“My Crime: I Let My Kids Play Outside” (via Free-Range Kids)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Hi Folks — It’s Lenore from Free-Range Kids, where I get letters like this one with shocking regularity (check my blog and you’ll see a new one there right now!).  CPS must do some good. I’m sure it has saved a lot of kids in danger. But it also has a lot of power, which sometimes it uses to threaten, or even destroy families. Parents who are confident in their kids, their community and their own parenting often allow their children to have some independence. They even — if you can believe this — allow them to play outside! For this, they are sometimes (too often!) hounded. – L.

Dear Lenore: A neighbor of mine called the Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) and the Police on my wife and I because we allow our children, ages 6 and 8, to play in the courtyard directly in front of our apartment. CPS has been investigating my family since April 4th 2012, it is now August 12 2012, and all they have come up with is the one report to Police about my 6-year-old being outside in front of his home. Now we are dealing with the courts in a “Negligent Supervision” case, which makes absolutely no sense because my child wasn’t hurt or asking anyone for help. I was outside with my son when the Police arrived, but the CPS caseworker insists that I take drug tests and parenting classes. People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes. – A Texas Dad

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63 Responses to ““My Crime: I Let My Kids Play Outside” (via Free-Range Kids)”

  1. #1 |  Mairead | 

    Many people who have no meaningful amount of power in their lives will seize any chance they can get to feel as tho they have some power, even if it involves making trouble for other people.

  2. #2 |  Difster | 

    Some people need to be shot for needlessly destroying the lives of others.

  3. #3 |  Red | 

    Funny thing about CPS: They don’t do this kind of things to violent child abusers. It’s simply safer to go after regular folks and leave the violent abusers alone to hurt children.

  4. #4 |  John C. Randolph | 

    Sounds to me like Texas Dad’s got a good case for slander against the neighbor and the bureaucrat in question.

    -jcr

  5. #5 |  Bernadette Noll | 

    If the neighbor was really concerned, why not go to the parents directly? Why call CPS instead of having a conversation with someone in your building? Going to the source could save a lot of hassle and aggravation.

  6. #6 |  Aresen | 

    The dad should demand that the neighbor be required to appear in court per the sixth amendment.

  7. #7 |  Russ 2000 | 

    #5, the accuser is CPS, not the neighbor. The neighbor made a call to CPS, but CPS could have gone there and not done anything.

  8. #8 |  Ghost | 

    Things like this make me really respect the old Irish and Italian neighborhoods, where they knew better than to talk to the cops. I live in the people’s republik of Oregon, and for every “leave me alone, I leave you alone” resident, there are 20 busy bodies who think that something needs to be done, and by golly, the government should be the ones to do it!

    My wife and I bought our house a year ago. The day we moved in, we had an officer come to the door because one of my neighbors had reported me for child abuse (I had led my tantrum throwing son in the house by his arm). When I became visibly upset about Nosey Nancy, the police officer said, “you should be thankful that someone is looking out for your child.”

    Be thankful. Hmm… Let me think about it… Nope. Not thankful. This guy is right: no neighbors, just assholes.

  9. #9 |  tarran | 

    Having been involved in a DCF (MA’s version of CPS) investigation of an incident of actual abuse in my family, I observed that they were essentially a modern version of investigations into witchcraft. Naturally, they concluded no abuse occurred.

  10. #10 |  En Passant | 

    One problem is that all real child abusers have been eliminated due to relentless CPS efforts. Now CPS recognizes that abusers are only half the problem, so they are focusing on eliminating the other half — the kids.

    As the latter day bard sang, “the riot squad is restless, they have no place to go…”

    The @$$4013 “neighbor” above who called CPS and cops is just getting revenge because the kids wouldn’t buy the drugs he was trying to sell them.

  11. #11 |  BamBam | 

    @1 it’s called “millions of petty tyrants”; google for it, as this site appears to reject posts with links to certain web sites.

  12. #12 |  Mattocracy | 

    Let us not forget, letting one’s children play outside is a victimless crime.

  13. #13 |  Silver Fang | 

    Do some research into your city’s laws and see if there is actually a code against children under a certain age playing outside. If there isn’t, print it up and shove it in the CPS people’s face.

