Free-Range Kids

Autistic Child Wanders Off, Mom Calls 911, Is Accused of Neglect

No parent can see everything.

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Wandering
Dreamstime

An autistic 4-year-old wandered away from his home in Omaha, Nebraska, without his mom's knowledge. She did the right thing: she called the cops. And what did she get for it? A neglect citation. KETV 7 reports:

911 dispatchers received a call around 8:15 p.m. Thursday about a child standing on the corner of Northwest Radial Highway and Hamilton Street. The child had been there about 10 minutes with no adults nearby, according to a police report.

The child was unable to tell police where he lived or the names of his parents.

At 8:33 p.m., 911 received another call from a woman reporting her 4-year-old autistic son was missing.

According to the police report, officers went to the woman's home. She said her son had left the house without her knowledge and she went looking for him.

When the mother failed to find her son, she returned home and called 911.

The 31-year-old mother was cited on suspicion of child neglect.

Humans cannot be perfect. Humans cannot see all. Why don't the authorities seem to understand that?

"Wanderings" by kids with autism are fairly common, by the way (see this piece), and often the children are drawn precisely to the most dangerous places: bodies of water and busy streets.

I can't even imagine how many challenges the families of kids with autism face. A suspicious and unforgiving legal system should not be among those challenges.

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49 responses to “Autistic Child Wanders Off, Mom Calls 911, Is Accused of Neglect

  1. Don’t people lock doors and/or install a chain to keep kids in?

    What an irresponsible dumbass. Fortunately it didn’t end up with her kid getting run over.

    1. I looked the address up on Google maps. Looks like a pretty busy road but there is a four way stop there.

      I wonder why or how a kid could stand there for ten minutes without someone approaching him and ensuring his safety. Didn’t anybody give enough of a fuck about this kid to actually look after him instead of call the police?

      1. Didn’t anybody give enough of a fuck about this kid to actually look after him instead of call the police?

        You can’t just go up to a strange kid and start talking to them. That’s what predators do. Caring people call men with guns to go talk to the kid.

        1. You can’t just go up to a strange kid and start talking to them.

          Yeah, that way lies a whole mess of legal trouble if you’re not lucky. Best to ignore them.

          1. what if that kid was an undercover cop? or working with a network investigative journalism show? Would YOU want to take that risk?

          2. Yeah, that way lies a whole mess of legal trouble if you’re not lucky.

            And that’s the good unlucky outcome.

    2. Locking and chaining your kid down is an excellent way to treat them like an animal.

      1. He’s mocking the FOR TEH CHILDREN crowd.

        1. Sarc on Sarc on Sarc?

    3. The only time my home was ever locked was when we were going to be gone more than a day.
      This was true even when we were tall enough to open a door on our own.

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    5. When I was three years old, I used a hole the dog had dug under the backyard fence to escape and have a great time wandering the neighborhood. (Of course, I’d be taken away from my parents and placed in foster care, and my parents would be prosecuted for letting me play alone in the back yard.)

      1. And the cops would shoot your dog.

    6. Don’t people lock doors and/or install a chain to keep kids in?

      I would guess, not typically, no.

      Plus, of course, there’s usually more than one door on a house. Maybe the kid is allowed in the backyard, and the gate was open.

      Citing parents for child neglect when they don’t keep every door locked and chained strikes me as . . . unlibertarian.

  2. This is unnecessarily harsh, Lenore. Let’s review:

    – Mom calls 911
    – Police find child
    – child is not shot dead

    This is practically a feel-good story when you consider the totality of circs etc etc.

    1. That 911 call endangered officer safety.

      The police responding to the call were at an increased risk of not coming home at night due to a car accident or being machine gunned by truant assault-shotgun (with the thing that goes up!) wielding Al Queda supporting ISIS drug dealers with broken taillights!

      She’s lucky to only get a citation. She should be in jail for assault on a police officer.

      1. The police responding to the call were at an increased risk of not coming home at night due to a car accident or being machine gunned by truant assault-shotgun (with the thing that goes up!) wielding Al Queda supporting ISIS drug dealers with broken taillights!

        Now the citation for negligence makes sense. She was practically telling the kid to go be a child-soldier.

    2. And also consider that getting a ticket happens even to good drivers, so what’s wrong if it happens occasionally to good parents?

  3. Is there a situation that the cops can’t make worse?

    1. A donut tsunami, perhaps.

    2. a terminally ill man who wants to end it all. they can really help kill people.

      1. They would probably just panic-fire three mags in the general direction, injuring or killing anyone but the guy who wanted it.

