August 30th, 2009
Posted By:
Categories: Ethics

I will never condone abuse or neglect. Children experiencing such atrocities need to be removed, at the very least, for a temporary time period. However, I cannot agree with this case out of Mississippi in which a mother lost custody of her child because she didn’t speak English.

I kept hoping, as I read the article, that another shoe would drop. She would have had a previous DUI or a history of drug use. Not so. She is an undocumented migrant worker having come to the US in hopes of sending money home to her other two children. She comes from an area in Mexico, Oaxaca, which speaks an indigenous language. At the hospital, the translator was not familiar with her language and, according to the now gag-ordered case records, poorly translated what the mother was saying.


I got very frustrated reading this article. They claim that the mother is unfit because she cannot speak English, stating that she couldn’t properly call 911 for help if necessary. DHS is also apparently claiming that they took the baby as the mother hadn’t purchased any formula or a bassinet. First of all, they should have been patting her on the back for planning to breastfeed (as that’s what women in her culture do and, darn it, women in our culture should be as well!). Furthermore, mothers in her culture wear their babies in slings (you know, like I do). Co-sleeping, by the way, is also not a crime. Now facing deportation, they won’t even let her have her daughter to return home. The case is a mess.

The point of this case is best made via this quote:

“Raising your child is one of the most fundamental liberties, and it can only be taken from you for the most serious concerns of endangerment,” says Bauer. “Not speaking English hardly meets that standard.”

If we start taking children from families who can’t speak English (and, sadly, this is not the only case of its kind as the article states), where do we draw the line? Do we start taking children from families who use too much slang? Do we take children from families who have bi-lingual homes, claiming the confusion factor would make it hard for the kid? Do we start taking children from families with poor grammar? You can call it a safety issue but it’s still wrong. A mother will get her child help if her child needs help, language barriers or not. This is a case of DHS firmly stepping over a line. No abuse, neglect or past history? Put the child back with her mother.

Photo Credit.

2 Responses to “Should Language Barriers Result in Removal?”

  1. Robyn C says:

    I read about this when it first happened. I didn’t realize she hadn’t gotten her baby back. As the mother is an illegal immigrant, it seems that law would dictate that she AND the baby should be sent back to their home. I’m a fan of people learning to speak English, but this is absolutely outrageous!

  2. [...] Should Language Barriers Result in Removal? (August 30, 2009): about a woman who had her child removed because she didn’t speak English. [...]

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