Civil Rights Lawsuit Targets State's Child Protection Laws

April 24, 2018 06:27 PM

A Minnesota man who says his three children were once taken from him because of a single spanking is alleging the state's child protection laws are unconstitutionally broad and vague, and are sometimes based only on allegations and social workers' discretion.

On Tuesday, he and the group he leads, Stop Child Protection Services From Legally Kidnapping, filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the state and county agencies charged with enforcing those laws.


RELATED: 2 Bills Proposed to Increase Child Protection in State

"Without a doubt this has been the most horrific experience of our life," Dwight Mitchell said Tuesday at an accompanying press conference in St. Paul.

His case is complex. But in a nutshell, it stems from a spanking incident in 2014 during which Mitchell maintains he was merely disciplining his child, not abusing him.

RELATED: State Leaders Acknowledge Racial Imbalance in Child Protection System

"The state of Minnesota will provide you with a lawyer and a jury trial for stealing a pack of chewing gum, but will give you neither when they take away your child forever," Mitchell added while flanked by lawyers, other parents and State Sen. Andrew Matthews, R-Milaca, who said it's clear something needs to change.

"After story after story after story, this is no longer something that can have a blind eye turned to," Matthews said. "It's time for standing up and making some changes in our legislation."
The group also contends African American children are five-times more likely to be removed from their homes than Caucasian children, as was the case with Mitchell's family.

RELATED: Case Workers: Foster Care Provider Recruitment Reaches Critical Need Level

"The institution charged to look after the health, safety and welfare of innocent children had in fact become the child abusers for me," Mitchell said.

The group has a long list of things they want to see happen.

That includes both changes to law, as well as changes in the judicial process.

Reached for comment Tuesday, the state Department of Human Services said:

"We are not aware of an active lawsuit involving Dwight Mitchell. We will not be commenting at this time."

Dakota County Social Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Josh Rosenthal

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