Social Services Investigator

You are an investigator with the county bureau of social services. A case has been referred to you by a middle school’s head guidance counselor. It seems that a young girl, Emily, has been showing up to school in a dazed and listless condition. She has had a hard time concentrating in class and seems withdrawn and uncommunicative. The 13-year-old has missed more than her normal share of school days and has often been late to class. Last week, she seemed so lethargic that her homeroom teacher sent her to the school nurse. A physical examination revealed that she was malnourished and in poor physical health. She also had evidence of bruising that could only come from a severe beating. Emily told the nurse that she had been punished by her parents for doing poorly at school and failing to do her chores at home. When her parents were called to school to meet with the principal and guidance counselor, they claimed to be members of a religious order that believes children should be punished severely for their misdeeds. Emily had been placed on a restricted diet as well as beaten with a belt to correct her misbehavior. When the guidance counselor asked them if they would be willing to go into family therapy, they were furious and told her to mind her own business. It’s a sad day, they said, when “God-fearing American citizens cannot bring up their children according to their religious beliefs.” The girl was in no immediate danger because her punishment had not been life threatening. The case is then referred to your office. When you go to see the parents at home, they refuse to make any change in their behavior, claiming that they are in the right and you represent all that is wrong with society. The “lax” discipline you suggest leads to drugs, sex, and other teenage problems.

What steps would you suggest the court take? Would you recommend removing Emily from her home and requiring the parents to go into counseling?