Would You Report Or Support Another Parent? @carinkilbyclark

Would You Report Or Support Another Parent?

Before we start let me just state this up front. Unless I saw a parent putting their child’s life in direct danger {i.e. baby/child left alone inside a hot car, beating the child with their bare hands} I would not call the police to report another parent.

I’m guilty. So I have no room to judge. Not that I would, because I think parenting should be a judgement-free zone.

I’ve allowed my children to walk to the park {they are 17, 12, & 7 and the park is a block away – they’ve frequently gone alone for the past 5 years}.

They’ve walked to/from school without parental supervision {the teen walked the tween and youngster to elementary – a good three blocks up the street}.

The bottom line, they were going it alone. I – the parent – was not there. If someone saw them playing at the park, there may have been a question. Where is their parent? The answer, I was at home.

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There was one great comment on this post when I shared The Washington Post story on Facebook, and that sums up my point about this whole thing. See below.

Here’s the comment:

I think there is a very fine line to this whole subject but what I will say is that it amazes me that when a parent needs help, there is no one around but when it comes to getting a parent in trouble or judging them – people are right there. It’s sad that we no longer have a ‘village’ but a bunch of ‘moles’.

And therein lies the real issue…

When I was younger, there was a community. I grew up in a small apartment building, but the neighbors knew me. People looked out for me.

I was somewhat of a latchkey kid. My mom was fulfilling all roles and that also included working full-time. In elementary school, she would go to work early in the morning, race back to see me off on the bus, then get off early enough to meet me at the bus in the afternoon. If she was unable to make it, I’d go to a neighbors house and sometimes I’d even go it alone.

Would she have deserved an “inquiry” from Child Protective Services had someone seen me out by myself at the bus stop? I don’t think so.

Where is the village?

Why are we a community of people looking for someone to do wrong so we can point the finger? What happened to the village? Where is the understanding? Where is the respect for one another as parents?

Why don’t we know and trust our neighbors?

Would You Report Or Support Another Parent? @carinkilbyclark

The dangerous place…

The world today is not more dangerous than it was years ago. I don’t have any statistics to back that up, it’s just common sense. People haven’t become more or less violent. More or less inappropriate.

Any historical story will show you that.

In the above article, it actually states that the world is actually a less dangerous place. The change is, though, that we have more access to information than we ever have before.

And because of that, our fear has increased. Our caution is heightened. We’re more concerned because our eyes are more open.

But that’s not a good enough reason to start reporting parents for the way they choose to raise their children. Because yes, whether you agree with it or not, Free-Range Kids is actually a way of parenting.

Instead of report, just support…

Support. That’s what we should be doing. We should be holding hands instead of smacking them. We should be watching out for each other’s children instead of waiting for the moment when a parent does something we don’t agree with to point the finger of judgment.

Support. If you see a child who’s alone and you’re concerned then keep a watchful eye. But don’t intervene unless you see a true imminent threat to their life.

Support. Get to know your neighbors, their children, and more importantly know your way around the neighborhood. The shortcuts, the back ways, and all the other places where you think danger could be lurking in the shadows.

Support. Teach your children to be a friend to the other children in the neighborhood. Let them follow your example and show them how to be a part of the village.

Because the village is what’s missing. The village is what’s needed. And that village starts with you.
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I want to hear from you!
Would you report or support? Please share your opinion on this hot topic in the comments below.

Comments 77

  1. This is a tough question. If I knew a child was in immediate danger I would probably call 911. I would generally talk to the parent if I was concerned about something. I would also offer to help in any way I could. Our world today is so scarry. I worry about the young ones being out there alone. Thank you so much for sharing

  2. Definitely support. It isn’t easy being a parent to children these days. I would only report if I saw something I think would without a doubt put a child in danger. Although I am not a parent, I really appreciate this post. It gives me a lot to think about just as a person who is part of society, my community.

  3. I agree with the idea of support. I think we all have such harsh opinions now a days and think other people want to hear those opinions. Now of course, if there is a danger, then yes, different rules apply. But otherwise, if we could all just have real conversations with people, in a loving caring matter, rather than the current scolding or disgust, we would all do a much better job raising kids.

