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Cops Called On Mom Who Let Her 8-Year-Old Daughter Walk The Dog

Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr. - U.S. Air Force / NBC Chicago

The sight of a grade schooler walking her adorably snuggly Maltese dog around her neighborhood isn't much of a reason to panic.

But when Corey Widen, 48, let her eight-year-old daughter take the family pet for a walk last week, it sent one of her neighbors into a tizzy.

The mom from Wilmette, Illinois is sharing her story after police officers arrived at her door, and says something has to change.

"She was gone for five minutes."

Last year, Widen agreed to let her daughter (who is unnamed at Widen's request) and her teenage son get a dog, which they named Marshmallow.

Walking Marshmallow has become her daughter's responsibility, and Widen says she does the chore every day.

So Widen was stunned when a police car arrived at her home last week, and the officers asked about her daughter.

It turned out an anonymous caller had phoned them, insisting Widen's daughter had been unsupervised for an hour and a half.

"She was gone for five minutes," Widen told NBC Chicago. "I was in the backyard and I could see her through the yard."

The police quickly realized Widen's daughter was fine, and didn't press any charges.

But that didn't stop the tattletale caller from phoning again.

"A crazy waste of resources."

Corey Widen
Widen says she could see her daughter walking the dog from the window.WBBM

Two days after the police arrived at her door, Widen was visited by workers from the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.

They explained that an anonymous caller had phoned their hotline, complaining a child "five years old or less" was being left unsupervised.

"Apparently, whoever called the police didn't think the police were a good enough judge of what was not OK, and then they called DCFS," Widen told local station WBBM.

"The police did not call DCFS."

DCFS says the same caller had phoned them before, complaining that Widen's daughter was playing alone in a parking lot.

The department's own investigation concluded the calls were "unfounded," but their communications director explained they can't "control the calls that come into our hotline," and have to investigate them all seriously.

In Widen's opinion, the whole experience has been "a crazy waste of resources," and she says she feels "mom-shamed."

"You never know who did this to you and it turns your life upside down."

Christina Moon
Christina Moon almost went to jail after leaving her daughter in a car while she ran errands.Today

Of course, Widen isn't the first parent who has been shamed and scrutinized for what some people say is perfectly normal behavior.

Christina Moon, a mother from Michigan, almost faced jail time after leaving her daughter in an SUV for 15 minutes while running an errand.

Another couple were found to have committed "unsubstantiated child neglect" after letting their children walk a mile from their home to a nearby playground.

Debate over these cases, and stories from parents who feel persecuted for their parenting style, led Utah to pass a controversial "free-range parenting" law.

The new law protects parents who let their children play unsupervised, walk alone, and wait in the car without an adult.

"You never know who did this to you and it turns your life upside down," Widen said about the accusations.

"I'm a homeschooled mom and I'm always with my kids. You can accuse me of a lot of things, not supervising them is not one of them. My entire life revolves around them."

She says her daughter wants to keep walking Marshmallow, and she wants to let her. In the meantime, she's also working with a non-profit organization to reform the child welfare system.

"Everyone needs to allow the parent to do what is best for their family," Widen said. "No one will dictate my parenting choices."

Is Widen right about these allegations? Or did the anonymous caller have a point?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories.