Outrage of the Week: Mom Who Let Kids Play Outside Threatened by Cops

Hi Readers! Let’s give this woman some good ideas. She needs them — as do we all!

Dear Free-Range Kids: My name is Shaylene Haswarey, and I want to share a story with you today.

This morning, my doorbell rang, and two police officers were present.  They asked me if I am the mother of my children, and I said yes.  They said someone called them because my three oldest kids (ages 9, 7, and 6) were walking around our GATED town-house complex, unattended. I said, “They found a cat, and I let them go out and feed it.”

The officer said that he’d been called by a concerned neighbor who’d added that yesterday he’d seen my oldest child  outside in his pajamas in the rain. (My son was wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt.)

I told the officer I am from Idaho, and kids play outside like this all the time.  He said my kids are too young to be out,  because we do not have a yard, and this is a complex.  He also told me there are predators around here.  He finally told me if I let my kids out again he will have to call social services because I am endangering my children! What is wrong with this picture???

1.  Is it against the law to go out in the rain in your pajamas?
2.  My kids know how to watch for cars.  They were following the cat and feeding it.
3.  There are NO predators in my neighborhood. I looked on Megan’s Law, and there are only 6 in our whole city, and none are in my neighborhood.  I live in Aliso Viejo, CA.  Aliso Viejo is a small city in between Irvine and Mission Viejo.  These cities rank #1 by the FBI for the safest cities in America with a pop. of 100,000+.  Therefore, Aliso Viejo is safer than the city I grew up in in Idaho!

After the police officer asked for me and my husband’s name and birthdates, I freaked out!  I am NOT going to let my kids go outside without me again!  I don’t want social services knocking on my door.  What do you think I should do if anything, about this?  My husband’s family is from India.  They have a big house there.  I am thinking of going to their village this September and staying there for a few months, so my kids can be normal kids. — Shaylene

Dear Shaylene: Isn’t it incredible that you are living the “American Dream” — a house, four kids, nice town — and longing for the kind of childhood a kid can get in a much less affluent country? Meantime, I put this question to readers: What can this mom do to prove to the cop that she’s not off base? How can we she convince him (and other cops and other neighbors) that being outside is normal and healthy for kids? Should we all call the police department there? Start a petition? Any ideas? — Lenore

169 Responses

  1. I’d call the local paper and suggest this as a lead story: Mom threatened with legal action for letting her kids play outside. Site Lenore’s recent interview in Time and suggest that this is a prime example of this kind of stranger anxiety in your very own community. Or write a letter to the editor of a local paper and suggest that parents are losing the freedom to parent as they see fit.

  2. WTH? Mine play outside all the time, unattended, with the neighborhood kids. All of us parents take turns peeking out the windows from time to time and the older kids know to look out for the younger ones.

  3. Predators? My first thought was wolves. Sheesh…

  4. My suggestion, as someone who grew up in the Saddleback Valley: move. The crazy only gets crazier the longer you stay. :-p

    I wish I had better suggestions, but I don’t. I really don’t think everywhere is like that, though…

  5. I would give the police headquarters a call and ask some serious questions. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to play in the rain, and my oldest son does, too. What’s better than splashing in puddles? I would question the police as to whether or not they *really* consider a child out in the rain (pjs or not) “endangerment.”

    It makes me wonder if the police officer was misinformed or overly concerned. Or maybe that nosy neighbor was calling so often he just wanted it to stop…

    I thought they meant wild predators, too. That I’d actually be concerned about – mountain lions are becoming braver and braver when it comes to neighborhoods. But I also know those instances are few and far between.

  6. ~WOW~ I am speechless! I guess I shouldn’t be letting my kids (ages 8 &10) play outside anymore, esp. with the neighbor kids (ages 3 & 6)…even though we live in a smallish town, with big yards & a quiet street. I agree with what Karen posted– get in contact with local news & make a stink!! Good luck!

  7. No laws broken. No reason for police to contact her. Don’t the police have anything better to do? I wonder if his superior ought to be asked whether this is appropriate? I like going to the press. Maybe she needs to make friends with the neighbors?

  8. I have to say, my first response would be to report the cop to a supervisor.

    Call and explain that the kids were a) inside a gated community while b) the mom was home and aware of their whereabouts and c) in the care of their oldest sibling who is old enough to work professionally as a mother’s helper/babysitter.

    This is a perfectly normal, healthy thing for kids to do. I would complain about the cops behavior, say that I felt threatened and harassed, and ask the supervisor if I needed to fear any further mistreatment from my local police department or if he would address this issue with his employee. An employee whose salary I pay through my taxes in, I’m sure I don’t need to remind him, one of the safest cities in the country. An employee who the department maybe doesn’t need to keep on staff if they are so overstaffed they have the time to send a cop around to harass every parent who lets her healthy well-cared for children play outdoors.

    I would take extensive, detailed notes during this conversation, and if it wasn’t totally satisfactory I would then take it to the local newspaper. Since it’s been featured here on a national blog, I’d also call a reporter at the LA Times and see if they were interested in covering it.

    But I would start with assuming this was one bad apple on the police force getting his rocks off harassing someone he mistook for helpless, not official department policy.

  9. That’s absurd. I hope she got the police officer’s name and badge number as well, and filed a complaint. There is no reason why she shouldn’t let her kids out, and there is no reason why the officer should have threatened her with Social Services. Based on this account and the circumstances, he was completely out of line and that should be noted officially.

    With the complaint, she should provide the information from the Megan’s Law registry and point out the characteristics of her neighborhood that make it particularly safe.

    She might also want to point out in the complaint that there is a reasonable chance that the neighbor in question was indulging in a bit of racial profiling, and that police actions should not be based on the racism of third parties.

  10. I would not only file a complaint, but I’d call down to the station and ask to see the specific sections of the law that make it illegal to be out in the rain in pajamas, and illegal to play in a gated community. Obviously they won’t be able to do that. Then I’d suggest that they call the nosy neighbor and tell them to get a life since they seem to have vision problems and can’t tell the difference between a tshirt/sweats and pajamas.

    I also like the media suggestion. Get it out in the open, it’ll embarrass the officers involved, and maybe they’ll get a clue.

  11. “My suggestion, as someone who grew up in the Saddleback Valley: move. The crazy only gets crazier the longer you stay. :-p”

    Fortunately for us, the “Outrage of the Week” stories are outrageous because they’re uncommon (not as uncommon as child abductions, but I digress). If you continue experiencing this kind of insane nonsense from your local police, neighbors, and surrounding community, my suggestion is to move.

  12. While I agree with most of what is being said here, and that the police officer’s actions were quite heavyhanded, The one thing I would NOT do is play the “taxpayer” card. I’m sure Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Dahmer paid taxes also.

  13. I agree with the people who are saying, fight back. Get his name and badge number and call his supervisor. Lenore’s story a Christmas call from the train nazis wound up with an official apology, if I remember correctly.

  14. I live in a very safe town where my kid are, fortunately, free to play outside without police interference – but we have a lot of bored cops who can be a little over zealous whenever any little bit of anything is going on, so this story doesn’t surprise me. I would definitely go into the police station and discuss the incident with them there, inquiring about specific laws this officer thought you might be violating and also about the alleged predators he mentioned. It’s certainly not his job to be threatening the parents of children with CPS involvement on the basis of his own very broad interpretation of the situation, and it seems to me that trying to scare this woman with tales of child predators isn’t an example of good police work either.

  15. Um, root-cause-analysis time : you move into a gated community and you pretty much get what you deserve.

  16. p.s. just to elaborate on that – if you are living in a gated community you are by definition surrounded by a bunch of hyper-paranoid freaks. What the heck else would you expect from such a community?

  17. I agree with the lady who suggested calling the newspaper. Also, I would have been hard pressed to give out my personal information for something as trivial as this.

    My wife and I moved here to California from a small village (Warsaw) in Western New York. We never had to deal with anything as ridiculous as this and we raised four kids.

    In the three years we have been here I’ve learned that California tends to go waaay overboard on such things. And don’t even get me started on going “Green” or my “Carbon Footprint”! Jeez!

  18. Go with the media/file a report route. That will give you the best results. However, DO IT NOW! The longer you wait the less effective it will be.

    Sheesh! It’s a good thing they weren’t playing with a Hula-Hoop, or something dangerous like that

  19. Call and complain about the cop and also throw a neighborhood party to meet all of the neighbors. Maybe then they won’t call next time.

  20. “I’d call down to the station and ask to see the specific sections of the law that make it illegal to be out in the rain in pajamas, and illegal to play in a gated community.”
    Yes, I’d suggest utilizing whatever resources (library; internet) to research your State’s laws regarding what is & is not considered “endangerment.” I suggest that all Free-Range parents familiarize themselves/ourselves with these laws. You need to know your stuff in when you are inevitably confronted with the objections & “warnings” from the various Proponents of the Paranoid we all interact with in daily life, be they ill-informed law enforcement, nosy neighbors, or well-meaning friends & family members.

  21. Definitely agree with filing a complaint with the officer’s CO, and having a chat with the local media.

    I can’t find ANY law that requires cops in California to report you to CPS for letting your kids play outside.

  22. Wow! Thank you everyone for posting suggestions! I really enjoyed reading
    all your responses! I feel so good there are people like me.

    I usually get a lot of attention where I live because I have 5 kids ages 9,7,6,4,
    and 2. It is very rare in CA to have 5 kids LOL.

    I laughed at a few responses…especially the one regarding my family and I living in a gated community. I think gated communities are a marketing scheme. If someone really wanted to kidnap, rob, or do any other damage, they could easily follow the car in front of them, and come in. I did not move to this community because it was gated. We moved here because it is walking distance to my husband’s work, and our town is really big for our family.

    From everything I gathered from you all, I should take this to OC Register, and take it from there.

    Also I think some of you are right regarding our small town. Since the crime rate is really low, I think cops get bored and whenever they get a call, they get all excited. I have met a lot of awesome police officers where I live, so I don’t want to put the whole police force down. Outside our gated community is a busy street. I can see it clearly when I am on the 2nd and 3rd floor. A few times there has been a simple DUI car, and I am NOT exaggerating, there was once 7 police cars there! I was thinking, “If a person is drunk, is there really a need for 7 police cars?” A neighbor said her friend is a police officer in the city. He says at night there is nothing to do, so whenever a cop stops someone, all the cops stop to see what is going on.

    I guess this is the price you have to pay living in a small safe town LOL!

  23. You have fearful, immature neighbors. That will probably never change. They might actually have a story to tell you that partially explains their impulsive decision to call the cops. Why they didn’t just come over and introduce themselves to you like normal human beings and have a face-to-face conversation, you may never find out. But it’s worth trying to find out who they are. Send a flyer out in your community describing the incident as objectively as possible. Invite peace with them by appreciating their concern for your children. Then ask them to come forward so you can have them over for lunch or tea or drinks. You never know what might happen. I had an analogous situation and once we actually met, talked and explained our back stories we were both much more understanding. Communicate and teach….or at least try to.
    All the best of the season……….

  24. This reminds me too much of the Alice’s Restaurant Massacree by Arlo Guthrie. This is based on actual events that happened to him circa 1965. For those who are not familiar, Arlo and his friend have just been arrested for dumping garbage. The action continues:

    “I want tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusets, where this happened here, they got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the Scene of the Crime there was five police officers and three police cars, being the biggest crime of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it. And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer’s station. They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that’s not to mention the aerial photography.”

  25. I feel bad for this mom. I am not a parent (let alone not having children), but at the minimum, I would talk to the board of directors of her gated community, making them aware of the situation and letting the board know that it is OK to let children play unattended with the information from the FBI’s list. I would also report the cops to their bosses because what they did seems excessive, over done, and ridicules (despite trying jobs to the best of their ability).

  26. I am curious to know what social services would actually say. I bet they could care less as the kids are well fed, dressed, “clean”, and have a place to live. Did you call the police department to report the officers? Sorta sounds a bit like harrassment on their part.

