Cops and CPS Interrogate Mom Who Let 6 y.o. Play Outside

Readers — I published this on Reason.com, hoping to get attention for this case. BUT once again, I do not want it scaring parents into quarantining their kids. I just want to spread the outrage, the way outrage spread in the wake of cops arresting Debra Harrell, the McDonald’s worker who let her 9-year-old play in the park. Once we get a groundswell of Americans on our side — the side that is against prosecuting parents who give their kids some independence — it will become normal (or at least a parent’s prerogative) to let kids walk to school and play outside again. That is my hope. I even think it is working — awareness seems way up. And so my piece begins:

Children’s book author Kari Anne Roy was recently visited by the Austin police and Child Protective Services for allowing her son Isaac, age 6, to do the unthinkable: Play outside, up her street, unsupervised.

He’d been out there for about 10 minutes when Roy’s doorbell rang. She opened it to find her son —and a woman she didn’t know. As Roy wrote on her blog HaikuMama last week, the mystery woman asked: “Is this your son?”

I nodded, still trying to figure out what was happening.

“He said this was his house. I brought him home.” She was wearing dark glasses. I couldn’t see her eyes, couldn’t gauge her expression.

“You brought…”

“Yes. He was all the way down there, with no adult.” She motioned to a park bench about 150 yards from my house. A bench that is visible from my front porch. A bench where he had been playing with my 8-year-old daughter, and where he decided to stay and play when she brought our dog home from the walk they’d gone on.

“You brought him home… from playing outside?” I continued to be baffled.

And then the woman smiled condescendingly, explained that he was OUTSIDE. And he was ALONE. And she was RETURNING HIM SAFELY. To stay INSIDE. With an ADULT. I thanked her for her concern, quickly shut the door and tried to figure out what just happened.

What happened? The usual. A busybody saw that rarest of sights—a child playing outside without a security detail—and wanted to teach his parents a lesson.

Read the rest here. And what I did not include in the Reason.com piece is that  her son spent the first few years of his life in very dire medical straits. He even had a tracheostomy tube. So, as Roy told me, the idea of giving him a “normal” childhood was a DREAM of hers.  How dare anyone threaten that?

Or her? Or her family? – L.

Kari Anne Roy and her son, Isaac. Should he NOT be allowed to play outside?

Kari Anne Roy and her son, Isaac. CPS told her, “Just don’t let  your kids play outside.”

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74 Responses to Cops and CPS Interrogate Mom Who Let 6 y.o. Play Outside

  1. Jill September 16, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Well, to be fair, Texas is full of religious fanatics and busybodies who’ve been known to call the cops on moms who let their children outside, and it executes more people than any other state, so yeah, it’s a mighty dangerous place.

  2. nina September 16, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    A somewhat similar story happened to me a little over a year ago. My 3 yo daughter and I came home from grocery shopping and she wanted to stay outside to ride her tricycle. While she often played in the backyard by herself, we never left her alone in the front yard before. I wasn’t sure what to do. So my daughter looked at me funny and said, “you know mommy, I’m 3 yo. I know not to go into the street. ” So I went home to put the groceries away and start on dinner and left her play outside. A few minutes later my door bell rang. It was my neighbor to whom I never spoken before letting me know that my daughter was outside by herself. She was surprised that I was aware of the situation and was ok with it. I thanked her for looking out for my daughter and we had a conversation about modern parenting. No follow up visits from cops or cps. My daughter is 4 now, soon to be 5. She is a very common sight playing in our front yard either by herself or with her friends, who are 5 and 6 year olds. No one questions it anymore. In fact I began letting her to go to her friend’s house by herself last month. Granted, it’s only 2 doors down, but she’s very proud of this new freedom. I don’t think we are the only family that lets their young kids out to play now. I think people took notice and realized it was a safe thing to do.

  3. E. Simms September 16, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    What does it say about our society when a CPS worker asks questions about a child seeing nudity in movies but asks no questions about a child seeing violence in movies? Not that she should have been asking either question in these circumstances.

  4. Mark Roulo September 16, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Well, to be fair, Texas is full of religious fanatics and busybodies who’ve been known to call the cops on moms who let their children outside, and it executes more people than any other state, so yeah, it’s a mighty dangerous place.

    Yes, indeed. By murder rate Texas (4.4 per 100,000) is almost as dangerous as California (5.0 per 100,000).

  5. lollipoplover September 16, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    The groundswell shouldn’t be for normalizing kids playing outside. This IS normal, always has been, and always will be a sign you live in a good neighborhood. What isn’t normal is the busybodyism disease that seems to be spreading. The groundswell should be for mental health services for those with paranoia and anxiety when viewing a basic human need to play and socialize. Irrational responses are NOT normal. CPS needs to provide mental counseling services to these individuals and not overworked case workers.

  6. John September 16, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    So Jill, you’re assuming this lady who brought her son home was religious, therefore making her a “religious fanatic”? Do you personally know this woman? So in your viewpoint all religious people are helicopter parents and all atheists free range? I think you’re being rather stereotypical and condescending toward people of faith.

  7. Peter September 16, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    In hindsight, Ms. Roy could have put on a little show with her son, berating him for going with the creepy lady who lured him away from his favorite bench. “NEVER GO ANYWHERE WITH A STRANGER! Especially a creepy weird stranger who doesn’t remove her sunglasses when talking to you.” Shame the busybody until she cries, then call the police about a crazy lady weeping on her doorstep, scaring her child.

