Parenting

Court Agrees Kids Can Ride the Bus Without Their Dad

Child protective services can’t take someone’s kids away just because the children are competent.

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A Canadian dad has won the right to let his kids ride the local bus without the threat of the government taking them away from him.

Vancouver, British Columbia, tech manager Adrian Crook had taught his four oldest children, all between the ages of 7 and 11, how to ride city buses on their own to and from school. But in 2017, when they began to travel without him, someone called child protective services to report unsupervised kids on the bus. Crook was then informed that not only were unsupervised bus trips not allowed, but also that kids under the age of 10 were not allowed to do anything unsupervised, inside or outside the home. 

The wheels of justice go round and round…but they sometimes end up just where they should be. And last week, British Columbia's highest court declared that the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) had overstepped its bounds by imposing the equivalent of a decree on Crook when all it had the right to do was issue recommendations.  

For the three years the case dragged on, Crook felt he legally couldn't let his kids out of his sight. "For years [before the MCFD got involved], they'd been going across the street to the 7-Eleven I could see from my window," he tells Reason. But after MCDF issued its edict, he didn't dare let them do that anymore. He didn't even let them take out the garbage.  

The recent ruling "means we no longer live under the bespoke rule the Ministry of Child and Family Development created for us," Crook writes via email. "Personally, it means the highest court in our province agreed with me that the MCFD didn't have the authority to impose such a rule."

The story began about five years ago when Crook started teaching his kids how to ride the local buses. There's a route that starts near his home and ends at their school. He accompanied them on these trips for two years until he felt they were ready to go by themselves. 

And by all accounts, he was right. The kids were fine. Crook once got an email from a random bus passenger saying how pleasant and well-behaved his kids were. But in March 2017, someone notified MCFD that there were unaccompanied kids riding the bus, and the authorities came to Crook's home to investigate.

While the supervisor on the case noted that Crook had gone "above and beyond" in training his kids to be responsible, the ministry started digging around for any guidelines as to whether children are allowed to be independent public transit riders. Finding no specific regulations, it eventually deferred to a court decision from 2015, wherein British Columbia's Supreme Court ruled that no child under 10 can stay home alone, even for a couple hours after school with a latchkey. (That case was horrible too—take a look.)

Still, the ministry told Crook he had to sign a "safety plan" which included the provision that the kids always had to be with someone 12 or older. So, Crook says, "I had to return to taking the bus with them" 45 minutes each way, twice a day. You can see how someone trying to work full-time, or with younger kids at home, would be crippled by such a rule. 

Now, Crook is not oblivious to reality. He grew up the son of a homicide detective. He knows that crime exists. But he did his research and discovered that buses are one of the safest forms of transportation—safer than cars—and gave his kids a cellphone to use in case of emergencies. And the kids all traveled together.

Nonetheless, Crook says, over the course of the last three years he has received threats, both written and spoken, from the Ministry's director and from social workers saying they would take "more intrusive action" if he failed to comply with the order. 

As Crook writes on his blog, 5kids1condo: "Since going public with this case I've heard from dozens of families similarly affected by MCFD overreach. Many much worse off than my own. And in most cases, those families lack the resources or privilege I have to be able to take this fight on." In the end, it took $70,000 in legal fees to fight the edict. Donations totaling $55,000 mean he is still $15,000 in the hole.

For anyone without such resources, Crook notes, MCFD can "rely on the overwhelming power imbalance between themselves and parents in order to impose their decisions…While MCFD argues that parents 'agree' to comply with their 'recommendations' and that the process is a 'collaborative' one, in reality parents often have no choice, no advocate, no recourse, no money to fight it, and are cowed into compliance under threat of losing their children."

In writing the court's opinion, Justice Barbara Fisher said that the MCFD and its social workers "had no authority to require the appellant to supervise his children on the bus (or elsewhere). It follows that this purported exercise of statutory power was unreasonable."

It's not every day that the unreasonable government power is recognized as unreasonable. If I were Crook, I'd celebrate by putting my kids on the bus. Then I'd go round and round to some pubs. 

NEXT: The Presidential Pardon Power

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  1. I mean, I guess I’m an uncaring laissez-faire person in most regards, but I think giving people wide choice in how they raise their own kids is incredibly important. “It takes a village” is a horrible mentality, democracy should never be forced upon the household.

    1. It takes a village (of Karens) to take away your kids.

      1. We should replace all the Confederate monuments with Karens to honor their work.

          1. Girl in traditional Karen clothing

            Not what I expected.

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          2. Preferably real Karens that have been dipped in molten Bronze.

        1. Ring Ring
          911: “911, What is your emergency?”
          Karen Monument: “A black man threatened to knock me off my pedestal.”

      2. Nope, it only takes one.

        If I was him, I’d be digging to find out who narced on him.

    2. It takes a village….to raise an idiot.

      If you want intelligent, rational kids, you will tell the village to fuck off.

