Free Range parenting hasn’t been accessible for a long time

On September 7, 2017 single, Vancouver, father Adrian Crook wrote a piece for Maclean’s on the state interference he faced after being reported to the Ministry of Children and Family Development for letting his four oldest children (7, 8, 9, 11) take the bus alone. Crook wrote about the experience in his blog 5 Kids 1 Condo and received a lot of social media attention for it, “It seems my experience touched a nerve among developed nations enduring a crisis of over parenting and the ensuing encroachment of the state into enforcing impossibly high and often ill-informed standards to de-risk our kids’ lives.” In his blog post Crook writes about how the ministry conducted an investigation involving a home inspection and interviewing the father and each of his kids separately, “I bent over backwards to accommodate all their requests, quickly. Obstructing or questioning the Ministry – the people who have the power to literally take my kids away – is an unwise thing to do.” In the end it was concluded that Crook is a good parent, his kids are safe, but due to the children’s ages, they can no longer take the bus alone. Crook is right when he says his story has touched a nerve with other parents who also feel smothered by state interference in their parenting.  He uses Lenore Skenazy to illustrate his point. After writing about letting her 9-year-old son ride the New York subway alone (it was planned out, she spoke about safety with her son beforehand, just as Crook did with his children) Skenazy was called ‘America’s Worst Mom’ by the media. Skenazy has since published the book Free Range Kids and hosts a show Bubble Wrap Kids.

Stephanie Land is also right when she writes Free Range Parenting is for the Rich and White, “We must acknowledge how much this collective hand wringing over our children’s alleged lack of freedom is based on both race and class privilege.” Land writes that she is white but her being poor means she is fearful at the thought of police entering her life. She uses Nicole Gainey as an example: a single, Florida mom who was arrested in 2014 for letting her 7 year old son walk to the park less than half a mile from their home, with a cell phone. After her arrest, Gainey could not find work due to her criminal record and had to set up a GoFundMe page to support her family. Land continues to say,

“The poor, and especially poor people of colour, don’t have the luxury of raising ‘free-range’ children without risking severe consequences. Parents of colour don’t receive a visit and a warning if their children are found playing alone; they are immediately blamed and far more likely to be arrested or lose custody of their children.”

Land uses just a few examples of the racism behind ‘child welfare’:

  • South Carolina- In 2014, Debra Harrel “spent 17 days in jail after she left her 9-year-old daughter at a park (with a cell phone) to play while she worked nearby.”
  • Houston- Laura Browder was arrested in 2015 for leaving her children at a table in a mall food court, with food, while she interviewed for a job at another food court table.
  • Within her article, Land links to Carol Hood’s article ‘Stop Blaming Black Parents for Harambe’s Death – Blame Zoos’ where Hood writes about the mob mentality against mother Michelle Gregg whose son got into the guerrilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Nicole Gainey, Debra Harrel, Laura Browder, and Michelle Gregg are not getting writing jobs, book deals, and TV shows.

Crook writes, “In Canada, we’ve mostly been blissfully unaware of CPS-style government interference in our parenting decisions, but we shouldn’t be so smug – as my case and a host of other domestic ones have shown.” I disagree, Canada is pretty blatant in interfering in parenting decisions, just not those of affluent, white folks. The violence of Canada’s residential schools is still being felt in Indigenous communities through intergenerational trauma. Angel Wolfe spoke at a March 2017 event put on by the Violence Against Women class at York University. Wolfe learned at eight years old that her biological mother, Brenda Wolfe, was one of the victims murdered by the Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton. In a 2009 Toronto Star article by Diane Flacks, Wolfe says that authorities treated her badly. They treated her as part of a police investigation, not as a grieving eight-year-old, operating with the colonialist view that Brenda Wolfe and her relatives, being Indigenous, were disposable. Furthermore, in Toronto and the GTA, Black children make up 41% of children in state care, while only making up 8% of the population, according to Kike Ojo, Project Manager of One Vision One Voice: Changing the Child Welfare System for African Canadians:

“Before we can talk about the role that child welfare has played in fostering these high numbers, we need to acknowledge the social context of systemic racism that increases the risk of child welfare involvement for African Canadian and Indigenous families. Issues such as unemployment and underemployment, unfair and inequitable immigration policies, inadequate housing, and negative narratives about marginalized people mean that these communities are subjected to greater scrutiny, harsher evaluations, and more extreme requirements.”

In both the United States and Canada people of colour are losing their children to the systems that are supposed to keep people safe. Sammy Yatim (Toronto), Tamir Rice (Cleveland), Trayvon Martin (Miami Gardens) and Michael Brown (Ferguson) were killed by police. In Mississauga, in February this year, a Black 6-year-old girl was put in handcuffs for misbehaving in class.

I am happy this topic is being discussed, but let’s not pretend it is something new just because white people living in condos are safe speaking out about it.

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