  8. E September 16, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Reading the whole piece at Reason (and the visit from CPS)…it’s just very very sad. I don’t understand why the police didn’t just say “ok thanks, have a nice day” after speaking to her.

    So the neighbor his a paranoid busy body…but why did the police side with her and not the boys mother?

  9. Neil M. September 16, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    It’s cruelly ironic that if Roy had beaten her son in public, she’d be subject to less official (and unofficial) scrutiny than she earned by letting him sit on a bench 150 feet from his home. What does that say about our society?

  10. K2 September 16, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    I think I’m going to join a meetup group that is for families with children up to 9 years old and try to organize some games of tag, kickball, soccer, and other games that need a lot of players. If it works, parents will be present, but at least it’s a taste of the games and running around without the heavy structure of something you pay for. The kids could conceivably switch games or look for lizards if they want to.

  11. Neil M. September 16, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    It’s cruelly ironic that if Roy had beaten her son in public, she’d be subject to less official (and unofficial) scrutiny than she earned by letting him sit on a bench 150 feet from his home. What does that say about our society?

    As to why the police sided with the complainant and not Roy…well, that’s easy to see. If the officer discards the complaint she runs the risk of being labeled as indifferent or negligent. If she files a report, she will be regarded as being properly diligent and concerned about children. She has every incentive to file, and that’s what she did.

  12. K2 September 16, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I just joined a meet-up group for parents and children up to 9 years-old. I hope to help organize some large games of tag. It’s a compromise in a way with parents present, but at least it’s less structured and we might be able to regularly get enough kids to get up a game of tag or kickball.

  13. K2 September 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Sort of a compromise, but we are trying to organize some large games of tag, kickball, etc with a meet-up group for parents and children up to 9. Not as structured as something you pay for and the kids get to know the other kids. For now that’s at least a partial answer for me.

  14. Steve September 16, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Lenore’s article said:

    “That night Isaac cried when he went to bed and couldn’t immediately fall asleep. ‘He thought someone was going to call the police because it was past bedtime and he was still awake.’ ”

    Think about that … and how this incident will condition this child.

    I’ve mentioned before, this kind of incident is exactly like what went on in Red China under Mao. In China if you were suspected of “thinking” that didn’t mimic accepted state thoughts (which changed from time to time so you were never certain what you should think ) (just like today in the U.S.) you had to write critiques of your bad thoughts (in this case the “bad thought” would be – “it’s okay to allow my child to play outside.”) You might also be assigned to someone who would literally sleep in bed with you at night to monitor what you might say while you were asleep.

    —————————————-

    I’ve said this before:

    Arm yourself with several copies of Lenore’s book, Free Range Kids, and be ready to put a copy in the hand of “anyone” who questions your right to raise your children like kids have been raised all over the world for centuries. (Kari Anne Roy missed her golden opportunity because she apparently didn’t have a copy of the book ready to hand to the CPS worker.)

    You can be kind, but self-assured when you hold out the book and talk about it:

    Just say something like, “I understand where you’re coming from, I used to see our society exactly like you do. (insert personal examples) But then I read this great book. I’d be happy to loan it to you. Here, take a look. It gives solid information & stats and tells about why our society is not really more dangerous than it was 20 or 30 years ago. The truth is that media hype and a steady diet of fear-mongering news reports, TV shows, and scary movies have made us all view the world from a false, worst-first-fear-mongering mindset. Instant communication like cell phones and the internet have only made the situation worse. Even if you don’t believe me, surely you’d like to read this book and see the subject from a different perspective. “

  15. Vicky September 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    If the child is being attacked by human or animal, on fire, bleeding profusely, in traffic or drowning then by all means intervene, it’s your civic responsibility!
    Otherwise mind your own business.
    I believe the incessant need for people to invite the world into their every waking moment on social media, coupled with the ability to inappropriately comment without repercussion, has given rise to a society that thinks they have the right to interject.

  16. Angela September 16, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Well even though Austin is a different kinda of Texas, the Mom should just give them all guns before they go outside. Say they are an open-carry gun group.

  17. Andy September 16, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    @E.Simms,
    That’s because in this country, violence is more acceptable than sex or nudity. Let your six year old watch Full Metal jacket, Pulp Fiction,or Friday the 13th,someone might arch an eyebrow at you. let them watch Animal House,or Sixteen Candles,and you’re an unfit parent because of the brief nude scenes.

  18. Andy September 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    Friday the 13th? Sixteen Candles? Animal House? Crap, did i just show my age?

  19. Lind September 16, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    Seriously, I’m starting to think this is part of the political-oil-military complex of this country, you know, the one that loves to start wars on terror with fearmongering so that oil companies can get richer? “Hey, I know! If people are too paranoid to let kids walk or ride bikes to school, we will drive and drive and drive — that’s twice a day! EVERY day! PLUS the extra driving because the parent or someone has to rush from wherever they are to make it to school–and all that idling in the pick-up lines, oh my gosh, more gas…! ! ! Oil-money-fear-oil-money-fear-oil-money-fear, that’s how we do.

  20. Havva September 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    I shared Mrs. Roy’s story on Facebook last week and I hold that one problem that could be fixed here is the required link from 911 to full on CPS investigation regardless of the judgements of anyone in the chain.

