Category Archives: Regulations

Court smackdown for anti-fun CPSC

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has smacked the federal anxiety-inducing, anti-fun agency otherwise knwon as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It was great news for the magnet-set-maker Zen Magnets but it was also shortlived since the agency got a huge award against Zen Magnets only a few days later. All the details are in my latest from The Weekly Standard.

Captain Mommy talks to DisruptUP Radio

Opinion: Drowning in childcare bills? Read NCLA

The very smart economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth has reviewed No Child Left Alone for MarketWatch. The whole review is here.

She opens with high praise:

As presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton grapple with the high cost of child care, there’s no better time to read Abby W. Schachter’s new book, “No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government Out of Parenting,” published by Encounter Books. Guaranteed to raise your blood pressure, it describes how federal and state regulations affect all aspects of child rearing, from birth to high school graduation.

Furchtgott-Roth focuses on the specific problem of childcare:

Day-care centers run by Head Start have to follow rules issued by the Department of Agriculture, including requirements to provide foods such as cow’s milk, even if parents prefer that children not drink cow’s milk.

Day-care providers in Pennsylvania, Schachter’s home state, are required to throw out uneaten food and wash out containers in case the child might consume hazardous material later on.

Just as Obamacare drove up the price of health care, government regulation is driving up the price of day care and school lunches.

Risk, IKEA dressers and me at WSJ

Does the government properly calculate risk when it considers whether consumer products are safe? I discuss at the Wall Street Journal in light of huge IKEA dresser recall and conclude:

“No government agency—no matter how well-staffed, efficiently run or well-intentioned—can stop all harm from coming to all children at all times.”

 

Why are they arresting parents?

“What the heck are we doing arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?” Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle raged in a recent column. The focus of her ire was a series of reports of parents being punished for choices about their kids that the authorities felt were inappropriate. The reason for McArdle’s reaction is that in all these instances nothing happened to the child in question.

A woman in South Carolina allowed her nine-year-old daughter to play in a local playground while she worked. She was booked for “unlawful conduct toward a child” and has lost custody of her kid. A Connecticut woman was cited for a misdemeanor because she chose to run an errand while her 11-year-old sat waiting in the car. The Atlantic’s Colin Friedersdorf got a letter from a woman who spent four years battling local police and child protective services in an effort to reunite her family. She lost custody of her kids for the “crime” of choosing to leave her four children, ages 10- five, at home while she took a class at a local university. And earlier this year, Kim Brooks, wrote in Salon about facing serious charges and years of legal entanglement including settling for hours of community service for having let her 4-year-old sit unharmed in a car for a few minutes.

None of this is accidental or coincidence, it is systemic and has been going on for at least three decades. It is all part of an effort to replace parental authority and discretion with the regulations and standards of the state. “The African proverb ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ seems to serve now as a rallying call for the establishment of a communal authority to set new standards and methods of child-rearing,” writes Dana Mack in her 1997 book The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family.

Those replacement child-rearing standards have been applied in the area of family law to punish parents like Tammy Cooper in La Port Texas, who was charged with child endangerment and child abandonment even though the arresting officer found her sitting on her front lawn watching her kids play. And Charles Eisenstein was cited for disorderly conduct and threatened with arrest for “endangering the safety of a minor,” when he argued with police about taking his kids to climb the ice formations along the frozen Susquehanna River. In his discussion of the loss practical wisdom and individual discretion, psychologist Barry Schwartz tells of a father who was removed from his family, forced to undergo counseling, and his kid put in foster care, because the dad mistakenly gave his seven-year-old son “hard” lemonade at a Detroit Tigers game. Schwartz explains that at nearly every stage of the process, whether it was nurses at the hospital who tested the son’s blood alcohol level (it was negative) or the welfare workers or the judge, the father was told, “We hate to do it but we have to follow procedure.”

According to Mack’s thesis, family law courts and social service agencies have been unduly influenced by an attitude that the “best interests” of a child is separate and often in competition with parental authority and the family unit. “Parents have been convicted of ‘child abuse’ for spanking, for grounding, for home schooling, and even for no reason other than a suspicion on the part of a mandated reporter or social worker that while conditions in the home are at present stable, they may be conducive to neglect or abuse in the future,” explains Mack.

