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Jewish World Review April 19, 2000 /14 Nissan, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Beware of Elian's psychobabblers -- IT'S GETTING CREEPY down there in Miami -- and I'm not talking about the dolphins or Marisleysis' fainting spells or Gloria Estefan's political conga line.

I'm talking about the grotesque carnival of child psychologists, social workers, mental health experts, and other assorted spin doctors who claim to possess almighty medical knowledge of "what's best" for little Elian Gonzalez.

As a child of freedom-loving immigrants myself, my sympathies initially went to Elian's Miami relatives. But when they desperately invoked the abuse excuse to justify federal intervention between a parent and child, my heart and stomach turned.

Elian's Miami relatives trotted out psychologists who say separating the boy from his surrogate mother of four months (as opposed to keeping him from his biological father of six years?) would cause irreparable emotional damage. Next, they conjured up an affidavit from an "ex-friend" of Elian's dad who claims he beat Elian and his now-deceased biological mother. The Miami family also demanded a government-appointed panel of scientific experts come down from Washington, D.C. to evaluate then mental ramifications of transferring the child back to dad.

Then, last weekend on NBC's Meet the Press, family attorney Jose Garcia-Pedrosa played the dirtiest card: "We need psychological experts to do what we do anytime a child in this country makes allegations of sexual molestation, child abuse or any kind of misconduct by an adult."

When Russert asked whether Garcia-Pedrosa was suggesting accusations of sexual molestation by Elian against his dad, the lawyer tried to weasel out of the inflammatory charge: "No, no, no. I'm saying anytime a child makes accusations of misconduct by an adult in this country, we don't believe the child and we don't disbelieve the child. We evaluate the child professionally."

Oh, yes. The "professionals." The infallible mind-and-soul readers. The government bureaucracies with do-gooder names like "Child Protective Services." In this country, we have become increasingly beholden to these unaccountable opportunists in white coats. Social critic Thomas Szasz aptly calls them the "mountebanks of the hindering professions." They make a living interfering in others' lives and spouting therapeutic jargon to camouflage their contempt for parental rights, all the while collecting exorbitant consulting and court fees.

Those who side with Elian's Miami relatives conservatives and libertarians, especially cannot ignore the perils of aligning themselves with psychobabbling meddlers. Across the country, such child advocates have mixed medicine and state to justify the reckless termination of individual rights and family bonds.

In Wenatchee, Washington, families have been ripped apart by false accusations of child abuse leveled by state social workers and police investigators. Many of the plaintiffs who have been exonerated are still fighting, months and years after their acquittals, to get their children back from the government. Moms, dads, teachers, and day care workers from Massachusetts to California have been wrongly imprisoned based on the professional evaluations of power-mad experts.

In Florida, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno made an ugly mess in the name of defending children's best interests. As Miami-area head prosecutor in the mid-1980s, Reno launched a crusade against parents accused of ritual child sex abuse. She employed professional interrogators skilled in coercive questioning tactics, which produced numerous false confessions. Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker, who track prosecutorial witch hunts against parents in their book, "Satan's Silence," conclude that Reno's obsession "ended with children themselves being severely damaged and even destroyed in the name of protecting them."

Are Elian's Miami relatives willing to destroy the boy to save him? Do their supporters really believe the father's wishes should be trumped by government- and court-appointed mental health experts? As Republican congressman Steve Largent of Oklahoma, one of Congress' few consistent and principled voices for parental rights has noted, the Elian Gonzalez case "is a family issue, first and foremost...It's already a tragedy that the child lost his mother; it would be a travesty for our government to come between him and his father."

Yes, Fidel Castro is evil. But in our zeal to condemn Cuba's totalitarian regime, we must be careful not to embrace a cure for Elian that is worse than his native country's disease.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate