Jewish World Review May 20, 2004 /29 Iyar, 5764

Thomas Sowell

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Justice for little Angelo | Little Angelo finally got justice, though he died too young to even know what justice meant. Angelo Marinda lived only eight months and it took more than twice that long to convict his father of his murder.

Tragically, the policies and the mindset among the authorities responsible for the well-being of children — the practices and notions that put this baby at risk — are still in place and more such tragedies are waiting to happen. Little Angelo came to the authorities' attention just 12 days after he was born, when he turned up at a hospital with broken bones.

How would a baby less than two weeks old have broken bones? And what do you do about it?

Many of us would say that you get that baby away from whoever broke his bones and never let them near him again. But that is not what the "experts" say. Experts always have "solutions." How else are they going to be experts?

The fashionable solution is called "family reunification services." The severity of little Angelo's injuries would have made it legally possible to simply take him away and put him up for adoption by one of the many couples who are hoping to adopt a baby.

But no. Through the magic of "family reunification services" parents are supposed to be changed so that they will no longer be abusive.

A social worker told the court two years ago that the San Mateo County Children and Family Services Agency "will be recommending reunification services, as the parents are receptive to receiving services." The fact that little Angelo's sister had already had to be removed from that same home did not seem to dampen this optimism.

At the heart of all this is the pretense to knowledge that we simply do not have and may never have. There are all sorts of lofty phrases about teaching "parenting skills" or "anger management" or other pious hopes. And children's lives are being risked on such notions.

Little Angelo himself apparently knew better. After months in a foster home, he was allowed back for a visit with his parents and "had a look of fear in his eyes" when he saw them.

But "expertise" brushes aside what non-experts believe — and little Angelo was not an expert, at least not in the eyes of the social workers who were in charge of his fate. The fact that he had returned from a previous visit with bruises did not make a dent on the experts.

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Social workers thought it would be nice if little Angelo could have a two-day unsupervised visit with his parents at Christmas. It was a visit from which he would not return alive.

Now, more than 16 months after the baby's death, Angelo's father has been convicted of having literally shaken him to death. Incidentally, there were experts who testified on the father's behalf at the trial, one of whom gave testimony that contradicted what he himself had written in a book. This expert had never seen little Angelo, dead or alive.

The time is long overdue for us to stop pretending to know things that nobody knows — not even people with impressive letters in front of their names or behind their names. Whether these experts are simply cynical guns for hire or really believe their own theories and rhetoric is beside the point. Unsubstantiated theories are no foundation for risking the lives of the helpless.

How anyone could break the bones of a newborn baby is something that people may speculate about. But to claim to know how to turn such parents into decent human beings is reckless. And to risk a baby's life on such speculation is criminal.

It is too bad that only one man will go to jail for this crime. There ought to be room in a cell somewhere for the social workers and their bosses who made this murder possible in the face of blatant evidence about the dangers that an infant could see, even if the responsible adults refused to see.

The pretense of knowledge allows judges, social workers, and others to "do something" by sending people to "training" in "parenting skills" and other psychobabble with no track record of success. And it allows children like little Angelo to be killed.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)


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