A Virginia mother of three can no longer let her children play outside for fear that Child Protective Services will take them away.
Emily Fields claims she is being accused of neglecting her children after her four-year-old son kicked a football into a neighbor’s cat.
Fields, who lives in Pearisburg, Virginia, says she became the target of social workers who urged her to sign a form banning her children, a boy now 6 and two daughters ages 8 and 9, from playing outside without constant supervision.
According to Fields, one of the workers lives in her neighborhood and harbors animosity towards her family.
Emily‘s three kids, a boy, age 4, and two girls, ages 6 and 8, were playing outside. The Fields live in the quiet town of Pearisburg in rural western Virginia. It was there, on a May afternoon last year, that Fields‘ 4-year-old kicked a soccer ball across the road toward the neighbor’s cat, which he avoided hitting.
The neighbors yelled at him and took his ball. But it didn’t end there.
“My sister had actually been outside, watching them,” says Fields, who homeschools her kids. By the time Fields got home, 15 minutes later, her kids and sister were inside. They told her what had happened. Fields walked her son to the neighbor’s house to apologize.
“They began to scream and yell,” says Fields. “They said that everyone in the neighborhood thought I was a horrible mother, and that my children abused animals, and they were going to call [child protective services] every day until my children were taken away.”
It turns out this was not the first time CPS has visited the Fields’ home.
They were there in 2018 when officials told Fields her children, then 2, 5, and 6 were reported playing outside. The children were not unsupervised, Fields was watching them from a window, but this apparently didn’t placate police officers. They informed her the children must be supervised at all times until they were 13 years old!
As a parent of three children under 13, I can attest to how ridiculous this idea is. My children sometimes play outside all day long by themselves. We’ve never had a single complaint or a police visit.
Like Fields, I grew up in an environment where outdoor play was encouraged and children were allowed to roam. My friends and I would play for hours in a marsh near our homes: exploring, building forts, having snowball fights, and slingshot wars.
This was one of the glorious things so many in Generation X experienced. It was a stark contrast to the environment of safety so many children are raised today.
How to raise children is a subjective matter, of course. Some parents would find my own parenting techniques atrocious, while others would celebrate them.
But what is being done to Fields is another matter. She is being hounded by the state for simply allowing her children to play—and she faces the very real prospect of having her children taken from her if the busybodies in her community detect future “transgressions.” (The family was coerced into signing a “safety plan,” and Lenore Skenazy points out the family could have their children taken if they’re found to have violated it.)
This is what happens when the state strays from the true purpose of the law, which does not exist to make us better people, redistribute wealth, or engineer a better society.