A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge temporarily stopped Arizona’s addition of a Tucson mom to its list of unfit parents last week.
Sarra (whose real name is withheld in order to preserve her privacy) was charged with child endangerment after she allowed her son, 7, and friend, 5, to enjoy the park as she went about her daily business. There are reasonsRobby Soave of’s Robby covered her story.
Sarra’s case was dropped after she pled guilty and agreed to take parenting classes, but the state’s Department of Child Safety (DCS) moved forward with a separate action: adding Sarra’s name to the Central Registry, a government-maintained blacklist of Arizonans who are prohibited from working with children.
Sarra testified that she did not believe Sarra had neglected her son. “No. Playing in the park is appropriate to his current development and who he is now,” Sarra said.
Sarra was told by the police that her son may have experienced a number of horrific things while shopping for Thanksgiving turkeys at the supermarket. They suggested that he could have been attacked and abused by homeless people or even broken his arm or broken an ankle. A daytime kidnapper could have taken him, undeterred and unaffected, by all of the dogs, park workers, or people at a nearby class in tai-chi. Sarra, on one hand, said that these things are unlikely and they didn’t.
The case was lost. She lost. But the Goldwater Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation intervened and, in rare and good news for the country, a judge agreed not to allow the department to add Sarra to the Central Registry.
Sarra had me testify as an expert witness. And I can confirm that Sarra only committed one crime: being rational.
The facts are not in dispute: Someone saw Sarra’s son and his friend playing in the park and called the cops. Criminal charges were dropped after Sarra pleaded guilty and agreed to take a life skill course. DCS could not be compelled to agree.
It didn’t matter that Tucson’s police records don’t show any evidence of child abductions for more than 10 years. Sarra also returned to the park looking for needles, but this was not relevant. What about the fact she was a statistician in her early career? She had a better understanding of relative risks. The state did not care.
Kayla Peckard, DCS attorney at the hearing stated: “Arizona courts think that when we deal with ‘probable causes’ we also consider probabilities.” They aren’t factual or technical.
Peckard basically conceded that “probabilities” don’t necessarily have to be true. probable.
“The legal precedent for adopting statistical data in the standard of probable cause is a violation of our law,” she stated.
Thea Gilbert, Sarra’s lawyer asked me about my work on stranger danger as I was taking the stand via Zoom In researching my book, I answered that. Children of all ages are eligible for freeI found out that, if you have any reason to doubt my sanity, it is possible to get a refund. WantedTo allow your child to become the victim of a crime committed by someone else, it would be necessary to keep that child away from danger for at least 750,000 years.
Gilbert asked me about “reasonable child independence laws” that Let Grow helped pass in four other states. It was noted by me that the Colorado Governor. Jared Polis (D) had just signed his state’s bill into law the day before. “What is the significance of a child independence law?” Gilbert asked.
The neglect laws in most states are quite broad, I responded. They are open to interpretation. The reasonable independence laws, which account for all of the decisions that parents have to make as well as all the judgments onlookers and caseworkers might make, clarify that neglect only occurs when your children are in serious and obvious danger. Probability danger—not anytime you take your eyes off them.
“Have Arizona ever enacted any childhood independence laws?” During cross-examination, the DCS lawyer inquired.
“Not yet,” I said.
The tides are shifting. Timothy Sandefur, the Goldwater Institute’s vice president for legal affairs, is hopeful that the appeals judge will rule that the bar for blacklisting parents—probable cause—is unconstitutionally low.
Sandefur stated that even a “probable cause”, can be enough to get you on the list. However, probable cause is what cops use in order to get a warrant.
He says, “It is basically synonymous with suspicion’.”
Guaranteeing people due process in such hearings and narrowing government neglect laws will ensure parents can make reasonable parenting decisions—and even let their kids play outside—without getting slammed by the state.