PSYCHIATRIC VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATION
INV: NO.: USA-0704341
DATE: JUNE 27, 2001
STATUS: ONGOING AND DEVELOPING
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES NAME OF INVESTIGATION: CHILDREN OF THE STATE
BACKGROUND OF THE INVESTIGATION:
Throughout the United States, an alarming pattern has emerged of families being torn apart as children are wrestled from homes and forced into a system that, though designed to protect them, could endanger their lives. Parents are powerless to do anything but watch.
Butch and Kitral Chaplin of Missouri were caught up in this Orwellian system.
Devout Christians who home-schooled their daughter Abbey, the Chaplins provided their daughter a sound education and a loving family environment. Charges later leveled against them about Abbey’s care served only to verify the lengths to which the Chaplins went to ensure their daughter was raised in the best possible manner.
The Chaplin’s nightmare began on June 25, 1998, when they answered a knock at the door and found themselves facing a highway patrolman, a sheriff’s deputy, a deputy juvenile officer, a Department of Family Services worker and two other, unidentified people. The troop had come to take their daughter away.
The six strangers pushed their way into the Chaplin home and into the 14-year-old girl’s bedroom. When Abbey tearfully protested, she was told that if she failed to cooperate, she would be handcuffed and taken by force. Clad only in her nightclothes and a pair of shoes, the girl was escorted from her home.
The charge used to justify Abbey’s state-sponsored kidnapping was “medical neglect.”
Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
A year before this episode, Abbey was struggling with problems in life that are common to many teens today. Her parents forbade her relationship with an older boy who was using drugs. Abbey made a half-hearted suicide attempt, taking a non-fatal overdose of aspirin. The drama of that incident passed, but after several months Abbey again joined company with the wrong crowd. On June 19, 1998, she was arrested for shoplifting.
Kitral, feeling she and Butch had tried everything to keep Abbey out of harm’s way, sought help from a professional counselor. On the recommendation of a friend, she drove Abbey to Charter Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, which reportedly had a Christian-based counseling program. Kitral paid $2,500 for Abbey to stay five days at Charter. She stressed to staff that her daughter not be administered any drugs without parental consent.
The following morning, Kitral received a call from a Charter psychiatrist who wanted to start Abbey on an anti-depressant drug. Kitral objected, suggesting a natural, herbal alternative. She was told that if she was going to refuse to put her daughter the drug, then she might as well come and take her out. Certain that a second opinion was in order, the Chaplins went to retrieve their daughter.
The first surprise was that after only a day and a half, Kitral said Charter now demanded $2,300 in addition to the $2,500 she had already paid. The second was when the psychiatrist entered the room and told the Chaplins that she would place a call to the Department of Family Services (DFS) and report them for medical neglect if they removed Abbey from the institution.
Refusing to be intimidated, Kitral and Butch took Abbey home and began to look for another counselor. Within hours DFS called, demanding the parents come to their offices, or social service workers would come to their home. The Chaplin family showed up at DFS the following day. After being interviewed, a DFS worker said that the family, in Kitral’s words, “should go home and do nothing, as [the worker] would be able to help us find a counselor for Abbey faster than anybody else.”
The DFS moved quickly, but less than honestly. Behind the Chaplins’ backs, they secured a court order which allowed them to charge into the Chaplins’ home the next day and whisk Abbey back to Charter.
Their daughter was now a ward of the state. Kitral and Butch had no say in her treatment. Abbey was put on a combination of two psychotropic drugs which another doctor told the Chaplins were extremely dangerous. Dr. Ann Tracy, one of the leading national authorities on psychotropic drugs, later confirmed that statement by informing the Chaplins the combination of drugs their daughter had been given was potentially lethal.
After 12 days in Charter, Abbey was released—but not to her parents. She was sent to a foster home where it is likely she would have stayed indefinitely had a worker at the home not intervened, telling the DFS the only reason Abbey was depressed was because she needed to be home.
On April 26, 1999, the DFS’s charges against the Chaplins for medical neglect were dismissed and the agency was finally out of their lives.
Authorities who have reviewed the Chaplins’ case concur that there was no excuse for their ordeal. It was Kitral who brought her daughter to Charter in the first place, clearly a move made with the best interests of the child in mind. Further, as Kitral asked, “If a family can’t even take their child to a doctor for a second opinion, what has this country come to?”
A National Tragedy
The Charter family’s ordeal is not an isolated incident. Today, through a network of family social service agencies overseen by psychiatrists, hundreds and hundreds of families are being torn asunder as their children are seized, made wards of the state, institutionalized against their will and often give powerful dosages of dangerous psychiatric drugs.
Family advocates are presenting evidence to state and federal representatives and urging that a congressional investigation be called toward the end of revamping the laws governing child protective agencies and child welfare.
High on the list for reform are state codes which provide for automatic termination of parental rights. These generally assume parents are guilty until proven innocent, and place the burden on parents to prove they are fit to raise their children—as opposed to the state to prove that they are not.
"It is a fantastic breach of due process of the law,” said attorney Michael Humiston, describing a Utah law which allows the state Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) to terminate all parental rights merely because parents have failed to comply with a DCFS “treatment plan.”
Humiston is representing parents in a class-action suit against the state of Utah for unjustified loss of custody of their children. The state neither has to prove a child is in danger from the parents, nor show the parents are incapable.
"When children are removed from homes, parents are often effectively charged with child abuse,” Humiston said. “Yet they are given none of the due process protections given to other persons accused of crimes.”
Utah is not an isolated situation, similar laws exist in many other states Further, state employees involved in removing children from homes and caring for them once in state custody enjoy immunity from prosecution.
Until reforms are widely adopted, the rights of countless families like the Chaplins will disintegrate in a system being abused by those who do not have the best interests of children at heart.
If you have information about abuses within the Department of Family Services, know of a family who has suffered similar abuses or have had a child or children taken from you without cause, contact Freedom.
All information and the identities of those coming forward will be kept strictly confidential.