Mom Fights Police Record She Got for Letting Her Kids Play at the Park

Hi Readers — Though this mom’s “negligence” story is told in a lovely English lilt, it may nonetheless spike your blood pressure: Since when are the police allowed to write up a mom who trusts her children to be safe and self-sufficient for a short amount of time? Equally enraging is the idea that this “record” ¬†could follow her FOR LIFE, preventing her from even volunteering at the library! This story takes place in England, but it resonates any place in the world where the authorities are allowed to hound a parent for not helicoptering.

And hooray for Liberty, the organization in England, that fought for this woman’s, well, liberty to go about her life as a decent, law-abiding human being. – L.

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30 Responses to Mom Fights Police Record She Got for Letting Her Kids Play at the Park

  1. Tsu Dho Nimh January 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    “Abandoned” … for letting them play in the park?

    And a secret report of her sins?

    WTF!

  2. Silver Fang January 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    I’m glad they have the Liberty organization in England and the concept of human rights. We have no concept of that in the USA and that lady probably would’ve lost custody of her kids if this had happened here.

  3. Emily January 26, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    This is appalling, but I can’t say that I’m too shocked, considering that there have been stories on here about neighbours who’ve called the cops/CPS/CAS or equivalent, on parents who’ve let their children play unsupervised in their own yards. Anyway, this woman seems to be intelligent, articulate, and kind, and perfectly suited to working with kids. I’m glad she eventually got the charge expunged.

  4. Warren January 27, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    This reminds me of Hoover’s secrect files. WOW.

    I hate to say it, but the way things are going, the states are not too far away from things like this.

  5. Captain America January 27, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    She’s very fortunate to have assistance. The bureaucracy is very self-protective.

    The most frightening thing to me in these kinds of matters is this. .. Who defines “right behavior”? Who defines this critical ingredient of the law and agency rules?

    Largely the concept of a “good parent” or “good parenting” comes from current psychology. . . especially pop psychology, which changes with the wind, with best-sellers and promoted books and authors.

    So the content of the definition can be very flaky and inexact. The ground can shift all the time. Is “right behavior” or “good parenting” really just a euphemism for “raising my kids like middle class white suburban Americans”?

  6. TM January 27, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Can I just say how much I HATE the phrase “Under [cited law section here] I have a right to [x]” I realize that the founding principles of the US (that the power and the rights are the people’s and delegated by the people to the government) is not a universal setiment, and I realize that even in the US we use that phrase all the time, but the fact is, you don’t have such rights because the law gives them to you, you have these rights because you are a living breathing human being, and no person has the right to violate them. You have a right to raise your kids in your own way not because some bureaucrat decided that you fall into some “acceptable guidelines” but because you are a human being, as are your kids, and those kids are yours. Short of violating your own children’s rights in some grievous manner (of which, leaving them in the park for 10 minutes is not) it is no one else’s business or right to interfere with your raising of your own child, or to abuse the legal system to prevent you from getting a job or being able to volunteer because they dislike your parenting style.

    Also, has anyone else noticed the weird contradiction that flows from our governments? On the one hand, they will tell us how all these programs (CCTV in a park?) that they are implementing are making us safer and safer and yet at the same time, doing what would have been normal 50 years ago (like leaving your kids at the park for a few minutes, god help these people if they ever let their child wander about town as shown on TV in Andy Griffith) is a horribly unsafe act worthy of a visit from CPS or whichever alphabet soup agency wants to butt in.

  7. max January 27, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    unless i am very much mistaken they could not do that as the age of responsibility lies with the parents of the children left in care. for instance if you think that a 11 year old is responsible enough then they could baby sit. i know this as i am 14 and as the best way for a teenager to earn money in this country is to babysit so i researched this.

  8. Gabe January 27, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    meh, I have to disagree here. I don’t know that I’d leave my kids alone in that situation. Not because they might be abducted, but what if they hurt themselves?

    The scary part here is all the CCTV cameras, and the fact that they followed her around to note that she went shopping.

  9. SKL January 27, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Considering I let my two 6-year-olds walk to the park alone and play there alone last week (much to the horror of some friends, but with no other bad results), I just feel sad that moms are apparently not allowed to make developmental choices for their kids in some places.

    I’m not in the UK, but I would think that the fact that they got the ages and genders of the kids wrong in the report would require it to be pulled. I mean, if they got that wrong, how can you believe anything else they said? And also, if this was based on video, the video should have documented the amount of time the mom was gone. (Though even if it was 30 minutes, so what?)

