Mother says she was investigated over children playing in backyard
A Winnipeg mother says she was investigated by Child and Family Services simply for letting her children play in her backyard.
Jacqui Kendrick, a stay-at-home mom, says a CFS worker showed up unexpectedly at her door in early April. The worker told her they were doing a “well-being check” after receiving a complaint about her children being left unsupervised.
Kendrick has three children ages two, five and 10, who love to play in the family’s backyard after school. The backyard is fully fenced in, with a wood fence covering three sides, and a portion of the front covered by a chain link fence and gate.
Kendrick told CTV Winnipeg she's always either with her kids or looking in on them from her living room windows. She says she feels “completely comfortable” letting her kids play outside.
“We’ve taught both the (older) kids so far that you look after each other. That’s kind of the point. The older ones should be looking after the younger ones,” Kendrick said.
“My 10-year-old is very responsible. We’ve taught the older ones already the whole stranger danger, and they know what to do. When my five-year-old’s out there, she knows she’s not supposed to go up to the gates.”
Still, the worker with the CFS -- the the provincial body that apprehends abused and neglected children -- insisted she was obligated to investigate and ask a few more questions.
“We had to go through a whole interview asking so many questions -- asking me about if we’ve ever dealt with CFS before, what my childhood was like, how I punish my children, whether we drink or do drugs... She had to look to see where my kids slept. She had to see if we had enough food in the house,” Kendrick said.
“The whole time I’m sitting there, pretty much in tears, because I couldn't understand what was going on."
She said the worker seemed to feel that everything was fine and she’s heard nothing further from them. Still, Kendrick doesn’t understand why whoever called authorities didn’t speak to her directly.
“If you really had a concern, you could have knocked on my door,” she said.
Winnipeg psychologist Dr. Toby Rutner agrees. He says in the age of the internet, “everyone feels entitled to give an opinion” on what their neighbours are doing, rationalizing their behaviour as simple concern for the welfare of children.
He also said he believes that kids should be as independent as their abilities allow.
Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act states a child 12 or older can be left home alone unsupervised; it doesn't mention anything about children unsupervised in a backyard.
In a statement, a spokesperson said the CFS is obligated to follow up on all reports of children at risk. No one would speak specifically about this case..
Now, Kendrick worries that her name is on CFS files, and that further complaints could lead to her kids being taken away.
“Anyone else ever wants to complain for any reason, there's always going to be a file there,” she said.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Cheryl Holmes