Month: June 2021

cps
This is HUGE! New Laws in Texas have Passed Protecting Families

Parents have a constitutional right to raise their children free from governmental interference.

Defendants also have rights under the condition, and now, Texas has passed laws reflecting those rights.

This is HUGE! If these laws had been enacted in 2004 when my son had been kidnapped, things might have been quite different for us.

TX HB567

Relating to the procedures and grounds for terminating the parent-child relationship, for taking possession of a child, and for certain hearings in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship involving the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Bill Summary

Relating to the procedures and grounds for terminating the parent-child relationship, for taking possession of a child, and for certain hearings in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship involving the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Subject

Courts Courts–Civil Procedure Family FAMILY & PROTECTIVE SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF Family–Child Protection Family–Parent & Child

Sponsors (22)

James Frank (R)*, Bryan Hughes (R)*, Candy Noble (R)*, Gene Wu (D)*, Keith Bell (R), Greg Bonnen (R), Briscoe Cain (R), Jeff Cason (R), Harold Dutton (D), Ryan Guillen (D), Bob Hall (R), Juan Hinojosa (D), Eddie Lucio (D), Mayes Middleton (R), Ina Minjarez (D), Scott Sanford (R), Valoree Swanson (R), Steve Toth (R), Cody Vasut (R), Royce West (D), James White (R), Erin Zwiener (D), 

Last Action

Effective on 9/1/21 (on 05/15/2021)

Official Document

https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB567(1 Companion Bills)

 H.B. No. 567

AN ACT relating to the procedures and grounds for terminating the parent-child relationship, for taking possession of a child, and for certain hearings in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship involving the Department of Family and Protective Services.


BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1.

Section 107.003(b), off the Texas Family Code, is amended to read as follows:
(b) In addition to the duties required by Subsection (a), an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262, [or] 263, or 264 shall:
(1) review the medical care provided to the child;
(2) in a developmentally appropriate manner, seek to elicit the child’s opinion on the medical care provided;
(3) for a child at least 16 years of age:
(A) advise the child of the child’s right to
request the court to authorize the child to consent to the child’s own medical care under Section 266.010; and
(B) ascertain whether the child has received the following documents:
(i) a certified copy of the child’s birth
certificate;
(ii) a social security card or a replacement social security card;
(iii) a driver’s license or personal
dentification certificate under Chapter 521, Transportation Code;
and
(iv) any other personal document the
Department of Family and Protective Services determines appropriate; and
(4) seek to elicit in a developmentally appropriate manner the name of any adult, particularly an adult residing in the child’s community, who could be a relative or designated caregiver for the child and immediately provide the names of those individuals to the Department of Family and Protective Services.
SECTION 2. Sections 107.004(d), (d-2), (d-3), and (e),

Family Code, are amended to read as follows: (d) Except as provided by Subsection (e), an attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262, [or] 263, or 264 shall: (1) meet before each court hearing with: (A) the child, if the child is at least four years of age; or (B) the individual with whom the child ordinarily resides, including the child’s parent, conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian, if the child is younger than four years of age; and

(2) if the child or individual is not present at the court hearing, file a written statement with the court indicating that the attorney ad litem complied with Subdivision (1). (d-2) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services or a child who is the subject of a proceeding under Chapter 264 shall, before each scheduled hearing under Chapter 263 or 264, determine whether the child’s educational needs and goals have been identified and addressed. (d-3) An attorney ad litem appointed to represent a child in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services or a child who is the subject of a proceeding under Chapter 264 shall periodically continue to review the child’s safety and well-being, including any effects of trauma to the child, and take appropriate action, including requesting a review hearing when necessary to address an issue of concern.

(e) An attorney ad litem appointed for a child in a proceeding under Chapter 262, [or] 263, or 264 is not required to comply with Subsection (d) before a hearing if the court finds at that hearing that the attorney ad litem has shown good cause why the attorney ad litem’s compliance with that subsection is not feasible or in the best interest of the child. Additionally, a court may, on a showing of good cause, authorize an attorney ad litem to comply with Subsection (d) by conferring with the child or other individual, as appropriate, by telephone or video conference. SECTION 3. Section 161.001(c),

Family Code, is amended to read as follows: (c) Evidence of one or more of the following does not constitute clear and convincing evidence sufficient for a court to [A court may not] make a finding under Subsection (b) and order termination of the parent-child relationship [based on evidence that the parent]:

