Joshua Tree Couple Charged With Child Abuse Just Because They Are Poor

Right outside of Joshua Tree National Park, a family of five lived on a piece of land that they owned. The family consisted of a 51 year old mother named Mona Kirk, a 73 year old father named Daniel Panico and three children—ages 11, 13 and 14.

There was a trailer on the family's property, though it seemed to be empty. What really caught the attention of the authorities was a makeshift home that stood at 4 feet tall and covered 200 square feet. The children slept in this home for about four years. There was also no electricity or running water on the family's property. There were holes with human excrement and trash found on the land.

The authorities arrested the parents, accusing them of child abuse--”suspicion of willful cruelty to a child.” Their children were taken away by Children and Family Services. This past Friday, the parents were each charged with three counts of felony child abuse. The authorities justified this by saying that the children should not have been living under the conditions that were found.

Friends of the family say otherwise. They say that the parents treated their children very well, and that they were upstanding people. Panico and Kirk home-schooled their children, and the family frequently visited the local library.

The children were very well-read, educated and eager to learn. They were involved in the Phoenix Scouts—a troop that made crafts, put on weekly meetings and went camping.

People offered the family help, though the parents refused help from people.

Friends testify that the children were well taken care of, and that they were not being abused. The authorities are persecuting the family for being poor and/or homeless. Authority figures who may be more privileged, have certain mindsets and have different lifestyles are wrongfully judging people who are less privileged than them in an aristocratic, closed minded manner. Perhaps the authorities aren't personally judging—maybe they are following orders to support some sort of larger agenda.

Many people argue that it was not right to accuse the parents of child abuse and take away their children. After all, not everyone can afford to live in a built up house with utilities and a room for each child. People all over the world live in situations where there are no utilities, and where salvaged materials are thrown up to build ramshackle homes. In fact, this level poverty is a reality for people living in America. It is not new for families to live on the street in tents. The authority figures say that the the children of Kirk and Panico should not have been living in the conditions that they were living, though a lot of children live like this. These kids might be better off because their family actually owns the property.


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