Yes, CPS Is a Greater Danger to Black Free-Range Families

But we're all in this together.



In an essay in today's Washington Post, "Raising free-spirited black children in a world set on punishing them," author Stacia Brown sounds frustrated with the Free-Range Kids movement. She dearly wishes African-American kids could go outside and Free-Range without having to worry about actual discrimination and danger. (So do I!) And she is particularly upset that low-income African-American families who can't or don't supervise their kids every single second are particularly unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt from Child Protective Services:

Skenazy's site is filled with stories of parents whose families have run afoul of Child Protective Services by allowing their children to walk or play unaccompanied. Race and class aren't often mentioned in the posts, but they should be. Those factors often make the difference between a successfully closed CPS investigation and a case left open pending a felony charge, which results in a loss of employment, which results in further inability to afford safe, reliable childcare. Skenazy's blog recently covered Laura Browder's case without referencing that the family was black (though it's discussed with some nuance in the comments section). That detail matters. Black mothers — especially those who are poor or single — are disproportionately criminalizedfor their parenting choices.

There is no such thing as a free-range kid in low-income black families. They are more likely to be labeled as "abandoned" and "neglected" than as free.

Brown is absolutely right. When I interviewed Diane Redleaf, founder of the Family Defense Center in Chicago, a non-profit that fights to keep families from being torn apart by CPS, she told me "most [of our clients] are impoverished and many are immigrants and minorities."

All the more reason, then, to fight for the right of all families to be free of government interference when it comes to how we raise our kids.

That's a goal I think Brown and all Free-Rangers share. "That the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened," as President Kennedy once put it. Indeed, the rights of all families are diminished when the cops or CPS rule that any unsupervised child is a neglected child.

We all want to raise our kids the best we can, without threat of criminal or civil action simply because we cannot conform—for reasons of choice or circumstance—to some insane ideal of parenting.

We are all in this together.

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  1. There is no such thing as a free-range kid in low-income black families. They are more likely to be labeled as “abandoned” and “neglected” thugs than as free.


    1. I’m pretty sure no one was calling Laura Browder’s kinds thugs. But thanks for playing.

      1. No, but I’m sure there were a lot of people imagining that those kids were going to grow up to be thugs unless they were constantly supervised by a helicopter parents. Because, you know, black children are innately predisposed to become thugs and so require extra supervision.

        1. If that’s the case, they you really can’t trust their black parents to supervise them, can you? Racists worthy of the name would hold that the only reliable way to break the cycle of dysfunction would be to remove black kids from their families and raise them in white foster homes, or in institutions along the model of the Carlisle Indian School.

          1. Isn’t that exactly what they are doing? CPS takes kids from poor black parents more often than white ones because of exactly that kind of racial prejudice.

      2. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading.

  2. That detail [the family’s race] matters.

    Thank goodness we live in that post-racial society we were all promised when Obama was first elected.

    1. You actually expected to get what was promised instead of the exact opposite?

  3. Race and class aren’t often mentioned in the posts, but they should be.

    Why? Income class maybe, but the bottom line is that CPS is out of control regardless of the race or color involved in the situation.

    I fail to see how including the race in these stories makes the point any more clear.

    1. It’s much easier for CPS (or any other petty bureucrat) to pick on blacks because black people get less public sympathy when the stories hit the news. Because there’s a significant fraction of the population who will be so much more inclined to believe a negative steroeotype. All the cops/CPS/whoever has to do is put out some story like “Sandra Bland had marijuana in her system” to make people think that the black person involved was some lowlife.

      1. Maybe in certain neighborhoods that’s true, but there are plenty of poor white neighborhoods where stuff like this doesn’t make the news either. And CPS clearly doesn’t give a shit about public opinion when it comes to breaking up families, so the public sympathy factor seems irrelevant.

        Again, I don’t see how bringing up race in these issues makes any difference. If anything, it further segregates the problem in to class and race where we don’t need to do that.

        “We’re all in this together”, remember?

        1. I’m sure it happens in poor white neighborhoods too. That doesn’t mean it isn’t more likely over all for it to happen to black than whites.

    2. That’s what we’re up against, Tarran. Libertarians are natural allies for these folks on the issues of free-range kids and police violence. Unfortunately, black leaders continue to alienate potential allies by their insistence that allies make the profession of faith that “Black lives matter.”

      Let me turn that around. It would seem that if libertarians could only swallow their ideological purity for a moment, and make the profession of faith “black lives matter,” that we could really up our game and our numbers. However, I also realize that it’s not just that statement, which is innocuous on face value, but the underlying narrative of perpetual victimhood and oppression.

      1. I can’t tell if you are berating libertarians or not.
        You nailed it on the head with your final lines though.

  4. I sometimes see libertarian commenters complain when others attribute the problem to racism, rather than to government overreach. Obviously, of course the amount of power wielded by petty bureucrats to ruin people’s lives is the root cause, but it is definitely worth noting that one of the reasons you don’t give petty officials discretionary power is precisely because it is so easy for it to be applied in a racially biased manner. The law should always be applied equally to everyone. But having lots of laws and regulations that low-level officials have the power to enforce (or not) makes it so, so, easy for those people to use their power to harass the least powerful. And natually, they aren’t going to go after people who have money and lawyers and are able to fight, they’re going to selectively pick on people they know are going to be less able to fight back, and less likely to gain public sympathy. Black people get the short end of the stick in this and many other things because it is so easy for government officials to portray them as dirty irresponsible criminals, because of the racial stereotypes common in popular culture. It’s exactly the same phenomenon that happens with police abuse. And probably with a host of other issues that we barely ever recognize. (For instance, ten-to-one that the health inspector is more of an asshole in black-owned restaunrants than white-owned ones.)