  14. #14 |  Pi Guy | 

    “Let us not forget, letting one’s children play outside is a victimless crime.”

    Ah, but a crime nonetheless, I guess. Wait – what?

  15. #15 |  Aresen | 

    @ Mattocracy

    I think the phrase “crimeless victim” would be more accurate in this case. Or, perhaps, “victim of justice”.

  16. #16 |  Rebecca Davis | 

    This is beyond ridiculous. It’s deeply concerning. A parent is deemed “neglient” for allowing their children to paly outside? Why is CPS even involved? Shouldn’t they (CPS/local police) be more concerned with the homes where children are known to reside but are NEVER seen outside? Those would be the homes that would concern me. Never allowing a child outside leads me to belive those parents/guardians who are hiding something.

  17. #17 |  Warren | 

    We are missing the point………..it is Texas. If the children had been out front with a couple of Colt’s or Winchesters than all would have been fine. But they weren’t out there protecting the property, they were playing and that is not allowed.
    You know back when we were kids, and our parents were kids the local cops used to be our friends, unless we broke a window or stole a comic. Back in the day if police ever tried to tell parents in a neighbourhood, or on a block that their kids couldn’t play outside they would have had a riot on their hands.
    Let’s face it as a society we have become weak and scared. We let the powers that be have more and more control as the years went on, and now we are paying the price.
    Either we stand up and be heard, or get used to the idea of our kids having to carry official travel papers that they can produce to the police when demanded.

  18. #18 |  Rick L. | 

    Another dubious distinction from Texas CPS. Here’s another instance of a CPS fail: http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/2006/06/01/The_Word_According_to_Doyle.aspx?redirected=1

    Lenore: Please let me know if your author is from the Dallas area.

  19. #19 |  Scott Lazarowitz | 

    Russ 2000: The neighbor started the whole thing. The neighbor’s call to police and/or CPS was an act of aggression against Texas Dad. According to information given to us, there seemed to be no clear danger presented to those kids playing outside. But the real danger was caused by the brownshirt aggressor neighbor.

    There needs to be some kind of prosecution of people who call police on their obviously innocent neighbors for no good reason, that’s all.

  20. #20 |  Kant | 

    I can’t remember where i heard this phrase but it seems completely appropriate in this situation.

    Never underestimate the tyrannical tendencies of a petty bureaucrat.

  21. #21 |  Kant | 

    @#16

    I seriously doubt the neighbor can/will be held liable. It seems like the played no more of a role then confidential informal and the courts have gone out of their way to ensure that they stay hidden and free from scrutiny.

  22. #22 |  Mike | 

    CPS: The most evil organization to ever exist.

  23. #23 |  jb | 

    “Do some research into your city’s laws and see if there is actually a code against children under a certain age playing outside. If there isn’t, print it up and shove it in the CPS people’s face.”

    Perhaps more difficult than proving a negative is printing one.

  24. #24 |  Aresen | 

    jb

    If there isn’t one, demand that the CPS proved that there is.

  25. #25 |  Mattocracy | 

    Free people don’t need supervision. Criminals, slaves, and live stock need constant supervision. Children aren’t any of those things. They are human being with natural born rights. It’s not right to ‘big brother’ them anymore than it’s right to big brother the rest of us in our day to day activities.

  26. #26 |  crazybob | 

    “People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes.” In the rest of the country we call the Texans.

  27. #27 |  Donna Young | 

    So many comments are so off-base. For one thing, You have no idea what the situation was. What kind of area does Texas Dad live in? Is it a safe, secluded neighborhood or does it front onto a busy high-speed road?

    We live in a single-family home on a quiet street, but directly opposite us is a huge park that leads into a 40-mph road where people frequently travel easily 50-60+mph. My kids are 7 and are not allowed to play out front or at the park without supervision. They are, however, allowed to run in and out all day because our backyard is fenced in, and has a playscape, pool trampoline and plenty to do. Otherwise, I need to be with them. Even when they’re in the yard, I keep tabs on them.

