CPS and Free-Range Parents

Readers — This comes to us from one of my favorite thinker/writer/lawyers: David Pimentel. In 2012 he wrote the wonderful piece, “Child Neglect and the Free-Range Parent: Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care? Alas, in some legal ways, it is.

Now he’visiting the issue of what happens when Child Protective Services believes Free-Range Parenting is negligence. It’s not and we have to let the people in power KNOW!  (Boldface is mine.)  – L.

M'am, was that YOUR child who was walking to school today?

M’am, did you deliberately allow your child to frolic unsupervised? 

Pimentel writes to us:

As many of your posts acknowledge, Free-Range parents are resisting a powerful cultural trend.  They may be subjected not only to the head-wagging of neighbors, but also to interventions, or at least investigations, by Child Protective Services (CPS).  CPS is, of course, just doing its job, trying to keep kids safe, responding to calls from ill-informed, but nonetheless alarmed observers. But CPS is applying legal standards that are hopelessly vague, and erring on the side of “safety,” by removing many children each year from families who have not mistreated them, and who have not come to harm, but who are nonetheless deemed to be “at risk.” My new article highlights the problem of inadequate legal standards CPS applies, and of the incentive structure (including financial incentives) faced by CPS offices, which results in this type of excessive response

It is time for legislatures to examine the mandate of CPS in their respective states, and to ensure that CPS interventions are scaled back, so they respond to genuine—as opposed to imagined—threats to child safety, and so they abandon the fool’s errand eradicating risk altogether.  Parenting is an exercise in risk management, and the legal standards need to be revised to protect parental discretion to make the necessary judgment calls as to what is best for their children.  Such determinations should not be made in the abstract by CPS; rather they should be entrusted to the parents themselves, who know their kids best and, by virtually all accounts, love them best as well.

Check out the article here:  Fearing the Bogeyman: How the Legal System’s Overreaction to Perceived Danger Threatens Families and Children (2014)publication pending. –  Prof. David Pimentel, Ohio Northern University

Lenore here: Yes! Click on the article! It shows the legal world that there’s interest in this issue!

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51 Responses to CPS and Free-Range Parents

  1. Will March 6, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    I fear this is about to become the standard in AZ, since we had all that kerfuffle with CPS reports going uninvestigated. Now, I don’t know the details, and I’d be interested to know how many of those uninvestigated reports were things like “child left in car for 5 minutes”, but I do know that right after a negative report is when you get the most overreaction and useless posturing. I think I won’t let my eldest walk to the store with her younger sister for a little while. And I hate that I’m thinking this way.

  2. Gina March 6, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    @Will–I was thinking the same thing. I remember a while back a family in Gilbert (?) lost their kids for awhile because they took pictures of them in the bathtub. They made the mistake of sending them to Walmart to be developed and the teenager who was in the photo area called the police. I

  3. Gina March 6, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    @Will–I was thinking the same thing. I remember a while back a family in Gilbert (?) lost their kids for awhile because they took pictures of them in the bathtub. They made the mistake of sending them to Walmart to be developed and the teenager who was in the photo area called the police. In the meanwhile, kids who are in real danger have been negelected by CPS all this time. Let’s hope the new CPS does a better job and uses some brainpower. Where do you live? I’m in far North Scottsdale.

  4. Warren March 6, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Let’s face it, CPS is now no different than any other agency of the gov’t. They care less about doing what is right, and more about justifying their existance, and trying to get more in next years budget.

    How do they do this, is by busting parents for kids is cars, no matter what the time or conditions, because it is the new media storm and they can look like heroes. Whatever will get them the best press.

  5. lollipoplover March 6, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    Helicopter parenting cannot be the new standard. Our country considers 18 years old to be adult.

    Definition of an adult (noun):
    a person who has attained maturity; a grownup
    a mature fully grown animal or plant
    (law) a person who has attained the age of legal majority (18 years for most purposes)

    Isn’t 18 the age we exit children out of the foster care system?

    But with helicopter parenting, most 18 year olds will find them away from home (and parents) for the very first time, and still expect all of the comforts of home.
    Be careful how you raise your children. When we raise them with entitlement to the best and *safest* life possible, does this really qualify them as an adult? Or are they this new subset of adult children that seems so prevalent today:

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/05/living/nj-teen-sues-parents-for-college-education/

  6. Jen (P.) March 6, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    What alarms me about most child protection laws is the lack of due process afforded to parents. Allowing the state to remove a child without giving the parents a right to be heard is acceptable in an emergency where the child’s immediate safety is threatened. But the laws tend to be written broadly enough to allow that to occur in non-emergency situations, and there seem to be more and more examples of over-zealous agencies using them for that purpose . . . like the example above of the folks who took pictures of their kids in the tub. If it’s the same case I remember, I saw those photos, and they were the same type of pictures almost every parent has of their very young kids. Removing those children from the home based on that evidence alone was outrageous.

