Unfeeling US agencies confiscate children from Indian parents
Young Indian couples travelling to the United States on short to mid-term job assignments are increasingly facing the menace of child confiscation by the country’s child protection agencies, who wrongly accuse them of abuse. The “child abuse” is determined using the controversial Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) indicator, the veracity of which is contested.
Suranya Aiyar, a NewDelhi based lawyer, who has been providing counsel and aid to Indian families in the US, Norway and other countries to help them get back their confiscated children, recently submitted a “Report on Indian and India-Origin Children Confiscated by the United States Child Protection Agencies” to the Ministry of External Affairs. Based on her extensive case study of 12 Indian families, who were falsely accused of child abuse, her report sheds light on the US agencies’ many biases and flawed methodology. The report wants a travel advisory to be issued to young Indian families moving to the US of possible confiscation of their children as, in most cases, the victim families are not aware of what might goad the child protection agencies to initiate action against them.
“Every year, the children of many Indian families are snatched by the authorities, based on false accusations. They lose their children to foster care homes and have to fight long legal battles against prosecutors, investigators and child protection social workers, who have cultural biases against Indian families,” Suranya Aiyar told The Sunday Guardian. Talking exclusively to The Sunday Guardian on the find- ings of Aiyar’s report, noted legal experts, doctors, researchers and investigative journalists alleged that the US child protection agencies were biased and used flawed techniques to detect abuse. They said that the use of SBS, also known as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), as a credible indicator of child abuse is not upheld by science, and finds acceptance in the system because of a full-fledged advocacy group. Experts were unanimous in their view that even though Indian parents find a way to fight the system and get back their children, they have to go through enormous ordeal in a foreign land, with no family support and limited resources.
According to Aiyar’s report, Indian parents often face “systematic cultural biases” by the investigators and the hospitals. Hospitals allegedly deny records to delay the case, while investigators have prejudices against Indian parents. Investiga- tors, child protection social workers and even school staff are mandated to report to child protection agencies if they notice any minor injury or some discomfort in the child. Many times, even if a child is gasping for breath due to some medical condition, it is reported as suspected abuse. Moreover, co-sleeping (baby sleeping in the same bed as parents), absence of adequate toys, lack of cribs, and even the child being noisy are all ac- counted to “poor or inappropriate parenting” and used to establish the “incapability of the parents to raise the child according to the US standards”. “Indian parents are extremely child-oriented and that is why one way or the other they manage to find the right people who can put up a strong defence in court.