Social Worker and Ex-Wife Seize Kids, 8 and 11, from Dad Because He Let Them Stay Home Alone

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Just two days after the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that a social worker was allowed  to insist an 8 year old boy not be left alone two hours after school, despite his mom’s belief that he was fine, a dad had his daughters, 8 an 11, seized from his home on the same premise. Martin Solotki told the Province newspaper that:

…last Thursday he got texted at work at 9:30 p.m. by his ex-wife, who said she’d taken his daughters on behalf of a social worker. He says he ran home and called the RCMP a number of times to report his daughters missing. Several hours later he was on the phone with a social worker screaming at him that “if it were up to her I wouldn’t be seeing my kids again,” according to Solotki.

He says he believes his ex-wife and a social worker had been watching a court review of a Terrace family law case. And hours after a ruling came down last Thursday, they cited the case as the authority to seize his girls, Solotki says.

The B.C. Supreme Court  “Terrace” case does not seem to state that no children can ever be at home alone. But it does seem to rule that the judgment of a social worker can trump that of the parent:

In the Terrace case a B.C. Supreme Court judge said a provincial court judge hearing a supervision-order presentation did not err in trusting a social worker’s opinion that kids under 10 are too young to be left alone. The Terrace case involved an eight-year-old boy who left school on weekdays at 3 p.m. and stayed at home unsupervised until 5 p.m. while his mom was at work. The woman’s ex-husband complained to a social worker, who visited the child’s home and sought a supervision order.

The woman appealed the trial judge’s granting of a supervision order based on one social worker’s opinion of child-maturity norms. She argued the social worker shouldn’t have had broad discretion over a parent, solely on the opinion that kids under 10 shouldn’t be left unsupervised, since B.C. doesn’t have statutes that define when kids are too young to be left alone.

The Ministry of Children and Families will not comment on the case, but offers the broad “guideline” that kids 12 and over can safely be left home alone.

Twelve? Why not 22? I wonder if the Ministry of Children and Families ever considers the burden on children and families who have a hard time affording babysitters till age 12, not to mention the message this “guideline” sends kids: You’re not even competent to sit at the kitchen table and do homework on your own till you reach puberty. There’s too much “danger.”

Now, I realize that since the dad is a bouncer, his nights are probably quite late. But not every childhood situation is ideal. That doesn’t make it dangerous, just sub-optimal. That is not something we should criminalize.

While Solotki has had kids returned to him, he had to promise he would make sure they are supervised until his older daughter turns 12.

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Is it becoming illegal to raise a latchkey kid?

Is it becoming illegal to raise a latchkey kid?

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65 Responses to Social Worker and Ex-Wife Seize Kids, 8 and 11, from Dad Because He Let Them Stay Home Alone

  1. Linda September 24, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    The Red Cross offers babysitting certification starting at age 11, including infant care. How is that not old enough to be home alone with an 8 year old sibling?
    http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Great-Time-To-Take-Babysitting-Training

  2. Neil M September 24, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    I guess the Red Cross will soon have its children taken away, too.

  3. sigh September 24, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    From the recreation centre course offerings guide, Spring of 2015 (I live in BC):

    “HAPPY (Home Alone Program Preparing Youth) 9-14yrs.

    The before and after school times or occasional outing for parents are easily dealt with when youth are HAPPY….Home Alone Program Prepared Youth! This program, designed by Kathleen Lee, focuses on home and personal safety and emergency procedures for situations that could occur when youth are home alone. A resource booklet with worksheets and tips plus a parent/guardian handout will be sent home with registrants.”

  4. lollipoplover September 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    “You’re not even competent to sit at the kitchen table and do homework on your own till you reach puberty. There’s too much “danger.”

    It also tells children that parents can act irrationally and will use and manipulate children selfishly to seek control. And the courts allow it!

    The children were never in danger at 9:30pm. They were probably blissfully binge watching Netflix. Telling them that they can never be left *alone* only leads to children who experience anxiety when they are eventually left alone. Instilling mental disorders in children IS abuse. You’ve got this one backward, social worker.

    For the record- I have 2 daughters 9 and 12. Not only are they competent to be left alone, but my 12 year-old gets more money babysitting ($12 an hour) than most teens are paid for *real* employment. She can cook, clean up, diaper, play sports and games with kids, and enforce house rules, all the while being left *alone*. She even texts pictures to parents showing the happy kids to let them know all is well. This didn’t magically happen when she hit the birthday switch on her 12th year. She learned responsibility from being left alone, like her younger sister, at appropriate ages. 8 and 11 are appropriate ages for most kids (not all..we all know that kid).

