A Michigan family nearly lost their children to Child Protective Services for taking them camping.
Christopher and Antonia Hernandez decided to take their six children camping for the summer. They felt a summer spent camping would be a great way for their children to experience the outdoors. The trip would also serve as a trial run since the family was considering moving off the grid permanently.
The site they selected was on 10 acres of land they were in the process of purchasing. The family set up several tents for storage, cooking, and sleeping areas. They purchased chickens, turkeys, and ducks to help provide food for the family and set up their home away from home.
Problems arose on May 19.
The couple was away from camp purchasing food and supplies, while their 15-year-old son looked after the other children. When they returned, they found Otsego County Sheriffs Department officers and an agent from Child Protective Services claiming they’d received reports of squatters. The family later provided documentation that they had permission to be on the property.
The CPS agent made allegations against the family and their camp, stating that it was not a “stable living environment” and that the family had no water or electricity. What they failed to mention was that the Hernandez’s camp was equipped with a propane cook stove, six five-gallon water containers, solar lights, and a generator.
The children were taken into protective custody of the state.
The children were finally allowed to return home on June 10 after the family won a court ruling based on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Antonia and the children are members of Tlingit Native American tribe and the law makes it difficult for government agencies to take Native American children from their parents.
If Antonia had not been Native American, the case would still be ongoing and the children would be in foster care.
In a joint statement Christopher and Antonia said,
The government has tried to standardize what a home is and what a home must have, without consideration for if the children’s needs are being met or not. This was not a case of neglect, but a case of the government telling us how we have to raise our children — that we must have running water, we must have electricity and we can’t stay in a tent for the summer. To the government it makes no difference if the children are happy and healthy. We need to conform to their idea of normal or they can take your children away.
The case has been closed, the children and their parents have been reunited, and the family has returned to their home.
The family has decided to not return to the property.