Last week, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge temporarily blocked Arizona from adding a Tucson mother to the state’s list of unfit parents.
Sarra, whose full name has been withheld to protect her privacy, was arrested in 2020 on suspicion of child endangerment after she allowed her 7-year-old son and his 5-year-old friend to play in the park while she was running errands. reasonRobby Soave of her story here.
Sarah’s case was dropped after she pleaded guilty and agreed to take parenting classes, but the state’s Department of Child Safety (DCS) took a separate action: adding Sarah’s name to the central registry, a government-maintained prohibition Arizonans blacklist from working with kids.
“I don’t believe I ignored him,” Sarah said in testimony. “No, I believe playing in the park is for his level of development, for the way he is right now.”
During Sarah’s hearing, the department argued that within 30 minutes of her Thanksgiving turkey purchase at the grocery store, a number of terrible things could have happened to her son: He may have been attacked by homeless people, Witnessed drug use, sprained ankles, broke an arm, and even stepped on glass or needles. Or he might have been kidnapped by a daytime kidnapper, all the dog walkers, park staff, and people attending a nearby Tai Chi class taught by Sarah’s acquaintances undeterred him. Sarah, on the other hand, thinks these things are unlikely and did not happen.
She lost.But then the Goldwater Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation stepped in and Rare good news, A judge agreed to prevent the department from adding Sarah’s name to the central registry.
At Sarah’s hearing, I testified as an expert witness, and I can tell you that Sarah’s only crime was reason.
Facts are not disputed: Sara’s son was seen playing in the park with his friends and the police were called. The criminal charges were dropped in return for admitting to contributing to the juvenile delinquency and taking life skills classes. But DCS is not so easily appeased.
According to the Tucson Police Department’s own records, the fact that no child abduction has occurred in more than a decade is no different. Sarah went back to the park to look for needles, only to find that none of them mattered. And what if she was actually a statistician early in her career, so her understanding of relative risk was above average? The state doesn’t care.
“The Arizona court held that in dealing with ‘probable causes,’ we were dealing with probabilities,” DCS attorney Kayla Peckard said at the hearing. “These are not techniques or facts.”
Peckard basically admits that the so-called probability doesn’t have to be, um, possible.
“Using statistics as part of the ‘probable cause’ standard violates legal precedent,” she said.
When I came forward (via Zoom), Sarah’s attorney, Thea Gilbert, asked me about my research on the dangers of strangers. I replied that while researching my book, free range kidsI learned that if for some reason you wanted If your child is snatched by a stranger, you must leave the child out for 750,000 years before a particular crime is statistically likely to occur.
Gilbert then asked about “reasonable childhood independence” laws that my nonprofit, Let Grow, helped pass in four states.i noticed colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) just signed his state’s bill into law the day before. “What’s the point of the Childhood Independence Act?” Gilbert asked.
I replied that in most states, ignoring the law is very broad. This leaves them open to interpretation.Considering all the different decisions parents have to make and all the different judgments that bystanders (and caseworkers) may make, reasonable independence law states that it is only when you place your child in an obvious, serious and possible Dangerous – not anytime you look away from them.
“Did Arizona have any of those childhood independence laws?” DCS attorneys asked during cross-examination.
“Not yet,” I admitted.
But the tide is turning. Timothy Sandefur, vice president of legal affairs at the Goldwater Institute, hopes that the appeals judge will rule that the threshold for blacklisting a parent — for possible reasons — is unconstitutionally low.
Now, Sandefur explains, just “probable reasons” can get you on the list. But the likely reason is the low threshold police use to obtain warrants.
“It’s basically synonymous with ‘doubt,'” he said.
Guaranteeing due process to people at such hearings and narrowing the scope for the government to ignore the law would ensure parents can make sound parenting decisions — even letting their kids play outside — without being slammed by the state.