An 11-year-old boy was reportedly removed from his home by Child Protective Services (CPS) because he was playing outside in his own front yard unsupervised. When the unidentified boy came home, his parents had not arrived yet back from running errands, so he simply decided to shoot some hoops until they pulled in the driveway.
The boy played basketball in his own front yard for about 90 minutes in the afternoon. The young man did not go inside the home because he didn't have a key. Heavy traffic delayed his parents return home. A neighbor saw the boy outside alone and called the local police. When mom and dad arrived home, they were met by a police officer who arrested them for child negligence.
The parents, Cindy and Fred, had handcuffs slapped onto their wrists. They were also fingerprinted, strip searched, and held in a jail cell overnight. Both the 11-year-old boy, who had been happily playing basketball in his own front yard, and a 4-year-old brother were removed from the home and not allowed back into their parents' custody for one month.
Only after the 11-year-old boy "begged" to speak to a judge and pleaded to go home were the children returned to their parents.
"My older one was the so-called 'victim,'" Cindy said.
Because she and her husband Fred were charged with felony child neglect, the younger son was also removed from the home.
"A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the third degree," the child neglect statute reads.
Here an excerpt form an email Cindy sent to Free-Ranged Kids website.
"The authorities claim he had no access to water or shelter. We have an open shed in the back yard and 2 working sinks and 2 hoses. They said he had no food. He ate his snacks already. He had no bathroom, but the responding officer found our yard good enough to relieve himself in while our son sat in a police car alone. In his own yard, in a state, Florida, that has no minimum age for children to be alone."
Both the 11-year-old boy and his little brother were reportedly placed in foster care for two days while a background check were conducted on a relative who had offered to keep the boys while the legal matter was resolved.
"Our first choice was my mother," said Cindy. "But she lives in another state and so the kids would have been in foster care even longer until they cleared her."
The "slightly problematic" in-state relative lived in a different county. Because they were charged with a felony, Cindy and Fred reportedly could not cross the county line to go visit them. The relative declined to make the trip to bring the boys to see their parents and to supervise the visit. After a "few weeks" spent at the relative's home, the woman reportedly "got tired of taking care" of the boys and placed them back into state custody without notifying the parents.
During the court hearing where CPS workers requested the boys be kept in foster care, the 11-year-old was granted permission to speak to the judge.
"He went back there and spoke to the judge for about ten minutes," said Cindy. "And then the judge came out and called the two lawyers to the bench and talked to them for about 10 or 15 minutes. And with that, our lawyer came to us and said that if we admitted that we didn't know that it was wrong to [let our son] stay in the backyard, but that we know now that it's wrong and we will never let it happen again, and that we will explain this to our son, he would let the children come with us."
Cindy and Fred repeated the statement their lawyer had advised they make and were given their children back, but the family's problems were far from over. The first hearing was in civil court, next the parents were forced to appear in criminal court and plead "not guilty" to the child neglect charge.
While waiting for the criminal court hearing, Cindy and Fred were mandated to attend parenting classes, go to therapy, and take the children to "play" therapy. The 11-year-old boy is required to attend a day camp this summer, and his younger brother must go to a day care facility.
"We did little projects, we would go to the beach," Cindy said when detailing how she and the children had spent last summer.
This year, she will be home alone while her children are in state-approved programs. Cindy and Fred still have no idea what neighbor called the police when they saw their older son outside playing basketball alone.
What do you think about the 11-year-old boy and his brother being removed from the home because he played in his front yard unsupervised for 90 minutes?
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