(1) the parent homeschooled the child; (2) the parent is economically disadvantaged;

(3) the parent has been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor offense other than: (A) an offense under Title 5, Penal Code; (B) an offense under Title 6, Penal Code; or (C) an offense that involves family violence, as defined by Section 71.004 of this code; (4) the parent provided or administered low-THC cannabis to a child for whom the low-THC cannabis was prescribed under Chapter 169, Occupations Code; [or]

(5) the parent declined immunization for the child for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief; or (6) the parent allowed the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture. SECTION 4. Section 161.101, Family Code, is amended to read as follows: Sec. 161.101.

PETITION ALLEGATIONS; PETITION AND MOTION REQUIREMENTS. .

(a) A petition for the termination of the parent-child relationship is sufficient without the necessity of specifying the underlying facts if the petition alleges in the statutory language the ground for the termination and that termination is in the best interest of the child. (b) A petition or motion filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services in a suit for termination of the parent-child relationship is subject to Chapter 10, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, and Rule 13, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

SECTION 5. Section 261.001(4),

Family Code, is amended to read as follows: (4) “Neglect” means an act or failure to act by a person responsible for a child’s care, custody, or welfare evidencing the person’s blatant disregard for the consequences of the act or failure to act that results in harm to the child or that creates an immediate danger to the child’s physical health or safety and:

(A) includes: (i) the leaving of a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to an immediate danger [a substantial risk] of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child; (ii) the following acts or omissions by a person: (a) placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or an immediate danger [a substantial risk] of [immediate] harm to the child; (b) failing to seek, obtain, or follow through with medical care for a child, with the failure resulting in or presenting an immediate danger [a substantial risk] of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child; (c) the failure to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services had been offered andrefused; (d) placing a child in or failing to remove the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to an immediate danger [a substantial risk] of sexualconduct harmful to the child; or (e) placing a child in or failing to remove the child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to acts or omissions that constitute abuse under Subdivision (1)(E), (F), (G), (H), or (K) committed against another child; (iii) the failure by the person responsible for a child’s care, custody, or welfare to permit the child to return to the child’s home without arranging for the necessary care for the child after the child has been absent from the home for any reason, including having been in residential placement or having run away; or (iv) a negligent act or omission by an employee, volunteer, or other individual working under the auspices of a facility or program, including failure to comply with an individual treatment plan, plan of care, or individualized service plan, that causes or may cause substantial emotional harm or physical injury to, or the death of, a child served by the facility or program as further described by rule or policy; and (B) does not include: (i) the refusal by a person responsible for a child’s care, custody, or welfare to permit the child to remain in or return to the child’s home resulting in the placement of the child in the conservatorship of the department if: (a) [(i)] the child has a severe emotional disturbance; (b) [(ii)] the person’s refusal is based solely on the person’s inability to obtain mental health services necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the child; and (c) [(iii)] the person has exhausted all reasonable means available to the person to obtain the mental health services described by Sub-subparagraph (b); or (ii) allowing the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture [Subparagraph (ii)]. SECTION 6. Section 262.116(a),

Family Code, is amended to read as follows:

(a) The Department of Family and Protective Services may not take possession of a child under this subchapter based on evidence that the parent:

(1) homeschooled the child; (2) is economically disadvantaged; (3) has been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor offense other than:

(A) an offense under Title 5, Penal Code; (B) an offense under Title 6, Penal Code; or

(C) an offense that involves family violence, as defined by Section 71.004 of this code; (4) provided or administered low-THC cannabis to a child for whom the low-THC cannabis was prescribed under Chapter 169, Occupations Code; [or] (5) declined immunization for the child for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief; (6) allowed the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture; or (7) tested positive for marihuana, unless the department has evidence that the parent’s use of marihuana has caused significant impairment to the child’s physical or mental health or emotional development.

