Readers – Here is a story that does not surprise me. It does, however, enrage me and I am hoping that maybe someone who reads this blog knows of a pro bono lawyer in or around Mohawk Valley in Central New York who can help this family. Here is the mom’s letter:
I’m not sure if we did something wrong here or not, and I feel myself being pulled every which way. But the morning we left our nine-year-old daughter with our sleeping six-year-old son in a car in a busy parking lot (windows open), we really thought they’d be okay. I figured if someone attacked them, they’d be noticed, because a lot of people were in and out constantly.
My daughter had asked me if she could stay in the car and read, and I had exchanged a glance with my partner – the children’s dad — and then said yes, told her to scream the usual (“This stranger’s hurting me!”) if someone who felt skeevy got too friendly, and to use the cell phone to call 911 if anyone tried to open the doors of the car.
When we were paged, I suspected my daughter had reached the end of her book and her brother hadn’t woken yet, so she’d called the store to have us paged, knowing we’d come out and relieve her boredom. But when we got back to the car after an absence of half an hour, the cops were there.
My partner was charged with endangering the welfare of a minor.
I immediately started second guessing myself. If nothing else, I’d been dumb to not think that some well-meaning person would call the cops, right?
Especially since we’ve had CPS called on us once before. Someone reported that our kids were playing a block from our house with no adult supervision and specifically that they had chased a ball into the street. It was a bogus charge, but now I’m sitting here terrified that CPS will rescind their previous decision and now declare that we were at fault. And all my friends agree with the cops, that the kids “could’ve been abducted,” and “What were you thinking?” etc.
But they are also shocked, because they know I’m so protective: no video games, no sugary foods, early bedtime, homeschooling, etc. But you know I would let my kids play a block away.
And so I wonder: Are there other Free-Ranging parents I can ask about what to do when they are perceived as nuts – or worse — by those well-meaning CPS callers? And can they tell me what to do when they or their partners are arrested? We had gone into Wal-Mart just to fill a prescription. The pharmacist kept saying, “Five more minutes,” until that fateful half hour had passed.
I never have been afraid before, but now I’m very afraid — and not of abduction.