Free-Range Kids

Remember Bean Dad? Child Protective Services Was Called to Check on His Daughter

"They were just doing their jobs."

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Last month, musician John Roderick became known as "Bean Dad" for his tweets about making his nine-year-old daughter figure out how to use a can opener if she wanted to eat. The thread went viral, and Roderick swiftly became an object of scorn on social media—as if was letting his child starve. Bean Dead was canceled.

Roderick recently divulged a new wrinkle in the story, which makes clear that it was not just an online kerfuffle. For his afternoon of bean-withholding, Roderick actually earned a visit from child protective services (CPS).

In "Roderick on the Line," his weekly podcast with Merlin Mann, Roderick said, "A dozen people reported me to CPS and they were obligated to come interview my family and interrogate my daughter."

Thankfully, the CPS visit went well. "They were wonderful," said Roderick. "And they were just doing their jobs."

Apparently one investigator spoke to Roderick's daughter for about an hour, privately, asking questions like, "What do you like about your dad?" and, "What do you not like about your dad?" Roderick's daughter told him about this afterward. Turns out she doesn't like the fact he gets tired of playing Legos faster than she does.

I'm thrilled this was not a hanging offense.

Yet I'm dismayed that it's trivially easy for anyone with a phone to summon the authorities to rap at someone's door, enter their home, and interrogate their kids. A caller can instigate this without meeting the parent or knowing almost anything about them. And they can do this anonymously—over and over again, if they choose. This is a system that needs fixing.

As far back as 1987, Douglas Besharov, founding director of the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, told Congress: "For fear of missing even one abused child, workers perform extensive investigations of vague and apparently unsupported reports." The investigations have only increased since then, terrifying literally millions of innocent families each year.

While, tragically, deaths by neglect and abuse do occur, they represent two out of every 100,000 calls to child abuse hotlines. That's not a system that's working.

Roderick's 23-tweet saga did not seem to suggest anything dangerous. He detailed how his daughter was hungry one afternoon when he was busy doing a puzzle. She found a can of beans and he told her she should open it with a can opener, but then refused to show her how to use it. He thought it would be a good lesson in ingenuity and resourcefulness. The process took six frustrating, sometimes tearful hours, and in his tweets, Roderick didn't mention her eating anything during her struggle. Later on, after the blowup, he explained:

My story about my daughter and the can of beans was poorly told. I didn't share how much laughing we were doing, how we had a bowl of pistachios between us all day as we worked on the problem, or that we'd both had a full breakfast together a few hours before. Her mother was in the room with us all day and alternately laughing at us and telling us to be quiet while she worked on her laptop.

Too late: The internet already had his head on a pixel, and what's more, folks had dredged up old tweets that sure looked racist and anti-Semitic. Roderick later explained that those were trying to make fun of hoary old tropes. (To me, this does seem believable and I am personally sorry I took them at face value.)

Child abuse is defined as an "act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation" or an act that "presents imminent risk of serious harm."

From reading the tweet storm that followed his story, it sounded like some people thought this was indeed emotional abuse. Roderick later said that he understood how people could have misgauged the interaction. But I read the whole thread again and, in the cold light of rationality, it did not strike me as abusive at all. More like a teachable moment that had some real highs, but went on too long. The internet is not great at nuance.

And then there were those who thought six hours without food was physical abuse that could even end in an eating disorder. But six hours is usually the normal amount of time between lunch and dinner.

The larger problem is the baseline assumption that whenever a parent, or even single parenting decision, is suboptimal, the government should get involved. It's a system that's easily abused by vengeful people who can upend a parent's life with a quick, anonymous phone call: essentially using CPS as a mail bomb.

The fact that Roderick's CPS visit went well is reassuring. But parents should not be at the mercy of any scold with a phone. That's why the time has come to end anonymous calling. The time has also come to narrow the neglect laws—something Let Grow is working on—so the government knocks on fewer doors, and opens fewer cans of worms. (Or beans.)

NEXT: This Cop Wants Qualified Immunity for Fatally Shooting a Passenger in a Fleeing Vehicle

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  1. “They were just doing their jobs.”

    You know who else…

    1. Ooh ooh! I know!
      *raises hand while holding elbow*

      1. Its outrageous.

        1. They never should have been allowed in the house without a search warrant.

      2. Ooh ooh! I know!
        *raises hand while holding elbow*

        Not you Whoreshack.