SECTION 7. Section 262.201,

Family Code, is amended by amending Subsections (e), (g), (h), and (n) and adding Subsections (g-1) and (q) to read as follows:

(e) The court may, for good cause shown, postpone the full adversary hearing for not more than seven days from the date of the attorney’s appointment to provide the attorney time to respond to the petition and prepare for the hearing. The court may shorten or lengthen the extension granted under this subsection if the parent and the appointed attorney agree in writing. If the court postpones the full adversary hearing, the court shall extend a temporary order, temporary restraining order, or attachment issued by the court under Section 262.102(a) [or Section 262.1131]

for the protection of the child until the date of the rescheduled ful adversary hearing. (g) In a suit filed under Section 262.101 or 262.105, at the conclusion of the full adversary hearing, the court shall order the return of the child to the parent, managing conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian entitled to possession from whom the child is removed unless the court finds sufficient evidence to satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution that: (1) there was a danger to the physical health or safety of the child, including a danger that the child would be a victim of trafficking under Section 20A.02 or 20A.03, Penal Code, which wa caused by an act or failure to act of the person entitled to possession and for the child to remain in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child; (2) the urgent need for protection required the immediate removal of the child and reasonable efforts, consistent with the circumstances and providing for the safety of the child, were made to eliminate or prevent the child’s removal; and (3) reasonable efforts have been made to enable the child to return home, but there is a substantial risk of a continuing danger if the child is returned home. (g-1) In a suit filed under Section 262.101 or 262.105, if the court does not order the return of the child under Subsection (g) and finds that another parent, managing conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian entitled to possession did not cause the immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child or was not the perpetrator of the neglect or abuse alleged in the suit, the court shall order possession of the child by that person unless the court find sufficient evidence to satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution that, specific to each person entitled to possession:

(1) the person cannot be located after the exercise of due diligence by the Department of Family and Protective Services, or the person is unable or unwilling to take possession of the child; or (2) reasonable efforts have been made to enable the person’s possession of the child, but possession by that person presents a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child caused by an act or failure to act of the person, including a danger that the child would be a victim of trafficking under Section 20A.02 or 20A.03, Penal Code. (h) In a suit filed under Section 262.101 or 262.105,

if the court finds sufficient evidence to make the applicable finding under Subsection (g) or (g-1) [satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution that there is a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child and for the child to remain in the home is contrary to the welfare of the child], the court shall issue an appropriate temporary order under Chapter 105. (n) If the [The] court does not order possession of [shall place] a child by a [removed from the child’s custodial parent with the child’s noncustodial] parent, managing conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian entitled to possession under Subsection (g) or (g-1), the court shall place the child [or] with a relative of the child [if placement with the noncustodial parent is inappropriate,] unless the court finds that the placement with [the noncustodial parent or] a relative is not in the best interest of the child. (q) On receipt of a written request for possession of the child from a parent, managing conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian entitled to possession of the child who was not located before the adversary hearing, the Department of Family and Protective Services shall notify the court and request a hearing to determine whether the parent, managingc conservator, possessory conservator, guardian, caretaker, or custodian is entitled to possession of the child under Subsection (g-1). SECTION 8. Section 263.002, Family Code, is amended by amending Subsection (c) and adding Subsection (d) to read as follows: (c) At each permanency hearing before the final order, the court shall review the placement of each child in the temporary managing conservatorship of the department who has not been returned to the child’s home. At the end of the hearing, the court shall order the department to return the child to the child’s parent or parents unless the court finds, with respect to each parent, that: (1) there is a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child; and (2) returning the child to the child’s parent or parents [The court shall make a finding on whether returning the child to the child’s home is safe and appropriate, whether the return is in the best interest of the child, and whether it] is contrary to the welfare of the child [for the child to return home]. (d) This section does not prohibit the court from rendering an order under Section 263.403.

SECTION 9. Section 263.401, Family Code, is amended by adding Subsection (b-3) to read as follows: (b-3) A court shall find under Subsection (b) that extraordinary circumstances necessitate the child remaining in the temporary managing conservatorship of the department if:

(1) a parent of a child has made a good faith effort to successfully complete the service plan but needs additional time; and

(2) on completion of the service plan the court intends to order the child returned to the parent.

SECTION 10. Subchapter E, Chapter 263, Family Code, is amended by adding Section 263.4011 to read as follows: Sec. 263.4011.

RENDERING FINAL ORDER; EXTENSION.