    What were these kids doing that they had to be *seized*? Were they mixing up Jello shots and swinging from the chandeliers? More likely, mom needs some medication and some good therapy to not use her kids for these mental chess games that will only hurt and confuse. Kids who are perfectly capable are turning into mental basket cases because of these types of parenting feuds. Stop the nonsense and actually THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN.

  5. sigh September 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    On the same page of the course guide:

    “RED CROSS BABYSITTING COURSE, ages 11-15

    This fun and interactive Red Cross certification course teaches the basics of child care including: the business of babysitting, caring for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children. You will learn how to create safe environments and how to handle basic first aid situations. Manual included. Students must attend all classes.”

  6. Jim Collins September 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    Sounds like Mom is using this as something to beat Dad over the head with, probably advised by her lawyer.

  7. A.M. September 24, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    There’s a follow-up story from BC: “Children left alone will be assessed on a case-by-case basis: … [BC] Children’s minister stresses that government policy has not changed”. [Vancouver Sun, September 21, 2015]

    Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Families, stated, ““There is no specific age in legislation — federally or provincially — nor is there specific ministerial policy that dictates when a child can be unsupervised… Concerns have been expressed through the media that a recent court ruling will set an age at which a child cannot legally be left on his or her own. This is not the ministry’s belief.”

    The Vancouver Sun writes that, “Social workers will continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, said Cadieux, depending on the maturity of the child, how long the child is being left alone, the time of day, safety measures in place, the child’s personal comfort level, and whether the child has access to a responsible adult or a way to contact his or her parents.”

    I’ll try pasting the URL to this story. This blog doesn’t print URLS, so replace “dot” with “.” and “slash” with “/”

    www dot vancouversun dot com slash life slash children+left+alone+will+assessed+case+case+basis+stephanie 11380017 slash story dot html

    The court decision that started this media coverage is posted at CanLii dot org, a legal judgment database operated by the Canadian Federation of Law Societies. The case is B.R. v. K.K., 2015 BCSC 1658, (canlii dot ca slash t slash gl5nx)

    You can also find the case on the BC Courts website (courts dot gov dot bc dot ca), and search “2015 BCSC 1658”

  8. E September 24, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    So, I’m guessing in this case only the father can be correct in his assessment on if the kids can be left alone? The mother can’t possible have any valid concerns?

    I mean how can outsiders possibly know enough about this family to take a position.

    The Mom could be out for some sort of revenge and being opportunistic.

    The Mom could feel strongly about her children’s supervision (or lack of it) and the Dad didn’t cooperate or respect her concerns about them being left alone at 930pm.

    Who are we to say?

  9. Dee September 24, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    The Today show picked up on this: http://www.today.com/parents/how-young-too-young-leave-kids-home-alone-t44951

    A page I follow on Facebook linked it and asked followers what age they thought a child was old enough to be left home alone. SO many “never” responses! Or 15 or 17. Really? Really! It blows my mind! I don’t quite understand how these parents think their kids will ever be able to manage their own lives! I responded (of course) with my usual speech about how kids don’t magically learn to be alone at some set age, that like anything else you build skill over time. I also linked the video about the girl in Japan.

    Sigh. Sometimes I think things are changing, but then other times I think we’ll never get there.

  10. hineata September 24, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    Sorry, I’ll probably get beaten down for this, but I don’t think it’s a wise idea for kids this age to be home at night on their own. If Dad is a bouncer, he’s surely unlikely to be home by, say, 10pm.

    During the day, do what you like, but at night, when kids should be asleep, there are added risks like fire. There are a couple of quite eye-opening videos regarding pre-teens not waking to fire alarms ….it has something to do with the way a kid’s brain blocks even loud noises out while sleeping. Have watched it in a hotel alarm situation with my own girls too, albeit when they were younger than these two.

    I’m with E on this. …I think the mum is allowed to be concerned.

  11. lollipoplover September 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    @hineata- where did it say he was planning on leaving them sleeping overnight? It was 9:30 pm. Other reports say there was an adult sleeping on premises and that the social worker only listened to one side of the story.

    I know adults who don’t hear smoke alarms go off. I trust my dogs senses more than my 40 yo husband to wake me at night in an emergency. Deep sleepers come at all ages. I’m not saying mom shouldn’t be worried about her kids, but raiding a house and seizing them is not the answer.
    She needs to work this out in mediation vs. being vindictive and cruel to these children. They should not be put through this.

