Emily Fields’ three kids—a boy, age four, and two girls, ages 6 and 8—were playing outside. The Fields live in the quiet town of Pearisburg in rural western Virginia. It was there, on a May afternoon in 2021, that Fields’ 4-year-old kicked a soccer ball across the road toward the neighbor’s cat, which he avoided hitting.
The neighbors yelled at him and took his ball. But it didn’t end there.
“My sister had actually been outside, watching them,” says Fields, who homeschools her kids. By the time Fields got home, 15 minutes later, her kids and sister were inside. They told her what had happened. Fields walked her son to the neighbors’ house to apologize.
“They began to scream and yell,” says Fields. “They said that everyone in the neighborhood thought I was a horrible mother, and that my children abused animals, and they were going to call [child protective services] every day until my children were taken away.” The neighbors did indeed call child protective services (CPS). The agency dispatched two caseworkers to investigate the soccer ball incident the very next day.
They were there in 2018 when officials told Fields her children—then 2, 5, and 6—were reported playing outside. The children were not unsupervised—Fields was watching them from a window—but this apparently didn’t placate police officers. They informed her the children must be supervised at all times until they were 13 years old!
As a parent of three children under 13, I can attest to how ridiculous this idea is. My children sometimes play outside all day long by themselves. We’ve never had a single complaint or a police visit.
Like Ms. Fields, I grew up in an environment where outdoor play was encouraged and children were allowed to roam. My friends and I would play for hours in a marsh near our homes: exploring, building forts, having snowball fights and sling shot wars.
This was one of glorious things so many in Generation X experienced. It was a stark contrast to the environment of safetyism so many children are raised in today.
Read More: Child Services Tells Mother Her Kids Can’t Play Outside by Themselves