    2. Government employees?

      No, that’s not right…

    3. Change Your Life Right Now! Work From Comfort Of Your Home And Receive Your First Paycheck Within A Week. No Experience Needed, No Boss Over Your Shoulder… Say GoodbyeFGT To Your Old Job! Limited Number Of Spots Open… Find out how HERE……. Visit Here

    4. The Winter Hill Gang?

    5. Why the fuck are people being NICE to Stasi agents seeking to suppress them?

      It’s like the McCloskey’s “understanding” when the police took their guns. Don’t “understand” their situation. They certainly don’t give two shits about yours.

      1. This entire story has played out predictably. Anyone who is surprised has alot to learn.

      2. “Why the fuck are people being NICE to Stasi agents seeking to suppress them?”

        Because antagonizing Stasi agents who have the ability to suppress you seems less likely to let you avoid suppression.

    6. Hit men are “just doing their jobs” too.

  2. When it comes to anonymous calls, doesn’t the accused have the right to face their accuser?

    1. You think people actually have rights? That’s cute.

      1. Rights?! You want rights?!
        It’s 2021 people!

        I mean hellooo, the seventies wants its rhetoric back…

      2. There’s a pandemic going on here! Hmph. Rights!

    2. They should at least make sure the person knows the family.

      1. Because that doesn’t matter, of course we should insist on it.

    3. The calls aren’t anonymous. Ernestine knows all.

      It’s too bad Lily Tomlin isn’t still around.

    4. The fantasy they use is that it is the state doing to accusing, not the scold-with-no-name.
      But yeah, no anonymous complaints, no “confidential informants” on search warrants. Each and every accusation should have a real person behind it, and on the record.

      1. “The fantasy they use is that it is the state doing to accusing, not the-with-no-name.”

        By the time you’ve gotten to invoking Constitutional rights, the state IS doing the accusing.
        Some random busybody sees something that looks incriminating. They call in the authorities, who investigate. If the investigation shows that the whatever-it-was that looked incriminating just looked that way, then nothing much happens. If the investigation finds that whatever it was looked incriminating because because there WERE criminals doing criminal things, it’s the investigator who’s forming the basis for charging a crime. That’s not a fantasy.

        The thing is, if an investigation finds that there’s nothing criminal happening, and that’s what the investigator says, then what’s the objection?

        On the other hand, if an investigation finds that there is something going on that shouldn’t oughta be happening, good. No complaints from the guilty should be entertained.

    5. Only if it goes to court. And if such a matter goes to court, it’s the CPS worker who does the accusing. The anonymous caller is off the hook. In cop parlance, the anonymous caller is merely the excuse to shoot the dog and flashbomb the baby.

      The problem is not the anonymous caller. If I genuinely suspected actual child abuse from my neighbor, I would call CPS. Instead the problem is that anonymous calls trigger a response that is not appropriate to the circumstances. The response does not factor in the anonymous caller’s suspicions. There is a difference between “I saw this tweet about a can of beans” and “OMG he’s beating his kid with a two by four!”

      1. It’s difficult to get a decent grip on a 2×4. A 2×2 is they way to go.

        1. 1.5″ oak dowel. It was good enough for Grandma, it’s good enough for me.

          1. Only in areas where hickory is hard to come by. If you need to swing a length of wood at something hickory is where it is at. Ax handles, shovels, baseball bats….

            1. Baseball bats are usually ash or maple, but hickory can make the occasional appearance although it has largely fallen out of favor as too heavy.

              1. Yer a traditionalist. Baseball bats are aluminum.

        2. Maybe we should bring in Adrian Peterson to weigh in on this issue.

          1. Mr. Peterson says his hands are big enough to wrap around a 2×4.

      2. If I genuinely suspected actual child abuse from my neighbor, I’d try to talk to the child privately (if possible), and (if my suspicions increased) then privately confront the suspected abuser (recognizing that neglect and abuse differ), with hopes of change in the future.

        Once CPS agencies get involved, they often create more harm to the child (by removing them from a family and placing them in foster care), and the parent(s), who will have to hire a lawyer to get their kid(s) back and to fight criminal charges against themselves.

        Many parents don’t realize they’re abusive towards children, as I’m reminded whenever I go to the grocery store and hear a woman threatening to beat her child for picking a product off a shelf.

    6. Not in the administrative state. It’s not criminal until its criminal.

  3. Why isn’t there some kind of sanction to the people who made these anonymous calls maliciously? Maybe if they were liable, the behavior would change.

