Sunday, February 20, 2011

Warrant needed before taking children

From The Columbus Dispatch:
Sandra Day O'Connor wrote 10 years ago that the 'interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests.' But how fundamental? Does this interest shelter families from the prying eyes of social workers? Can investigators take young children without parental consent in order to perform tests and ask questions? Does the Fourth Amendment protect families?

The Supreme Court will address these questions on March 1, when it hears oral arguments in Camreta vs. Greene. An Oregon social services investigator, accompanied by a deputy sheriff, removed a 9-year-old girl from her elementary school in order to interview her about alleged sexual abuse by her father. They did not have probable cause, a warrant or parental consent, only an unsubstantiated tip. Two hours later, the investigator and deputy emerged from behind closed doors with the answers they sought: the girl had been abused. She was removed from her home and placed in foster care.

It took several weeks, but the girl's mother was eventually able to have her returned. Charges against the father were dropped. The girl was not abused after all.

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