It only takes about 50 steps to get from Monica and Devon Jones’ Stapleton house to the pocket park across the street—maybe 100 if you’re a pint-size person. In fact, when the Joneses bought their house in 2014, they picked it in part because of its proximity to the green space: They could see the playground from the front porch. On August 21, 2017, Monica Jones stood on that porch and watched her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter confidently take those 100 steps to cross the street and join her friends at the playground. It was the day of the solar eclipse, and a number of neighborhood kids and adults had gathered there; Monica’s daughter had asked to play with them. Monica knew some of the parents in the park, and the Joneses had been working with their daughter for months on crossing the street, so Monica felt comfortable letting her child go on her own while she watched. “We wanted to give her a little taste of freedom and independence,” she says. The Joneses’ daughter made the trip unscathed and spent the next couple of hours going between her house and her friends, with her mom watching from the porch and through the windows. A couple of weeks later, there was a knock on the Joneses’ door. Someone who had seen the little girl playing unsupervised had called the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) hotline to report the incident, and now two caseworkers were standing on the Joneses’ porch. They introduced themselves and asked to come in. Monica wasn’t home, but Devon invited the caseworkers into the kitchen, where they delivered some shocking news: They were there to investigate an allegation of neglect.
Parents of 20-somethings probably recall the "Mommy Wars." Parenting magazines and mainstream media frequently addressed the cultural battle between mothers who made different parenting choices - stay-at-home moms vs working moms, breastfeeding vs formula feeding, homeschool or public school, or epidural vs natural childbirth. With the advent of social media, the term "Mom-shaming" came into use. Passionate advocates took to Facebook and blogs to promote their perspective on the "right way" to parent. As emotionally brutal as the Mommy Wars or Mom-shaming could be, they pale in comparison to the new reality facing parents today in trying to navigate the often stormy waters of parenting. There is now a whole other dimension added to the mix. Mothers (and fathers) now face the real possibility that someone who disagrees with their choices will call the police and report them to Child Protective Services. Parental refusal to bow to the opinions of those around them can carry drastic consequences. Families can literally lose their children, even permanently, because someone who doesn't like their parenting style decided to invoke the strong arm of governmental authority. The fears of others, even irrational or statistically-unlikely fears, are becoming codified into the social "moral" fabric of modern society. Self-appointed, cultural watchdogs, who would have been called "busybodies" in times past, are no longer content to wag their fingers or type out a nasty post. By involving Child Protective Services, these fear mongers often subject the children to the possibility of far worse conditions than anything they could be "rescuing" them from. New York Times writer Kim Brooks found herself on the defensive end of another person's fear about a parenting decision, and she faced the possibility of arrest and losing her children. She wrote an opinion piece entitled "Motherhood in the Age of Fear," in which she eloquently describes the escalation of the Mommy Wars into a very battle for our children themselves.
One afternoon this past April, a Florida mom and dad I'll call Cindy and Fred could not get home in time to let their 11-year-old son into the house. The boy didn't have a key, so he played basketball in the yard. He was alone for 90 minutes. A neighbor called the cops, and when the parents arrived—having been delayed by traffic and rain—they were arrested for negligence. They were put in handcuffs, strip searched, fingerprinted, and held overnight in jail. It would be a month before their sons—the 11-year-old and his 4-year-old brother—were allowed home again.
The Meitiv family's two children were picked up by police in Maryland this past weekend, again for the "crime" of walking home from the park without their parents. From Danielle Meitiv's Facebook page: "THE KIDS ARE HOME! CPS finally let us see them at 10:30 and after making us sign a "safety plan" let us bring them home. The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car, telling them they would drive them home. They kept the kids trapped there for three hours, without notifying us, before dropping them at the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours. We finally got home at 11pm and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified." The Meitiv family has one thing in their favor that most of the other parents in our stories do not have: the support of the mainstream media who seem to be outraged over this story. Why are they outraged over this happening to the Meitivs, but not other families? Is it because both parents are well-educated scientists, and more accurately represent families among the national mainstream media elite? Do they realize that if this can happen to the Meitivs it can probably happen to them too? In the meantime, Danielle Meitiv said she won't leave her children unsupervised until she and her husband are cleared. "Child Protective Services has succeeded in making me terrified of letting my children out," she said. "Nothing that has happened so far has convinced me that children don't need independence and freedom, except that they'll be harassed by police and CPS."
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they are being investigated for neglect.... in a case they say reflects a clash of ideas about how safe the world is and whether parents are free to make their own choices about raising their children. On Dec. 20, Alexander agreed to let the children, Rafi and Dvora (ages 10 and 6), walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well. The children made it about halfway. Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them. Danielle said she and her husband give parenting a lot of thought. “Parenthood is an exercise in risk management,” she said. “Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleepover? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We’re not saying parents should abandon all caution. We’re saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen.” She added: “Abductions are extremely rare. Car accidents are not. The number one cause of death for children of their age is a car accident.” Danielle is a climate-science consultant, and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health. The Meitivs say that on Dec. 20, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. At first he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer, his wife said, but changed his mind when he was told his children would be removed if he did not comply.