  27. She should register a written complaint with the Chief of Police, and someone should alert the local press.

  28. Based on this excellent conversation, I think there are four potentially useful approaches:
    – Contact the gated community’s leadership (whatever that is). Express concern that you moved into the neighborhood thinking it would be welcoming and safe, and yet are being ratted on by neighbors. Ask if the community is designed for families or just for childless couples and singles. That may get their attention.
    – Contact the police department, but don’t approach on the offensive. Instead, call to express concern about the purported danger from predators, which do not show up in the national registery. Ask for details of the predators. This is a honey-bait approach that will get you in the door and reveal that the officer was crossing a line (assuming there are no actual predators). Once there, you can expand the conversation to explain how violated and offended you were by his conduct and threats.
    – Contact the OCR and suggest a story on this topic, with your situation as an example. The rising popularity of FreeRangeKids should be interesting to them.
    – Contact Social Services for your area and ask their opinion of whether kids should be allowed to play outside.
    Good luck!

  29. The *first* thing you should do is call social services. Find out exactly what they say about this. Ask if there are any relevant laws. If you want, explain what happened. You may find that they are actually very helpful. If you let them know you’re being bothered by police and neighbors, they will be more helpful than if the first time you run in to them is when the police try to take your kids away or something obnoxious.

    Write down laws or anything else they say, so that you can explain to an officer why he is not correct (of course, do so calmly).

    It also sounds like you need to educate some neighbors, so I agree with calling your association president or whomever.

    The one thing I would NOT do is file a complaint against the cop until you know what rights you have and what the law says. Once you know you’re in the clear, then you may want to have a discussion with his supervisor.

    One thing I’m going to ask (and forgive me if I’m making poor assumptions), but your name is a bit unusual…could there potentially be some race issues involved in this, either with neighbors or the officer?

  30. Move to Australia. There are kids riding, walking jumping, skipping in the rain, hail & shine every day of the year in my town.
    Appalling and STUPID. US authorities look a little silly to the rest of the world sometimes when dealing with ‘Free Range Incidents’ as i like to call them.
    I honestly don’t know how you all cope.

  31. And to think I started riding the New York City subway system by myself when I was about 10 years old. I guess by their line of reasoning, my mother belongs on death row.

    And yet, more that 40 years later, here I am!

  32. You are right to be afraid.
    DHS/CPS – the “child savers” are constantly on the prowl – to get more children into their system. The more children they can “take and place” the more money rolls in via federal funding.
    This is a SICK SYSTEM … but NO ONE seems to be in any position to stop it – or do anything about it. From my experience – DHS has more power than God. So many people praying for the children – yet the system will not let them go home to family…
    The fact that you have enough money to hire a lawyer – really means nothing. Families have spent tens of thousands of dollars – lost their homes and businesses – and still cannot extract their children from this system.
    True – some people DO harm their children or put them in danger. BUT – The majority of the people whose lives are ruined by this agency – do not fall into that category.
    google MONDALE ACT …
    and be careful.

  33. And therein lies the problem with gated communities. We start off being scared of people outside the gate, and soon we end up scared of people outside the front door. And banning the drying of laundry outside – oh, the horror!

    It’s fun to think that the next generation will be able to rebel against us simply by being rational, calm, sensible, considerate, and good neighbours to each other.

  34. That’s nuts. What crazy, neurotic people! It’s insane!

    Regarding gated communities, my stepfather lives in one for older folks. It would make a great setting for a murder mystery I was thinking when I visited him last year. If the murderer lived within the community then it wouldn’t be so safe, eh? You could have a cast of oddball characters as suspects, just like an Agatha Christie mystery.

  35. I think I’m with the other commentors who suggest facing this one head on. Call the police station, call child services. Let them know that you’re not backing down on this one because you’re not doing ANYTHING wrong. Speak with the police chief and ask him to present you with documentation that states allowing children to play outside is child neglect. I’d be sorely tempted to find out what neighbour called them (I know, next to impossible to do). Do they have nothing better to do with their time?

  36. This is truly horrifying. We live in New York City right now and my kids are all under age 8, so I don’t have much of a chance to let them run free.

    But in 6 months we are moving to a small city and I am really looking forward to letting them run out and play (if they haven’t lost the ability/desire…)

    This story, and others on Free Range Kids, makes me scared. On the other hand, I feel reassured being part of a community of people who are sensible and like-minded.

    It’s great to know we can come here and find support. Thanks Lenore!

  37. wow. Unfortunately, this is an area of extreme Helicopter Parenting (my dad lives in Mission Viejo.) You have lots of good suggestions already, just wanted to add my support that you are NOT crazy or a bad parent. This mindset is one of the reasons we don’t live in SoCal anymore.

  38. I think you should talk to the neighbor who reported you. Ask them if they ever played outside in the rain, ate dirt, rode their bike or walked to school, played with animals…or ever had a LIFE???

  39. There is a detail being overlooked here. IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO RAIN IN ORANGE COUNTY, CA. Kidding aside, I think the rare occaision of rain in that locale causes some of its residents to think a rain shower is severe weather. Here in the midwest the kids go out in the yard during snowstorms (not whiteout blizzards).

  40. This is a case of CYA. The cops don’t want to hear it from the neighbors who have nothing else to do but be in other people’s busness. It is not confined to gated communities. My grandson was playing in a big box and bumped is head just above the eye. The eye puffed up a bit but over night it was swollen shut, In the morning he was taken to the emergency room just to check it out. My daughter was seen by the social worker and kept for hours so they could observe her parenting skills as she had to control an active 6 year old boy confined to a emergency room bed.
    She was told to fire her baby sitter and not leave the child alone with his grandmother because obviously they are not equiped to watch a child who had an accident while playing in the house.

    I am outraged at the way our society is headed. Cops need to protect our children from criminals not from carring parents who are qualified to raise their own children as they see fit.

  41. I would retain a lawyer and mention 46 USC 1983 to the local police chief. Section 1983 is something cops know quite a bit about – it is the “violation of civil rights under color of law” statute and while it usually is prisoners suing for bogus stuff, this is a perfectly legitimate suit.

    You have a civil right to let your children play in the rain if you desire and in the officer threatening you, that denies you your civil rights – he did it under color of law.

    Maybe you can get a few $$$ out of the department, but most likely you will put the fear of God into them and you will leave you alone.

  42. Move. I live in Indiana and things are a lot more sane here.🙂

  43. I haven’t seen all the responses, but i am wondering if this may be a case of your neighbor trying to get you to move. the cop was certainly out of order to mention SS, imho, but if you are in a predominently white neighborhood, maybe there is some cause to believe this is motivated by prejudice. i did not see anything in your letter to suggest that, so i apologize if i am bringing in a misplaced fear. i see so much of this in neighborhood disagreements, unfortunately. i hope you can find some peace, no matter what you decide to do. i would not live here i did not feel comfortable lettign my kids play outside.

    are you allowed to put a fence up? i thik if that is what the cop is flinging at you, then the community should put one up or allow you to do so. if they allow kids there, they have to allow you all the freedom to use the common areas. good luck!

  44. In our community there is a board who sets general policy for the community and which is in charge of social events. I would contact them and find out if there are any rules for you community about kids playing outside. If not, maybe you could suggest something (maybe based on another community’s rules) that makes sense.

    We also have an email list—once the rules are set, maybe you could publicize it on the mailing list, if you have one.

    Finally, I also suggest a party, either for the community or just for you and your neighbors. There is nothing like knowing your neighbors and standing up for each other.

    The legal solutions may be necessary as well, but I am in favor of starting where the complaint originated: in the neighborhood.

  45. I used to live in that part of the country and agree with the other posters who call it helicopter parent central. Even the non-parents are in on the act, as you learned to your dismay.

    Since your biggest concern is social services turning up at your door (cue scary music), I think you should contact them yourself. They are NOT a bunch of power-hungry sociopaths bent on removing your children from your home and feeding them to a heartless, money-generating system. Please. One of my children is severely disabled and we’ve had caseworkers and other representatives of social services in our home on a regular basis for years. These are some of the kindest, most selfless individuals I’ve ever encountered. They will know what the laws and your right are and, I’m certain, will reassure you that you are in NO danger of losing your children.

    On the other hand, I agree with the posters who advised holding off on making a complaint to the police officer’s supervisor until you have all your information. You don’t want this person’s attention and anger fixed on you, especially if you’re still not sure what the exact laws are or what social services have to say.

  46. I agree with the posters who question whether there might be a racial component to this incident although, at the level of a neighborhood, I tend to look at it from the perspective of the lifestyle that the ethnicity and/or religious choice imparts. At that level, it tends to be the lifestyle to which other homeowners object, because the lifestyle is what immediately manifests itself. The fact that children were outside might be more a handy and convenient means of objecting to the Haswarays’ lifestyle, than a true objection to the fact of some children being outside (this wouldn’t excuse the subsequent behavior of the cops, but my purpose here is to question the underpinnings of the event because an understanding of the basis is usually a remedial requirement).

    I would suggest the following bits of homework:

    (1) Review the restrictive covenants associated with the gated community – I bet they have them. Does it say anything about limiting public access to any areas? Were the children breaking any rules? If not, add this argument to your defensive arsenal. If so, question those restrictions publicly.

    (2) Do other children ever play outside there? If so, begin writing down names, ages, dates, circumstances, and times. The information could potentially be used to bolster a defense if, in fact, the Haswaray children have been singled out for scrutiny.

    (3) Get to know your neighbors, nondefensively but with an open mind to possible ulterior motives. Most neighbors are pathological gossips. That can work FOR you as much as against you. If you nonchalantly wheedle your way into the group, soon enough you’ll find out who called the cops and what their true motivations were.

    (4) Be prepared to push back appropriately, in rational, calculated ways, without emotionalism. Play by the rules if you have to do this. I had to push back against a community association offensive several years ago in one of my former neighborhoods. I suspect the issues originated because certain ultra-conservative neighbors objected to my lifestyle, which was that of a single mother, but with a twist – I have a post-graduate degree and I’m paid well enough to buy into neighborhoods where mortgages typically require two-earner families to support. I hate to say it, but there are partriarchally-minded folks out there who are threatened by the prospect of that kind of economic empowerment in people who don’t fit their definition of worthy. Someone began making bizarre, demonstrably false accusations about me to the community association charged with enforcing deed restrictions (they could have also hit me with child abuse accusations, because my child was one of the neighborhood’s most prominent free-rangers, but fortunately that area didn’t seem to be prone to that kind of nonsense). Omit long story here, but I had to threaten legal action to get the baseless harrassment to cease – but I tried to do this in an objective objective way, so as to not fuel the irrational exchange. Sometimes, life is just like this. We take our challenges as they come and deal with them as surgically as we can.

    Good luck to you.

    Alison S.

  47. I used to be a foster parent here in New Hampshire. In my experience, the kids we dealt with were truly troubled children, not taken from their families just because they were playing outside in the rain (This is the “Live Free or Die” state after all). The social workers I dealt with were reasonable people, but they had excessively large caseloads. I don’t know how things are in California, but if anything, the case were too busy to handle some of their legitimate cases effectively, and they were not about to take children away for frivolous reasons. Still, it’s a good idea to know your rights, and you might even want to consult an attorney.

  48. I never thought I will see American Moms agree protecting young children is BAD for them. I am so relieved!
    I suffered from this attitude when I was a young Mom – being afraid to be visited by child protective services, but I so it over and over as a preschool teacher and director. Play structures were removes, see-saws, monkey-bars re no more available. Safety is the only thing lisencing is checking.What kind of childhood is that/
    Check out the book “Nurture shock” by Po Bronson, if you need the research to support what you already know. And Google the concept Playborhood and see what one person can do to change the life of his children.
    His idea is that neighborhood will not be safer by gates, but by people who get to know each other. By being a real community.
    The policies I would like to see changing has to do with zoning. There is no reason why zoning should not require and child center, or at least a small park, in the middle of any neighborhhod. A Place to hang out, meet. get to know each other, let the children experience the shared space and meet other, as a regular part of their eveyday life. Not a fancy place you drive to once in a while, and have no emotional investment in.
    These are just my outburst of thoughts and feeling on the subject.

