Free-Range Kids

Mom of Latchkey Kid Found Not Guilty of 'Abandonment'

Gee, I hope she didn't miss raising him for an entire year and a half.



In July of 2013, a Canadian mom was charged with child abandonment after leaving her 6-year-old son home alone for 90 minutes. Her ex-husband found out and alerted the authorities, at which point Child and Family Services told the court that the child should be placed in the father's custody. The child has remained with him throughout the 18-month ordeal. Last Friday, a judge found the mother not guilty, after determining that the child was never in any danger.

Gee, I hope she didn't miss raising him for an entire year and a half.

Michael Law, the mom's lawyer, said that the prosecutor has 30 days to appeal the judge's ruling, but that this is unlikely. Now that the criminal trial is over, Law and the mother will be taking action in family court during the next couple of weeks to try and get custody of her child back.

Child abandonment is defined in Canada as, "one who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of ten years, so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured." Just how endangered was this boy? The Winnipeg Free Press reports that when the police showed up, he was found eating pudding and completing a puzzle while watching TV in a locked house.

Clearly, the kid's a born multi-tasker. But what was his mother? A daredevil? A negligent hussy? Canada's Worst Mom?

The prosecutor asserted that the boy was in serious risk of a break-in or fire—truly low-probability dangers. The judge, recognizing the reality of actual odds, did not convict the mother of the charge.

Even if you disagree with the mother's judgment, it is clear that the boy was not in a dangerous situation. What's more, what purpose would a conviction have served? How is jailing a mom helpful to her child? If it seems like she might need some parenting lessons, go ahead and prescribe those—not a fine, and certainly not prison.

A conviction would have had far-reaching implications for any parents who believe that giving their children some independence is normal, even healthy. Criminalizing the parents of latchkey kids would only reinforce the crazy idea that parents must be supervising their kids 24/7, despite the fact we live in one of the safest times in all of human history.

Latchkey kids have been part of the American landscape since World War II.  A key around the neck is not a symbol of parental neglect. It's a symbol of parental confidence in their kids and their community.

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  1. he was found eating pudding

    …as is tradition…

    /Prince of Canada

    1. was the child in the process of ripping off his left arm or throwing the Cap’n Crunch in the aisle?

      1. +1 wedding…as is tradition…

  2. That kid’s going to resent the hell out of his old man some day, eh?

    1. That’s if he manages to deprogram himself from the shit his father has been saying to him about his mother.

      I did the divorced parent shuffle growing up. By the time I left my mom’s place for my dad’s I thought he was the biggest jerk in the world, and by the time it was time to return I thought she was the biggest jerk in the world.

      Turns out he’s the big jerk. Or maybe it’s because I live closer to her. Who knows.

      1. That sucks, I lucked out an my parents never subjected me to that. I have a cousin though that hasn’t spoken to his dad, who is actually a really great person, in like 15 years because of the shit his mom said about his dad.

        1. I get along well enough with him as long as we don’t talk politics or economics. On those subjects he makes Tony look sane and intelligent.

        2. Yeah, my dad died when I was 12, so what I remember was all good – he taught me to hunt, fish, and play football/baseball/basketball. Oh, and he was REALLY pissed if I didn’t “man up” when I did something wrong.

          My mom never remarried – she’s eccentric, but she was a good mom. Taught me reading and music, for which I am ever grateful.

          And my dad’s friends from church and his work tried to help out and do “dad” stuff with my brother and me, like continuing to take us hunting and fishing as we got older, going snow mobiling, etc.

          “It takes a village…” sort of 🙂

          So….lucky me.

      2. I shouldered a lot of antipathy toward my father after the divorce, nearly all of it at my mother’s behest. I got over it and very much resented mom for the emotional manipulation. But dad never let me speak ill of her, even after years spent litigating custody and child support.

        1. Thing is, my mom never intentionally created any resentment. While my father did. What got me angry at him was the fact that all the shit he said about her simply wasn’t true. But when I was around him it was unwise to defend her, so I just went along to get along.

          1. That was mom’s angle, but what infuriated me then (and to this day, I still resent) was persistently drumming up ill-will over our living arrangement as fodder she’d later use in court.

            Hilariously, the last time she sued to raise his support payments (I was maybe fifteen), the court looked at the payments he’d been making and lowered his obligation by a few hundred dollars. He kept up with the original amount, but from then on she was very quiet when my sister or I would deliver the check.

          2. What got me angry at him was the fact that all the shit he said about her simply wasn’t true.

            Thing is: your day may THINK it’s true. My dad is so self-centered, selfish and deluded that I am pretty sure he believed all the utterly vile crap he said to me about my mom after the divorce. Being hurt by the divorce on top of that just amplified his delusions about my mom.

            Doesn’t make what he did/said right (far from it). But very difficult to have a rational conversation about it.