    “But I was also warned: the neighbor can call CPS as many times as she wants. If she truly feels there’s neglect, she can’t be prosecuted for making false allegations. … But in all reality, when children are involved, the person who makes the complaint gets the benefit of the doubt. For parents, it is guilty until proven innocent. I understand why the system works this way, but it makes me feel like we are prisoners in our own home. …”

    I’ve heard others here talk about how protocol takes over the moment a call is made and how CPS threatens parents into taking children’s freedom (even when the CPS worker admits the family did nothing wrong). All because if they keep getting called they will have to take it seriously and do something.

    When I posted this story and pointed to this problem a friend asked about society reaching a balance (between people who call when they shouldn’t and don’t call when they should). And I submit that until we quit forcing police and CPS to take *every* call “seriously” there can be no balance.

    My father in law’s work on an environmental hotline shows that the vast majority of calls comes from a small number of people with no judgement making complaints about non-issues, ones they have been told repeatedly are non-issues (such as chicken farms smelling of chickens). Every person who answers that hotline knows the “frequent fliers.” Thankfully the hotline operators are trained and able to assess and deal with things appropriately without doing a full criminal probe into whatever farm or factory the frequent flier pointed at that week. Businesses would be up in arms if there operations were interrupted or threatened every time a person (well known to be unbalanced) pointed a finger at them.

    When we refuse to allow trained personnel to question and asses the legitimacy of complaints we turn our police and CPS into armed extensions of the nutty neighbors giving the nutty neighbors the power to re-shape our world in their image.

    By the same mechanism I think we also discourage people calling 911 or CPS when they think a situation is iffy. Because by taking away police/CPS discretion we have turned that phone call into the nuclear option. This is not compatible with, nor appropriate to a free or civilized society not for adults, not for businesses, and not for children.

  21. Roger the Shrubber September 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    This is more ridiculous that thinking kidnappers are an ever present threat to an unattended 6-year old.

    Well, to really be fair, this occurred in Austin, the liberal haven of the state of Texas. (Not that I assign political motivation or tendencies to the actions of the ‘concerned neighbor’ in this case. Rather, I object to Jill’s insinuation that there is.)

  22. Yocheved September 16, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    When walking becomes a criminal activity. “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-uHBA6L3PqBMTI1MzQ0NDMtMzlhNi00Y2E5LWI1NTYtZTAwYjQxODQwNjVj/edit?ddrp=1&pli=1&hl=en

    Coming to a future near you.

  23. Roger the Shrubber September 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Let me try again:
    Seriously, I’m starting to think this is part of the political-oil-military complex of this country, you know, the one that loves to start wars on terror with fearmongering so that oil companies can get richer?
    This is more ridiculous that thinking kidnappers are an ever present threat to an unattended 6-year old.

    Well, to be fair, Texas is full of religious fanatics and busybodies who’ve been known to call the cops on moms who let their children outside, and it executes more people than any other state, so yeah, it’s a mighty dangerous place.
    Well, to really be fair, this occurred in Austin, the liberal haven of the state of Texas. (Not that I assign political motivation or tendencies to the actions of the ‘concerned neighbor’ in this case. Rather, I object to Jill’s insinuation that there is.)

  24. EricS September 16, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    “You just don’t let them play outside.”??? Really?? Just when I thought people cannot be more STUPID!

    Personally, I would have had the right mind to charge that woman for “endangering” my child, stressing him out, and making him fearful because she called the cops. Kids are very impressionable. I’m sure this kids was freaked out that he did something wrong and was going to be arrested.

    When in reality, a complete stranger, takes him from a secure and comfortable spot FOR HIM. Even if it was just to take him home, she did that without consent from the child or the parent. She had no just cause (one’s personal fears and sanctimony isn’t just cause). And she put a great deal of stress on the child and the family. When there was no evidence that the child was in any danger, or distress, in any shape, way, or form.

    If people are going to sick authorities on me for no reason other than their own. Then I will use the law to sick authorities on them, and I would have a reason. Not your kid? They aren’t in any danger? They aren’t distressed? They aren’t lost? All they are doing is playing happily? Leave them alone.

    I would also teach my kid (which I have), to kick and scream, and yell “fire!” as he points to the stranger that wants to take him from his comfortable spot. Then run home, all the while yelling “fire!”. Note: it’s been said people respond better and quicker to someone calling out “fire!” than “help”. Theory is, a fire is more likely to affect them as well. And that many people don’t want to get involved when someone yells for “help”. But regardless, YELLING is always a good thing when you are in distress.

  25. Jen (P.) September 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    I read the original blog post yesterday after Lenore posted the link on Reason and was struck by the author’s repeated insistence that she “understands” why it has to work this way. For instance, “I wanted to protest. I wanted to stamp my foot and say, ‘No, ma’am, you are NOT allowed to speak to my children without me being present.’ But I was cowed. And I understood why the process had to be that way. I didn’t like it. I DON’T like it. But I understood. I understand. I complied.”

    I DON’T understand, and I disagree that the process has to work this way. After the police officer visited and saw that the child was playing outside near his own home with his mother’s permission (who was inside the house opening mail, not passed out drunk or with a needle in her arm), that should have been the end of it. Actually, I’m not sure I can even accept that the police had to investigate at all – if a 911 operator gets a call from someone whose only complaint is that a kid was playing outside, can’t the operator ask whether there was any reason to believe the child was in danger or needed the police? In any event, there was certainly no reason for CPS to become involved. And there can be no justification whatsoever for an investigator interviewing her children, let alone asking them questions about drug use and pornography. Nope, I don’t understand.

