With the Maryland parents allowing their two children to "free-range" and having their children abducted by social services for the second time, there's been a lot of discussion and debate (though nowhere near enough) about the differences in helicopter parenting and free-range parenting, between government oversight of child-rearing and the authority of parents, and obedience to the rules of judges and social workers vs. obedience to the personal beliefs of parents.
But I can't help but think about another facet of this saga that I've not heard mentioned...the people filing the reports. Despite all the animosity and fear I've heard when people talk about social services, I've yet to hear anyone badmouth the neighbor or friend who called in the report in the first place. And I find that interesting. Without the first report of abuse or neglect, social services would never investigate or send out police in the first place.
So what would the scenario be if the police officer showed up at a park, knew how to talk to kids (that's another topic), assessed that the children were safe and not neglected, and then proceeded to send the reporter a warning for "filing a false report". Because really, that's all this boils down to. A person watched kids walking down a street and playing in a park without any sign of an adult present. They never approached the children or asked them questions. The children looked both ways before crossing the street. They held hands when crossing the street. They kept on eye on each other. The older child had a cell phone. They didn't appear to be malnourished. And yet, this person, concerned that no adult was hovering over the children, called and reported a case of abandonment and neglect.
If I had children, would I allow them to walk a mile to the Garner soccer park and play on the swing set? No. As teenagers, maybe. But I'm not going to fault a parent that does. I might call that parent privately and suggest she check out sex offenders in the area and offer to keep an eye out for her kids while they're walking in front of my house, but those are her children to be parented as she sees best. As long as there are no signs of abuse or neglect, the only thing to report is a difference of opinion...and that is not a crime.
Imagine the reaction if an overly opinionated mom received either a written or a personal notice from the police department or social services that her claim had been investigated and was determined to be be baseless and unsubstantiated, that they appreciated her concerns for the well-being of society, but such serious charges and allegations about fellow citizens was paramount to libel and slander, and if a second baseless claim was made, it would be treated as such. It would eliminate a lot of this mess. It would force callers to stop and truly access a situation and whether or not it is truly dangerous and neglectful, or just very different from what the caller would do.
There are too many cases of true neglect and abandonment in our society for us to be obsessed with minute things that are matters of opinion.