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Stacy Schneider Headshot

Law Can't Touch Octomom for Now

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It seems society can't let go of the Nadia Suleman's story and its desire to see the "Octomom" punished. With every move Suleman makes, including her latest "firing" of the free in-home child care services provided by a national charity, a question persists: Can she be charged with child abuse or neglect and stripped of her children for attempting to single-handedly mother 14 children, 8 of them premature infants? Well, she may have broken the taboos of parenting, but she hasn't broken the law, yet.

Without reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect, the state of California can't terminate her parental rights, remove her children, or charge her with a crime. Being a welfare recipient, lacking financial resources, and being "crazy" do not constitute child abuse.

Child welfare and parenting law strongly favors children remaining with biological parents unless there is inadequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision. The existence of any one of these conditions could constitute neglect. And if there is repeated neglect resulting in injury or harm to children, you would have a case of child abuse, punishable by jail and resulting in temporary or permanent removal of the children from the household.

Although Octomom had no resources when the octuplets were born (which predisposes the possibility of neglect), her circumstances have changed since her story has attracted a national spotlight. She probably already has generated enough money from book deals, interviews, and television appearances to provide the minimal support required by law. If she hires child caretakers, nurses, home health aids to help care for the babies (as no single mother on the planet can do it alone), the law will favor her remaining as their legal parent and guardian. There will be absolutely no legal cause to place her children in foster care or force her into a courtroom to defend criminal charges.

The law only requires that you be an adequate parent. It doesn't require you to be a good parent, to be regarded as a successful parent, or to provide a preferred standard of living or "functional" home. As long as your children receive the minimum standard of care for that establishes their health and safety, you are safe from government interference in your parenting.

If the Octomom adequately nourishes and nurtures all of her 14 children, she is guilty of no crime and cannot be prosecuted. The only thing she may be guilty of is being a selfish and reckless parent.