UPDATE: The story here, which was previously just Reason posts based on personal emails, has been fully confirmed. Unfortunately that confirmation came in the form of a Maryland CPS ruling against the parents for “unsubstantiated child neglect”. The Meitivs are now on a 5-year probationary period, during which any further unsupervised activity by their children could lead to additional charges.
It’s generally agreed that playing outside is good for kids. Fresh air, sunlight, exercise, social interaction are all vital for proper childhood development. However, a growing herd of nanny-statists within the government, specifically state Child Protective Services agencies, have decided that playing outside without direct supervision is so dangerous that it would be better if children weren’t raised by their own parents. They risk turning our children into a generation of physically stunted, psychologically addled wards of the state. But for their own good!
The latest example of this trend is a case out of Maryland. The only report of it is a first-hand email from the parents, so the usual caveats apply, but given the many, many other examples of similar government threats, we’ll assume it to be true for now. In November a neighborhood busybody called authorities ahbout two kids, ages 10 and 6, at a park (which happened to be two blocks from their home) alone. The local Child Welfare Services office cited the parents for leaving them unattended outside, using a statute that actually prohibits the opposite, leaving a child “locked or confiined” inside unattended.
After the mother smartly researched the statute and protested the absurd interpretation, CWS dropped the case. However, someone again reported the horrifying scenario of children walking outside, and a police officer picked up the kids on their way home from a different park about a mile away. After threatening to shoot him in front of his children if he didn’t produce identification, the officer left. CWS agents arrived two hours later and threatened to take the children immediately if he didn’t sign a document agreeing not to leave them unsupervised until the next week when another CWS agent would return.
To be clear, the government says they will take your children from you so that you don’t put them in a situation where there is a remote possibility that someone might…take your children from you. Cunning plan!
And make no mistake, that possibility is indeed extremely remote. From the most recent data, out of the 797,500 children reported missing in 2002, only 115 were taken by strangers. The vast majority of abductions are by parents, other relatives, or acquaintances. You know, the people government agents mandate be watching them to keep them safe.
Crime in general has decreased even since then, so even though we have no specific data, it’s almost certain that stranger kidnapping has too. Child abduction is a horrific crime and should be punished severely. However, we should not take children away from their actual loving parents because they might be at risk for something that is quite literally a statistical anomaly.
Child Protective Service agencies perform valiant work across the country every day, protecting children from abuse, neglect, and crime, but they have no business protecting children from loving parents who let them play outside. A government who can take your kids for this can take them for anything they want and has no real limits on its power. Laws must be changed, judicial opinions clarified, and departments staffed with people who value liberty and family over the smothering paternal hand of government.