Try Listening to the Kids Next Time

4 Aug

Arlington County, like a lot of other local governments, have a gestapo-type attitude towards the treatment of children.   Although they say they do things “in the best interests of the child,” they rarely care what the child wants — in fact, they rarely give the child an attorney to represent them in proceedings that will determine their future.

Two brave children (now adults), Hope and Elizabeth Loudon, recently wrote a great and touching piece for the Washington Post.  They make the case for CPS and family courts to listen to the children — not simply a  bunch of adults (including poorly qualified GALs who answer to no-one) about what to do with them.  Their article should be required reading for every social worker, GAL, family court judge, and circuit court judge before they touch another case!

These two children were willing to go to jail to protest for what they wanted for themselves… which was what was in their best interests!

Here are some excepts:

When we entered high school, we hoped the court would believe we were old enough to decide to live with our mother. When our father arrived to pick us up from school one day, we refused to go. We called for the school police officer, foolishly believing he and a school administrator would protect us. We were wrong. They scorned us for the way we were treating our “loving father” who “just wanted to make things better.” Instead of allowing us to leave with our mother, the police officer gave us a choice: Go with our father or be arrested. We chose the latter.”

“[S]ocial workers acted as though our mother had brainwashed us. They accused us of causing a fight between our parents and treated us like criminals. At the detention facility, we were forced to remove our clothes and replace them with stained uniforms. Authorities separated and interrogated us. When we tried to explain that we felt mistreated and depressed in our father’s home, the man processing us said, “Stop giving me these evasive answers! Did he or did he not leave a mark?”

“At the juvenile facility where we were taken, authorities bullied us just as Judge Gorcyca bullied the Tsimhoni children. We were held as voluntary walk-ins, but were free to walk out only into our father’s hands until we turned 18 or a judge ordered otherwise.”

“The detention facility staff did everything possible to break us down, adding to the trauma we had experienced from our father. We were not allowed to touch each other, even to hold hands in prayer. If we spoke too loudly, the staff yelled at us; if we spoke too softly, they forbade us from speaking at all.”

“It was a dehumanizing experience, but still less frightening than returning to our father. So we tried to make peace with our new reality.”

We passionately resent that the court system forced us to live in a house where we didn’t feel loved and protected. Over time, the law has decided that people are not property, unless they are children. An adult cannot incarcerate his “defiant” employees, parents, or romantic partner, but the law will readily incarcerate his children for him. If the court protected us as it protects adults, we would have had much healthier and happier childhoods.”

“Like the judge in Omer Tsimhoni’s case, our father invoked the concept of “parental alienation syndrome” to discredit our charges of mistreatment. It’s a claim parents in custody battles often exploit to accuse their ex-spouses of brainwashing their children to turn against them, convincing mediators that the children have been coached to lie. As a result, bad parenting and abuse go uninvestigated and children are returned to violent and emotionally damaging homes. In extreme cases, the child or the protective parent is incarcerated for refusing to obey the court’s custody or visitation order.”

Children should never be incarcerated without being found guilty of a crime. Spurious charges like “incorrigibility,” for which only children are prosecuted, are inherently discriminatory and should be abolished. Children should be represented by an attorney in custody cases at the expense of the state. Currently, they’re given a guardian ad litem, often a volunteer with only a few days’ training.”

“Further, courts should never overlook children’s complaints of abuse or mistreatment. Whether emotional or physical, such charges should be thoroughly investigated before custody or visitation orders are made. Courts exist to protect citizens’ rights, including children’s — and children should have the right to live in healthy homes.”

Dear Arlington CPS, GALs, and family court judges….read this article and learn from two very bright individuals!*

Read more:  We were sent to juvenile detention for refusing to live with our father

*:Hope Loudon holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from the University of Nevada, Reno.   Elizabeth Loudon is a social justice activist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and geography from Stetson University