Toddler Lost in Rough Neighborhood is Seized by A Man. Good!

Hi Readers — As disturbing as this story is, I love reader Tracey Rollison’s take on it. Voila:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I thought you might find this interesting: http://www.wishtv.com/dpp/news/local/marion_county/Toddler-found-wandering-on-west-side .

A year-old child was found wandering around Saturday night near some corner stores.  This is in a rather rough area near downtown Indianapolis.  Strangers took care of her until police arrived and took her into foster care.  A full day passed before her family came forward to identify her (link to second story is on the page above).

This area is what most suburbanites would call a slum. It’s really just a poor neighborhood, but it’s one where most people would assume it’s too dangerous to go.  Yet the people who saw her helped her.  She was about as vulnerable as it’s possible for a child to be: wandering alone on a chilly night in an urban neighborhood.  Where were the men in the white vans waiting for her?  Why did the presumably stereotypically scary man who found her help her?

The sad thing is that on the local email list where I first saw this, people were saying how “dangerous and scary” it is out there…when all along, the story proved otherwise.  That statistic about leaving your child alone in your front yard for years and years before they’d have a chance of being abducted?  How about leaving your child alone in a gritty urban setting?

Yours –
Tracey Rollison


25 Responses

  1. Well what do you know there are good people in urban neighborhoods as well. No surprise to me. Having grown up in the suburbs and now living in Brooklyn I found the urban neighborhood much freindlier. People are not to be feared first and trusted later. The overwhelming majority of people want to do the right thing especially when it comes to children. Free Range wins another one.

  2. can’t say this surprises me. too often, “scary” could be replaced with “different than me/us/what i’m used to.”

  3. btw- what a gorgeous baby, and how pathetic that whichever adult was supposed to be watching her wasn’t! with a 15 year old, even a 10 year old, you might have a case of “mom thinks aunt has the kid, aunt thinks mom has the kid, no one really has the kid and doesn’t figure it out for 24 hours.” with a one year old?! that’s neglect, pure and simple.

  4. Jane Jacobs was totally right about “eyes on the street.”

  5. Tracey–glad to see an Indy mom here! We should organize a free range meet up in Indy!

  6. Lenore, Thank you for your wonderful book. I just wrote about it on my blog and I am sending you a copy of the entry. I think you may get a chuckle.

    I just finished this wonderful funny book about letting our children have the freedom that we had when we were children. For reference I was born in 1965. Yes, I know. Long time ago. Moving on..
    This was such an excellent book and the back pages worked to dispel parents fears from A to Z. The B section was

    Bats (Aluminum). She went on to tell us why aluminum baseball bats are no more dangerous than the old fashioned wood counterparts. Then she wrote:
    Bats (Vampire) Avoid these. Funny. You get the gist of the tone of which the book was written.

    Lenore Skenazy supplied worried parents with statistic after statistic which proved that it is actually as safe for children now, and in some areas safer, as it was in 1970, when I was five.

    So picture me, sitting on the sidelines of Athena’s swim class on Saturday. A long row of parents all watching every move their little ones made, commenting on form, style and whether or not private lessons will be needed. And there I sit, not paying attention at all, reading my Free Range Kids book. Halfway through the class, a man taps me on the shoulder to tell my that he thinks my girl got hurt. Sure enough, the teacher is helping her out of the pool and she is crying. She has a small goose egg on her head. I go over, a little embarrassed that I hadn’t witnesses the event because of course I was busy NOT being a Helicopter parent and I was doing my own thing. Ahem.

    She was okay, just forgot to open her eyes while swimming and bonked her forehead on the wall. She jumped back into the pool in less than an minute and I… went back to my book.

    Next day. My older daughter Jill’s 24th birthday. We had all just come back from the city after watching Eden’s (her daughter) soccer game. The girls were out in the back yard trying to find Parker (see earlier post about our squirrel). Eden knocks on the back door to ask me if they can play in the front yard. Of course they can. I go into the front room where Jill and Clint are watching Paul start a fire in the fireplace. I start to tell them the story printed above when she says ” Why are the girl in the front yard?!!” She is from the city.”Is this why you are telling me about your book?” I tell her that Athena plays in the front yard all the time and that she is perfectly safe in our little small town. About 10 minutes later I hear Jill scream and Paul run out the door. The neighbors dog (Dutch Shepherd) got loose and was running and growling after the girls. All turned out well once again but geesh! What are the chances?

    I still recommend you read this book if you have children or if you are thinking of having children. And then read “Last Child in the Woods. Saving our children from nature deficit disorder.” And then shoo them outside to play and don’t worry so much.

  7. That they took care of this child is a good thing. That the mother was in the state she was in was a horrible thing.

    I wonder, if that child had been 6 or 7, if the outcome would have been the same?

  8. Follow up on the story was JUST posted: Apparently the mom was at work, and the sitter let her wander off. Mom may have heard about the story while at work, but didn’t think it could be her child because she knew her baby had a sitter, so didn’t know until she got back from working her shift (apparently works in a hospital, fire station or something similar).

    Anna B., that would be cool! In my neighborhood, there seem to be a lot of sensible people, because kids do go out to play. But then I know there are some neighbors with kids whose kids we *never* see, except when their moms are standing with them on the sidewalk to wait for the schoolbus.

  9. Yikes, just saw another update: apparently the mom was NOT at work, but doing drugs. Sorry for posting that before the news had again updated. The mom has a history of child neglect.

    But still, I thought it was great that the strangers helped the baby–just backwards of what you’d expect.

  10. I recently gave an interview to the Houston Chronicle re Free Range parenting. Now, this sort of championing-of-a-controversial-cause stresses out my husband who is championing enough of his own.