  4. I have seen this more than I like. People judging others parenting skills. It would be nice if people were there when you need them and support you when they think something is not right. I would never call the police on any parent unless there was a life threatening issue that needed intervention .

  5. I also agree with you. Until I saw another parent putting their child/children in danger, then that is when I will report on them. Otherwise, I keep out of it.

  6. We live 3 blocks away from school. Everyone in our neighborhood walks- there is no bussing. So everyday I watch droves of children skip, hop, walk, trudge, run the streets on their way to school. Some are 7 or 8 some are 10 or 11. I have 4 kids in public school ages 7-11, and they walk together… sans adult every single day. To see people say they would call the police if they saw a child alone baffles me. This is very way I was raised. I would think if you called the police in this town to say you saw a child walking alone, they would of course make sure the child was okay then probably roll their eyes at the busyness of nosiness of the call. If someone is so concerned, why not approach the child and make sure they are fine? I know ALL the kids in the neighborhood… want to know why? I talk to them. I havent met most their parents but I know their names, I know their likes and I know they will respect my children and property when they come over to play. If I saw one of them hurt (this has happened many times, scooters and bikes accidents, bumped heads on trampolines) I wouldn’t ask them where their parent was in a some flurry of sanctimommious rage… I’d ask if they were ok, do they need an ice pack, do you want me to call your Mom? For the love of your childrens future people… stop people so sanctimonious and be helpful.
    The only time I think a call to cps is warranted is if there is obvious neglect or abuse. Kids get bumps and bruises all the time. Don’t assume right off the bat they are being hurt at home. Talk to children, get to know them. Let them know you are a safe face in the neighborhood. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS PEOPLE!

    A short story- a few weeks ago, a little girl asked us if we got blessings in a bag (A neighborhood food supplemental program for school children.) I said no we did not, and asked why. She said she was out of food and hungry for dinner. Instead of immediately calling CPS and reporting this child had no food, we invited her for dinner with the kids that night and made a mental note to offer her snacks when she came by to play. I know her family lives paycheck to paycheck… calling CPS to say “hey this family is neglecting their hungry kid” is only going to make their lives 100x worse. Grace people… we need grace. Practice compassion. Get off your high horses if you are up on one, and practice grace.

  7. Nice post and you are so right about our eyes just being more open! I let my kids do things on their own but tell them to use common sense and to think before doing something. Kids are pretty smart and usually make the right choices!

  8. What a great post; a subject that isn’t talked about as much as it should be. I agree with everything you’ve said; I have had my own experience of a neighbour calling social services about my children. I admit I was struggling as a single mum. Things at home were far from perfect and I know I should off and could have been a better parent, but an interfering neighbour almost turned our lives upside down. She knew I was going through a tough time and made the call, but because there were no real grounds for it she had to lie and exaggerate. She said that my kids were regularly outside naked, going through rubbish bins and begging for food. Social services came to my home and saw the children at school and nursery, they got doctors reports and checked for signs of abuse. It was a terrible time, but luckily a good social worker could see my kids were loved and she helped us get back on track. I would say do not make that call unless you are pretty damn sure you are doing the right thing and for the right reasons.

  9. this a really great post and i agree the only time i would call a parent is if they are abusing their child with their bare hands or left there kid in a hot car

  10. I have reported when i saw real cases of actual abuse/neglect where the children were in immediate danger. Otherwise, just keep an eye on the kids you think are alone because they do need to learn independence and ‘the system’ is already too bogged down with real cases of abuse to deal with anything else.

  11. I believe that parents should be able to parent as they like, as long as they child isn’t being physically or mentally abused. I always tell first time parents that the best advice is to not listen/ask for advice but to trust their judgement!

  12. chances are, you would have taken care of the child even worse (to: spying and tattling reporter, while the parent does all the work and makes a few mistakes).

  13. #TeamSupport! I would not have called in that situation. I would trust that the parents knew what they were doing. I would have kept my eye on them though. But, if I see signs of abuse I would call.

  14. I am with you on this one.We all need support and I don’t believe in reporting a parent unless it’s abuse for sure.If I think the child is in any danger I would do it in a blink but other wise we have all been there.and things are not always easy.I would rather offer a helping hand first.

  15. I have never called to report another parent and I don’t plan to…unless there is some clear danger or obvious neglect or abuse going on.

