A neighbor calls the cops and CPS on a mom because her kid is playing outside, up the street, alone. When did that become a crime?
When writer Kari Anne Roy answered the door, she never expected to be confronted by a neighbor who had taken her child home because he was playing outside by himself — and not only did the neighbor call the police, but she reported Roy to CPS. Why are today’s moms (and their children) being suffocated by the possibility of danger?
Roy detailed her harrowing experience on her blog, Haiku of the Day, relating how her 6-year-old son was escorted home by a neighbor because he was playing down the street, 150 yards from — and within sight of — her home. Earlier, he had been accompanied by his older sister, but she came home while he stayed behind.
After she got over the initial shock, she was soon confronted in her home by a police officer, who reasonably decided there were no charges to press. Unfortunately the experience not only distressed her, but her children as well. “Then, that night, my 6-year-old cried because he thought someone would call the police when he couldn’t fall asleep at his bedtime,” she wrote.
And the story didn’t end there, because the family was soon visited by a CPS investigator. The kids were interrogated alone, without a parent present, about subjects that had no bearing on the situation — they were asked about drugs and alcohol, pornography, bathing habits and fighting in the home.
The charges were ultimately dismissed, but it has left a lasting impression on Roy and her family. “Initially, I was most pissed off at having my parenting judged by a stranger — and finding out that the stranger gets the benefit of the doubt until after the police and CPS prove her wrong,” she tells me. Now, however, she is most upset because it feels like we are raising our children within a culture of fear. “Mothers have to face a lot, and this constant, false barrage, that everything is out to hurt us and our children is the thing that is most dangerous, I think,” she says.
She’s right. I think we, as parents, naturally do want to protect our children, but being unable to let your kids play outside because you fear a neighbor will call the police or CPS on you is absolutely crazy. I had no idea that a close-by play area is off-limits to kids. Why would it be? Think about your neighborhood. Is it full of kids playing outside? Or is it devoid of life and laughter?
Earlier this summer, I wrote about a mom who let her 9-year-old child play at a park, all day, a mile and a half away, while she was at work. I still agree that it wasn’t ideal to do that. But that is not what happened here. And I have a really hard time with the fact that a stranger took it upon herself to remove the child from where his mother allowed him to be and brought him home.
Roy says the response to her blog post has been overwhelming, and the majority of the messages have been positive. “The only way to start changing this culture of fear is to let the children play. And if everyone who says they support it, actually does it, then maybe change will start to happen.”