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  2. Canada: Now as dumb as the United States!

    1. It’s frequently pretty dumb anyway. People just don’t pay it that much attention most of the time. Honestly, Canada mostly gets attention in the US when it can be used to compare to American politics in some incisive way.

      1. “We should have waiting lists for healthcare just like Canada!”

        Seriously, I have a extremely progressive friend who emigrated to Canada because he hated the US. Now has dual citizenship. He’s constantly praising Canadian healthcare system. Then he got cancer. Guess where went for care? Yup, the US.

        I don’t wish cancer on anybody, but when a huge advocate for Canadian style healthcare chooses to come to the US for his healthcare, maybe it’s not all rosy up north.

  3. Nice. Will he be able to sue the MCFD for the lawyer fees? It’s not the US so QI doesn’t apply…unless Canada has their own messed up version of it.

    1. Most countries are much worse in that regard. The legal basis for qualified immunity is the underlying principle of sovereign immunity.

      Under sovereign immunity, “the king is the law” so you can’t sue the king – for anything. Unless he gives you permission to sue him. That principle was inherited as part of common law to the US and our non-king-based governments. You still can’t sue the government unless it gives you permission.

      In 1871, the US government did give us permission to sue it for certain acts. That permission is now codified as 42 § 1983. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court created an exception to that permission called qualified immunity largely out of thin air – and then kept whittling away at what was left by “interpreting” qualified immunity in ever stricter ways.

      The point, though, is that most countries don’t have a qualified immunity problem because they never gave up their absolute sovereign immunity.

  4. everyone is Stasi.

    1. 1 in every 3 of us just reported you.

      1. i’m not resigning my job as curator or changing the name of my team.

  5. He’s lucky the state didn’t teach him a lesson by kidnapping, torturing and killing his children to show what could happen. I recall a local government somewhere has at least done the first.

    1. Well, they shoot dogs, don’t they?

  6. Suing the CPS worker would be nice, but they enjoy qualified immunity.

    1. It was for the children, you heartless bastard!

  7. These agencies are simply following the inevitable progress toward logical conclusions, as in “not only were unsupervised bus trips not allowed, but also that kids under the age of 10 were not allowed to do anything unsupervised, inside or outside the home.”

    And anything means any thing. No if, ands, buts, or exceptions.

    Now the poor agency cannot simply throw an all encompassing rule at citizens, and must revert to actually using judgement and making decisions as to whether a child is actually endangered, or not.

    I tell you nothing but trouble will come of this! There will be cases where the allegations of good citizens will reveal children who are, as well as not, at risk. Much simpler and comprehensive if all means all and no means no, right?

    1. Honestly, it’s difficult because CPS does receive a huge amount of flack if a child dies or something. I don’t know the ratio, but lets say they take 50 times more negative consequence from a child dying than they do for overstepping their bounds (people, unfortunately, seem to have very high acceptance for authority overstepping its bounds as long as they’re viewed as having good intentions).

      This gradually leads to this type of overinvolvement. Because it likely cost the department nothing to send out this threat, even litigating it like this probably had no practical impact on their budget. If a kid had gotten injured or died (“CPS even received an e-mail here!!! THEY KNEW AND DID NOTHING!!!”) then they’re like gutted and fucked to death.

      I don’t agree with CPS acting in such a way, but systems have been built that incentivize them to do it, and thus they do it.

      1. re: “then they’re like gutted and fucked to death”

        That’s a rather strong way of saying “someone might say something bad about the agency in the newspaper”. In actual fact, CPS places foster children in abusive situations (including, as recently revealed in one case, with known pedophiles) yet the social workers, managers and bureaucrats involved suffer precisely no adverse consequences.

        They don’t even get their budget cut. On the contrary, when abuse is discovered, it’s routinely exploited to make calls to increase the responsible agency’s budget. Because, “of course we would have done something about it if we weren’t stretched so thin.”

        So I’m not buying it. Yes, there can be a moral hazard if the consequences of inaction are higher than the consequences of abusing a parent’s rights. But when the actual consequences are nothing more than a couple mean social media posts, that argument fails.

      2. I work in a hospital [ER] and there have been times we’ve had to brow beat them to keep a child out of a genuinely dangerous situation. And then you see bullshit like this where a bureaucratic balls gets to rolling and it only stops when it finally runs out of steam, or hits a wall.

        It takes a certain level of expertise and judgement to make good decisions, not a default to one size fits all. That is precisely what public schools have done with “zero tolerance” lest they be accused of actually treating children differently according to what the circumstances require.