            1. Oh I know he believes it’s true. He believes all kinds of delusional things about her to justify walking out on her and their eight year old son to live with a coworker with whom he was cheating.

      3. My mom shit talked my dad but my dad never did the same towards her, even though she totally deserved it. I guess he figured out I’d be smart enough to see through her when I got older.

      4. Wow. Sounds really similar to me. My mom never really talked about my dad after the divorce. My dad, however, HOLY FUCKING CRAP.

        Twenty years later I think about what my dad said to me and it was freaking psychotic! He was transparently (at least to 34 year old me) trying to make me distrust my mom and everybody in her family (my uncles: total assholes; my grandparents: greedy devils). He just couldn’t stop himself from saying the most vile stuff about my mom and her family to me… when I was 12 years old!

        Good job to him, as well. It worked: I started to mistrust my mom and her family (how couldn’t his words affect his child’s feelings?). And I went on to distrust nearly everybody in my life for years upon years, especially those who wanted to be close to me… as well as my dad.

        I (somehow, despite the emotional damage and trust issues) have a family now and I cannot imagine ever telling my son any of the things my dad told me.

    2. We don’t know anything as to the kid’s preference re who to live with. FAWK, he might resent his mother for fighting this.

  3. I grew up on a street with very few kids. But even I found ways to entertain myself and keep out of trouble. Eventually, the parent has to come home, but kids can be taught how to behave when by themselves. No need to separate a child from a parent for 18 months for no big deal

    1. Just curious. What does the current research show as far as how long a child can be left alone without getting into too much trouble?

      I imagine kids need food eventually. Even if they don’t starve, I can imagine kids would become irritable after a while and prone to violent tantrums.

      So 6 hours?

      1. How old? Even my two year old could pull some stuff out of the fridge if he had to.

        1. True. I guess you just have to figure it out on a case by case basis.

          1. But child services can’t go to every house every day and tell people what their kids are capable of! It has to be lowest-common-denominator rules enforced by violence!

            1. It’s the lowest-common denominator thing that really causes the problems. When kids are involved we tend to make laws assuming the minimum amount of child-competence and maximum amount of parental-maliciousness

              So obviously no six-year-old child should be out of adult eyesight longer than the time needed to go to the bathroom and any parent who acts otherwise clearly hates their kid.

      2. My 4 year old son, who was born with incredible mechanical abilities but no concept of when it’s appropriate to use them, would completely dismantle and destroy my house if left unmonitored for more than 30 minutes. My 6 year old daughter would have been fine all day on her own at that age. Just depends on the kid.

        1. My daughter is 5 and she’d just watch Netflix all day.

        2. Yup. My older son would have been sledding off the roof at six. My younger one would have quietly finished his puzzle. Different kids, different rules.

    2. I managed to survive a decade playing on ditch banks in rural Albuquerque, walking to and from elementary and middle school, and in high school cycling clear across the city.

      If I’d been bornin Canada, I can’t help but think I’d have been raised by different parents at the court’s order.

      1. You’re damn lucky you never stumbled upon Todd and Heisenberg while you were out riding bikes in the desert.

        1. It’s on the list after catching up GoT and Archer.

          1. Oh… uh… well, SPOILER ALERT! I guess.

      2. If you’d been born in Canada, it probably would’ve been to different parents.

  4. Negligent Hussy would make an awesome Grrl Power band name.

    1. On second thought it would be a great song performed by Mattress Girl.

  5. Kids still do puzzles?

    1. My kid loves puzzles.

      1. Mine too.

    2. Toddler Reason is 2 and loves puzzles. She’s always putting puzzles on my lap trying to get me to do them with her in addition to playing jigsaw puzzles apps on my iphone.

  6. The thing is, this shit works in a feedback loop. At first it was normal to leave kids at home for a while. Then they create Child and Family Services, who have too much power. Then someone at CFS takes a child from some parent(s) over dumb shit, because they can and because they enjoy exercising that power. Then some asshole sees that CFS will do this and rats someone out, and CFS goes and takes their kid(s), and others see that they can use CFS as a weapon, while this also cements CFS’ power, thereby attracting even worse people to the job. So then CFS gets worse, and at the same time them taking people’s kid(s) for idiotic reasons becomes more commonplace and therefore “normal”. And so more assholes see that they can use it as a weapon, which gives CFS more power…and it just doesn’t stop.

    1. They also routinely fuck up situations where their intervention is actually warranted. It’s like calling the cops, don’t do it unless you want something awful to happen.

  7. The “authorities” manage to ignore people that are known to be abusive and watch idly as bad parents go so far as to kill their children. And yet they have the time to destroy the lives of ordinary people doing things that were considered ordinary even 5 years ago.

    Underneath it all, people that abuse their authority over people in positions of weakness are really cowards at heart. They avoid conflict with “scary” people and abuse the timid.