        1. as mentioned in the Marathon Bombing report…apparently our boys in blue got a leeedle trigger happy

    3. “I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.”
      ? Brendan Behan

  4. I worked with a woman who had an autistic child. They installed all kinds of crazy locks – and the kid would still break out sometimes. The neighbors would call at 2 am to let them know he was at the playground.

    He also didn’t really register pain – so when he wanted to go somewhere, the other side of a busy street for instance, he was willing to pull against his parents hard enough to dislocate his shoulder. Then Dyfs would show up and accuse them of abuse.

  5. The dog my family owned when I was a toddler managed to unlatch the gate a time or three. I once followed him to the end of the block where I was found beside a fairly busy street by a bicycle courier. He took me from house to house looking for my folks. Number of cops involved: 0. Calls from CPS: none.

    My older brother was a troublemaker, though, and the school brought in CPS to check into his home life. During the interview with an investigator, my very young sister, pretending to be a cat, began picking food out of the cat bowl in front of them. Mom was mortified, but the woman never followed up. She had kids of her own. Makes me think the current crop of aid workers is peopled primarily by childless harpies.

    1. They are trained to believe there is a problem. They don’t look for evidence there is a problem- they look for evidence there isn’t a problem. We are all guilty until proven innocent.

      1. Ah, the Erdley modus.

        1. Erdely. It’s the Hungarian word for ‘Transylvania’ (well, with an accent on the 2nd ‘e’).

      2. Its the usual one-sided bureaucratic incentives.

        They never get punished, and may get rewarded, for every “problem” they find.

        But if they ever miss a problem, the shit will rain down.

        See, also, the FDA. precautionary principle, etc.

  6. When I was a child I was an avid sleep walker (still am, a bit, but it’s mainly to the fridge now- I know, it’s a real thing and it sucks.) I would wake up on neighbors’ doorsteps in my underwear after ringing their doorbell, etc. No one, NO ONE, ever called the cops. I wasn’t 4- I was 8 or 9- but still, if the police had cited my dad for me leaving the house while I was asleep while HE was asleep he would have gone to jail for assaulting a police officer.

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  9. Autistic Child Wanders Off, Mom Calls 911, Is Accused of Neglect

    She should consider herself lucky the cops didn’t shoot the kid dead because “they feared for their lives” like it has happened far too many times someone calls the cops to “help” a loved one.

  10. It is becoming clearer everyday: You will involve cops at your peril. They escalate and have a fetish of getting in everyone’s face.

    Strong reform is needed to get a firm boot on the necks of cops.

    1. or up their ass?

    2. That’s a lesson this family will take to heart. Call 911 at your peril.

  11. You know my mother in law used to have an old childrens book, like from the 1940’s or early 50’s which chronicled a young boy (around 4 or 5 years old) solo journey across town to get a haircut.

    It was not presented as a fantastical tale or anything, his encounters were utterly mundane and the book was presented as if the events in it were utterly normal.
    |
    Fast forward 3 generations and a child the same age getting out of the house without his mothers knowledge is considered a crime.

    1. I wish you could remember the name of the book — it sounds like it’d be a good addition to my family’s library.

      Most of the books I read to my kids are from that time period. The pictures are great (love the period cars, buildings, etc.) and the adventures are really adventures. E.g., The Boxcar Children. It’d be unpossible to publish that book these days. Kids taking care of themselves??? Simply too frightening.

      1. I’ll look around and see if I can find it

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  13. How many reasons will the justice system give us to distrust it, and stay away from it? Now if your child gets lost, you can’t even call 911!

  14. Years ago, in the 1960s, my mom and the four of us children went to the world’s fair in New York. My little brother wandered off, and we spent about a half hour looking for him. At last we found him in the lost children’s center, a place set up for families with just our problem. If that had happened now, the lost children’s center might take my mom into custody, and threaten to put all four of us in foster care!

    We really have gone nuts.

  15. Am I the only one who’s going to point out that the kid is likely not autistic, either? The psychology industry is SO willing to diagnose anybody as anything, and late-talking kids and other slightly abberant children pay as a result. It also doesn’t help that parents are shocked, SHOCKED that kids misbehave sometimes and can’t understand that that’s NORMAL. All this is another thing that adds to ruining child-rearing, so it’s only slightly off-topic from the article.

    although the bit about the kid being unable to tell the cops anything would be a symptom of an autistic kid, but the details are lacking.

    As to my original point, I love this classic example: I was at a local Nature Center/park/pond thingy, and some lady brought her grandkids, and like one of the kids smiled and talked to me about my dog or something, and later the old lady is like “He’s got autism”. Yeah, right, lady, the kid who was very friendly and looked me dead in the eye while talking to me has got autism.
    Fuckin’ idiots

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