    As for the comment: “what if they hurt themselves?” I could see the concern if one kid was left alone, but there is safety in numbers. The likelihood that someone could have got hurt AND the other kids could not have helped AND the mom’s absence for x minutes would make a difference is extremely low.

    When I was 10 I regularly babysat my baby brother. When he was 2 (and I was 11), I took him across town on a bus to go shopping for my sister’s birthday present. I made a mistake and took the wrong bus, resulting in our having to walk probably over a mile to get back home. Another time I took my wee brother well over a mile to a shopping center, with his trike in tow. Some dumb planning on my part, but we made it home and nobody got hurt. Kids are not as fragile as some folks seem to believe.

  10. Donna January 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    It is bizarre that reports that never resulted in even criminal charges, let alone convictions, are making it into background checks in England.

    This mother appeared to make a sane, rational choice based on the knowledge of her children and the safety of the location.

    But I think too often we rely on the fact that nobody was harmed as an indication that it was a good parenting choice. This woman made a point of saying it and many here make a point if saying it as if the lack of negative cobsequence means automatically that it was a good choice. There are choices that are inappropriate even if nobody was hurt. If I let my 7 year old drive a car, I have made a bad parenting choice even if, by some freaky chance, she manages to do so without hurting herself or others. Same with letting her stay home all day alone and a number of other choices I could make. Being lucky doesn’t mean it was a good choice.

    Further this reliance reinforces the idea that if something does go wrong, it was a bad parenting choice and the parents should be punished/blamed. Allowing a responsible 10 year old to go to the park with a responsible friend is not a bad parenting choice regardless of whether one of them falls off the monkey bars and breaks her arm or even is kidnapped. Bad things sometimes result from good choices.

    Not really apropos of the story since I do think she made a perfectly well-reasoned parenting choice, but something that’s been bothering me and I noticed it in her narrative and then on SKL’s comment.

  11. SKL January 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Donna, but she also described the park as being a very safe place and her eldest as being very responsible. She made it clear that her choice was right based on the factors she was aware of before she left, not based on the fact that nothing bad happened while she was gone.

    But the fact that nothing bad happened was still relevant, because it means there was no triggering event causing the cops to stick their noses in, other than the mere fact that these kids were not with an adult for a little while. Which, as she pointed out, was NOT a crime.

    This reminds me of a case I read where a parent was charged because his child was in imminent danger of harm. Even though in fact there were no particular risks present. I mean, frankly, every child is always in imminent danger of harm, because kids fall over their own feet while their parents are right there watching. The mere fact that a parent is not present does not increase the danger, unless there is some inherent danger such as an attractive nuisance (e.g., unfenced body of water) that clearly increases when an adult is not present.

    Another thing about this story that concerns me. Middle-school kids are not being allowed to develop skills to manage children. When they are parents, there is a greater likelihood that they will just listen to any nonsense out there (such as, it’s not safe to let your kid ride a bike!) because they haven’t developed what used to be common sense about kids.

  12. katrina January 27, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    When I was 9, I was playing softball with a group of kids ages 8-12. No grownups were supervising, so when my friend got hit in the head with the ball, we walked to my house. My father put a frozen steak on her eye and a little while she walked the rest of the way to her own home. I don’t think it would have occurred to my parents to call her parents. This was one of those things that could happen when out and about.

    How are kids going to learn to cope if they are not trusted to figure things out at an early age? Especially if they are made to feel that bad things could happen if a parent is not in sight. Are they going to magically become mature at the age or 18 with no experience being alone in he world?

  13. lollipoplover January 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    “Being lucky doesn’t mean it was a good choice.”

    Yeah, but it also doesn’t make it child abandonment.

    Having young ones supervised by older siblings has been an acceptable practice since the beginning of time. How anyone, including police, can judge them *abandoned* when an older sibling is responsible for them is absurd.
    We have babyfied young kids so much that their mere presence at a park alarms folks to call the police.
    The sound of kids voices used to be called “happy noise” when I was growing up. Now it makes folks press the panic button. How sad.

  14. Donna January 27, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I agree that she pointed out other things and was perfectly responsible. I said my comment was apropos of nothing really. But I didn’t get the impression that she was using the fact that there was no one injured to show that there was no triggering event for the police to stop but as evidence that her decision was proper.

