Free-Range Kids

Verdict Reversed: Mom Not Guilty of Neglect for Letting Kids Play in Park

More Free-Range Kids victories.

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Dreamstime

Remember the mom put on Illinois Child Abuse Registry for letting her kids, ages 11, 9, and 5, play at the park just outside her house?

The state's appellate court has thrown out the "child neglect citation" against her, after a mere two-and-a-half-year battle with the Department of Child and Family Services. She was helped by the scrappy, brilliant Family Defense Center in Chicago. As  the Chicago Tribune reports:

"I'm just relieved this is over," said Natasha Felix, a 27-year-old single mother. "I knew that I didn't do anything wrong."

In July 2013, the three children — then ages 11, 9 and 5 — were left under the supervision of the eldest boy. A passer-by saw the Felix boys, along with their 9-year-old cousin, playing and called the DCFS hotline, unaware that Felix was checking on them from the window of her East Ukrainian Village apartment every 10 minutes, she said.

The youngsters were unharmed, but she was cited for child neglect under a category called "inadequate supervision." The state statute defines this as "a child under the age of 14 whose parent … leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time, without regard for the mental or physical health or safety of the minor."

The children were not removed from her home, but the finding of neglect kept her from volunteering at their school and limited her job prospects as the allegation remained in the state's central registry.

But this week, DCFS reversed course and has filed no opposition to this motion, according to court documents.

"Under the new leadership of Acting Director George Sheldon, the Department has determined that the best course of action is to unfound and expunge Ms. Felix's case," DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach said in an email. "Moving forward, the Department will be taking a closer look at similar cases to ensure that we allow caretakers to be prudent parents and considering changes to Department rules and procedures."

It's great to see Sheldon suggesting that he will change the department's guidelines, the way Maryland did after that state humiliated itself after arresting the Meitiv family twice for letting their kids walk home from the park. It is honorable to recognize when regulations have gone too far, and to do something about it.

Here's what Diane Redleaf, director of the Family Defense Center, wrote to me in an email:

It is urgent that child protection agencies stop investigating parents for making basic decisions as to when their children can be alone, can go out and play, and can be left briefly while the parent attends to the business of caring for them.

There need to be standards that say that children are not neglected unless their parents knowingly subject them to serious and immediate risks of harm–i.e. by blatantly disregarding the duties they owe their children.  Those duties do not require require parents to protect children from boogeymen who might conceivably snatch them if they are allowed to play.

We need to stop second guessing parents' decisions by labeling decisions about parenting 'neglectful' when no harm to the child has occurred.  We're spending far too much energy in America on investigations of parents who have not hurt their children, and not enough resources helpful to the children whose parents have actually abused them.

So, to recap: Last week President Obama signed national legislation allowing kids to walk to school, and this week we have a mom exonerated after letting her children play outside. Not bad for the Free-Range Kids movement.

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72 responses to “Verdict Reversed: Mom Not Guilty of Neglect for Letting Kids Play in Park

  1. Sometimes public outcry does wonders to shame bureaucrats, but I’ll bet she’s still in the registry.

    1. TIL : the slippery slope libertarians predicted when registries were established for ***SEX OFFENDERS*** that they would inevitably be applied to other classes of crimes was not paranoia.

      https://www.isp.state.il.us/cmvo/ (I don’t think this is the registry she’s on, fwiw, but.. how many registries are there???)

  2. First people are found not guilty for passing out jury nullification pamphlets, now parents can let their kids play in the park?!

    THIS IS A SET UP, ISN’T IT?

    :dons impregnium cup:

    1. *statist slavers don spiked boots of iridium*

    2. It’s the calm before the castrationy nut punch.

    3. Libertarian. Goddamn. Moment.

      1. Yeah, that was it. Perhaps we’ll have another one next year.

    4. Apparently we’ve skipped passed the Libertarian Moment and gone straight to anarchy.

  3. Alright, how am I supposed to feel confident in my government’s ability to make sound decisions if they keep reversing themselves?