  12. E September 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    @lollipoplover…the kids were picked up by their Mom. I’m not sure that’s “being put thru” much at this point.

    Again, as outsiders, we can randomly pick a side in this deal, but that’s all it is, picking a side. There’s no way to know who is being more reasonable or ridiculous than the other.

  13. Wendy W September 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    My 16yo watched the the video clip posted above with me. He was appalled at the ages they stated. Among other comments, it would have driven him nuts to be dragged along every time I went to run errands. My kids all started with 10min stays while I dropped another kid off somewhere- my boys around age 8-9, my daughter at age 5 or 6. Know your kids, know your neighborhood, and give people some slack for not having ideal circumstances re: job hours and accessible/affordable care.

  14. East.Cos September 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    12 year old girl from Afghanistan travels for 2 weeks from Iran to Greece without parents: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34346180

    But our 12 year-olds can’t be left alone for 2 hours?

  15. hineata September 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    @lollipop-lover : couldn’t see the video. If there’s another adult on the premises then why was there any issue? As for the very late night, I just made assumptions based on his being a bouncer.

  16. E September 24, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    I don’t know what this means because I don’t know what an “upstairs suite” is:

    “He added that adults were available in the upstairs suite if his daughters had an emergency in their unit.”

    Again, this sounds like an unhappy joint custody situation so it’s impossible to know all that you’d need to form a valid opinion.

    He seems to be stressing that his kids were “abducted” (I’ve read it numerous times) which sounds like a pretty harsh way to describe their own Mom picking them up.

  17. EricS September 24, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    @lollipoplover: This is yet another case of ex’s bickering, and using the children as leverage. Children are the ones losing. Most of this is just adults pumping out their chests, and see who can thump the hardest. Courts really need to start thinking about the children, not what other adults are saying, while using the children as a bargaining chip. Common sense.

    Personally, I think all these “experts” really need to spend more time with children, and put themselves in THEIR shoes. Not an insecure and scared adult trying to fill the shoes of a child. I wonder how they would feel if some of their own peers kept telling them they weren’t “good enough”, or that their appearance was the reason they didn’t get that promotion. I 100% guarantee, they would feel like crap and get upset. Yet they never for once think, how the children feel when they are told they can’t do something because they are to incompetent. Or killing their blooming confidence by saying, no it’s too dangerous for you to do that. When they’ve been doing it for a while, with great success.

    2 steps forward, 10 steps back.

  18. lollipoplover September 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    @Dee-
    The ages given by those Today hosts are absurd. You won’t leave your kid alone until they’re 16? That’s when they are MOST likely to get in trouble!

    Is that Carson Daly?
    Wasn’t he the host when he was pretty young of MTV’s Total Request Live? Didn’t that show cater to teens and preteens who watched it after school, most likely without parents at home, and called in to requested music videos? He better be glad they didn’t have to wait until they were 16 to be home alone or he wouldn’t have gotten his break in the business.

  19. Warren September 24, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    I think everyone is completely overlooking the fact that in both these recent stories, that there is divorce issues. In both cases it is nothing more than a pissed off ex wife, and ex husband using the system to gain access and custody, when they originally didn’t have it.
    So sick and tired of weak minded gov’t workers allow themselves to be used as weapons in a custody war. They should know better.

  20. lollipoplover September 24, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    @EricS-

    My sister went through this. She was divorced and had custody of 3 kids- 8,16, &19. Her ex-husband decided not to pay child support and she was forced to take on another job (she’s a nurse) and worked night shifts to pay all of the household bills. Her ex called the police and cps on her when he found out the 16 year-old was watching the 8 yo overnight while she worked night shift. The police said it wasn’t against the law. CPS also said it was OK but forced her to take a parenting class (which she had to pay for and miss work to attend).
    Yet if they enforced the child support in the first place, this situation would not exist.
    HE is the one in need of a parenting class to starve out your family to punish your ex.

    These games do nothing but hurt the children. Plus, the message you send to your 16 yo is that they are totally incompetent and not capable of caring for a sibling. The 16 yo did a fine job, actually. This same sibling is now 21 and in trouble with the law- drugs- which is likely a result of being used as a pawn in these divorce battles.

  21. James Pollock September 24, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    I think 11 is right in that narrow band between too young to be left home alone and too old to be left home alone.

  22. Anna September 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    I think almost all the kids I went to school with between ages 8 11 went home to an empty house. My family was the exception, with a stay-at-home mom, even so, she certainly felt free to be out running an errand at that time. We knew where to find the key. Most kids had their own keys, actually.

