Children Playing Alone Causes Police Response, Parenting Evaluation

Recently, a Florida mother was arrested for letting her 7-year-old son go to the local pool without her supervision — another incident casting a spotlight on parents’ decisions to let their children have freedom.

Nicole Gainey had given her son Dominic permission to play at the park about half a mile from their home.  On his way home, local lifeguards stopped him and questioned him about his mother’s whereabouts.  Dominic became scared and ran across a six-lane road where police found him with a cell phone around his neck.

They brought him home and arrested his mother, charging her with neglect.  She was held until the $4,000 bond was paid.

“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” she said. “Honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” says Gainey, “I was letting him go play.”

There is currently no age restriction for being at the park alone, although police told Gainey that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.”

“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” Gainey said to Fox 6.

According to John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute civil liberties group, Gainey is a “good mother.

“She lets her kid go play at the park for an hour or so, and now she may get five years in jail,” he added to the Orlando Sentinel. “This doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

This is not the first case of a mother facing charges of neglect in the US.  Last month, a mother in South Carolina was arrested after allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play in the park alone while she was at work.

Upon finding the girl alone, police declared her “abandoned” and put her in state custody while they arrested her mother.

The cases have caught the attention of the Criminal Code of Canada, where currently parents can be charged with abandonment for leaving a child under the age of 10 alone “so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured.”

According to police, each situation is looked at using a case-by-case basis.

“You have to look at the maturity of the child, and the age of the child also,” says Ottawa police spokesman Const. Marc Soucy. “But if my backyard backs onto a park and I’m in the backyard and I can see my kids, a little younger is OK. But if I live far away, I don’t know.”

Time of day is also taken into account.

A recent poll from Reason/Rupe found that 68% of Americans who completed the survey believe it should be illegal for children under nine years old to play outside unsupervised.  A whopping 43% believe the same of twelve-year-olds.