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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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July 21, 2014 - 8:47 am

Radley Balko highlights this charming story from South Carolina, among others.

Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.

The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.

The state has taken the nine-year-old girl away from her mother. Which is abusive, if you ask me.

So if you let your kid play unsupervised at a park for any length of time, you’re subject to arrest by the minions of the state now?

Can we really describe ourselves as the “land of the free” anymore?

 

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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Top Rated Comments   
It seems that people posting here have led very sheltered lives. Their mothers had the luxury of staying home, or of being able to pay for childcare while they worked. For many, that is not a reality. There have always been latchkey children, and always will be. That is reality. And in many communities-like mine-it is normal for children to walk, bike, ride buses and play outside unsupervised. But that's not the point of the article. It's about CRIMINALIZATION. We've always had social service agencies like CPS to monitor families that have been reported by concerned individuals. They used to WORK with parents to solve problems and help families stay together. Removing the children was a last resort. But they did not involve the police and arrest parents. The police in this case did not have to seize the child, and arrest the mother IN HER WORKPLACE, which traumatized both of them and caused the mother to lose her job. The child had a cell phone. They could have called the mother and told her to pick up her child. Or called CPS and let them decide how to handle it. This was a case for Social Services, not the police and the criminal justice system.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The mother in this case was in a known location a short walk away from the park, closer to her daughter than your parents likely were to you when you went out to play. If she needed her mother for any reason, she was accessible to the daughter.

This young girl was taken from the park by armed police and put into the "system". Explain to me, please, how this is an improvement?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wouldn't that depend on the park? Isn't the parent likely to be the best judge of that?

I know this: As a boy I was frequently several miles from my at-home parent and on my own with other children in a place accessible to everyone. My wife's childhood was the same. Our parents knew only the generalities of where we went and what we did and as for cell phones, they were still 30 years in the future.

My point IS NOT that that park was certainly a safe place for the child. It is that it was the mother's duty and within her ability to judge just how safe it was for her child. The bar for government getting involved in that should be very high indeed.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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It seems that people posting here have led very sheltered lives. Their mothers had the luxury of staying home, or of being able to pay for childcare while they worked. For many, that is not a reality. There have always been latchkey children, and always will be. That is reality. And in many communities-like mine-it is normal for children to walk, bike, ride buses and play outside unsupervised. But that's not the point of the article. It's about CRIMINALIZATION. We've always had social service agencies like CPS to monitor families that have been reported by concerned individuals. They used to WORK with parents to solve problems and help families stay together. Removing the children was a last resort. But they did not involve the police and arrest parents. The police in this case did not have to seize the child, and arrest the mother IN HER WORKPLACE, which traumatized both of them and caused the mother to lose her job. The child had a cell phone. They could have called the mother and told her to pick up her child. Or called CPS and let them decide how to handle it. This was a case for Social Services, not the police and the criminal justice system.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not your adventures of Tom Sawyer's American any more. I wonder how many mid western parents were cited or arrested for their runaway children hanging out on the streets of San Francisco 24/7 during the '60s? I suggest Homeland Security document the identities of all those Central American parents that sent their children north to the land of the big PX so charges can be filed for child endangerment and arrest warrants issued for those parents through Interpol: We need to do it for the children.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
This just shows the importance of family court judges and of the right to a speedy trial. If the judges would throw the cases out and the juries would refuse to convict, this abuse would drop like a rock.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's hard to find words for this.

Without almost total responsibility for their children, parents cannot carry out their duty to guide the child so she develops the virtue and appreciation for liberty that are the footings under the foundations of a free society.

Look around: Perhaps 10% of Congress understand the importance of virtue and liberty; perhaps 50% of citizens generally -- but we twice elected a president who hates BOTH. Our mass media? Would it be 2% there? Almost nobody in media upper management.

Look at the mob of American 'leaders' waving 'humanitarianism' in response to the invasion over our southern border. What can possibly be the harm in a million new residents who have almost no chance to learn our foundational principles?

We can see the results of failing parenting in large cities where black children (and sometimes others) routinely grow up with only one overwhelmed parent and become school dropouts, street thugs and unmarried mothers themselves.

Government is trying to 'take care of' THOSE failed families too, but 'a village' is precisely what it DOES NOT take to raise a child. What would it take to fix our cities? It would take GOVERNMENT DOING NOTHING FOR THOSE FAMILIES. The first generation would have it very rough but subsequent generations would have dramatically less trouble as rates of finishing school without having a child, getting a job, and marriage all rose fast.

Instead, we see government continuing to expand the reach of its micromanagement into new areas where it can do no good.

Society must hold parents responsible for their actions and step in when outer bounds are breached -- not feeding a child, not providing needed medical care or schooling, exposure to violence -- but a public park with many other children, with a cell phone, when the child wants that -- this action is a government crime.

Another reminder of literally thousands now that (paraphrasing) a government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take (and likely destroy) everything you love.