  23. Anna September 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    “During the day, do what you like, but at night, when kids should be asleep, there are added risks like fire.”

    I don’t know, it’s seems to me with modern construciton and modern heating, house-fires have become so rare as to be almost obsolete, and the few I do see in the news are generally started by someone smoking in bed – presumably not going to happen to an 8-year-old. I don’t think it’s fair to treat fire as a likely risk any more than treating stranger abduction as a likelihood.

  24. Dave September 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    @hineata – Beware of opinions based solely on anecdotal “evidence.” You can find such evidence to support almost any position. Only trust results from several actual scientific studies, with full controls and clear results. Too much bad law and policy has been written based on a few horrific anecdotes and opinions.

    A good example is the huge change in juvenile justice inspired by a single sociologist’s baseless opinion that we were about to be assaulted by an entire generation of “super-predator” kids. He had a few anecdotes and no science to back up that claim, but it didn’t stop thousands of politicians from “getting tough on juvenile crime” to boost their electability. The result? The lives of thousands of kids destroyed, treated as adults in a punishment only justice system.

    Those super-predator kids? They never materialized.

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  26. Steve S September 24, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    Whenever I see these divorce stories, I am skeptical,that we are getting the full story. I think Warren hit the nail right on the head. These are people using the courts to try and solve a problem they should solve themselves.

  27. Mrs. H. September 25, 2015 at 1:56 am #

    I wish a judge in one of these cases of divorced parents disagreeing about Free Ranginess would say Okay, if you want to follow the actual statistics on what is safe or dangerous for your child(ren), I’m canceling the divorce and both parents must live with the child(ren) full time. After all, being from a broken home has been shown to damage children by every possible metric (high school graduation rates, premature sexualization of dad-hungry girls, etc.)? Not to mention the damage to children of mommy’s boyfriends and daddy’s girlfriends.

  28. sexhysteria September 25, 2015 at 2:17 am #

    This is kidnapping pure and simple. Kids should be taught to shoot intruders, especially social workers.

  29. E September 25, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    I realize it’s stupid to reply to an absurd post but I’lll point out that the kids were home/asleep when their MOTHER (not a social worker) woke them up and took them with her to her place of residence.

    Like I’ve said. It’s a nasty divorce/custody situation. We have no reason to believe or know which parent is being the bigger jerk or better parent.

    Despite the kids ages, I could imagine myself not wanting my school aged kids alone late into the night on school nights while my Ex was being a bouncer. I’m not divorced so that’s just a projection, but I certainly know people with contentious divorces that WOULD absolutely be pissed about a situation like that.

    I mean, wouldn’t the reasonable thing be to allow the kids to spend the night with their Mom on those nights and swap out for days he’s actually able to home?

    We have no idea what led these people to this point.

    I just think the Mother has to be given as much support as the Dad (meaning who knows what the deal is). Their her kids too.

  30. E September 25, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    *They’re her kids too.

    ugh

  31. lollipoplover September 25, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    @E-

    Yeah, what’s the big deal about showing up and waking up children when they were happily sleeping (where does it say it’s a school night?). This is an emotional power play and not about safety. Taking the girls from the father tells the older daughter (who took a babysitting course!) that she’s incompetent at her given responsibility and shows these girls their father is no good at parenting.

    You honestly don’t see the harm in that? Wow.

  32. Puzzled September 25, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    >Like I’ve said. It’s a nasty divorce/custody situation. We have no reason to believe or know which parent is being >the bigger jerk or better parent.

    Most people are pretty quick to decide who is right when a non-custodial father takes a child.

  33. Diana Green September 25, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    I can remember a time in the past when a masters in social work included training in empathy and listening and conflict resolution and speaking in a soft, well-modulated voice. Not so today? Too bad.
    There are two sides to every story. Or three. Or four. Or more…

  34. Warren September 25, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    E,

    Where the mom loses her right to support………..when she went behind his back, and took the girls without notifying him.

    His residence, and she entered without his consent equals trespass. Unless you say the oldest child gave her permission to enter. Oh wait, if she is old enough and mature enough for her to have that legal responsibility, then she is old enough and mature enough to watch her younger sibling. Cannot have it both ways.

