A couple in Michigan recently experienced the nightmare of having their six children taken from them by authorities and placed in foster care -- because they took them camping.

Christopher and Antonia Hernandez had planned an extended camping trip with their kids, ages 17, 15, 6, 4, 2 and seven months that would last for the duration of the summer, depending on whether or not Christopher was called home for surgery (he was to donate a kidney to his mother).

They had spent nine days enjoying the outdoors and each other's company, using nearby state park facilities, to which they had purchased passes, in order to ensure the kids were properly bathed and cared for. Their quarters were even spacious -- two of the three tents they were using were huge nine-person ones.

This relocation, while extended, was far from permanent; the family also owns a brick-and-mortar home.

But because they were "living" in tents -- which, without running water or electricity, does not legally qualify as a home -- for an extended period of time, state officials removed the children from their parents' custody and placed them with foster families.

Christopher and Antonia said in a joint statement:

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. Taking children from families needs to be limited to clear cases of neglect and abuse. It should be every parent's right to raise their children as they see fit, unless the government can prove that what the parent is doing is actually harming the child.

The children were taken on May 19, and returned on June 10, but only because the family was able to prove its eligibility for enrollment in the Tlingit Native American Tribe. According to Off the Grid News:

The federal Indian Child Welfare Act makes it more difficult for state officials to separate Native American families. Michigan has a similar state law. If the family had not had the Tlingit link, the case still would be ongoing, with the children still in foster care.

The report went on to say that, nevertheless, "the removal should never have taken place."