  26. EricS September 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    @Hava: I’m not a litigious person. But I would use that as form of deterrent for busybodies. Teach them, there IS consequence of action. And force them to THINK before speaking or acting.

    You can easily say THEY have endangered your child. A stranger taking them by fear, or force, back to their home. Mental anguish, as the child has no idea what is going on, and too scared to do anything (hopefully more kids have been taught to deal with situations like this). As well as the mental anguish the family now has to go through being put through the ringer by CPS because of unfounded reports from neighbours.

    If push comes to shove, and they are making my family go through all that, I’m going to do the same to them. Especially when they mess with my kid’s head.

    There is a huge difference to how “strangers” watched out for kids pre-internet generations, and how strangers “watch out” for kids in this day and age. It’s not to protect them, it’s to enforce their sanctimonious, and self-centred ego on everyone else. I can pretty much guarantee that these people brag about the stuff they do their family and friends. While making the parents of the kid they “helped” look bad.

  27. Warren September 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Again, this is why we have attorneys. CPS is not above the law. An advocate or attorney should have been present during the interviews. One innocent slip by a child in an interview, and the interview becomes an full blown investigation.

    And yes sue the hell out of the busybody. There are long term effects of this event. The child is upset, the parents are upset, and worst of all the family is now in the system. Both police and CPS have incident reports on file. This will come back to haunt this family. And because some busybody stuck her nose where it didn’t belong. So no, she should not be let off the hook, she should not be allowed to repeatedly call authorities on this family. She should be made to mind her own business, and shut her yap.

  28. BL September 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    @Jen (P.)
    “And there can be no justification whatsoever for an investigator interviewing her children, let alone asking them questions about drug use and pornography. Nope, I don’t understand.”

    I understand. These people are evil. Deliberate, cold-blooded evil.

  29. Jen (P.) September 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Warren – In some ways CPS is above the law. If a CPS investigator can get a judge to sign off on it, he can have a child removed from the home before the parent can do anything about it. There’s little in the way of due process for the parent (presumably because the child is not the parent’s property). The laws are written broadly in order to give the state the power to protect children who are truly in danger, but they are subject to abuse by over-zealous bureaucrats.

    In other words, the fear that refusal to cooperate may result in removal of the children is quite justified, and for me anyway suing them after I got my kids back could not begin to repair the damage. Others cooperate (or argue that people should) because they believe that if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear, but that’s absurd. Kids say goofy things that could be interpreted in sinister ways by someone conditioned to think the worst.

    I think in this case (really, in any case) the parent should have – at a minimum – insisted that the interviews be recorded and conducted in the presence of an attorney. I think I’d go so far as to say that the state should provide an attorney for that purpose.

  30. Jen (P.) September 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    Also, Warren – In my state a person who reports suspected child abuse or neglect is immune from criminal liability and civil liability unless he acted maliciously or in bad faith. Unfortunately suing them would be futile.

  31. E September 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I don’t understand the “sue everyone who makes these calls” attitude. Perhaps people are just being flippant here, but it just a) brings the family into a legal situation that involves their children anyway, and b) shifts legal hoop jumping (except you are still involved).

    A 911/CPS caller is done the minute they hang up the phone or give their story. The family that sues the 911/CPS caller has to actually prove their own case and impact. Sounds counter to everything we read about having to deal with a case like this right?

    Another byproduct would be to discourage good, reasonable citizens from helping someone in need for fear of being sued.

    Isn’t the answer to put pressure and education onto the system that’s NOT using common sense when faced with “this kid is alone at the park”….”this kid walks to the park alone”, etc?

    I guess I just don’t see the point of creating more legal wrangling and investigation — particularly if that’s the part that people talk about being so troublesome and demoralizing.

  32. GRS September 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Horribly, horribly sad!

    We are talking about it here, but are they talking about it in AUSTIN, where this has happened? Apply what I will call the Amy Goodman principle: “Go where the silence is and say something” This lady should not simply write on her blog–she should take this to the media in Austin. Don’t know if the TV stations would be of much help, but the Austin Statesman (the main paper) or the Austin Chronicle (the “alternative” paper) could go after this. As a part, they perhaps could make a FOIA request and flush out the busybody. If this parent pursues legal action, she may want to keep a lawyer handy. There is already one lawsuit in TX by a parent against a busybody and a police department over children playing outside…it may be time for number two!

    Sad to say, but for some of these bureaucrats the only thing they understand is a judge and/or jury taking them out behind the proverbial woodshed.

  33. Havva September 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I am talking about people making calls who are not rational, and probably not 100% capable of being rational. Sure you can try suing them after the damage is done, and try to scare them into stopping, but in their damaged world view they really believe that what they are seeing is sinister, horrible. Since so much damage comes just from the investigation, the goal shouldn’t be to strike back, so much as to prevent families being dragged into someone’s paranoid delusions.

    After a few investigations turning up ziltch, these people’s calls shouldn’t be taken any more seriously than to interview the caller and see if they are up to their usual, or if they really saw something this time. Though perhaps some follow up is warranted if the caller interfered with the kids (to inform the caller this isn’t acceptable, and inform the family and child the caller was so notified.)