(a) On timely commencement of the trial on the merits under Section 263.401, the court shall render a final order not later thanhe90th day after the date the trial commences. (b) The 90-day period for rendering a final order under Subsection (a) is not tolled for any recess during the trial. (c) The court may extend the 90-day period under Subsection (a) for the period the court determines necessary if, after a hearing, the court finds good cause for the extension. If the court grants a good cause extension under this subsection, the court shall render a written order specifying: (1) the grounds on which the extension is granted; and (2) the length of the extension. (d) A party may file a mandamus proceeding if the court fails to render a final order within the time required by this section. SECTION 11.

Section 263.403(a-1), Family Code, is amended to read as follows: (a-1) Unless the court has granted an extension under Section 263.401(b), the department or the parent may request the court to retain jurisdiction for an additional six months as necessary for a parent to complete the remaining requirements under [in] a service plan [and specified] in a transition monitored return under Subsection (a)(2)(B) [the temporary order that are mandatory for the child’s return].

SECTION 12. Section 264.203, Family Code, is amended to read as follows: Sec. 264.203. REQUIRED PARTICIPATION.

(a) The department may file a suit requesting [Except as provided by Subsection (d),] the court to render a temporary [on request of the department may] order requiring the parent, managing conservator, guardian, or other member of the [subject] child’s household to:

(1) participate in the services for which the department makes a referral or services the department provides or purchases for:

(A) alleviating the effects of the abuse or neglect that has occurred; [or]

(B) reducing a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child caused by an act or failure to act of he parent, mantaging conservator, guardian, or other member of the child’s household [the reasonable likelihood that the child may be abused or neglected in the immediate or foreseeable future]; or

(C) reducing a substantial risk of abuse or neglect caused by an act or failure to act of the parent, managing conservator, guardian, or member of the child’s household; and

(2) permit the child and any siblings of the child to receive the services. (b) A suit requesting an order under this section may be filed in a court with jurisdiction to hear the suit in the county in which the child is located [The department may request the court to order the parent, managing conservator, guardian, or other member f the child’s household too participate in the services whether the child resides in the home or has been removed from the home]. (c) Except as otherwise provided by this subchapter, the suit is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to the filing of an original lawsuit [If the person ordered to participate in the services fails to follow the court’s order, the court may impose appropriate sanctions in order to protect the in health and safety of the child, including the removal of the child as specified by Chapter 262]. (d) The petition shall be supported by a sworn affidavit by person based on personal knowledge and stating facts sufficient to support a finding that: (1) the child has been a victim of abuse or neglect or is at substantial risk of abuse or neglect; and

(2) there is a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child caused by an act or failure to act of the parent, managing conservator, guardian, or other member of the child’s household unless that person participates in services requested by the department [If the court does not order the person to participate, the court in writing shall specify the reasons for not ordering participation]. (e) In a suit filed under this section, the court may render a temporary restraining order as provided by Section 105.001.

(f) The court shall hold a hearing on the petition not later than the 14th day after the date the petition is filed unless the court finds good cause for extending that date for not more than 14 days.

(g) The court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the child immediately after the filing but before the hearing to ensure adequate representation of the child. The attorney ad litem for the child shall have the powers and duties of an attorney ad litem for a child under Chapter 107. (h)

The court shall appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of a parent for whom participation in services is being requested immediately after the filing but before the hearing to ensure adequate representation of the parent. The attorney ad litem for the parent shall have the powers and duties of an attorney ad litem for a parent under Section 107.0131. (i)

Before commencement of the hearing, the court shall inform each parent of: (1) the parent’s right to be represented by an attorney; and (2) for a parent who is indigent and appears in opposition to the motion, the parent’s right to a court-appointed attorney. (j) If a parent claims indigence, the court shall requir the parent to complete and file with the court an affidavit of indigence.

The court may consider additional evidence to determine
whether the parent is indigent, including evidence relating to the parent’s income, source of income, assets, property ownership, benefits paid in accordance with a federal, state, or local public
assistance program, outstanding obligations, and necessary
expenses and the number and ages of the parent’s dependents.

