Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinal Online

 Does DHS need repair?

Four-part series
By JOE RANKIN, Staff Writer
Copyright © 1999 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

HAMPDEN - State Rep. Debra D. Plowman gets many complaints from 
constituents - hers and other legislators' - about heavy-handedness by the
Department of Human Services child-protective system.

They come by telephone. Fax. Now e-mail.

"I am finding that my phone could ring off the hook 24 hours a day," she
said. "I hear horror stories day in and day out."

1.  Sunday, March 7, 1999 Does DHS need repair?
2.  Monday, March 8, 1999 Canaan family in Catch-22 over 2 boys
3.  Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Lawyers, advocates call DHS system flawed
4. Wed., March 10, 1999 Battle-scarred father tries to change DHS


Letter to the Editor
Printed in Maine Central Newspapers 
Friday, March 12, 1999
Problems  with  childrens  services seen  nationwide
I commend you on your excellent series by Joe Rankin on problems with the Department of Human Services (stories, March 7-10). Theproblem is nationwide, and
it's the same everywhere.
    The real source of the problem is the Child Abuse and  Prevention Act, also known as the Mondale Act, which used federal money to bribe states to institute mandat- ed reporting of abuse and other things. As a result, the whole system is money-driven and motivated by vague public sentiment against abuse.  The combination of easy money and apparent public support allows a sys- tem that has no understanding or love of liberty and no real limits on its power to grow and flourish.
     The vast majority of caseworkers are, at least initial-
ly, motivated by a desire to help. Unfortunately, most of these caseworkers become seduced by the virtually un-
fettered power they hold over people's lives. They devel-
op what I term the "social worker smirk,"  an  attitude that they know best, that they are in charge, that the parent better cooperate, and that failure to cooperate   will be used against the parent in a variety of ways. 
     This attitude is the quintessential manifestation of 
the evil that Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned against in 1928: "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the gov-

ernment's purposes are beneficent.  Men born to free-
dom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers.  The greatest dangers to liberty  lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-
meaning but without understanding."
     Based on my experience as an attorney representing parents against the Washington's  Child Protective Ser-
vices, I would say the primary, if not the sole, goal of the CPS is having,  keeping and exercising power over peo- ple for the benefit of the agency or the individual case-
worker. They will paint their concern in terms of the best interest of the child, but scratch the paint and the
desire for power shows clearly.
     Department of Human Sacrifice?   Perhaps a little harsh if the phrase conjures up bloody pagan rituals. But look carefully at the families destroyed, the parents crushed and the children who have lost their most pre- cious relationships, and the charge is not inaccurate. Calais attorney John Mitchell put it well: "There's noth- ing right about (DHS), except that incidentally they do keep some kids from being abused."

Gary Preble
Olympia, Wash.

Newspaper letter