Joshua Garcia is only eight years old but in saving his father after a serious car accident he has already performed deeds that make him a hero. Yet, for all that, Joshua now finds himself in state care.
Around 3 a.m. on July 4, the Honda Civic that Joshua and his father, Eugenio Garcia, were in went through a guardrail and landed upside down in a sandbank in the Nashua River. Joshua was able to get out of the car, swim to shore, climb up a 15-foot embankment and over a fence and walk almost a mile barefoot. He then woke his stepmother who called 911.
All this time, Joshua’s father was in the car. Thanks to his son’s actions, firefighters hurried to the scene and rescued Eugenio Garcia.
Joshua and his father were later treated for minor injuries at a hospital in Leominster, Massachusetts.
Authorities suspect that Eugenio Garcia had been drinking and was speeding at the time of the crash. Fitchburg police captain Paul Bozicas says that Mr Garcia is now likely to face “numerous motor vehicle charges pertaining to endangering a child.”
Due to this fact, the Department of Children and Family Services has removed Joshua from his parents’ custody and placed him in the home of another family member.
DCFS says that it needs to investigate the family, the accident and why Mr Garcia and his son were out in the very early hours of the morning. That is, even as relatives and many others hail Joshua as a hero, his future remains unclear and it could be some time — a lot of time — before he is reunited with his parents.
This has, of course, prompted questions on whether it was necessary to forcibly separate Joshua from his parents.
A recent New York Times article about children who are placed in state custody says that policies are, more and more, “aimed at keeping families intact, and there has been a shift in the balance between the rights of children and the rights of parents, as parents have obtained better legal representation.”
Still, parents can face an often maze-like struggle of regulations, investigations, and legal red tape before they regain custody of a child after he or she has been placed in foster care.
In fact a New York-based national children’s advocacy group, Children’s Rights, filed a class-action suit in April 2010 on behalf of six young plaintiffs against Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and two health and human services officials on grounds that Massachusetts is “systematically failing to protect children in foster care from allegedly unfit foster homes, physical abuse, medical and educational neglect, questionable psychotropic drug doses and other harm.”
As Children’s Rights’ executive director Marcia Robinson Lowry points out, Massachusetts is actually “misspending money” as children placed in state care often end up “languishing” there for years, and sometimes end up being subjected to neglect or even abuse in foster care settings.
In January, the Children’s Rights‘ class action suit went to trial. As if in tacit confirmation of the need for reform of Massachusetts’ foster care system, the state’s Office of the Child Advocate released a report around that time showing that 40 children had died under the state’s watch in 2011.
It is crucial for child welfare officials to step in when children have suffered neglect or abuse in their households but, according to Opposing Views, it was lawful for Garcia and Joshua to have been driving in the middle of the night.
Indeed, “currently, there are no official parental curfews nor guidelines about whether being out late with a child is prosecutable neglect,” Inquisitr says while noting that Joshua’s aunt, Priscilla Columna, has said of the authorities that “they took over, just because they say it’s neglect driving at that time.”
For any parent, the thought of losing a child to “the state” is terrifying. Certainly it is a concern that Garcia may have been intoxicated while driving but as one social worker points out, “the law doesn’t require you to be an outstanding parent… You have to be an adequate parent.”
So the question remains, was this an appropriate act given what had transpired or did the authorities step in too soon to take custody of Joshua and potentially subject him to a broken foster care system?
Photo from Thinkstock
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