Blurring the line

The abuse of children–physical, sexual, or otherwise–is a terrible wrong that cannot be tolerated by society.
The problem certainly isn’t going away, as evidenced by the heart-wrenching stories that still pop up in the media from time to time. Stories too horrible to believe imaginable.
And as is often the case, fingers are pointed at family and children’s agencies for not investigating complaints far enough–or taking insufficient action to prevent further abuses from occurring.
As such, they cannot be blamed for erring on the side of caution when a complaint of abuse comes in. Where the line becomes blurred is over what constitutes “abuse,” and how thorough an investigation is conducted before the police show up at the door?
A local man submitted a letter to the editor yesterday to report what he called a “grave breach of justice” which occurred here earlier this month.
He said his daughter and her four children were apprehended upon her return from work and escorted to Family and Children’s Services here, where he said they each were subjected to intensive videotaped interrogations (all the while his daughter being escorted by two uniformed OPP officers).
Why? The man said his daughter was accused of child abuse of a life-threatening nature–the basis of which he said was a parental spanking on the buttock to one of the children. And the complaint, he noted, was instigated by her estranged husband.
Clearly, it’s up to FACS and the police to verify the “facts” of this particular case. Nor is this the place to judge whether the “spanking” could be deemed abusive. But the man’s main concern, which is justified, is that apparently “any parent could be forcibly taken into custody and subjected to this barbaric inquisition with no supportive evidence other than a simple phone call.”
That’s a scary thought; and one all the more frightening when one realizes the call could be made by a vindictive ex-spouse, an angry co-worker, or even the child looking to get even.
As the man wrote, what about any prior investigation? What about the testimony of teachers, coaches, dance instructors, pastors, and neighbours?
“What has happened to all those young vulnerable parents who have been ensnared in this bureaucratic quagmire and have had no recourse to legal aid? Have their children been separated, institutionalized, and traumatized based simply on vindictive, unsubstantiated charges?” he wondered.
Yes, we must protect children from abuse. But that noble aim cannot come at the expense of presumption of innocence, and certainly not be based solely on a call from someone whose action may not be motivated by the child’s best welfare.
If not enough was done before to stop real abuse, swinging the pendulum too far the other way to make up for it is just as wrong.

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