      3. but systems have been built that incentivize them to do it, and thus they do it.

        and the system that most abounds here in the US is the outrageous FEES they get for each child they put into foster care in their county. They pay the foster parents/homes a mere pittance and use the rest of the “payments’ to pad their own budget and increase their wages. That makes them hire MORE dweebs to go out and figure ways to collect children, thus spiralling the system out of controll . The only limit to the size and budget of the agency is how many kids can they steal and have trapped in their system indefinitely, using their budget to drown the families in legal fees, and bury them in the anguish and emotional trauma of knowing their kids are somewhere else.. and there is nothing they can do about it but endure….. not to mention how many kids get messed up in these “facilities”. Case in my state years ago where a foster couple faked their address, and actually lived on a sailboat at anchor, the kid essentially imprisoned below decks and fed as little as they could and not have him die of starvation. Meanwhile the couple collected a rather comfortable sum monthly for “taking care of” this young child. When busted the state tried mightily to escape any blame for letting this happen.They DID implement “in home inspections” after that. CPS are one of the bigger boondoggles county and state governments twist out of all relationship to stated purpose.

  8. I wonder how many CPS workers are abuse victims projecting their trauma onto others.

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  10. The guy is a Crook. His whole family is a bunch of Crooks? Can you really blame Canada for this one?

  11. While MCFD argues that parents ‘agree’ to comply with their ‘recommendations’ and that the process is a ‘collaborative’ one, in reality parents often have no choice, no advocate, no recourse, no money to fight it, and are cowed into compliance under threat of losing their children.

    Them’s some nice children ya got there. Would be a shame if somethin happened ta them.

    1. Ha! It’s a protection racket! Says so right in their middle initial!

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  13. Don’t they have Orwell in Canada? Naming your agencies “Ministry of X” is a really bad look.

    1. in Canada every government agency is a “ministry”. I think it is a holdover from the days, thankfully long gone, where the government and church were one big happy (sarc) family.

      1. “1984” was not meant to be a how-to guide.

      2. “Minister” used to mean “servant.” Ministers were therefore “servants” of the king. Church ministers were so named to be thought of as “humble servants” of the congregation.

  14. Crook was then informed that … kids under the age of 10 were not allowed to do anything unsupervised, inside or outside the home.

    Not even *sleep*! Think of the JOBS!!

  15. The ruling will not make any difference. The agency will continue to assume they know more about parenting than parents do. They will bully, browbeat and threaten any parents who do not have the resources or expertise to defend themselves.

    The end game of course is children will be removed from parents homes and brought up in safe government hostels where they can be molded to bureaucrats’ specifications. Not to worry, parents will have weekend visiting privilege.

  16. Another great reason not to ever have children.

    1. Not at all. Just pay attention to WHERE YOU LIVE. Some places the nannies are thicker than flies at the dump. And nannies gotta nannie.. or die. Personallly I”d rather the latter…. but that’s not MY call.

  17. This is crazy. Since I was eight years old I had to ride my bike several miles across town to school. first one, a public school, was too close to ride the bus, so I had to get myself there. So I rode my bike. At eight. IN traffic and all (bike lanes were some science fiction future mind game not yet even dreamt of). Then I transferred to a private school, and there WEERE no busses. So, the bike again, only a longer ride. I loved it. Went to friends’ homes after school (as long as I had asked permission, they knew the family, and that it was OK with them that I come over). By the time I wasin high school all bets were off. I as a twelve year old began my systematic and through exploration of Southern Claliforna’s coatal areas.. from the Marine Base north to Los Angeles, and inland all the way up into the coast range mountains.. solo or with one or two friends, thousands of miles. I knew my way around and had ridden it long before I got my driving license. Never could happen today. Parents do not raise their children to be responsible or resourceful, I called for a ride home oNE TIME.. it started RAINING Waaaaaa waaaaaa waaaaaa. Mom packed up the little ones and came and got me. After we got home the law was laid down. IF you can get yourself out there, you WILL get yourself back home. ON TIME. Got it. Spare tyres, pumps, basic tools, patch kits, etc became part f my kit. Still that way today. I’ve never gotten a ride home since then, a couple hundred thousand miles riding a bike on the roads. Started about a week after my eighth birthday.

    1. Tionico
      July.14.2020 at 8:13 pm
      “This is crazy. Since I was eight years old I had to ride my bike several miles across town to school…”

      Get off my lawn, and dear ol’ Mom would’a been hauled away.
      I was in K, older brother 2nd, school was (confirmed by bing maps) 3/4 mile away.
      Mom gave us each two nickles to pay the bus both directions. We walked, spent the dimes on candy.
      Oh, and in the winter, well, you know the story…

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  19. “…A Canadian dad has won the right to let his kids ride the local bus without the threat of the government taking them away from him…”

    Occasionally you’re reminded that the US may suck a lot right now, but at least is ain’t XXXX.

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  21. Crook once got an email from a random bus passenger saying how pleasant and well-behaved his kids were.

    How did the random passenger know who to contact? And how did MCFD know who to contact when someone decided “to report unsupervised kids on the bus”?

    I’m very glad the case was (finally) decided as it was. But I’m wondering if the kids were giving out information about themselves or their family that it might not have been smart to give.

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