    1. Why do you hate the noisy, messy monsters children?

      1. Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late. Thomas Sowell

    2. Public sector services abused by the bored, shameless, and despotic?

      Next you’ll be telling me that narcissistic self-enriching psychopaths work in the U.S. Goverment; get real, buddy.

    3. I once read somewhere that cops patrol black neighborhoods more than white neighborhoods because white people rat on each other. It was a joke. And it’s funny because it’s true.

    4. “ebruary.16.2021 at 1:50 pm

      Why isn’t there some kind of sanction to the people who made these anonymous calls maliciously?”

      Because of how hard that would be to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

  4. The dozen people who reported Roderick to CPS should have been charged with filing false reports (as they never witnessed Roderick harming his child).

    If more people were held legally accountable for filing false charges with police (and other government agencies), far fewer people would file false charges.

    1. But then who knows how many kids without the sense to figure out how to operate a can opener would go to bed hungry at night?

      1. Uh, zero?

        (is there a prize?)

        1. Door 1, Door 2 or Door 3?

          *******spolier*******

          All of them are a Jacob Sullum article on how bad Trump is.

          1. That’s not a prize. That’s a punishment.

      2. The same number that would if CPS were actually doing its job?

    2. “The dozen people who reported Roderick to CPS should have been charged with filing false reports (as they never witnessed Roderick harming his child). ”

      You’re making an assumption, and you may not even be aware you’re doing so. You’re assuming the people who reported the guy to CPS said anything besides “this guy said this in public” and quoting him. The trial for filing false reports is going to be very brief if it turns out they’ve been arrested and charged (at your urging) for filing false reports without saying a single false thing.

      The point is, maybe don’t be so quick to arrest based on something you imagined.

  5. Thankfully, the CPS visit went well. “They were wonderful,” said Roderick. “And they were just doing their jobs.”

    The fact that Roderick’s CPS visit went well is reassuring.

    I suspect the only reason it went well is that he didn’t overly protest the CPS visit and didn’t do or say anything to imply that he was even the slightest bit annoyed. If he had failed to show proper deference to the petty functionary from the State it could have gone much, much worse.

    1. “Subject responded within appropriate levels of deference and respect. Iris focus remained within expected ranges, despite Agent Smith’s extremely low cut blouse and milk-seepage.”

    2. Good thing Roderick wasn’t smoking a joint when CPS showed up, as they’d have taken the kid, and placed him/her in foster care.

      1. Yeah, and also good thing he wasn’t assembling pipe bombs either.

        1. Or cooking meth.

          1. Or photographing someone having sex with the kids.

  6. While, tragically, deaths by neglect and abuse do occur, they represent two out of every 100,000 calls to child abuse hotlines.

    If it saves one life, we’ll destroy 1,000 families.

    1. …because they ‘care’ with big Gov-Guns used to tyrannically dictate ?their? [WE] families and [WE] children.

      Sell your soul to the [WE] foundation; because YOU don’t own you, [WE] own you.

    2. “If it saves one life, we’ll destroy 1,000 families.”

      Actual number of families destroyed in this story: 0. You went over, so you don’t win a prize.

      1. And that dog on the road that looks like chopped liver is still a dog.

        1. If you don’t like the way that dog looks, don’t imagine it that way.

  7. So much concern for child safety and well-being, and yet they expect everyone to send their kids to government run schools. Well, in a normal year.

    1. Not expect, demand.

  8. You know what’s a teachable moment? Showing your young child how to work a can opener!

    1. Why? Are you too stupid to figure it out for yourself? Are you mentally impaired such that you need special instruction on basic mechanics?

      Normal people can figure out how simple machines work by looking at them. Smarter people can figure out how more complex machines work by taking them apart and looking at them. Everyone needs to learn how to think in order to figure that stuff out. The dad took a trivial situation (opening a can of beans) and used it to teach his kid how to think. And somehow you think that was a bad thing.

      1. You can’t create a [WE] mob with Individual’s “thinking”.

      2. I get what you’re saying and it generally follows with my approach but if it takes your kid 6 hours to figure out a can opener they clearly arent used to thinking that way and they probably need some actual teaching to occur.

        Beating your head against a brick wall doesnt teach you masonry.

        1. Did she eventually figure it out? Yes. Therefore your premise is incorrect. She really did just need time (and encouragement) to figure it out on her own.

          Do all kids have the attention span to keep working a problem for six hours? Of course not. Most adults won’t do that. But who are you to say that your judgement of the kid’s attention span is better than her own father’s?

