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Sharon Helene Robinson and Bradley Dwight Hill of Tennessee have been accused of criminal child neglect after their severely autistic child was found naked, and covered in both human and dog feces, which he was eating. Excrement was also found in the child’s bed. The police reported: “Ms. Robinson stated that she is a meth user and this also contributed to her not caring for her autistic son.”

Having Kids is petitioning state authorities to seek a Fair Start court order, in the event the couple are convicted, temporarily prohibiting them from having additional children during the pendency of any probation in order to facilitate the couple’s rehabilitation and recovery, and also to prevent the neglect of any future children. Having Kids will eventually also call for specific legislation to authorize Fair Start orders in Tennessee. Having Kids is targeting Tennessee because the state is currently considering legislation HB 2520 / SB2133, regarding coercive family planning and sentencing. The model Fair Start order is noncoercive and seeks to strike a balance between the rights of parents and the needs of future children and the community. The charges against Robinson and Hill show a clear need for that balance, and Fair Start orders can make clear the state’s compelling interest in the welfare of future children, counteracting any dangerous and inadvertent signal HB 2520 / SB2133 might send.

Learn more about Fair Start orders and why they can help us change a dysfunctional family planning model based solely on what parents want, to a better family planning model based on what all children need.

National statistics, despite underreporting, estimate that 1,670 to 1740 children die from parental or caregiver abuse and neglect in the U.S. annually. And many of the perpetrators continue to have and abuse additional children. The recent opioid crisis in the U.S. has only accelerated the problem. State child protection systems around the country are in crisis, with multiple state systems failing and clear linkages to increased child abuse. Foster care cases involving drug-using parents have hit the highest point in more than three decades of record-keeping, accounting for 92,000 children entering the system in 2016, according to data by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“If even one fewer child is abused, that represents a better world,” said Anne Green, Executive Director of Having Kids. “We can do so much more to protect the most vulnerable.”

UPDATE: Having Kids has already received a response from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. After review of our letter, he forwarded it to Commissioner Hommrich and the Department of Children’s Services. Therefore, Having Kids is now urging supporters to contact Commissioner Hommrich Department of Children’s Services only to respectfully request that action be taken to ensure better family planning that protects parents, children, and the community.

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