A recent story in the Oregonian tells how the state of Oregon has taken a married couple’s children because the state claims the couple isn’t smart enough to be parents. In fact, the state took their younger child from the hospital before his mother was even able to see him.
As the story points out, both parents have held jobs and they maintain a household. While neither parent looks like another Einstein, when has anyone encountered a brilliant bureaucrat or an intellectually gifted social worker? Since when do you have to be smart to love and care for your kids? Somehow the state of Oregon seems to think that a foster parent it pays will care for these children better than the kids’ own parents.
The parents continue to exercise “supervised visits” with their children in foster care without any factually established basis for concern except that each parent has below average intellectual ability as measured by standard I.Q. tests. As the Oregonian story mentions, it turns out that the vast majority of parents in this country who are found to be “intellectually deficient” lose custody of their children because they’re thought to be intellectually incapable of being an adequate parent.
In many ways, this Oregon story is a reminder of the eugenics movement’s efforts to rid the United States of the “feeble minded” and “socially degenerate” which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. articulated as law in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927) when he famously wrote on behalf of an almost unanimous Court that “. . . three generations of imbeciles is enough.”
Of course, subsequent scholarship has established that Carrie Buck was not an imbecile nor was she incapable of living independently after the state of Virginia involuntarily sterilized her. She was, instead, railroaded through the legal system to validate the forced sterilization of thousands. Read about the facts and history of Buck v. Bell here and here.
Not surprisingly, the American Eugenics movement had the enthusiastic support of such luminaries as Teddy Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, the young A.C.L.U. and, as pointed out here, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. The eugenics movement was also a source of inspiration for the young Nazi party in Germany as discussed here.
The Oregonian story about how parents can lose their children because a social worker thinks they aren’t smart enough to parent is a disquieting reminder of how thin the wall is that protects us all from the meddlesome grasp of the state.