I received an update from the Maryland mom of two who was contacted by Montgomery Country Child Welfare Service in November after she let her kids, ages 6 and 10, play at the park two blocks from home by themselves. She was cited for allowing a child under age 8 "to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent."
The CPS worker decided "confined in a dwelling" was the same thing as "outside in a park."
The higher ups at child services agreed that this was insane, and the case was closed—until this week. As the mom wrote in an email to me:
It seemed that we had called their bluff and they were going to leave us alone. Not for long. This past Saturday, while I was out of town, my husband dropped my kids off at a park about 1 mile from our house and said they could walk home together. They got 1/2 way when someone called the police.
"Shots Will Be Fired"
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."
At this point 10 yr old. called me crying, saying that the police were there and that Daddy was going to be arrested. My husband stepped outside to continue the conversation away from the kids. When he disagreed with one of the officers about the dangers that walking alone posed to the kids, she actually asked him: "Don't you watch TV?" (The answer was no). They took notes and left.
"Sign This or We Take Your Kids"
Two hours later someone from Child Welfare showed up with a temporary plan, which they wanted my husband to sign, stating that he would not leave the children unsupervised until Monday when someone from their office could contact him.
She called the police, saying that if he didn't sign they would take the kids away right then.
develop responsibility and independence, and have no intention of fundamentally changing our parenting to accommodate this kind of paranoia and bullying, but it's not going to be easy. We are now waiting for the call from Child Welfare and looking for someone who can give us legal advice on these issues in Maryland.
I have to admit when I read stories on your site and elsewhere about CPS threatening to take kids away, I never thought it could happen to us. I'll keep you posted.
Best, Danielle Meitiv
I'll keep you posted, too, readers. Since when are children not supposed to play outside on their own? And what gives the state the right to take them from their parents when they do?