    1. They changed their protocols and internal procedures, so stop complaining already you dirty proles.

  4. It is honorable to recognize when regulations have gone too far, and to do something about it.

    Honorable?! More like doing your damned job

    Last week President Obama signed national legislation allowing kids to walk to school

    That is NOT what the legislation had in it. It merely stated that nothing in that law was to be construed as forbidding….yada, yada, yada. It did NOTHING about the petty tyranny in States, Counties, Municipalities…

    1. That’s still a big step, making the effort to stave off an unintended consequence.

    2. Lenore, I’m with Switzy here – I don’t see any honor, only pragmatism. They have learned the hard way that courts will no longer give them carte blanche on things like this, and want to save themselves further embarrasment. No contrition, no “we wuz rong.”

      “Moving forward, the Department will be […] considering changes to Department rules and procedures.”

      That’s some pretty weak sauce.

      Having said that, it’s really, really good news they got slapped down like this.

  5. Wait… she’s 27 years old and two years ago she had 11, 9, and 5 year old children? I’m willing to say fuck this welfare queen.

    1. “I’m just relieved this is over,” said Natasha Felix, a 27-year-old single mother. “I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong.”

      I don’t know that she didn’t do anything wrong with her life choices but at least insofar as letting kids play outside, no I guess not.

    2. You really shouldn’t post when you’re horny, FMSS…

      1. We need pics of this welfare queen first.

        1. No you don’t, trust me on this one. Just close your eyes and imagine a latina that would start having children at 14. If it helps, think broodmother.

            1. You had me at you had me at Latina!

    3. You rarely get the test case you want – Miranda was probably guilty, many of the free speech plaintiffs have unsavory messages, etc.

      While you are probably right that she’s a welfare queen, I see no evidence of that. Perhaps her family supports her; perhaps she gets child support from the father(s), perhaps she receives private charity. But even if she is a welfare queen, she has rights, too; just not the right to your income.

      1. Look, I’m not going to jump up and start killing these people. And I understand that unsympathetic people also have rights.

        But having said those things, I stand by my original statement. AND, who’s to say that these kids wouldn’t be better off away from this woman? Certainly not in state custody, but anywhere else than with a poor single mother who, by other accounts, can’t find a job.

        1. Apparently she was a home health aide prior to the DCFS fiasco. Average hourly pay rate is ~$13, so yeah, not exactly a good idea to continue having children and try to live on that wage.

        2. anywhere else than with a poor single mother

          Paging OMWC…

        3. But having said those things, I stand by my original statement.

          Why? Why say anything? You have no idea who this woman is or what her circumstances are.

        4. I’m still trying to figure out what in the fucking fuck your icky factor has to do with the case at hand.

          1. It has nothing to do with the case. Absolutely nothing.

            But fuck you if you’re saying I’m not allowed to think that a woman who had two children by age 16 is not someone to be sympathetic to.

            1. No one is asking you to be sympathetic to her about anything. Feel free to feel good for her for being free of being skullfucked by CPS. Or not.

              Do you actually have kids? Always curious if the People Who Know What’s Best For Other People are speaking from actual experience or out of their ass.

              1. I have a 20 year old daughter and a 15 year old son.

                I can be glad that the government isn’t fucking her and still think there’s good odds she’s fucking the people of Chicago.

                1. there’s good odds she’s fucking the people of Chicago.

                  She may very well may be. Her and about a couple million others in Chicago.

                  I’m always glad to see someone out from under the boot, even if it’s just a little more. I don’t really care what their faults or flaws are. We all benefit from that.

      2. Tonio|12.17.15 @ 1:46PM|#
        “You rarely get the test case you want – Miranda was probably guilty, many of the free speech plaintiffs have unsavory messages, etc.

        Check IJ’s cases; those are SEE-Lected!

        1. But you can’t order up a squeaky-clean, virtuous, telegenic plaintiff; you still have to pick from the pool of people who have had their rights violated.

