A mom from Illinois felt “shock, anger, and fear” when she was investigated by her state’s child protective services for what seemed like a perfectly normal occurrence to her.
Her 8-year-old daughter took their family dog for a walk around the block–alone–and a neighbor called the authorities to report it. When the mother, Cory Widen, found out who was calling, she couldn’t believe it, according to her interview for Good Morning America.
Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Service found the claim of enough importance to investigate Cory Widen of Wilmette after the neighbor claimed that the child walking the dog was “5 years old or less.”
The anonymous caller had also called the police to report Cory’s daughter playing in a parking lot, according to Allisanda Calderon, communications director for DCFS in Illinois. Widen thinks the call should never have gotten to the point of investigation.
“The call should have never gotten as far as it was. The initial call was for an unattended 5-year-old, and once they knew I didn’t even have a 5-year-old, it should have stopped there,” Widen said. “I don’t think it should have made it past the hotline that a little girl walking her dog needs to be investigated.”
The dog in question, Marshmallow, is a Maltese puppy, who Widen’s 8-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son take turns walking. Widen says she can see the pair most of the way around the block through the window and that she’s teaching her children responsibility and independence. Eventually, DFS dropped the investigation and found the call to be “unfounded.”
But Cory Widen’s story is not unique. While children in the past were often left to play alone without supervision, hypervigilant parents and “anonymous” callers seem to be enforcing a new standard of constant supervision.
What is the right way to parent in 2018? Should families be put through invasive and stressful investigations, which can be a waste of their time and government resources, when there’s nothing wrong? Or is it a way to find truly negligent parents?
Widen thinks it’s up to each individual parent: “Everyone needs to allow the parent to do what is best for their family,” she said. “No one will dictate my parenting choices.”