Top 10 Attacks on Free-Range Parenting in 2022
It was another tough year for many parents who sincerely thought they were doing their best—until the busybodies said otherwise. Here are the 10 worst free-range kids moments of 2022 (and one encouraging counterexample).
1. We scare because we care: A Halloween infographic from the Consumer Product Safety Committee warned parents to “follow CDC advice” and make sure their trick or treaters wore masks to protect against COVID-19.
But that guidance conflicted with earlier advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released in September. In fact, the CDC no longer recommends universal masking, even in health facilities, where the inhabitants are presumably less healthy than happy kids running around grabbing candy.
2. No exceptions: The daughter of a dying, bed-ridden 79-year-old on the sex offender registry in Shenadoah, Texas, asked for permission to provide her dad’s end-of-life care in her home. Unfortunately, a local law prohibits anyone on the registry from living within 1,000 feet of a playground. The daughter lives within that radius, meaning local officials barred her from caring for a dying old man who poses no threat to anyone in the community.
3. Stranger danger, part one: The Lower Merion school district outside of Philadelphia cancelled all six of its elementary schools’ parades because “the thought of having an entire school population of young children in a field surrounded by adults that we couldn’t possibly screen was worrisome,” said the district’s community relations director, Amy Buckman. Clearly, kids should only ever encounter (or even be visible to) adults who have been thoroughly vetted. Speaking of which…
4. Stranger danger, part two—this time, it’s personal: Last May, as I was walking past my local elementary school in Queens, New York City, I paused to watch the kids at recess. The playground is behind a tall chain link fence. Nonetheless, the playground monitor told me: “You’re not allowed to watch the kids.”
“I can’t stand on a public sidewalk?” I asked.
When stand I did, the monitor called security.
“We can’t let anyone watch the kids,” said a more senior school official. “It’s our job to keep them safe!”
After suggesting that merely watching kids frolic does not automatically endanger them (clearly a minority view these days), I continued my walk home, and the kids continued to play, blissfully unaware of the peril, or lack thereof.
5. Stranger danger, part three—this time, it’s federal: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) receives $40 million each year in federal funding. This agency—which put the missing kids’ pictures on milk cartons back in the 1980s without ever mentioning that most were runaways or involved in divorced parents’ custody disputes—launched a sort of mea-culpa campaign in 2017. This time, NCMEC, actually warned parents to avoid stranger-danger rhetoric.
But old habits die hard. This fall, the agency sent an email blast to parents across the country warning that “attempted abductions occur more often when a child is going to or from school or school-related activities.” In other words: Kids are in grave danger whenever they’re not in a school, a car, or a home. Hopefully, parents don’t follow this warning too literally—keeping the kids cooped up all day to guard against the comparatively small risk of kidnapping is not a great tradeoff.
6. Baby snatchers with badges: In July, Josh Sabey and Sarah Perkins of suburban Boston took their sick three-month-old to the hospital. A routine X-ray found a small bruise on his ribcage, which a social worker immediately determined was evidence of abuse. Authorities came to the family’s home at 1:00 a.m., seizing the baby and his brother. After a month, and $50,000 in legal fees, the parents regained full custody of their kids.
As for the bruise, it wasn’t evidence of anything other than a very common, minor infant injury—most likely caused by grandma
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