    It’s hard for me to imagine a worse punishment than having my child taken from me. Government agencies should not be allowed to exercise that power except in the most extreme circumstances.

    The other problem I see is that there never seems to be a time when a CPS case is closed. Once they’ve gotten involved, they have a duty to stay on the case at some level, so a parent can never really be exonerated. So some busybody calls CPS because she sees a kid walking to the park alone. The police or CPS check it out and find no evidence of any wrongdoing or harm to the child, but that parent is still tagged as a problem and the file remains open.

    I don’t have time to read the entire article right now, but I hope the author is advocating that state legislatures revisit their child protection laws to address these problems.

  7. Neil M March 6, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Great paper!

    I’m not a parent, but I have nothing but sympathy for those who are and must deal with the threat of being second-guessed by CPS. To my mind, CPS needs to focus on situations like that of Danieal Kelly, a disabled Philadelphia girl who was STARVED TO DEATH by her family, and not harass parents who let their kids walk three blocks through a creamy suburban neighborhood. Criminy…isn’t there already enough tragedy in the world without us dreaming up more?

  8. marie March 6, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    It’s hard for me to imagine a worse punishment than having my child taken from me. Government agencies should not be allowed to exercise that power except in the most extreme circumstances.

    As hard as it is for us, imagine how frightening it must be for the children who are “removed from the home.” That phrase makes it sound so tidy.

  9. Jen (P.) March 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    @Marie . . . It occurred to me after I hit “submit” that I should not have stopped where I did. I was focused on the parents’ right to contest the charges. I didn’t mean to ignore the trauma suffered by children in those circumstances.

  10. Angela March 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Life will never be perfect. I wish some people would accept that.

    I am actually quite surprised that CPS wasn’t more involved in my family growing up. It seemed the only times they got involved (2 total) was when my mother decided my father needed to be punished for something after their divorce. They were always minor and the worst punishment Dad got – besides being dragged through the courts – was a fine.

    That doesn’t mean life was perfect. The 2am screaming drunken fights when they were still together never brought authority running. I remember going to the school counselor in 6th grade to call the police and give them a description/license plate number of my mother’s cocaine dealer. Once I hit high school I was pretty much on my own – no parent home ’til well after bar time and I had no curfew. Horrible way to grow up, right?

    I graduated school with above average grades, went on to get an associate’s degree, am now almost 13 years (and 2 promotions) with the same company and 2 of my 4 kids have already made it through school (Well, OK, A still has a few months, but she’s all As and Bs so I feel secure being a bit prophetic). I don’t think anything would have turned out better if I’d have been removed from my family.

    I did not accept that anyone but my parents had control over me unless my parents told me that person did. I remember standing in front of a teacher and peeing my pants when I was not allowed to use the bathroom as a kindergardener (had a bladder disorder and was told by Dr to NEVER hold it – and was secure enough to trust in myself) and admitted without hesitation that I skipped Study Hall in high school for no acceptable reason.

    I can’t imagine what I would have done had I been removed from my family – Mom, Dad, 2 brothers, 1 sister, both sets of grandparents, 8 biological aunts and uncles and all the cousins that entailed. I was even pretty close to some of my grandparents’ siblings. All of those ‘traumatic’ experiences wouldn’t have compared AT ALL to losing my family, even if just for weeks or months while CPS and the courts held their hearings and such.

  11. marie March 6, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    Jen P., when most parents say, “It’s hard for me to imagine a worse punishment than having my child taken from me,” they mean that knowing the trauma caused to the child is what makes it the worst punishment. So yeah, I assumed you meant that. :-)

    Angela, I don’t even know where to start with your story. Sympathy seems wrong AND right. Terrible parents don’t always turn out terrible children and good parents don’t always turn out successful children. Kids learn what kids learn and sometimes (!) it matches up with what the parents meant to teach.

    I know that some social services agencies try to leave the kids in the home and remove the abusive parent. While that’s an improvement over dragging the kids away, I imagine there are many families who would rather stay together while a parent works on addictions or anger management or whatever. If staying together is possible, it seems so much healthier for kids to be there to see Dad/Mom work on getting better.

    Many times, when someone hears the word “abuse”, their imagination takes them straight to the worst they can imagine. Abuse is not always extreme.

