The Stanley family. Photo by Facebook
Authorities in Arkansas reportedly removed seven children from their home last week after an anonymous caller notified police that the kids were running barefoot in the snow. When officers arrived at the home of Hal and Michelle Stanley with a warrant, they searched the premises and found a mineral supplement — MMS or Mineral Miracle Solution, which has been cited for various dangers by the Food and Drug Administration — and took the children into custody.
“Six intimidating brute looking males and one [Department of Human Services] female all lined up in our den to tell us they would be taking our kids into their custody for 72 hours,” Michelle told Health Impact News in an email. Nearly a week later, the children remain in DHS custody and the parents await their court date.
“No charges of neglect or abuse have been filed against the Stanleys’ case that is being built [around] MMS and its possible danger to the children,” notes a GoFundMe page, “Bring the Stanley Kids Home,” started by supporters to raise money (nearly $7,000 so far) for the family’s legal fees. “A lawyer has volunteered to take the case. He is a well-known and respected attorney in our area and we are very happy to have him on our side.”
The Stanley kids. Photo by Facebook
The Stanleys are reportedly a religious couple who are “preppers” (end-of- world survivalists) and who have home homeschooled their nine children, two of which are grown and live outside the home. Hal has noted that he occasionally uses MMS — a legal substance that’s not FDA-approved (because as a supplement, it doesn’t need to be) — mostly for purifying their garden water. He says the children have never used the supplement. Regarding the kids going outside without shoes, Michelle noted in her email, “it’s like a tradition to briefly run out in the snow barefoot and take a picture of the footprints.”
Calls by Yahoo Parenting to the Garland County Sheriff and to the county’s DHS were not returned. The Stanleys could also not be reached.
While much remains unknown about the Stanley case, it comes on the heels of a story that’s launched a national conversation about the judgment of child protective services officials — that of the Meitivs, in Maryland, who are being investigated for child neglect after allowing their 6- and 10-year-old kids to walk unaccompanied to the playground, which blew up online last week.
Other recent cases with similar themes have included that of a Washington couple whose newborn twins and 1-year-old son were removed from their home following the mom’s unassisted home birth and a Florida mom whose baby was briefly made a ward of the state following a disagreement she had with her pediatrician regarding vegan formula. There’s been such a spate of so-called “medical kidnapping” stories, in fact (particularly since the highly publicized case of Justina Pelletier), that the website Health Impact News recently launched an offshoot, MedicalKidnap.com, “due to the increasing frequency of stories being exposed regarding children taken away from their families for simply disagreeing with their doctors,” the site explains.
So what’s going on here? Has there truly been a spate of questionable CPS removals of children, or are the cases simply being reported more? Martin Guggenheim, a New York University professor of clinical law and expert in child welfare and children’s rights, says he can’t be sure. But, he tells Yahoo Parenting, the balance of parental and child rights that must be struck by such social workers is an incredibly tricky one.
“One truth about this field is that we need child protection and the power to remove children. But,” he says, “we also need to jealously guard the power because it is so invasive, and a violation of what is really our most fundamental right” and “the most awesome form of the execution of state power short of capitol punishment.” The Meitivs’ case was the perfect one to put the issue into the spotlight, Guggenheim notes, because while the boundary is overstepped frequently with those who are disenfranchised, that’s sometimes lost on people of privilege who are “white, educated, and employed” and not used to having their rights questioned, like the Maryland family. “This is a great example of something going seriously awry [with the system],” he says, “and the parents’ quotes are pitch-perfect.”
Writing the statutes that govern the system, so that they allow minimal discretion on the part of the individual making the decision, is also a huge challenge, he notes. “The baseline question [in such cases] always is: Is this behavior that permits the state to intervene and trump parental choice?” If the answer is yes, he adds, then it should also be shown that the child in question is “at risk of suffering substantial harm, imminently.” The Stanley’s case, he notes, “might meet that standard — you need to know more before you can conclude it was overreaching, though it often is.”
According to David DeLugas, executive director of the National Association of Parents and the attorney recently retained by the Meitivs, “There’s either something else going on [in Arkansas] or this is a police department or CPS that is completely out of control.” He speculates that perhaps the Stanleys were already on officials’ radar because they are “preppers,” or because their children are homeschooled, which popular opinion might not see as socially acceptable. “So it’s not just a nanny state, it’s a nanny attitude,” DeLugas says. “But at what point should our rights as Americans be pushed aside because someone says ‘That’s not how I would raise my kid’?”