    Texas Dad says he was with his son with the police came, but apparently not when they were called. He also doesn’t say what the specific complaint was. Was his child doing anything to disturb/harass anyone else? I don’t think this was an ‘act of aggression’ against Texas Dad, but rather, a case where maybe should have contacted him first if they were concerned? Or maybe they did and he just called them names, as in his original complaint? Who knows?

    By the way, I live in Texas. Unwillingly, but I’m here, at least for a while. Our neighbors’ kids have begun some sort of target practice thing this summer–I have no clue what they’re shooting with, but I’m a little annoyed that instead of mounting their target on the opposite fence where there are no neighboring kids, they mount the target on our fence, not even four feet from my kids’ playscape.

    I really like our neighbors a lot, and don’t want to be reactionary, so I just keep my little boys inside when the teenagers are outside shooting. But if I felt a need to, I’d certainly ring their bell and ask them to switch things around to aim into a yard where there are no little kids. Police would be a last resort.

    But does anyone stop to thing that the neighbor might seriously have thought that the kid(s) might have been in danger? Maybe there were older kids around who might have presented problems? And how did Texas Dad react to the police? Did he show signs of being under the influence, or did he mouth off to them? How did he treat his kid(s)? There’s no way for anyone here to know that and criticize folks on the other end of thing. You’re just going on hearsay, which means nothing.

    You never know; it could have been that the police were just doing their job and responding to a call, and maybe might have had a problem with the kids outside, but maybe Texas Dad’s behavior gave them cause for concern? Just saying… two sides to every story (and every situation). Can’t judge without the facts, can you?

  28. #28 |  Let the children play outside, darn it! « Mental Flowers | 

    […] The dad’s story: […]

  29. #29 |  Warren | 

    #22 Sorry to disagree but free range beef and chicken taste better than the rest. We let our livestock roam but not our kids. LOL

  30. #30 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Everbody needs to learn to mind their own f#@king business! I have money that says the neighbor that was so concerned wouldnot lift a finger to save either of those children if they were in danger. This was not about worry for the children it was about hurting the parents. I agree completely with Difster only shooting is too good for them.

  31. #31 |  Brandon | 

    #23, your insults might carry a little more weight, or at least not seem so pathetic, if they were actually coherent.

  32. #32 |  PersonFromPorlock | 

    Maybe the father’s complaint is completely true, or maybe he’s spinning whatever actually got him in trouble with CPS. We don’t know, given the information at hand. It needs more reporting.

  33. #33 |  Matt F. | 

    PersonFromPorlock,

    This is true, but given the history and tendencies of CPS, they will never get the benefit of the doubt from me.

  34. #34 |  Mark W. Bennett | 

    Lenore, if your correspondent is within striking distance of Houston and needs competent counsel I’d be happy to represent him pro bono.

    MB

  35. #35 |  Warren | 

    CPS or CAS here in Canada it doesn’t matter. Once they are called by someone they have to cover their butts. Too many times they are more worried that it will appear they are not doing their jobs, than they are about the welfare of the children.
    These so called whistle blowers should be educated about wasting these agencies time. Time that would be better spent helping those in need.

  36. #36 |  Omri | 

    Texas Dad’s neighbor probably found a particularly vicious and effective way to get rid of some noisy kids in the courtyard.

  37. #37 |  Sky | 

    I always wonder if there is not more to these free range CPS calls than reported. other concerns and factors over time. I sure hope so, because my 6 and 8 year olds play outside alone and or with other similar aged and older kids very often. The CPS guidelines say no outside unsupervised until 8, but that is a guideline, not a LAW, and I think my 6 year old fine with slightly older kids and his older sibling on our street. They are given free reign of one block, with rules not to play in anyone else,s yard unless other kids are also there and they are invited. I have been told by neighbours – did you know your kid was at such and such street – but that,s it. I say yes and they leave me alone, or in one or two cases – no, that is beyond their allowed range, thanks for letting me know, I will have to discipline them for breaking the rules – and they leave me alone. may be location. May be culture, or may be there is more to these stories than – I let them play outside.

  38. #38 |  Bergman | 

    Interesting fact about CPS: Just like any government agency, they can’t intrude into your home without either your permission or a court order.

    Sometimes, a CPS caseworker will try to bully their way into a home, with a threat of removing the kids if they’re not let in. This is a threat to commit a federal crime, though many people don’t realize it. Just like police, CPS are subject to the 4th amendment.

