Perhaps the age of helicopter parenting has reached such a fever pitch that even neighbors feel that parents need to be on top of their kids’ every movement. Or maybe reporting your neighbor for child abuse is a new way to settle a beef.
Whatever the real motive was, Shelley Fuller of La Porte called police claiming that her neighbor Tammy Cooper had abandoned her children. The reason for Fuller’s claim: Cooper had let her 6- and 9-year-old children ride scooters in their suburban cul-de-sac, according to Courthouse News Service. Cooper told the officer that she’d been watching her children from inside her house; Fuller allegedly claimed she’d hit one of the kids with her car. The officer arrested Cooper in front of her kids.
Cooper’s charges were later dismissed. Now Cooper has filed suit against the police officer and Fuller for false arrest, claiming that Fuller lied to police, according to Courthouse News.
Can letting your kids play outside really equate to child abandonment?
Child abandonment falls within the ambit of child abuse. Abuse can take many forms, but is generally considered to be any act, or failure to act, by a parent or caregiver that results in imminent risk or serious harm to a child’s health. The harm can be physical, emotional, or sexual.
Texas’ child abandonment statute defines “abandonment” as leaving a child without reasonable and necessary care, in circumstances that no similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability. The law makes it illegal to abandon a child in a place where there is an unreasonable risk of harm, or to place a child in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Here, it seems well inside the realm of reason that children can play in their own cul-de-sac with their mother nearby. This seems more like an issue between neighbors, and not about the kids.
Perhaps Cooper should have read FindLaw’s Do’s and Don’ts: False Allegations of Child Abuse. It gives tips on how to avoid prying neighbors and strangers from reporting child abuse where none exists. However, a vengeful neighbor who allegedly lies about hitting children with her car would likely not be swayed from making a false accusation, even if you are a perfect parent.
If you’ve been falsely accused of child abuse and need help, contact a Houston family lawyer to help you work through the process to clear your name.