  16. I agreed with most of the things you addressed above, however i don’t think parenting should be a judgement-free-zone. You may judge that some people are not “good” parents, and they should not be misled to think inappropriate actions are acceptable or without consequences.

  17. It’s such a hard one, but I think we should be supportive of one another and not judgemental.
    For years my friend was letting her 5 year old play outside alone on the pavement, he would often meet up with 2 or 3 children from surrounding houses and would wander further from home, but my concern was it was usually playing on scooters or their bikes and the amount of times that my friends son came across the road in front of our car and forced us to brake suddenly.
    I did eventually tell my friend as it was a big concern that he could be run over as didn’t seem very street wise.
    Now at 7 1/2 and 9 years old my little boys are walking alone to school each morning, there are no roads to cross and it’s only a 5 minute walk and I can view the entrance to the school from our bedroom window which gives me great comfort that I know they have arrived safely.
    I have now branched out to letting them walk to the local shop alone, more a 10 minute walk but across a road, but as we live in a village traffic is not too heavy so gives me a little more reassurance.
    I am not comfortable with them going to the park alone, going to the shop I know they will return by a certain time but a trip to the park I’m not so sure.
    I think it’s a case of knowing your own child and their maturity levels, so therefore I would not judge another parents choices unless you said it was dangerous to the child.

  18. I don’t have a kid yet but on my opinion kids should always be with their parents especially nowadays where u watch news that teachers molesting elementary kids & stuffs like that. ….m

  19. My first choice is to support other parents. We are all in this together, and judging and finger-pointing are not my default ways to react. Obviously some neighborhoods are dangerous, and others are safe. A child in a non-dangerous area, who is old enough and has good enough judgement to not wander in front of a car or go with a stranger, I think it is beneficial for them to learn to be self-reliant in small ways. But I totally understand parents whose personal experiences or protective instinct for their children leads them to believe differently.

  20. I completely agree. Its hard enough to parent and you never know what the circumstance is so just assuming and jumping to conclusions never helps. And yes, back in the day, I used to walk at least a mile to school alone and we live in a different world so supporting is more important than ever.

  21. So many parents out there these days are so quick to judge! What about support?! As parents we need to support each other! My way of parenting might not be your cup of tea and yours might not be mine, but unless I see you harming your child, and I have PROOF of that harm, i am not calling 911.

  22. I haven’t read the original article. But assuming that pic is one of a kid who was wandering about without an adult, that would be a cause for concern for me personally. My youngest is 3 and reminds me of that child in the picture. I wouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusion, but as a mom, I would definitely be concerned to see a younger child like that wandering the streets by themselves. However, I definitely agree in that the idea of the “village” definitely seems to have fallen by the wayside ๐Ÿ™

  23. I agree with the village mindset. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for three years and we don’t even know our neighbors. Things have changed over the years!

  24. Wow! What a thought-provoking post Carin. it is true that we are quicker to point the finger at others. Instead of reporting that parent, why not sit out on your porch and make sure no suspicious characters approach the children? I love the “village,” state of mind and there would be less isolation among adults if people would show they care with genuine intentions.

  25. wow what a hot topic. It depends on what the issue was.. .if children were in harm or anyone was in harm I would have to do it.

    If not, probably not


  26. I thought I commented on this before but don’t see it. If I’m tired and blind, forgive me. I don’t really feel equipped to weigh in on this. My son is 5 and has developmental delays and so has never ever played outside alone and would never walk home alone. Also our school district just imposed a new rule for kindergartners getting off the bus (my son) because one got off with nobody to get him and he was lost for a few hours – not knowing how to find home.

  27. I’m team support for sure. I grew up in a “free range parenting” household as did 95% of my friends. We are all fine, we weren’t hurt. Back in the day IF something went wrong you had to wait for the evening news to flash a story and a picture. In this day an age EVERYTHING is shared in real time. Technology has advanced so much that you stand a greater chance of finding someone now more than ever.

    I wouldn’t have called the cops. I would have asked the kids if they were okay. IF I was worried I would suggest they head home and make sure they got there safely.

  28. I’m team support for sure! What a great and insightful post Carin. I think that we all need to start to pull together as a community more and find ways to support one another. Awesome!

