"Free Range" Parents Investigated for Child Neglect After Kids Walk Alone

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Free Range" Parents Investigated for Child Neglect After Kids Walk Alone

*The following is excerpted from an online article from USA Today.

Two Maryland parents being investigated because they allow their children to walk around their neighborhood unaccompanied were found to be responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect.

Danielle and Sasha Meitiv say they will appeal the ruling.

Danielle Meitiv said she was shocked by the finding and she has changed nothing in how she parents her two children.

Maryland Child Protective Services began investigating the Meitivs on Dec. 20 after someone called police to report that their children — Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 — were walking home from a playground about a mile from their suburban Washington home. Another caller alerted police when the children were walking from a playground two blocks from home.

A WUSA-TV report on the couple sparked a national debate about the Meitivs' parenting style, which they call "free range."

The Feb. 20 decision, which the family learned of last week but wanted to consult a lawyer on before commenting publicly, means the agency will keep a file on the family for at least five years. It also leaves open the question on what happens if someone again calls police to report that the children are walking in the area without adult supervision.

"There's no neglect anywhere here, and the fact that they couldn't just say, 'Oh, nothing to see here, folks, everything's fine,' and instead there's some judgment in a file somewhere that we are negligent parents," Danielle Meitiv said.

She believes that allowing her children unsupervised time is essential for raising independent children.

"They're learning to take little risks, like the risk of walking around the block without an adult. You know, it's just part of natural child development. I absolutely disagree that my kids are too young to do it," she said.

Maryland law prohibits children younger than age 8 from being unattended in a dwelling or car but makes no reference to outdoors. A person must be at least 13 years old to supervise a child younger than 8.

Source: USA Today