Filed under: BoingBoing, Civil Rights, General Musings, Government, Health, Society
Via BoingBoing, news of just how vigilant they are in Detroit to make sure you read the label of any beverage you are served:
The sign above the Comerica Park concession stand said: “Mike’s Lemonade 7.00.”
So when Christopher Ratte of Ann Arbor ordered one for his 7-year-old son at the April 5 Detroit Tigers game, he had no idea he was purchasing an alcoholic beverage.
Or that his son would end up spending three days and two nights in the custody of Children’s Protective Services.
A park security guard spotted 7-year-old Leo Ratte drinking the Mike’s Hard Lemonade, confiscated the bottle and took the family in for questioning.
Yep. Didn’t just tell the guy to drink the damned thing himself. Didn’t warn him that giving the kid an alcoholic beverage in a public venue wasn’t a great idea. Took the family in for questioning. What followed was Kafkaesque. And all too common when one transgresses something that the authorities think you shouldn’t do.
They took his kid to a foster home, where he stayed for several days before being released into the custody of his mother. And the father was prohibited from living in his own home for a full week, so that he wouldn’t have contact with the child.
And that happy outcome wouldn’t have happened nearly so quickly had not the parents been professors at the University of Michigan, with the full power and resources of the University available to them to help deal with the nightmare. From the news article:
Don Duquette, a U-M clinical professor of law and director of the child advocacy law clinic, said he got a call from the chair of Ratte’s U-M department at 9 a.m. the next day. Duquette spent most of that day on the phone, trying to get Leo back into his parents’ custody.
* * *
Duquette said the fact that Ratte and Zimmerman got their son back so quickly was unusual and due only to their sophisticated legal counsel.
Ratte said he and his wife know that they were lucky to have the resources of U-M behind them.
“Class has something to do with the fact that the child was only in care for two days,” Duquette said. “What the referee said was that she would have kept the case for at least a week while the department completed the investigation. … If you’re not sophisticated, the system isn’t set up to give you very much of a chance to work against the ritual that’s ordinarily done.”
It took three more days for the judge to dismiss the complaint, allowing Ratte to return to his home. That happened after Leo and his 12-year-old sister, Helena, were taken back to Detroit for further interviews.
Imagine if it had been you. Think you would have been able to get your kid back so easily?
*Sigh* I am not against the state watching out for the safety of children, and following up on any reported cases of abuse. Not at all. But look at what happened – this guy, perhaps a bit clueless about modern alcoholic drinks (I’ll admit – I hadn’t heard of this beverage before – I pay no attention to ‘alcopop’ drinks. I drink beer, or scotch, and could have made the same mistake), no doubt distracted by all the excitement and activity of taking his 7 year-old son to a ballgame – accidentally gives his kid this bottle without carefully reading the label to see that it contains alcohol. Guard notices the kid drinking it. Guard confronts parent, who denies knowing that the thing had alcohol in it. Guard summons police, and the nightmare begins, and at no point does anyone in authority exercise the slightest bit of common sense.
Why? Probably because once the paperwork started, everyone involved on the side of the authorities was ‘just doing their job’.
I don’t know what Michigan law is on the matter, but a number of state laws allow parents to give their kids alcohol, so long it is consumed in the presence of the adult. In Europe, kids routinely drink alcohol with meals. It used to be that most cough medicines contained a large alcohol content, even the stuff made for kids (this may still be the case). I grew up having alcohol now and then with my family. OK, ignore that last item – I’m not the best example, godless heathen that I am.
Anyway, my point is that it isn’t like the kid was plastered, or that the father was doing anything dangerous. The guard should have just told the guy to stop. Once the cops were called, they should just have exercised a little discretion (which happens all the time, particularly if it is another cop involved in a transgression), warned the guy, and sent father and son on their way.
Insanity. Glad I don’t have kids.
(cross posted to UTI.)
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