Would you consider leaving an 11 year old alone in your own yard for an hour or so child neglect? Apparently the police in a Florida town do. Whether it is because of an overprotective neighbor who called it in or the result of an over-zealous police officer who arrested the parents for child negligence, it still begs the question. Are we raising a nation of over protected kids?
Why Consider Leaving an 11 Year Old Alone Abuse?
The situation is probably a recognizable one for any parents. Their son was home from school but they were running late getting home. Unconcerned, the boy shot some hoops, drank from a hose in the back yard, ate his snacks in his pack and waiting for his folks to turn up. He didn’t have a key so he was locked out of the home, but he was in no danger. With no laws on the books concerning the minimum age where a child cannot be left alone in Florida, you have to wonder why police felt an obligation to act. Worst of all, they went beyond simply telling the parents they should have made arrangements. They took their kids away from them.
Consequences to Everyone Over-reacting
When the parents did arrive home, they found their son being questioned by police and themselves under arrest for child negligence. The police responded to a neighbor’s call when they saw the boy home alone. The reasoning was that the boy didn’t have access to emergency services for the hour and half he was alone, so felony charges were laid against the parents. As a consequence to this charge the boy and his four year old brother were removed from their home and placed in foster homes for a month while the case was being settled. I am sure that the stay in foster care had far more of a traumatic effect on those kids than the hour and a half spent shooting hoops waiting for his parents to get home.
A Need for Balance
It certainly seems to me that in cases like this a shot of balance when considering the situation would have gone a long way. As the mother pointed out, there was a shed in the back for shelter, a sink and hose for water and snacks in his pack. As any boy can tell you, the idea of using his back yard for a “watering hole” instead of a bathroom was probably not a problem to him either. What he didn’t get from adults outside of his parents was a bit of balance. From the neighbors who thought it was their job to call police when they saw him in his yard alone to the cop who decided he had to act, thinking first might have been a good start. Let’s hope the kids aren’t so traumatized that they will need therapy for the rest of their lives. If they do, that neighbor should pay for it.