    It just bugs me that we, as a society and even on this website, default to the lack of injury as proof that the choice was good. Mostly because it leads to the opposite conclusion – that if there is an injury, you are a bad parent. I see it in the criminal realm all the time. A grandmother who accidently leaves her infant grandchild sleeping in the car at the grocery store is not charged because there is no injury but another mother in the same town is when she leaves her toddler in the car to run in and pay the babysitter and he injures himself in the car. (Neither should be charged but forgetting an infant in a car often has fatal consequences; toddlers left in cars for 60 seconds rarely almost hang themselves).

    In most cases, free range kids are left alone. We hear stories here of parents getting arrested or kids being stopped but it is fairly rare. I worked in a really conservative jurisdiction, and we never had those kinds of cases. I am 99.9% certain that if one of your 6 year olds had been hit by a drunk driver who drove up onto the sidewalk while they were walking to the park, you would have been charged with child endangerment for letting them walk alone. While it is possible that you might have been arresred for allowing the same kids to walk the same distance uninjured, it is far less assured. Our levels of dangerousness of an activity are often too dependent on outcome.

  15. Captain America January 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Donna, the mother made a fine choice. At age 9 or 10 I’d wander through the neighborhood. So did you (most likely).

    Again, who or what is causing this radical redefinition of young people’s abilities, to the point where they are considered to be only as smart as sponges and set on a shelf.

    If you’re over the age of 40, you know the kind of wonderful freedom that existed in America… which has been inch by inch stolen by the nannies and the professional social worriers.

    Freedom’s a very nice thing. And in the back of my mind, don’t you wonder how a very basic child protection worker (say, with a third-rate education and modest intellectual skill) would act when presented with the kinds of things that farm kids do on a daily basis!

    I know what farm life’s like. The worker would faint and call in the helicopters and SWAT team.

  16. Jenna K. January 27, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    My brother and his wife recently moved back to the states after living in London for the last six years. They have four daughters, the oldest is twelve and the youngest is two. My sister-in-law was telling me that the hardest adjustment her kids have had in moving back to the states (particularly to Utah, which is where we also live) was the adult-free lifestyle of the kids in their neighborhood.

    They live a few blocks from the school, so my sister-in-law has the girls (ages 12, 9, and 6) walk to school. In England, at least where they lived, I guess, it was unheard of to let a child walk even a few houses by themselves. My sister-in-law said she once let her oldest daughter walk from a friend’s house two doors down home and got railed on for it by the friend’s mother, who offered to walk her home (two doors down?) the next time.

    The 9-year-old is having major anxiety issues because since she was three, she’s been indoctrinated to believe that children aren’t capable of making such walks without adults present. So it’s been a pretty big issue in their house with the 9-year-old freaking out every time the kids want to go to Grandma’s house (their Grandma lives about a block away from them) and my sister-in-law can’t take them and has them walk. Or when the oldest daughter had to stay after school for something and then walked home alone, the 9-year-old was really upset. It’s pretty sad when the overprotective adults instill such fear of being independent in the children.

  17. Donna January 28, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Although I said it twice in the original post and once in response to SKL, I’ll say it again. I AGREE THE MOTHER HERE MADE A FINE CHOICE. I, in no way, maligned her choice to leave her children in the park.

    My point was about our need to always use the fact that nothing happened to establish that we were not negligent parents. This would not have been child abandonment even if a child had fallen and broken her ankle or a child had been kidnapped.

  18. Sarah January 28, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    The only part that raised a flag for me was that I believe she said her youngest was 3 at the time. I don’t know that leaving a 9 year old to care for a three year old at a park was the wisest decision. Certainly nothing to put on a permanent record, for sure. But I could see where she should have been warned that even if she “knows” her children well, this was probably not the smartest choice, as 3 year olds – even well behaved ones – CAN be unpredictable and expecting a 9 year old (who I think most people would agree is a bit young to be babysitting) to be completely responsible for their care in a park is just a bit much, in my opinion. But definitely not worthy of creating a “record” by any means and I’m glad she was able to get it cleared up.

  19. SKL January 28, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Sarah, I disagree. When I was young it was perfectly normal for 3-year-olds to tag along everywhere with their 9-year-old siblings. There was and is no problem with it, unless there is some specific developmental issue with either the 3yo or the 9yo.