As the examples from this summer indicate, family law and mandated reporter rules have now trickled down to local police who are invoking “potential harm” to children due to the decisions of their parents. This reality is surely bad enough and yet if we look more broadly at how public policy questions of children’s health and welfare are legislated, we see that parental discretion and judgment is often superseded by that of the state.

It is in this context that we must view the policy of the city of New York to put baby formula under lock and key in favor of pressuring mothers to breastfeed. And consider as well the federal mandates about breastfeeding courtesy of Obamacare. Or hospitals and daycare centers that, under state guidelines and regulations are prohibited from swaddling infants because it may pose a risk to the child. Not to mention the dietary restrictions for public school kids from the Department of Agriculture, and the standards for safe playground thanks to the Handbook for Public Playground Safety from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Melissa Harris-Perry says we should welcome all this government intervention between parents and their children. “We haven’t had a very collective notion of ‘These are our children,’” she explains, “so part of it is we have to break through our … private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everyone’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.”

The notion that the state hasn’t gone far enough in its effort to transform our understanding of who children belong to and who shall have authority for their safety and well-being, is surely a frightening prospect to all those parents already caught in the web of unjust parental punishment.

Another alarmist, unnecessary toy recall

From my most recent post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Another toy has been recalled after the Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was too dangerous for kids. Only trouble is that as the government watchdog admits, no one was actually hurt by playing with the Go Gaga Squeeze & Teethe CoCo Monkey teething toy. This is the point of silliness to which we’ve arrived in alarmist America……

It is also useful to consider the language used by the CPSC. This toy is a potential hazard. Last night at dinner my six-month old gagged on a spoon. Should we stop using spoons in my house? In fact, it might just be good for him to gag once in a while so he learns not to shove things too far into his mouth. That’s what we call learning and aren’t we supposed to be encouraging that in our children?

Read the rest here

More daycare, less $$$$ regulation

From my latest column at the Independent Women’s Forum where I am now a senior fellow:

Lynette Fraga executive director of Child Care Aware explains that when parents can’t afford the cost of licensed daycare they choose a cheaper, non-regulated option. “The big question mark is: ‘Are children safe in unregulated care?’” Fraga said. But when regulated daycare includes brushing teeth it is obvious that affordability is being sacrificed at the altar of “high-quality”.

No doubt, state licensing of daycare is a useful yardstick to impose basic standards of safety, hygiene and quality. We’re way past that already, however and have moved into high-cost for high-quality regulations. Before more taxpayers funds get earmarked to give access to licensed daycare to more economically disadvantaged mothers, it would be useful to revisit the basic criteria for daycare facilities and in many cases, create a lower, more affordable standard.

– See more at: http://www.iwf.org/blog/2792992/More-Daycare,-Less-Regulation#sthash.rx6WUEZS.dpuf

‘Perfect’ safety the enemy of good regulation

From my most recent Pittsburgh Tribune Review column:

Balls and cartwheels are banned at recess and many schools are decreasing or eliminating free play.

Surveys show that car seats have become so complicated that many parents and caregivers don’t use them at all.

When it comes to children’s safety, it seems we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns as the quest for perfect results has become the enemy of good-enough regulations.

Read the whole thing here.


New Captain Mommy! Welcome Alina Adams

How do you drive overprotective parents crazy? Just ask Alina Adams, who recently penned a blog post for Kveller.com about how she lets her 6-year-old daughter stay home alone:

“It’s a big year at our house. This September, for the first time, my 14-year-old began taking the subway to school by himself, my 10-year-old began taking the city bus to school by himself, and I began leaving my 6-year-old at home alone for short stretches.

“As with many of our previous milestones, all came about due to necessity.”

But to look at many of the comments in response to Adams’ post, lots of her readers ignored the word necessity. Adams got people who accused her of breaking the law, who “admired” her for something they themselves would never do, along with some who just thought it was downright reckless of her to admit to leaving an innocent child unattended, where any Tom, Dick or Harry Predator could snatch her away. Adams finds that last one just plain silly. When I interviewed her she dismissed the notion that anyone could find her daughter from the few details she provided in her essay. “How is anyone going to find my daughter from my having written that we live in an apartment in New York? Is someone going to use the internet and come through the computer screen into our apartment?”

