You can only have both if the family is in charge.
Free Range Kids is one parents' movement I follow with interest. It's a reaction against helicopter parenting. Its adherents believe that by giving their children extra independence at an early age, encouraging them to solve their own problems, and permitting them to take reasonable risks rather than being overprotective to the point of paranoia, they'll raise happier, healthier, more confident, independent people. They all put a great deal of thought into their parenting.
The group's blog recently featured a story written by a parent who reported that Child Protective Services wants to take custody of their daughter. It is both relevant and worthy of attention in its own right.
"We've taught our six-year-old, whom I'll call Emily, about crossing the street, reading maps, etc. As she's learned these skills we've let her try them out, first with supervision, and then on her own, to make short trips around the neighborhood," the parent writes. "We live in a fairly average residential neighborhood that has a mixture of stop signs, stop lights, and crosswalks. The state that we live in does not have any laws regarding a minimum age for a child to be unattended."
Here is his saga:
Day 1: Six-year-old "Emily" walks three blocks by herself to the
post office for the second time. This is after having made the trip
with her many times in past through our quiet, residential
neighborhood. All the streets have sidewalks, and the walk requires
crossing one 'T' intersection that has a stop sign and crossing at a
Day 2: "Emily" and I are both walking back from the library. She
wants to do it herself, so I let her walk separate from me some of the
time. The cops get a phone call from a concerned citizen who says
there's a strange guy talking to a little girl. Three officers respond
and cite a concern for Emily's safety in crossing the street. I confirm
that I am her father and give my name, as is required by law. They
refuse to state any reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or
say what law has been broken, and so, in accordance with my 5th
amendment rights, I refuse to answer any questions. We are detained for
over half an hour before being released. (I asked many times over the
course of the detention whether I was "free to go" and I was told that I
was not. We were told that we were being held for an "investigative
detention.") The sergeant who responded to the scene stated over the
radio that he wanted to "hook this guy" for child endangerment. (The
recording of radio traffic during the encounter was later received
through a public records request that I made.)
Day 6: I call the sergeant who reported on Day 2 to ask if we were
still under investigation. He responded that we were not and that an
"incident supplement" had been filed by the reporting officer and "that
was all." He confirms that there is no law prohibiting a school-age
child from crossing residential streets. That afternoon we let Emily
walk to the post office to mail a letter. The same officers who responded on Day 2
remove Emily from the post office and detain her. Contrary to the
complaint that is filed later, they do not contact me -- I go looking for
her when she doesn't come right back home -- and they refuse many times
to release her. According to the complaint, Emily, who has known her
phone number and address for quite some time, refuses to give them to
the officers, but the officers know who she is, who I am, and where we
Day 7: A social worker with CPS leaves a letter at my door addressed
to a different person than anyone in my family. I mail it back.
Day 12: CPS leaves a letter addressed to my wife and I that cites unspecified concerns about the children.
Day 13: I call CPS twice and leave a message. The phone call is not returned for two days.
Day 14: We give Emily the Free Range Kid ID card
to function as a sort of "permission slip" so that she can demonstrate
to other people that she has not merely escaped unnoticed. Then we let
Emily go to the post office again. When she is just around the corner
from the house on her way home, she is stopped by a city utility worker
and a school bus driver (though she is not enrolled in public school).
She calls me on the cell phone since the bus driver is preventing her
from leaving, so I go get her. That night two officers knock on the
door, but we do not answer.
Day 15: I talk with the supervisor at CPS on a recorded phone call.
I refuse to answer any questions or make any statements. Though he did
relay that he was concerned about a child "roaming the streets of [Our
City, OH]," he refuses to tell me what law has been broken. We go
around and around for about 25 minutes. I find out through my employer
shortly after the phone call that if I do not "cooperate" CPS is
threatening to seek an ex parte* order, which would allow CPS to
take custody without a hearing, to separate us that Friday (and then
keep Emily all weekend since a hearing would not have to be held until
close of business on Monday). Note that I have cooperated to the full
extent required by law. The Home School Legal Defense Assn. is very
helpful in getting CPS to agree not to seek an ex parte order so long as Emily does not go outside again by herself.
Since then CPS has knocked on the door many times. I did answer the
door when the CPS supervisor came by -- I thought that he was a delivery
guy or what not since he didn't have a uniformed police officer with
him -- but otherwise we have simply ignored them. There is no law
requiring someone to answer their door, and since I had no interest in
talking to them or getting detained by the cops simply ignoring them
seemed the best course of action.
Day 41: We are served with a complaint alleging neglect and
dependency. The County wants to take Emily into "protective
supervision" or "temporary custody." The complaint contains many
factual errors and inaccuracies. There is also a motion for "pre-dispositional interim orders." As I
understand it, this is a mechanism by which CPS can intervene even
before the merits of the case against us for neglect are even heard, but
less decided. It is scheduled to take place more than a month before
the hearing on the neglect charge. It asks the court to force my wife
and I to "allow ______ County Children Services to complete an
assessment with the family. This is including allowing the agency
access in the home, allowing the agency to interview the children, and
participate openly in the assessment process." In other words, they
want to search our house, interrogate the children, and force us to
He concludes, "We are trying our best to raise Emily to be responsible, curious, and
capable. We have chosen to include teaching her about using the
library, navigating the neighborhood, and mailing letters as elements of
her homeschooling. Needless to say, this entire ordeal has been quite
distressing for the entire family, and we view it as a threat to our
homeschooling, our parental rights, and both my and Emily's civil
liberties. Since our family is being threatened by legal action, I have
tried to confine my comments to a dispassionate statement of known