    1. If you create positions of power, especially ones of unreasonable levels of power in a very niche and specialized way, the worst possible people–the last people you would ever want in such a position–will gravitate to it en mass. It happens every single time. Because it makes sense. Of course the people who want the limited–but powerful in their limited way–perks of an otherwise shitty job would be the ones who apply for it.

      1. I had a very good friend who endured several years of having CPS trying to take his kids mainly because the CPS worker knew him and hated him personally. She was never able to get the kids away from him, but it put he and his wife through hell because of it. Fuck CPS everywhere.

        1. With enforcement people it’s almost always personal. If they like you* then they’ll treat you totally different than if they don’t like you** with everything else equal.

          *you kiss their ass

          **you don’t kiss their ass

          1. Duh, so kiss their ass, what’ve you got to lose? You make them happy & they make you happy. Everybody wins.

      2. Cowards become tyrants because it feels good

  8. “Michael Law, the mom’s lawyer…” I can’t think of a better name for a lawyer. I’m betting he changed it at some point.

    1. “I AM the Law…”

      Yes. Yes, you are.

      1. I got arrested by a cop named B. A. Hartkopp. You can guess how that went.

        1. Undoubtedly, BA stood for “Bad Ass”.


      2. West of the Fountainbleu, I’m sure you are.

    2. WTF? Bob Loblaw is a way better name.

    3. I had a paralegal once named Judy Justice.

      Top THAT.

      1. Can’t. But I once had a firearms instructor whose last name was Justice and who was a dentist. I asked him how long he’d been a comic book superhero.

  9. I was watching ET over the weekend and my wife and I were commenting on how much parenting has changed since 1982. Most noticeable: when Elliot’s mom finds out she has to go pick him up from school because he’s acting drunk, and she tells Gertie something like, “Be good, gotta go get your brother” and leaves a 4 or 5 year old girl at home by herself.

    1. It’s now illegal for kids to have adventures. Sad.

    2. Can you imagine how the bicycle/evading cops scene would play out in today’s world?

    3. Well – we Gen X’ers were all sorts of neglected back in the 70’s and early 80’s. I think it is half the reason our own little darlings grow up in cartoons. Just remember that 12-year-old prostitution was an actual trope during that time (Taxi Driver, Steffie can’t come out to play, etc.)

      Parenting now is much more class based than most people realize. I live in a heavy working-to-lower-middle class neighborhood with a high percentage of immigrants. Kids here are walk to school on busy roads, hang out at parks alone, routinely watch younger siblings while parents work, and wander all over the place for hours without supervision. Kids in the middle-to-upper-class neighborhoods up North seem to be under constant supervision.

      TLDR; our parenting styles have become a way of signaling class. Only the rich can afford to be helicopters.

      1. grow up in COCOONS not CARTOONS

  10. I was a latchkey kid. Look at how I turned out.

    1. Holy shit all the helicopter parents are right.

      1. *buys stock in Bell and Sikorsky*

  11. From 3 years old until I “graduated” “high school” I was left alone in a maturation tube 24 hours a day, but the tube was absolutely impenetrable so I was perfectly safe.

    1. Well, this explains a lot.

  12. When I was 15 my parents left me alone for a weekend. They had to go back to their hometown for some reason and took my sister with them. So I got the house to myself.

    I went to a gun show that was at the town armory a few blocks away and watched a demonstration on how to really sharpen a knife. So I went home and tried it out myself. To test out my new found knife honing skills I did the only sensible thing and tried out my newly sharpened knife on a golf ball.

    During the test the knife slipped and I managed to slice right to the bone on my left index knuckle. My first panicked thought was to get off the carpet before I bled on it. After wrapping my gushing hand in a towel I drove myself to the ER. While there I was unable to think of my gramma’s phone number (it was written down at home, but I had forgot to bring it), so they just stitched me up and gave me the bill to give to my parents.

    They also did call our neighbors and ask that they look in on me to make sure I was OK the next day.

    My kids love hearing that story, but when I think of it I wonder how long my parents would have been jailed today.

  13. The prosecutor asserted that the boy was in serious risk of a break-in or fire?truly low-probability dangers.

    Unless Mom has a gun (is that even legal in Canada?), she can’t do shit about a break-in except call the cops, and I think the kid could handle that.

    A fire? Umm, I suspect the kid could escape the house if he could, regardless of Mom. And if the fire prevents escape, well, what’s Mom gonna do about that?

  14. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is wha? I do……

  15. Leaving a kid alone in the house for 90 minutes does NOT make him a “latchkey kid.” Maybe look up the definition before using it in a headline.

    1. There’s a definition?!

  16. Latchkey kids have been part of the American landscape since World War II.

    That’s an odd statement. My mom and her brother were latchkey kids during the Depression, and I imagine they were far from alone in that. Perhaps the term “latchkey kids” was coined during WWII? Before there was a term for it, kids were just “going home.”

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