In an essay in today’s Washington Post, “Raising free-spirited black children in a world set on punishing them,” Stacia Brown sounds frustrated with the Free-Range Kids movement. She dearly wishes African-American kids could go outside and Free-Range without having to worry about actual discrimination and danger. (Me too!) And she is particularly angered that often low income African-American families who can’t or don’t supervise their kids every single second are not given the benefit of the doubt by Child Protective Services:
Skenazy’s site is filled with stories of parents whose families have run afoul of Child Protective Services by allowing their children to walk or play unaccompanied. Race and class aren’t often mentioned in the posts, but they should be. Those factors often make the difference between a successfully closed CPS investigation and a case left open pending a felony charge, which results in a loss of employment, which results in further inability to afford safe, reliable childcare. Skenazy’s blog recently covered Laura Browder’s case without referencing that the family was black (though it’s discussed with some nuance in the comments section). That detail matters. Black mothers — especially those who are poor or single — are disproportionately criminalizedfor their parenting choices.
There is no such thing as a free-range kid in low-income black families. They are more likely to be labeled as “abandoned” and “neglected” than as free.
She’s absolutely right. When I interviewed Diane Redleaf, founder of the Family Defense Center in Chicago, a non-profit that fights to keep families from being torn apart by CPS, she told me “most [of our clients] are impoverished and many are immigrants and minorities.”
All the more reason, then, to fight for the right of all families to be free of government interference when it comes to how we raise our kids.
That’s a goal I think Brown and all Free-Rangers share. “That the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” So said President Kennedy. And the rights of all families are diminished when the cops or CPS rule that any unsupervised child is a neglected child.
We all want to raise our kids the best we can, without threat of criminal or civil action simply because, for reasons of choice or circumstance, we cannot conform to some insane ideal of parenting.
We are all in this together. – L