Posts tagged as:

child protection

“The world is force-feeding you a horror movie [in which] you’re the star, and your kid is dead.” When Lenore Skenazy came to speak earlier this month (video of that) she also recorded this audio podcast with Caleb Brown, which has significantly different content. Among the topics: how the media, law, and police encourage helicopter parenting; the best way to break the fear cycle; and how she got turned on to Cato.

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Lenore Skenazy’s incredibly funny talk last Thursday, with me commenting and moderating (and even at one point giving my impression of a 3-year-old losing a cookie), is now online. Several people have told me this was one of the most entertaining and illuminating Cato talks they’ve seen.

Lenore’s blog is Free-Range Kids and you can buy her book of the same name here. Some links on topics that came up in my remarks: Harvard researchers call for yanking obese kids out of their homes; authorities in Queensland, Australia, plan use of satellite data to spy out noncompliance with pool safety rules; courts reward helicopter parents in custody battles; charges dropped against mom who left toddler sleeping in car while she dropped coins in Salvation Army bucket; proposals to cut kids’ food into small bits and discontinue things like peanuts and marshmallows entirely; authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small quantities of pot.

P.S. Direct video link here (h/t comments).

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Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?

Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name.  This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)

Australian journalist Jo Abi is perfectly serious about the idea:

Drowning is one of the leading cause of death in children under five with majority of those deaths occurring in backyard pools. So why haven’t backyard pools been banned? If any other product or activity caused so many injuries and deaths in our most vulnerable they would be banned, there would be lawsuits, there would be outrage. Except backyard pools are an intrinsic part of Australian culture, and it’s costing us children’s lives.

One who isn’t persuaded is Lenore Skenazy, who quotes a commenter at the Australian iVillage site:

I understand one always wants to take measures to prevent deaths, but 16 deaths a year is 0.00000064% of the population. …

We really need to be careful with these kind of ideas, it might not be the banning of cars but the amount of rules that can be added in the name of safety is and will continue to spiral out of control. People seem to want a zero fatality society yet this is not only impossible, the quest for it will create a culture and country based on fear and draconian governance. Given the rules in place now, and articles like this asking for more, 100 years from now you won’t be allowed to swim at all or build, play outside, run, experience anything really.

Lenore Skenazy will be speaking at Cato tomorrow (Wednesday)(Update: postponed to March 6 due to weather). To attend, register here.

More from comments, Bill Poser:

There’s a factor missing from this discussion. The dangers of backyard pools have to be balanced against the dangers of not having them. It seems likely that backyard pools contribute to public health in two ways: (a) by increasing the cardiovascular fitness of the people who use them, who might exercise less if they did not have access to backyard pools; (b) by teaching children to swim and keeping up the swimming ability of adults. Here again, one can learn to swim elsewhere, but it is likely that the availability of backyard pools brings about swimming instruction and practice that would otherwise not occur. We can’t formulate an intelligent policy without knowing the marginal increase in deaths from heart attacks and drownings due that would be incurred by banning backyard pools.

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“In [a New Jersey] appeals court decision last week, three judges ruled that a mother who left her toddler sleeping in his car seat while she went into a store for five to 10 minutes was indeed guilty of abuse or neglect for taking insufficient care to protect him from harm.” The child was unharmed. [Lenore Skenazy, New York Post and Free-Range Kids] Author Lenore Skenazy, who has written about hundreds of instances of questionable legal protectiveness or overprotectiveness at her Free-Range Kids blog, will be speaking at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with me commenting; the event is free and open to the public, but you need to register here. (Update: postponed due to weather)

And: Scott Greenfield has more thoughts on the impulse to bring brief episodes of unattended back-seat child solitude into the criminal, therapeutic or supervisory orbit. Like so many others of my generation, I was left in the car during brief shopping errands by my own decidedly conscientious and non-abusive mother.

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Will you be in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, February 5? I’m delighted to announce that Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids fame, whose work I regularly link in this space, will be speaking at the Cato Institute at lunchtime. I’ll be offering comments as well as moderating, and it’s free and open to the public. Register here. The event description:

Our children are in constant danger from — to quote Lenore Skenazy’s list — “kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Or so a small army of experts and government policymakers keep insisting. School authorities punish kids for hugging a friend, pointing a finger as a pretend gun, or starting a game of tag on the playground. Congress bans starter bikes on the chance that some 12-year-old might chew on a brass valve. Police arrest parents for leaving a sleepy kid alone in the back seat of a car for a few minutes. Yet overprotectiveness creates perils of its own. It robs kids not only of fun and sociability but of the joy of learning independence and adult skills, whether it be walking a city street by themselves or using a knife to cut their own sandwich. No one has written more provocatively about these issues than Lenore Skenazy, a journalist with the former New York Sun who now contributes frequently to the Wall Street Journal and runs the popular Free-Range Kids website where she promotes ideas like “Take Your Kids to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” Her hilarious and entertaining talks have charmed audiences from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. Please join her and Cato’s Walter Olson for a discussion of helicopter parenting and its unfortunate policy cousin, helicopter governance.

