One thing I recall from my high school days is the Bill of Rights. You know, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Being the supreme law of the land, all state and local governments must operate within this framework. Otherwise it’s a violation of a citizen’s Constitutional rights. Oh, but there are ways to sidestep these rights. It’s when government agencies shield the true accuser and they act on their behalf.
The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to face your accuser (in criminal proceedings). Keep this in mind as I share a personal example of why this is not as cut-and-dry as it was intended when written.
My son, Ryan, is in a comatose-like state from a brutal beating. I care for him every second of every day. Yesterday morning I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I let it roll over to voicemail, but checked it immediately. It was from Social Services. They needed to talk with me but gave no reason. Clearly, this can’t be good so I call them back within minutes.
Yep. It’s not good. It seems an anonymous snail-mail letter came into their office about Ryan’s femur fracture he suffered during physical therapy. They want to see me about this. Will tomorrow work?, they ask. I ask them if it’s possible to meet that afternoon but it’s not. Okay, we’re on for tomorrow (which is today).
I have no problem with Social Services. They are doing their job. I do have a problem with two things: 1) Someone is trying to cause trouble or is completely ignorant, and 2) I don’t get to “face my accuser” (yes, I know, nothing is criminal, but I’ll get to that later).
What possible motivation would someone have for reporting? Let’s start with ignorance as a possibility. Do they not know how many doctors, therapists, nurses, and various other “mandated reporters” visit Ryan regularly. Specific to the femur fracture, he was in therapy… under the professional supervision of a therapist (who, by the way, is a mandated reporter). I suspect if anyone official even had a suspicious inkling of abuse or neglect we would have heard about it from the EMTs or doctors. They are obligated to report it within 48 hours, I believe. So, my guess is it’s just someone trying to cause trouble… like we don’t have enough! Perhaps it’s even from people associated (directly or indirectly) in the lawsuit filed on Ryan’s behalf.
Here’s the kicker, this trouble-maker is protected behind a curtain of legislative obscurity. Apparently, anyone can freely make accusations about whomever they want and not be held accountable. No one is exempt! This is just not right. This is also where the 6th Amendment fails, because Social Services would assume the role of the accuser (and not the real accuser). Heck, I’d even be okay with never knowing who reported this if I were actually guilty or negligent. That’s fair enough. But, I strongly believe I should be granted knowledge of who this person is when the outcome is “unfounded”. I’m being harassed or unfairly accused, for goodness sakes! Why am I denied recourse? I marvel at how many protections where put in place for Ryan’s attackers (Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May), yet in this case the innocent get butkus. What can stop this from happening again… and again… and again. Nothing.
Nothing, that is, except for self-protection. Clearly it’s not enough that Ryan is in pristine physical condition, so I will now install a continuous video and audio surveillance feed on Ryan (at least when not in the presence of a mandated reporter). This will be recorded and saved. Sure, I can’t stop a person from baseless accusations, but I can certainly minimize the stress on me and the unnecessary strain on the government’s resources. Think about it, they are checking up on me when they could be on a real neglect or abuse case.
This accuser is impacting me, Ryan, the local government, and a person who is in actual need. This is so wrong. Oh, and nice try… but it seems you failed.