A reader of Free Range Kids is in danger of having his six-year-old daughter taken into protective services custody because he let her walk a few blocks to the post office in their Ohio town. The kid, Emily, asked for a little independence, and was given permission to take some unsupervised, short walks. Neighbors and cops freaked out, detained her, detained her parents, sent CPS after them, and has made their life into a nightmare -- one that's just getting worse and worse.
Day 41: We are served with a complaint alleging neglect and dependency. The County wants to take Emily into “protective supervision” or “temporary custody.” The complaint contains many factual errors and inaccuracies.
There is also a motion for “pre-dispositional interim orders.” As I understand it, this is a mechanism by which CPS can intervene even before the merits of the case against us for neglect are even heard, but less decided. It is scheduled to take place more than a month before the hearing on the neglect charge. It asks the court to force my wife and I to “allow ______ County Children Services to complete an assessment with the family. This is including allowing the agency access in the home, allowing the agency to interview the children, and participate openly in the assessment process.” In other words, they want to search our house, interrogate the children, and force us to testify.
We are trying our best to raise Emily to be responsible, curious, and capable. We have chosen to include teaching her about using the library, navigating the neighborhood, and mailing letters as elements of her homeschooling. Needless to say, this entire ordeal has been quite distressing for the entire family, and we view it as a threat to our homeschooling her, our parental rights, and both my and Emily’s civil liberties. Since our family is being threatened by legal action, I have tried to confine my comments to a dispassionate statement of known facts.
As Lenore Skenazy notes, this shouldn't deter you from letting your own kids move independently about their towns: "I am posting this story NOT because it is common and we should all worry about being hounded by CPS if we let our kids go outside. I am posting it in utter outrage at the idea that a child on her own could be considered neglected or in danger when she is so obviously, clearly, and indisputably neither."
They're looking for pro bono legal assistance.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.