Childrearing

Dad Dares To Let Kids Play At Park Alone, ‘Helpful’ Neighbor Calls CPS

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shutterstock_104888735__1419953548_142.196.156.251Last month, a Maryland mother who let her six-year-old and 10-year-old children play at a park by themselves was threatened with fines and jail time after a “helpful” neighbor called CPS to notify them that the children were playing alone. The threats were discovered to be unfounded and ridiculous, and the case was closed. Last week, the same family had another run-in with the law, again for dropping the kids off to play at the park. God, I hope I never have one of these “helpful” neighbors.

The mother wrote in to Lenore Skenazy‘s blog on Reason.com. Skenazy coined the term “free-range” parenting, and works to expose the over-reactions the general public — and in this case, the law — has regarding children playing alone. The woman explained that her husband dropped the kids off at the park which is about a mile away from their home. He instructed the kids to walk home together when they were done playing. Here’s what transpired after that, according to an email the mother of the children sent to Skenazy:

The kids were picked up in a patrol car and brought home. The policewoman asked to see my husband’s ID. When he refused, she said she was going to call for back-up. He said he would get his ID and went to go upstairs. She said – in front of the kids – that if he came down with anything else, “shots would be fired.”

At this point 10 yr old. called me crying, saying that the police were there and that Daddy was going to be arrested. My husband stepped outside to continue the conversation away from the kids. When he disagreed with one of the officers about the dangers that walking alone posed to the kids, she actually asked him: “Don’t you watch TV?” (The answer was no). They took notes and left.

Situations like this scare the hell out of me. You have done nothing wrong, yet here is CPS, threatening to take your children away. It terrifies me every time I read a story like this, about parents being terrorized by nosy neighbors and CPS. Yes, there is a time for intervening — if you think children are being abused or in danger. But do we really believe that a six-year-old and a 10-year-old aren’t capable of playing at a park together and walking home?

The law in Maryland states, “A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.” It does not speak to how old a child can be to be left alone to play outside. Laws like this are often murky, and leaving them up to CPS to interpret can be scary.

The mother continued the story in her email:

Two hours later someone from Child Welfare showed up with a temporary plan, which they wanted my husband to sign, stating that he would not leave the children unsupervised until Monday when someone from their office could contact him.

He refused.

She called the police, saying that if he didn’t sign they would take the kids away right then.

He signed.

As a parent, it’s important to know your rights in these situations, but does that even matter when someone is in front of you threatening to take your children away?

(photo: RiceWithSugar/ Shutterstock)

5 Comments

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