Should the State of Missouri Take Children Away From the Blind?
Quick answer: of course not. But let’s try to move beyond the anger many of us likely feel when reading this story in the Kansas City Star, and instead discuss the question. To sum up quickly, the Missouri Department of Social Services removed a newborn from her parents — both of whom are blind — two days after her birth. Yesterday, after 57 days in state care, the state placed the baby back with her parents.
Did the state make the right decision to return the baby in the end? (I certainly think so. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who disagrees.) Should the state have taken the baby away in the first place? (I don’t think so, although some might think the question of the baby’s safety required some type of action.) Should the state have the power even to consider doing what it did in the first place? In other words, should the state have the power to take a child away because of the fear of potential harm (let’s assume it is a legitimate fear), but absent any actual harm?
I think the third question gets tougher. That is not to say I agree with anything the state did here; I am merely posing the question. Should the state have any power whatsoever to remove a child from its parents because of the potential of harm, but before any real harm occurs? The problem here is that we can all come up with hypothetical situations that would probably lead to an answer of “yes” (i.e., the parents are meth addicts), but as soon as you say “yes” you are granting the state the right to make judgment calls. Inevitably, they will at some point use that judgment improperly, just like they did in this example. Let’s discuss this in the comments.
I have a few points I want to make — and I write all of this as a fairly new parent, myself. I think this statement by the mother is one of the most honest statements I’ve read in a while:
“I needed help as a new parent, but not as a blind parent,” Johnson said.
Being a new parent is tough. It was certainly tough for me, and I am about as perfect a physical specimen as you will ever lay eyes on. I can’t fathom being a parent in the situation these parents are in, but I feel certain that the sense a parent has for the well-being of their children will trump the issues those children may face. Practically speaking, I would bet that a home designed for the blind would be just as well baby-proofed as anywhere. If other parts of their lives are a little trickier than they are for the sighted, those are the challenges of life. For example, letting a two-year old Mikaela run around at the park will be hard for parents who can’t see the child. Do they use one of those child leashes? Only go to parks with fully enclosed fencing, like DeMun park in Clayton? Take family or friends along with them?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I do believe that the family’s love will overcome all these obstacles, and I think the involvement of the state here has been an outrage.