  35. Vicky September 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Nosie busybodies who investigate YOUR children only because they want to start trouble and be in the spotlight, need their arses kicked. They are mud and manure under the feet of decent folk and should be shunned by all of society. If an adult truly wants to help a child, they will simple ask the child if they need help, then LISTEN to them. Or like Lenore has suggested, offer them a snack, a drink and let them know this adult will come if assistance is needed. THAT’s what good neighbors do. They DON’T call the police or the gestapo protective services. If you are one of these lonely people who only feel good about yourself when you’re causing someone else heartache, then heed my advice and Mind Your Own Business, because people are getting sick and tired of lowlifes like you.

  36. Sara September 25, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    It’s very telling that the kids were returned to dad so quickly and not given to mom. I hate it when parents use social services against each other. The only people who end up paying in the end are the kids.

    So much is wrong with the short snippet we are getting. Either this particular social worker is incompetent or half truths are being told. You can’t seize children without an investigation unless they are in imminent danger of harm and then it’s only for a short time until an investigation can be conducted where the children will then be returned or will remain in care. A parent cannot take children on behalf of a social worker. A social worker can take children on behalf of a parent or on behalf of the court but not the other way around. It doesn’t matter if they are a custodial parent or have visitations. It’s not only a bad idea on a legal level but on a safety and emotional level. Social workers are trained to deescalate potentially violent situations. Having an ex-partner there would only make it harder to do so. They may be present at the time of removal, I suppose, but they should be acting with a social worker and remain away from the ex-partner, even off the property, so not to make it more dangerous and more difficult for the social worker and children. It was not the ex-wife’s job to inform the father that the children were taken. A social worker should also never yell at a parent.

    However, if we’re taking things on a case-by-case basis, as we should, it’s just as ridiculous to assume that these children were safe as it is to assume they were in danger, given the information that is known. The dad’s a bouncer and is out until probably two o’clock and mom may have had some concerns (I say may because it reads like she used social services to get back at him, which, I suppose, is the narrative that fits the agenda in this case). There are some areas of the city I live in that if people knew that a house was empty in the evening save for two children, it would be easy pickings for them and,would warrant involvement (I’m thinking of in incident where a man went to work his night-shift job and came home to find his home had been used by some people to shoot up and found some quite out-of-it occupants relaxing on his couch watching TV). The children most likely wouldn’t be harmed but a B&E is not something I think any child should witness and, yes, is a danger they should be protected from if there is a reasonable risk of it occurring.

    That being said, in a safer neighbouhood I don’t see how it could be argued that there is a reasonable risk of imminent danger. Like Lenore said, sub-optimal but not dangerous. I am hoping that the agency is working with dad to get him the help he needs to meet their conditions and not against him.

    Glad to read he got his kids back and I hope he finds a way to make it work so that they can stay with him.

  37. Warren September 25, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

    Sara,

    So you don’t feel that the Red Cross should be teaching and certifying 11 yr olds as babysitters? Because they do.

    And your logic of the kids home alone is easy pickings is flawed. A home that is completely empty is easy pickings. Not a home with two kids that will be scared crapless and screaming their heads off. Criminals do not want to draw attention, and two screaming kids will draw attention.

  38. Warren September 25, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    Sara,

    Just to be clear, even though they are just kids, their presence elevates your simple B and E, to a home invasion. Completely different type of criminal.

  39. Papilio September 26, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    @Warren: Assuming nutjobs who want to shoot up KNOW there are two sleeping children in the house?

  40. Amy September 27, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    E: Upstairs suite might mean a duplex or apartment building. My husband used to work until midnight, and I’d have to wake up my daughter to pick him up if I needed to take the car that day. She’d cry and cry the whole time, then fall asleep, then cry again getting her back inside. We bought a duplex and my brother and sister in law rent the apartment upstairs. I would leave her home sleeping if they were home. I’d let them know when I was leaving and they would listen for screaming or the fire alarm. My kid is a very heavy sleeper, and I didn’t worry she’d wake up. She was younger than these girls at the time and the trip there and back took about a half hour.

  41. E September 27, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I guess I’m completely willing to accept that fact that these are 2 people who have divorced, have a difference of opinion on how best to supervise them and..oh yeah…I’ve never met them in my life.

    We don’t know what led up to the Mom decided to take this course of action. Could she have been pleading with the Dad to have an on-site babysitter or let her have the kids on his nights working? Could the younger kid have said they didn’t like the situation?

    And of COURSE, the Mom could be a real pain and be completely wrong.

    Or the Dad could have lied to her about their supervision.

    Or she could be a nut case, power freak.

    There is absolutely no way to know.

    But sure..we can pick a side in a situation you have no knowledge of. That works too.

  42. E September 27, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    I guess what I’m saying is that without hearing from the Mom, we have no idea what her motivations where in involving CPS.