    Also, I think she said the cops got it wrong when they said a 3-year-old was involved. Though I could have mis-heard that part.

  20. Dirge January 28, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If this is how the law is going to be interpreted, every parent should be charged with child endangerment as soon as a child is born. As soon as you bring a child into this world there is a chance is will be hurt or in danger at some point.

  21. CrazyCatLady January 28, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    I know a family who routinely leaves the 9 year old, in charge of the 3 and 5 year old. They do fine. From what I hear, the most problems that occur are when the 15 year old is in charge as he has very black/white ideas of how things should happen.

  22. Captain America January 28, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    My mother at age 9 had to cook the family’s evening meal when she got home from school, and it had to be hot and ready by 5:30 when her mother and father got home.

  23. Michelle January 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Great timing. Hey, Lenore, remember the story I sent you a few weeks ago about the cop who flipped out because I let my 6yo walk to the park? I thought it was all over, we spoke to a CPS worker who seemed to think it was all ridiculous, and led us to believe nothing would come of it. Today I got a call saying that CPS wants to interview each of my children, individually, that they “can’t” close my case until they do that, and that they’ll get a court order if I say no.

    So here we go again. :(

  24. Michelle January 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Donna, I agree with you. You can’t say, in retrospect, that it was ok to let a child walk to the park because nothing bad happened without also implying that it wouldn’t have been ok if something bad did happen. Letting your child walk to the park is ok because it is relatively safe, because your child is responsible enough to do so, because your child needs practice in independent action, etc. Not because no freak accidents happened to occur this one time.

  25. SKL January 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    For the record, as the person who sent her kids walking to the park, when I mentioned that “no other bad results” occurred, I didn’t mean my kids didn’t get hurt. What I meant was that nobody called the cops, no neighbors intervened, etc. Everyone in our neighborhood let the girls go along their merry way as they should have.

    Donna interpreted it to mean that my kids didn’t get hurt, and now it seems everyone is assuming that. So I’d like to clarify.

    My kids have gotten hurt when at the playground with adult supervision. If I thought “nobody got hurt” was required to prove the validity of a parenting choice, I’d have to ban a lot of ordinary things my kids do with me right there.

  26. Michelle January 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    SKL, I didn’t think Donna was talking about you. I wasn’t. I was actually talking about ME, since I am currently in the middle of dealing with CPS because I let MY 6yo walk to the park.

  27. SKL January 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    But yeah, if there was a *significant likelihood* (as opposed to a slight possibility) that someone could get hurt, that would weigh into the parenting choice. That was not the case here.

    I don’t think Donna is saying this, but some of what she says sounds like “the risk of harm to the child doesn’t play into the equation.” Of course the parent should include risks in the calculation. The risks vary depending on where they’re going to be, how old and mature they ar, how many kids are there, past history of behavior, safety of the neighborhood, etc. My point is that a mom is qualified to weigh these risks without the input / permission of government employees. Of course there will be times when the outcome is different from what the probability analysis suggested. That doesn’t change the fact that the mom is the right person to weigh the risks.

  28. Michelle January 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I think we are all on the same page. If it’s reasonably safe to let your kid go to the park, then it’s reasonably safe whether she comes home unscathed or a meteor falls from the sky and turns the whole park into a crater. Risk is determined BEFORE the fact, not after (unless afterwards new information comes to light that informs future decisions).

  29. mollie January 29, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    And a hundred years ago children in England and the US were working at mills. Well, at least they were supervised.

    Do I laugh or cry about this story here? I laugh, because it’s just so… decadent, really, to spend even a millisecond of precious time or a drop of resources on such a family as this, such a loving and wise mother and such healthy children. This woman needs police intervention about her child-raising like I need a hole drilled into my head.

    Well, yeah, I guess that’s why I’d cry as well. Because it’s so decadent, and because we’ve got such larger challenges as a species than this: well-fed, well-loved, well cared-for kids playing in a freaking PARK.

  30. Claudia January 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    I’ve said before, I think there is a simple question to separate abandoned or neglected children from those allowed out responsibly – ‘Where is your mum/dad?’

    If they don’t know, there might be an issue, if they say ‘Yes, they’re at home at____’ or, ‘Actually we’re staying at aunty X’s today, she lives over there and she said we could go out’ or ‘Dad’s at the shop, he’ll be back in a minute’, then you can probably assume it’s fine.