Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Article #7: In Some Places Leaving Children Unsupervised Until Eighteen is Neglect

IMG_0024I have watched these reports bulk up over the last ten years, and I  am floored at the things people are calling CPS about,  and the reprimands parents are getting.     Is it for hitting their children?  Abuse?   Withholding food and water?    No.   It are parents who leave their children to play outside in their own yards, leaving children for two minutes to pay for gas, and letting children play at the park by themselves.     A mother has child care conflict with her night class and she leaves her twelve year old in charge in their home for a couple of hours, and a neighbor (instead of helping out) calls the police.


News Story:

A Maryland couple who was being investigated for allowing their two children to walk home alone from a neighborhood park have been “found responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect” by the state’s Child Protective Services.


When I was eight I walked to school by myself and I was really one of the oldest who hadn’t walked by themselves by then (my family was quite strict)!   I was babysitting a child under the age of five when I was ten.    Virtually all babysitters and mother’s helpers were under age of sixteen.     My husband was driving tractors on his grandparents farm when he was thirteen.   When I was eight I was allowed to walk to the neighborhood store a half a mile away that required the crossing of one major street.    Prior to that my own grandfather would walk miles by himself under the age of ten to school or to play with other kids in neighboring towns.    Gone are the days where children would leave the house after breakfast and come home only for lunch and then go back out until the street lights came on (and back then no kid had a cell phone; at best you had a dime for a pay phone).     You can’t go outside these days and see groups of children playing pick up games or yard hopping in their neighborhood; its rare where I live.   If you do see these children, you may be taken by fear that if they trip, fall and get a bloody nose on your property that someone might sue your or you’ll get arrested for allowing it.  Even at schools, to see children out at recess for any length of time is fast becoming a rarity.

I don’t give these accounts to say, “I was fine,” or that “nothing bad ever happened to anyone. ”     I say this to demonstrate that children were once seen as capable of doing so much more than they are now given credit for.    There are serious consequences to never allowing children the freedom to assess risk and to learn how to navigate their world.

While my heart might be in my throat when my two-year old went up a big slide alone, I allowed it.    When my five-year old climbs to the top of the climbing dome I have to just offer only a, “Three points of contact please!”  and then shut my mouth.    When my then four-year old daughter fell off the trapeze on a swing set (after assessing injury), I encouraged her to get right back on it despite my own inner fears that she’d fall again.   I let each of my children at nine months navigate stairs up and down without a baby gate, saving the gate for certain times not every time.   To me it was wiser to let them help themselves, than to always be worried about a tumble in places where there were no gates or to have a gate fail.

These days if you let your toddler walk six feet in front of you in a practically deserted store or lobby, you get the stink eye.   You let your five-year old play in their own back yard while you do other things and your fear is not the rare chance of a kidnapping, but the neighbors calling CPS on you.   Neighbors aren’t now the people who would be the extra ears and eyes in the neighborhood — behaving as a village — now they are the eyes that might be the catalyst to a police visit because one of your babies isn’t wearing pants.   Give a three-year old a butter knife and you’ve lost your mind.

When I sent my five-year old daughter into the small neighborhood post office with change to buy a stamp while I waited outside four feet from the building in the car, I wasn’t worried about her getting snatched.  What came to mind was a “good Samaritan” calling the cops on me.

How about not calling the police, but telling your neighbor, “Hey, I’ll keep my eye out for your kids.”  If you are that worried about the kids in the car the gas station while a parent pays the attendant, keep quiet, watch out for the car-jacking child molester in search of the beat up station wagon and tackle them before they get a chance to figure out the car seat buckle and snatch the kids–in broad daylight — boxed in by other cars.

Zero Risk Doesn’t Exist

Is It Really More Dangerous Today than it Was Twenty Years Ago?

Other Places Know the Value of Letting Kids Do Their Thing



12 comments on “Article #7: In Some Places Leaving Children Unsupervised Until Eighteen is Neglect

  1. theonlysup
    March 4, 2015

    Until 18? Seriously?? I can understand small kids being left alone and not supervised..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 4, 2015

      There is lots of vagueness in the various laws from state to tape. A lot of it is left to interpretation which adds another element. It’s gotten quite bad over the last five to ten years.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brittany Boyce
    March 4, 2015

    I grew up in a place where their were only a few houses within miles of ours. I ran back and forth in the woods from my home to my neighbors. We spend summer days outside basically from sunup to sundown, unless it was to get food! It’s not like you couldn’t hear us, silent children on the ones to worry about. I stayed home alone a lot as child, as my parents both worked. But I had the number to my neighbors and they knew I was there and to watch out for me. I babysat for younger children as I reached middleschool.

    I don’t understand how coddling children makes for well rounded adults…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Laissez Faire
      March 4, 2015

      It doesn’t, but parents have been encouraged to be scared and suspicious of everything. Whenever we go to an playground now I get excited when i see see saws and merry-g0-rounds because they are so hard to find now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brittany Boyce
        March 4, 2015

        Merry-go-rounds and see-saws are no longer on playgrounds? What the what? But how are you supposed to fly?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Laissez Faire
        March 4, 2015

        No flying allowed 🙂 Someone might get a bruise 😉 It depends on the playground, for a while a lot of the new ones going up were so safe they offered absolutely no challenge. Recently a few remodeled playgrounds in my area have put in better equipment with climbing domes and rock walls, though a decided lack of the two mentioned pieces.


      • Brittany Boyce
        March 4, 2015

        Man, the things I remember most from my childhood are the epic bruises. Like the one I got when learning to ride my bike with no training wheels. Or when I knocked the wind out of myself, using the back of the couch as a balance beam and pretending to be a gymnast. Or even when I fell out of a tree, catching myself with my legs, hanging upside down. No fear – that’s what I had as a child. And what I want my children to have, the courage to be bold. I imagined things, I played hard. I bruised. I (thankfully) never broke anything. But even the potential of a broken arm or leg won’t stop me from letting my kids play just as hard as I did.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. ljaylj
    March 4, 2015

    Are you kidding? I don’t think I knew what my parents looked like in the daylight hours. I know there were always 7 to 10 kids in the house (I have a lot of brothers and sisters) but I don’t remember seeing you there. How did you know how I grew up? 😉 Yes, those were the days. The people calling CPS today are the same ones that want the gov’t taking care of everything instead of the parents. However, the parents need to step up and take responsibility. Hmmmm…responsibility without accountability or authority. I wonder, can that work?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lynn k scott
    March 4, 2015

    It’s getting out of control. I used to babysit at 13 but my mom was home “just in case” I needed to call for help. How are kids supposed to learn responsibility and proper judgement if they aren’t ever allowed to use it. I see kids here walking to school all the time, alone and some walk a good mile. If I think the kid is really too young, like 6, I will follow to make sure the kid gets to school, esp. when my daughter attended public school. Too many people are busy-bodies these days and need to learn to mind their own business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      March 4, 2015

      In the 50s and 60s kids around here would not only walk to school in the morning, but they would walk home for lunch, then go back to school.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Eilene
    March 4, 2015

    Freakin Crazy! S’cuse my French! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mallee Stanley
    March 4, 2015

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Liked by 1 person

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