    I have a hunch that when CPS removes kids from the home, CPS has an interest in making things sound as bad as possible to justify that action. When I hear that a home was filthy, I look around at my own home and wonder how it could be described to sound awful. When CPS takes extreme action for so many cases, they can easily lose the focus that the truly awful cases need.

  12. SOA March 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    Personally I doubt and I really can’t see CPS caring about me and my kids. With so many meth addicts and stuff around here, my nice middle class house SAHM with a room full of toys and playdates and monogrammed shirts, etc I doubt I would even come on their radar. Just saying. Even if I let them walk down to the store by themselves. Plus I know most of the cops around here and stuff so I just don’t worry about that that much.

    I know some free range parents have had run ins with CPS but I just don’t fear that very much.

  13. SOA March 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Also just a joke but I always say “Let them take my kid, they will bring them back within 2 hours begging me to take them back!” I say that goes for police, CPS or a kidnapper or whomever. 😉

  14. Ral March 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Hi I have been a long time reader of your site Lenore and just wanted to make a small comment on this topic.

    My child was removed over 2 years ago over a small bruise on his ear the reason? imminent danger of course.

    My child has been manipulated, lied to and kept from his family both here and in Australia (yes both my son and I are Australian Citizens not American).

    I can tell you first hand what a disgusting and heart-breaking situation you will be in if CPS comes for your child. They report things to the Family Court that are simply not true and parents really have no recourse.

    My child will be taken from me permanently because I refuse to lie that I caused his small bruise.

    My whole point in commenting is to link you to an article concerning a child being left in a car in Ky – http://www.wave3.com/story/24904973/father-accused-of-leaving-3-year-old-son-alone-in-parking-lot

  15. QB March 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Recently in our town a toddler was murdered by her stepfather, who brutally crushed her head between his hands. CPS had (against the very vocal wishes of the biological father and the mother’s family) returned the child to her mother and stepfather’s care. The child had been removed before because she had both legs broken and the mother was charged with child abuse.
    At the same time, there was a report of woman who left her two kids in the car for 15 minutes to run into Walmart because her youngest had vomited all over her clothing and she needed to get something for the child to wear. They were, of course, unharmed in this incident. She was charged with neglect and child endangerment. I am not sure if she is fighting the charges or not.
    My kids often don’t want to come in when I am running a quick errand. I am never afraid that they will be hurt or abducted. I am always terrified that someone will call the police on me.

  16. Angela March 6, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    marie – that was kind of the point. Of all the imagined dangers and traumas that CPS is ‘saving’ children from, I have never heard or read of a case where the trauma of removing the child from their home was considered before making the decision. I’m sure anyone could pick 5 or 6 things about their childhood that, if taken on their own, make their life sound like a living hell.

    I have a much longer essay I wrote (for no reason other than personal fulfillment after I lost the last of my grandparents) about my life that sounds very different from the one above. I did not live a life full of trauma and pain. Sure, there were some things that turned out to be doozies, but who can claim a life free of doozies and how many must occur before they overshadow the trauma of being forcefully removed from a loving (even if slightly dysfunctional) family? If I believed every CPS agent sat down and gave this question real thought before taking action, I’d rarely question their decisions and wouldn’t fret about every parenting decision I make landing me on their radar.

  17. marie March 6, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Ah. I answered you seriously when you were sort of tongue-in-cheek about your childhood traumas. My family could be described in the same lurid way, just as my kitchen floor could be described as “filthy” on a rainy day when the dog has been in and out.

    You made a really good point–CPS makes their decision based on the one unhappy event they know about and they don’t bother to learn about the happy, loving glue that keeps the family together and makes the children feel secure.

  18. Reziac March 6, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Two wise folks posted:
    ========
    CPS is now no different than any other agency of the gov’t. They care less about doing what is right, and more about justifying their existance, and trying to get more in next years budget.
    ========
    I have a hunch that when CPS removes kids from the home, CPS has an interest in making things sound as bad as possible to justify that action.
    ========

    You are both so very correct — it’s become all about justifying their jobs and their budgets, which you do by demonstrating a need. You demonstrate a need by creating cases from the smallest excuse (note I didn’t say evidence). The more cases you can create, obviously the more need! So next year we get a bigger budget and more enforcement officers!!

    And remember, folks, next time you cheer Animal Control (or the “Humane Society” which is functionally no different) for confiscating some poor ‘abused’ or ‘neglected’ animals from their owners — THESE AGENCIES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME AS CPS, and their ‘evidence’ is typically just as flimsy (or manufactured, or nonexistent). First and foremost, they need to justify their jobs, and they do that by creating cases.