If the
court determines the parent is indigent, the attorney ad litem appointed to represent the interests of the parent may continue the representation. If the court determines the parent is not
indigent, the court shall discharge the attorney ad litem from the
appointment after the hearing and shall order the parent to pay the cost of the attorney ad litem’s representation.
(k) The court may, for good cause shown, postpone any subsequent proceedings for not more than seven days after the date of the attorney ad litem’s discharge to allow the parent to hire an attorney or to provide the parent’s attorney time to prepare for the
subsequent proceeding.
(l) An order may be rendered under this section only after notice and hearing.
(m) At the conclusion of the hearing, the court shall deny the petition unless the court finds sufficient evidence to satisfy
a person of ordinary prudence and caution that:
(1) abuse or neglect has occurred or there is a substantial risk of abuse or neglect or continuing danger to the
physical health or safety of the child caused by an act or failure to act of the parent, managing conservator, guardian, or other member of the child’s household; and
(2) services are necessary to ensure the physical health or safety of the child.
(n) If the court renders an order granting the petition, the court shall:
(1) state its findings in the order;
(2) make appropriate temporary orders under Chapter 105 necessary to ensure the safety of the child; and
(3) order the participation in specific services narrowly tailored to address the findings made by the court under
Subsection (m).
(o) If the court finds that a parent, managing conservator,
guardian, or other member of the child’s household did not cause the
continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child or
the substantial risk of abuse or neglect, or was not the perpetrator
of the abuse or neglect alleged, the court may not require that
person to participate in services ordered under Subsection (n).
(p) Not later than the 90th day after the date the court
renders an order under this section, the court shall hold a hearing
to review the status of each person required to participate in the
services and the child and the services provided, purchased, or
referred. The court shall set subsequent review hearings every 90
days to review the continued need for the order.
(q) An order rendered under this section expires on the 180th day after the date the order is signed unless the court
extends the order as provided by Subsection (r) or (s).
(r) The court may extend an order rendered under this section on a showing by the department of a continuing need for the order, after notice and hearing. Except as provided by Subsection
(s), the court may extend the order only one time for not more than
180 days.
(s) The court may extend an order rendered under this
section for not more than an additional 180 days only if:
(1) the court finds that:
(A) the extension is necessary to allow the person required to participate in services under the plan of
service time to complete those services;
(B) the department made a good faith effort to
timely provide the services to the person;
(C) the person made a good faith effort to
complete the services; and
(D) the completion of the services is necessary
to ensure the physical health and safety of the child; and
(2) the extension is requested by the person or the person’s attorney.
(t) At any time, a person affected by the order may request the court to terminate the order. The court shall terminate the
order on finding the order is no longer needed.
SECTION 13.

The following provisions of the Family Code are
repealed:
(1) Section 262.113;
(2) Section 262.1131; and
(3) Sections 262.201(b) and (j).
SECTION 14. Section 161.101,

Family Code, as amended by this Act, applies only to a petition or motion filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services on or after the
effective date of this Act.

A petition or motion filed by the
department before that date is governed by the law in effect on the
date the petition or motion was filed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.

SECTION 15.

The changes in law made by this Act apply only to a suit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services on or after the effective date of this Act. A suit filed by the department before that date is governed by the law in effect on the date the suit was filed, and the former law is continued in effect
for that purpose.
SECTION 16. This Act takes effect September 1, 2021.

 ______________________________  ______________________________
    President of the Senate  Speaker of the House     


        I certify that H.B. No. 567 was passed by the House on April
 1, 2021, by the following vote:  Yeas 143, Nays 5, 1 present, not
 voting.

 ______________________________
 Chief Clerk of the House   


        I certify that H.B. No. 567 was passed by the Senate on April
 28, 2021, by the following vote:  Yeas 31, Nays 0.

 ______________________________
 Secretary of the Senate    
 APPROVED:  _____________________
                    Date          

           _____________________
                  Governor       

Free Range parenting
Children Are Now Protected by ‘Reasonable Independence’ Laws in 3 States, Including Texas

Free Range Parenting…? In Texas?

little boy cowboy
Getty Images/RichVintage

Parents need not fear investigation for letting kids engage in “normal behaviors”.

Original Source article by Katherine Martinko

Published June 9, 2021 09:34AM EDTFact checked by Haley Mast

The state of Texas just passed a law (HB 567) that protects a child’s right to “reasonable independence.” This means children will be allowed to engage in normal childhood activities, like walking to school, sitting unattended in a car for short periods of time, or staying home alone, without their parents being accused of neglect and possibly getting investigated by the authorities. 

Texas is the third state to pass such a law, after Utah and Oklahoma. Independent play advocates are thrilled because Texas has a population of 29.1 million people, which means when the populations of the other two states are considered, roughly one-tenth of Americans (34 million) are now protected by these laws. Hopefully, that’s a big enough chunk of the population to start changing the culture of helicopter-type parenting.

Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free Range Kids” and founder of the Let Grow non-profit, spoke to Treehugger about this monumental occasion. “Getting Texas is so fantastic,” she gushes over a Zoom call, pointing out to this Canadian writer that, combined with the other two states, 34 million people isn’t too far off Canada’s entire population of 38 million. 

She went on to explain that we are dealing with a flawed system in which bystanders report unattended children because they want to be helpful, but then give it to authorities who don’t have a way not to investigate. They must start an investigation because a complaint has been lodged. 

“We’d like that not to have to happen if the circumstances are simply that a kid was walking to school,” Skenazy explains. “What these laws do in terms of parenting is allow you to stop second-guessing yourself when you know what you have to do and what’s best for your kid. And sometimes what you have to do is not what you would love to do.”

Financial instability is a complicating factor in these investigations because often children are left alone out of necessity, not because a parent doesn’t know what they’re doing. To interpret certain things as neglect simply because of what it is on paper doesn’t take into account real life, and this law does.

Skenazy gives the example of a single mom running to catch a 7:15 a.m. bus to get to her job, but there’s only one per hour and the babysitter hasn’t shown up yet. The mom has to choose between losing her job or trusting her six-year-old to be alone for 20 minutes till the sitter arrives. Now, Texan parents in that situation no longer need to fear possible repercussions.

“The law recognizes that when you’re doing that, it’s not because you’re a neglectful parent, it’s because you don’t have the means to provide constant supervision, even when you want it.” And that, Skenazy explains, is because “people stretched thin don’t have the same resources that wealthier ones do to supervise their kids constantly.” 

This flawed system affects countless families in the United States. Roughly 37% of all American children will be contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS) at some point in their lives. If you’re a Black family, that number rises to 53%. So laws like this one “provide a little more equity,” to quote Nevada senator Dallas Harris, who’s been trying to pass a similar law in her own state.

kids running through a field
Getty Images/Flashpop

When asked what CPS thinks of the new law, Skenazy makes it clear that CPS does incredibly important work.

“We venerate CPS. The last thing we want is kids getting hurt. We don’t want to see any kid starved, beaten, or literally neglected,” Skenazy says. “So we feel that, by removing these excessive cases, CPS can do what we dearly want them to do, and what they do, which is to investigate serious cases of abuse and neglect.

“I hope that CPS does not think we are disparaging them. We are hoping to have a sea change in the culture whereby seeing a child unsupervised but fine doesn’t raise anyone’s hackles or open any kind of case,” she adds. “And I think that [CPS] would be glad because nobody wants to waste their time.”

Let Grow, the organization that Skenazy founded in response to the immense support she received after publishing “Free Range Kids,” is actively involved in passing these reasonable independence laws in several states. It pulls together stakeholder groups with representatives from CPS, parents, teachers, psychologists, district attorneys, public defenders, and lawmakers willing to sponsor a bill. 

Often the laws take several tries to pass. Texas failed its first attempt two years ago, and South Carolina’s effort didn’t pass in the House before COVID shut it down, so it will have to wait another two years.

Nevada’s law, which was co-sponsored by a gay Black Democratic mom of one and a straight White Republican grandma of 20, didn’t pass this year, but Skenazy says she’s hopeful it will next year. About the Nevada law, she tells Treehugger that the Democrat sponsor joked,

“If you see both of us sponsoring a law, it’s either a really bad idea or a really good one! We think it’s a really good idea.”

Skenazy goes on to say that, in light of the Texas victory, she’s excited for kids, for parents, and for moms especially. “Sometimes I think of free range kids as being about trusting people, of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt,” instead of assuming everyone’s out to cause harm.

 “Treating everyone as suspicious and possibly terrible is not only a depressing way to live, but it’s also statistically incorrect and it’s not rational to think the worst of everyone. You can have a much better life if you think better of people.”

Not to mention an easier life as a parent, if you don’t feel you have to monitor your child every minute of the day or fear being punished for allowing your child that freedom. We’d all be better off with these reasonable independence laws governing our states (and provinces). 

And we’ll probably be hearing more about them. As Skenazy says, “When you think about, one-tenth of America… That can’t be a crazy idea because it’s sort of mainstream.” 

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