kid at playground alone

Mom Found Guilty of Not Being Paranoid Enough

A mom was put on an Arizona blacklist for letting her son, 7, play at park with his friend, age 5, for half an hour, while the mom bought a Thanksgiving turkey during COVID. She was hesitant to bring the kids into the store and they wanted to play outside. (I’m not naming the mom, to protect her privacy.)

That was in 2020. I testified as an expert witness at the mom’s hearing this spring and just got the 60-page transcript of the 3-hour ordeal. Reading it, I realized her real crime was…being rational.

By not fantasizing about the kids being kidnapped, she angered the catastrophizers at the Department of Child Safety. Their attorney even said that the state always considers “probabilities” of risk, but, “these aren’t technical or factual.”

Probabilities do not have to be…probable? So if the state can DREAM UP a danger, it’s as if the parent ignored a REAL one?  That’s turning paranoia into policy.

Kudos to the Goldwater Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation for appealing this case. They got the mom’s name temporarily off  the “Central Register” — the registry of child abuse and neglect. But that’s just pending the appeal. If the mom loses, she’ll be on it for 25 years — long after her child is no longer a minor! Being listed would mean she’d have to quit her job helping refugees and their families, because people on the registry can’t work with kids.

What can we do to prevent decent parents from being found guilty for trusting their kids, their neighborhood, and their realistic grasp of risk?

Support due process for parents: insist that the state prove a child was truly endangered, not just that “something bad” (no matter how unlikely) could have happened.

And pass more “Reasonable Childhood Independence” laws, as Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah have done, with the help of Let Grow (the nonprofit I head that grew out of Free-Range Kids). These new laws say neglect is when you put your child in serious and likely danger — not any time you take your eyes off your kids.

Want to help us? Join our advocacy! Find out more by clicking here. Or consider making a donation, which helps keep us going.  We are working to change the laws in five more states this coming year! – L.

2 Responses to Mom Found Guilty of Not Being Paranoid Enough

  1. Common sense September 1, 2022 at 5:42 am #

    Probabilities don’t have to be probable.? So they can just pull them out of thin air? Can we use this in other areas? Like, you can’t drive your car because of the probability of an accident? Can’t fly because of crashes? Can’t use an atm due to robberies? Can’t walk down the street due to mugging?doesn’t make much sense to not assess how likely something is. Sounds like someone wants the odds stacked in favor of being able to make a case out of parents over anything. Didn’t check to see that your child was alive every minute of sleep? SIDS is your fault. Didn’t hover over your child in the fenced yard?why aliens could have landed and abducted them! Makes as much sense.

  2. James Bordoanro September 1, 2022 at 4:49 pm #


    Have you considered filing an amicus brief in her appeal or asking another organization to do so?

    Thanks for all you do!