  49. This same kind of thing happened to me. A few years ago, my gifted, artistic 10 year old woke up one Sunday morning in November and decided she wanted to make an art project out of acorns. So, she put on her jeans and an orange striped shirt but no shoes or jacket and ran outside to collect acorns from a line of trees behind our townhouse unit. She came in after about 15 minutes.
    About half an hour later, a cop rings my doorbell. He said a neighbor had reported that some retarded boy was wandering the neighborhood acting strangely. He described the ‘boy’ as being shoeless and wearing an orange shirt. At first, I didn’t know who they were talking about and said I didn’t see any weird boy in the vicinity. Then as he was leaving, I saw my daughter, with her short haircut and her orange shirt, and no shoes, standing in my doorway. Then it dawned on me that we have some sick, twisted neighbors.
    When I asked her what she’d been up to, she burst into tears and shook. She said she was just gathering acorns and showed me the little pile she collected.
    You know, I’ve lived here since she was four. The neighbors know her. She’s more intelligent that most of them will ever be. Why they called the cops on her I will never know. But it’s crap like this that has robbed her of her childhood and made me hate the suburbs and all the snooty people who live here with a white hot passion.
    Lenore, you don’t even know the half of it. Mothers of other children have blacklisted her from social events and disinvited her from sleepovers. Why? Because she’s bright, unconventional, a confessed atheist (I’m not but she is). One mother from her former girl scout troop told me that the girl scout leaders didn’t like her because she was too artistic. How can that be a problem? Anyway, I’d love to move but she’s now in her teenage years and it’s harder to relocate her. But I really do hate these people and their fear, conformity and interference.

  50. I propose sending a copy of your book to as many police stations as possible, a couple of them are bound to read it.

  51. Read the book _Protecting the Gift_ by Gavin DeBecker. It is everything you need. It shows how we make our kids frightened and when they are frightened they cannot pay attention to their instincts. Insticts help us know when someone is talking too close, or getting too familiar or it is that “still small voice.”

    Mr. DeBecker is a crime expert that has worked for several presidents. He said our kids are more likely to have a heart attack and die than be abducted. We are helicopter parents and our kids are not creative. They learn by playing, not by homework.

    Trust me, this book is for you!

  52. Look up your state and local laws, as well as the rules in your complex. As far as I know, most states have their statutes on a website. You should be able to find them by doing a Google search for “California statutes,” or, if you’re lucky enough to live/work near a law school (I say law school because they’re more apt to give you general information, as they’re not bound by the legal stuff, yet, so it’s easier to get resources, you can also peruse their library and talk to the librarian about such matters), stop in and ask around a little, or stop in the library and ask the staff there about the matter and see if there are any laws that could be construed to make it seem like you broke them.

    Also, print out that information about just how safe your community is. Perhaps see if you can get permission to hang that information up around the complex (or at least at the office). If your area is basically *the* safest place to live as far as “predators” go, then I wouldn’t be surprised if the office would want to use that as a promotional thing to get more people in (and this can go with someone else’s suggestion that you talk to the office about it being a welcoming place for families). You can also point nosy neighbors to that information, and hand a copy of it to the cops and CPS.

    Anytime a cop comes to your door making accusations against you, make sure to get his/her name and badge number. That way you know who it was if something comes of the threat and can report him/her to a supervisor if their threat is unfounded and not legit.

  53. I agree that calling social services to find out what the law actually is might be a good idea. I am a social worker and have worked child protection intake (taking calls such as this on a regular basis). We don’t investigate kids playing outside! (or walking to school alone, or playing in the rain.) (Barring exceptional circumstances such as extremely young age, young children left alone overnight, outside unsupervised late at night etc!). Believe me, we barely had enough time to properly investigate and support where there was evidence of significant abuse and neglect.

    Had police called me to report this I would have (politely) informed him that this is NOT a child protection issue, laughed my head off with the rest of the folks in the office once I was off the phone, and then suggested to my manager that we arrange to provide a child protection training day to the local police department.

    Also, I have spent time in Alisa Viejo and I’m sure the neighbor and the police officer were in shock that any child was playing outside – this is a community of kids that are scheduled and supervised up to their eyeballs!

  54. @Dual Mom. Don’t EVER call the “child services” !!!

    They will take your kids just because they can. This is not to say that the parent is wrong for allowing their children to play outside. They are not.
    BUT … The Agency – once “invited into your life” whether by your call – or that of your neighbors… Can and often WILL — take your children “while they investigate.” Then – it is costly – and nearly impossible to get them back.

    Again — Google MONDALE ACT / or see my page: clairemcgee.com and scroll down to TWILIGHT ZONE.

    NEVER EVER allow any DHS Agent into your home – for any reason. You are not legally bound to do so. It is akin to inviting in Hitler or the Gestapo…. The Agency exists to take and place children – and funnel federal funds into the community / per he Proceed with caution.ad.

  55. I like Mike’s ideas. You should go with those. They’ll put you at an advantage and get a clearer picturer of what happened. Also, they won’t automatically be on the defensive, backing up their own as soon as you open your mouth.
    My kids play in the rain…in their underwear. They are 4 and 2. We live in the woods, but we do have neighbors. I don’t put sunblock on them every single time their skin is exposed to the sun. I go in the house while they’re in the backyard (away from the road and partially fenced in) if I need to use the bathroom or make lunch. And I’m okay with it. I am actually anxious about someone calling someone. We live near many mcMansions where school-age children reside. I never see them outside. Ever. It’s really sad that these pasty children will never know the wonder of fresh air. They don’t wait for the school bus like I used to…in the rain, sleet, snow, sun. They sit in mommy or daddy’s car, lined up with the rest of the parents and children, along the side of the road. Seriously? I am so glad I am homeschooling.

  56. This story goes to the core of the problem why we don’t see a lot of kids playing outside. Anonymous complains to cops about kids playing outside unattended. Anonymous complains about kids walking alone to the school/library/store.
    Cops gently twisting parents arms with the word “endangerment”. (What I mean, is they are saying that by letting kids being alone, you are endangering them)
    Yes it is *very* common in California.
    California is trying to be green state. It is not. Small cars are welcomed, small kids are not.
    *How on Earth do we stop this?* If you’re a layer, how do you respond to such situations? Last spring my 7 year old was stopped too, when he went to the library on Saturday. Cops said I was endangering him by letting him to take a bus for 1 stop, cross the street, and then walk one more block to the library. If you’re a layer, please explain to me isn’t it a civil rights violation to prohibit 7 yo walking on a public street, even in respond to a anonymous call? How as a parent I must respond to these cops?

  57. typo in my post.

    end should be: into the community / per head.
    Proceed with caution.

    Also see: Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers published by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

  58. To those that say child protective services will “just” take children just because they want to. The fact of the matter is they can’t tell you why they took away someone else’s kids. I have known a person in foster care. She had cancer. Her parents said no to a surgery that would save her life. Not because they were religious but because they just didn’t believe in modern medicine. She died last year after over a decade of cancer treatments for ovarian cancer because by the time she was placed in foster care she was far too ill to survive surgery. But to hear her family talk about her parents they were paragons of parenthood. Remember this you never know what’s going on behind closed doors no matter how well you think you know the family. Go read a “Child Called It” by David Peltzer.

  59. One of the reasons I got out of CA. I see no problem in what you did.

  60. @Dave – you are so right. It seems that DHS/CPS workers have no discernment – at all.

    @LoopyLoo. You are partially right – IMO … SOME of the workers are kind, compassionate well-intentioned people. After they are “there” for years – they become numbed to the “agenda” and – in fear of losing their jobs. CYA takes control – pushing their initial good intentions aside. You have no way of knowing “which kind of worker” would get your “case.” As I said before: proceed with caution. . . .

    @Peter – you sound sincere. I will say tho – that MY experience is that DHS and the foster parents LIE … without conscience. I’ve been accused of “returning the children – sick (after a visit) – when in fact – they were delivered to me so sick the oldest was coughing to such an extreme that he threw up within 30 minutes of arrival. The only thing that “saved me” was – I sent an email to the casa worker within 30 min of their arrival – advising of this – and asking what I should do – since I had no emergency numbers or medical cards. It was a holiday and she never responded to my email – but it DID prove that the boys were sick upon arrival. Also – after that visit – we were accused of “hiding from park rangers” at a local beach park – and my Christmas visit with my grandsons was cancelled. DHS completely made up a fiction – a full blown lie. There are no park rangers at the beach side park we visited. How this “story” became manifested is a mystery to me. I immediately got a dozen local people to write letters to DHS about this – and a year later – a DHS official finally said to me “we made a mistake.” Some apology. They fabricated a complete untruth and cancelled a visit – causing me – and my grandsons immeasurable stress …. and then, they just say (finally) “we made a mistake.” !!!

    At this point my grandsons are now facing their 3 yr mark in DHS “care”. I am completely banned from all contact – because DHS claims I “spoke against the foster parents.” My story is long and detailed … no room here.

    again: Proceed with caution. Know your rights. These people are NOT your friends — even if they appear to be so – for a year…. Eventually you will find that every utterance and aside you shared with them – will be hauled out – turned inside out – and used against you in a court of law — a court (by the way) with no jury — and no opportunity to defend yourself. You will lose your children – if The Agency deems them “marketable.” fact.

    @Riverdaughter — your daughter sounds WONDERFUL !!! You are in the wrong place. If you can – you should move. She is too precious to be stifled by such closed-mindedness.

    @ All — Thanks for the many good book suggestions. I wish I had the money to buy them all – and share them with the DHS staff and court officials who are in control of my grandsons. I mourn for these boys as though they were dead. It is beyond sad – what is done to children under this “system” . . . .

  61. Sorry for typo in my previous post.
    You know, I still remember when cops were helping kids to cross the road, not to call their parents. I still remember cops helping kids to get back home if they are lost without threatening parents. I still remember how they kept eyes on *criminals*, not on kids. Now everything is reversed.

    I think CA is ready for the bill. Bill of childhood rights. Something li this: “It is not illegal to play/walk/jump/ride a bike alone”

    Something needs to be done on a state level. No more paranoia, obesity, loneliness and broken communities. Kids will grow up knowing their neighbors, they will become new generation of friendlier citizens and not become gatekeepers of sterilized suburban communities.

  62. This summer Texas had a drought in the Houston and Austin areas. One day we had a rainstorm without thunder and lightening*. Every household in my family with kids posted something like “Watching the kids Dance in the rain”

    All but one house posted video of the kids dancing and singing in the rain. The one house that didn’t – well Mom had just done the laundry – so she stripped them to their underwear before letting them out the back door (fenced back yard)

    (The best was a two of the kids singing “Rain Rain come and stay, we don’t want you to go away”

    *Thunderstorms are the norm in Houston. Rainstorms without thunder are actually a little spooky to me.

  63. Shaylene, I think you did nothing wrong – and should try to continue to allow your children to do the things you know they are able to.

    You might try the same tack as Lori, who was “told off” by an officer for letting her 9 year old walk to soccer. She got an apology from the Chief of Police. See Lenore’s post from March 18: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/a-mom-lets-her-son-walk-to-soccerand-the-police-come-calling/

    It’s wise to check up what laws apply in your jurisdiction and if there are any rules for your community about kids. On the community rules though, I would avoid the suggestion to get some adopted if they don’t exist. You do not want your community to dictate how you can look after your kids (even if the rules start out being exactly what you want). If there are rules try and get them removed, not approved!

    I like the idea of contacting social services to start a conversation that isn’t instigated by someone reporting you. Not sure how they would take it though – I understand the departments are incredibly busy, so it might be more hassle to get someone to talk to you than it’s worth.

    Best of luck, do remember that police are no different from other people. Sometimes they’re bad at their jobs. Sometimes they’re having a bad day and just taking a short cut. Sometimes they are genuinely mistaken about something. Don’t assume every contact is going to be like this. If this isn’t the first time your kids have been outside on their own, just remember the times you let them live real lives and you weren’t subjected to these ridiculous complaints.

