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Kids Taken from Mom and Dad for Pictures of Bathtime

kid-in-bathtubMy mind moved through every photo in my daughter’s albums when I read this one: parents in Arizona are on the warpath after temporarily losing their kids to a child abuse investigation started by their local Wal-Mart.

Turns out the parents took pictures . . . gasp . . . of their kids in the bathtub!

A.J. and Lisa Demaree say they took a memory stick full of photos to Wal-Mart to have them printed up, including eight that showed their three kids (at the time all under age six) in the bathtub.

The next thing they knew, Child Protective Services was knocking on their door and taking all three children (ages five, four and one-and-a-half) with them. The kids were split up into separate foster homes and put through medical examinations to determine they hadn’t been sexually abused. Finally released to Lisa Demaree’s parents after three days, the kids were unable to be alone with their parents at first, requiring CPS supervision for every visit. It took nine months for the parents to again obtain custody of their own kids, despite all allegations having been deemed unfounded.

And according to the Demaree’s attorney, even though the state never charged the parents with a crime, the state filed a petition to take legal custody.

All this because three kids under six were photographed nude in the BATHTUB?

If that’s child abuse, lock me up. On my kitchen wall is a photo series of my daughter shortly after she first mastered a spoon. In the first photos, she’s covered in chocolate pudding, in the latter, she’s in the tub having the pudding removed. They’re fun – and funny – photos detailing a sweet moment in time. And yes, she’s naked.

On a CD somewhere, there are also pictures of her bathing with her male cousin – they were two and three at the time. Again, naked. And, again, a sweet picture – the two kids were making faces at me while I oversaw bathtime, and it was worth whipping out the camera.

If people are convinced naked is synonymous with porn, perhaps they’ve never changed a diaper filled with poop? Or tried potty training? How about wrangling a slipper toddler in a bathtub?

In a country where the sight of a boob with baby mouth attached sends the prudes into such panic, there’s an inate fear of nudity. Grown  men are afraid to take their own little girls into men’s rooms, lest they be labeled perverts for helping their own daughter’s wipe their private parts.

But the shoot first, ask questions later method of investigating child abuse allegations is equal and opposite to the horrific CPS cases wherein children have died because no one acted. Each is horrific in its own right – kids hurt because they fell through the cracks or children hurt because some overzealous social worker went barreling in to save the day.

Three kids, at an age when their focus is on themselves and what THEY might have done wrong to cause a situation, were sent off to live with strangers. They had strangers touching them in private places (albeit medical professionals, but still, strangers). They weren’t allowed to see Mommy and Daddy. Don’t think that will have lasting effects?

Should these photos have prompted an investigation? Perhaps a little perspective is in order. Babies in bathtubs are common sights on Johnson & Johnson ads on national television. Are they sending in a search team to make sure good ol’ J&J is really just promoting body wash?

Nudity is a natural state of affairs, one that’s hard to avoid with toddlers especially. So let kids be kids – the wetter and more covered in bubbles, the better. The Demarees are suing by the way – Wal-Mart, the city, and the state.

Image: Micah Sittig via Flickr

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