      3. That’s what he said, LOL.

      4. “Why? Are you too stupid to figure it out for yourself? Are you mentally impaired such that you need special instruction on basic mechanics?”

        People don’t automatically know things, they have to learn them. The best way to make people learn things is to teach them.

      5. No I’m a grown man not a 9 year old and yes 9 year olds need instruction on basic mechanics.

        1. Not really.

          Most kids can figure things out on their own. Video games interfere with spatial, mechanical, and coordination intelligence.

          That it took a while may be a byproduct of that.

          1. Sure. They can figure out not to put their hand on a hot stove, or run into traffic on a busy street, too. If God wants them to survive, they’ll be fine.

  9. Apparently one investigator spoke to Roderick’s daughter for about an hour, privately, asking questions like, “What do you like about your dad?” and, “What do you not like about your dad?”

    So there WAS emotional and verbal abuse?

    #defundCPS

    1. hard to call grilling a kid for AN HOUR “protective”.

      that CPS interrogator needs a private punch in the nose

    2. Wait, the interrogator was alone with a child? Hell, my kid’s doctor can’t do that.

  10. Yet I’m dismayed that it’s trivially easy for anyone with a phone to summon the authorities”

    If they can go after Trump for far flimsier anonymous reports then they sure can go after average citizens

  11. Apparently one investigator spoke to Roderick’s daughter for about an hour, privately”

    we wouldn’t let any other person talk to our child privately why would we trust and allow someone just because they are from the government, especially if they are from the hair sniffing Biden administration

    1. Dear Mr. partisan idiot:

      Approximate number of CPS workers in the Biden administration: 0. (Hint: They work for the state, not the feds).

  12. Turns out she doesn’t like the fact he gets tired of playing Legos faster than she does.

    Look, if she can’t put together the Ultimate Collector’s Millenium Falcon set together in <45 min., that’s on her.

    1. Damn, I’m slow. That took me like 10 hours over the course of several days. It’s deceptively heavy too.

      1. Dude was doing a puzzle for 6 hours while she opened a can of beans. I can only assume that when he tires of playing legos faster than she does, it’s some sort of marathon lego session.

  13. My 11-year-old son wanted to make chili for this evening, since we have yet another virtual learning day due to frigid temperatures.

    I let him open the cans. Thank God he already knew how to do it, so I didn’t have to wait all day.

    He did, however, cut his finger on a sharp can edge. If you could please not call CPS on me, I would appreciate it.

    1. No such luck. My urge to Karen was too strong. Quick, change your address and name so they can’t find you.

  14. Yet I’m dismayed that it’s trivially easy for anyone with a phone to summon the authorities to rap at someone’s door, enter their home, and interrogate their kids. A caller can instigate this without meeting the parent or knowing almost anything about them. And they can do this anonymously—over and over again, if they choose. This is a system that needs fixing.

    It may well be a system that needs fixing but the fix ain’t gonna come by assuming that the kids are parental property. Which is really what’s at the core of any ‘fix’ that assumes deference to the parents rather than direct contact with the kids.

    1. It may well be a system that needs fixing but the fix ain’t gonna come by assuming that the kids are parental property.

      Pretty solid “The system may be broken but the obvious solution to a bureaucracy creating its own problems is wrong because… mumble… mumble….” bureaucracy-judo skills there.

      Dumbass.

      1. Then YOU offer a solution that does not simply devolve to deferring to whatever the parent says. I’d be happy to see if I can translate that into bureaucratese so that the paper-pushers aren’t just doing their own thing with no accountability.

        1. How about actually assessing and grading the information provided in the abuse report? If some asshole says Dad is abusing the kids by making them open their own cans of beans, just thank them, hang up the phone, and do nothing.

          1. “How about actually assessing and grading the information provided in the abuse report?”

            the technical term for that is “investigating the report”, unless you are also positing some kind of psychic abilities in the CPS staff.

        2. i recommend the ” Aw Shut Up” response to karens calling on things they saw on the internet.

          an EASY solution would be a simple query of “Ma’am, do you have ANY first hand knowledge of their allegation”? after Karen blathers on about the twitter puke she read she can be advised that in fact “she does not know what she is talking about” and dismissed.

          that’s my solution. please join me in telling as many of these folks as you can, when you can, that they are not in a position of knowledge, are simplrepeating something they heard or read and DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. ONLY by forcing reality on them can we put an end to this silliness.

        3. Considering you didn’t offer a solution and then got indignant when someone pointed out that you didn’t offer a solution and insisted they offer one instead, I’m pretty sure you’re part of the problem and you should shut the hell up.