  64. You might consider not singling out the officer responsible; that could make him and his buddies defensive and more likely to look for reasons to run you in. (That’s just human nature.) Try getting clarification from the police department first: is this department policy? If it isn’t, then the department can notify ALL their officers at once, without setting anyone up for carrying a grudge.

    I also think calling social services for clarification would be useful; if you’re scared that they might get involved, you could always contact them anonymously, or say it’s about “a friend”.

  65. I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses. Some of you asked me about my ethnice background, and wondered if that has a play. I honestly do not think it does because I realize more and more people around here are overly paranoid. I am a Muslim convert (yes, I wear a headscarf), and my husband is Indian. My experiences in OC has been good for the most part. Since most people are white, they think it is fascinating to see our kids who look different.

    However, I feel the need to tell you all one more thing. This is NOT the first time the cops have been called on my family. Two years ago, my husband took 3 of our kids at the town center in our city. My 3 year old son was trying to run in the street. My husband took him by the hand, and put him on the bench. My son kept trying to get up, and my husband kept forcing him to stay on the bench because obviously he did not want our 3 year old to get hit by a car! Someone called the police saying my husband was “playing (yes, they used the word playing) too rough with my son.” The cops approached my husband, and wondered if my son was even his because he has blond hair. Fortunately, the police officers were on my husband’s side. The officer said, “I am from New York, and people here (in Aliso Viejo) are very nosy, and they call for everything!” The officer told my husband if his kid was behaving like ours, he would spank him LOL. Someone also called the AV police dept because someone had their baby outside without a hat on. (It NEVER gets that cold during the day in the OC!)

    I have lived in Aliso Viejo for 6 years, and I always tell my husband when we are in public we should always smile, so people will not think we are a ‘weird’ Muslim’ family. I have always been active in the community. I was president of a MOMS Club, and I have been involved in our Muslim community as well. Now I am in the process of becoming a public speaker for Islam. Even though I have enjoyed living in the OC, I have always felt like I need to defend Islam and my family. People get “surprised” when I tell them my husband cooks for us, takes all the kids out so I can take a nap, and takes care of the kids when I go out with my friends on the weekends until 1am or so. They are surprised because they believe Muslim women stay home all day and is a slave because of what the media shows on TV. I think my experience would be like that anywhere we lived, not just the OC.

    Thanks again for all your responses. It is nice to know there are lots of parents who use their common sense!

  66. By the way, I meant to write ‘ethnic’, not ethnice

  67. I think that this mom should call the police station with the cop’s name and badge number, tell them the story, and ask some questions about her rights as a parent.

    That cop probably meant well, but if he’s making up information about predators nearby and threatening you with legal action, then that’s an abuse of power and harassment as well.

    I’m of the opinion that the best defense when attacked is to be the first one to tell the story of what happened so that it doesn’t get skewed during its travels through the grapevine. With that in mind, I think I’d also call the paper as Karen, at the top of the comments, suggested.

  68. Gee, today I let my son go out in the blowing snow to sled with the neighbor girls. I didn’t even check up on him; he came home when he was done. The horrors!

    I also encourage my kids to go play in the rain, sometimes I even join them. I think it’s fun!

    Kids need to play outside, use their imaginations, and develop competency. So much of that has been taken away from our children….

  69. “You might consider not singling out the officer responsible; that could make him and his buddies defensive and more likely to look for reasons to run you in. (That’s just human nature.)”

    —-

    Thats NOT ‘human nature’, that’s the behavior of bullying children who didn’t get their own way. Don’t try and preemptively apologise for the officers future actions. If he follows that course then he is just a childish bully who should grow the heck up.

  70. I always laugh when I hear about stories like this, and police warning parents, “It’s not safe for your kids to be outside alone!”

    Maybe if the cops spent more time catching actual bad guys, and less time harassing and intimidating parents, it would be safer?

  71. Okay, I apologize if someone has already said this. It REALLY fries my butt that they’ll call CPS for a few well cared for, well fed children, but if some kid is being GENUINELY abused? Yeah, they pretty much can’t be bothered. See…. children have to have the stuffing beat out of them REPEATEDLY for CPS to do ANYTHING. And since we’re on the topic of molestation, the abuse has long since happened before they’ll even be bothered to step in.

    I might hire a lawyer, personally. Not for long, mind you, but long enough to write a letter to the PD telling them that if they DO pick up your children and put them into the foster care system, they will have a HUGE lawsuit on their hands, since you were in no way breaking the law, and your children were at no time in danger.

    Perhaps threat of a lawsuit might be enough. I know it’s hardball, but it will probably make them back off.

  72. I say go down to the Police Department and file a complaint. These are your children not dogs running around the neighborhood. If you were a mother who kept your kids inside all day never letting them out then social services might need to be called- You did nothing wrong, by filling a complaint you are letting them know that you do care about your children and that you are not letting this go. Stand up for your children and other childrens rights to play outside- alone. Could you imagine a bunch of 9 year olds (that would be 4th or 5th graders) being followed around by their mom’s and dad’s? It might not hurt to send a note to the local paper- ‘parents beware police out looking for kids playing.’

  73. @Penny Piper – you are right. The Agency shows no discernment. Children who are actually – REALLY in danger – either at the hands of their paid care providres – or their own parents — go unnoticed — while the caseworkers persue the families that for one reason or another they “don’t like” … This is so very sad – both for the children who are abused / and for the chidlren yanked from their families – just because the caseworks “can.”

    The system is a MESS. It is so dysfunctional. While “public opinion” would certainly indicate that it would be common sense to call in DHS or CPS — I cannot tell you strongly enough. This agency is out for itself — “for the good of the children” is a nice sounding intention from a press release. The only “for the good of” that takes place – is for the good of the Agency’s employees… Children take a back seat to job security – and federal funding dollars rolling in – based on the head count of children taken and placed.

    Be very careful.

  74. This reminds me of the complex I used to live in. We had a grumpy old man a few doors down who was just mean to anyone with children or pets. I thought it was funny how ridiculous people there were about the children. There were all sorts of bylaws passed regarding children and I couldn’t figure out why people who didn’t want kids playing in the complex desided to live in that particular complex — there was an elementary school DIRECTLY across the street! Why wouldn’t you think there would be a lot of families living there, and that families generally mean children, and children generally play, hopefully outside!

    Some people are just crazy! My wish for the new year is that someone discovers a never before found island where we could ship all these silly people to!😉

  75. I had a similar situation, and I wrote to Lenore to vent about it. My 5yo plays outside and someone has called SS twice about it. Both times, they came (as they are required to do) and both times they left satisfied that all was well.

    We live in a row house (mid-terrace is the term in Britain) that is set up from the street. That is to say, there’s the street, a sidewalk, then a flight of steps up to another sidewalk that runs along the front of our row of houses. Two doors to our right is a playground (also set up from the street and connected to our sidewalk.) My five-year-old may play on our raised sidewalk and in the playground. He may not go down the stairs, on the stairs, or beyond the playground. There are always lots of kids on the playground. He obeys this rule. How do I know? Because I have told all the neighborhood children that if they catch him outside the boundaries and they come and tell me so that I catch him, they will get £1. He once strayed (it was an area that was sort of ambiguous and so he wasn’t really to blame) and I paid the kid his money so that they’d all know I was good for my word.

    I am irritated that somebody thinks they need to call the authorities, but I know that they won’t make anything of it – like I said, they were satisfied that I was a good mom. It’s just annoying to be judged by some unseen neighbor.

  76. I really wonder if someone decided that four kids playing outside was too much noise. if someone called the police and lied a little about what was actually going on, I could see a younger and not very experienced officer, sent to check on the situation, not actually LOOKING at it, but just going by what was reported.

    Still, sad. Glad my neices don’t live there. They like to play on grandpa’s runways, at the family airport. I bet the cop in this story would have a corronary over watching four little girls playing around airplanes!!

  77. Even Barney Fife, who loved to hand out tickets for jaywalking and was the most over-zealous cop in TV history didn’t flinch when Andy let Opie run all over Mayberry unsupervised. It was pretty much standard practice in the 60s for kids to entertain themselves. Too bad a kid can’t play in his own neighborhood anymore.

  78. I’m going out on a limb here… You said your husband was from India. So I’m going to take a guess that your children have olive or darker skin. There are neighbors that will look at that and say the neighborhood is not a place for these kids and how dare you leave the them unattended. I’m sure they think they are doing a good thing.

    Someone called Social Services on my friend because her daughter is small for her size. The social worker spent about three hours observing the little girl and talking to my friend. Nothing came of it. The child is just very petite (like her mother).

    Let them call Social Services. They will come in and see that you are a wonderful mother, with well adjusted children and in a clean, loving home.

    I do think you should contact the paper, write letters to your state and federal representatives and cause a little bit of a stink. Kids need to play outside.

  79. I’d also be sure to use the word “harassment” in there somewhere. That tends to get quick attention.

    Media AND supervisor. Definitely the way to go.

  80. Call the media. Call the media. Sue your neighbor.

    BTW, Lenore, Feldman’s article ran in this am’s Houston Chronicle’s Lifestyle section. Great comments from the readers.

  81. Several posters have asked the question that is the Holy Grail of free range: what does THE LAW say about how old a child must be before reduced supervision is appropriate?

    Lenore could likely provide a more precise overview of this than I can. My understanding is that the various state and local laws are ambiguous, subjective, or silent on the issue. There is no “bright-line” specific age that is accepted. In many areas kids have to demonstrate “adequate maturity” or something like that before they can be left partially alone.

    Because of that ambiguity, I have always assumed that the WORST case age scenario is [the child’s age past which I am no longer eligible for exemption from jury duty by virtue of being a single custodial parent]. In other words, no Court COULD EVER tell me that my child is too young to play outside if the Court is simultaneously telling me that the child is old enough to remain unsupervised for days at a time when I’m compelled to serve.

    Well, here’s where I got a Monday morning shock: for most of my daughter’s life, that magical age was TEN. Ten was the de facto age at which the Court considered that the child was self-governing (within limits). I memorized this because you don’t screw around with jury duty – if you claim an exemption and it is discovered you did so in error, you’re in contempt of Court. Not good.

    Except I just re-checked one of our local Court websites, and I see that the age has recently been raised to FIFTEEN!! Dang, I have now lost that particular potential free-range defense!!

    Anyway, check your local Court systems for precedent. It won’t provide you with an age number that will make you “safe” from cops or CPS, but it might provide a point of perspective.

    http://www.hcdistrictclerk.com/common/juror/general_info.aspx?Panel=divTitExemp

    Thanks!
    Alison

  82. What I am wonder is….what does the cop know about the city that they aren’t telling *puts on tinfoil hat*

    J/k, but seriously, either that cop is lying just to scare her into keeping her kids indoors or the neighbourhood is worse than you think. (Coming from a woman who moved from a neighbourhood where children set fires to garbage/recycle bins for fun).

  83. I think what’s just as important as complaining about the overreaction from the police is to find out who made the complaint in the first place.

    The police can only act on the information they get in a complaint, so who knows how bad this neighbour made the situation seem, and what he/she will say next time.

    If you do go to the press, try to put the emphasis of the article not on the police reaction, but on the fact that you have a wacko neighbour who made the complaint in the first place. That should shame the neighbour into respecting your privacy.

  84. Why are so many people assuming there is a racist motive here? I know plenty of “olive skinned” and “brown skinned” middle-class people who will “tsk, tsk” at others for letting their kids play outside unspervised. People’s free-range tendencies and/or overprotective tendencies and/or nosiness are not determined by their skin color. White people get CPS called on them for outrageous reasons. The “it must be racism!” leap is so cliche.

  85. This requires immediate confrontational response. Go to police headquarters (with a friend as a witness) and demand to see the police officer’s report on his contact with you. Demand an explanation. Go to the local media.
    Also I suspect that since this is a gated community (a truly evil perversion of American egalitarianism) most of the people are white, some are bigots, and there might be be a racial component to this.

  86. Why are so many people assuming there is a racist motive here?

    If you know anything about Orange County in general and Aliso Viejo in particular, it’s not a stretch to think there’s a racial component to this.