Adams didn’t like the criticism but she understands it. As she declares there’s a “definite culture of fear” among parents. Even though crime has gone down and even though many adults remember being left alone themselves as children, somehow it is all different now.

What makes Adams a newly minted Captain Mommy though is the fact that writing about the subject of leaving her daughter at home alone meant that she had to find out if those who accused of breaking the law might have had a point. As Adams writes, “I was pretty surprised to learn that The National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left at home alone. And that some states even have specific guidelines on the books, as low as 8 years old in many places, and as high as 14(!) in Illinois. (My 14-year-old doesn’t just stay home alone in New York State, he watches his siblings, too!)”

Adams made sure that New York State, where she lives with her family, didn’t have a statute proscribing a particular age when kids could be left home alone, and was happy to discover that she was not in jeopardy of being hauled off to jail. (It is worth noting, that New York does have a law against kids left in cars alone below the age of 8, however.)

Why is Adams so against such laws? As she explained it to me, “I’m not a fan of arbitrary guidelines. I’m against mandatory minimums for kindergarten or retirement. [I’m] against government making that decision because it is an arbitrary rule without seeing what’s going on.”

Adams believes that every child is different making each situation different as well. But that’s not good enough for nanny-statists who are convinced they are “saving the kids” by pushing for these laws. The one-size-fits-all solution is the only one government can handle and so we get rules and regulations that interfere with parents’ choices rather than supporting them.

Making lunch a test for parents

The Wall Street Journal has a story on how making school lunch has gotten too complicated:

Why does packing a kid’s school meal often leave parents feeling frazzled?

With food allergies on the rise, many schools have barred all nut products, not just peanut butter, and sometimes other foods like soy and dairy. More schools also have candy and soda bans. A growing awareness of childhood obesity and nutrition means more parental anxiety around choosing the “right” foods—and making sure it’s stuff the kids will actually eat…..

“I pack [my son] a lunch every day and I hate it,” says Amy Hood, a stay-at-home mother of three from Charlestown, R.I. “It is like laundry. You’re never done.” In January, she tweeted that she had slipped a Kit Kat into her 11-year-old’s lunch: “This is (voice of doom) AGAINST THE RULES. Told him to eat the evidence if confronted.” Her son’s school has a no-candy policy. And while Ms. Hood says she generally packs a healthy lunch, she says she doesn’t “see the problem in a little fun stuff.” (The Kit Kat wasn’t confiscated; her son ate it.)

A Kit Kat is a crime?

We read so often about how badly most Americans eat. We go out too often, or bring in take-out, and we never make our own food. This is supposedly why we are all so fat and will die early of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We are supposedly killing our kids with the junk food we buy them or the fast food they buy with the money we give them because we are too busy working to make dinner.

Now we learn that instead of trying to encourage parents to make healthier, homemade lunch for their kids, schools are bearing down on parents with all sorts of rules for what they can and can’t send. Schools will now monitor what the kids are bringing from home and confiscate the lunch if it doesn’t comply with government-set standards.

Worse yet, some schools are banning homemade lunch altogether because the school can’t control what the kids are getting.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” said Chicago’s Little Village Academy Principal Elsa Carmona. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

But the food in school is terrible. First Lady Michelle Obama came up with new school lunch menus that are forced on public schools and students. The lunch program is so heavily subsidized that schools can hardly resist. Only it turns out that the kids hate the food (and use, ahem, colorful language to express themselves), they throw a ton of it out and are costing schools hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. Several hundred schools, in fact, have opted out of the national school lunch program because the students hated it so much and it was costing districts thousands.

“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. “So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”

Instead of fighting parents and punishing kids, educators and administrators should be grateful when kids bring their own food and encourage more parents to do the same. So what if there’s a bag of chips with the bologna sandwich. At least the school didn’t have to pay for it and the kid is getting fed. Besides, aren’t schools meant to focus more on what’s going into the kids’ brains rather than their stomachs?