I'm not normally one to wring my hands and complain about what's wrong with the world today. I actually like our modern culture and the world my kids are living in. But if you had to nail me down to a parenting style, helicopter versus free-range, I'd definitely lean toward the free-range side of the fence.
Speaking of free-range parenting, Lenore Skenazy, the original free-range mom and author of Free-Range Kids, tells the frustrating story of what happened to two Maryland parents in her Reason.com column. The Maryland parents of two children, ages six and 10, were originally contacted by the Montgomery County Child Welfare Service in November for letting their kids play at the park alone, just two blocks from their house.
For this unspeakable crime, the parents received a citation for violating the following guideline for a child under 8 years old: "locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent."
The CPS worker wrote the citation by equating letting a child play alone in the park to leaving a child "confined in a dwelling" without an adult. Thankfully, the original case was dismissed because it was so outrageous.
But the fun didn't stop there. The same parents again allowed their children to play at the park roughly one mile from their house and walk home together. On their way home, someone watching the kids called the police.
The mother wrote in an email to Skenazy, "The kids were picked up in a patrol car and brought home. The policewoman asked to see my husband's ID. When he refused, she said she was going to call for back-up. He said he would get his ID and went to go upstairs. She said — in front of the kids — that if he came down with anything else, 'shots would be fired.'"
The father was ultimately forced to sign a temporary plan provided by child welfare stating that he would not leave his kids unsupervised until CPS visited on Monday or else risk losing his children on the spot.
Whenever a story like this breaks, there's always someone in the peanut gallery who cries, "Won't someone think of the children!" This frenzied commenter claims that crime is on the rise and pedophiles lurk around every corner, which could not be further from the truth.
It's that kind of hysteria that leads to the criminalization of normal parents, like those in this story. Parents and caring adults in the community need to lighten up and face the facts. Crime rates are lower today than when most of us were growing up, as Skenazy points out in the reassuring crime statistics on her website.
While it is possible that details could be missing from this case, it's safe to assume that CPS's time would be better spent monitoring children who are truly being neglected by their parents. Parents who give their kids more freedom than others don't deserve to be harassed.
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