And don’t forget that next Wednesday I’ll be moderating a luncheon talk at Cato by another favorite author, Virginia Postrel, with powerhouse commenters Tyler Cowen and Sam Tanenhaus. Register here.

“Security is a legitimate concern — especially where children are concerned. And parents naturally slip into terror mode whenever a possible threat to their child arises. But Canadian schools now take the cake when it comes to hitting DEFCON 1 whenever a kid gets off at the wrong stop or spots a peanut in the lunch room.” [National Post]

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on March 20, 2013

  • Legislature won’t pass dram shop liability, lawyers ask Maryland high court to do so instead [Frederick News-Post]
  • In St. Mary’s County, new visitor rules for elementary schools ban hugging or giving homemade food to any but own kid [Southern Maryland News]
  • Progress: Maryland Senate votes to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana [NBC Washington]
  • If it’ll take $1 million for Somerset County (pop. 26,000) to cut stormwater nitrogen runoff by 145 pounds, how’s it going to manage to cut 37,000 pounds? [AP]
  • “Fracking Moratorium Falls One Vote Short of Passing Key Senate Committee” [Chestertown Spy] “Bill was more about preventing fracking than studying it.” [@ToddEberly]
  • Department of Truly Dreadful Ideas: Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) continues to push bill to establish state-owned bank [Baltimore Business Journal]
  • Website attacking Montgomery County’s Valerie Ervin has some union fingerprints [WaPo] Sen. Brinkley blasts union bill to make all Md. teachers pay agency fees [Maryland Reporter]
  • Video interview with Hudson attorney George Ritchie on Waterkeeper v. Hudson Farm case [Center Maryland, earlier]
  • Added: “Md. Senate votes to outlaw smoking in cars with young children as passengers” [WaPo just now]

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  • “Once your life is inside a federal investigation, there is no space outside of it.” [Quinn Norton, The Atlantic]
  • “Cops Detain 6-year-old for Walking Around Neighborhood (And It Gets Worse)” [Free-Range Kids] “Stop Criminalizing Parents who Let Their Kids Wait in the Car” [same]
  • Time to rethink the continued erosion of statutes of limitations [Joel Cohen, Law.com; our post the other day on Gabelli v. SEC]
  • “Are big-bank prosecutions following in the troubled footsteps of FCPA enforcement?” [Isaac Gorodetski, PoL]
  • The “‘professional’ press approach to the criminal justice system serves police and prosecutors very well. They favor reporters who hew to it.” [Ken at Popehat]
  • Scott Greenfield dissents from some common prescriptions on overcriminalization [Simple Justice]
  • Anti-catnip educational video might be a parody [YouTube via Radley Balko]
  • “Too Many Restrictions on Sex Offenders, or Too Few?” [NYT "Room for Debate"]
  • Kyle Graham on overcharging [Non Curat Lex] “The Policeman’s Legal Digest / A Walk Through the Penal Laws of New York (1934)” [Graham, ConcurOp]
  • “D.C. Council Proposes Pretty Decent Asset Forfeiture Reform” [John Ross, Reason] And the Institute for Justice reports on forfeiture controversies in Minnesota and Georgia.
  • Does prison privatization entrench a pro-incarceration lobby? [Sasha Volokh, more]

Following up on our earlier posts, a new NBER study finds (via Reason) that the main safety-related effect of helmet laws may be to discourage kids from riding bikes in the first place: “the observed reduction in bicycle-related head injuries may be due to reductions in bicycle riding induced by the laws.”

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids is the guest essayist at Cato Unbound. Excerpt:

..any time a politician, principal, or bureaucrat wants to score points, he or she lets us know that kids are even more precious—and endangered—than we thought….

How far has society gone in dreaming up new dangers to protect our children from? Until you take a step back and look at all the new laws and regulations, you probably have no idea….

Over the summer, according to the Manchester, Connnecticut Patch, a local mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor and failure to appear after police say she allowed her seven-year and 11-year old children to walk down to Spruce Street to buy pizza unsupervised.” This was a walk of half a mile….

…in the “real world,” stranger abductions are so rare that if for some reason you actually WANTED your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, do you know how long you’d have to keep your child outside, unattended, so that statistically the abduction would be likely to happen?

The answer is about 750,000 years, according to author Warwick Cairns. And after the first 100,000 years or so, your kid isn’t even cute anymore. …

At the same time, there is a parallel process going on the regulatory world, with bureaucrats looking ever more intently for ever less likely dangers, on the grounds that kids can never be safe enough. This explains things like the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall of a line of children’s jackets last year because the elastic waistbands had toggles on it “that could become snagged or caught in small spaces or doorways, which poses an entrapment hazard to children.”