  87. I guess I’m not surprised by the comments about Aliso Viejo. In 2004, the city came close to banning water as a result of a hoax (DHMO, or dihydrogen monoxide, is a valid but rarely used chemical name for water):

    In March 2004 the California municipality of Aliso Viejo (a suburb in Orange County) came within a cat’s whisker of falling for this hoax after a paralegal there convinced city officials of the danger posed by this chemical. The leg-pull got so far as a vote’s having been scheduled for the City Council on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events because (among other things) they were made with DHMO, a substance that could “threaten human health and safety.”

  88. Here’s an article on the dihydrogen monoxide debacle: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4534017/.

    This is also the city that banned high school dances: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliso_Viejo,_California#School_dance_ban

    We’re not talking about the most open-minded (or frankly intelligent) group of people on the planet.

  89. My husband is from India (a Catholic). Our children are not dark or clearly olive-skinned (although, they both have the ability to get a good tan going, if they want😉 So, sorry to disappoint you folks – genetics are not always a clear-cut case of “brown is dominant. ”

    I have a 2.5 yo and a newly-minted 4yo. We let them have free roam in our fenced in back yard – they are allowed to go in and out all day long, if they want.. We do let them play in the front, near the house, but with more supervision and are pretty strict on letting the 2.5 yo not play in front too much without us out there. However, the 4 yo is allowed to play out there without us specifically by his side. We can keep a good eye on him because of how our house is situated. AND, he has clear rules that they are NOT to leave our yard.

    Do not even get me started on playing in the rain – we have some of the best puddles in the neighborhood. There was one long, rainy day when they went through FOUR changes of clothes.

    Yep, it is just a matter of time before someone calls the cops on us. I know that and accept that yet cannot feel helpless that I would be doing my kid a disservice by NOT allowing him to go outside. It is very frustrating to not be allowed to parent MY child the best way I see fit.

    I should have seen it coming from the very beginning when we decided to co-sleep and THAT was met with all sorts of objections.

  90. “Why are so many people assuming there is a racist motive here? I know plenty of “olive skinned” and “brown skinned” middle-class people who will “tsk, tsk” at others for letting their kids play outside unspervised. People’s free-range tendencies and/or overprotective tendencies and/or nosiness are not determined by their skin color. White people get CPS called on them for outrageous reasons. The “it must be racism!” leap is so cliche.”

    Even cliches can be true, though. And some of us are basing that element on our knowledge of the area–it may not be the case, but it’s not actually all that far-fetched.

  91. I don’t know if others have made these suggestions, as there are many comments here, but I would suggest that you or your husband request a clarification from your local police department. After all, an officer showed up at your door, told you you were endangering your kids, and said he would commence some kind of police action if you were to allow them outside again unattended by an adult.

    What in the world does this mean? What law is the basis for his statements to you? How are you endangering your children?

    And, just as importantly, what does his statement about ‘predators’ really mean? Have there been recent problems in your area? Of what nature, and how many? What have the police done to apprehend the ‘predator’, and were they successful?

    It seems to me that this officer has opened a very big ‘can of worms’ and that you deserve some answers to some important questions.

    Another suggestion that I have would be to get to know–if you don’t–your neighbors. Who might be doing the calling to the police? Can you find this out, and meet this person, and possibly–perhaps–calm his or her fears (assuming fear is what triggered the call)? Can you meet like-minded parents in the community, and have your kids play together outside?

    Could you perhaps take things even farther, and organize a community meeting with representatives from the police to discuss issues of safety and child freedom in your area?

    Group action is probably the most effective way to tackle a situation like this, and, as one can see from reading this blog, other similar issues as well.

    Good luck.

  92. File for injunctive relief against the police department for harassment and call the newspaper.

  93. The “American Dream” has become a waking nightmare.

  94. […] Outrage of the Week: Mom Who Let Kids Play Outside Threatened by Cops Hi Readers! Let’s give this woman some good ideas. She needs them — as do we all! Dear Free-Range Kids: My […] […]

  95. Unfortunately, many states have “unattended minor” laws that preclude even kids up to 12, 13, or 14 appearing in public (aka off their parents’ property) without adult supervision. Most of those laws are only meant to be invoked when there is a problem, but unfortunately they are overly broad.

  96. Many already suggested this, but did you get the badge number/id of the police officer – or name? I would ask his superior officer exactly what law you were breaking and where is it written that children cannot play outside. Seriously, he is probably a well meaning person (although the busybody in your complex probably isn’t) but he cannot enforce a law that does not exist. It depends on how many feathers you want to ruffle, but to me it sounds like you have a neighbor who doesn’t like kids.

  97. having our children taken away by social services because we free range parent is a HUGE fear of ours. times are cRaZy now with all the freedom being taken away from our children…and if we don’t take their freedom away, we’re endangering our children.

    last week, my almost 4 year old wanted to wait outside for our mother’s helper (10 yr old from down the street). it was cold, but she was in her coat. sure honey. hang out in the front yard till Erin gets here. i kept peeking out through the window…not to make sure mia was ok (she’s knows to stay in our yard) but to make sure neighbors weren’t going to call the cops…now that i think of it, if they called them, peeking wouldn’t have helped ;p i want our kids to walk to and play at the park, walk to school, bike to their friends house….we’re on the cusp of this…waiting outside was the first time she wanted to hang out in front by herself. i fed that desire…not squished it…we’re fabulous parents who want to keep our children.
    she ended up coming in on her own, because she was too cold😉 my almost 4 yr old decided this all on her own🙂

  98. Peter,

    The DHMO site is not a hoax but a teaching tool. I think it was a very innovative science fair project, that has had long reaching effects on teaching about checking your information. I use it every year with my kids (4th and 5th graders). Nathan Zohner, was a very clever 14 yo, I hope he has continued to be as clever and successful as an adult.

    Now an adult not only believing the site, but trying to get a law past and getting through almost all the checks and balances that is sad. Maybe the entire government of Aliso Viejo needs to resign until they learn how to think.

    From http://www.snopes.com/science/dhmo.asp

  99. I’m sure one of your soon-to-be-abducted kids will thank you for your ‘hippie’ attitude to their well-being…..

    It’s not the 50s anymore….there’s the internet breeding plenty of freaks….

  100. Sheerluck,

    If you actually bother reading the site instead of just trolling it, you’ll learn just how wrong you are.

  101. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments while I have had some free time today. However, with 5 kids, I don’t have too much LOL. I would like to say is I honestly do NOT believe I was called because we are Muslim and/or my husband is Indian. I think people are overly paranoid!

  102. […] “Mom Who Let Kids Play Outside Threatened by Cops” [Aliso Viejo, Calif.; Free-Range Kids] […]

  103. Leonard, LL–it would be interesting if we ever find out that the person who called the cops in this case–anonymously–turned out to be…(gasp!)…another person of color! What would be YOUR reaction to that?

    Ans as for the idea that people on gated communities are primarily white and “racist”: Sounds like you two are the racists here. Go find a KKK website to espouse your sick views–NOT HERE!

  104. I am sitting here waiting for it to start raining. I will send my kids outside then. Even if they DON’T want to go!

    All kidding aside, sounds slightly anti-Muslim to me, (from the neighbors, possibly the cops), The way to go with ANY kind of prejudice, whether it is just anti-kid or ethnic is to bring it out into the open and SHINE the LIGHT OF DAY on it. So Shaylene, call the police department and speak with the station Captain or Chief, also contact the press. And do it soon.

  105. I would definitely call the higher officer in the police headquarters. We had an incident at a State Park wherein a ranger was telling my kids they had to get out of the tree because “they might get hurt”. I told the kids to stay up there. He told them to get down. I told them again to stay up there that I was in charge of them,not him. (they freak out when I do this but get excited too and I can only hope they’re learning how to question authority) And I told the ranger I was there to patrol their safety and thanks for his input but no thanks. He then told me it was “a rule”. I called the headquarters and, guess what? No rule in place at all like that. Only one tree was forbidden from climbing and that’s because it was a heritage tree.

  106. […] Skenazy at Free Range Kids – a blog that is going on my blogroll today – writes about a letter to the editor she got: Dear Free-Range Kids: My name is Shaylene Haswarey, and I […]

  107. Just as a point of reference, here is a state document that addresses the issue of children’s ages and the factors that determine whether it is appropriate to leave them home alone (which, I suspect, also applies to whether they can play outside):

    http://www.calbar.ca.gov/calbar/pdfs/cbj/2007-Kids-Law-English.pdf

    On the fifth page of the PDF, it says: “California law does not specify any particular age. Every situation—and every child—is different. It could depend on various factors: the child’s level of maturity and judgment, the time of day, the safety of the neighborhood and the proximity of another responsible adult who could be available in an emergency.
    The legal question would be whether or not the child would be put at risk if he or she were left alone—whether you could be endangering or neglecting the child. There are, however, other situations in which it is against the law to leave a child of a certain age alone. For example, in certain circumstances, children under 7 cannot be left alone in a car (see Laws that Young Drivers Should Know on the previous page).”

    BTW, if you look at the previous page, you’ll see that the age restriction on leaving children in the car is also conditional.

  108. Shaylene –

    Never mind the Register – call Gustavo Arrilanio at the OC Weekly. He’d have fun with this.

  109. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” — Justice Brandeis. Call the media.

  110. Wow. That’s insane! I let my kids play outside all the time by themselves. They are 6, 5, and 3. The 3yo can’t go out by herself, but one of the others has to be with her. But even she knows not to go in the street. We are not in a gated community, by any means, and a semi-urban area. The kids run around our neighborhood all the time, ours stay within sight of our house. But the funny thing is, police pass through the neighborhood at random everyday, they’ve seen the kids playing outside by themselves, and never once have they stopped to question them or me.

    Definitely call the station and report this, and I would followup with a letter to the local paper if the outcome is not satisfactory.

  111. he cannot enforce a law that does not exist.

    No, but getting a judge to recognize that after the cops have brought the SS – er, excuse me, Social Services – in to blot your name at the very least, and haul your kids off to foster care at worst, can be an expensive, humiliating process with no guarantee of success.

    I’d say be very proactive, go after the cops and the law NOW, and don’t take chances.

  112. Sounds to me like:

    One, somebody in the community was upset that the kids were feeding a stray cat (that’s for another blog).

    and/or

    Two, somebody was upset that there were *children* wandering around their nice, quiet, peaceful community.

  113. Folks ought to write to the local paper:
    http://www.ocregister.com/sections/city-pages/alisoviejo-lagunabeach-lagunaniguel/alisoviejo/

    …perhaps to the local city council, too:
    http://ci.aliso-viejo.ca.us/

    I suspect that if you bug the police they might just get testy.

  114. Never mind the Register – call Gustavo Arrilanio at the OC Weekly. He’d have fun with this.

    It’s Gustavo Arellano and yes, brilliant idea!

  115. This is a sad consequence of the “Just in case” reporting style that is prevalent amongst people nowadays (and required for those who work with kids in any capacity, be it educational or therapeutic).

    Basically it goes like this…if you, as a trained professional, see something that could even be mistaken for child abuse from a distance, you report it. You don’t investigate, you don’t, question, you just call up your local social services and make the report.

    To me, when I first learned this is what was expected of me, it seemed a little extreme. Just because a kid has a bruise on his arm or leg doesn’t mean he was abused…kids always have bruises on their arms or legs, unless they’re so physically sick they can’t play outside. But I went along with it because, hey, if you don’t report, then you’re liable, but if you do, you’re completely immune to anything. Of course, the side effect of this is you might completely destroy an innocent family, but hey, WE CAN NEVER BE TOO CAREFUL!

    Well, it’s time to change that. There’s not much I’m aware that can be done from a legal standpoint, so I would encourage this woman to look around her local neighborhood and begin sharing with others your experiences. Highlight the absurdity of the situation, kids not being allowed to play outside, police wasting valuable time, people paranoid at the slightest shadow. Encourage neighbors to maybe help watch each others kids.

    How much better would have this been if the person who reported had instead sat down and kept an eye on the kids from across the street? As someone mentioned above it almost seems like a spiteful attack because some kids were outside making a ruckus or what not (god forbid kids ever make a ruckus).