  29. I’m with team support! I also remember roaming around our neighborhood back then, unsupervised. And I had a blast! I think what’s happening is the result of us reading so many stories being sensationalized online and on TV which can be have a positive result because most of us are now aware and keep a close eye on things but it is also paralyzing us. ๐Ÿ™

  30. I have reported someone once and only once. We were in Florida, the dad and the kid, maybe 10yrs old or so were in the middle of the road (median strip) with a sign asking for money. When the red light would hit you could tell the kid didn’t want to go to the cars. The dad was pushing the kid to the cars. It was awful. I don’t feel guilty for calling the sheriff. Maybe the sheriff gave them a good alternative resource. Not judging, but my heart was pulled too strongly not to make the call.

  31. I am not a parent yet but I would like to think when I am I will be more in team support than team report, you’re right this planet is the same it’s just our access to information has made us more paranoid and fearful.

  32. Carin, have you joined 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion yet? Because a post I wrote in January, about BEING THE VILLAGE, inspired it, and the whole THOUGHT behind it is to build relationships from a place of understanding, and develop The Village wherever we are. We’re having a massive linkie on March 20th – I hope you might join this post into it – it’s so perfectly in line with what the group is trying to achieve.

    I think I would find it a little hard to not murmur if there was a potential threat to wellbeing (e.g. if a 5 y/o was in charge of a toddler, with no parent to be seen – just because I think that under about 12, a kid probably won’t have the life experience to safeguard a very young child adequately) but otherwise, if I don’t know the circumstances or the family or the capabilities of the particular child, then it’s not my place to judge, but it IS my place to just keep a gentle eye out and make sure that the kids are doing okay.

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  33. I tend to mind my own business when it comes to other parents. I would call if something was really bad but support if it wasn’t.

  34. If I think a child is being harmed, I’ll call for sure. No question about it – but you’re right – we should stick together and be a tribe for each other. Parents are so quick to judge one another.

  35. I think every parent should decide on how they should raise their children. Here in Portugal it is not common for parents to let their children alone but I think is a cultural matter so I think that everyone should stick to what they think is the correct thing to do.

  36. AGREED… AND AGREED…AND AGREED. What happened to that beautiful community of support? We are becoming strangers to each other, attacking and fearful strangers. It makes my heart sad, and incredibly anxious. I love your honesty, and your message here Carin!

  37. I grew up similarly- I walked to and from school unless we lived too far away and I walked to the playground. Heck, when we lived in DC, I took the Metro by myself to go places. I’d want to give other parents the benefit of the doubt unless it was blatant abuse.

  38. If a child is in harm…yes I will call the police. If the child is ok, I’m totally ok with keeping an eye out for them in public. Mom’s unite!

  39. I can agree to you to an extent, like all things in life there is a thin and fine line. I’m not a parent myself so it’s hard to relate with either side at this stage in life.

  40. I agree with you. I always try and put myself in another parent’s shoes. How do THEY feel right now. You’d better bet their emotions are running them ragged. 99% of the time parents HATE punishing their kids, so for the most part I mind my own business. Saying that, though, I have called the police before. I listen to my gut.

  41. I love this. You are so right in saying we need to support each other. There is no village raising our children anymore but we need to help each other.

  42. I totally agree of supporting other parents rather than reporting unless you feel the need to. My kids are 8 and 9 and I still walk them to school because they are still very young.

  43. Would not report this unless it’s some crazy hour of the night. My special needs daughter wonders off so I wouldn’t mind if they call and it’s late at night. If it’s dark out I have asked a child whyhey they are not home.

  44. I will say this. If I saw a very young (5 or 6) child alone at the park, I would ask them where the adult who they came with was. If they were alone, I may call the police. I think that is just too young. My kids are 13 and 16 and I may let them walk a block alone, BUT my son has autism, so that throws another nut in the mix that makes things different for me.

  45. I agree with you. Unless the situation was extreme i would try to be supportive. No one is perfect and everyone can use some support.

  46. I saw the article of which this may be referring. These parents are highly intelligent; one is a physicist and the other a scientist. The older sibling was responsible for the younger sibling. The world is a scary place because women (yes, I said it) are meddling in things “they” are afraid of. They are afraid of boogy men, so they will call the police on someone else. But ignore the screams of abuse next door. “That I don’t want to get involved with”. The parents of these children are very capable of how they see fit, which is allowing them a bit of freedom and independence. Just because “you” may be afraid of something that isn’t there doesn’t mean you should force your fears on others.