    HOWEVER, the one thing he would like to see in the Chronicle piece is our choice to live in/raise kids a bad-rep-urban-minority-neighborhood. (Readers of this blog have heard me describe aspects of our life here.)

    Why? To show how ‘brave’ we are? Not at all. Rather, it is to demonstrate that good neighbors can be found in places a lot of people don’t suspect.

    (An aside: Did anyone else hear the completely annoying discussion on The View this morning? It started out so good with that pro-Free Range letter Whoopi read and ended SO badly. I was trapped in a doctor’s waiting room for the whole thing.)

  11. Generally speaking, the cruelest a person will be to a child is to ignore them or tell them to go away. It takes a very twisted mind to be able to override the millennia of biological conditioning to preserve our species.

  12. I love people being surprised by “the poor” acting like human beings. It’s always so lovely. Why be surprised that any one would react with empathy and worry for the child, regardless of where they were lost?

    Makes me sad for people some days…

  13. It was really lovely. There is video of that site of the person who helped the baby, and I know that a lot of people would be frightened of someone looking like him in that part of town, sadly enough. I wonder how much “stranger danger” fear is based on stereotypes?

  14. It is just as short-sighted to assume that what people fear about a “bad” neighborhood is that the people are poor, as to assume that no good people can be found in a bad neighborhood. The truth of the matter is, bad neighborhoods have lots of bad (meaning overtly dangerous) people in them. That’s why poor people live in them — because they can’t afford to live somewhere better.

    That doesn’t mean the poor people are bad, or that people who recognize a bad neighborhood when they see one think that poor people are bad — it’s that they know the reality that the kind of place where people wouldn’t live if they could help it is that kind of place because there are genuinely bad people living there.

    But what this story shows, as isn’t really that surprising, is that there are still plenty of good people in those neighborhoods, even if they’d mostly rather be elsewhere.

  15. “I wonder, if that child had been 6 or 7, if the outcome would have been the same?”

    Why not? Contrary to belief, most kidnapping/molesting/rapes happen to teenagers.

  16. Well, maybe because had she been 6 or 7, the kid would have run shrieking from the “stranger” due to her training, and then would have wound up in an even worse situation?

    Mostly just kidding, but…not entirely.

  17. A friend in a somewhat urban setting was woken by a neighbor at 2 am. Friend’s 2.5 yo daughter was in the front yard – sleep walking.

    Friend ended up getting one of those alarms you put on the handle of a hotel room door. They would put it on the hall door between the bedrooms and the front door, when the parents went to bed.

    Neighbor’s comment – thank god she was in your front yard. The backyard had a pool.

  18. What I love about the story is the place she was suppose to be “safe” (home) really wasn’t and the place where all the child molesters are was where she found help. Better be careful or we might prove the fear mongering industry wrong. BTW did you see that Dr Phil episode last week about child abduction and how to keep kids “safe”. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

  19. I wonder, if that child had been 6 or 7, if the outcome would have been the same?

    If the child had been 6 or 7, they may have not wandered off so badly in the first place.

    However, if they had… they probably would have had their parents identified sooner.

    However, they’re definitely not at a higher risk of abduction than toddlers are. Teens and preteens are actually at a (slightly) higher risk of stranger abduction than kids… right when people suggest letting their kids out and about! Madness, I say.

  20. Regarding stereotypes — That reminds me of the stereotypes around the kids/people who are what people would consider “goth.” Everyone assumes people who dress/look like that are self-centered, depressed, druggies and almost expect them to be rude, when in fact they’re often the most polite people around. The same goes with a number of people who look like they walked out of a rap video or something.

    It’s always funny to see the looks on people’s faces when people like that hold the door for them when going into a building (and not just keeping the door from closing on the next person as they’re walking through themselves, but actually opening the door and standing behind it to let the person go through), because they’re the people most people would least expect that sort of behavior from, thanks to stereotyping.

  21. I think the “scary world” is one where parents have children they do not want to take proper care of. There is no way that child should have been able to get out of the house…that’s the scary part.

  22. Yeah, personally, not that I would have wanted my children roaming the streets on their own as toddlers, but if they were going to escape and go exploring, I would 100x prefer that they do it in one of the “bad” neighborhoods in Minneapolis (the city where I live) than in any of the suburbs. (1) The inner city has more people out and about to quickly notice an unsupervised toddler. (2) Also far fewer unsupervised backyard pools. (3) Also fewer four-lane roads with 50 mph speed limits — city traffic tends to move more slowly. Of people out there, the overwhelming majority would take action if they found an unattended toddler wandering around, but in a city, the odds are better that the kid will encounter an adult (or even an older child) before falling into a pond or getting hit by a car.

  23. Yeah…I want to clarify the “6 or 7 year old” comment. I didn’t think the child would have met with foul play. I think it’s more likely that the child would have been ignored.

    Sorry if I gave the impression otherwise.

  24. I recently “forgot” that my daughter’s school had “Early Dismissal” day and had not arranged for childcare. (Funny, but I got PLENTY of reminders about the latest PTA fundraiser!!!) So, my 2nd grader gets off the bus, finds the house locked and no one home, and waits for 2 hours in the backyard before the sitter arrives. I had not put a house key in her backpack — just never imagined a scenario that would require it. She didn’t go wandering off and nobody snatched her up. She even had the presence of mind to pee in the backyard instead of wetting herself! I was very shaken when it all happened, but as I look back on it, I realize that somehow she knew just to stay put and that someone would be there soon. NOW she has a key and we’ve taught her how to unlock the door. This is my “Worst Mother in the World” self-nomination.

  25. http://www.newschannel9.com/news/year-987196-old-christmas.html

    Wow, great quote in there about misplaced concerns!

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