    I also agree with the idea of talking to a newspaper reporter. This absurdity has got to stop, and what better way to get the word out.

  116. Ah, Orange County and CPS!
    When my son was small we lived in a city there. One day he received a small cut on the back of his foot from a metal dustpan I’d tossed aside. I could have cleaned it up and bandaged it in under five minutes. But my wife insisted on a visit to the hospital.
    While I stayed with our son and watched a physician’s assistant put in two small stitches that she said were not really necessary, and covered them with a Band-Aid, my wife was interviewed by a hospital social worker The hospital billed $125 for the 10 minutes in ER, and a private doctor who was not on duty that Sunday sent a separate bill for the same amount, including $5 for the Band-Aid.
    The next day a worker from CPS arrived at our door, acting on a report from the hospital SW. I answered her questions, then she took our son aside where he told her th same thing; it was an accident. Then she talke to my wife, who told her the hospital SW tried to get her to say I had attacked our son, and had suggested that she should divorce me for violence.
    The visitor then told us that based on all she had learned no further action would be forthcoming and the case would be closed.
    But within days I was notified by the field worker’s supervisor that my name was being placed on a state list of child abusers, and that I would be subject to arrest, and our son would be taken from us on any further reports.
    It took an attorney a year to have my name removed from that list.
    Be wary of calling CPS.

  117. Write to the city attorney and get an “advisory legal opinion”

    He will be forced to tell you the law, which is kids are allowed outside.

    Then you can keep send a letter, with the opinion attached, to police department and ask them to better train their cops, and keep a copy by your front door in case the cops return.

    Don’t let some neighbor try to turn your community into a age restricted retirement home. Just because they don’t like to see kids does not give them the right to keep your kids indoors.

    Keeping kids indoors all the time is child abuse. When I was young it was punishment. “If you don’t clean your room you will not be allowed to go out to play.”

  118. @ Li – What can I say? I’m a gabacho that can’t spell, but I emailed The Mexican as soon as I posted the above and heard back from him this morning. He’s on the case. (For those of you who don’t know what Li and I are talking about, the nationally syndicated “Ask A Mexican!” column in quite a few free weeklys or on the internet is a “Free Range Kids”-level breath of fresh air, common sense, education and entertainment. Also, it will do wonders for your vocabulary of vulgar Spanglish phrases.) I was responsibile for the “What’s the deal with Mexicans and leafblowers?” and “How come Mexicans drink that Bud Light swill instead of Tecate?” questions.

    Viva La Reconquesta, chinga Lou Dobbs!

  119. Ultimately, you should probably move. There is no law against this behavior. Yet, as Dino illustrated, they do not need a law. You are at the whim of the police and social services. I would not raise attention to yourself in the media but do ask questions of the police, as has been suggested by others.

  120. Viva La Reconquesta, chinga Lou Dobbs!

    lololol!!

  121. Anyone who thinks the racism thing is overblown needs to google “Indian River”, and STFU. A Jewish family was run out of a Delaware town in a concerted community effort. The mother specifically had received multiple death threats and the son was constantly referred to as “Jew-Boy” at school. Google before you open your racism-denying mouths, for god sake! This shit happens CONSTANTLY, and pointing it out and being aware IS NOT racist!

  122. “Google before you open your racism-denying mouths, for god sake! This shit happens CONSTANTLY”

    Yes, this shit happens. What also happens, and perhaps even more constantly, is the knee-jerk assignment of racist motives in any and every incident involving a non-white person, before any actual facts are obtained.

    I didn’t deny the existence of racism in America; rather, I suggested that people should perhaps not leap to the conclusion that the caller’s motives were racist based on no other shred of evidence than that the incident happened to involve half-Indian children.

  123. @Dino — Thank you.

    I’ve been following this thread – with dismay — all of these “well intentioned” people recommending a call to DHS/CPS – social workers.

    Your story is typical. This agency – once they “get your name” for any reason — dive in and make your life HELL. You were fortunate enough to have enough money to hire a lawyer and get this all removed.

    I was contacted by someone via a message I had left on a You Tube comment wall – This man’s family had moved to the NW – after he retired from being a border guard in CA. They were followed home from the supermarket by DHS – who claimed the strawberry birthmark on his daughter’s face – was the result of child abuse. They received several follow up visits – and this man hired a lawyer / put his home up for sale – and left the state. DHS – once they have “entry” into your life – will cause you nothing but despair and stress.

    Again. I know. My three grandsons were taken and I as a relative – am banned for life from my grandsons. My grandsons were my joy. I looked forward to their visits – and completely enjoyed them. Now – they have been stolen. I despair over what these boys must think — that I have just vanished from their life. Now – they have been abducted and placed with strangers chosen by the State – and it must just make them wonder why I didn’t love them enough to stay in touch. I am sure they don’t KNOW that I have been forbidden – and there is no way anyone can know – the extreme level of grief I carry for these boys.

    Do no EVER call DHS/CPS. NEVER. (unless you actually witness someone beating a child). Seeing a bruise / or a scratch / or a birthmark — is NOT a reason.

    In an attempt to get my grandsons out of the system – I signed up and took the foster care classes provided by the state. I was shocked by the lessons. Money drives this. New enrollees are told to charge as much as possible. And told of tax loop holes they can take advantage of by signing up for cruises – and taking a one hour class on child care – and using the whole trip as a write off. We were told in class / (it felt like we were being threatened) that if we saw ANYTHING – to report it — if we saw someone in the supermarket – report it … Having read 1984 and Brave New Woirld – these instructions sent off flares of alarm … What is going on? This doesn’t seem right? I myself am legally now – a mandatory reporter because I took those classes. I have my own inner sense of right and wrong – but I can see how less educated people can easily be manipulated into becoming “their brother’s keeper” in that these classes – promote a “sense of power” and are designed to make one feel like they are now “in charge of others.”

    So – there are a multitude of “reporters” out there …. just looking for anything – so they can turn in a report – and get a star – and feel like they are “doing their job” ….

    What a state of affairs…. This is so tragic for children – who can no longer play outside or experience any freedom. What kind of adults will these children grow up to be? Never having decided anything or made any decisions. All play monitored by adults and structured every minute. No experience in conflict resolution among themselves and no time to “figure out what to do” just being outside.

    What a sad contrived future.

    Yes – I agree – you should probably move. The Agency operates outside of the law — based entirely on subjective opinion and WHIM. They lack discernment and your children are in danger of being taken. If you have “a lot of money” you can spend it trying to get them back. Or move.

    Take this seriously. It happens more than you know. Most people don’t talk about it. Since this happend to me – so many people have come to me and told me about this happening in their familiy – but no one really talks about it . Its is suffered in silent shame. People are embarrassed that this has happened. I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I am furious that this is permitted to go on in this so called “free” country.

    Move.

  124. Im a 28 year old man with no kids and this is my opinion… Growing up in a gated community for several years as a child I think that it should go without saying that people choose to live in gated communities for reasons, weather it is because of safety & security or because of the astetic value of the property. I for one think that its great that kids want to play outside instead of sitting in front of a tv and a playstation. My one suggestion that I could have is to make sure that you have an eye on your kids and you are always within sight and or earshot of them. It sucks that someone would notify athourities instead of letting kids be kids…

  125. You shouldn’t have given them your names and birth dates. The second that pig uttered the word “social services”, you should have called your kids inside, called a lawyer, politely refused to cooperate and told the cops to leave or arrest you. Then call the local paper and tell them what just happened (as well as other, national news outlets, if you want).

    Don’t EVER talk to the cops without a good defense lawyer present. Everything you say will be used to twist the facts and make you look like a criminal. Everything they say is presumed to be hearsay and CANNOT be used against them in your defense (or in the ensuing civil or criminal suits against them or their superiors).

    Seriously, lock your lips. And keep your kids away from those predators (the police and nanny-ish neighbors, I mean).

    Here’s hoping things work out in your favor.

  126. word “social services” => words “social services”

  127. Good comment @Cherish, and I hadn’t thought of calling CPS yourself to let them know that you were threatened, in the interest of better future contact with them. I wonder if that would work, or will they show up to take your kids…

  128. In this day and age, even the worst thing can happen in a gated community. Living there just adds a layer of protection, but not a guarantee. God forbid someone tried to take your six year old child, how could a nine year old fight off the predator. This isn’t Mayberry, and as much as we’d like to have our kids live the same type of life we had growing up. Maybe you should be bugging your crappy neighbors instead of the person doing his job.

  129. What “D” said – about don’t speak to the “cops” — goes double for DHS/CPS – social worker people… I was ‘disarmed” and thought they were sincerely trying to help me gain access to my grandsons. They were “my new best friends” … Imagine my surprise when every word I had ever uttered was taken out of context, twisted and used against me.

    Do not talk to these people. Say nothing to them. They are NOT your friend.

    and again — I’d move. You are now “spotlighted” on their radar – where you live. One visit will turn into three … and so on …

    Move.

  130. Looks like it made the OC Register – http://www.ocregister.com/news/kids-224463-let-police.html

    Perhaps folks could go there and counter the two paranoid mom comments?

  131. “In this day and age, even the worst thing can happen in a gated community.”

    What ‘worst thing’ would that be? Terrorist attack? Meteor strike? Alien invasion? Over-protective neighbours with too much time on their hands and too many episodes of CSI having taught them to be fearful of anything that moves? People in tinfoil hats warning you about the eeeeeevil social workers lurking around every corner, just waiting for an excuse to take your children away FOREVAR?!?!?!

  132. Yes, I can’t believe it, but my story is on the OC Register blog. I am a little nervous because I do not completely trust newspapers! I am hoping they do not destroy me and my family’s name. The reporter contacted the police dept, and is waiting for their side of the story. Please pray for me! I want this article to be positive, not negative regarding my family and I!

  133. Please! Enough with the suggestions to move. Seriously? How much money do you suppose most people have? I definately can’t afford to move every time my neighbourhood drives me crazy.

    I thought this sight was about being realistic and level-headed. Now we just have people freaking out in opposite ways than before which really isn’t any better. Please, please, please, enough with the fear! Being afraid of child services is no more legitimate than being afraid of kidnappers. The trick really is to stop being AFRAID!!!

    Let us please be reasonable people who stand up for what is right without loosing our minds about it.

  134. OK – stay.

    Let these people who don’t know what they are talking about – advise you to stay. Lose your children – and pay tens of thousands of dollars trying to get them back.

    Voice of experience here…. I am certain that if MY son had moved his family – my grandsons would still be with family – and able to visit their grandomother and play in the ocean. Once DHS gets their hands on your family members – they are GONE.

    Don’t listen to me – I have directly experienced life at the hands of The Agency…..

  135. OK, Ana Blic, I’ve had enough. I’ve watched you carry on and try to terrify this poor woman, and I have had enough of it.

    You’re not the only “voice of experience” when it comes to Social Services around here.

    No, your children are NOT automatically gone when CPS is sicced on you. No, CPS is NOT in the business of stealing children to feed into the foster system. Whatever happened to your grandchildren, I suspect that you are not in full possession of all of the facts – and that’s something you’ll need to take up with the parents of your grandchildren.

    It’s simply not all about you.

    Shaylene, I’ve had CPS sicced on me nearly a dozen times in the past 18 years. I had a nosy neighbor call because I ran the trash out to the dumpster while my then two year-old was fast asleep in his bed. It was about 30 steps from my front door to the dumpster – the neighbor claimed I had left the child alone for an “extended” period of time. They’ve been called on me because I’m not Christian. Then they were called out because another neighbor suspected malnutrition. I’m short and fat. My husband is tall and whip thin. Guess who the children take after?

    They’ve been called on me because I volunteer in a winery. They’ve been called on me because my eldest refused to wear boots in the rain, preferring to stomp in every puddle he could find. They’ve been called on me because I am “addicted to the Internet” – I work online for a very large, very famous software company, as well as two other clients. The neighbor thought I should sit on my ass and eat bonbons while the kids were in school instead of contributing to the financial well being of my family.