  47. The problem with this is that , you have too many parents being lazy parents and just allowing the children to run the streets, and this can cause many things, ( getting into drugs , or being pushed around, or even the older child not paying attention to the younger one and something really serious happening ) I have seen this type of situation where the parent allows the child to walk to school and the child gets raped… also the older child is not the parent of the younger child or children. I would probably ask ?’s to the children , as I have in the past.. and see to it that they got home safe and also make the parent know that there are child rapist out there , Also , drug dealers who are looking for the young ones to recruit…
    Parents need to stand up for there children,, they are only a child who is in constant need of care and guidance……………………….. just my thought

  48. Unless I see abuse of any kind, I’m team support all the way. All parents approach it differently, and there’s a hundred thousand miles between neglect and letting a child stretch their wings.

  49. I saw this article too, and I couldn’t believe it. The bottom line for me is this. Everyone parents differently. Unless I see mental or physical abuse, I’m not calling on a parent, because there’s no reason to. The world is becoming more and more dangerous, and raising a bunch of kids that are afraid to step out of their houses without someone holding their hand is only going to make it worse on them.

  50. My oldest is 10 and I won’t even let him out of my site. This day in age, it’s just not safe to let young kids be out there alone anymore and chances are, if I saw a little one out there alone, I would call the police.

  51. Would I call the police if I saw a confident looking child/children walking home? No. If I had reason to think a child was endangered (injuries, locked in a hot car, alone and frightened) I’d report that if there was no other solution. If I saw a child that seemed lost, frightened or injured, I would see if I could help her or him. Children do experience abuse and neglect, most often at the hands of a parent or family member. But, overprotecting a child can be harmful to them, undermining their confidence and development. Ignoring harm and danger is wrong. But reporting parents for allowing their children independence matched to their developmental abilities is wrong too. We don’t need communities that report (with the exception of reporting child maltreatment), we need communities that care. I realize there are grey areas in what I said – what constitutes maltreatment, is a big one, and there is no one legal or psychological definition for that.

  52. Your post is awesome! I have such a hard time with this whole situation. I myself would not report a situation like kids walking alone; or being at a park alone. The ONLY way I would do this if this child or children were creating issues for other children.

    I have seen small children walking to school alone and normally just think its too bad their parent can’t be with them.

    When I was in elementary school, we played on our block, with other kids. We walked to school, which at times I am not sure looking back was safe, but it was a choice my parents made and we survived.

    I feel a parent makes a decision based on what they feel safe or okay with. I also feel a parent that doesn’t have an issue with it also lives with an outcome if it is unfavorable.

    I myself believe it is more dangerous these days, mainly because of more kids that are not able to have a parent home more now than in the past. But in saying that, we can’t always live in fear. My kids are all above the age of 18 now. My youngest is in college 5 hours away; and even there they have a buddy system when walking around after dark. I probably sound wishy washy on this whole topic; I guess it just depends on the children and the parents on what they feel comfortable with. In the end I feel I am not to judge; but support and be there if needed.

    Thank you again for writing this as it definitely gives a person/parent something to think about.

  53. I feel the same way you do, unless the child is in harm I mind my own business. I will ask a child if I see them looking afraid or confused if they are lost or need help but if they say no I let it go. I might watch them and make sure they are okay, and if an adult comes up I will ask them if they know them. Yes, I am snoopy I also live in a big suburban area, and I realize their are dangers out there.
    I totally feel how old a child should be allowed to do something alone or with siblings depends on the child. We need to support parents instead of always getting cps or police involved in every situation. They should be your last choice to call, they don’t always do what is best for the children. It really depends on where you live and how well your police and cps is ran. I personally love our police department they are very helpful and non judgmental but I know my neighboring town it is not that way. So THINK before your react and HELP other parents instead of judging them.
    This is a great topic by the way. Thank you for letting me vent.


    And I’d appreciate it if other parents also supported me.

    That being said, I’m also a survivor of child abuse, and I think it’s important to intervene and report if you witness or suspect abuse. But allowing your kids to walk home alone is not abuse.

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