By Marianne Haslev Skånland
23 November 2020
Updated 25 November 2020
In their political work, Bill and Hillary Clinton advocated early forced adoption of children having been taken into care by the social services and placed in foster homes. The ‘Adoption and Safe Families Act’ was passed in 1997, under Bill Clinton as president, promoting forced adopting away from their biological parents of foster children after only 15 months separated from their parents, if social workers (the CPS – child protective services) did not consider the parents to have ‘improved’ by then.
1. The attitude of social ‘experts’: Parents are unimportant
Pushing through forced adoptions in this activistic way did not come out of the blue. Propaganda idealizing the power of social workers seems to have been strengthened under Bill Clinton’s presidency. His wife Hillary Clinton was very active with her view that ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’, presented also in a book:
“In it, Clinton presents her vision for the children of America. She focuses on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child’s well-being, and advocates a society which meets all of a child’s needs. The book was written with uncredited ghostwriter Barbara Feinman.”
It Takes a Village
Wikipedia, last edited 14 May 2020.
Although she is said to have warned against too much interference by social service agencies into family life, I also remember that Hillary Clinton has in some context straight out agitated in favour of every American family being obliged to accept a visit (inspection) by a social worker twice a year.
An American article from 2019 gives an account of the ideology that the ‘professionals’ know best and take best care of children, the aim being to raise them to be the kind of citizens many believe is ideal:
“The ideology of the Clinton bureaucrats who worked on the law might explain its focus.
“What happens to children depends not only on what happens in the homes, but what happens in the outside world,” Mary Jo Bane, who served as the Clinton administration Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant secretary of children and families, said in a 1977 interview.
“We really don’t know how to raise children. If we want to talk about equality of opportunity for children, then the fact that children are raised in families means there’s no equality. It’s a dilemma. In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them.””
Clinton-Era Law Has Distorted Child Protective Services, Parents Say. Law Passed by Trump seeks to reform a system in crisis
The Epoch Times, 25 September 2019
2. What to do about the unsuccessful foster home industry
The CPS business of foster homes in America is large, but like elsewhere it is no success. The CPS in the USA is frequently said to be ‘a system in crisis’ or ‘a broken system’ and to have been so for a long time. This is apparent from the outcome of CPS actions, with results far from the ideal imagined by well-meaning psycho-social theorists.
However, the idea under Clinton was that early cutting off of every bond between child and parents through adoption of the child by others would bring to an end the unfortunate sides of foster home existence. Social services in the USA were keen to support the legislative initiative and the number of children forcibly adopted away shot up:
Clinton Hails Illinois For Adoption Record
Chicago Tribune, 24 September 1999
U.S. Rewards State Adoption Efforts
Chicago Tribune, 24 September 1999
Then the adoption train was made to halt for a moment, as the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois found the law to be unconstitutional:
Foster custody law is voided
Chicago Tribune, 21 September 2001
Nevertheless, the adoption-enthusiasts found a way around this:
“DCFS and the courts made sure to have on hand people who could make on-the-spot assessments of parents’ problems and work with “recovery coaches”.
And the adoptions continued:
Heeding the call to adopt
Chicago Tribune, 20 October 2003
The programmatic believers in the 1997 law recognised that foster home arrangements are usually not very good for children, and certainly not in the long run. Whether wiping out the biological family is a cure, is nevertheless quite a question, in the light of the comprehensive evidence available about serious problems for all parties in a considerable number of cases, not only for the biological parents deprived of their children but also of the adopted children and actually of adoptive parents as well – not only in forced adoptions. (The little bibliography here can perhaps be a start for those not familiar with the facts already; it lists a few items out of a rich literature: Is biological kinship irrelevant for the life of human beings?.)
So the question is: Why do the ‘expert’ authorities, the CPS themselves, politicians who support the CPS, shut their eyes to these realities? They seem so firmly one-sided that the answer is probably that the system draws on other sources in addition to a wayward ideology of ‘the child’s best interest’. And indeed there are such additional sources and factors, such as the satisfaction drawn from power over others, that of belonging to a large set of benefactors to society, the security of being approved by leading authorities, and the large number of people involved in the sector financially.
