Posted by: Ticktock | April 30, 2008

Parent Traps


Parenting kids in our modern litigious society can be a social minefield.  One thing can go wrong, one simple error in judgement, and the community will seek legal retribution, blind to the circumstances and uncaring toward the affected individuals.  This policing occurs not just in big cases like the FDLS mormon children being justly rounded up by the litter and cleaved from their multiple moms, but also in less important situations that are clearly minor errors in judgement and nothing more.  Two of these lesser crimes have made headline news lately.  One involves a father who is accused of serving his child hard lemonade, and another involves a mother who left a sleeping toddler in a locked car for a short bit. 

A University of Michigan Archaeology professor, Christopher Ratte, ordered his son a Mike’s Hard Lemonade from a vendor at a baseball game, but Ratte had never heard of this brand, didn’t know that spiked lemonade was a product, and certainly did not intend for his child to be chugging illegal beverages.  In any case, his son was spotted in the ninth inning with the bottle of liquor by a well-intentioned security guard who promptly reported the incident to authorities.  The child was rushed to the hospital (good grief), where he was found with a normal blood alcohol level.  Instead of chalking the incident up as a mistake, child services whisked the boy away and placed him in foster care for two weeks until the matter could be resolved in court.  It was only then that the boy was returned to his home.

A Crestwood Illinois mother, Treffly Coyne, stopped at a Wal-Mart (her first mistake) to drop off pennies the kids had saved for the salvation army.  She opted to leave her sleeping toddler in the locked car with the engine off for a sec while she and the three other kids went up to make the donation.  In the few minutes that it took to walk 30 feet to the bell ringer and come back, a renta-cop spotted the napping child and reported the incident to the real authorities, who arrested Mommy for child endangerment and took away the toddler into the care of the police.  The cops were so eager to punish Treffly that they left her other three children behind to wander around alone… probably freaked out that their mother was arrested for no reason.  The case was recently acquitted because of insufficient evidence, and Treffly is now suing crestwood for false arrest and malicious prosecution.  Good luck to her!

My neighbor has had a serious charge made against him by his drug-addicted trashy x-wife.  She called the local abuse hotline, and without question the police took my neighbor’s son and relocated him until the matter can be resolved in court.  This man is one of the nicest coolest neighbors, clearly not a danger to children, and his son was taken because of one phone call.  I don’t know what to think of the whole thing, but I do know that he is a good guy.  He didn’t deserve to have his life flipped upside down; neither did the archaeologist professor who accidentally slipped his kid a hard lemonade, nor the mom who left her napping child in a locked car for three minutes. 

We live in a paranoid anxious world.  It only takes a little time and common sense for authorities to be understanding and not split families apart.  Don’t you agree?



  1. The authorities generally are understanding about this kind of stuff.

    The problem is that the people who are encountered and who enforce the law are not, themselves, authorities. That is, they are not agents, with freedom of choice and action (in their minds). Judges, and supervisors are the ones with choice, and these people, when the case is presented, generally do the right thing.

    But it takes so long for the problem to be put before the actual authority that damage is already done. Foster care for 2 weeks; arrests.

    We kind of don’t want cops and CPS agents to use too much discretion because we don’t want to infect our system with corruption. But (leaving aside what corruption does exist in it already) this means that we are stuck railing against People who are Not People, because they are not agents with discretion and choice.

    So, do we further empower the feet and hands of the system to act like brains, at the risk of them walking all over us or treating some people better than others? Or do we stick with the delegation we have now?

    I lean toward everyone, in any job or role, being able to use their own judgement instead of deferring to the guidelines written by a group. But then, I’m a bit of an anarchist, I think.

  2. Shameful isn’t it?

    The child protective industry is out of control. The foster care system is no better or safer than an abusive home.

    And the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  3. Well, in the case of the mother Treffly Coyne, seven months after her arrest the chief of police resigned amidst a cloud of controversy related to this case… the involved officers are likely to be fired as well. It is in its own way justice… do something this dumb and if enough people hear about it your career is over! That’s how you’re gonna solve the problem, by getting rid of the bad apples. The next guys will take them for an example.

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