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Will You Be Arrested For Leaving Your Kid Alone At The Park?

Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, has declared May 22 “Take Our Kids To The Park and Leave Them There Day”. Today, she runs a great essay by an Arizona man on what the authorities might or might not do to parents who dare to go ahead with this crazy scheme.

The short answer is whatever they want. Neglect laws in many states – including Arizona and Massachusetts, where I live – are subjectively enforced. The bottom line is that you have to provide appropriate food, shelter, clothing, supervision and care for your kids.

It’s up to individual cops, judges and social workers to decide whether or not letting your kid play unsupervised at your local playground is neglectful.

Probably, they won’t. The social safety networks that exist to protect kids in this country are incredibly overburdened with cases with real abuse. They don’t have the resources to help all the kids who really need them, let alone go around trolling for healthy, well-cared for children who happen to be alone at a playground.

Overzealous, idiotic cops and social workers can make life miserable for some parents. We see these cases in the news. But like stranger kidnappings, they make headlines because they’re unusual. For the most part, the state does not want your kids.

May 22 is two days before my oldest daughter’s 6th birthday. I’m planning to offer her the chance to play alone at the neighborhood park, while I spy on her from a friend’s second-floor porch three houses away.

It’s not a guarantee that I won’t be arrested for this, but I’m willing to take the gamble. Because I agree with Lenore, and her guest poster Trip Grass, that the problem with leaving our kids alone to play outdoors isn’t, fundamentally, a legal problem. It’s a social one.

In a culture where children play unattended outdoors all the time, happy healthy kids playing alone at the park would never trigger the subjective “neglect” clauses in our child protection laws. We need to make free-range children normal again if we’re going to be allowed to raise our children free-range.

Photo: Sierra Black

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