A B.C. single father-of-five can no longer leave his school-age children unattended on public transit after the Ministry of Children and Family Development received an anonymous complaint.
Adrian Crook's four eldest children, aged seven to 11, take two buses every day from their downtown Vancouver home to their school in North Vancouver. Crook took great care to teach his children how to ride the bus alone — a lengthy process that he says took two years.
"We went from one year doing both bus rides with me, to for six months doing just the latter bus ride on their own, to then for just a few months doing the entire trip on their own," he told Global News.
Additionally, the children always carried a cellphone with them on their 30-minute commute in case of emergencies.
The father was told that children under 10 cannot be unsupervised "in the community, at home, or on transit."
Crook's kids have been taking the bus alone since last spring and have not encountered any issues thus far. But unfortunately, an anonymous rider recently reported the unsupervised children to the MCFD, leading to an investigation.
The father was surprised that his children were reported, as he previously spoke to a transit operator who informed him that there was no age limit for children to ride the bus alone.
— 5 Kids 1 Condo (@5kids1condo) September 5, 2017
However, after analyzing the situation, the MCFD ruled that Crook's children required supervision at all times while on public transit. More specifically, the father was told that children under 10 cannot be unsupervised "in the community, at home, or on transit."
Additionally, a child cannot be responsible for younger children without an adult present until they reach the age of 12, is deemed responsible and has taken a babysitter's course.
Our family's freedom of mobility has been dramatically restricted for little reason beyond the complaint of an anonymous person.
On his blog 5 Kids 1 Condo, Crooks spoke frankly about the incident. "It makes me wonder why there's even a bus stop in front of our school at all, if the majority of the school can be forbidden from using it," he wrote.
"The Ministry has no incentive or ability to dismiss a report or allow a situation to continue — regardless of how many steps a parent has taken to ensure the safety and well-being of their children," he continued. "Our family's freedom of mobility has been dramatically restricted for little reason beyond the complaint of an anonymous person."
There are only three provinces that have age limits for when children can be left alone, and B.C. isn't one of them, Global News reports. In Manitoba and New Brunswick, the age limit is 12.
Ontario's Child, Youth and Family Services Act, on the other hand, states that no child under the age of 16 should be left unattended "without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances."
Crooks says the unrealistic belief that the world is unsafe is causing parents to be unnecessarily protective of their children, which takes away their independence.
It's never been a safer time to be a child in Canada than it is now. The likelihood of getting kidnapped by a stranger is one in 14 million.
Developmental psychologist Dr. Mariana Brussoni, of the University of British Columbia, agrees. "It's never been a safer time to be a child in Canada than it is now," she told CTV. "The likelihood of getting kidnapped by a stranger is one in 14 million."
Crooks isn't the first parent to get flack for letting his kids take transit alone. In 2015, mom Lenore Skenazy, who runs the blog Free-Range Kids, received huge backlash for letting her nine-year-old ride the New York subway alone.
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"I don't believe kids need a security detail every time they leave the house," she wrote in an article for The Washington Post. "When society thinks they do — and turns that fear into law — loving, rational parents get arrested."
Crooks is now fundraising to appeal for a legal change when it comes to "children's freedom of mobility by public transit in Canada."
"Constant supervision and prevention of all risk on a minute-by-minute basis is the government's gold standard for parenting," he wrote on his blog. "Society then wonders why our kids grow up needing us at every step, unable to navigate college admissions or job interviews without a chaperone."
Crooks hopes his efforts will help let kids of all ages take public transit on their own in the near future.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated that the age kids in Ontario can be left unsupervised is 16. The article has been updated to clarify that Ontario's Child, Youth and Family Services Act states that parents cannot leave children aged 16 and under unattended "without making provision for his or her supervision."
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