  34. Warren September 16, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    E,
    So you are fine with innocent families having to put up with this bullshit, and having no recourse?

    In this day and age, people need to be held responsible for their actions. Which includes wrongfully accusing people, and having them put thru investigation.

    If you are not willing to give all your personal information, and then testify afterwards, stay off the damn phone and mind your own business.

  35. FreedomForKids September 16, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    We have a “Free Bench” in our local public library where folks can drop off and pick up used books and magazines to share and pass on, recycle and enjoy. I think I will buy some copies of Lenore’s book and leave them on the bench.

    Also, maybe I can hang signs on the local bulletin boards around town periodically touting the free-range kids philosophy, or at least writing down a link to this blog. Any suggestions as to how to word them? Something eye-catching and concise?

  36. Puzzled September 16, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    >Seriously, I’m starting to think this is part of the >political-oil-military complex of this country, you know, the >one that loves to start wars on terror with fearmongering so >that oil companies can get richer?
    >This is more ridiculous that thinking kidnappers are an ever >present threat to an unattended 6-year old.

    Which part is absurd – that this country is lied into war repeatedly on flimsy excuses, or the idea that a government agency could fear monger to help another government agency?

  37. FreedomForKids September 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Okay, I just bought two of Lenore’s books used on eBay, and I will take them to the library for the Free Bench when they arrive. Maybe I’ll write inside the cover to bring back to the bench when finished reading, to spread the word.

  38. FreedomForKids September 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Maybe I will also send copies of Lenore’s book to DCF (Connecticut’s version of CPS) offices in my area.

  39. FreedomForKids September 16, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

    And to my local police department? Is that a bad idea?

  40. Roger the Shrubbery September 16, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Puzzled -Do you really think that the petro-military-industrial complex is conspiring with busy-body neighgbors, CPS organizations and local law enforcement to increase gasoline comnsumption by creating an environment where children are discouraged from playing outside? Nevermind, I’ve read your previous posts – of course you think it possible. Why don’t you offer your consulting services to similarlly deluded individuals. You can show parents how letting their children play outside without supervision is actually a strike against terrorism!

  41. Puzzled September 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Letting your children play outside is a strike against fear-mongering. It so happens that the terrorism scare is also fear-mongering. So no, playing outside is not a strike against terrorism, it’s a strike against the mentality that makes use of terrorism for political points.

    Similarly, no, I do not think that busybody neighbors are working with oil companies. Busybody neighbors are, unfortunately, highly misinformed about actual risks – they are victims of fear-mongering. The fear-mongers are using the same playbook in both cases – and in both cases, they enhance corporate and government power. In both cases, the fear-mongering takes place primarily through the media.

    It’s surprising such a claim is even controversial.

  42. SteveS September 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Warren is correct here. You should be cautious in talking to to any agent of the state. This applies to the police and especially to CPS workers. If they show up, don’t talk to them without a lawyer. There is a reason that people with money fare much better in CPS investigations. They lawyer up and fight.

  43. Warren September 16, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Jen,

    Telling CPS that you want your attorney present, during interviews and any contact with the agency, is not refusing to cooperate. And I highly doubt they could get a judge to sign of on any warrant, based on the fact you want your lawyer present.

  44. J.T. Wenting September 16, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    “So the neighbor his a paranoid busy body…but why did the police side with her and not the boys mother?”

    because they always side with the person giving them more authority, more reason to lord it over people…

  45. Roger the Shrubber September 17, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Puzzled:’Similarly, no, I do not think that busybody neighbors are working with oil companies.’

    Then we agree and I don’t understand your original reply. I was responding to Lind’s absurd assertion that you apparently disagree with, yet chose to defend because it concurs a larger narrative you would like to support. While I may or may not agree with your overarching theory of fear-mongering as a method of control, citing vast conspiracies that stretch from corporate boardrooms and political backrooms to your neighbor’s opinion on how you should raise your kids, all in an effort to increase oil consumption and feed the war machine, makes Lind appear as the crazy fear-monger. Me calling out such absurdity is also strike against fear-mongering. But you confuse it as a rejection of your anti-corporatism narrative.

  46. Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center September 17, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    There are certain rules that must be observed when it comes to children protection. There are hazards out there that may harm a child when left outside, unsupervised. These days, it is very important to take into consideration the odds that may arise from irresponsible actions.

  47. Jill September 17, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    @John Settle down. I never said she was a religious fanatic. The word “and” between religious fanatics and busybodies should have tipped you off.

  48. Jill September 17, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    @Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center I read your comment five times and I still can’t figure out what you’re trying to say. It’s written in English, but it doesn’t make any sense.
    What are these hazards you’re talking about that may harm a child who plays outside unsupervised. Do you mean nosy neighbors who might call CPS? And what do you mean by “the odds that may arise from irresponsible actions?” Don’t you mean outcome,not odds?

  49. E September 17, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    @Warren – yes I agree that the CPS/911 caller should have to identify themselves and the parents be provided that information (if we’re talking about “that kid is alone” calls)

    What I’m saying is that I don’t see a legal situation as being any less pain in the ass to the family than the one they are already dealing with.

    I’m very frustrated that “the system”, doesn’t become a reasonable gatekeeper for these calls. It makes no sense that after the parent explains the situation, that they don’t just say “ok, have a nice day”.

