(CBS) — How young is too young to leave a child alone, in the state of Illinois?
The law says, under 14, for any unreasonable amount of time.
Sound vague to you? Some parents think so too. CBS 2’s Mike Parker explains.
“My kids know I’m a great mom to them,” says mother Natasha.
But DCFS doesn’t think so. Three years ago, she was charged with inadequate supervision of her three sons, then aged 11, 9 and five.
She wasn’t with them as they played in Bertha Honore Park in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood.
But the park is next door to the family’s apartment, and Natasha was watching them play from the windows above.
Since the charges were brought, she’s had to give up her plans for nursing school. And that’s not all.
“I can’t go on field trips with my sons because they do background checks,” Natasha said.
“Letting your kids go to the park, we don’t think any of that constitutes blatant disregard as the law defines it,” said attorney Diane Redleaf.
Attorney Redleaf’s Family Defense Center is fighting in court to wipe Natasha’s record clean.
The center issued a 42 page report Wednesday charging that DCFS policies are too vague and need to be changed.
“We have opened the door to rampant calls against people in circumstances that are in no way neglect and we have to put some guidelines down on paper and in practice,” said Redleaf. “And only if they blatantly disregard their duty as parents should the state step in.”
“Even if it doesn’t come off my record, other people shouldn’t have to go through what I went through,” Natasha said.
The Illinois Appellate Court is now reviewing Natasha’s appeal.
The day after the story was aired, DCFS responded, telling CBS 2 News, “Ultimately the Department of Children and Family Services considers all allegations of inadequate supervision on a case by case basis, because what may be appropriate under certain circumstances may be considered child neglect in others.”
Parents and caregivers, the agency said, should “consider all the risks involved when thinking about leaving children alone and to recognize the signs, such as maturity, acceptance of responsibility and awareness of the needs of others, when a child shows that he or she may be ready.”