My Kids, 8 and 10, Were Playing Down the Block. The Fire Department Escorted Them Home.

A letter in support of Nevada’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence” Bill being Introduced Today

A letter in support of Nevada’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence” Bill being Introduced Today

A doctor explains why he supports the “Reasonable Childhood Independence” Bill being introduced in Nevada today

Editors note: Nevada is one of five states currently considering a Reasonable Childhood Independence Bill.

To the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee: Thank for you for hearing SB 143. This is an important clarification to current Nevada statute that will clear up some “gray zones” in current legislation.

As a physician, and as a father — especially in this unprecedented year — proactive legislation empowering responsible parenting is critical.

To be clear, I personally deal with horrible cases of neglect and abuse and do not want support of this bill to be construed as any form of leniency for such actions.

Fortunately, I do not think this bill – especially with the amendments proposed – does anything to weaken our state’s position on abuse and neglect. Quite the contrary; I think this bill will promote responsible parenting and free up more resources for law enforcement and Child Protective Services to focus on true cases of neglect and abuse.

Someone called 911 on my kids

As a personal anecdote: last summer my wife was home with our younger children in our safe, upper middle class, secluded neighborhood among the pines of the Sierra Nevadas along a dead end street. Our 8-year-old asked if he could go collect rocks (for his collection) down the street – a distance of about 600 yards. My wife was on the phone with her mother catching up and granted him permission. His older brother (age 10) asked to go as well and together, the two walked down the quiet, dead-end, residential street.

An older, well-intentioned neighbor (whom we have not met), noticed them and followed them down the street to the small wash where they were going to collect rocks. After observing them, he soon offered them some lunch – to which they replied “no thanks, we don’t take food from strangers.” Then, after growing uncomfortable with a stranger watching them, they proceeded home.

The fire department arrived

But before they made it back, the fire department arrived having received a call from this same concerned neighbor to check on a report of “unsupervised children.” By then, my wife had finished her phone call and walked outside to check on the boys. Surprised, she noticed two firemen walking up the street with the boys. They kindly explained what happened and apologized but proceeded to report that they had to legally report to the Sheriff Office and that we might be receiving a follow up call or visit from CPS [Child Protective Services].

This is the type of incident this bill is striving to avoid. It is a waste on the often under-funded and over-worked public resources we need to truly protect the children of this state.

Kids need independence for their mental health

As a physician, especially in the throes of the COVID pandemic, we are seeing the deleterious effects of lost independence and socialization for children. Mental and physical health are at a crisis moment with our youth and part of the problem is that parents are unsure what they can allow their children to do. Working parents often have little choice and fear repercussions if their children are allowed to be seen unsupervised playing in a nearby park or in their front yards. So instead, they sit on the couch and watch television or play video games – or worse (unsafe internet usage).

As a state we should be empowering our parents and promoting safe, responsible parenting techniques. We should be promoting a culture of increased independence among our youth to combat the problems we are discovering after a generation of “helicopter parenting.”

Underprivileged families suffer most when “helicopter parenting” is enforced

As happens far too often, an undue burden is placed on our underprivileged families. Lack of financial or social resources, challenging work environments and hours, and other factors all contribute directly to mental and physical health disparities we see in these communities. Single parents, immigrant families, etc., all have steeper hills to climb in terms of promoting healthy behaviors and simple things like playing at the neighborhood park are barriers because parents fear legal repercussions if they are unable to go sit and supervise their children.

Again, I completely support the work of CPS and law enforcement and in no way want to impair their ability to protect our children. Indeed, I want to allow them to focus on the real needs in our community and I sincerely believe this bill will do that.

Nevada parents and kids can breathe easier

Let us use this opportunity to put Nevada at the forefront of promoting health and well-being in our communities by supporting responsible parenting, not only in words, but in statute. The end result will be healthier, more resilient children that will eventually be the leaders of our great state. Thank you for your support of SB 143.

Sincerely,

Daniel Hansen, MD

Editor’s Note: For more information on how to support a Reasonable Childhood Independence bill in your state, please fill out the form at the bottom of Let Grow’s advocacy page.