    When have one out-of-control agency, you are making a precedent for another agency to do exactly the same thing.

  19. Tim March 7, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Is there any evidence of racism/sexism/classism/ageism, etc. in CPS decisions? In other words is the child of a single mother, a minority, a poor person or someone who doesn’t go to church more likely to be taken from their family or have their parents or guardians investigated? Does this happen more in specific states?

  20. Gary March 7, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    “As hard as it is for us, imagine how frightening it must be for the children who are “removed from the home.” That phrase makes it sound so tidy.”

    Anyone tries to take my kids you better bring a !@#$%^& army…

  21. SOA March 7, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Reziac: Animal control around here does not have to “try” to find ways to justify taking animals. It is very easy. Because vast majority of pet owners around here at least think its okay to have their dogs off leash or not vaccinated….so finding an animal not up to date on shots or roaming the neighborhood is not something they have to go out of their way to find. Or find a dog that is reported for biting. They actually are so backed up with reports of this stuff that when I call to report a stray or an animal bite, it takes them days to show up due to back log.

  22. Donna March 7, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    “just as my kitchen floor could be described as “filthy” on a rainy day when the dog has been in and out.”

    I’ve worked a few “dirty house” cases. They did not involve dirty dog prints on the floor. They involved piles of feces, animal and human, inches thick; urine soaked carpets; soiled diapers lying all over the house; rotting food, trash and dirty dishes everywhere with roaches, mice and rats scurrying through it. They have been places that I wouldn’t send someone I hated to visit. I can’t even imagine the stench of living there.

    I handle CPS cases in two counties (as a parent or child attorney or guardian ad litem). I feel about CPS case workers much the same way I feel about DAs – they are decent people who have a very different view of life than me. They are not evil doers who are looking to defend their existence. They genuinely believe that children are better off living with strangers than with parents who are addicted to drugs or mentally ill (the two major categories of cases that I think are blown way out of proportion).

    I do think that CPS can be both overzealous and underzealous. I have CPS cases where I think “WTF” and I have juvenile criminal cases where I think “why the hell haven’t these kids been removed from this house.”

    We go on and on here about how the world is going crazy with overprotection and fear and then some seem shocked that CPS, DAs, judges, juries, schools and other institutions follow suit. Of course they do!! These positions are staffed by people who are pretty representative of the general views of society. They don’t need to have devious underhanded motives for their actions. They hear the same crap media reports that the world is going to hell in a hand basket as everyone else and believe them just like everyone else. Helicopter parenting is becoming the standard because that is what society is pushing, not because CPS is looking to defend its existence. It existed, and was plenty busy, long before now.

  23. Donna March 7, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    “Is there any evidence of racism/sexism/classism/ageism, etc. in CPS decisions?”

    Absolutely classism. I honestly have seen absolutely no difference in CPS or police/DAs/judges in dealing with races (although that may definitely be different other places). Families of color are affected more often because they are poor more often, but my poor whites are treated no better than my poor blacks. Ageism comes into play to a lesser extent. Young parents are going to be called out more than mature parents.

    That What Would You Do? tv show, tested this on one episode. They took a white woman with 2 kids and had her yell at them and drive off leaving them behind. In one sketch they had her dressed poorly, driving a beater car, smoking cigarettes and in the other she was dressed well and driving a Mercedes. Exact same woman, children and script in both. The first woman was treated far worse than the second. They called the police, CPS, yelled at her, cussed at her. I don’t think anyone called on the second or even said much to her. One woman sat with the children and that was it. I seem to remember her even getting some support for her actions.

  24. Puzzled March 7, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Ironically, I would guess that the less safe an area, the less likely that the free range parent would face difficulties, since CPS will be so busy there. It’s only kids walking around safe, supportive communities, where there isn’t a lot of work to be done, that would create problems. Great incentives there.

    By the way, I’m wondering something about the FRK philosophy that seems relevant here. Is the dominant view here:
    a) Parents have a right to raise their kids as they choose (within reason), and parents who wish to raise their kids free range should have that right (that is, FRK is within reason)
    b) Free range is the proper way to raise kids, and those who raise differently are doing it wrong
    c) Kids have rights to move freely, to participate in the world, and so on, and not parenting in a FRK manner is impeding on their human rights

    I lean towards c, but I’m not a parent and I could see that changing if I were. I’m also concerned because I’m dating a woman who very much wants kids, as do I, and who doesn’t like this blog – but whom I like in every other way. I wonder how that would play out.

    Anyway, I see it as relevant because – do we want parents left alone, or would it be better if CPS actually enforced free range?

