Parents of Kids who Get Too Many Bruises May Be Charged with Neglect

Hi Folks — This story comes to us from Australia, where the federal government is telling child protective workers to consider — and classify  — kids who “often” hurt themselves as at a “high risk of neglect.” “Accident-prone children might be the victims of poor parental supervision,” is how AdelaideNow sums the reasoning up.  Thus, anyone treating (or seeing?) bruised or clumsy kids is told to assess the role that parental supervision — or lack thereof — played, even in minor accidents.

The theory behind this isn’t bad. It’s true that severely neglected children, especially young ones, may be hurting themselves because their parents are (as this study suggests) totally out of it, on drugs, or passed out on the couch.

But I have to think this call for scrutiny and immediate suspicion would have a chilling effect on any parents ready to let their kids have some Free-Range, old-fashioned fun and independence — like riding a bike, or climbing a tree. If a kid wipes out on his bike one week, bonks his head on a branch the next, is he a lovingly tended child with parents who believe kids can (and even should) endure a couple bruises? Or is he  a neglected child? And how can we be sure the evaluator will be able to tell the difference?

Or even believe there IS a difference?

My fear is not so much that the authorities will mistake normal childhood injuries for the negligence endured in the home of severely drug-addled parents. I fear that, increasingly, normal childhood injuries won’t be considered normal anymore, period. So any kid sustaining them will automatically be considered neglected, because why weren’t the parents right behind him on that tree, or standing under it with a safety net?

The New South Wales Children’s Commissioner quoted in the aritcle, Megan Mitchell, said, “I don’t think we can expect parents to be super-parents but they need to know what their child is doing as best they can.”

What the heck does that mean? Is it enough to know my kid is playing outside and will be home by dinner? Or should I know every activity he will be participating in from 10 a.m. till 6 on a Saturday, including that he’s going to jump off a swing at 12:16? The commissioner went on to say that she would “hope” that prosecuting parents “would be reasonably rare and that people in authority would establish a relationship with the families and then make a good judgment about whether there is a real problem or not.”

But where we see no problem, the authorities could. And the authorities have…authority. Therein lies the problem. – L.

So if he falls off his bike and gets a little banged up — say, twice or three times — are his parents “neglectful”?

My Kids Are Not Allowed to Play Outside (So Now They Are In the Mobile Home with Me)

Hi Folks — This letter has me  down, but not nearly as down as the writer. When the authorities start to believe the world is worse than it is and hence that kids are less safe than they really are, naturally they see independence as dangerous. Free-Range Kids exists to spread the word that our kids are NOT in constant danger, and parents who believe in their kids are NOT endangering them. They are empowering them. Or at the very least, giving them a childhood. Any advice on how to change the zeitgeist FASTER is appreciated! – L 

Dear Free-Range Kids: I found your site today while searching for the law. Today the police visited my home after one of my neighbors called in about my children being outside alone…in our yard with a home on two sides and six foot fence on the other two sides. The officer said, “Don’t have me called back out.” So now, do I have to go outside with my children every time they go out? I have a chronic illness and sitting outside all day sucks for me. They love being outside. They come in for bathroom breaks, they come in to tattle, they come in to say “I Love You”… they are in and out every 5-10 minutes. I check on them anytime I pass the door, and I lay or sit next to an open window. If I call for them, they come to the door/window and answer as a “check in.” They will literally stay outside from wake up to 9 pm, when I force them to come in, with breaks for the above and for food. They were perfectly safe. I don’t know what to do. 😦 Do I punish my children and make them stay inside? Or torture myself, putting me in great amounts of pain to sit outside with them all day, every day?  I plan to call CPS tomorrow to see if they can shed any light on the situation.

Lenore here: I suggested the mom not call CPS, lest she alert them to behavior they don’t condone. Call me paranoid, I just keep getting letters from folks who’ve had run-ins with the authorities. So the mom wrote me another letter:

I believe a neighbor was standing on their porch and saw the boys outside. They have been playing outside together for more than a year now. They are not directly supervised as in me sitting outside with them, but I am not sleeping or GONE.  I can’t believe the officer told me he better not have to come back out! I’m incredibly nervous and haven’t allowed them outside to play at all since then. Today my back hurts so bad I can barely go to the bathroom, much less outside to sit with them. I am at a loss on what to do.

I have also had a different police officer tell me that my kids going to the bathroom alone is dangerous. I tried to explain Free-Range parenting and he said he still takes his 11-year-old daughter into the men’s room with him! It’s depressing here 😦

The mom and I wrote back and forth some more but the long and short of it is: How dare the auathorities declare kids cannot play outside IN THEIR OWN YARD! It’s like putting them under house arrest! Free-Rangers, all I can say is: please fight on. – L

Cop Suspects Dad Walking with His Kid of Being a Predator & Adds, “You Should THANK Me”

Hi Readers! Here it goes again – a man, a kid, a cop. Read on. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Recently my youngest daughter and I had an experience that really shook me up (both of us, actually), and I wanted to share it with you. We were walking to the library together, and she was holding my hand and trying to pull me into telephone poles and whatnot as we walked, which is a silly game that she enjoys. Suddenly a police car pulled up beside us, lights on and everything. The cop gets out of his car, says “Sir, please step away from the child,” then proceeds to crouch down and ask her if “everything is okay.”

After re-asking a few times, getting a more and more nervous “yes” each time, he stands up and informs me that someone had called 911 reporting what looked like a young girl being abducted. My daughter and I both explained what was really happening, and not only did he not even apologize, he chastised ME for not being, and I quote verbatim here, “More thankful someone was watching out for my daughter.”

