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Victims of Child Abuse Laws: Our Viewpoint

Who we are
We are VOCAL
- a group of parents, children and others who are family advocates. We are not guilty people trying to escape judgment; we are innocent people who have been negatively impacted by child abuse laws and are asking for justice.
Aim and purpose
We wish to see children protected from all forms of abuse, including that which is being inflicted upon them as a result of so-called "child protection" agencies. We want to see due process accorded to all. We wish to see preservation of the family unit made a priority in the handling of suspected child abuse cases.
Who we represent
Our present membership includes individuals from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries who have experienced this nightmare. Our NATIONAL organization, FRONT (Family Rights Organization National Taskforce), recognizes several hundred chapters and contact persons.

Some of Our Concerns and Problem Areas

Present child abuse hysteria
We strongly believe that disregard for the intent behind existing child abuse laws has put us in our current situation. The present child abuse hysteria has reincarnated the ignorance of the Salem Witch Hunts. The system emotionally abuses and financially drains the alleged child abuser and family during the fight to prove innocence. If you manage to survive within the system of "justice," as presently constituted, the best you can ever expect is a finding of "unsubstantiated."  You are, and always will be, a potential child abuser in the eyes of the government. You are not alone! There are over 3,000,000 accusations of child abuse in an average year, and of those, over 70% are unfounded!

The present laws are vague
In addition to the intent of the child abuse laws being lost, many of these laws are written so vaguely that they are easily misinterpreted or are intentionally used to advance the philosophies of those implementing the laws.

Lack of due process
Because of the sensitive and innovative nature of these laws, individual due process rights (such as speedy trial, right to face accuser, trial by jury, etc...) are not being accorded the importance they deserve. As a result, laws that are set up to protect the individual and the family are being used to tear families apart and to sever traditionally recognized family bonds.

Immediate presumption of guilt
After one has been "hot-lined," regardless of how believable or ludicrous the accusation may seem, there is automatically a presumption of guilt. The only crime more heinous than the intentional abuse of a child is to be unjustly accused and branded for life as a child abuser. There is no other crime prosecuted with such malicious disregard for both the accused and the alleged child victim's constitutional and civil rights.

Unethical investigative techniques
In the interest of convicting an accused child abuser, ethical investigative techniques are set aside. Information to corroborate the allegation takes precedence over the gathering of factual information. Child protection workers, investigators, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers have allowed themselves to be judge and jury, without a trial. Custodial parents and other individuals are often instructed to repeatedly interrogate the alleged victim about the alleged incident.

Opinion in lieu of fact
Child protection officials and county-hired mental health professionals are presently at liberty to inject into both written and oral reports their "personal opinions" of an event. These "opinions" are then presented and accepted as a basis for fact in legal proceedings.

Removal of children from families
The abrupt and often unnecessary removal of children is traumatic. It destroys a child's trust in the parents as protectors and leaves tremendous emotional scars.

Effects on families under investigation
The stigma of child abuse allegations creates feelings of fear and shame and introduces other negative factors into parenting techniques leading to problems in exhibiting parental affection and problems in discipline.

Dependency resulting from county intervention
When charges of abuse/neglect are dropped, often the county then files charges claiming dysfunction
- a dysfunction that its own intervention created.

Possible Solutions

Careful screening of all reports and contact with the family
The family should be immediately notified of any charge of child abuse. Appointments should be set up for immediate interviewing of all persons involved. No child should be removed before on-site contact with the family has been made and subsequent written evaluations with accountability have been provided to the family. If a child is doing the reporting, other siblings, if any, should also be questioned as to the reliability of the child making the allegations. Copies of all documents and evaluations must be made immediately to the accused.

Mandatory taping of all investigative interviews
Investigators must be required by law to conduct each investigation based solely on the facts and must be required to not insert their personal opinion of the accused. To do anything less seems to invite injustice for the accused and contempt for the law. All interviews should be taped to insure an honest report. Reports must not include statements that suggest expertise in the area of psychology or psychiatry, since child protection workers do not have degrees in these areas. Tapes must be available to the defendant and/or his counsel.

Placing children
No child should be placed in foster care when the family can offer an alternative placement. If removal is the only solution, supervised family visitation should be encouraged. Siblings removed from the home must be kept together unless countermanded by the Family Court. Provisions. for visitation among the siblings must be made in cases where they have been separated. A recommendation by the Child Protective Services case worker for separation of siblings should be insufficient cause for separation.

Better training, accountability, and education of social workers .
If social workers are allowed such unlimited and life-altering powers over us, we believe they should be competent and compassionate enough to handle this responsibility. They should be required to have a 4-year degree in a related subject from an accredited college or university. Social workers should be required by law to be tested periodically on the current child abuse laws, including the policies and procedures of their agency. They must be aware of the long-term severe emotional damage inflicted upon innocent children and innocent adults as a result of overzealous intervention. In cases where a child is not in a life-threatening situation and where there is no evidence to substantiate the alleged abuse and/or neglect, the worker must by law allow the family the right to remain together.

Representation on task forces
Any task force set up by the state and/or county to better the child protection system must include those who have been negatively impacted by the system to insure representation of all viewpoints and to maximize informational input. We must stress that our input is essential and must be heard.

Citizens Review Board
We believe a review board independent of the Social Service Department is imperative for individuals to air their grievances (without repercussion). In our system of democracy there are checks and balances which attempt to insure that the inherent power of governmental units does not corrupt their purposes. Child protection units cannot be excepted from these checks and balances.