We are about to shrink our governments dramatically. Unfortunately that's likely going to happen when the whole edifice simply collapses as part of the collapse of our economy. No money=no government workers. Think of it as one of the small silver linings inside what will mostly be a miserable storm.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is not the criminalization of all things but the sober realization that a park full of strangers and a cell phone do not a baby-sitter make.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wouldn't that depend on the park? Isn't the parent likely to be the best judge of that?

I know this: As a boy I was frequently several miles from my at-home parent and on my own with other children in a place accessible to everyone. My wife's childhood was the same. Our parents knew only the generalities of where we went and what we did and as for cell phones, they were still 30 years in the future.

My point IS NOT that that park was certainly a safe place for the child. It is that it was the mother's duty and within her ability to judge just how safe it was for her child. The bar for government getting involved in that should be very high indeed.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Once again this strawman argument about childhood patterns of play is brought into a totally inapt comparison. This issue has nothing to do with playing. People never sent their kids out to play while they went off for an 8 hr. shift.

I used to go off by myself all the time, or with friends. We went miles away. But our parents were home. Had they been off at work - regularly - we at the very least would've been confined to the house and told not to answer the door. More likely someone would've come over and sat with us.

For some reason people are conflating playing against the time a baby-sitter is needed.

Instead of telling us stories about playing, tell us stories about the times your parents, or you yourself as a parent, sent kids off to play and went to work.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The mother in this case was in a known location a short walk away from the park, closer to her daughter than your parents likely were to you when you went out to play. If she needed her mother for any reason, she was accessible to the daughter.

This young girl was taken from the park by armed police and put into the "system". Explain to me, please, how this is an improvement?
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I stopped having a babysitter and became a latchkey kid sometime in second grade. I was on my own for hours. Cell phones didn't exist. I would be out playing around the neighborhood totally out of parental or supervisory contact. It was healthy.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
See: strawman.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, your entire premise is just that.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
You've changed the subject, from whether the parent is the person responsible for making the decision to whether a particular setting (about which we know only generalities) is an appropriate setting for a child to be on her own with a cell phone for some hours.

You're making a blanket decision about that setting; you may be right. You also may be wrong. Neither we nor the government should be demanding that that parent do things our way in that setting.

Not feeding her child, beating her, yes: We can know enough about those things from the stated facts to call 'abuse.' But this isn't like that.

As to what I as a parent did, I was never in that situation. My own parents' practice has already been related in general -- dad was in a distant city most of the time, mom was mostly at home, though not continually (trips to town took a couple of hours) and there were no cell phones -- not even public phones or phones of friends in many cases.

Would my parents rules have been right for every child in those days? Hardly ... but they were fine for me and a number of neighbor kids, in that place at that time.

This IS NOT a matter of what may be best for a specific child in a particular (mostly imagined) setting: It's about what kind of parental duty and responsibility works for society overall. If we (through government) take from parents the decision making power in every case that seems shaky to some of us, then we destroy children generally.

We're already seeing the consequences of a couple of generations of that kind of thinking in nominal adults who cannot handle adult responsibilities because they were never given limited-but-growing responsibility as kids. Our current situation is subject to correction by reality (or God if you prefer) at any time. I would expect corrective action within five years or so.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
It also depends on the kid. Some know what reasonable boundaries are; others may take too many risks. The parent knows better than the police how much supervision a child needs.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bingo.


Like it or not, we either support liberty, or we don't.

If we support it, it's going to be messy. Some people will make bad decisions with that liberty. Some innocent people, some children, will suffer horribly because of it.

But the power of the state is far more horrible. When we give teeth to that monster, those teeth will bite, and they will bite many, many more than we think.

They will eventually bite those who gave them to the monster.

14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can tell you all about it. My mother died when I was 8. My father worked full time. For the next few years, until my father changed jobs and could work from home, I came home from school, got a snack and then went out to play until Dad got home around 6:00 pm. Summer was the same. Various moms in the neighborhood kept an eye out for me, but for the most part I was on my own from after breakfast until dinner. It wasn't ideal, but it was also the exact way my Dad was raised, after his own father deserted the family and his mother went to work full time.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
You were in your own neighborhood, presumably playing with friends, (who themselves perhaps had parents at home) centered around a house you had access to and with families looking out for you. Not the same thing as this.

Nobody here is going to stand up and say they had kids sent out to play for 8 hours - alone, with no friends, away from home - while the parents did an 8 hr. shift. There's a reason for that: it's irresponsible.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
The girl was in her neighborhood park, which was within walking distance from her home, and which she walked to with friends on a regular basis. She also benefited from a program at the park of lunch and breakfast served and supervised by adults. The mother had few options and chose this as the safest and healthiest one for her child at that time. In any case, it did not justify arrest, incarceration and foster care. The issue is as stated in the headline: criminalization. I strongly recommend reading the Psychology Today article on this case.
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are factually incorrect. People used to do that all the time.

We don't live in that world any more.

And none of that is the point.

The point is not the wisdom of the mother's decision.

The point is, whose decision is it?

HINT: If you make it the State's decision, you destroy personal liberty.



14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Mark. I tried to say that, but I used a lot more words!
14 weeks ago
14 weeks ago Link To Comment
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