We did eventually make it to the library and home, but it has made me slightly more cautious and watchful whenever we walk places. Is this a normal reaction to an event like this? Has anything like this happened to anyone else here?

Outrage of the Week: Mom Arrested for Letting Her Kids, 11 & 7, Walk to Pizza Shop

Yes, readers, it’s another case of child protective craziness. According to the Manchester, Conn. Patch, a local  mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.”

And according to reader Bob who sent this to us, Google Maps shows that we are talking about a half-mile walk! In addition to the solidarity of outrage, please post your ideas for how to protest the idea that kids are in danger every time they do something on their own,  even something dumbfoundingly  mundane, which means also protesting any time helicopter parenting becomes the only  “legal” way to raise our kids. – L.

Shh! Don’t tell the cops I let you get this on your own, kids!

Outrage of the Week: Mom JAILED for Letting Kids Play at Park

Readers –Here’s what the police blotter  in Johnson City, Tenn. describes as this mom’s crime:

On Thursday, June 7, 2012 April L Lawson, W/F, 27, 1104 King Springs Rd, Johnson City, TN was arrested by officers of the Johnson City Police Department and charged with child neglect. The arrest stems from a 911 call in reference to a missing child. During the investigation, officers discovered that Lawson had allowed her two children, ages 8 and 5, to walk to the playground at Mountain View Elementary School where they were without adult supervision and unattended. After sending someone to check on the children about an hour later, the mother discovered that the children were missing, at which time she called 911. The investigation revealed that the children had walked away from the playground and went to a house nearby, at which time they were accompanied back to their residence just prior to police arriving. The Department of Children’s Services was contacted and responded to the scene. Lawson was placed in custody and transported to the Washington County Detention Center without incident where she is being held in lieu of a $5,000 bond.

HELD IN JAIL for letting her kids play down the street.

Well, some might say, weren’t they in danger? After all, the mom herself called 911! Reporter Laura Halm at WCYB did a follow up story and learned Lawson’s family lives a block and a half away from the park. Lawson told her:

“So I walked them across the street, watched them walk up the block to the park and went back inside. When the kids didn’t come home I sent somebody up here to bring them home,” she explained.

So the kids had gone to another house. Like that NEVER happens to GOOD parents. Good parents ALWAYS knows where their kids are EVERY SECOND. There are NO MIX-UPS, EVER if you are a decent parent.

That explains why the Judge Robert Lincoln told Lawson she is facing felony child abuse and neglect charges.

What I need to hear from any of you who are up on the law, or civil disobedience, or Occupy Parenthood (just made that up but I like the sound of it!)  is: How can we  fight this kind of thing — this outrageous leap from “minor mix-up” to “mommy felon.”  This leap from “Police are here to help” to “Police are here to judge.” And the leap from Child Protective Services to Family  Destructive Services. Share your ideas! We need them! – L

Where’s mommy? Rotting in jail.

Mom Arrested for Letting Her 13-y.o. Babysit Siblings

Hi Folks! “Mom Arrested for for Age-Old Parenting Practice” is how I would headline this case going down in New Canaan, CT, right now. But the actual article begins, “A 39-year-old woman was arrested for leaving her children at home unattended, police said.”

Are children “unattended” if there are four siblings and one of them is 13? (And another is 10?) I’d say that’s the very definition of  “attended.” What happened in this particular case is that the 4-year-old sibling some how got out of the house and ventured across the street. Whereupon a “good” Samaritan called the police. To me that is the very definition of a “bad” Samaritan — someone immediately involving the police and dragging the family into the “justice” system, instead of trying to walk the kid back to her house.

The “negligent” mom was at church and had left maybe an hour before the official babysitter was due to arrive. For this wildly unacceptable belief in her kids (and neighbors) she was charged with “risk of injury to a minor.”

What about the risk to my head from banging it against the wall? Will no one speak for the parents? – L

The Latest Trend: “Alcatraz Parenting”!

Hey Readers! ALCATRAZ PARENTING. Let’s popularize that term, okay? We need it, because we’re getting to the point when children are monitored by GPS, cell phone and camera in ways prison wardens can only dream of! Check out this ad:

The mom says she  has cameras “in the playroom, the living room, the kitchen. And from my mobile phone and computer I can check in on them any time and it just gives me some added peace of mind.”

Great. And just what does it give the children? That added sense that Big Mother is watching. That sense that they are never safe without her electronic eye upon them. (It doesn’t MAKE them any safer, of course. It just reassures the mom.) It also tells them they are never free and never completely to be trusted. Just like prisoners, except with refrigerator privileges.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Just as I was going to end my post,I got this letter in my email:

Dear Free-Range Kids:

I just got two tickets for child abuse because my 7 yo and her friend were playing in the complex when 2 older girls tried to hit them with sticks. They ran away and my daughter, being frantic, got lost. The police found her and brought her home. They then  gave me a ticket for both girls but not the other girls parents! One officer said I could not let her out to play at all without me. The other said she could but needs to stay close and tell me where she will be, which she always does. There are many children in this complex who play outside alone! They said children under 16 must be supervised.

How are these topics — the cameras in home and the tickets for unsupervised kids — related? They both start with the assumption that children are never safe without an adult by their side, either physically (if they’re outside) or electronically (if they’re inside).

That is a RADICALLY NEW, DYSTOPIAN VISION OF CHILDHOOD! It is not based on reality, as the reality is our children are safer today than at almost any time in history. It is based on FEAR.

The result? Alcatraz Parenting, either by choice, if you buy into it, or by force if you don’t…but the authorities do. – L