FREE RANGE PARENTS: LEGITIMATE OR FELONIOUS?
Summertime is finally here! For most parents, this means a time for family fun. The kids are out of school, happily engaged in activities such as summer camps, outdoor socials, sports, and playing out in the sun. It’s supposed to be a time of enjoyment and relaxation. But parents need to be careful. Simple changes in schedules and routines could land you in jail.
Recently, a Florida couple was arrested for child neglect after a neighbor found an 11-year old boy playing basketball in his own yard for 90 minutes. Due to a normal hectic schedule, the parents were delayed due to being stuck in traffic. The boy arrived home to find that his parents weren’t home yet and the house was locked, so he decided to play basketball while he waited. A nosy, meddling neighbor reported the incident to authorities. The parents were handcuffed, arrested and had their children yanked away from them by child protective services.
Gone are the days when kids could go out and play all day, only to return home for supper or when the streetlights came on. The government is hyper-sensitive when it comes to children nowadays. We have seen good, caring parents get jammed up in the system over parenting practices that used to be the norm. Normal discipline options, such as spankings or punishments, are okay and should be used at the discretion of the parents. It is absolutely outrageous for parents to be arrested for a child playing out in his own yard, something he would do even if the parents were home.
In Florida, child abuse and child neglect are felonies that can lead to prison sentences. These laws were designed to protect children who are severely beaten or neglected to the point that their health is jeopardized. The problem is that these laws are very vague and overly broad, which make ridiculous arrests like this possible. These laws were not created as a way for the government to control the way we raise our children. Law enforcement should be using common sense. However, the authorities are using it as a way to force parents into raising their kids as the government sees fit instead of the choice of individual parents.
It’s terrible that our society has come to this extreme. But, you need to plan accordingly and try to prevent any unwanted attention. Just be careful when your children are outside playing. Be mindful of what your neighbors see and how it’s reflected to an outsider. Talk to neighbors, friends and family and make sure they understand your intentions. If you do find yourself the subject of an allegation, don’t speak to authorities. Contact an attorney immediately and ask for assistance.