3. Some ideological background
The favoured way of thinking behind the development in the Clinton era is found in other countries too. Trends in social work are rather international (The attitude of social professions involved in the child protection sector). In the area of forced adoption, cf the rather similar conditions in Britain to what has been taking place in the USA:
How social services are paid bonuses to snatch babies for adoption
Mail Online (Daily Mail), 31 January 2008
The child protection systems in Western countries operate on the basis of ideological, would-be scientific, psychological notions claiming that children are really better off when raised by or chiefly influenced by ‘ideal’ caretakers appointed by ‘experts’ and not by their faulty parents. A concomitant is that ousting the parents has supposedly little negative effect for the child.
The belief is essentially that all that matters in life from childhood to adult age, including feelings and ideas as well as behaviour, is formed more or less deterministically by the environment, primarily the social and material environment, and can therefore be modified at will by those in power dictating how a child’s environment is to be formed and restricted. A companion argument holds that assuming biology to be a cause of behaviour and of mental life is unscientific. A lot of evidence exists showing that this idea of biology and of science is untenable. It has, however, been widely held, in several waves of social thinking at least in the last 300 years. But presumably, the idea that the state is better suited to bring up children than parents are, must have had some currency in Europe ever since the time of Plato’s The Republic (authored around 375 BC, i.e about 2400 years ago).
Such a philosophy, simplifying the view (if not the actual understanding) of life and individuals, has of course been prominent in communist and socialist thinking, albeit with fluctuating strength in different periods, as the more extreme consequences turned out to be impracticable. But practically the same ideas are also found in politically quite conservative circles.
The line of reasoning about society has been observed in England and France at least from the Age of Enlightenment, the time before and around the French revolution, cf H.N. Brailsford (1913): Shelley, Godwin and their circle (Oxford University Press) (cf here, here and here). An important new surge in favour of environment at the expense of and even counter to biology can be found around 1900, starting in America particularly in psychology and social anthropology, cf How Norwegian experts came to reject biological kinship as relevant in child welfare policy. It has through the 1900s been, and still is, evident in much of linguistics and language teaching, even from leading linguists who claim to be ‘mentalists’ and ‘innate-ists’.
As clear an exposition as any of the materialistic, environmental-deterministic ideology regarding ‘the best interest of the child’ can be found in a recommendation to the Norwegian parliament in 2012 to demote ‘the biological principle’ in legislation and practice concerning children, especially that relating to the CPS taking children into care and declaring the child-parent relationship permanently nullified:
This legislative proposal was no bombshell when it came; rather it represented the formalization of trends in social and psychological ideology consciously spread and strengthened through propaganda over a long time. The lack of realization is evident – realization that there is something more, something other than learning and environmental influence at the basis of children’s impulse to be with their own parents. An American friend when reading the explanations of the Raundalen Committee was struck by the deliberate rejection of any belief of biological bonds having a natural cause. He wrote to me: “I read the names and titles of these committee members and I thought, ‘Just who do these people think they are?’” The answer is: They are mostly leading members of the official Norwegian establishment of state authorized ‘child experts’, and with this authorization they believe they are the ones who know best and can diagnose and evaluate everything.
Another authority in Norway is the leader of the state’s professional committee for adoptions. Private adoptions are not allowed in Norway, so this committee holds great powers, and its leader is listened to with respect by makers of legislation. In the 1990s the leader was psychologist Karen Hassel. In a tv interview in 2001 she emphasized that adoptive relationships were very problematic indeed, often with years of rejection of the adoptive parents by the adopted child. About 4 months later she testified in court in a forced adoption case, and managed to say the opposite: that this adoption was no trouble at all and strongly to be recommended, without explaining the relationship between that particular adoption and those she had warned about on tv.
The situation here in Norway, then, is perhaps much the same as I find dominating in the policies of the Clintons in the USA, just more one-sidedly accepted in Norway? No one reading the Raundalen committee’s recommendations needs to be surprised at the impossibility of debating with the members of the Committee or their supporters. Nor is it surprising that the development since 2012 has been characterized by a continued belief within the CPS that their breaking up of families is in children’s best interest, likewise that the county welfare boards (making the initial approvals of taking children into care) and the courts support them, to the despair of the very large majority of parents and children in the hands of the CPS.
4. The result of the Clinton administration’s ‘Adoption and Safe Families Act’
So a factor is money. As the Chicago Tribune articles as well as the one in The Epoch Times show, Clinton’s law created special ‘financial incentives’ to agencies for each child adopted out of foster care. There was apparently no reason then to stop when the children in care had been adopted away. On the contrary, there was reason for the CPS to go ahead and take new children into foster care, to be the next to be adopted away, with a generous government check as a reward.
In other words, the number of children taken into care did not go down as a result of the Clinton initiative, quite the contrary, the 1997 law “sparking a lucrative government-run business of child removal” (Clinton-Era Law Has Distorted …).
