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Overprotecting our children causes greater harm

Parents, lock up your kids! Keep them indoors at all costs!

Another mom has been arrested for letting her son go to the park unsupervised. This time in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

"Honestly, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong," mom Nicole Gainey said. "I was letting him go play."

Mrs. Gainey you aren't doing anything wrong; the police are.

Nicole's son, Dominic, is 7. On a recent Saturday afternoon, he asked to go play in the park. Thinking nothing of it, Gainey said yes. Dominic took his cell phone and walked to the park, which sits a half-mile from their house.

As Dominic was on the way to play, he walked by a public pool. Since he was alone, someone asked this 7-year old where his mother was. Dominic must have remembered his "stranger danger" lessons. He ran.

Later he said, "They asked me a couple questions and I got scared, so I ran off to the park and they called the cops."

Things were fine -- until the police officer showed up at the house. Gainey said the cop kept telling her about the "numerous sex offenders" that live near that park and lecturing her on how unsafe the area is. The officer then arrested this Florida mom.

Now Gainey faces a felony child neglect charge.

Some might say 7 is too young to play unsupervised a half-mile from home. Clearly the parents who called the cops thought so. That's fine; not everyone is going to let their 7-year-olds do that. But that doesn't mean it is wrong and it is certainly not illegal.

Nicole Gainey trusts her son. She said he's mature enough and Dominic has a cell phone. When she calls, he answers, and she said she calls often.

There is no one better suited to make this judgment call than Nicole. She's the parent. She should be granted the freedom to make it, whether people agree or not. For fear of getting arrested again, she won't let Dominic go to the park alone anymore. Keep in mind, Dominic would have no supervision if Nicole is convicted.

This is the second time in the past two months a mother has been arrested for allowing her child to play alone. Debra Harrell spent 17 days in a South Carolina jail after her 9-year-old daughter was found playing in a park.

Debra, a single mom, was nearby at work. This case stems from another nosy parent who noticed the 9-year-old alone. Instead of trying to help, she called the police. Harrell, like Gainey, faces a felony charge of child neglect. She could spend the next 10 years of her life in jail, all for letting her child do what so many American children have done for years -- play.

It's all about the overhyped fear of child kidnappings. The stories are out there: The stranger in the windowless van asking children if they want candy or asking if they have seen his lost puppy. One Mayo Clinic study found that 72 percent of parents have a fear their children will be abducted.

The facts find that those fears are unfounded. While child abductions do occur, most of them are at the hands of other family members, not strangers. The Discovery Channel notes:

Only a tiny minority of kidnapped children are taken by strangers. Between 1990 and 1995 the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children handled only 515 stranger abductions, 3.1 percent of its caseload.

The Gainey and Harrell cases are absolutely absurd and prove that almost everything in America has become over-criminalized -- even parenting. By these standards, almost all parents, including my own, would be sharing cells in county lock-up.

As a country, we've given in to those fears and the same children we aim to protect are the ones we will harm the most.

About the Author


Rob spent his formative years growing up in Massachusetts, but after graduating from Emerson College in Boston, he's had the privilege of living in Florida, New Orleans and New Mexico. Rob & his wife Amy have lived in Phoenix since 2006 when he joined KTAR. Rob is passionate about our freedom and rights -- something he learned to love while growing up in the Boston area.

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