    I never got ordered into parenting classes. My children were never taken away from me. After the third time, the social workers started apologizing – that was the malnourishment complaint. They looked at the family portrait, looked at the eldest chowing down on a banana, looked into my overstuffed fridge and pantry, apologized, and left. Their visits began to take the tone of “We’re so sorry to waste your time and ours…”

    Don’t move, Shaylene. Stand up for yourself and your family. DON’T make a pre-emptive call to CPS – they’re too busy with real abuse cases. Complain, complain, complain when you’re harassed in this fashion. Make it clear that you’re not going to be run out of your neighborhood. You have the right to parent your children as you see fit, and if that means letting them play outside in the fresh air and rain and sunshine, then do so. There is no law prohibiting this.

  136. About two months ago I saw this boy (maybe 7 or 8) riding his bike in our neighborhood. I’d never seen him before. Anyways, he took a pretty nasty fall and bent the front wheel on his bike. He had a helmet on but I could see from my window that he was bleeding from his mouth.

    Well as this boy sat there crying with his broken bike bleeding from the mouth, I thought to myself maybe he needs a little help so I sprang into action. He had a pretty nasty cut on his chin and I could see he was bleeding from his mouth as well. Who here hasn’t had that scenario somewhere in their past, kids will always be kids.

    I came to find out he lived only a couple blocks away, not far. He couldn’t ride his bike home because of the bent front wheel. He called his mom at work but she couldn’t get off early and I couldn’t stay with him until she did. I was thinking about driving him home myself but his bike wouldn’t fit in my car, not to mention the risk of blood stains.

    After reading all your comments, I feel much better knowing I made the right decision that day. I always wondered if I should have called the fire department to maybe help stop the bleeding or the police who maybe could have taken him home. Nope, I told him that this sort of thing sometimes happens in life and suggested he get home before the police see him and arrest his parents for child neglect.

    When he’s older I’m sure he’ll have fond happy memories of the lady who watched him walk away crying with a bloody mouth and broken bike. It kind of brings a tear of joy to your eye, doesn’t it. And now that I think about it, his mother never came by to say thanks. What a bitch!!!

  137. @Maggie.
    I’m sorry you are so angry. I’m not trying to terrorize anyone.

    Most people simply do not know what it is like to deal with this agency. They initially make many mistakes – the least of which is openly talking to these people. It is all up to the whim of the worker assigned to your case. If this person does not like you / or your politics – they DO lie and they DO contort truth.

    Forewarned. I’ve talked to too many people across this country who have had their children taken – and lost so much money trying to get them back. I’ve talked to people who have been hounded by this “child protection agency” .

    Maggie – I don’t know why you are so angry with me – it seems your anger is misplaced. If I had ever heard from people – what DHS is like – I would have been less trusting of them and their associates like CASA and the rest.

    All I’ve attempted to do – is convey that there IS cause to proceed with caution and not to blindly trust that “those who are there to help” are really there to help…. Often – its quite the opposite.

    Sorry you are so angry. I just don’t want to see an innocent person – who is not informed about the way this agency operates, blindly walk into their “services” ….

    its sad that this topic raises such anger. I don’t know why you are so angry Maggie. I’ve only tried to inform this lady that she needs to NOT trust that all those whose oath is to “protect and serve” — actually do. When DHS takes your children – you attend courts with no juries – where all decision making is made before court in a side room. The government agents can say anything – and it is accepted as truth.

    Blindly walking into this situation — people lose their children every day. Not wishing a war // merely trying to inform.

    I wish someone had informed ME – three years ago. I thought “surely there must be some misunderstanding” …. and it took me over a year to see what was really going on.

    I don’t want to see anyone – lose their family. It happens. Its wrong.

    Maggie — sorry you are so angry.

  138. Angry?

    No, sweetheart, I simply do not suffer fools, and I’ve seen few fools as obnoxious as you are.

  139. @Maggie

    You are welcome to your opinioin…

    I don’t resort to name calling.

    Again – I was “ruled out” without a home study – based only on the opinion of the CASA worker and the DHS worker – who apparently do not like my politics because I’ve supported peace, and been on the board for peace organizations. To quote the CASA “what if the boys want to join the army?” Apparently – this is the goal – to take chidlren and turn them into soldiers at age 18 when the state can no longer receive funding money based on having them in foster care.

    I don’t think that this is a decent way to manage a caseload or to treat children. The workers invented a story about us “hiding from park rangers” — at a park that has no park rangers / no ranger building – no rangers. The caseworker lied in court – and because “she said so” — my visits were completely terminated. This is indecent — and I will tell anyone that this is what they do, and that these people are not to be trusted.

    They do receive federal funding, based on how many children they have in their system – and each time a child is moved from one foster home to another – more money flows. The way this agency is set up is not conducive to the benefit of children – it is set up to guarantee job security for those who are employed by the state.

    Children who are actually in dangerous situations – go unnoticed because the case loads are so big – because the workers do not want to “let go” of cases — they need those numbers for end of year reporting to keep the money flowing. Coos Bay social worker Rich Rigney said that 75% of the children in foster care – could safely be returned to their families. These are children — being kept from family – for monetary gain – by an agency who widely agreed to be dysfunctional. There are court cases in every state – predicated upon just that. In PA – judges have been found guilty of RICO charges for taking kickback money – for funneling teens into a particular group home.

    I am sorry for you Maggie that you call my recitation of truth – vicious. People need to be warned about this agency …. People across this country have lost their children to this system — and it is heartbreaking. Most states say something about “relatives should be considered first” – but that is easily cast aside. There is no LAW supporting placing children with extended familiy – so the caseworkers can say “ok – I’ve considered it – and this relative is ruled out” — and that is the end of it. Children are routinely adopted out to states thousands of miles away from family. Children in Oregon are sent to Texas, Ohio, New York and Mass – that I know of. Oh – and to Mexico, as well …

    I’ve said what I have to say – this is my last post on the topic. You may have the last word – and call me what you will.

    Joyous holidays to all of you – and enjoy your families – you are fortunate to have access to them.

  140. “Apparently – this is the goal – to take children and turn them into soldiers at age 18 when the state can no longer receive funding money based on having them in foster care.”

    Okay, you’re officially a nutbag.

    Seriously – CPS is stealing innocent children from their innocent families to turn them into soldiers? This is what you actually believe? Yeah, I’m starting to see why nobody wants you to have access to children.

  141. Shaylene, I wanted to say that you have a beautiful family! I hope this gets resolved to your satisfaction. What a pain to have to deal with buttinsky neighbors.

  142. I grew up in that area and am very familiar with it, so the thought of Aliso Viejo being at all dangerous actually made me laugh. I really have no suggestions for you, but you are very much not crazy. Also, it’s really pretty warm there, so being outside in a t-shirt and sweat pants would probably be just fine. One year in junior high I wore shorts the entire winter just to make a statement, and I don’t think anyone turned my parents into CPS.

  143. File a complaint. That’s the only thing, and the best thing, you can do. It is not the officer’s responsibility to “threaten” you. You felt threatened by this officer and that is a violation of his police powers. File a complaint immediately with his superiors.

    Then make it perfectly clear, that if they DO call social services, you will be filing a police harassment suit. And be willing to back this up. Have the superiors point out where in their procedures it makes it clear that allowing your children to play outside unsupervised is a violation of law deserving of further action. Have them spell it out for you. If they can’t, then they ARE harassing you.

    If they do have it in their policy, demand statistics on how often this policy is followed. I bet it is pretty rare. Instead, what they have is a neighbor of yours who likes to call the cops on everything. So instead of following the law, which is to report in on every call, they are trying to prevent another call from the neighbor. I bet they threaten everyone they get called out on with SOMETHING to keep them from having to come out on that call again.

    You make it clear to them that if they threaten you again YOU will be the bigger problem, and they will change their tune. It is most likely NOT against the law for your children to be playing outside. It is most likely NOT in their policy to call social services for something like that. They are betting you don’t know that so they can scare you into keeping your kids inside and the nosey neighbor from calling them AGAIN.

    Not only that, but despite the threat, and the horror stories that are as outrageously exaggerated as child abductions, Social Services would be pissed as hell if they DID call them every time a parent let a kid out to play. They have enough REAL cases of abuse and neglect to deal with, and absurd policies that require them to check up on EVERY call they get, that they just don’t want the police calling them every time some nutbag neighbor dials 911. If the police really did, they’d never get the backlog sorted out.

    File the complaint against the officer. Immediately. This isn’t a case of the state trying to parent your kids, this is a case of the police trying to pacify a neighbor. Don’t let them. Stand up for your rights, instead of letting the police get off easy on the neighbor.

  144. i run out in the rain in my pajamas…as long as your not KICKING them out! you can take him to court or file him

  145. Shaylene: Aliso Viejo isn’t as safe as you think.

  146. Hello, I must say that I have not read all the responses, but Id like to chime in. I am a Police Officer, and have been for 25 years in the “LA” area. I live in the OC now and have for the past 15 years. I dont live that far from you actually. I wouldnt condem the officers just yet. Many time officers are just the tool people use to get at neighbors whom they dont like. Especially in a “complex” like you are describing. I lived in a very nice complex in Garden Grove for years, I moved out because of all the political garbage that homeowners association come with. As I am an officer fo the law, I know quite a bit about parking and traffic laws. My car was illegally towed three times the first year by the association president. All three times, I sued the board in small claims and won. They were so used to bullying residents around unchallenged untill they messed with me. Anyway, just trying to describe that I understand first hand how CC&R’s can be. As an officer OR as a citizen, anyone can call CPS on you. Many times when an officer threatens to call CPS, its not coming from the officer, but from a higher source. maybe a complaint from the Association board where you live, maybe from a citizen or neighbor that has a friend at city hall or on the county board. If you live where you say you do, trust me, what you described your children are doing is not going to worry officers on patrol, they are most likley being directed to you from a complaint. I as an officer responding to a specific complaint would most likley do the same as your officers did. I’d take names and info to prove i was there and whom I spoke to. I’d advise the parents of the dangers of “Preadators”, to cover my rear since the kids are running about(even though theres not really a chance anything might happen, but what if something happened to one of your kids and the officer didnt warn you? then the officer would be blamed for not informing you of possible dangers even as remotely as it seems to you at the time). In my 25 years on the department, I have been blamed for so many things, many in which have begun in a situation as what seems so unusual as yours. Today, to keep from being blamed for, well, everything, officers do as much warnig, advising and even go so far as threatening actions to get the point across and cover themselvs should the worst actually come out of a complaint situation. Its crazy, but in this lawsuit happy world we live in, it must be done. also, let us not forget, officers didnt just find your kids, they told you they were there on a complaint. I would go looking at your homeowners association or unfriendly neighbors before blaming the cops. Trust me, no hard working street cop wants to be knocking on your door about kids in a complex playing with a cat. Most would rather be out there keeping your city on that top safest cities to live in list. It didnt get that way by cops calling CPS on good families, it got that way by brave men and women out doing the dirty work most civilized people dont have the heart, courage or stomach for….Taking out the real trash, solving real crimes. I hope you havent been soured on your experience with the police, its a tough job and I would never recommend any of my children to follow in my footsteps. I do hope you stay and raise you kids in the fine US of A. Maybe do as I did. Move out fo the complex. People specifically move in to complexes because they want strict absolute compliance in their lives. Your kids are probably fine, but the hermits that sometimes inhabit complexes dont know that so if they see them out, they assume shenanigans is in order and the police they do call! Have a great new year! Angel

  147. Oh, I just read the post by “runwolf” above…. Yes a complaint should be in order if the officer did “threaten” you. But please, be specific about what you mean “threatened”. I have in many time “advised’ a parent, if complaints continue, CPS will be notified because i as a patrol officer can no longer keep responding to calls about supposed bad children. A patrol officer can only do so much between pacifying the complaintant by responding to the call and actually finding some crime at hand. If an offcier is faced with complaints, but finds no crimes related to the parenting of the children, then he is supposed to pass it on to the next govt agency that specializies in the problem. It seems that in a round about way, runwolf and I agree, the officer was pacifying a nasty neighbor. It really comes down to how accurate you describe your side of the story and how threatening the officer really was. Do you see what I mean? Every story has two sides, I wonder what the officers was that day when he got the call to check on your kids when what he was really planning to do was go down and arrest some car burglars at the shopping center instead. Complaints are a serious thing, make sure you need to make a complaint. You can also go down to the police station ad talk to the watch commander and ask about the details of the original coplaint. Explain the situation, see if the officer was told to go down to your hoe and be firm with you. Like I said above in my prior post, this is definitely something a regular patrol officer wants to do, they want to go home kowing they made a difference, not feeling like they had to bully you on behalf of one of your neighbors.