    If you insist that CPS get a warrant, and they show up and simply take your kids away instead, odds are they’ve just committed a federal felony under 18USC241 and 18USC242.

    Interesting, eh?

  39. #39 |  En Passant | 

    #27 | PersonFromPorlock wrote August 13th, 2012 at 4:40 pm:

    Maybe the father’s complaint is completely true, or maybe he’s spinning whatever actually got him in trouble with CPS.

    Yes, we won’t know his complaint is true until CPS officially denies it.

  40. #40 |  John Wylie | 

    If the kids have shown the ability and willingness to stay within the courtyard, for example, at that age they are plenty mature enough to play there with parents just checking them periodically. How will they ever learn to be independent? By the time I was six or seven, I walked two city blocks to mail letters for my mother and grandmother and nobody thought a thing about it–except the neighbors who would wave, say “Hi Johnny,” and offer a cookie if they’d just pulled a batch out of the oven. And no, my mother didn’t tell me I couldn’t eat one (or more) for fear of poison or pins, just to be sure to say, “Thank you very much, that was delicious.”

  41. #41 |  liberranter | 

    People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes.

    Exactly. This is why I live out in the middle of nowhere on three acres of land, separated from each of my nearest neighbors by just as much distance. People out here have a habit of MTOFB. The very rare fool who doesn’t is very quickly made to regret his/her decision to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong. Maybe that’s what needs to happen to people in more densely populated areas like Texas Dad.

  42. #42 |  liberranter | 

    @#33: Sorry, make that “like where Texas Dad lives.”

  43. #43 |  Windy | 

    I am not a religious person (actually I am agnostic) but this bit of Biblical wisdom is one everyone should take to heart:
    “However, let none of you become as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer OR AS A BUSYBODY IN OTHER PEOPLE’S AFFAIRS.” 1Peter 4:15

  44. #44 |  Mairead | 

    Before everyone gets too involved in a Two Minute Hate on people who call Authority, please remember that the essence of anarchism is that we must be our own government.

    If we don’t want more and more restrictions coded into law, we need to accept –not approve– neighbors calling the cops, and have calmly explanatory discussions with them when they misunderstand a situation or act out of spite.

    Ghost mentioned the old Irish and Italian neighborhoods. The old-time working-class neighborhoods, where Papa went off to earn money while Mama worked at home and kids played in the street after school, were effective because everyone was a busybody and it was accepted as being neighborly. And whenever people crossed the invisible line into meddling, they got an ear-bashing from everyone.

    Those neighborhoods were modeled on village life in the old country, which were modeled in turn on the original forms of human society. If we want something like that style of life back, we’d better do something PDQ.

  45. #45 |  Mike T | 

    #6

    #5, the accuser is CPS, not the neighbor. The neighbor made a call to CPS, but CPS could have gone there and not done anything.

    CPS is ultimately the one at fault here. However, the only way to neuter them in the mean time is to take all legal avenues to mercilessly persecute their enablers. Groups like the ACLU and IJ should raise funds to carry out campaigns to use the courts to terrorize such individuals with defamation lawsuits they cannot afford to defend.

  46. #46 |  Mike T | 

    #37,

    If we don’t want more and more restrictions coded into law, we need to accept –not approve– neighbors calling the cops, and have calmly explanatory discussions with them when they misunderstand a situation or act out of spite.

    Very true, but that cannot happen when the “reasonable person standard” is flagrantly violated and held hostage to paranoia and bureaucracy. CPS and the caller should be flogged for this situation. There was nothing that a “reasonable person” would find dangerous. Unless I missed something, this wasn’t in the ghetto or somewhere where sexual predators are unusually concentrated. Thus the “reasonable risk” was minimal to non-existent.

  47. #47 |  Warren | 

    This story and others are really troubling.
    But the really frightening issue is the fact that the police and government are being allowed to dictate when and where our children can play!
    Play, be it in/outdoors is being treated like a controlled substance, such as smokes and booze. Putting age limits and time restrictions on it. If this is the case then get rid of the CPS and give jurisdiction the right agency. If playtime is a controlled substance then it should fall to the ATF to handle, should it not?

