True story: Six years ago in my town, a seven year old girl was completing a class assignment by sketching anatomically correct pictures of men and women in provocative poses. Alarmed, the teacher quizzed the child, and alerted the school officials who contacted a social worker at the Department of Human Services.
The social worker interviewed the child who, it turned out, lived only with her father, the child's mother having abandoned the little girl some three years before, having yet to return or make any contact. During the interview process, the little girl made some allegations of sexual abuse which required further investigation. Eventually, a court hearing was held on the matter and the father's explanation for the realistic drawings was that he had an extensive collection of pornographic videos which she had perhaps seen.
While the father's story may have been true, the judge ordered extensive psychological and medical examinations for the girl, which necessitated separating the child from her father.
Those who witnessed the episode were touched by the drama. The social worker was forced to pull the child away from her father and before it was over, the worker, herself, had become distraught.
Another story: A 15-year-old boy is on the stand. His mother is seated at the defendant's table. I am questioning the child about allegations of abuse. The child is represented by counsel. We are here because the child has been acting up in school, and one thing leads to another, and a DHS social worker is called in. During the interview process with the social worker, the child relates episodes of incest with the mother.
The child is sent for in-house treatment where he confirms the occurrences of incest. His father has been long absent. No one seems to know where he is. As I question him, the child lies under oath about the incest. I put the social worker on, and she confirms his story. We later find out that he couldn't handle the responsibility for sending his mother to prison. Too much guilt. The social worker tells the judge that she will make sure he gets to his therapy sessions and he will stay under her supervision, for at least three more years.
Final story: After taking office over 10 years ago, I was confronted with an allegation of depraved child abuse. Although it couldn't be proven in a court of law, the strong suspicion was a six-year- old little boy had been sexually abused by his own mother. We knew he had been sexually abused; the problems was proving who had done it. It was a social worker who stayed with a scared child throughout the process and helped him get the help he needed.
As a county prosecuting attorney, over the years I have had a splendid view of the cussedness of human beings. I have dealt with rapists, murderers, thieves, child molesters, and other less ornery creatures who inhabit God's garden. I have also dealt with and been a witness to the suffering of their victims. By its very nature, the court system isn't really about redemption. However, the redemption I have seen in criminal cases involving children, usually comes in the form of a Department of Human Services social worker.
After a day of dealing with a severe child sexual abuse case, I ran into a minister friend. I told him about my day and how in cases of child abuse that I questioned God's silence. In response my friend said, “You are asking the wrong question. The question isn't: Where is God? The question is: Who is going to be the Christ to these children?”
Not excluding teachers, youth court counselors, or anyone else, who in times of crisis minister to children, my observation is that for many distressed children – particularly lower income children – the person most likely to be Christ to those children, is a state of Mississippi social worker. They make draw their salary from Ceasar, but my impression is that most of them do their jobs as if they are actually employed by God.
Richard Babb is an attorney in private practice in Ripley. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.