    Or maybe I just don’t believe that we will ever rid ourselves of people who would do this…if I sue someone down the street, will that prevent someone on your street from making a call? It seems to me that the authorities should be the voice of reason and common sense.

  50. BL September 17, 2014 at 8:30 am #

    @Bumblebees R Us
    “There are hazards out there that may harm a child when left outside, unsupervised.”

    I agree. Hazards should not be left outside, unsupervised.

  51. Roger the Shrubber September 17, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Jill – Is Texas full of religious fanatics? Are religious fanatics known to call the cops when they see an unattended child? For whom is Texas a dangerous place because of it’s rate of execution?

    Psst. Your liberal/atheist slip is showing.

  52. Emily Morris September 17, 2014 at 9:17 am #

    Now, is it okay to contact police over a neglected and unsupervised hazard?

  53. Warren September 17, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    E,
    The way it is now, anybody, anytime can call the authorities and turn somebodies life inside/out, upside/down and put them thru hell, with absolutely no accountability.

    If the system was set up so that callers are held accountable, therefore people would have to actually think before they call. This would eliminate a lot of the busybodies that call, just because they do not like what they see. Also in this case, it would eliminate the busybody from calling again and again, about the same thing, though nothing is wrong.

  54. Roger the Shrubber September 17, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    By Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center:
    Because of our litigious society and demands from our insurer, there are certain rules that must be observed when it comes to children protection. There are hazards out there that may harm a child when left outside, unsupervised and I am subject to lawsuit should anything happen to an unsupervised child under my care, should the incident be a common scraped knee or an unlikely child abduction. These days, it is very important to take into consideration the odds that may arise from irresponsible actionsthe financial consequences to my business should an unfortunate incident, whether minor or catastrophic, whether common or a near statistical impossibility, occur to a child under my care when a parent can claim my inattentiveness as its cause.

    I do not envy your position. But don’t project the fears you are forced to live with onto the rest of us.

  55. Roger the Shrubber September 17, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    HTML fail.

  56. Andy September 17, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    @Warren I think that the primary problem is that the system turns peoples life inside/out, upside/down and put them through hell. Accountability for callers can help somewhat, but it is only partial solution.

    I believe that the ones to blame when it comes to cases like this are cops, CPS and “the system”. If any crazy can use the system as a gun, then the system is wrong. If cop does not give benefit of the doubt to suspect and automatically takes a call as an excuse for arresting one, then the system assumes guilt and is wrong. If CPS turns people lives upside down upon small issue, CPS is abusive agency.

    “Someone called we had to investigate” can explain individual cop behavior, but is no excuse for the institution. It is excuse and nothing more.

    Moreover, parenting issues should not be dealt by cops and kids are not supposed to be questioned without parent present. End of story. Cop questioning a parent over outdoor play should be treated as a cop over overstepped boundaries and abused his power. Because that is what it is – cop throwing law enforcement weight where it does not belong. It does not matter that someone called, cop is supposed to know where the line is and cop is supposed to be accountable one.

  57. Steve S September 17, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Cop questioning a parent over outdoor play should be treated as a cop over overstepped boundaries and abused his power.

    Agreed. It should go like this if you are at home:

    Cop rings doorbell.

    You (from the other side of the door): Who is it?

    Cop: Police, could I ask you a couple of questions.

    You (door is still closed): Pertaining to what?

    Cop: A report about your child playing outide.

    You: No thanks. If you would leave your card, I would be happy to have my attorney contact you and provide you with any necessary information. Have a nice day.

    If the contact happens when you are out and about:

    Cop: Excuse me, could I ask you a couple of questions about your kid playing outside?

    You: No thank you. If you give me your card, I can have my attorney contact you.

    Cop: I really need to talk to you…

    You: Am I being detained?

    Cop: No, but…

    You walk away.

  58. Jen (P.) September 17, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Warren – You are absolutely correct that involving a lawyer is not “not cooperating,” and I wasn’t suggesting a judge would be likely to order removal during the time it might take to set up interviews with counsel present (although the way my state’s laws are written if that did happen, there would be little or nothing the parent could do about it).

    But there remains a stigma suggesting that you wouldn’t hire an attorney if you didn’t have something to hide, and I suspect that deters some parents from seeking the assistance of counsel, often to their detriment. That attitude surely motivates some overzealous bureaucrats to go on the offensive as well. I also think people like the author of that blog post want to believe they and CPS are on the same side. They are surprised to find themselves in an adversarial position with an agency that is charged with protecting children, and they don’t know how to react. Getting confrontational is not their first instinct, so they cooperate and are then they’re left feeling victimized by the system. The whole thing just stinks.

  59. Stacy September 17, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I hate busybodies like the neighbor in this story, but we do need anonymous reporting to protect those who are reporting abuse and severe neglect and have real reasons to fear reprisal. They need to be protected, no matter how many times they call. You can’t focus on the few busybodies calling because kids are playing outside and forget about the thousands who call because they have good reasons to suspect their neighbors’ or relatives’ kids or their students are being beaten or severely neglected. Blame the busybody (and all the crappy parents who make cps necessary), not the law that protects her. I also understand the reason cps has to investigate every call, although I don’t understand the manner in which they investigated this case. I don’t know what the busybody alleged or whether it was her or the police who contacted cps, so that might have something to do with the questions they asked. The most stressful part for parents is that failure to cooperate is seen as a big red flag that something is really wrong because it can be a sign of a real problem. This is not an issue with easy solutions because parents’ rights have to be balanced with the need to protect children who are in real danger. One would hope, though, that the police and CPS workers would have the wisdom to realize that playing outside alone is NOT a sign of mistreatment.

