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Don't Write About CPS

August 29, 2008 permalink

Ft Worth columnist Dave Lieber had an argument with his son that he felt he did not handle well. He made it the subject of one of his columns, copied below. The result two weeks later was his arrest on a felony charge. Lesson? It is dangerous to even write about child protection.



Posted on Fri, Aug. 15, 2008

The Watchdog: How parents can learn from serious mistakes


In this job, I talk to people about the difference between right and wrong and how to handle troubling matters.

While I learn about the matters and try to help others, I also learn about myself. I’m a human being and I make mistakes, too.

Some are stupid. Some are serious.

The other day, I made a stupid and quite serious mistake that I want to share with you.

As a parent, I understand — as do most parents — how our children can say and do things that cause us to react in an emotional way. In our household, we call it "pushing buttons." My 11-year-old son pushed mine pretty hard.

We went out to breakfast the other morning at a restaurant. As soon as he had finished eating, he demanded that we leave. But I wasn’t done. I asked him to please be patient. He refused. I told him, not asked him, to wait. Same response from him. This went on and on and on.

I sent him to another table. I tried to ignore him. But my buttons were pushed. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stormed out of the restaurant and told him to walk the few blocks home.

I got in the car and drove off.

I was gone for several minutes, long enough to calm down. I doubled back to the restaurant to pick him up. By then, two police cars and a small crowd were gathered outside.

A caring patron had called the police.

My son had given his statement. He explained what he had done. The officer asked if any blows were exchanged. None were.

The police officer gave me a stern lecture about being a responsible parent. He said that it doesn’t take more than a few minutes for something to happen to an unsupervised child. He said, "As a journalist, you know this."

My son apologized to me, and I apologized to him. The officer asked if we were OK to go home. Properly chastened, we were.

My wife rushed home early from work. She gathered us in a family huddle and sternly but tenderly began by saying, "I don’t know what the heck you two were thinking."

My thoughts are many. For one, back in the 1960s, if my parents had told me to "walk home by yourself" when I misbehaved, no one would have thought twice.

But what flew years ago doesn’t fly today. I could have exposed my son to grave danger. I do know that. But in the moment of anger, I didn’t think clearly.

Words of advice

A few hours later, I called The Parenting Center in Fort Worth. The nonprofit center has shown families in Tarrant County how to succeed through classes, counseling and home case management for more than 30 years.

"I can relate," said Pat Borgfeldt, the education program manager, after I told her what happened. "Don’t feel alone. We get calls like this all the time.

"Some parents are willing to talk about the mistakes they make, and they recognize those mistakes. There are very few people who parent perfectly. We’ve all had those days where we don’t like what we did. But learning from our mistakes is so important."

I asked what to do when, not if, we get in a standoff again.

She said that in a power struggle with a child, a parent should never take it personally. A parent must quickly brainstorm possible solutions and choose the best one. Children watch how we handle ourselves, and they learn from that.

"Conflict and anger are good signs," she said. "It’s a natural part of a relationship. It’s not bad to be angry. It’s what you do with that anger that you need to take a look at."

How do I do that? I asked.

"Take a step back. Calm yourself. It’s those moments when we’re so stressed and frustrated that we say things that we can’t take back. Once they’re out there, they are always out there. Learning good communications skills is so important for parents."

Taking that step back, I now am grateful to the other adults at the restaurant who took responsibility for the care of my son — and acted more adult than I did. I am grateful to the police officers who handled the situation with care and responsibility.

I hope my son and I learned from the experience. We both have to calm down and learn to love and live with each other better.

The Watchdog column appears Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Dave Lieber, 817-685-3830

Source: Fort Worth,

Posted on Wed, Aug. 27, 2008

S-T Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber arrested


Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber was arrested Tuesday on probable-cause warrants for child abandonment, a Watauga police spokeswoman said.

Lieber, 51, surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday morning, authorities said.

He was released on $4,000 bail.

His arrest stems from an Aug. 13 incident in which Lieber left his 11-year-old son at a Watauga McDonald’s restaurant after the two argued, said Detective Tiffany Ward, a Watauga police spokeswoman.

He was arrested on two warrants, one for child abandonment with intent to return and the other for child abandonment/endangering a child, she said. Both are felonies.

Police will refer the case to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which will determine whether to file charges.

On the advice of his attorney, Lieber declined to comment Tuesday.

Police went to the McDonald’s on the morning of Aug. 13 after a customer called 911 and reported an argument between a child and an adult, Ward said. The adult had left the child in the parking lot.

"Apparently, the child was attempting to get into the car as Mr. Lieber had exited the parking lot," Ward said.

While police were interviewing witnesses, Lieber returned to the restaurant, she said. Lieber and his son were allowed to leave, but the case was forwarded to the Watauga police criminal investigation division.

The police report did not indicate how long the child was left at the restaurant, Ward said.

Lieber wrote about the incident in an Aug. 15 column. He said he was gone for "several minutes" before he returned to the restaurant to get his son. He said he regretted his actions.

"I made a stupid and quite serious mistake," Lieber wrote.

Star-Telegram Executive Editor Jim Witt said Lieber will be suspended from writing the column while the case moves through the judicial system. "Then we’ll have to see what the result is before we make any further decisions concerning this," Witt said.

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689

Source: Fort Worth,

Note: Starting at age 7, your editor walked alone 2.7 km to school every day, and the same distance home.