How One Family Fought CPS

Huffington Post recently featured an interview with Jessica Weisberg, the author of a thought-provoking article in The Atavist which contrasts the efforts of a California couple who fought for their children back with the endeavors of an attorney who devoted his career to suing CPS. Randy and Danyelle Branning had their children removed from their home with “no warrant, no formal review, no time to tell their side of the story.” Their daughter had apparently disclosed allegations of abuse against the father in retaliation for being disciplined by the parents. The article highlights several concerns with the child welfare system in California and nationwide. 


Particularly, a lack of clear federal guidelines defining abuse or emergency situations results in social workers being forced to “read the tea leaves” and make extremely difficult and profound decisions with limited information. State legislatures are similarly reluctant to implement narrow definitions of abuse that would provide better guidance but less discretion to social workers. While child abuse is particularly complicated to define, this lack of guidance and the high degree of independence many social workers have often leads to costly errors in judgment. Weisberg’s article goes much deeper than that, highlighting the perceived flaws of the child welfare system through the step-by-step lens of the Branning’s story. Regardless of one’s opinions of the child welfare system generally, the article and author interview are recommended reads which certainly challenge the reader to examine their own perception of how the system should function.

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