Remember Bean Dad? Child Protective Services Was Called to Check on His Daughter
Last month, musician John Roderick became known as “Bean Dad” for his tweets about making his nine-year-old daughter figure out how to use a can opener if she wanted to eat. The thread went viral, and Roderick swiftly became an object of scorn on social media—as if was letting his child starve. Bean Dead was canceled.
Roderick recently divulged a new wrinkle in the story, which makes clear that it was not just an online kerfuffle. For his afternoon of bean-withholding, Roderick actually earned a visit from child protective services (CPS).
Thankfully, the CPS visit went well. “They were wonderful,” said Roderick. “And they were just doing their jobs.”
Apparently one investigator spoke to Roderick’s daughter for about an hour, privately, asking questions like, “What do you like about your dad?” and, “What do you not like about your dad?” Roderick’s daughter told him about this afterward. Turns out she doesn’t like the fact he gets tired of playing Legos faster than she does.
I’m thrilled this was not a hanging offense.
Yet I’m dismayed that it’s trivially easy for anyone with a phone to summon the authorities to rap at someone’s door, enter their home, and interrogate their kids. A caller can instigate this without meeting the parent or knowing almost anything about them. And they can do this anonymously—over and over again, if they choose. This is a system that needs fixing.
As far back as 1987, Douglas Besharov, founding director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, told Congress: “For fear of missing even one abused child, workers perform extensive investigations of vague and apparently unsupported reports.” The investigations have only increased since then, terrifying literally millions of innocent families each year.
While, tragically, deaths by neglect and abuse do occur, they represent two out of every 100,000 calls to child abuse hotlines. That’s not a system that’s working.
Roderick’s 23-tweet saga did not seem to suggest anything dangerous. He detailed how his daughter was hungry one afternoon when he was busy doing a puzzle. She found a can of beans and he told her she should open it with a can opener, but then refused to show her how to use it. He thought it would be a good lesson in ingenuity and resourcefulness. The process took six frustrating, sometimes tearful hours, and in h
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