    If we are to support parents making decisions based on the fact that they know their children the best and what they are/aren’t capable of…then the Mom has to be given the same support.

    Given we haven’t heard from her, there’s no way to know if she had legit concerns or she’s just got an axe to grind. (And in reality, we probably wouldn’t know who is “right” even if we had her soundbites).

  43. James Pollock September 27, 2015 at 10:08 am #

    “If we are to support parents making decisions based on the fact that they know their children the best and what they are/aren’t capable of…then the Mom has to be given the same support.”

    Too logical for people who’ve already picked a side.

  44. SOA September 27, 2015 at 10:21 am #

    In this case, I think its both parents failing that they A-broke up in the first place and B- were not on the same parenting page. If you are going to have kids whether you are married or not, you need to be on the same parenting page to successfully coparent. So they obviously were not. So they both are at fault here. They needed to decide this together what was okay and not okay with leaving the kids home alone and agree or compromise. They both failed at doing this.
    If they were this incompatible they probably never should have had kids in the first place.

  45. James Pollock September 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    “If you are going to have kids whether you are married or not, you need to be on the same parenting page to successfully coparent. So they obviously were not. So they both are at fault here.”

    I’m not certain this is true. The fact that they hold different opinions on parenting strategy NOW doesn’t mean that they always did; they may well have been in closer agreement in times past.

    Let me give a vivid example of a well-known, if somewhat fictional, family to show that parenting strategies can change with time. Hansel and Gretel’s mother and father agreed that the number of children they should have was “2”. Only a few years later, however, Hansel and Gretel’s father and stepmother agreed that the number of children they should have was “0”. Surely, if that can change, so any any other, lesser, opinion on child-rearing…

  46. Emily September 27, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    >>I’m not certain this is true. The fact that they hold different opinions on parenting strategy NOW doesn’t mean that they always did; they may well have been in closer agreement in times past.<<

    I agree with James. I've never had a baby, but I'm sure that, when Junior arrives, the new parents' first thought isn't "When should we let Junior stay home alone?"; because their minds are probably consumed with more pressing thoughts, like, "Bottle-feeding or breast-feeding?"; "Cloth or disposables?"; "Baby monitor, or not?"; and so on, and so forth. In fact, I'd say it'd be BAD parenting to decide on a magic age for future privileges at the time (or even before) the child arrives, because those decisions should depend on factors that aren't present at that time. There's no way that the parents could magically intuit how mature or responsible Junior will be at age eight, ten, twelve, etc.; or even if Junior will WANT to stay home alone by then, until he or she gets to that age. So, making an arbitrary decision right out of the gate is exactly the kind of thing we condemn here–we hate it when society makes blanket restrictions on things, and thinks it knows better than we do about what our offspring/students/summer camp participants/other kids left in our charge for whatever reason are capable of, so why do it ourselves? I agree that kids should master being home alone before babysitting, but as for the variables (time, duration, leaving both kids alone together, special rules; i.e., no stove use), I can't say what's right or wrong, because I've never met these kids, and when their parents had their children, they only knew them as infants, and didn't know what they'd be like at eight and eleven.

    So, in this case, I can see the parents agreeing on most things when Miss Eleven and Miss Eight were born, then possibly falling out over something completely unrelated to parenting. Now they see the girls in different contexts, in different houses, and therefore have different ideas of how much supervision they need. In fact, maybe they're both right. For example, if the father has the girls on weekends and holidays, where things are pretty unstructured, he might see them waking up on their own, getting their own breakfast, doing chores around the house, making their own social plans, and seeing to their own homework/musical instrument practice/whatever. If the mother has the girls on school days, she might be constantly shuttling them from one supervised activity to another–school, sports, Scouts/Guides, et cetera….and yes, supervised activities exist at every price point. The public library here has several after-school programs for kids that are completely free, and the schools have sports teams and other activities that don't cost anything either. But, my point is, the mother might see life in terms of "Where am I, and where are the girls, and how can I make sure they're always supervised?" Meanwhile, the father could be thinking, "Gee, my daughters are pretty capable, since they do things for themselves when they're with me." Maybe the girls ACT more competent when they have more freedom, because when everything is planned for them, they're expected to always need help and supervision. I know it sounds like I'm taking the dad's side, but for each parent, their perception of the situation is their reality, so it's natural for both of them to make decisions based on that.