    1. Well-said, Hazel.

    2. Excellent.

    3. o easy for government officials to portray them as dirty irresponsible criminals, because of the racial stereotypes common in popular culture.

      It’s not so easy because of the racial stereotypes. It’s so easy because of the fact of disproportionate black criminality.

      A good thing to do, to try to make it less easy to portray blacks as “dirty irresponsible criminals” would be for large numbers of them to stop being dirty irresponsible criminals. It’s really hard to fight a stereotype when it is so accurate.

      That said, that’s an explanation, not an excuse: government agents shouldn’t get a pass if they are discriminating. Every incident involves individuals, and those individuals should be judged fairly by the same standards of the law used on everyone else, regardless of class and race. Just some black families are bad does not justify treating any particular individual black family that way.

      Government has far too much power. Government agents aren’t angels, and we can expect them to contain evil, stupid, biased people in approximately the same proportion as the general population. Thus, it’s folly to give government agent arbitrary power over others except in the most dire situations.

      1. Wow, way to completely ignore that we are all dirty, irresponsible criminals due to the laws against victimless “crimes” and the failure of society to hold the police to a better standard.

        1. I’m clean, thankyouverymuch. I took a shower this morning and everything. Even used soap!

        2. Way to completely obfuscate the glaring problem of black criminality as a factor in black social problems.

      2. Yes, the racial sterotypes aren’t entirely false. But the cops and other officials obviously use them to downplay any wrongdoing on their own part. They KNOW that all they have to do is throw out some crazy claim like (for example) Freddie Gray was deliberately trying to hurt himself, and that will make the shit go away, because members of the public will just believe it. And that makes it easier , when it comes time to fill their ticket quotas or make it look like they are doing important work, to go after some black mother for child neglect.
        They need to justify their existance, and it’s less risky to do it by targetting low-class black families than to go after middle-class white ones.

        1. They need to justify their existance, and it’s less risky to do it by targetting low-class black families than to go after middle-class white ones.

          Yep. Sounds like how humans act — especially the ones attracted to entrenched, unionized government bureaucracies.

          I think we agree that since it’s easier to change laws and policies than human nature, what we probably ought to do in this situation is abolish CPS, at least as it exists today.

          The truly egregious cases — criminal abuse — will get the notice of the police. People will manage to muddle along without government “help” in the remainder of the cases, just like they have throughout human history.

          1. Absolutely. I think if we can communicate that empowering government actually empowers government to discriminate against blacks, we might be able to communicate to black people that more government isn’t necessarily their friend, even when it comes to “social welfare” issues like child protection services. More government means more officials monitoring everything you do, which means more opportunities for these people to nab you for some trivial offense.

    4. Really! Who are these assistants? What do they get out of destroying people’s (and their families) lives! If it is an adrenalin rush, they are very sick people!

  5. So is she saying because black families feel the brunt of the CPS system more often than anyone else, then nobody should have free-range kids? Her logic is….twisted.

  6. Why the hell would you want to turn an issue from something that effects everyone to one that only effects a tiny minority? Seriously, there is nothing to be gained from turning this into a ‘black’ issue.

    1. There is plenty to be gained, if you are talking about selfish gain. Making it a “black” issue means a “black” leader has to get involved, aka a jobs program for self-appointed leaders.

      These “leaders” are really just bureaucrats. You could have one Horace Mann, or you can have a Horace Mann for each group you can dream up.

      Anyone bringing race into it when race doesn’t matter is uninterested in solving the problem, they’re only interested in having one of the paid positions on the committees and subcommittees to look into the problem without solving it.

      In short: scope creep means additional no-work jobs.

      1. You’re both missing the point.

        Pointing out that government overreach in many cases disproportionately harms black people is an argument for black people adopting more libertarian attitudes – for their own self-interest.

  7. “Race and class aren’t often mentioned in the posts, but they should be.”

    That would only matter to:
    1) People who don’t give a shit about government oppression until someone decides to frame it in terms of Social Justice and get it trending on Twitter, and
    2) People who dislike government oppression in theory, but find a way to make excuses when it’s targeted at “thugs” or “welfare queens” or whatever they’re using to dismiss blacks without saying “black”

    You know, useless horrible fucksticks.

    1. 3) People who think maybe libertarians could appeal more to black people by pointing out how an intrusive state disproportionately harms black people.

  8. This line, “All the more reason, then, to fight for the right of all families to be free of government interference when it comes to how we raise our kids.” reminded me of the way government ripped children from their “native American” parents and cultures, and forcibly cut their hair and taught them English.

    This isn’t new, but it’s a reminder that we ARE all in this together, and the bullies always start with the weak or defenseless, and they pick us off a few at a time, but they don’t stop there.

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