Vancouver father to launch legal challenge against ‘helicopter parenting’

MARTHA PERKINS / VANCOUVER COURIER

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Adrian Crook wanted his children to learn how to be independent, and live a car-free urban life. He spent weeks teaching them the skills to ride the bus alone. Now the province has said they have to always be accompanied. Photograph By 5 Kids, 1 Condo

A Vancouver father’s fight to give his children the freedom to travel on a bus alone has gained widespread support.

Adrian Crook’s crowdfunding campaign to “Let Responsible Kids Take Transit” surpassed its $15,000 goal in just a week.

On his 5 Kids, 1 Condo blog, he outlines how he spent weeks helping his four oldest children — ages seven to 11 — learn the skills they need to travel to and from school by bus without him. One of his goals is “to raise capable, independent humans who prioritize sustainability and safety above the perceived convenience of cars.”

When an anonymous person complained to the Ministry of Children and Family Services that it was unsafe for the children to be unaccompanied, it prompted an investigation into his parenting skills.

“I bent over backwards to accommodate all their requests, quickly,” he writes on his blog. “Obstructing or questioning the Ministry – the people who have the power to literally take my kids away – is an unwise thing to do. So I cooperated in a cordial and swift manner, knowing that there was nothing to hide. Because, of course, there was no hiding how well the kids had adapted to bus life.”

After a weeks-long investigation, which included home visits, the ministry agreed that Crook was not being negligent. It did, however, forbid him for letting his children travel anywhere unaccompanied — even walking to the corner store.

“Their decision was based primarily on a BC case [B.R. v. K.K., 2015 BCSC] that dealt with an eight year-old staying home alone, not four kids riding the bus together. The Ministry also said that in other provinces, the legal age to be unsupervised is much higher. In fact, only three provinces have legislated minimum ages at which kids can be left home alone (and BC isn’t one of them): Ontario (16), New Brunswick (12) and Manitoba (12). Only Quebec has a statutory minimum age for being left alone in a vehicle, and that’s 7 years old.”

Crook, who owns a videogame design consulting business, says he’s always been evidence-based in his approach to decision making. He looked up statistics.

“The caseworkers further maintained that four kids taking a public bus together was more dangerous than staying home alone, an assertion debunked by statistics,” Crook writes. “In the U.S., an average of 10 school bus passengers are killed annually, versus an average of 2,300 children killed annually in the home by accidents such as choking, suffocation, drowning, submersion, falls, fires, burns and poisoning.

“Beyond that, the #1 killer of kids ages 5-14 is actually car accidents, something most parents do every day without a second thought. And the odds of your child being kidnapped by a stranger on the bus? Incredibly long. A 2003 study in Canada found just one case nationwide of a stranger abducting a child, in the entire two years prior.”

Fearing that the ministry could strip away his custody, Crook is complying with the restrictions, even though he and his children are not happy about it.

“My kids’ friends who are under 10 years old can continue to walk to school on their own, can go to the corner store alone, and can continue to ride their bikes home from day camp. But my children, who are arguably more responsible than most of their peers, cannot do any of these things until they are over 10.

“All it took was one report from a stranger to shrink our world beyond everyone else’s….

“The result in this case is the Ministry once again reinforcing the damaging trend of ‘helicopter parenting’ that robs our children of agency, independence, and responsibility. There’s no weight given to the long game of good parenting – allowing kids to earn independence at a younger age, so they turn into better humans later in life. Instead, constant supervision and prevention of all risk on a minute-by-minute basis is the government’s gold standard for parenting.”

Crook has decided to launch a legal challenge to the ministry’s decision. His GoFundMe campaign has already met its $15,000 target.