The mom says she was ‘mom-shamed’ after neighbor calls police on her parenting
An Illinois mom says she was “mom-shamed” for allowing her 8-year-old daughter to walk the family dog alone in their neighborhood. After a neighbor called the police — and then child services — on the mother, she’s speaking out about the ordeal.
Corey Widen, mom to Dorothy, says she was just trying to teach her daughter a little independence and responsibility — a lesson that ended with an investigation from local police and child services. During an appearance on Good Morning America, Widen says she could see her daughter out of her front window for most of the little girl’s walk around their suburban Chicago neighborhood.
Not long after Dorothy returned with the family dog, Marshmallow, police came knocking on the Widens’ door. Apparently, a neighbor called to report that a child — incorrectly assumed to be five years old — was walking the dog alone. Wilmette Police Chief Kyle Murphy tells The Washington Post that after meeting with Corey and Dorothy, he determined there was no wrongdoing on the mother’s part. But, understandably, the visit from police rattled the mother and daughter.
“I was like really scared,” Dorothy says. “I saw the police just there, like the police’s car and I heard the like sirens going off.” Unfortunately, the police visit wasn’t enough to satisfy the neighbor’s concern, because the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services received a call as well. An investigation into the Widen family was open for almost two weeks.
DCFS eventually closed the case, also unable to find any evidence of negligence or wrongdoing. Widen feels the whole situation grew out of control, and that it should never have happened in the first place. “The initial call was for an unattended 5-year-old, and once they knew I didn’t even have a 5-year-old, it should have stopped there,” she tells ABC News. “I don’t think it should have made it past the hotline that a little girl walking her dog needs to be investigated.”
This is a very touchy subject for parents everywhere — finding the balance between letting our children be independent and keeping them safe at the same time. When I turned eight, I was finally allowed to ride my bike a few blocks away from our house by myself. Usually, my dad and baby sister would trail behind, letting me feel independent but keeping an eye on me just the same. It’s similar to what this mom did, by letting her little girl walk alone while still keeping an eye on her from the house.
Parents who do try to give their kids tiny freedoms like this aren’t wrong. Parents who aren’t ready for these little freedoms aren’t wrong. It all depends on the child, the parents, the neighborhood — finding this balance looks different for every family and is absolutely situational.
After the incident and the attention her family received afterward, locally and nationally, Widen shared her frustrations that law enforcement resources were “wasted” in the process.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” she says. “You don’t know every situation, you don’t know every child. When you do things like this, you overwhelm an already overwhelmed system with nuisance calls like this, and kids and families who really need help don’t get it then.”