A Florida couple had their two boys, aged 11 and 4, removed from them because the eleven-year-old beat his parents home and was playing basketball alone in his yard.
Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Parenting conducted an interview with the parents for Reason.com and found that the parents, called “Cindy” and “Fred,” were not home yet from running errands when their older son, who had no key to the house, played basketball in their yard for 90 minutes. A neighbor called police, who then alerted Child Protective Services.
The parents were arrested for felony child neglect when they arrived home and also underwent fingerprinting and a strip search before they were jailed for the night. The boys were first placed in foster care for two days while CPS looked for a relative to care for them. “Cindy” said, “Our first choice was my mother. But she lives in another state and so the kids would have been in foster care even longer until they cleared her.”
Instead, an in-state relative from another county was chosen, but that relative tired of taking care of the boys after a few weeks, according to “Cindy,” and so the boys wound up in foster care. The parents had not been able to visit their children at their relatives’s home because they were charged with a felony and thus unable to cross the county line.
“Cindy” had defended herself and her husband, asserting:
We still do not have our children, we are fighting for our own freedom and due to the nature of my employment I am no longer employed,” she wrote. “My son was in his own yard playing basketball, not in the street or at the park. 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.
Last Tuesday, both parents and their boys appeared with their lawyer and the attorney for CPS in children’s court. After hours of a private consultation between the judge and the two lawyers, according to “Cindy,” her 11-year-old wanted to speak to the judge. After their 10-minute discussion, the lawyers and judge again conferred, prompting the judge to rule that if the parents admitted they had been unaware of the wrongness of leaving their child alone and promised not to let it happen again, he would grant them their children. He also stated that the older boy must attend day camp and the younger one daycare this summer.
Speaking of “Cindy,” Skenazy told Yahoo Parenting, “She very much believes in supervising her kids and can’t believe that just because of one afternoon when plans went kaflooey (as plans sometimes will), she and her husband are considered neglectful, endangering parents.”
David DeLugas, an attorney with the National Association of Parents, confirmed the story, and told Yahoo, “This happens more often than people imagine. Those who are in disbelief I think just don’t want to believe it. I think it’s because people can’t fathom that, in our society, CPS wouldn’t do this without good reason.”