  48. #48 |  Doc Merlin | 

    “People are not neighbors anymore, they are just @$$holes”
    This is why you should leave the city and leave suburbia and move to the country.

  49. #49 |  NAME REDACTED | 

    But the really frightening issue is the fact that the police and government are being allowed to dictate when and where our children can play!

    Well… no one shoots at them when they do this.

  50. #50 |  Renee | 

    Although I don’t have any problem with children playing outside, there are laws about being unsupervised. Believe it or not there are a lot more parents that send there children out to play and lock them out so they can take a nap or watch tv, etc. I have been the neighbor to them, so I know this first hand. I watchout for these children. I have to feed them and give them drinks of water because their parent refuse. It is not my responsibility, but I do it for the child. I supervised my children, because they are my responsibility not my neighbor and I should not have to be responible for those that are not mine, but I guess you would say that I am a bad person because I don’t think I should have to watch them. You can’t have it both ways. The backyard is the acceptable outdoor area to let your children play. The frontyard is considered public domain unless it is fenced and they cannot get out and others cannot get in. So many children that play in the front end up in the street. Check the state, county and city laws before you let them play in the frontyard. Love what #27 said…But does anyone stop to think that the neighbor might seriously have thought that the kid(s) might have been in danger? Maybe there were older kids around who might have presented problems? And how did Texas Dad react to the police? Did he show signs of being under the influence, or did he mouth off to them? How did he treat his kid(s)? There’s no way for anyone here to know that and criticize folks on the other end of thing. You’re just going on hearsay, which means nothing.

    You never know; it could have been that the police were just doing their job and responding to a call, and maybe might have had a problem with the kids outside, but maybe Texas Dad’s behavior gave them cause for concern? Just saying… two sides to every story (and every situation). Can’t judge without the facts, can you?
    There are actually 3 sides…Texas Dad, neighbor,and the truth, it is up to CPS to find that truth.

    …Agree/disagree I don’t care. The laws are there to prtect the ones who have parents that don’t care and we need to set the example by following the laws.

  51. #51 |  Renee | 

    “However, let none of you become as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer OR AS A BUSYBODY IN OTHER PEOPLE’S AFFAIRS.” 1Peter 4:15

    2 Thessalonians 3:11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.
    1 Timothy 5:13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.

    I guess we all have to plead guilty now…lol

  52. #52 |  Texas Dad | 

    I am “Texas Dad” and I would like to clarify a couple of assumptions posted here. The Police officer was extremely nice and helpful. The officer said that there was no problem and no neglect had accured. My son was playing directly in front of his home, no more than 20 feet from me. This is an issue of harassment by Texas CPS, a vindictive neighbor, and an apartment manager who is abusing her miniscule amount of authority in retaliation for reporting her negligence and harasment to her employer. If my child was not intelligent enough to play outside, I would not let him do it.

  53. #53 |  Texas Dad | 

    I am “Texas Dad” and I would like to clarify a couple of assumptions posted here. The Police officer was extremely nice and helpful. The officer said that there was no problem and no neglect had accured. My son was playing directly in front of his home, no more than 20 feet from me. This is an issue of harassment by Texas CPS, a vindictive neighbor, and an apartment manager who is abusing her miniscule amount of authority in retaliation for reporting her negligence and harassment to her employer. If my child was not intelligent enough to play outside, I would not let him do it.

  54. #54 |  Warren | 

    Renee,
    It is absolutes like you state that are a big part of the problem, when we let gov’ts and agencies dictate how we raise our children. You say the front yard is unacceptable……….my front yard makes up half my five acres. Yes I know the ones in the city are considerably smaller, but a black and white statement like that is why we get into trouble.
    Also you and others have made the assumption that the officer had other reasons to do what he did. Why do the officials get the benefit of the doubt, instead of the Dad? This again is why we are in the trouble we are in. I socialize with many cops, and they will be the first to tell you that far too many cops let the power go to their head. They will be the first to tell you, that if confronted by an idiot cop, you have the right to tell them to f— themselves.

  55. #55 |  Texas Dad | 

    @ Rick L. ~ I am in the Dallas area, you can contact me if you would like to.