Yes, it’s true: Those toggles could snag. Does that make them inherently more dangerous than, say, pigtails that could get caught in a door, or a charm bracelet that could get snagged on an electric window? I’m just free-associating products and problems here, because that’s what it feels like the CPSC does, too.

In the discussion, Skenazy is joined by Anthony Green, James A. Swartz and Joel Best.

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Just as soon as your criminal background check is complete [Free-Range Kids, Massachusetts]

More: “You Can Volunteer at School for HALF AN HOUR without Being Fingerprinted. But After That…” [Arizona] And: “‘Is That Police Chopper Following ME?’ Wonders a Dad” [Texas]

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The trouble began at school in Kitchener, Ontario, when a 4-year-old girl drew a picture of her father, Jessie Sansone, with a gun in his hand. When asked about the gun in the picture, according to police, the girl said her siblings played with it and that it scared her. “The school principal, police and child welfare officials… said they had to investigate to determine whether there was a gun in Sansone’s house that children had access to.” And apparently that “investigation” had to involve detaining and strip-searching Sansone when he showed up at school to pick up his daughter, searching his home, and spiriting away his other children to Family and Children’s Services to be interviewed. Sansone was told he was being charged with possession of a firearm — from the article’s context, an offense in itself in that Second-Amendment-less locality. When police searched the Sansone home, they found “a clear plastic toy gun that shoots soft plastic biodegradable BBs and retails for around $20 at Walmart” and he was released without charges. [The Record; Joe O'Connor, National Post]

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In the mail: “Bad Dad”

by Walter Olson on February 17, 2012

We blogged about this case in 2008, and now Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Dave Lieber has turned it into a book. From the description:

A newspaper columnist investigates the shenanigans of a small-town police department — then pays a price for it. After he orders his misbehaving 11-year-old son to walk home from a local restaurant, police arrest the dad for two felony counts. A true-story thriller about parental responsibility, small-town corruption and the consequences of being a public figure.

And: should an Arkansas mother whose son had been thrown off the regular school bus for misbehavior face child endangerment charges for making him walk 4.5 miles to school instead? [Alkon] From Australia, should police warn parents for letting a 7-year-old visit a local shop alone, and a 10-year-old ride a bus unaccompanied? [Sydney Morning Herald via Skenazy]

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“Whistle blowers, that scroll out into a long coloured paper tongue when sounded – a party favourite at family Christmas meals – are now classed as unsafe for all children under 14. … the EU legislation will impose restrictions on how noisy toys, including rattles or musical instruments, are allowed to be.” Unsupervised children under 8 should not be allowed to blow up balloons, according to the European Union directive, which has just taken effect. [Telegraph; headline changed after objection that the Telegraph's headline was misleading]

In related news, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, addressing a United Nations conference on “the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases,” has said that “mak[ing] healthy solutions the default social option” on matters such as diet is “ultimately government’s highest duty.” [Sullum]

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  • Oh, American Academy of Pediatrics, why are you so consistently wrong? On videogames, on food-ad bans, on guns, CPSIA
  • New book by Annette Fuentes, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse [John Harris, Guardian]
  • There are genuine problems with some countries’ international adoption practices, but should UNICEF really be pushing toward a “leave the kids in orphanages” alternative? [Nick Gillespie on Reason documentary to be released tomorrow]
  • At expense of both federalism and religious accommodation, bill entitled “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” (ECDFA) would impose anti-bias rules on state adoption and foster care programs [Washington Blade]
  • Cash-for-kids Pennsylvania judge: “Former Luzerne judge Conahan sentenced to 17.5 years” [Times-Tribune, our earlier coverage]
  • “Met a guy who works at my old summer camp. Bunks still do raids on other bunks, but their counselors have to file raid forms first. How sad.” [@adamlisberg]
  • Sex offender registry horror story #14,283 [Skenazy]
  • “Safety rules rob pupils of hands-on science, say MPs” [Independent, U.K.]
  • Gee, who could’ve predicted that? NJ’s aggressive “anti-bullying” law leads to new problems [NYT, Greenfield, PoL, NJLRA] Rapid growth in bullying law assisted by push from Obama administration [WSJ Law Blog, Kenneth Marcus/Federalist Society, Bader]

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September 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 21, 2011

September 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 2, 2011

  • Jury acquits ex-firefighter who claimed disability while competing as a bodybuilder [Boston Herald]
  • Authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small amounts of pot [NYT, Tim Lynch/Cato]
  • “Case Study on Impact of Tort Reform in Mississippi” [Mark Behrens via Scheuerman/TortsProf]
  • When opt-in works: “More than 27,000 S. Korean users join class-action suit against Apple” [Yonhap]
  • Casino liable after customers leave kids unattended in cars? [Max Kennerly]
  • All is forgiven, says frequent investment plaintiff: “State Street Rehired by Calpers After Being Likened to ‘Thugs’” [Business Week]
  • Vintage comic book covers on law themes are a regular Friday feature at Abnormal Use.

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