Should Balloon Boy Parents Lose Kids?

The Heene family's saga of a loose balloon and a 6-year-old boy riveted the nation last week. The boy was found unhurt, but the saga continues as new questions surface -- this time of child welfare -- amid police statements that the entire balloon incident was a hoax.

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Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor, addressed on "The Early Show" a growing concern for the family: Can they stay together?

Murphy said parents, Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi, don't have to be charged with a crime in order for Protective Services to come in and take their children away.

"All they have to have is evidence of neglect or abuse," she said. "And boy, I think they've got plenty of that here."

She said that's because the Heene parents seem to have subjected their children to participation this fraud.

Falcon Heene, the so-called "balloon boy" was believed to be inside a silver flying-saucer shaped homemade balloon last week as it flew across 50 miles across two counties.

Slideshow: Bizarre "Balloon Boy" Story

The drama played out on live television to millions of viewers worldwide. When the balloon landed without the boy in it, officials thought he had fallen out and began grim search for his body.

However, the balloon -- which was held together with duct tape -- reportedly would not have been able to launch with the 37-pound-boy inside.

Falcon's whereabouts during the balloon's flight are unknown. Following the flight, he was initially "found" to be hiding in the family's attic.

Murphy said if the Heene's made their child participate even in a minor crime, that's "pretty serious."

She said, "That's when Child Protective Services is likely to get involved whether they're charged or not and we're hearing that they will, in fact, be charged."

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced Sunday that he's seeking charges, including felonies, in the case. Two of the four proposed charges are class 4 felonies, each carrying possible sentences of six years in jail and fines up to $500,000, reports CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

Murphy also attributed Falcon's vomiting on national television to his emotional distress at participating in the fraud.

She said, "(The Heene children) may want to stay with their parents, so sometimes Protective Services has to do what doesn't feel very good for the kids, because they should take them out of a family that's exploiting them, and causing them harm."

And, in a larger sense, Murphy said the industry isn't good at protecting the children from exploitation in family reality television.

The story of Falcon floating away in a giant helium balloon was a hoax, authorities said Sunday, concocted to land a reality television show.

The Heene children were also broadcast on the ABC show "Wife Swap" in March 2009.

Murphy said, "People will literally sell the well-being of their children. It's a supply and demand problem that the business wants and the families certainly enjoy the money."

"We really do need the law to step in and provide better controls," she added. "It's often too late to get involved after the children have been exploited, say, 'Oh, now that these children have been harmed, let's go in and take them away from their families.' It might make more sense to create some regulations around this to make sure that the exploitation never happens to begin with."
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