Jacqui Kendrick’s kids love to mess around in the back yard. And what kind of a mother wouldn’t let them run about in the garden? It would be a shame, after all, to keep them cooped up in the wake of another long Canadian winter. Never did Kendrick dream, however, that her decision would give Child and Family Services a reason to come calling. But that, as it turned out, was exactly what happened.
Kendrick herself, meanwhile, hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and is a stay-at-home mom to three children: a boy named Jayden and two girls, Keira and Alexis. And by all appearances, she and her husband Kyle enjoy regular outdoor activities and like to have fun with their young family.
Furthermore, Kendrick’s offspring like to run around in the back yard when they come home from school, as many young children do. The Kendricks have a large garden, with wooden fences on three sides and a chain-link fence with a gate to the front. Surely a safe space, then, for children of any age?
Kendrick certainly didn’t think that it was a big deal to let her kids play in the yard, even on the rare occasions that she wasn’t able to join them. Besides, as there are large windows all across the rear of her house, it was easy for the mom-of-three to keep a close eye on her children even from the confines of her living room.
Plus, the two oldest Kendrick kids, ten-year-old Jayden and five-year-old Keira, were fully versed in what to do if a stranger happened to approach them. And their youngest daughter, 21-month-old Alexis, typically never left mom’s side.
So, as Kendrick had a safe and secure back yard and was able to keep a watchful eye on her children as they played, she thought that everything was fine. That was, until she received an unforeseen visitor one day in April 2016: a representative of the local Child and Family Services (CFS) department.
In spring 2016, an individual described by CFS as a “concerned citizen” raised an alarm with the watchdog. Apparently, a complaint had been issued over the “well being” of the Kendrick children. And that was a situation Kendrick addressed in a Facebook status she posted on April 8.
In an open letter, Kendrick wrote, “You decided that because you couldn’t see me… that my children were neglected. You called CFS and made a complaint about my children’s well being.” It was a scenario that left the mom baffled and asking a lot of unanswered questions.
“Why?” Kendrick continued in her Facebook post. “Because they were enjoying the outdoors? They weren’t in any distress. They were playing nicely with each other.” And, as it turned out, the CFS employee’s visit proved more then just a mere drop-in to check that Kendrick’s kids were okay. In fact, what happened next would leave the devoted mom very upset.
Indeed, the supposed “concerned citizen” had triggered a full-on investigation into Kendrick’s capabilities as a mother. The CFS had then sent an intake worker to the Kendrick household. And the questions the representative started to ask would reduce Kendrick to tears.
Specifically, the CFS is a regulatory authority that has the power to remove children from situations in which it feels that kids are being neglected or abused. So, to determine whether Kendrick’s little ones were in any such danger, the worker was obliged to investigate further.
“We had to go through a whole interview asking so many questions,” Kendrick would recall to CTV in April 2016. “[She was] asking me about if we’ve ever dealt with CFS before, what my childhood was like, how I punish my children, whether we drink or do drugs…”
Kendrick continued in the interview with CTV, “She had to look to see where my kids slept. She had to see if we had enough food in the house. The whole time I’m sitting there, pretty much in tears, because I couldn’t understand what was going on.” It was an occasion, the mom wrote in her Facebook post, that was both “embarrassing and degrading” to her.
After the questioning, however, Kendrick felt satisfied that the CFS worker left knowing the children were being cared for correctly. And, fortunately, she heard nothing more about the incident after the visit. Nevertheless, she still wondered why her “concerned” neighbor hadn’t simply addressed her directly about the situation.
“I am a good parent. My kids are well taken care of,” Kendrick wrote in her Facebook post. But the incident still had its repercussions. “The worker is also going to go talk to my kids at their school,” she added. “So now the school will know that we are dealing with CFS. All because I let my kids play outside!”
In addition, Kendrick stressed on Facebook that either she or her husband would usually play outside with the children. However, there were rare instances when the kids wanted to mess around outdoors when both parents were busy. And she didn’t stop them – especially as she had taught her offspring to be responsible and independent.
Indeed, Kendrick continued to CTV, “Sometimes they want to be out there when I can’t. I would rather them be outside in the fresh air getting exercise than inside watching TV or playing on their tablets.”
“We’ve taught both the [older] kids so far that you look after each other,” Kendrick further explained to the station. “My ten-year-old is very responsible. We’ve taught the older ones already the whole stranger-danger, and they know what to do. When my five-year-old’s out there, she knows she’s not supposed to go up to the gates.”
And it’s worth noting that although CFS Manitoba has ruled that only children aged 12 and over may remain at home unsupervised, there is no minimum recommended age for kids playing unsupervised in the yard. But while CFS found no reason for concern at the Kendricks’ home, the file on the report has not been deleted completely. Kendrick is concerned, then, about the future of her kids should any similarly unjustified complaints be made about her in the future.
However, the mom has remained unrepentant about letting her children play in the yard without an adult present. “We will not be bullied into changing our parenting style just because someone doesn’t think it’s appropriate,” she told Today in April 2016, adding, “I never claimed to be a perfect parent and I will make mistakes, but I love my kids with all my heart and I would never do something to hurt them.”