandparents who end up doing the majority of the parenting. Pretty much the same as the situation for parents with other disabilities including drug or alcohol addiction.

      The article indicates that the maternal grandfather is hostile and maternal grandmother is deceased. It looks like the paternal grandfather provided their home but there is no other information about the paternal grandparents. Because there does not appear to be extended family to provide support, I think that it would be appropriate for the state to provide support and see that as greatly preferable to putting the children in foster care . Intensive support and education might allow the parents to gradually be more independent with the children especially as the children get older and more able to fend for themselves. Keep in mind in this case and others like it, the only information we have is what is provided in a very sympathetic newspaper article. Trying to second guess the actions of the state here is the same as trying to second guess a jury verdict based on just a newspaper account.

      “Let’s start out by acknowledging that IQ is NOT a valid tool for assessing intellectual disability. In fact, the US Supreme Court has said so.” I partially agree. It should not be the only tool used in assessing intellectual disability but it may provide useful information. My understanding is that the Supreme Court in Hall v. Florida actually said that the state had to look beyond IQ scores to determine whether a death row inmate was intellectually incapacitated to be executed when the scores were in the range of 70 to 75. This was because a cut off of 70 had been set by Florida and the Justices acknowledged that there was some margin of error in testing. Hall had scored 71. In the DSM-V, degree of intellectual impairment is determined by looking at functioning in various intellectual domains and IQ is not mentioned at all.

      For parenting evaluations, IQ scores should certainly not be the only factor. I don’t know about other states, but in Florida they are actually a minor component if included at all and IQ is not used as the sole determinant to decide whether or not to remove children from the home. I’m sure in the article IQ was mentioned because it is easy to use that to convey an idea about degree of impairment and it would have been much harder to list the specific impairments in the various domains of intellectual functioning although that would have been far more useful information. Looking at intellectual disability and parenting there is a model called social information processing (SIP) that is being studied. Here is an article reporting some preliminary results of that research: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264989/

  14. Al Veerhoff

    John, I think we are in agreement & I’ve read the NCBI study. My quick reading of it suggests that parents who were abused as children are more likely to be abusers and that environmental and social conditions can also be factors. These things are hard to assess because it’s usually difficult to gather definitive information.
    I think it’s possible to make a personality/disability assessment by observing what the parents do/not do in particular situations. I think many social-service agencies employ such criteria. As was pointed out above, many of the agencies have inexperienced employees and are understaffed, so they lack the personnel who can look at the non-numerical parts of the of the assessment. The quickest and most efficient cover-my-ass approach is to deny custody (and as the NIH study points out, this is often the wrong step.)
    And Jack, you must have had to filter out a ton of troll messages on this topic thread. It’s a delicate subject that somehow provokes people to send obscene comments anonymously.

  15. Matthew B

    …strangely from one of the Western Empires of the Left, Oregon, where Government is Wise and Beneficent.

    It is not strange because the fact that it comes from the left coast.

    40 years ago, Oregon was a R leaning libertarian state. The liberals stronghold was Eugene, and to this day they are classical liberals more aligned to liberty over a powerful government.

    Today Oregon’s politics is dominated by the government loving progressives that flock to Portland.

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