  60. Warren September 17, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Jen,

    That is part of the problem. Exercising your right to have legal representation, is not confrontational. It is common sense. Why is anything but complete cooperation considered confrontational?

    Stacy,
    So you are okay with innocent people having their lives anything from hassled minimally to completely destroyed?

    That is no different than saying it does not matter how many innocent people go to prison, as long as the system gets the guilty ones as well. That is just damaged thinking.

    Why does it have to be anonymous? If you are truly concerned about actual abuse……..stand up, give your information, go to court and testify. If you are not willing to do all that, then stay out of it. All these so called good intentioned people, call and then don’t want to get involved. Too damn bad, you made the call……..you are involved!

  61. Donna September 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Warren,

    I don’t understand your emphasis on the busybodies. Busybodies have absolutely no power or authority whatsoever. They can only turn someone’s life upside down if the people with actual authority (the cops, CPS, courts) give them that power.

    The cops and CPS can ignore stupid calls. They do it all the time. There are many truly insane people in this world and lots of them like to call 911. Cops are not spending all their time chasing aliens and arresting people for listening in on their neighbors through the toaster. They treat those calls with the response they deserve.

    Cops/CPS could choose to ignore “6 year old outside playing alone” calls altogether as not reporting a crime or they could choose to respond with a friendly “some crazy person reported abuse because your kid was playing alone outside and we’d like a minute of your time to confirm that this was as stupid of a call as we think it is so we can close our file.” But they don’t. They choose to treat them as calls that need to be fully investigated in a confrontational manner and go on the record.

    Busybodies aren’t going to be dissuaded. Every busybody that I’ve ever met is convinced that she is 100% right. Holding her accountable just makes her feel persecuted for her rightness and does nothing to convince her that she is actually wrong.

    And calls need to remain anonymous, at least from the family, because there are some truly dangerous people out there who will retaliate. Family law is the most dangerous branch of the court system, more dangerous than even criminal law. Even nice people can become unhinged when you start taking away their money and children and people charged with abuse are probably not particularly nice to start with. This is particularly problematic since most reporters are not strangers, but are people in regular contact with the family.

  62. Stacy September 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Being questioned by CPS when you are innocent is like being questioned by the police when you are innocent…it’s not the same as going to prison. Obviously, I’m going to get really angry if someone’s children are taken away when they have not abused or neglected them, and it really disturbs me when I hear about police and CPS judging normal parenting decisions. Like I said, I don’t understand why CPS had to question the kids alone about everything under the sun if the neighbor only claimed the kids were outside. The level of investigation should reflect the seriousness of the claim, in this case being just a quick stop to tell the mom that someone reported her for this but it wasn’t considered neglect, assuming the neighbor didn’t make uglier false allegations. But they obviously can’t stop investigating claims of real abuse and just abandon children to horrible things you can’t imagine because some people exaggerate or lie.

    As for why it has to be anonymous, just imagine one example. A young woman suspects that her friend’s boyfriend is responsible for all the weird bruises and lacerations on her friend’s baby. She gets the guts to call CPS only because a friend told her they keep you anonymous. CPS investigates, offers the mom some services but doesn’t remove the baby because mom offers reasonable explanations and suggests that someone might just be out to get her. Suddenly, the baby has a mysterious broken arm. Sister calls CPS again and the police start talking to the boyfriend too. By now, the boyfriend is seriously pissed off and wants to know who is getting involved where she doesn’t belong because he’s going to teach her a lesson. You can’t have a rule that gives the parents the right to the caller’s name if CPS decides the caller probably didn’t have good intentions, as much as I hate busybodies wasting everyone’s time and causing families anxiety.

  63. Warren September 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Unfortunately callers do have the authority to destroy peoples lives. If you think they don’t, under the current system, you are in denial.

    For the simple fact that the police and then CPS will always investigate. They have no choice. If they decide this woman is a lunatic, and choose to not investigate they are putting their necks on the line, in the event that the risk is real. They won’t take that gamble. Professionally they cannot take that sort of risk.

    Because you damn well know that these callers do not give up until they think they have won.

    Now I am not talking about having recourse against them for one call. But after the police and CPS have done their thing, and the caller continues to call on this type of incident, then it is harassment. Harassment that can cause huge problems for the family.

    Donna you know that this mom is now in the system. And it can come back to haunt her. Regardless of the outcome, there are now incident reports at both the police and CPS. All because of one lady’s objection to a parenting choice.

  64. Steve S September 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    I would suspect that CPS has always had to deal with its share of busybodies, kooks, and my favorite, divorcing couples. In all of these cases, they have had to evaluate the credibility of the reporter and decide if they are going to intervene.

    What seems to be different today, as Donna points out, is that some states are choosing to not ignore questionable reports and are intervening in situations that wouldn’t have gotten as much attention in the past.

  65. Donna September 17, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Warren –

    People report things to the police all the time that the police choose not to investigate because no actual crime is being reported. Even things beyond the crazy woman who reports that her neighbors are reading her thoughts through her toaster. For example, I left my neighborhood listserv because it was a constant report of “some stranger knocked on my door to sell cookies so I called the police and they refused to do anything.” In every single case, the police told the people who called “we are aware of that person and have confirmed their story” and refused to do anything else despite the callers wanting them to come out and make the person stop selling.