  56. #56 |  Renee | 

    not unacceptable as long as the children are age appropriate according to the law… why do you have a problem obeying the law… Do you break the coomandments? These are not guidelines for some, but laws for all. Problem with the law move…

  57. #57 |  Renee | 

    not unacceptable as long as the children are age appropriate according to the law… why do you have a problem obeying the law… Do you break the coomandments? These are not guidelines for some, but laws for all. Problem with the law move…

  58. #58 |  Warren | 

    Renee,
    For the record, yes I have broken, and or bent the odd commandment. I know I am going straight to hell.
    But this whole the law is the law, is the law is crap. Just because some good old boys sat around in the capital, drinking Jack Daniels, and smoking illegal Cuban cigars came up with a law to appease the paranoid masses, doesn’t make it right. So do not preach, and do not throw stones while living in that glass house, of yours.
    Problem with the law move? That is bull. Problem with the law, fight to get it changed.

  59. #59 |  Texas Dad | 

    The problem here isn’t that the Police or CPS responded to a call, the problem is that when there was no sign of neglect the CPS caseworker and supervisor decided to press charges anyway, in spite of the evidence that suggested otherwise.

    Children playing outside is normal and there is no law which states that children are not allowed to play in their own yard or directly in front of their home.

    I do not have a problem with CPS or the Police, I understand that they have a job to do, but there is no reason to harass parents who have done absolutely nothing wrong.

    There are children running around in the streets all day long, breaking windows, fighting, doing drugs, etc. but the CPS agents harass parents who allow their children to PLAY in front of their home. That is the problem!

  60. #60 |  Texas Dad | 

    I received the Court documents. They didn’t give me much time to prepare, only 6 days away from the court date.

    After reading the information they have gathered on my wife, children and myself over the last 4 years, it is obvious that they have literally twisted every single situation into what they wanted it to be.

    The information in the case record is 100% false, they even made up some stories about my wife. They said that the Police were called out to my home on May 7th due to a report that my youngest son was outside “knocking on a neighbors door and asking if they could play,” and “he was allegedly outside by himself for 45 minutes.”

    The Police were never at my home on May 7th, and the child they are referring to is 5 years old and has the wherewithal to knock on a neighbors door and ask if they can play. They also state that my 5 year old was allegedly hit by a car when he was 3 while not being supervised, that NEVER happened.

    They also allege that my wife admitted to “recreational use of Marijuana, but she was given an oral swab drug test and the results were negative.” My wife never admitted to any use of Marijuana, but she did take and pass a drug test.

    They are also accusing my wife and I of “letting our 8 year old take laundry to the laundry room.” They asked him if he was scared going outside at night, he said, “yes.” The reports states that he made an “outcry” of being scared while outside at night when he does laundry by himself.

    This is getting to be extremely irritating, and I am tired of the harassment. The stress is literally making me sick to my stomach.

  61. #61 |  Texas Dad | 

    The reason the report states that the Police came out to my home on May 7th is because they only had 60 days to investigate and they wanted to add it to the report. The Police came to my home on July 14th, more than 100 days after the investigation began. I informed the CPS caseworker, on the phone, that I was outside with him when the Police came and he was never outside by himself. She failed to put that in the report…..

  62. #62 |  Texas Dad | 

    The report also states that “the original reporter called a second time to report that a maintenance man had seen the children’s mother standing next to an occupied vehicle and snorting something up he nose. She also had something tied around her arm and she appeared to be high.”

    I asked all of the maintenance men if they had said such a thing and they all said, “No.” They gave me their names and said they would sign a document stating that they had not seen anything like that.

    The reason the apartment manager did this is because I called her employer to report the continued harassment. She has called CPS two times and made false reports. The company who employs the apartment manager refuses to do anything about their employee, so I will hold them liable as well.

    This is slander in its purest form and I will file a lawsuit against the apartment manager as well as her employer. I have had enough of the harassment. I have spent the last 4 years being bullied by vindictive neighbors, ex-employees, and the liars at CPS.

  63. #63 |  monica labranche | 

    We have had a few run ins with cps. Not fun to be poked at for doing nothing wrong.

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