Despite the good intentions of some workers in the agency, Child Protective Services (CPS) is not what it claims. It does not do us a service, it does not protect our children, it does not create healthy environments for them. CPS is designed to enforce a so-called “normal” model of the family, actively punishing those of us who do not comply with the capitalist, patriarchal, racist, white supremacist ideal of what a family should look like. CPS is used to scare and punish people who threaten or fight the system.
Since the beginning of Occupy Oakland, CPS has harassed many parents involved in the movement, and has gone so far as to take away the children of a single queer mother on false, outrageous claims that bringing kids to Occupy events endangered them. The truth is that single parents have found tremendous support in the Occupy Oakland, where many of us have been empowered through mutual aid, new networks of care and emotional support, and sharing of the material goods available in our community.
CPS targets the poor, people of color, single mothers, and non-gender conforming parents.
The actions against occupiers are typical of CPS. The agency is notorious for targeting poor single mothers. Instead of helping mothers and children who find themselves in abusive situation, CPS often takes the children away on the grounds that the abuse makes mothers unfit to have custody of their children. In keeping with the patriarchal culture we live in, this practice effectively blames and punishes survivors of abuse. When children are removed from their homes, they are taken into group homes or foster care which are very often are hellish environments where abuse and violence are rampant. In fact, according to the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, six times as many children die in foster care than in the general public. CPS is also used by vindictive ex-spouses, who punish their exes by falsely claiming endangerment or abuse.
Also, the mere fact of being queer, trans* or gender-nonconforming parents can get child services called–if, for example, a homophobic or transphobic school counselor gets wind, CPS can be called and will be in the lives of queer and trans* parents for the long-haul, potentially removing the children. Children are also more likely to be displaced if they are queer or trans*, and the truth is CPS will NOT place children in foster care with queer or trans* parents! Thereby reinforcing the homophobic cis-centric idea of the family, AND endangering queer and trans* youth.
Finally, the mere fact of being black or brown, poor, and a parent, will result in heightened scrutiny and policing from CPS – CPS are very much just like the ‘actual’ police. CPS is a racist institution and enforces its violent rules primarily on people of color. You can bet a middle class white mother will not be treated the same by CPS (and may not even be called) for doing the *exact same things* as a poor, working class black or brown mother. And class always plays central role – a white upper class gay couple probably has more immunity from CPS than a poor African American single father.
CPS is a tool of capitalist violence!
Occupy Patriarchy will fight back. Occupy is alive and kicking in Oakland. Feminists, queers, and trans* people have been organizing within the Occupy movement since the beginning. We founded Oakland Occupy Patriarchy to support each other as we organize against racism and patriarchy and gender oppression, both within our movement and within the greater capitalist society that we are fighting against. We recognize that capitalism, patriarchy and racism are mutually dependent and we want to end them all in favor of a better world for all of us. Our action against Child Protective Services on May Day is part of our struggle.
CPS uses “bad parenting” rhetoric to paint those who resist as immoral, uncaring, and even villainous, when in fact we are anything but. Many parents – especially mothers – internalize this rhetoric and don’t see their oppression as something they are capable of fighting. Many of us at Occupy Patriarchy have direct experience of this kind of oppression, whether through being separated from our children or from being abused by our families or simply by the fact of being a gender-nonconforming youth. We are fed up with CPS and are determined to expose its repressive actions and to continue to build a community to fight it. On May 1st, we will occupy CPS. We will gather at the CPS office on 4th and Broadway in downtown Oakland at 8:30. We invite and call in all who share our critique, our anger, our oppressions, our experiences, and our revolutionary spirit to join us.