    The police have the full ability to treat stupid reports such as this differently than they do. They could choose to tell the callers, after an initial casual interview with the family, “we are aware of that family and they are within their rights to allow their children to play outside.” They could come out, see that the kids are fine and move on. They could do many things that don’t result in CPS involvement or any threat to the family. THEY are the ones who choose to make it a big issue, not the callers.

  66. Jill September 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    @Roger the Shrubber You’re wrong, Sherlock. I’m a Presbyterian and an independent.I vote for whichever political candidate has the best voting record on the issues that matter to me.
    Now, is a “shrubber” anything like a schlemiel?

  67. marie September 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

    Bumblebee, what do you see as the biggest danger that faces children who are unsupervised outside? What are the chances that those particular dangers will surface during one child’s afternoon spent outdoors? Did you face those dangers (the actual dangers, not just the fear of them) when you were a child and outside?

  68. Jen (P.) September 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    @Donna – Isn’t the problem though that an increasing number of people don’t think parents should have the right to allow young children to play outside without constant supervision? That all too many people would find this busybody’s actions to be reasonable and necessary to protect the child? When you combine that with a system in which that busybody’s report triggers a legal duty on the part of a government agency to investigate and interview all the children in the home, that’s a recipe for trouble.

  69. Roger the Shrubber September 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Jill – Describe yourself as you wish,I have no reason to doubt your self-classification. but when one yells ‘Religious Fanatics!’ and ‘Executions!’ at the mere mention of Texas, in response to a blog posting that has nothing to do with these things, it makes obvious one’s bais and prejudice.

    Concerning my handle, it’s a reference to the movie ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ I highly reccomend it. Even a fanatic Presyberatian may find it enjoyable?

  70. Donna September 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Jen (P) – Again, a phone call absolutely does not trigger a mandate to investigate and interview all the children in the home. CPS has discretion. CPS gets reports all the time that they do little about. Reports that are closed with a very cursory investigation or no investigation at all. I’ve personally made CPS referrals that were 100% ignored. No contact with me. No investigation. No anything. I’ve been involved with numerous criminal cases involving referrals to CPS that are closed with nothing more than 5 minute interviews with the parents. CPS is CHOOSING to investigate these cases.

    But, yes, the climate is a problem. The climate has more people calling in for these things. But more importantly, the police and CPS exist inside the climate as well. They pursue these cases because they truly believe that being unsupervised, even while playing outside, is an indication of neglect. Not that it is necessarily neglect, but that it is a possible indicator. It is scary.

  71. JP Merzetti September 18, 2014 at 12:48 am #

    Ah……CPS.
    For quite some time now, an awful lot of good folks have been trying to figure out the correct dosage of a sure-fire repellent. (more reliable than grizzly bear spray.)
    A 911 call can be more deadly than a lightning strike.
    There are now a dictionary’s worth of definitions of what constitutes abuse, neglect, failure to thrive, and divers specimens of bad parenting. And the list grows ever longer day by day.
    As long as kids become value added into the system, thus it will ever be.
    But it becomes a real crapshoot when a good responsible parent gets tossed on the same trashpile as the people who do actually do real harm to kids.
    We would, could (and should!) call this system to accounts – to have the native common sense to be able to differentiate between the two. But that is where it all falls down on its nosy nose.
    And so power and impunity within the law becomes delivered to those who don’t deserve it, abuse it, and (darkest of ironies) deliver unto children far more damage entirely, than the parent was ever originally suspected of, in the first place. A carnival of carnage.

    A truly good citizen would weight this out.
    A charlatan, fool and imbecile will defer the option.
    There is not enough tar and feathers in the community to hand them what they deserve.
    Because the real losers, after all the dust is settled – are the “saved” children.

    @Haava,
    I understand completely, the nuclear option of which you speak.
    Children do need adults to act as such. After all, who else will?

  72. Deb Hunt September 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    I am going to say it again “people have lost their damn minds”. I just saw this on The Today Show and was apalled that this neighbor took it upon herself to bring this little boy home. I am tired of people minding other people’s business. I do believe we all need to be mindful of watching everyone’s kids but to lead a child home that does not belong to you? The police should have been called on her. Children need time to play outside without a security detail on them. I really do not believe security today is any different than when we were kids but every child just needs to be educated on strangers and what to do. PEOPLE! MYOB. Thanks for letting me vent.

  73. pmath September 18, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    It’s just getting ridiculous! A child of 6 or older (and in some cases younger) should be allowed to play outside alone and parents can and should set the rules on what this means. The rules would include where the child can go and what the child is and isn’t allowed to do (after all that’s how real adult life often works). A parent can and should then sneak a peek out of the window periodically to make sure all is well. This is the way kids learn to do things for and by themselves and builds such a great sense of independence and accomplishment.

  74. Let Her Eat Dirt September 19, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    I like the idea of neighbors watching out for our children — it’s nice to know that if my kid is running about alone, there are folks who will keep an eye out in case something happens. But this case (and others like it) are very different. These aren’t thoughtful neighbors who know and care about the child; these are suspicious folks who step in hoping to punish “neglectful” parents. Why on earth would you call the police or CPS in this situation? A true neighbor would never think of doing that.

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    http://www.lethereatdirt.com
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls