The Eugenic Impulse in Psychiatry

A prominent Texas doctor’s claim that many foster children come from “bad gene pools” is “a frightening throwback to some of the darkest chapters of American history” according to a national non-profit child advocacy organization.

But Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform said the comments by Dr. Joseph Burkett, medical director of the mental health and mental retardation agency for Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas, “do serve one useful purpose: He said out loud what too many in child welfare really think. In the process he helped expose the racism and class bias that permeate child welfare agencies all over the country.”

In addition to denouncing Burkett’s remarks, Wexler called on one of the state’s leading child advocates, former Judge Scott McCown, to condemn Burkett’s comments and reconsider his own calls for taking away far more children.

In addition to his job in Tarrant County, Burkett served on a Child Protective Services advisory committee which called for increasing the number of psychotropic drugs that could be given to foster children.

Burkett made his remarks before a committee of the Texas Legislature, on behalf of the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians. According to news accounts, he said: “I should stretch and give you a little more medical perspective on mental illness. A lot of these kids come from bad gene pools. They don’t have stable parents making good decisions or else many of them, most of them, would not be in foster care.”

Burkett later said he was “not alluding to race,” but Wexler noted that all over the country, minorities are significantly overrepresented in the foster-care system.

Burkett went on to explain he meant only that “there are pretty strong genetic factors in mental illness. The comment … was really a comment about the fact that these children are in the foster care system because they don’t have normal parents making good decisions. … That’s really the connection I’m making with genetics.”

“But that’s wrong, too,” Wexler said. “It is absolutely not true that just because a child is in foster care, the parents must be mentally ill. Thousands of children are trapped in foster care for reasons that have nothing to do with a parent or other caretaker’s mental state. Often, the parent’s poverty is confused with ‘neglect.'”

Wexler cited several cases from Texas:

– In Fort Worth, in Burkett’s home county, Child Protective Services took five children from their grandmother solely because her home was in such terrible disrepair it was hazardous for the children. Volunteers had to do what CPS would not. They donated $35,000 in time and labor to fix the house – which undoubtedly is less than CPS paid to keep the five children in foster care for a year.

– In Wichita Falls, a mother lost her children, including a newborn infant, for smoking marijuana to ease the pain of labor.

– In Corpus Christi, children were taken from their mother because she has a seizure disorder and was too poor to hire home health aides.

“These cases have nothing to do with mental illness, much less anybody’s gene pool,” Wexler said. “They represent the take-the-child-and-run mindset that permeates child protection agencies in much of the country.”

“It is true, however, that if you take a child away from everyone loving and familiar and send him on a forced march through one foster home after another, you can indeed induce mental illness in that child. Burkett’s comments encourage exactly that approach.”

Wexler said that “Burkett’s comments are the latest in long, tragic history. For more than 150 years, there have been attempts to suggest that poverty itself is an `illness’ with genetic roots.”

Wexler noted that the modern American child welfare system dates back roughly to 1853, and a Protestant minister in New York City named Charles Loring Brace.

Brace founded the Children’s Aid Society, an agency that still exists. He is best known for the “orphan trains.” Between 1853 and 1929, more than 100,000 New York City children were forced onto these trains and shipped out to the south and Midwest, where they were lined up at train stations and handed to anyone who wanted them. “But many of them were not orphans,” Wexler said. “They were torn from their impoverished parents, because those parents were Catholic immigrants whom Brace hated and feared. And what made these parents so loathsome? According to Brace, they were genetically inferior.”

Such thinking did not die out in the 19th Century, Wexler said, “and neither did the idea of using the child welfare system to deal with alleged genetic inferiors. Before writing his notorious book `The Bell Curve,’ an attempt to claim that certain races are genetically inferior, Charles Murray called for using the child welfare system to warehouse poor people’s children in orphanages.” …

Even Wexler seems unaware that, according to Michael B. First, M.D., a Director/Editor of the research agenda for DSM-V, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA):

it can be concluded that the field of psychiatry has thus far failed to identify a single neurobiological phenotypic marker or gene that is useful in making a diagnosis of a major psychiatric disorder or for predicting response to psychopharmacologic treatment.

But that doesn’t keep psychiatrists from attributing kids’ emotional reactions to their historical narratives to inferior genetics and “chemical imbalances”, and prescribing toxic chemicals.   Can you see the financial conflict of interest here?  Who hires child psychiatrists and for what purpose?  There is one glaringly obvious subgroup which has long utilized psychiatry to control their children and spouses.  Children need protection from these people, as well as their hired mercenaries.

Also listen to the podcasts with Bonnie Burstow, and the interview with Peter Breggin here.