Free-Range Kids

Kids Play in Backyard While Mom Does Dishes. An Investigation Ensues.

Child services strikes again.


Screenshot via CTV News

I'm both thrilled and worried when these stories make the news: A Winnipeg mom was doing the dishes while her three kids, 10, 5 and 2, played in their fenced-in backyard.

A neighbor called to report "unattended" kids frolicking and Jacqui Kendrick was visited by a child protective services rep who asked questions about what her own childhood was like, how she punished her kids, and where they slept. She also looked in Jacqui's fridge, according to CTV News.

Happily, the shrink that the CTV reporter interviewed to provide some sanity pointed out that neighbors should complain to each other, not to the authorities.

That, perhaps, is the crux of the matter. The easiest way to feel smug and muck up someone's life is to call CPS, say, "so and so is abusive" and hang up. The system, dedicated to the idea that child abuse is so rampant that no stone can be left unturned seems to investigate every call. Even ones about kids "neglected" in their own backyard.

So why does a story like this thrill me? Because the more we hear about these Kafka-esque investigations of families—of healthy children engaged in mildly unsupervised playtime—the more we resolve: This has to change.

Barring actual abuse, parents must be allowed to raise their kids the way they think is best, even if a CPS worker would raise her kids some other way. And barring, say, a backyard filled with heroin and alligators, kids must be allowed to be outside, unsupervised, even if a neighbor faints at the idea.