An Aliso Viejo mom claims law enforcement officers threatened to sic social services on her for endangering her children.
Her crime? Allowing her oldest kids--ages 6, 7 and 9--to play just outside her town home, which is in a gated complex.
Shaylene Haswarey's sad tale ranked as the "Outrage of the Week" on the website of Lenore Skenazy, the New York-based syndicated columnist and author of Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Kids the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry.
Haswarey writes she was visited by two police officers, but in Aliso Viejo they must have been Orange County sheriff's deputies. Whatever, when the heat at her front door said they'd been called by a neighbor because the kids were playing unattended, Haswarey says she explained her children had found a cat and she allowed them to go outside and feed it.
The cops said the busy-body neighbor also noticed the day before Haswarey's oldest child was in his pajamas outside in the rain. He was wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt, explained Haswarey, who noted she is from Idaho where kids play outside all the time. She writes:
He said my kids are too young to be out, because we do not have a yard, and this is a complex. He also told me there are predators around here. He finally told me if I let my kids out again he will have to call social services because I am endangering my children! What is wrong with this picture???
Haswarey wonders if it is against the law to go out in the rain in one's pajamas? Or to follow a stray cat and feed it? She knows her children know how to watch for cars, and she checked the Megan's Law website and found there are no predators registered in her neighborhood.
In her GATED neighborhood.
Aliso Viejo is a small city in between Irvine and Mission Viejo. These cities rank #1 by the FBI for the safest cities in America with a pop. of 100,000+. Therefore, Aliso Viejo is safer than the city I grew up in in Idaho!
Haswarey lost it after what happened next.
After the police officer asked for me and my husband's name and birthdates, I freaked out! I am NOT going to let my kids go outside without me again! I don't want social services knocking on my door. What do you think I should do if anything, about this? My husband's family is from India. They have a big house there. I am thinking of going to their village this September and staying there for a few months, so my kids can be normal kids.
(Clockwork note to Shaylene: Consider staying, since that's where all the American jobs have gone.)
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Isn't it incredible that you are living the "American Dream"--a house, four kids, nice town--and longing for the kind of childhood a kid can get in a much less affluent country? Meantime, I put this question to readers: What can this mom do to prove to the cop that she's not off base? How can we she convince him (and other cops and other neighbors) that being outside is normal and healthy for kids? Should we all call the police department there? Start a petition? Any ideas?
Since the "Outrage" was posted three days ago, there have been 119 responses from Skenazy's readers.
Karen suggests calling the local paper. Candice advises calling the police department (or sheriff's office) and giving these deputies' superiors a grilling. Kari, who informs she grew up in Saddleback Valley, recommends Haswarey move because, "The crazy only gets crazier the longer you stay."
Then again, mommies and daddies, be advised there were just two armed home invasions and a quadruple homicide/suicide over an eight-day period in gated communities in Mission Viejo, Newport Coast and San Clemente.
Have your kids gun up and they'll be fine.