  47. JKP September 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    Totally agree with Emily. I would add that when two parents can’t agree on parenting styles after divorce, there’s a new movement for “parallel parenting” where each parent makes their own decisions when they have custody (not huge decisions like medical care etc which are still mediated, but normal decisions like bedtime and what food to eat and whether they can have some unsupervised time). It solves a lot of fighting between parents when you remove any ability to micromanage each other. And the kids adjust to different rules at each house better than the constant tug of war between parents. So then, as long as a parent’s choices don’t constitute real neglect or abuse that the courts would legitimately remove the children for, the other parent has no input into those choices. A parallel parenting plan in this case would mean that the dad is free to allow the children unsupervised time when they are in his custody, and the mom is allowed to helicopter as much as she wants when they are in her custody.

  48. lollipoplover September 27, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    The only side to be on in this situation is of these two girls. I honestly don’t care what the mother has to *say* or even the father’s side. There are surely many sides to this story. But actions speak louder than words.

    As Emily and JKP put very well, “parallel parenting” can work if each parent treats the other with respect and doesn’t undermine authority with these tug-o-war games that only hurt children.
    “It solves a lot of fighting between parents when you remove any ability to micromanage each other.”

    And that’s what this is about…micromanaging. Taking them from their father, while they were sleeping, is a sad act to commit. These parents need to work out their differences like adults and get counseling and NOT use their children in hurtful and confusing ways. The only side to be on is for these girls. What is happening to them is not healthy emotionally or physically. Staying home alone is the least of their worries.

  49. Emily September 27, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    Actually, I didn’t even know that “parallel parenting” was a thing until now, but I think it’s a great idea. Come to think of it, kids do fine with different rules in different places/contexts. For example, running is forbidden in the library, but encouraged at the playground. Cake and ice cream make occasional appearances at birthday parties and other special occasions, but regular dessert is usually fruit. Bathing every day is required at home, but not so much at the cottage, where hot water is scarcer…..and, Mom is more protective than Dad. In fact, if the different rules are explained to the kids, and consistently enforced within their respective households, it might just teach the kids that people do things differently, and that’s okay. Kids who don’t learn this can sometimes grow up to be a bit precious, and set in their ways, like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, who melts down if someone sits in his spot on the couch, or orders Chinese food on Thursday, which he’s arbitrarily designated as pizza night. More likely, if the kids grow up, get married have kids, and then divorce, then they’ll realize that it’s okay to agree to disagree on some things. Heck, they might realize that even before things even get bad enough to warrant a divorce. I know this isn’t the same thing, but my oldest childhood friend (since kindergarten) is a hard-core Christian (but oddly anti-Catholic), organic everything, anti-vax, anti-artificial sweetener, and pro-Stephen Harper. She also has a toddler son. I’m a liberal, childless atheist who drinks way too much Diet Coke…..but we’re still friends, because those things matter to us less than our similar sense of humour, or our shared memories of playing on her Pogo Ball, and attending day camp together when we were six. My point is, when you love someone, you can disagree with them without it being the end of the world.

  50. Puzzled September 28, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    If the argument is that the mother is justified in coming into the father’s home, while he has custody, and taking the kids, in part because she’s their mother, and in part because she may legitimately feel that his parenting methods aren’t acceptable, I just am looking for parity. For example, if a father keeps children beyond his assigned time because he doesn’t like the way the mother is raising them (and, he is their father, after all) we generally call it an abduction, put out Amber Alerts, etc. Schools justify large portions of their security around concerns about the ‘wrong parent’ picking the kids up. If we’ll allow it here, let’s make sure we’re willing to buy that principle in general.

  51. James Pollock September 28, 2015 at 8:48 am #

    “if a father keeps children beyond his assigned time because he doesn’t like the way the mother is raising them (and, he is their father, after all) we generally call it an abduction, put out Amber Alerts”

    We do?

  52. Warren September 28, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Puzzled,

    It goes back to the idea that women are victims and men are perps.

  53. Emily September 28, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    Warren, just for the record, I share your revulsion at the “women are victims, men are perps” mentality. Besides not wanting to be labelled as a victim, I know many boys and men of all ages who are great with kids, and several women who I wouldn’t trust with a houseplant. When I was maybe seven or eight, my mom said something about how “women and children” have to be careful going places alone (night or day, she said), because the world was apparently full of perverts. Even then, I knew that that mentality would imprison me for life, because I’d always be either a child or a woman. However, it must be even more awful for boys, to be treated like helpless babies until they reach some arbitrary age (say, puberty), at which point they’re treated like perverts. I participated in Take Back The Night last week, but I wish there was ab event that was more of a two-way street, like Take Back Mutual Trust. That’s a lame name, but do you see what I’m going for?