          1. True, and the party in question here was worthy of support.
            But if you start with the issue, you can then select for the most sympathetic agent; IJ does so, and they win.

    4. My wife had her first kid when she was 16. She has never been on welfare once in her entire life. Too proud.

      1. And if she didn’t also have two more children almost immediately then that’s a credit to her.

      2. But she also, presumably, hasn’t been a single-mom with an entitlement complex for nearly her entire child rearing life.

  6. Now we need to put the original DCFS-calling passer-by on the list as a known Busybody and Tattletale. Some people in her future might like that…some may not. But they all deserve to know.

    1. We’ll call it the WGAFITAISDSTFUAMHOB list.

      “Will Get A Foot In The Ass If She Doesn’t Shut The Fuck Up And Mind Her Own Business”

  7. RE Diane Redleaf’s email.

    No fucking shit.

    It’ll take the power right out of the busy bodies who do more damage to families than good.

  8. What I’d like to know how does it come that a bureaucrat would determine such incidences to be neglect? What kind of mindset pervades in their ranks? How can no one in their department who takes a look at the file not determine ‘hey man, this is not worth the time and effort. Save it for serious matters’? I’m just stunned at the inefficient use of time and resources.

    1. That’s the Chicago way.

      /Connery

    2. “I am just stunned at the inefficient use of time and resources.”

      Clearly you have never worked for government. With regards to inefficiency and waste this case is so comparatively insignificant that that aspect of it never entered my mind.

      1. We all work for the feds, at least for a few months out of the year.

    3. I’m betting the primary actual crime she committed was “being uppity”. But they couldn’t figure out how to charge her for that, since it’s not actually a crime with a written statute.

    4. The state statute defines this as “a child under the age of 14 whose parent ? leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable amount of time, without regard for the mental or physical health or safety of the minor.”

      This is a blank check for the state and I have no idea why judges don’t slap this sort of crap down for unconstitutional vagueness – how the hell can you be afforded due process under the law when you have no idea what the law is? Sure, everybody agrees kids shouldn’t be left alone for “an unreasonable amount of time” because the very damn definition of “an unreasonable amount of time” is “an amount of time longer than kids should be left alone”. So is that 5 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour? And who decides what’s unreasonable? And when do they make that decision, when they give you a warning to let you know they think you might be breaking the law or after you’re arrested and charged and faced a judge and jury? How would it work if they replaced all the speed limit signs with signs that just said “It is illegal to drive too fast”? How the hell does that constitute any prior notice that what you’re doing or planning on doing might be illegal?

      1. And don’t even get me started on how god-awful terrible it is for a child’s mental health to not be left unsupervised once in a while to learn some self-reliance. Just take a look at these college campuses with these nitwits who would whine and cry if you called them a bunch of homo sapiens – I’ll bet a good number of them still have the umbilical cord attached, they’ve never been left unsupervised in their entire pathetic little lives.

  9. Last week President Obama signed national legislation allowing kids to walk to school

    No! We should never use language that assumes that things that are not explicitly allowed are prohibited. It should be something like this:

    Last week President Obama signed national legislation that prevents the government from prosecuting/harassing/persecuting/jailing/killing parents for allowing kids to walk to school

    1. Prevents the federal government.

  10. I for one am relieved that after two-and-a-half years, benevolent leaders have seen fit to reverse the decisions of the state in this one case.

    All praise benevolent leadership!

    1. The children were not removed from her home, but the finding of neglect kept her from volunteering at their school and limited her job prospects as the allegation remained in the state’s central registry.

      For, presumably, two and a half years.

      You can beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride.

  11. Husband: ‘How was your day at work honey?’

    Bureaucrat: ‘Hard. I had to arrest a single mother of three who had the temerity to let he kids play in the park. Thank
    God for a local stranger who had the sense to call us.’

    Husband: ‘Wow. Parents today, huh.’

    Bureaucrat: ‘Yeh. It’s a battle.’

    H: ‘Hey, remember when we used to go play at the park alone?’