Keeping a child away from its parents for 15 months, with the kind of laws and rules the CPS possess, is child’s play. There is evidence in the USA as in other countries that social work establishments’ own actions and what they consider necessary changes in the lives of parents tend to take up a very long time, if demanded changes are even so concrete and sensible that parents can comply with them in the real world. The demands of the CPS can also make a family’s practical life impossible. CPS ‘diagnoses’ on the spot and ‘recovery coaches’ are unlikely to compensate for a child’s loss of its family, especially when surrounded by professionals who have no notion of the loss of family being a fundamental problem.
Let alone that far from every removal of a child from its parents is responsible and necessary from the start. The less real reason there has been for taking a child into care, the more the CPS will make demands that do not really help the child, and will resist letting go, since that would take away their power and tend to expose their actions from the beginning to have been unjustified. So once a child is taken into public care, it tends to stay in the system and be a factor supporting the CPS’s demands for more resources.
A clear forerunner to the adoption push of the Clintons is found in action taken by e.g Walter Mondale, who championed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. The following account of aspects of the wave in child protection ideas of the last 50 years can be found in Mark Pendergrast’s Victims of memory. Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives (the quotation is from the first edition, of 1995, pp 359-60):
“As a result of increased awareness of the true horrors of child abuse, Walter Mondale championed the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974. This landmark legislation offered matching federal funds to states which passed their own laws mandating that doctors, psychologists, police officers, teachers, nurses, and other professionals report any suspected child abuse to the appropriate child protection agency. The act offered anonymity and immunity from prosecution to anyone reporting child abuse. Those who failed to report suspected abuse faced fines or prison sentences.(2) (see footnote)
The legislation has produced a self-sustaining bureaucracy of social workers, mental health experts, and police officers who specialize in rooting out sex abuse. The more cases they find, the more funds they receive, and the more vital their jobs appear. The result? Beyond question, many cases of actual abuse have been brought to light. But tragically, the legislation has also encouraged false accusations that have ruined the lives of innocent people. A network of self-righteous True Believers has blanketed America, eager to find offenses, even in cases where little or no evidence exists. A rumour or malicious allegation is enough to start the wheels rolling. Often, children are taken away from parents without notice, and the accused are arrested without ever being questioned.(3) (see footnote)
So the procedure was tried out in the 1970s, with a result that cannot be called anything but dismal for large numbers of children. This was known and understood in 1995, when Pendergrast wrote his book, and he surely cannot have been the only clear-eyed individual. Nevertheless, the Clinton administration went ahead with the same set-up of rewarding the social sector for dramatic early breaking of family bonds.
The action taken by the Trump administration, as described by The Epoch Times, seems to have hit the CPS effectively by clamping down on the money paid out to the CPS for breaking up families – viz on the very point the CPS is probably most keen to protect: “President Donald Trump’s Family First Prevention Services Act—which he passed by attaching it to a February 2018 spending bill”. With Joe Biden most likely heading for the White House, a real concern for American families targeted by the CPS will probably be whether his administration will revert to the Clintons’ idea of children and their needs. Policies regarding the taking of children into care and what happens to them are not usually a major political concern to the general population in a country, but for those who are hit by destructive CPS actions it is different – being forcibly separated from their family is a fundamental tragedy in the core of their hearts and their lives.
5. A different understanding of the needs of children
Scientific studies show that not foster care, not adoption, but a third option is far superior to them, even when the biological family is far from ideal.
THE EVIDENCE IS IN
Foster Care vs. Keeping Families Together: The Definitive Studies
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, September 2015
Rethinking foster care: Molly McGrath Tierney at TEDxBaltimore 2014
TEDx Talks, on youtube, 27 February 2014
Literature about it has appeared in most countries. Also well-known: Although adoption as well as foster care are realized to be problematic, there is no will in social service circles to go to the core of what is wrong; instead they want to keep on doing variants of the same, and calling for ‘more research’. Much the same goes for the people researching these topics; they are themselves perhaps close to the ones who would be out of a job or would have to re-train completely if social services for children were re-cast. At the same time the amount of lying, in case work and in the courts, on the part of the social services in countries practicing these ideas of children’s needs, is striking, and is in itself a symptom of a system and an ideology failing deeply.
