Mom's Harmless Joke About Her Toddler Triggered a CPS Investigation for Human Trafficking

Mom holding baby
Alex McDaniel/Facebook

Everybody who has ever dealt with toddlers knows they can be trying at times, and sometimes the best way to cope with their tactics is with a little comedic relief. Some parents commiserate on social media together, while others help see the humor in the situation or share hysterical anecdotes that moms can relate to. However, what happened after one Mississippi mom posted a simple joke about her 3-year-old on Twitter will have you rethinking what you ever write about those threenagers again.

  • Alex McDaniel often tweets funny conversations with her son and recently posted about a potty-training incident gone wrong.

    Alex, who is the editorial director at Oxford Newsmedia and the director of content and audience development for Magnolia State Live, often quotes her son's sassy comments -- like this failed potty-training attempt -- because she (and many others) get a kick out of it.

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  • She added an offer to her followers to buy the potty-training toddler for $12 or the best offer.

    Many understood this as a joke, and another user even pointed out that if she thinks parenting is hard now, just wait until those preteen years kick in.

  • However, not everyone saw the humor, and an anonymous person alerted Child Protective Services.

    According to Alex, an anonymous male called Mississippi's child abuse hotline to report her for attempting to traffic her child. Caseworkers along with a sheriff's deputy showed up at her office days later to alert her of the charges and ask that her child be pulled out of school so that they could see and interview him.

  • The tweet was used as evidence that there was a threat to the well-being of her child and sparked an additional home visit.

    In a message on Twitter entitled, "Parenting in the Age of Social Media: Pretend Everything Is Fine and Don't You Dare Use Humor to Cope With How Tough It Is," Alex explained her reaction to the ordeal. "While it's laughable now, at the time it was anything but. CPS wanted to come into my home to inspect it and do further interviews with my son and me to determine if there was evidence of abuse," she wrote. "Let me say right now CPS is a fantastic, hardworking agency saving kids' lives in this state in more ways than one. It would be easy for some to read this and assume I'm upset with them, which isn't the case. We all have jobs to do. They were doing theirs, regardless of how ludicrous the charge was."

  • "In CPS investigations, suspects are guilty until proven innocent. I get it," she wrote.

    Alex shared that after she worked with an attorney, the investigation was closed in a matter of days because there was "zero evidence" that she was actually trying to sell her son for $12 on Twitter. "However, the fact that anyone who presumably follows me and keeps up with my parenting vignettes would report me to CPS is not only stunning -- it's concerning .... When I started tweeting his obnoxious/hilarious quotes, I did it for other parents who know how hard this job is. Really hard," she wrote. "The challenges of managing a child and a household and a career aren't always discussed because at some point we decided as a society that parents should be judged on their bad parenting rather than focused on the good."

    Alex knows that the moments your kid "adorably defies you" and says something hysterical is a beautiful reminder that being a parent is the best thing in the world and she wanted to remind other moms and dads of that. "I didn't see it as oversharing my life for the sake of tweet. I saw it as a piece of the parenting experience that many of my followers would identify with," she wrote. "But when those pieces are used to take a person down just for the sake of doing it, I can't exactly justify sharing anything about my family, as harmless as it all seemed."

  • Alex thinks that her job as a journalist reporting on often unpopular views is what prompted the anonymous "tip" as payback.

    "I have no proof it was an attempted targeted attack against me, but we all know when you're a journalist, you either have enemies or you're not doing your job," she wrote. "To use an organization designed to protect vulnerable children as a weapon against a parent because you aren't a fan of her opinions on flags or statues or football or god knows what else is one of the lowest, most despicable things one can do. And though the entire experience has emboldened me to keep working with others in this state to speak truth to power, my son is not going to be part of it anymore."