          1. Here’s a solution: Quit whining if the bureaucrats investigate allegations before detemining if there’s any there, there. The point of an investigation is to find out what the hell’s going on, so if there’s nothing to worry about, there’s no point getting uptight about being investigated.
            Now, if you can show that investigations aren’t being done fairly, and airen’t clearing people who ought to be cleared of wrongdoing by the investigators, that’s something to object to. But that’s not what happened here.

            From personal experience, I expected my offspring to feed herself from time to time… after she learned to read. I taught her how to read the directions for how long something in the freezer needed to be microwaved to make it ready for eating, and I made sure suitable packages were in the freezer. If some busybody had learned that my kid had complained of being hungry and I’d told her to go microwave something out of the freezer, a CPS investigator would have come by and found a child capable of preparing her own TV dinner and not abused nor neglected. On the other hand, the stuff my ex-wife made up in her complaint trying to get custody of the kid were shown to be not true, which worked in my favor when the judgment was finally made.

    2. They’re not yours or the fictional Collective’s.

    3. They’re not your kids. Fuck off slaver.

  15. Skenazy isn’t being truthful here by not giving you the full story. It was a can of black beans. Would this monster have allowed a can of white beans to suffer the indignity of being locked up for 6 hours? I don’t think so!

    1. OKAY, THAT’S FUNNY!

      1. Not very.
        er, sorry, I meant NOT VERY.

  16. Turns out she doesn’t like the fact he gets tired of playing Legos faster than she does.

    That’s it. Now I’m calling Child Protective Services on him.

  17. If this were me, I wouldn’t open the door. Yeah, I know how it will end. But get a warrant and send the swat team.

    Sometimes causes need martyrs. The CPS nazis seem happy to provide them.

  18. ‘And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what I’m going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? “Thank you,” I’m going to say, “thank you for saving me before it was too late.”
    ‘Who denounced you?’ said Winston.
    ‘It was my little daughter,’ said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride.
    ‘She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.’

  19. those who thought six hours without food was physical abuse

    That sounds like some white privilage right there. Better call CPS on those Karens to make sure there isn’t any white supremacy in that household.

    1. Clearly all the Karen’s who called CPS were aghast at 6 hours between meals passing and so I assume they’re fat cunts.

  20. we need triumph the insult comic dog to do a bit on this. “oh no, the kid will not get beans for SIX WHOLE HOURS!” fortunately we have biden and harris to enact a whole new slate of “protective services” for the many of us who sometimes don’t get to eat lunch at all. “Roofers Protective Services today intervened when Jack had to skip lunch to work straight through. authorities reported him to himself, made him a sandwich, soothed him with a calming voice ‘you poor baby’ and filed a report. mr. murphy was unavailable for comment. he was still working”. other “Protective Services” can include Nurses Protective Services, Wildfire Firefighter Protective Services, Surgeons Protective Services, Software Coder Protective Services, Disaster Responder Protective Services

    I HAVE NO HOPE FOR THE REPUBLIC

  21. I bet he just let the CPS folks waltz right in too. Nope. Get a warrant if you want inside my house. Yes, feel free to stand there in the freezing cold on my porch too.

    1. Let them stand at the door for 6 hours then open it and apologize that you asked your daughter to let them in but she said she didn’t know how to unlock the door and gave up.

      1. Best comment of the day!!

      2. He was bean mean.

  22. If 2 out of every 100,000 calls represent actual abuse, then this is not a “broken” system. It is a system that does more harm than good and should be abolished.
    And he’s being nice about it, but “doing their job” doesn’t cut it. “Following orders” or “doing my job” is not an excuse for violating peoples lives.
    If you do so, you are not excused and you are my enemy

  23. Do author and editor know that the article does not mention a single time where this incident took place? Good lord. Who, what, when, WHERE, why.

    1. Sometimes details get in the way of a good outrage. You wouldn’t want to ruin the outrage, would you?

  24. Simple fix; dont have any kids.

    But he should have told them to get fucked and to come back with a warrant.

    1. Great idea, if you don’t mind that they’ll be back at 3am with a no-knock warrant…

  25. I vos chust doink mie chob. Dr. Mengele, SS protective services.

    If you like your deep state over reach, you can keep your deep state over reach. Now move along…and OBEY.

    1. They may or may not consider paranoia an impairment of your ability to raise your kids.

  26. Reason has become the periodical of trivial pursuits.

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