There have over the years been plenty of studies in the USA as well as in Europe showing most of what we need to know. There have also been many individuals and NGOs in the USA whose information has reached us here in Europe, as they have carried out excellent documentation and have published on the internet and elsewhere about abuses by the social services against families. An example is Fight CPS: Child Protective Services-CPS-False Accusations, which has been running for several decades, under Linda Martin’s well-informed leadership. It cannot be emphasized often enough how important information and the freedom of expression are in the work to combat a CPS system with unwarranted power.
Local, political initiatives to turn things the right way are certainly also found. Nancy Schafer, a senator in Georgia, did not shy away:
Nancy Schafer exposes the EVIL CPS
Constitution Man, on youtube, 14 April 2009
Chris Reimers in Arkansas wrote this about an initiative to reunite children with their parents which had been partly successful (cf comments to Natalya Shutakova, Another Mother Tormented by the Norwegian “Child Welfare Services” (Barnevernet)):
“a local politician has recently been able to get legislation passed in our state assembly that would help situations like Natalya’s to be avoided.”
Here is how:
“….. In the case of the local politician I’ve mentioned, it took three things:
1) People who were not afraid to tell their stories to the man who represented them in Little Rock, and
2) A man (in this case State Senator Alan Clark) who was willing to listen to them, take them seriously, and craft legislation that would uphold parental rights in certain cases. There were two new laws crafted, and only one of the two passed into law. Still, progress was made.
3) It took a group of lawmakers who would pass such a law.
It seems a minority of American representatives are willing to spend so much time on issues like these but there are some. It also seems like Norway would get stopped, in almost all cases, by the second and third requirements listed.”
The footnotes in Pendergrast’s book are:
Gardner,”Modern Witch Hunt,” Wall Street Journal; Coleman, “False Allegations of Sexual Abuse,” p. 15-16.
Benedek, “Proglems in Validating.” For general books on the child abuse industry, see Wexler, “Wounded Innocents; Pride, Child Abuse Industry; Tong, Don’t Blame ME.
The references are given in the bibliography as:
Gardner, Richard A., “Modern Witch Hunt – Child Abuse Charges,” Wall Street Journal, Feb. 22, 1993
Coleman, Lee and Patrick E. Clancy, “False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse,” Criminal Justice, Fall 1990, p. 14-20, 43-47
Benedek, Elissa P. and Diane H. Schetky, “Problems in Validating Allegations of Sexual Abuse”, Journal of the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (1987), v. 26, p. 912-915
Wexler, Richard. Wounded Innocents: The Real Victims of the War Against Child Abuse. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1990.
Pride, Mary. The Child Abuse Industry. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1986.
Tong, Dean. Don’t Blame ME, Daddy: False Accusations of Child Sexual Abuse. Norfolk, VA: Hampton Roads Pub, 1992.
Foster-children as lucrative business
MHS’s home page, February 2005 / 25 January 2014
– : Child prisons? In Sweden?
MHS’s home page, 1995, 1998, 2006, 28 December 2018
– : Norway and Sweden – where inhuman rights prevail
MHS’s home page, 7 May 2012 / 11 November 2017
Senators want to see Children and Youth Services reform
Fox56, 27 March 2018
Breaking up families in the name of child protection
Sunday Guardian, 13 October 2018
Do criminals have more rights than parents in Tennessee?
News Channel 9 (Fox 17 News), 14 November 2017
Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Separating children from their parents – is Norway better than the USA?
MHS’s home page, 16 July 2018
– : Demonstrations abroad against Norwegian child protection (CPS) – Barnevernet
MHS’s home page, 8 – 10 January 2016
– : Canadian documentary about child protection
MHS’s home page, 11 September 2013
– : The Council of Europe with a critical report on European child protection systems
MHS’s home page, 4 July 2018
Hemming threatens to name social workers in Parliament
Liberal Democrat Voice (UK), 7 January 2007
Rock hard criticism of Norwegian child protection from the president of the Czech Republic
MHS’s home page, 10 February, 2015
Article series about child protection published in Sunday Guardian in India
Series overview with links
MHS’s home page, 17 December 2017 –
Family must come first
MHS’s home page, 14 February 2013 / 17 October 2015
– : Understanding and Responding to Child Confiscation by Social Service Agencies
MHS’s home page, 9 May 2012 / 20 September 2017
Octavian D. Curpas:
With Barnevernet, Norway is going South
MHS’s home page, 1 September 2016
The children of the state – The Norwegian child protection agency, Barnevernet, has created a society of fear
MHS’s home page, 27 November 2017
Flight, exile and taking chances
MHS’s home page, 11 November 2020