  25. Donna March 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    puzzled –

    I believe that all 3 are true statements.

    And before anyone jumps on me for part b. I don’t mean it in a judgmental helicopter-parents-are-bad-parents kinda way. I mean that every parent parents in the way that they believe is right. Coming with that by necessity is a belief that other ways of parenting are wrong, or at least wrong for you. You can’t really simultaneously believe that letting children play is the yard alone is right, while equally believing that children need constant supervision and should never be alone even in the yard. If you truly believed that both options had equal merit, I don’t know how you could ever make a parenting decision. I highly doubt that you could manage even minimal consistency.

    That said, go back to part (a). If we have a right to raise our kids as we see fit as long as it isn’t abusive, so does everyone else on the planet. If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge others. We are all just trying to do what we think is best by our kids and raise happy, healthy adults. We just have different views on the right way to do that.

    As for your girlfriend, depends on why she doesn’t like this blog. If she doesn’t like the blog itself, Lenore or the other regular participants for whatever reason, but believes in the essentials of free range parenting, I don’t really see the problem. If she thinks free range parenting is dangerous and leans helicopter, there may be a problem. Doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be together, just that you better both be great at compromise.

    Also remember that the greatest parents in the world are the people who don’t have kids. It is easy to have grand ideas about perfect parenting before you are actually doing it with real little people who have their own ideas, personalities and wants. I laugh at so many of the things that were important to me, the absolutes that I had and the judgments that I made of others in my pre-kid years.

  26. John March 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Mr. Pimental says things so eloquently and I couldn’t agree with him more! What really galls me is that everytime something happens to a child, you hear the same old diatribe from the media, “We need more and better laws to protect the kids!” Or “We need tougher penalties for those who harm children!” as if we don’t have tough enough penalties. Of course, their focus here is on sexual abuse. Goodness gracious, tougher penalties? The “crimes” that will get people thrown on a sex offender registry have expanded in the last 20 years and they’re continuing to expand. The reason being is that it’s all being done for “the protection of the kids” Perhaps those idiots in the media need to be thrown on that registry for some stupid misunderstanding they had with a kid!

  27. John March 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    You know, a while back, Lenore posted something here about a lady in California who found herself in hot water because she snapped a picture in a shopping mall of cute little child sitting on Santa’s lap along with the row of kids awaiting their turn with Santa. She said she was just trying to capture a special moment. That sounded very reasonable to me but obviously it wasn’t to the mother of the child. Instead, she threw a hissy fit! She called security and the police and they all surrounding the lady and demanded that she delete the picture. The poor women said it made her feel like a common criminal.

    Well, I actually felt sorry for the lady until I read the part about her being a politician who pushed for tough child protection laws. Then all of a sudden, I didn’t feel sorry for her! As far as I’m concerned, she got what she deserved! By creating these rigid and 0 tolerance child protection laws, you indoctrinate the mentality of society into believing that any interaction between an adult and child is meant for illicit purposes so therefore, this lady must have been up to no-good by photographing this child sitting on Santa’s lap. The mother of the kid probably assumed she was going to post it on the NAMBLA site!

  28. Puzzled March 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Donna – thanks for your answer. I don’t see how to make things work, though (and yes, I agree fully that lacking any practical knowledge makes things hard. The only experience I have is 8 years of living with teenagers on a full-time basis, and noticing that I got better results, throughout those years, the more free-range I was.) If we believe c, then children have actual rights to be treated free-range, and how can we justify a? We seem to then be saying that children have rights, but their parents can arbitrarily violate those rights as they see fit without being judged for doing so. I don’t see how to believe both of those things.

  29. Puzzled March 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Also, regarding my girlfriend, it’s about the FRK philosophy. She was horrified about Lenore’s subway adventure, used the phrase “a different time,” and was unmoved when I showed her that, indeed, it is a different time, with children in less danger than in the past. I guess we’d both get good at compromise.

  30. SOA March 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I mean I guess it depends on the size of the area. Like we are a fairly populated county. But our little section of it is like a small town to a point. All the local cops have kids at school with my kids and I know them by sight. Neighbors know each other pretty well and our kids go to school together. We all don’t hang out but we are friendly.

    This is a low crime area for the most part and very safe area. We might have some meth heads in some trashy trailers a couple places but this is a safe area. I still feel like I don’t think we would be hassled by police or CPS. Because the cops know us and my kids. Heck the sheriff in my neighborhood had his own kid outside at age 6 stark naked one day. I saw it. So he would not be the type to throw stones. Kid snuck out while the parents were taking a “nap” ie probably having sex. No big deal. No one messed with him and it was summer.