  148. “Aliso Viejo isn’t as safe as you think.”

    Anthony, would you care to elaborate?

    At all?

  149. Thanks for this! I hope you have a great night!

  150. That’s absurb. Even kid should have freedom to go outside and play. Police should know that parents will not allow their children to go outside without their permission, and do anything that will harm anyone.

  151. No wonder her town is so safe. The police really do their job there. I do think that the kids should be allowed to play outside though. That is riduclulus. Good for the cops checking up, but if the mom says the kids are ok, then it should be fine. They were in a safe gated community. Leaving them at a park by themsleves a mile away, well, that’s a different story. I lived in an apartment complex when i moved to AZ and there was this 4 yr. old girl who ran the whole complex all day, all by herself, and when I called children’s services, they said that there was no law against that. I was outraged!!!! Why wouldn’t this state care about protecting its very youngest citizens?? Way to go Califorina!

  152. FACT: A child (14 or under) is 40 times as likely to die in a car accident as they are from an abduction. There were over 1,500 traffic fatalities in 2005 (NHTSA) and about 46 abduction deaths (USDOJ). There are over 200K traffic injuries to children each year.

    Believe it or not, your child is in far more danger sitting in your car with her or his car seat and seat belt and with you driving than s/he is walking the streets alone, period. You put your child in your car and drive off without a second thought, right? So why then are so many people so paranoid about a child walking or bicycling down the street alone?

    Not every child is mature enough to be on her or his own. I am not suggesting that you allow an infant out of our sight. What I am suggesting is that stranger abductions and child murders do occur and that they are tragic and horrifying… and that they make the national news precisely because they are so rare. This is cold comfort to the parents, but the fact remains that their children were violated under circumstances that are vastly safer than many daily activities we take for granted. In the end, life is risky and it is both ludicrous to think that we can eliminate all risk and pointless to think that we have anything resembling control. All we can do is take steps to make sure that the risks are minimized as much as possible.

    Logan is about 8.5 years old. He always rides in a booster seat with a seatbelt. On his bicycle or skateboard, he always wears a helmet (correctly, not pushed back on the head where it does zero good). He carries a cell phone with both a GPS locator and all of the contacts he needs on speed dial. He knows both of his home addresses and contact phone numbers by heart. He knows how to cross streets safely, what to do about strangers, where to go for help, what to do if we get separated on the bus or subway, where to get off the subway, etc. etc. etc. His mom, step-mom, and I continue to invest a lot of time and effort training him to fend for himself.

    Today, I sent Logan to the laundry ONE BLOCK away. He had to cross two streets, each with 4-way stops. He knows how to use the change machine, the soap machine, the washers, the dryers, what settings to use, etc. etc. He put his clothes in a sack and off he went.

    A few minutes later, he comes home and tells me that there are officers downstairs who want to talk to me. I come downstairs and two officers tell me they got multiple calls about a little child out alone (oh, the horror!) Had Logan misbehaved? No. had anything bad happened? No. Just OH MY GOD THERE IS A CHILD WALKING DOWN THE STREET, OH NO, OH GOD, HELP, HELP!!!

    I explained to the officers that I am aware of now law that sets a minimum age for a child to be out and about, that I have reviewed the sex offender database and there are none in our immediate area, and recite the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STATISTICS on walking-down-street versus being-in-car safety. To which they say, “Oh but criminals don’t check stats.” To which I respond, “Well then you’d best pull over every single car with a child in it.” They talk about the kid in Oregon who vanished, Kevin Collins, etc. to which I reply, “Those are horrible tragedies but they made the national news precisely because they are so rare. If airplanes crashed every day we would not hear about them any more but that would not make flying safe.” To which they sputtered something about having to go research the law, to which I replied, “If I am violating some law that I am not aware of then please do tell me, otherwise I am not doing anything wrong.” They said OK and left.

    The bottom line is that a child outdoors today is FAR SAFER than when we were kids and our parents sent us off on buses, to playgrounds, etc. on our own.

    I have taught my son that the world is a fundamentally good place. Most of the people he meets are not out to hurt him and most will gladly lend a helping hand if needed. He should be able to go up and talk to anyone (within reason) without fear. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES is he to accept a ride or go ANYWHERE with a person who is not police, firefighter, etc. He has the right to yell and scream and run away and defend himself. He does not have to follow directions just because he is a kid and someone is an adult.

    Logan later told me that THREE police cars responded and that the first officer told him to “Stay where you are” and started barraging him with questions. What the hell? Seriously? Really?

    Some months ago, I was sitting at the playground reading a book. Not talking to anyone, not doing anything, just… reading a book. Logan was off playing. SIX police officers come up to me and say they got a complaint of an “adult at the playground without a kid.” I had to find Logan, they asked him who I was, etc. etc. For not watching my son with binoculars!!

    Contrast that with a time I was at a different playground, on private property. I was on the phone while Logan played. A security guard approached and waved at me. I put the phone down and greeted him. He said, “Excuse me, Sir, sorry to bother you, but which kid is yours?” I pointed to Logan and he said, “OK, thanks, just checking!” smiled and walked off.

    That’s reasonable. The person who called the cops could have taken the initiative to simple ask Logan if all was well. I think one cop can handle an 8 year old boy. It’s OK to ask questions and to check on someone. These bullshit paranoid histrionics are uncalled for.

    I refuse to succumb to this fear and I refuse to let paranoid assholes get the better of me. If something happens to Logan while he out alone, I will be devastated… but I will NEVER second-guess the logic of sending him out alone, under carefully planned and monitored circumstances.

    Land of the free, and the home of the brave, MY ASS!

  153. I have to say, I agree with the police officer. Letting such young children run around the neighborhood without supervision is child endangerment. It’s not just the threat of a sexual predator, but also physical injury from passing cars, etc.

    I think your neighbor’s heart is in the right place– she just is looking out for your kids. Good luck.

  154. I grew up in Queens, New York in the 1960s. At the age of eight I was walking five blocks by myself and taking a city bus almost a mile to school every day. By age ten, I was taking the subway by myself to visit my aunt in Washington Heights (upper Manhattan, a one-hour subway ride). No one ever stopped me and asked me where my mother was, and the police never came to my door telling my mother she was a lousy parent. It simply wasn’t a big deal. And I wasn’t alone.

    I have to admit, I’d have a hard time letting my daughters do the same thing today, but it’s more because of society’s paranoia that has gotten burned into my psyche, than because I honestly believe something might actually happen to them. The same mother who once allowed me to do all those things would now not permit my cousin’s 12-year-old daughter to go to the restroom by herself in a family restaurant.

    Yes, there are predators around, but they have always been there. We just hear about them more these days. I went to a Catholic school, and priests were molesting little boys back then. I never had it happen to me, nor heard anything about it back then. Jack the Ripper was killing people in the 1880s too, so that kind of thing has always been around.

    We as a society have shut ourselves up in a cocoon, pretending that we have protected ourselves from any and all dangers, and then we are shocked and outraged when one incident happens to shatter the illusion. In the meantime, tens of millions of children across the country go out to play or to school and come home safely every day, but we don’t think about that.

    The same thing is true, whether we’re talking about child predators, terrorists, or offshore oil rigs (and I’m not a “drill baby drill” advocate).

    So lock yourself in a gated community, arm yourself to the teeth, buy an electric car and charge it off your solar array (I actually want to do that one), hose your kids down with DEET every time they go out to keep them safe from encephalitis, and guess what, the earth will probably be hit by an asteroid and wipe us all out anyway. It happened to the dinosaurs, and they didn’t have to deal with child molesters or religious fanatics.

  155. that is insane. and they’re prolly lying to you just to scare you into being out WITH your kids. I say fuck em.

  156. I agree with the people who are saying, fight back. Get his name and badge number and call his supervisor. Lenore’s story a Christmas call from the train nazis wound up with an official apology, if I remember correctly.

  157. Hellllooooo — isn’t much of our society obese. I thought kids were suppose to play outside. Shouldn’t the cops be more worried about what goes on hidden behind closed doors. What happened to it takes a village mentality? I played outside and if I didn’t anything bad my neighbors ratted me out to my mom. As long as the kids know the boundaries. When are they suppose to learn to be self sufficient, responsible and to handle things on there own — if they need to be guarded at everytime.

  158. hello they are not respecting your rights i homeschool my kids and my youngest i can’t keep at home he loves going out to play especially with four year olds hes only 13 and i took him out in 1st grade, he still can’t add well but hey he can read, well i do my homeschooling in my time people just don’t get it do they sometimes in winter he has no shoes on at all so what and we drop him off at church and come home great babysitting! well both our daughters got preggy early about 17 so you can tell we did a good job parenting good luck
    I am tired of people saying I dont homeschool when i do, i have the books out on the table ready if deefax shows up so it looks good. ; )

  159. i LIKE CAN I WATCH REIAL GROUP THERE ACTION CAN YOU ACCEPTED ME PLEAS E BECEUSE IT NEED BASAWER THANKS

  160. […] out of their way to steer me clear of electronic amusement and play outside, a view that these days gets CPS called on you. Now I’m glad my parents made me get up and go play. In all honesty, those days I spent […]

  161. so…in aliso viejo, just this past weekend, a child was abducted from his garage. his mom had buckled him into the car seat, she ran in to grab something, and within a minute, a man had jumped in the car and took off with the child.

    cops were swarming our neighborhood all day. they caught the guy (thank GOD!), but obviously, we’re all a bit shaken. turns out the perpetrator was just released from prison a few days prior, and his girlfriend seemed to be casing the neighborhood.

    please be careful, even in there aren’t any offenders directly in your area.

  162. “…a child was abducted from his garage.”

    Well, yes and no. Was he trying to abduct a child, or was he stealing a car and a kid just happened to be in it?

    I think it’s incidents like this that lend credence to the myth that, “Kids are being abducted ALL THE TIME!” Occasionally some loser will jump into a car that’s been left unlocked and/or running, and there will just happen to be a kid in the back seat. Often, the thief doesn’t even realise there’s a kid in the car when he steals it. Nonetheless, the crime gets trumpeted far and wide as CHILD ABDUCTION OMG TEH PREDATERS ARE EVERYWHERE!!!!11

  163. What the police did was an absolute infringment on Shaylene’s civil rights. 30 years ago kids of those ages could go about an no one would say anything. America is definitely NOT more dangerous than 30 years ago. I think there should be a petition. Child Services should be called if parents are ABUSING their children, not if they’re parenting more old fashioned-like, like letting you kid go outside for goodness sake! Someome should also remind those officers that this is American and not a police state.

  164. […] Readers! Remember this story – about the mom whose neighbors called the police because they saw her three children playing […]

  165. Today, I let my five year old grandson go ride bikes in our gated apartment community. A Texas officer knocked on the door and said he has to be watched at all times. I explained he was riding with many kids and I felt it was safe. My daughter walked in while this was going on and he took her license information and told her he had 2 years to file a charge with DPS. What is going on?

  166. What Karen said (first letter). I will guarantee you that a feature writer at the local paper would LOVE a story like this. Contact the reporter directly via her/his email.

  167. Always, always have a lawyer do the talking for you. You never go to other cops to try to explain anything.

  168. Hi, Charla.

    I have been a web developer for the past 12 years. I’m not familiar with BlogEngine.net, but I have worked with .net on one site, and with Classic ASP on a number of sites.

    I do all of my new development work in PHP, and we use WordPress for our blog sites. It’s a stable platform, and the latest versions especially have been quite robust, with many third-party add-ons, so I don’t see a reason to switch. My own recommendation would be, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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