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Child-Abuse Claims vs. Parents' Rights

Publication Date: 
June 12, 2008
The Christian Science Monitor
Warren Richey

Professor Jeffrey Fisher is referenced and quoted in a Christian Science Monitor story about a case in front of the Supreme Court dealing with parents rights and child abuse:

"The Seventh Circuit's suggestion that the agonizing choice at the center of this case – between leaving one's family or having one's children taken into state custody – is no different than choosing between a 'Martini' or a 'Manhattan' at a cocktail party, trivializes the family's fundamental liberty interests," writes Stanford law professor and lawyer Jeffrey Fisher in a brief to the court on behalf of the Illinois families.

"When a person is offered a 'Martini or a Manhattan,' he always retains the option of declining both drinks," Mr. Fisher says. "Though it has no evidence of parental wrongdoing, DCFS does not offer parents the option of no restrictions on their family life when it 'offers' safety plans."


Both sides in the case dispute various statistics. Fisher says allegations in approximately two-thirds of all Illinois hot-line reports are eventually determined to be "unfounded." The state responds that less than 20 percent of all hot-line reports are even investigated.

Fisher and Ms. Redleaf offer several examples of parents accused of child abuse. One case involved a married couple, both professors at a major Chicago-area university. Someone made an anonymous call to the hot line suggesting that one of the professors had abused his 8-year-old adopted daughter. Prior to any investigation into the veracity of the charge, state agents offered the professor a choice: leave the home immediately pursuant to a safety plan or DCFS would take the girl into foster care. The professor moved out. During the investigation, the state found no credible evidence supporting the abuse charge.