    I could be wrong but not all communities have like a busy body around every corner trying to rat on you. I think if you are a generally likeable person and people realize you are a good family, you are safe from CPS. If I ever did get into some kind of trouble with that I would have about 100 character witnesses show up to talk about what great parents we are. So I just don’t worry about it.

  31. Gary March 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    “and was unmoved when I showed her that, indeed, it is a different time, with children in less danger than in the past.”

    you’re screwed…

  32. Donna March 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    puzzled – Because you simply live a much happier life if you are less judgmental of others. We can’t all fit in the same box and the world would be a boring place if we could. Why spend your limited waking hours of the day worrying about what other people are doing? And the fact is that most helicoptered children are really just fine. They are not miserable in their existence.

    And we really can’t say that free ranging is a basic human right of children, because that would require that a toddler have the same rights to free range as a teenager and I think we all realize the fallacy of that idea. Most helicoptered children do gain the same freedoms and knowledge as our children gain, just at a later date. Is it really worth judging someone who has no impact on your life when we are really talking about someone being able to walk around the block at 10 instead of 8 and not someone being chained to the house for 18 years?

    My concern about helicopter parenting has less to do with individual children, who really are mostly fine. It is the changes that the movement is making on society.

  33. Donna March 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Besides, Puzzled, what is gained by CPS enforcing free range parenting? Different kids who were never really in danger are taken into foster care where they now are potentially in danger? Foster care isn’t better than being home with helicopter parents any more than foster care is better than being home with free range parents. Let’s save CPS involvement for real cases of abuse.

  34. Puzzled March 7, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    Donna – I certainly agree with you there. I don’t think I really meant that it would make sense for CPS to step in when parents are helicoptered – just kind of looking for the extreme form of saying that helicoptering is actually a denial of rights, not simply a different parenting style.

    I came here through a different path than most – especially since I don’t have kids. My arrival here was through reading John Holt, particularly one of his later books, where he veered from talking about learning to a more fundamental attack on our concept of parental rights, to be replaced by a real notion of the rights of children. I also came after reading a lot of other sources on unschooling and attacks on homework, all of which were focused on the rights of children, not the rights of parents to choose a style of parenting. Although the same question seems to arise there too – I’m always unsure if the Sudbury philosophy, for instance, is that children have an actual right to be treated as equals, or just that treating them as equals is one way to run a school. They usually sound like the former, but at times say things that sound like the latter – like when the staff at one explained to me that they only allow parents to visit for 8 hours before they need future visits approved by the school meeting, since many parents don’t actually understand the philosophy and will come in and try to push their kids around. They commented “you either send your kids here or not, but if you do, we’re going to teach them our way.” That sounded a lot like the latter, I think.

    Summerhill was more clear on this question, but that turned into an unmitigated disaster, so I can’t say that’s a great thing either.

  35. J.T. Wenting March 7, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    “Helicopter parenting cannot be the new standard. Our country considers 18 years old to be adult. ”

    yet you can’t buy a beer until you’re 21…

    The rules are definitely inconsistent in the US. You can drive a car and kill people with it at 16, vote and elect irresponsible politicians at 18, but you can’t drink a beer and in a drunken stupor fall off a bridge and kill yourself until you’re 21.

    Dutch government has gone even more berserk. They’ve extended juvenile justice system to 25, and declared school to be a criminal penalty that courts can force on people in lue of prison time.

  36. J.T. Wenting March 8, 2014 at 2:15 am #

    “Besides, Puzzled, what is gained by CPS enforcing free range parenting? Different kids who were never really in danger are taken into foster care where they now are potentially in danger? Foster care isn’t better than being home with helicopter parents any more than foster care is better than being home with free range parents. Let’s save CPS involvement for real cases of abuse.”

    ah, but CPS gains so much by putting children under its control, from any kind of parenting situation.
    The more children they confiscate, the more budget they get, the more they can call for ever more draconian rules, more power for them to take even more children.
    So they have every incentive to find cause to take your children even when there’s none, and no incentive whatsoever to realise that there’s no abuse, no violations, that you’re children are being raised sensibly.

  37. Warren March 8, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Kids have been taken from parents because of not meeting their educational needs. So could the same not be said about some extreme helicopter parents that do not allow their kids to learn life skills. What about the extreme helicopter parents that raise their kids to be so scared of the real world, an arguement could be made for emotional abuse.

    Not that I want more CPS involvement, but maybe in some extreme cases to safe can be classed as abusive.

