Parenting Law Coming to Texas?

Life in the Barbara house in Double Oak, moves at one speed.

Parents Shawnti and Brian Barbara have kids who are 3, 7, 9 and 12 years old.

The parents are simply numbered, but it's also just the way they want it.

"Our kids are free to explore," said Shawnti.

"We put a lot of trust in our kids," added Brian.

In world that can be over-structured and full of to-do lists, the Barbara kids have a lot of freedom.

"They just can't wonder wherever they want," Shawnti explained.  "They know where they can go and they can't go."

Sure they have boundaries, but Mom and Dad admit they're not always watching.

Some call it free-range parenting.

"You know where my kids are right now? They're not with us," Brain said.  "They're somewhere else right now, where I can't see them. Somebody may say that's neglect. Is it neglect or is it trust?"

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, or CPS, says when children aren't adequately supervised, it may be considered neglectful supervision.

Last year, in the 19 county area, that CPS calls the North Texas region, case workers investigated 96,741 allegations of abuse and neglect.

14,525 of those were confirmed cases of neglectful supervision, which CPS defines in part as placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity... that results in bodily injury or substantial risk of immediate harm to the child.

"75 percent of all children in foster care are there not because of physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect or medical neglect, but they're there for neglectful supervision," added Brandon Logan, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation Center for Families and Children.

It's a conservative think tank hoping to introduce legislation in Texas that better protects parents.

"We're so concerned about child safety and the truth is there's never been a time that's safer to be a child in America," Logan's said. "The problem is we have a law now that says essentially, it is neglect to allow a child to be outside of adult supervision."

Logan wants our state to recognize neglect is not allowing a child to play outside unsupervised, or allowing children to travel back and forth to school alone. And it's not leaving a child unattended at home for a short period of time.

"To me that's already overboard. We're having to say what it's not," questions Brian Barbara. "It's unfortunate but protecting parental rights, if it takes legislation to do that, then I'm all for it."

The Barbara's have never been investigated for neglect.

A so-called free-range parenting law couldn't stop someone from calling in concerns.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is still in the process of drafting a bill and is reaching out to legislative partners to file it in the next legislative session.

At this point CPS has no position on the issue but if legislation moves forward, the agency will be watching it closely.

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