Police and Child Protective Services (CPS) paid mom Kari Anne Roy a visit because her 6-year-old son, Isaac, played outside in the yard for a few minutes.
Roy’s ordeal began when she came home from vacation and sent Isaac out to play. A few minutes later a strange woman knocked on her door and brought Isaac home. The neighbor had brought the boy home because he was about 100 yards from Roy’s home in Austin, playing in a green space where lots of kids play. He had played there often and had geographical boundaries. She could see the spot from the front porch.
“And then the woman smiled condescendingly, explained that he was OUTSIDE. And he was ALONE.” Roy, an author, wrote on her blog. “And she was RETURNING HIM SAFELY. To stay INSIDE. With an ADULT. I thanked her for her concern, quickly shut the door and tried to figure out what just happened.”
Roy told a local CBS affiliate, “She was like, ‘well, he was outside by himself’ and I said, ‘yes he was outside by himself playing, as 6-year-olds do.’”
Child Was In View of the House
About 15 minutes later a police officer came to Roy’s house. The neighbor had apparently called the police.
Roy titled her blog, “It’s all fun and games until your neighbor decides that she is the boss of the fun and games.”
“The police officer asked if my son had been outside alone. She asked why I thought it was OK for him to be unsupervised. She took my ID. She wrote down the names and ages of the children,” Roy wrote.
“There are not a lot of times in one’s life when you can use a word like ‘flabbergasted’ without hyperbole, but this was one of those times. I was nearly struck dumb. I answered her questions until I gathered my senses about me and began to explain the situation.
“I asked if she was *really* there to question me about letting my children play outside WITHIN VIEW OF MY OWN HOUSE. We seemed to agree that this was a little ridiculous. She offered a half-hearted warning that ‘you never know what can happen in just a few blocks’ and I choked back my retort of ‘you never know what can happen when you get out of bed in the morning.’”
Story continues below video
Her children were frightened that a police officer had visited the house, and that night the 6 year old cried “because he thought someone would call the police when he couldn’t fall asleep at his bedtime.”
Child Protective Services Called
A few days later, it got worse. Roy received a phone call from a Child Protective Services investigator, who came over to the home and interviewed her children one on one. She was investigated for child endangerment.
“I wanted to stamp my foot and say, ‘No, ma’am, you are NOT allowed to speak to my children without me being present,’” Roy wrote. “But I was cowed.”
The questions were quite personal.
“My kids reported that she asked questions about drugs and alcohol, about pornography, about how often they bathe, about fighting in the home,” Roy wrote. “My children were playing outside, within sight of the house, and now my 6yo and 8yo and 12yo have seen their mother spoken to — multiple times — as if she, herself, was a child being reprimanded. They have all been questioned, by a stranger, about whether they’ve ever been shown movies of other people’s private parts. And no matter what I say, I can tell that they think they’ve done something wrong.”
But the interviews and the investigation weren’t over.
“After the children were interviewed, I was interviewed, my husband was called (again, making me feel as if I had acted like a disobedient child), even our babysitter got a phone call,” Roy wrote. “Then, finally, once the case worker consulted with her supervisor, I was reassured that because the kids really were just playing outside, and their stories matched mine as well as the police officer’s account, the incident would be marked as a non-event and the case would be closed.”
The entire incident, Roy said, has changed her perspective on daily life. After all, the neighbor “can call CPS as many times as she wants” and “she can’t be prosecuted for making false allegations.”
“When children are involved, the person who makes the complaint gets the benefit of the doubt,” Roy wrote. “For parents, it is guilty until proven innocent. I understand why the system works this way, but it makes me feel like we are prisoners in our own home. It makes me feel helpless and at the mercy of someone I don’t even know. It makes me incredibly, guiltily relieved to enjoy the privileges that I do.”
Society, Roy wrote, needs to let children have more freedom.
“What will the Always On Screens Generation be like when they’re adults?” she asked. “When they weren’t afforded the ability to play and explore and test limits and problem solve, when everything was sanitized and supervised, when the crimes committed against them were more likely to happen online than in the park across the street? What will this do? How will society be affected?”
Do you believe children should be given more freedom? How do parents strike a balance? Leave your reply in the section below: