Child advocates across the country recognize Montana Department of Health and Human Services as among the worst in the nation for confiscating children, often without court orders or probable cause. Entire rallies have been held through the state for several years, with citizens protesting the heavy-handed actions of DPHHS for illegally taking parents from their children. One of those advocates demanding DPHHS child-confiscation reform is running for Montana House District 82. Her campaign’s tagline is, “Treasuring Family and Community” and she is an outspoken critic of DPHHS for stealing children from their parents without just cause.
Debbie Westlake isn’t alone in her concerns. Many Montana lawmakers have noted the epidemic of childhood confiscation that happens in far higher numbers here than in other surrounding states like Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In fact, Montana ranks per capita as the state with the second highest number of children being stolen from their parents, only behind West Virginia. More than 16 children out of 100 are stolen and never returned.
Westlake, in particular, has focused much of her campaign on ending the child-stealing tendencies of DPHHS and announced her candidacy while advocating against their human rights abuses. Rep. Randy Garcia warned in that very episode on Excellence in Voting Radio that DPHHS goes out of their way to punish their political opponents. And for Westlake, today was payback by DPHHS for criticizing their kidnapping policy.
Westlake’s sad saga, which includes DPHHS wrongfully stealing her child, landed the story at the prominent news network The Blaze, just last year. The story was surreal; Westlake was admitted and then released from the hospital when hospital workers notified DPHHS that there was something amiss. The state then stole Westlake’s 4-year-old son for no apparent reason. According to DPHHS later, they just wanted to make sure that Westlake had a backup plan for the child’s care in case she got sick again (so they stole him from a childcare facility while Westlake was recovering at home).
Westlake did nothing wrong. The health problems that landed her in the hospital was a routine and ordinary illness that many Americans face, not substance abuse or suicidal thoughts. It was a physical ailment. And yet, the judge terminated her parental rights and gave the child out for adoption to another set of parents. The miscarriage of justice made national news.
Now that Westlake is running for office to curb the draconian powers of Montana’s DPHHS, they have struck back, confiscating her grandchildren.
Since March, the coronavirus has been treated as if it is a danger categorically different from other dangers, including other viruses. But this treatment is deeply mistaken. The coronavirus is not a categorically different danger. It occupies a location on the same spectrum that features other viruses. Reasonable people can and do debate just where this location is – that is, how much more dangerous is the coronavirus than are ordinary flu viruses and other ‘novel’ viruses that plagued us in the past. But the coronavirus is well within the same category as other viruses.
Yet humanity has reacted – and continues to react – to the coronavirus as if it is a beast that differs from other health risks categorically. The hysterical overreaction by the press, public-health officials, and politicians – an overreaction undoubtedly supercharged by social media – has convinced many people that humanity is today being stalked by a venomous monster wholly unlike anything to which we are accustomed.
Only by assuming that this virus differs fundamentally from other risks can governments continue to get away with unprecedented and arbitrary restrictions on peaceful human activities – restrictions on activities such as working at the factory or office, on dining out, on attending religious services, on going to school, and even on seeking medical treatments for non-Covid-related ailments. Only by being convinced that the coronavirus poses a threat categorically unique are ordinary men and women led to change their ways of living and interacting as fundamentally as many have done, and to tolerate the categorical change in governments’ responses to epidemics.
Last Friday the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a law Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) used to shutter businesses and confine people to their homes except for Whitmer-approved purposes improperly delegated legislative functions to the executive branch. And last month a federal judge in Pennsylvania said that state’s lockdown violated the right of assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment, along with the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.
Both decisions uphold a principle that politicians across the country seemed to forget while they rushed to curtail the epidemic last spring. As U.S. District Judge William Stickman put it in the Pennsylvania case, “the Constitution sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency.”
Natia Sampson volunteered to become the legal guardian of her niece after the girl’s parents were incarcerated. And the social worker on the case took a liking to Natia.
At first she politely rejected his advances, fearing that reporting these instances would be met with retaliation. But soon it turned into sexual harassment, and she was forced to contact his superiors. But nothing changed. Until one day, the social worker exploded at Natia, saying, “I don’t know where you get off sending all these complaint emails and making all these calls, but you are going to find out that we at [Child Services] stick together, and cover for each other.”
Soon after, he lodged claims of child neglect against Natia. She eventually fought off the completely unsubstantiated charges.
Natia then sued the social worker and the Department of Children and Family Services for so obviously violating her rights. But the case was dismissed last month. The Judge’s decision reads:
“the right of private individuals to be free from sexual harassment at the hands of social workers was not clearly established at the time of defendants’ conduct in this case.”