What can young parents learn from the outcome of the Casey Anthony case?
As a priest, I have been to family court with good parents whose children have been taken away with little evidence of wrongdoing and often put under the care of the state, mostly due to claims of "neglect" or "abuse" reported by a teacher, a neighbor or an ex-spouse. These parents are usually declared "un-fit parents" by the courts. Recently, we have also seen how countless men and women were discovered to be innocent after serving 10, 20 or more years in prison after being accused of serious crimes they did not commit, especially after DNA testing and other scientific methods became widespread. Most of us want to believe that our legal system is about seeking justice, but there is no doubt that too often it has failed to do this.
No matter where you stand on the jury's decision and the "not guilty" verdict in Casey Anthony case, one thing is for sure: A great number of people who make up this great land of "liberty and justice for all" are wondering if our legal system has really done justice to an innocent 2-year-old girl. Certainly there is one question that will continue to linger in everyone's mind for a long time: Will we ever know what really happened to this innocent little girl?
Given the evidence -- or lack thereof -- I do not think any of us can with certainty conclude that Casey Anthony is a murderer. While we Americans tend to judge people we know very little about quite harshly, at the end of the day, only God knows what really happened and the details behind how this child really died. Yet, I do believe that this whole case and the way it turned out sends all kinds of confusing messages to a growing number of young adults who are becoming pregnant while single and at an early age, yet refuse to take on the immense task of responsible parenting. The horror stories of all kinds of crimes committed by parents against their young children seem to be more and more prevalent these days. That should concern us all.
Perhaps what bothers me, and what seems to be bothering a good number of Americans with the outcome of this case, is that our legal system seems uninterested in prosecuting an adult who acts with apparent willful neglect in caring for her own child. Most of us can't help but wonder how a mother can wait 31 days to report her missing young child. Most mothers would report their 17-year-olds that are missing that very same day, never mind a 2-year-old.
Are we really supposed to believe that for more than a month, the only person responsible for this child was just "in shock" and that she was somehow free of responsibility because of other circumstances in her life? Who was ultimately responsible for this child if it was not her adult mother? This is perhaps the biggest let down in the way this case has been presented to the world. It appears to most of the world that in our courts parents can get away with neglect, irresponsible behavior and putting their child in the trunk of a car without any of these actions being labeled as forms of "abuse." That is outrageous!
Parents always need to be held accountable for the well being of their children. When a child is missing, the parent must be expected to be the first to be well aware of it; there is no time to party, for tattoos or for hanging out with friends. Regardless of the age, emotional maturity or circumstances surrounding that parent's life, children must always be protected, nurtured and educated by their parents -- unconditionally. There are no excuses for what happened to Caylee Anthony! That is why in this land of "justice for all," many will continue to wonder if that includes little Caylee.