Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parenting: Yet Another Task The Government Can’t Handle


This summer, the parents of two year old Alexandria Hill made what is quite possibly the most heartwrenching decision with which a parent can be faced. They chose to take their daughter off of life support after she had spent several days in a coma caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Her tragic death is all the more devastating because it was not the result of an innocent fall or car accident. Alexandria’s injury was caused by the blunt force trauma of being forcibly hit against a floor by her foster mother.

 Last November, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services removed Alexandria from the care of her parents for “neglectful supervision”. Father Joshua Hill admits that he and Alexandria’s mother were regular marijuana users and that this was the reason for the DFPS intervention.

The foster home where Alexandria experienced the abuse that ended her life was not her first. During scheduled visitations, her parents noticed bruises on her body and mold on her personal belongings. They reported the suspected abuse to DFPS, and new placement was arranged.
 

In January, Alexandria was moved to Sherill Small’s home, where it was believed she would receive better care. On July 29th, however, Small called 9-1-1 to report that Alexandria “was not breathing and unresponsive”. Small originally claimed that she had been playing with the child when she accidentally hit her head. When police confronted her with doctors’ statements that her story did not match the injury, Small amended her explanation. She now admits to slamming the toddler’s head against the floor.

 
Texas DFPS hires foster agencies to handle the placement of children, but is still ultimately responsible to check that these agencies are providing appropriate care. The agency employed to cover Alexandria’s case, Texas Mentor, “has been cited 15 times in the past two years, including four citations for failing to perform background checks on foster parents”.  The DFPS continues to employ this organization to find safe homes for children.

Joshua Hill told reporters, “We never hurt our daughter. She was never sick, she was never in the hospital and she never had any issues until she went into state care”. While I personally believe in the legalization, or at least the decriminalization, of marijuana, I understand that citizens must obey current laws until such reform takes place. Under the circumstances, it was appropriate for DFPS to remove Alexandria. But her parents cared for her wellbeing and loved her. They were working with authorities to correct their behaviour and regain custody of her. They visited her regularly, and identified the abuse she was suffering at her first foster home, which the DFPS had failed to notice.

 
It was the State of Texas, not Alexandria’s parents, who ultimately provided “neglectful supervision”. DFPS allowed her to be placed in a home where she was hurt and exposed to mold. When her parents intervened to protect their child, they moved her to yet another unsafe location. This time, the two year old girl sustained physical abuse severe enough to end her life. In this case, as with many other attempts of government to intervene in the lives of individuals, the government’s alternative to parents who use recreational marijuana has proven to be much more devastating than the problem they set out to fix.

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