It only takes about 50 steps to get from Monica and Devon Jones’ Stapleton house to the pocket park across the street—maybe 100 if you’re a pint-size person. In fact, when the Joneses bought their house in 2014, they picked it in part because of its proximity to the green space: They could see the playground from the front porch. On August 21, 2017, Monica Jones stood on that porch and watched her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter confidently take those 100 steps to cross the street and join her friends at the playground. It was the day of the solar eclipse, and a number of neighborhood kids and adults had gathered there; Monica’s daughter had asked to play with them. Monica knew some of the parents in the park, and the Joneses had been working with their daughter for months on crossing the street, so Monica felt comfortable letting her child go on her own while she watched. “We wanted to give her a little taste of freedom and independence,” she says. The Joneses’ daughter made the trip unscathed and spent the next couple of hours going between her house and her friends, with her mom watching from the porch and through the windows. A couple of weeks later, there was a knock on the Joneses’ door. Someone who had seen the little girl playing unsupervised had called the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) hotline to report the incident, and now two caseworkers were standing on the Joneses’ porch. They introduced themselves and asked to come in. Monica wasn’t home, but Devon invited the caseworkers into the kitchen, where they delivered some shocking news: They were there to investigate an allegation of neglect.
Parents of 20-somethings probably recall the "Mommy Wars." Parenting magazines and mainstream media frequently addressed the cultural battle between mothers who made different parenting choices - stay-at-home moms vs working moms, breastfeeding vs formula feeding, homeschool or public school, or epidural vs natural childbirth. With the advent of social media, the term "Mom-shaming" came into use. Passionate advocates took to Facebook and blogs to promote their perspective on the "right way" to parent. As emotionally brutal as the Mommy Wars or Mom-shaming could be, they pale in comparison to the new reality facing parents today in trying to navigate the often stormy waters of parenting. There is now a whole other dimension added to the mix. Mothers (and fathers) now face the real possibility that someone who disagrees with their choices will call the police and report them to Child Protective Services. Parental refusal to bow to the opinions of those around them can carry drastic consequences. Families can literally lose their children, even permanently, because someone who doesn't like their parenting style decided to invoke the strong arm of governmental authority. The fears of others, even irrational or statistically-unlikely fears, are becoming codified into the social "moral" fabric of modern society. Self-appointed, cultural watchdogs, who would have been called "busybodies" in times past, are no longer content to wag their fingers or type out a nasty post. By involving Child Protective Services, these fear mongers often subject the children to the possibility of far worse conditions than anything they could be "rescuing" them from. New York Times writer Kim Brooks found herself on the defensive end of another person's fear about a parenting decision, and she faced the possibility of arrest and losing her children. She wrote an opinion piece entitled "Motherhood in the Age of Fear," in which she eloquently describes the escalation of the Mommy Wars into a very battle for our children themselves.