  38. JP Merzetti March 8, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Reflecting back on a time when “free range” used to be the parenting norm (not so very long ago) the new design has barely made it past infancy.
    But in examining CPS malfeasance in all its weird history, I think the number one issue surrounding their track record boils down to one simple thing: Follow the money.
    CPS is at the head of a whole army of occupations – deriving the “child saving industry” in all its octopol tendrils, compiled for the purpose of generating revenue.
    This produces a powerful motive to keep things as they are, and to bump up the numbers. Every child becomes one more value-added opportunity to do just that.

    Could this system really be that evil? Not on the surface, certainly, but looking beneath the surface raises strong suspicion.
    I can compare it to the educational debt complex….why is it that our student debtload has exceeded a trillion? Where is the outrage that a nation’s youth are saddled with debt-servitude that many will never overcome? Yet this is looked upon as business as usual.

    Professional “child saving” plays upon a big national gutwrench: of course kids are precious. How ironic, that for some of them – the greatest threat to their well-being comes from their self-professed “saviours.”

    It is no secret at all, that the greatest demographic of kids at risk are poor.
    (Wealthy people hire lawyers.)
    As this cost becomes more out of reach even to middle-class families, the exploitable resource grows and grows.

    It is one thing for free-range advocates to place forward philosophies about proper child-rearing, arguing and debating in a socially equitable forum; it is another thing entirely to be faced with the fact that such beliefs can be literally, against the law.

    The laws belong to us. We vote, and demand a system held accountable for end results.
    Examine a few CPS case studies some time. It’s truly appalling – how unaccountable so many of the workers within that system actually are. In fact, this tends to exist from the bottom up.
    When I can pick up a phone and make an anonymous call (for whatever reason, on a whim, or out of pure spite) and set a neighbor’s life into a tailspin….and be held completely unaccountable for doing so – justice takes a hit.

    But – this only happens to bad parents?
    That myth needs to be drop-kicked off the planet.
    Good or bad parenting never could compete with the power of a profit motive.
    it didn’t used to have to…..
    Ah, but those were better times.
    These times be leaner and meaner.

  39. Puzzled March 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Jt – why do you think it’s strange to consider school a punishment in place of prison? It’s no worse than imposing school on the innocent.

  40. Papilio March 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    @Warren: “Not that I want more CPS involvement, but maybe in some extreme cases to safe can be classed as abusive.”

    Sort of like Genie? She was *very* safe: no chance to kidnap her as she was always inside and no-one knew she existed, no kid could ever bully her, no teacher could ever disappoint her by giving a B, she had no chance to fall down and break something because she always sat down, etc etc…

    JP Merzetti: “why is it that our student debtload has exceeded a trillion? Where is the outrage that a nation’s youth are saddled with debt-servitude that many will never overcome? Yet this is looked upon as business as usual”

    It implies that going to college is only in the student’s interest. But what if all young people today decided not to go to college to avoid that debt? They can’t argue a first world country can do without doctors, judges, engineers etc etc etc…

  41. hineata March 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    This is, once again, so timely :-). I am thinking about ringing CYPS (our version of CPS) anonymously on my own family, LOL! The just-turned-thirteen year old has decided over the past few months that she is too cool for words, and that minor things like parental authority should have no impact in her life. Just these past few days she has ‘made her escape’ out of the ground floor bedroom window twice, after referring to me using a rather rude word, and scrawling the ultimate swear word on the letterbox. I laugh to think what the neighbours must think, seeing these antics.

    Any one of her recent antics would have earned me a walloping with the wooden spoon from my own dad, regardless of age – one did not disrespect one’s mother. In this namby-pamby age my ‘crime’ in daring to ‘give her consequences’ was to remove her cellphone for a week.

    A few weeks in the company of teens with actual problems might make Miss ‘Too-Cool-for-Words’ rethink how dreadful her home life is. If I thought CYPS had time to deal with her sorry person I seriously would consider that call.

  42. CrazyCatLady March 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    @hineata,
    Try countering with this the next time she says the hateful things. It will REALLY make her mad, but, when she calls you the names, tell her “That is okay that you feel that way right now. But I want you to know that I love you and always will.” It may provoke more anger, but it will make her stop and think! (And give the power back to you.)

  43. Donna March 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Puzzled – Any view of children as equals to adults is a fallacy. They aren’t. They are equally human, but they absolutely do not have equal knowledge, experience, decision-making ability, self-control, maturity and many other attributes. Treating them as short adults is as detrimental to their future as treating them as infants.

  44. J.T. Wenting March 9, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    @Puzzled after decades of them trying to make school “fun” and tell children how they should want to go there, it’s rather a reversal don’t you think?

