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Toogood to Be True
09/22/2002

I saw Madelyne Toogood's press conference about beating on her daughter in a parking lot. What she did was dreadful, and she deserves whatever punishment the law prescribes. However, there were two aspects of her presentation to the press that struck me.

First, as all of the Fox News reporters confirmed with their reactions, Mrs. Toogood was amazingly forthcoming. Frankly, she was sympathetic and believable in her repentance, willingness to face the consequences for her actions, and desire for what's best for her daughter (even if it means that Mrs. Toogood must separate from her husband). Granted that she was caught on tape, but I don't recall ever seeing an accused person approach the press so honestly. This does not at all mitigate her just punishment (after all, she did dye her hair), but her explicit confession on the air seems incredible in these days. (Perhaps that's just an indication of how low the bar has moved.)

Second, a large part of what makes Mrs. Toogood so sympathetic at this point is the strategy of the social services workers. I'll plainly admit that I'm not sure what the usual procedure is in such cases, but my understanding is that all efforts are made to transfer temporary custody of a child to the closest adults possible (whether family or family friends). There seems to me a whole lot of room, here, for plausible speculation that cultural bigotry is to blame for that girl's being shipped off to strangers in the foster care system.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:11 PM EST