    ‘B:Yeh. We lucked out. The ignorance of our parents can’t be repeated.’

    H (winks nervously): ‘Well, we already took care of that, huh honey!’

    B (looks out the window onto the empty field): ‘Yes. Yes we did.’

  12. “Under the new leadership of Acting Director George Sheldon, the Department has determined that the best course of action is to unfound and expunge Ms. Felix’s case,” DCFS spokesman Andrew Flach said in an email. “Moving forward, the Department will be taking a closer look at similar cases to ensure that we allow caretakers to be prudent parents and considering changes to Department rules and procedures”

    ALLOW CARETAKERS??? Even the contrition statement from this bureaucrat is laced with statist bias. Fuck you, you fucking simpleton government functionary, who the fuck do you think you are that you have any authority to decide how people should raise their kids. Here’s a hint, stay the fuck out of it until a crime is committed. Allow my ass.

    1. the government “allows” me to do something…

      Is that like the building permit saying the building inspector has “the right” to enter the building under construction at….

      Individuals have rights, government agents have “authority”, as in “government … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

      Every “civil servant” should have to take a yearly refresher course on civic including rereading Locke and Paine. A test including explaining the difference between Locke and Rousseau would not be unreasonable.

      1. Building inspectors are granted “right of entry” the same as a police officer by the adoption documents that the municipality approves. By that, they have to obtain a warrant or have probably cause for entry. The building permit of a construction project serves as that warrant until certificate of occupancy is issued. Of course all of this is questionable from a libertarian viewpoint.

        1. 1) authority =/= right

          2) yes, it is questionable from a libertarian point of view.

  13. I heard Eric Posner likes it when children play outside without adult supervision.

      1. Good, I like to play by myself.

    1. You know…nah, too easy. Carry on, people.

  14. A passer-by saw the Felix boys, along with their 9-year-old cousin, playing and called the DCFS hotline

    This passerby’s name…..please post it. It must be somewhere in the court docs or road pirate records.

    1. Jane Jacobs made a brilliant observation about safety in big cities being vouchsafed by elderly grandmothers and bored lunchers and all people in between keeping an eye on the streets to pass the time. This ninny, simply by now and again looking out for her neighbor’s children, might have played a similar role. Instead, s/he chose to rat out the neighbor like some Soviet-era informant.

      1. Instead, s/he chose to rat out the neighbor like some Soviet-era informant.

        The difference being, this never would have happened in Soviet-era Russia.

        This is pure Rich, Western Liberal Democracy Problems.

      2. Jacobs’ observation is still how it happens in Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo, some of the world’s largest cities and most heavily-populated cities. Little kids proceed to school or play outside without incident, as no one risks the terror of the little old Asian lady.

    2. I hear the passer-by is Eric Posner.

  15. That’s fine, but I would still like to see the CPS offices burned and their lands salted, their employees hunted through the fields and forests by mongols on horseback and their heads placed on pikes as a warning to others. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

    1. I like the cut of your jib.

      1. I like the chip of their wood!

  16. A new law says that nothing in said law can be used to punish parents for letting their kids walk to school.

    I wanted to make a joke about this, but thinking about the implications of it depressed me so much I can’t even try.

    1. Nothing in this comment will be construed as bringing punishment upon caretakers who allow their children to walk to school.

      I want a fucking cookie too, dammit. See how much I do for you people?

  17. The state’s appellate court has thrown out the “child neglect citation” against her, after a mere two-and-a-half-year battle with the Department of Child and Family Services.

    The system works!

  18. Go, Lenore, go! Loved “World’s Worst Mom”, hope we see more episodes.

    Yeah we learned how to be adults by playing together without adult supervision. Take baseball… picking the teams, deciding who batted first, deciding how or whether to call balls and strikes, all that stuff we had to negotiate and our moms weren’t around to fuck with us because they said get out and don’t come back until dinner. It’s like the fuckin’ wolf cubs playing. You learn how to make it as an adult from your play as a child. Not so much today though.

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