Summer playing basketball picture.

by Lenore Skenazy
Reason.com

Excerpts:

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.

Here is the law: “A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the third degree.”

I first heard of Cindy’s case last week when she wrote to me at Free-Range Kids. Her email explained:

The authorities claim he had no access to water or shelter.  We have an open shed in the back yard and 2 working sinks and 2 hoses.  They said he had no food.  He ate his snacks already.  He had no bathroom, but the responding officer found our yard good enough to relieve himself in while our son sat in a police car alone.  In his own yard, in a state,  Florida, that has no minimum age for children to be alone.

On the day they all appeared in children’s court to move the kids from foster care into the relative’s custody, Cindy thought her older son smelled a little strange.

“What have you been eating?” she asked.

“Cereal,” he replied.

Only cereal, for the past few days. That’s not going to kill anyone, obviously. But if you’re arresting parents for not supervising their kids for 90 minutes, it’s more than a little hypocritical.

Cindy, Fred, their two kids, their lawyer, and a lawyer for CPS appeared again in children’s court. The opposing lawyers went into the judge’s chambers and came out every so often. The family’s lawyer explained what was going on. “They were arguing on whether or not the kids should go to foster care or with us,” said Cindy. This went on for hours.

But then, according to Cindy, “My son spoke up.” He said he wanted to talk to the judge.

Surprised, their lawyer asked the boy: Did he have the courage to go through with this? And would he tell the truth?

The boy said yes.

“He went back there and spoke to the judge for about ten minutes,” said Cindy. “And then the judge came out and called the two lawyers to the bench and talked to them for about 10 or 15 minutes. And with that, our lawyer came to us and said that if we admitted that we didn’t know that it was wrong to [let our son] stay in the backyard, but that we know now that it’s wrong and we will never let it happen again, and that we will explain this to our son, he would let the children come with us.”

Cindy and Fred promised. The judge released the kids and closed the case.

But that is not the end.

Read the Full Story at Reason.com

 

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