Who Owns Your Child?

When it comes to our children, humans are naturally wired to be protective and caring.  Therefore, when it comes to discussions about the well-being and protection of our children, it's natural that these are some of the most emotionally charged discussions we can have.  These topics can include health care, education, and other decisions relating to the care of our children.

A family in Chandler, Arizona was recently thrust into the news as a result of just such a situation.  Their two year old son experienced a fever.  As concerned parents, they took their child to the doctor.  The doctor observed a 105 degree fever, and took note that the parents opted not to vaccinate their children.  The doctor, fearing that it could be meningitis, recommended that the parents take the child to the emergency room (ER).  However, to the parents' relief, shortly after they left the doctor's office, the child's fever dropped (to 102 degrees) and the child was behaving normally, so they decided not to go to the ER.  The doctor later called the hospital to see if the child arrived, and when they said he had not, the doctor called the parents, who told the doctor that the fever broke and the child was doing well.  This is where the story should have ended.  What happened next should send chills through every parent.  The doctor insisted that the child be taken to the ER, but the parents said the child was doing fine.  The doctor, refusing to accept the parents' decision, called the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS).  DCS showed up with the Chandler Police Dept at their home.  The parents explained to DCS that the child was doing fine, his fever was 100 degrees and he was sleeping in his father's arms, but they did not allow DCS into their home.  DCS found that unacceptable and decided to seek, and subsequently acquire, a warrant to seize all three of their children.  Thus, at 1:25am, the Chandler Police literally busted down their door, handcuffing them and seizing their 3 children, placing them into foster homes, creating obvious trauma for the children.

In reading comments about this news incident, it is obvious that the public is very divided on these issues and helps to explain why so many people believe we may be headed for a civil war, as these world views are so far apart as to be incompatible.  Some people believe that the state was entirely justified in their actions, and that, as stated by a professor in New York, all children are the property of the state, and parents are only allowed to care for their children as long as they follow the rules set forth by the state.  Other people believe that their children belong to their parents, and the parents are the ultimate arbiters to determine the best way to raise their children, including among other things, their religion, education, and healthcare decisions including whether or not to vaccinate.

In Britain, a one year old child named Alfie Evans was admitted to a hospital in 2016 after suffering seizures, and the doctors were unable to identify the cause, but Alfie was on life support as the parents sought more advanced medical care.  Hospitals in the United States, and in Italy, offered to treat Alfie, but the British National Health Service, backed up by the British courts, refused to allow his parents to seek treatment elsewhere, despite loud opposition from the public and even the Pope.  The British hospital removed life support for the child, and after 20 hours, he died.

While these are dramatic examples, similar situations happen frequently.  There are other examples in the academic world where parents who decide to home school their children are attacked or shunned by public school advocates, despite home schooled students outperforming public and even private school students consistently.  Others shun parents who decide that the risks of vaccination are too great for their children.  As I write this, we choose to vaccinate our children, and our children attend public school.  That said, those are our decisions, and those decisions are based on our own extensive research and experiences, but that may not be right for someone else and their children.  We do not delegate those important decisions to the state, or to anyone else, and neither should any other parents.

How can parents be denied the ability to provide the care and education they determine best for their children?  Parents know their children better than any other human beings- better than doctors, better than the courts.  Parents know what their children respond to, and what they do not, and what is normal and abnormal for them.  In my opinion, the state should be required to prove with clear and convincing evidence, to a jury, that parents are intentionally inflicting harm upon their children before they can intervene.  It's not enough that a doctor, or an educator, or a pundit has an opinion that differs from that of the parents.  Doctors are, quite frequently, wrong.  There is rarely consensus in education or health care.  In the case from Chandler, Arizona, that doctor placed the family, including the children, at extreme risk by involving DCS resulting in police raiding their home.  Those situations can and often do become violent, and people get killed.  All because that doctor, in her arrogance, could not accept that the parents did not agree with her opinion, regarding care.

Taking fever for example - back when I was a child, people were told to treat fevers and keep them down at all costs, but today, most pediatricians actually advise letting the fever run its course, even up to 105 degrees, so that the body can best fight the ailment.  Regardless of the those opinions, it should be the parents' ultimate decision as to the best course of treatment for their child, based on their experience and research, and not by the opinion of a random third party.  In some jurisdictions, something as innocuous as parents teaching their kids to shoot guns can result in the involvement of busy bodies, teachers,  DCS/CPS, or the police.

Do we have the right to determine what is best for our children?  Or are we merely allowed by the state to care for our children, so long as we raise them per the state's rules?

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