  54. E September 28, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    @Puzzled…that’s the whole point. We have NO IDEA if the Mother was justified or not. We have no idea what kind of parenting conflicts these people have had. We have no idea what each parent has done in regard to respecting the process of co-parenting after a divorce and what led them to this point.

    We actually don’t even know if the ruling that was mentioned by the Dad had anything to do with it. We only know that HE thinks so, and that he claims the CPS person mentioned it.

    OF COURSE the Mom could be wrong or made a bad decisions.

    And OF COURSE so could the Dad.

    One could argue that going public with his full name and the fact that he’s away from his home a few nights a week is not a decision the other parent would be thrilled with. (I cancel my newspaper when I travel because I don’t want them sitting in the driveway).

    It’s just silly — we could sit here all day and decide what we THINK we know about these people, which we do not.

  55. E September 28, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Again my point is not to side with the Mom, but rather to remember that she is a parent as well. We’re not pitting 2 parents in the same household against CPS, we’re talking about the supervision of kids that have another parent.

    I don’t care what the gender is….it could have been the Mom working a night shift and a Dad picking them up. The point is that there are 2 of them.

  56. Puzzled September 28, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    E – and I’m partially agreeing, as long as you’re saying that you’ll also caution us to withhold judgment next time an Amber Alert goes out because a father doesn’t return his kids to their mother after his weekend is over. They’re his kids too, right? Society at large certainly doesn’t agree, though – again, the main reason cited for most of the school sign-out craziness is fear of kids being picked up by the wrong parent.

  57. James Pollock September 28, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    “the main reason cited for most of the school sign-out craziness is fear of kids being picked up by the wrong parent.”

    I have never seen this reason cited. None of my daughter’s schools ever knew who had custody and who did not. The number one reason I’ve seen cited for requiring an adult to sign them out is kids ditching school.

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  59. E September 29, 2015 at 9:22 am #

    @Puzzled. Lenore’s post includes this: “he got texted at work at 9:30 p.m. by his ex-wife, who said she’d taken his daughters on behalf of a social worker”.

    So, the Dad knows exactly who has the children, why, and presumably where. He also knows that the authorities approved this.

    Now, again, the Mom might be a horrible vindictive person. Or the Dad could be deceptive about how he is caring for the kids. How do we know?

    This is not at all the same situation you describe when a parent takes a child without notifying the other parent and does not make their whereabouts known.

    I presume if the Mom did that, there would have been a valid Amber Alert (or whatever Canada calls such things).

  60. James Pollock September 29, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    “So, the Dad knows exactly who has the children, why, and presumably where. He also knows that the authorities approved this.”

    No, he knows that Mom SAYS that the authorities approved this.

    Meh. My divorce decree included a provision that the other parent had to be the first option for childcare (both ways). I had as bitter a custody fight as almost anyone, and we made THAT provision work.

  61. E September 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    I’m presuming that it would be pretty simple to verify and appears that’s exactly what he did since he mentions what they said to him on the phone.

  62. JKP September 29, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    E – “Again my point is not to side with the Mom, but rather to remember that she is a parent as well. We’re not pitting 2 parents in the same household against CPS, we’re talking about the supervision of kids that have another parent.”

    She may be a parent, but she was not the custodial parent at that moment. The father is also a parent, and was the custodial parent at the time this happened. Why should she be able to micromanage his parenting while the kids are in his custody? If two divorced parents disagree, why does one parent get to dictate what happens when the other parent has custody?

    If we would support 2 parents in the same household against CPS in this instance, believing that CPS had overstepped their bounds and that an 11 and 8 year old were old enough to be unsupervised for a few hours, then we should also support 1 parent against CPS even if the other parent disagrees and is the one that called CPS. The mom is free to helicopter as much as she wants when the kids are in her custody.

  63. James Pollock September 29, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    “She may be a parent, but she was not the custodial parent at that moment. ”

    Neither was he.

    There’s a lot you and I don’t know. From what we do know, it’s possible that he is totally in the right and she is totally in the wrong. It’s possible that she is totally in the right and he is totally in the wrong. I can tell you with a good deal of certainty that the truth is probably somewhere in between. But I can’t tell you where.

  64. David Brennan October 1, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    Good thing my parents never heard of this. On Wednesdays, my elementary school had half-days, so I got the whole afternoon to myself. (I as 7 at the time.)

    The biggest trouble we got into was my younger brother and I fighting over the TV.