Bill That Could Criminalize Parents Based On Anonymous Allegations Heads To Senate Floor
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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Under a proposed law, sponsored by Representative Ron Travis (R-Dayton-District 31) in the House and Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta-District 15) in the Senate, parents could be charged with a felony for failure to turn their children over to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS), possibly even when the charges against them are based on anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations.
According to an expert source, House Bill 1109 (HB1109) and companion Senate Bill 1319 (SB1319) eliminates basic due process which requires that a person has the right to know accusations made against them and have their day in court to tell their side of the story to a judge.
The bill passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee 6-2 yesterday, March 14th, and according to Chairman Senator Dawn White, now goes to Finance. However, according to the General Assembly website, SB1319 has been referred to the Senate Calendar Committee for scheduling to be considered on the Senate floor.
Senators Lundberg, Roberts, Rose, Stevens, Taylor, and White voted Aye, with Democrat Senators Kyle and Lamar voting No.
Before the vote, Bailey stated the bill had been sent to him from “one of my General Sessions Judges” in his district.
The Tennessee Conservative received an email from Senator Bailey last week after his office started receiving multiple calls and emails in opposition to this legislation from our readers.
Bailey wrote to members of the Judiciary Committee at the same time to tell them that our article did not provide factual information about the legislation.
“I wanted to make you aware of what this legislation actually seeks to accomplish in the event you begin receiving calls or emails,” wrote Bailey. “I have consulted with legislative legal to confirm that the legislation does in fact accomplish my intent.”
In his email to us, Bailey wrote:
The intent of this legislation is to clarify that the offense of custodial interference would apply to a situation where a parent or guardian flees with the child and attempts to evade service of process after an emergency custody order has been entered into by a court. This would only apply in a situation where the Department has completed an investigation and a judge or magistrate has executed an emergency or protective custody order after finding that the child is at risk of substantial harm. The parents would still be entitled to all their rights (i.e. a probable cause hearing with 48 hours, right to counsel, hearing and an opportunity to be heard, etc.). Parents or guardians who attempt to flee with a child after they have been advised by the Department or law enforcement that a protective custody order has been entered into, further endanger the safety of the child as this results in an endangered child alert being issued and engagement by law enforcement to find the child. Once again, this legislation would only apply when a court has entered an order committing the child to DCS custody (which is done under another title and not affected by this bill). The parent has to have knowledge of the court order, so the offense cannot be committed by accident. If the child shouldn’t be in the custody of DCS, the parent has the opportunity for due process under Title 37 in order to prove that. This offense would only come into play when the court has entered an order and the parent is attempting to keep the child against the court’s order.
We sent Senator Bailey a reply asking some additional questions:
1. What does the investigation by DCS entail?
According to our source who is well versed in this type of law and very familiar with how DCS operates, DCS does not always do a full investigation before getting an order to place children into state care, and sometimes they seek these orders based only on details from anonymous allegations. We know from a story we covered last year, that DCS failed to investigate, refused to contact a parent’s attorney (even though several messages were left), and then the DCS worker secretly obtained a removal order and set a hearing without notice to the Mother or her attorney. No one has held this DCS worker accountable.
2. Will you be including language that states that this change to the law applies only if DCS has completed an investigation, communicated with parent’s counsel, complied with their own policies, and secured sufficient collaboration (articulated in their petition to the court) of any report of abuse or neglect, AND such evidence has demonstrated an articulable immediate risk of harm?
With the dismal performance of DCS on record, I’m sure you can understand why our readers are concerned for parental rights in regard to this bill.
“There is nothing about this bill that secures the important constitutional right of family integrity,” said our source. “If DCS has sufficient evidence to obtain a warrant for child abuse or neglect they should do so. But in effect, this bill criminalizes (and feloniously) families that may have asked for more time, or engagement of their counsel, or attempted to challenge false allegations.”
Senator Bailey has yet to send us a reply despite stating that he would be happy to answer any questions we had.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.
4 thoughts on “Bill That Could Criminalize Parents Based On Anonymous Allegations Heads To Senate Floor”
It sounds to me like the DCS has too much autonomy here. The “findings” of a single investigator being enough to secure a warrant for removing a child from a home, especially when the investigation was initiated as the result of an anonymous complaint AND may not have been thoroughly investigated, is particularly troubling. As an alternative, I would suggest DCS quit accepting anonymous complaints, and instead require the person alleging he abuse to come in and fill is sworn affidavit. Anonymity and exemption from testifying in court could be proffered at that time.
DCS does not have a good track record and it sounds like this bill gives them even more power and opportunities to ruin more families. Kidnapping is already illegal so how does this bill address this? Lower the threshold for kidnapping to make it illegal for parents have control of their children? This is sinister indeed and there’s more to this than what the sponsors portray.
What’s the big deal. Do you parents think you really own your kids. Flash! You are only the money machine that feeds, clothes and gives them a place to sleep. Think I’m joking? Consider this. Children get birth control, vaccinations, etc. without parental consent or being informed in many cases. “Your” child is told he or she can be known by a pronoun of their choosing while in school and are encouraged to keep that from their parents. Wakey, wakey, folks your just the money machine that feeds a failed system. Day by day your rights are being eroded, well the few you have left anyway. But never fear, our Governor has the solution, throw more money at the problems and give the autocrats more power.
The comments are CORRECT. So PLEASE call and send emails to the committee members to OPPOSE this bill!! It is only the constituents that have a chance of stopping it!!!