I know we won't ever rid society of predators and perverts. There will always be abusive parents, warped teachers and callous bureaucrats.
I understand that there aren't enough foster homes, that social workers are grievously overworked and unsupported. I know union rules protect teachers' rights, and snapping a fifth-grader's bra strap might not be considered a firing offense. I get that "innocent until proven guilty" can be taken to mean that it's OK to hire an admitted molester as long as he wasn't charged or convicted.
But none of that is any excuse for putting children in harm's way with irresponsible choices.
The social workers, church leaders, school principal and district officials may have been following rules designed to serve adults and guard institutions, but they should have tuned in to more basic instincts and protected vulnerable children.
We want to clear caseloads, sell school building programs, protect a campus from embarrassment or a church from scandal. So the children's needs get lost in the process; they're an abstract concept.
Now we read the newspaper stories and shake our heads. The incompetence, the carelessness ... What were those people thinking?
When you imagine your child at the center of the choice, the stakes rise and the questions change.
If the social workers had taken those kids to the park and asked what they thought of their new mom, if the principal had asked little girls privately if their teacher had ever touched them, if archdiocese officials had actually talked to young victims and stopped protecting grown-ups...
If they'd embraced those children as their own, their feelings might have led them to a very different outcome.