I generally don't use this blog as a platform for my political views. I don't air my opinions about current events. Mostly because I'm too busy airing my dirty laundry. But this particular news story has me all disconcerted and I'm sure it's something you've shaken your head at as well.
I'm talking about the story of an Arizona couple who took vacation pictures to their local Wal-Mart for development. Most of the pictures were of the families' recent vacation to San Diego. Some of those photos included a few pics of their kids in the bath-tub, a few of them with the kids getting dried off and playing and while the pictures did show nude kids because well, parents do tend to take the clothes off of their children when they wash them with soap. And those of us with more than one child (especially same sex children) know that it's much easier to put them in the tub together.
The Wal-Mart employee who was developing the photos decided to call the police and turn the photos over to authorities because he/she considered the pictures to be child pornography. And even though the photos were not sexual in nature and even though they weren't offensive in any way, this person found it inappropriate that parents might find tubby time cute. And even more offended that they would consider bathing their daughters together,*GASP*. The couple was accused of sexual abuse and their children were removed from their custody and placed into foster care.
This is so wrong on so many levels! These parents lost custody of their three beautiful children. The mother, a teacher, was suspended from her job while the investigation was pending and both parents were listed on a registry of sex offenders. Why? Because one night they thought their kids looked adorable in a bath-tub and wanted to capture those memories on film. They weren't posting them for the internet to see, they weren't selling the photos, they were developing the pictures for a family album. How many of you have ever thought that your children's tooshies were the cutest thing in the whole world? Raise your hands. And of those of you who raised your hands, I'd bet that the majority of you have pictures of your children in the bathtub or naked in some way shape or form. Heck, many baby photographers make a darned good living on nudie shots of babies curled up on their mother's chests or held by their father's strong hands.
I don't have many naked photos of my kids, but I do have some. I have one of Bubba when he was a few days old, all wrinkly and red in his baby tub. I have one of all three of my kids, hair pointing straight in the air with shampoo sudz. I have one of Birdie walking away from me, dragging her favorite blanket, full bootie exposed. And you know what? They are the cutest thing ever! And in no way shape or form did I take those pictures in a sexual way and the idea that I could take those to be developed so that I can put them into a scrapbook or family album and then be arrested, lose my job AND my children and be labeled a sex offender, the idea of that scares the shit out of me. I'm always careful to never post questionable things on the internet. But lets be serious, that's because there are crazies who troll the internet. If I'm going to keep something for the family as a memory, well that is different. I might take a picture of the kids eating a banana (OH MY GOD). Or of the kids washing the car with wet clothes (CALL THE POLICE). Or of the kids laying in bed with Howie (NOTIFY CHILD SERVICES).
The children were returned to their home after a month of foster care and all charges were dropped against the parents because there was ZERO evidence of sexual abuse and the family is in the process of suing Wal-Mart. I think that it wasn't just Wal-Mart that went overboard here. What about the police? What about social services? I understand that they have to do what's best for the children but some common sense would have gone a long way here!
Honestly, I think cases like this are the foundation of the mis-trust parents have in our child protective services. We were petrified when we had our first home study. What if they found something that we had considered completely innocuous. What if we went in trying to adopt and we ended up losing our own kids because we hadn't changed the kitty litter or because we have wire hangers instead of plastic ones. There was fear. Through our process of foster adoption, I have learned that while the system is broken (moves as slow as molasses in January), it is well-intended. The workers try their very best to re-unify families and keep them together and where there was fear, there is now trust. I hate that this story fosters even more mis-trust in a system we should be supporting. I also hate that it makes parents frightened.
Because lets be honest. There are things we do, things that are completely normal parts of family life, and there is now a sense of fear. A sense of what if we are doing something wrong and don't even know it! Because I'm sure that Arizona family had no idea that taking their pictures in to have them developed, would not change their lives forever.
We as parents, rely on our common sense to get us through. But cases like this makes us question our common sense. What if your common sense lands you on the front page of a magazine with "CHILD MOLESTER" above it because you allowed your husband to bathe your daughters. It sounds crazy, like who would even think that that would be inappropriate. But really, it's not that big of a leap given the current atmosphere. I'm sure none of us thought that taking bath pictures of our kids could get us labeled like that either.