    And do remember homeschooling is highly illegal here, so every child has to go to school already.
    What this law is doing is allowing courts to extend the age to which children are required to be in school in individual cases from 16 (which the ministry of education is trying to raise to 21 btw, which would mean every child would by law be required to get the equivalent of a college degree or at least go to college even if they were to fail it) to 25.

  45. J.T. Wenting March 9, 2014 at 1:10 am #

    @hineata maybe do as your father did, you’d be surprised at how quick the girl learns manners when there’s real consequences to not having them (and a week without her iPhone? She probably has a second one stashed away just for such cases).

  46. hineata March 9, 2014 at 3:39 am #

    @CrazyCatLady – ta for that, I will do that next time. :-) She does need to own her own behaviour.

    @J.T.Wenting – while I am very tempted, firstly and stupidly it’s illegal here these days, and more importantly I don’t think it would actually be effective with this particular kid anyway. If the behaviour carries on after this episode she’ll be cooking her own dinner, washing her own clothes etc until she either comes to her senses or moves out, LOL!

  47. NicoleK March 9, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    This will sound really cynical, but the solution is for more upper-middle class and rich parents in mixed-income towns to free range. Wealthy people are often assumed by society to be better parents, and there’s this idea if they are doing it then it is “ok”. So the people targeted with the free-range message should be the wealthy ones first.

    I dunno, free copies of “Your Brain on Childhood” for all?

    Reverse scaring? “You don’t let your kid walk to school? Aren’t you worried about his brain not developing properly and that he won’t get into Harvard? You do realize kids need to be able to navigate on their own to have good brain development?”

  48. J.T. Wenting March 9, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    @hineata so it’s illegal to correct your child except by asking her to “please don’t do that any more”?
    There’s a difference between meaningful punishment and child abuse.

    And telling her she has to find her own food, wash her own clothes, etc.? That’d be the perfect case for CPS to accuse you of neglect and bad parenting and take her into foster care and land you in jail.
    Sadly…

  49. marie March 9, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    JP Merzetti, you said a mouthful. It meshes nicely with a couple of things Donna said earlier, about how individual CPS officers have good intentions and how individual kids with helicopter parents can be happy, well-adjusted kids. The problem, as Donna said and as you lay out so succinctly, is that we should worry about the effect on society of these two parallel developments: the idea that children should be protected at any cost and the rise of a bureaucracy that has immense power over families.

    Children raised under constant protection–without the chance to see that one can recover from mistakes and accidents–have a fair chance at becoming adults who expect that kind of protection forever. That kind of protection will come from agencies like CPS, with enormous power over our lives. Kids who are raised free range are less likely to continue granting that power to faceless bureaucracies.

  50. Captain America March 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    David: thank you greatly for your work here; I’m terribly impressed and I hope it reaches state policymakers.

    I live in poor and beknighted Illinois. Here the CPS (“DCFS”) is run by political hacks (the political syndicate here gives and it takes, and sometimes places some in high office) and is perennially mismanaged. It’s catch as catch can, so to speak, a rambling mess of a place. . . albeit with staggeringly great power due to the enormous ambiguities of the law in this area.

    As a parent, I’m in fear of their noisome investigative powers! Suppose a neighbor doesn’t like your kid! Zoop! PROBLEM.

  51. Amanda Matthews March 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    “Most helicoptered children do gain the same freedoms and knowledge as our children gain, just at a later date. Is it really worth judging someone who has no impact on your life when we are really talking about someone being able to walk around the block at 10 instead of 8 and not someone being chained to the house for 18 years?”

    Except it does make a difference to my life, because it affects the people I interact with, who I can associate with (can’t exactly be friends with the neighbor who is calling CPS for me letting my 8 year old walk around the block), who my kids can be friends with, and eventually who my children will marry and how they will raise my grandkids.

    And I have found that most helicoptered people do not eventually lose their fears. They never get to live a life not constantly filled with fear and anxiety, which removes a lot of their freedom, and prevents them from acquiring some knowledge.

    My husband was helicoptered and it has an impact on my life nearly every day.

    “Any view of children as equals to adults is a fallacy. They aren’t. They are equally human, but they absolutely do not have equal knowledge, experience, decision-making ability, self-control, maturity and many other attributes. Treating them as short adults is as detrimental to their future as treating them as infants.”

    When the definition of “child” (according to society) is “anyone under 18″ you can’t really say this. Someone 3 days away from their 18th birthday is not, from a brain-development standpoint, any different than someone 3 days past their 18th birthday.

    Anyway, many adults have unequal knowledge, experience, decision-making ability, self-control, maturity, etc. yet we treat them all as equals.