Conversations with young parents nearly always leave me horrified over the childcare expenses they’re forced to pay. Recently, I was informed by a young man that he and his wife pay $225 per week for day care. (For one child.) Furthermore, this is not in an “expensive city,” and it is, I was assured, a really good price.
I responded by bringing up the old way of arranging care for your children: You found an older woman in the neighborhood – a woman who had successfully raised several children of her own and could use the extra money – and paid her a reasonable amount to take care of yours.
That ancient way, the young man assured me, may have made a lot of sense – and yes, he had considered it – but it was no longer possible. The nice old lady would be carted away in handcuffs, and your children might be stolen by state agents.
So, he and his wife get ripped off every week; the daycare provider stands on perpetually thin ice with the state; Child Protective Services workers reign with terror; and somewhere, perhaps, a giant corporation and several politicians are making money on it.
What the Young People Don’t Know
Being that they were children themselves at the time (or not yet born), it’s no surprise young people don’t know what caused this insanity, but those of us who were paying attention in the 1980s do.
What happened was a wave of insanity caused by politically correct barbarians, malicious and arrogant prosecutors, craven fear-sellers, and truly selfless (as in “have no spine of their own”) jurors.
If you’re not familiar with these stories, brace yourselves. Here we go:
Kern County, CA: These abuses began after a new “law and order” prosecutor, Edward Jagels, gathered a task force to investigate sex crimes against children. This guy once tried to have a man sentenced to 25 years in prison for stealing donuts worth about a dollar. Aside from naked ambition and terror, he built his prosecution on the work of a soon-to-be discredited psychiatrist who gadded about to a number of these cases.
All of this resulted in at least 26 people being convicted of crimes, 60 children intimidated into lying, and the prosecutor staying in office until 2009, denying any wrongdoing the whole time. (And sanctimoniously jailing donut thieves.)
All but one of the convictions were eventually overturned. A huge number of people were terrorized by Mr. Law-and-Order – probably why he wanted the job – and many spent long years in prison. But it turned out that there was one convicted child abuser appended to this story: the guy who rented a pool house from the owner of the preschool… who apparently never had anything to do with the children.
McMartin Preschool, Los Angeles County, CA: This was the longest and most expensive criminal trial in US history up to its time. This fiasco, which ran from 1983 to 1990, made life a living hell for the McMartin family, their employees, their friends, and the children who were manipulated into lying against them all. All told, seven people were charged with 321 accounts of child abuse, involving 48 children.
Not only was the psychiatrist from the Kern County case involved, but so were this social worker and this doctor. And the details of the charges? Well, how about drilling into the children’s bodies with electric drills (leaving no scars), hidden tunnels, people flying through the air, orgies at car washes, and trips in hot air balloons. In one account, even Chuck Norris showed up to hurt the kids. No joke.
After seven horrifying years, all charges were finally dropped. And the Los Angeles district attorney who presided over it all? He stayed in his position, ran for governor, retired, and now works in private practice.
Fells Acre Day Care, Middlesex County, MA: Here we have more of the same, with members of the innocent Amirault family spending long years in jail. They were accused of pushing a butcher knife through the anus of a child (sorry), again with no scar. Some children claimed they were shown robots with flashing lights, secret rooms, animal sacrifice, and so on.
In this case, however, a hero stepped up. To her eternal credit, Dorothy Rabinowitz, writing for the Wall Street Journal, published a series of articles, “A Darkness in Massachusetts,” on the case. Still, it was many years before Gerald Amirault got out of jail, and Virginia Amirault died while the judicial system of Massachusetts defended its honor and wickedly trashed justice.
The nurse who got the false accusations out of the children was rewarded quite well, by the way. The district attorney moved on to bigger and better things and is still defending himself.
As a result of all these cases, a slew of laws and regulations were passed. State agents now enforce regulations about the number of square feet per child, the number of teachers per child, and so on. Don’t meet the regs, and you’re shut down at best.
As a result, the nice granny can’t just take care of your daughter, not unless she becomes a licensed business, filing tax forms, making reports to regulators, and so on. She has to keep accounting records, buy insurance, and keep track of her expenses. And grannies don’t do such things… nor should they.
So, as usual, the big patterns remain:
Fear makes humans very stupid, and
People in power, no matter how abusive, are protected by power.
I leave you with a thought from John Zube:
You can’t abolish corruption up high – unless you abolish up high.
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A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
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Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
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