When Did It Become A Crime To Let Your Kids Go Somewhere Alone?

Grand Potentate

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Anyone following this bullshit? I hate children, so its obviously not on my radar, but I couldn't believe the horseshit these two families were being put through just for letting their kids walk a mile from home by themselves.

‘Unsubstantiated’ child neglect finding for free-range parents - The Washington Post

‘Unsubstantiated’ child neglect finding for free-range parents

By Donna St. George March 2

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.


“What will happen next time?” she asked. “We don’t know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again.”

The case dates to Dec. 20, when police picked up the two Meitiv children walking in Silver Spring on a Saturday afternoon after someone reported them. The parents said that they gradually let the pair take walks on their own and that their children knew the area, which is along busy Georgia Avenue.

The Meitivs said they would not have allowed the one-mile outing from Woodside Park to their home if they did not feel their children were up to it. The siblings made it halfway before police stopped them.

The Meitivs’ decision letter, dated Feb. 20, said the CPS investigation had been completed and would be closed. It cited a finding of unsubstantiated child neglect and made note of an appeals process.

Montgomery County Child Protective Services officials referred calls Monday to state officials. Paula Tolson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources, said the state cannot comment on specific cases because of confidentiality requirements.

Tolson said as a general practice, CPS officials in Maryland reach one of three possible findings after neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated.

An unsubstantiated finding is typically made when CPS has some information supporting a conclusion of child neglect, or when seemingly credible reports are at odds with each other, or when there is insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion, she said.

Tolson said a conference involving a CPS supervisor is the first step of the appeals process in cases of unsubstantiated neglect. It can often resolve some issues, she said.

Asked how authorities would respond if the children were reported again for walking unsupervised, she said CPS would become involved if a complaint was made about the safety of the children. In such cases, “if we get a call from law enforcement or from a citizen, we are required to investigate. Our goal is the safety of children, always.”

The Meitivs’ case has produced strong reactions about what constitutes responsible parenting, how safe children really are and whether the government overstepped its role.

The Meitivs, both scientists by training, embrace a “free-range” philosophy of parenting, believing that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to make choices, build independence and progressively experience the world on their own.

Though children have played unsupervised for generations, the so-called “free-range” movement goes back to 2008, when New York journalist Lenore Skenazy wrote a piece titled “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.”

Skenazy, who developed a following for pushing back against what many see as a culture of helicopter parenting, said Monday that the Meitiv case follows others that raise similar issues but that it became the “walk heard round the world.”

“I think it has shifted the national narrative,” she said, suggesting that people have reacted with more concern about government intrusion and less focus on predator danger.

“The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’ ”

Russell Max Simon, co-founder of Empower Kids Maryland, created just after the Meitiv case became public in January, called the CPS decision “flat-out ridiculous” for holding parents responsible for an unsubstantiated claim.

“All of us were hoping sanity would prevail and they would drop it,” he said. “My feeling is that CPS should not have been involved in this in the first place.”

[Parents investigated for neglect after letting kids walk home alone]

The Meitivs received the CPS letter last week, they said, but consulted with a lawyer before speaking publicly.

Danielle Meitiv said when she first read the decision, she felt numb. As she reread it, she recalled turning to her husband and saying: “Oh my God, they really believe we did something wrong.”

“I was kind of horrified,” she said, adding: “You try as a parent to do what’s right. Parents try so hard. Even though I know they are wrong, it’s a painful judgment.”

She said that while the terminology of being “found responsible” for “unsubstantiated child neglect” is difficult to interpret, she and her husband do not feel they have been cleared in the case. She called the decision inconceivable and outrageous.

“There’s no question this is some kind of finding against us,” she said.

The Meitivs say they have let their children walk together to a park a block away, to a nearby 7-Eleven and to a library three-quarters of a mile from their house. Lately the children walk home from their school bus stop.

They say that when CPS started its investigation, on the day of their children’s walk from the park, Alexander Meitiv was asked to sign a form saying he would not leave the children unsupervised until CPS followed up. When he resisted, saying he wanted to talk to a lawyer, he was told that if he did not sign, the children would be removed, the Meitivs said.

CPS officials have said they are guided in part by a state law that says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13. The law addresses children locked or confined in a building, dwelling, motor vehicle or other enclosed space, but does not mention children outdoors on a walk.

Danielle Meitiv said that in spite of the decision, her children played at a nearby park by themselves Monday, when schools were closed for the snow day. They came home with a lost dog, and the family found its owner.
 
Then I found this letter a parent wrote to Salon:

“Help! My boys were stopped three times by police for being outside unsupervised” - Salon.com

Tuesday, Mar 24, 2015 06:59 PM EDT
“Help! My boys were stopped three times by police for being outside unsupervised”
Another mom grows incensed by a parenting culture gone mad, but we have to turn frustration into connection

Recently, I got a letter that made me want to scream: A kid was stopped by the cops for riding his bike on a three-house street! But this exchange ends with … well, you’ll see. I learned something. Maybe we all will.

I changed the names to keep the author and her town anonymous.

Dear Lenore:

Here’s a situation that has been ongoing for several months, and we’re in shock. We’re fortunate that so far, nothing worse has happened to us than a few uncomfortable conversations with cops, and the fact that now our kids are afraid to go past the boundaries of our (very tiny) yard without an adult for fear of being accosted again. Here’s the rough outline:

Several months ago, youngest son (age 6) was accosted by an officer for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in front of our house (our block is three houses wide — he was riding from one end of the block to the other). The officer told my husband, who was home at the time, that our son wasn’t allowed to play on the sidewalk “without supervision.” He had apparently received a call from a “concerned citizen” who had seen him riding. In this case, the officer was aggressive and frightened us into thinking we might actually have broken some law. A little research showed that we had done no such thing, but we were shaken.

A few weeks later, I walked our middle son (age 10 at the time, now 11) halfway to the library, which is about six blocks from our house through a safe neighborhood, across no major roads, with a middle school smack in the center of the route. I let him take the second half of the route alone while I walked on to work (we live in a small town and my office is only several blocks from our house).

Just as I arrived at work, I received a call from a police officer. He had detained my son. He launched into an explanation of why it was dangerous for him to be out by himself. I explained that Danny had our permission, that we knew where he was, and that I appreciated the advice but that Danny was to be permitted to continue on his way. The officer replied with, “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come down here.” I did, and when I arrived I received a lecture about safety, and then walked my son the rest of the way to the library (because he was now afraid to walk alone). He walked home alone safely, perhaps because I had let the officer know that he would be walking past the school again, and that he would be just fine.

Despite our best efforts to allay their fears, our children now won’t leave our property without our company, out of the legitimate fear that they will be stopped by police. Our youngest son (now 7) won’t even play in the front yard alone. He no longer rides his bike because there is nowhere flat to ride it unless one of us is able to make the time to go with him to the park (less than a block from our house).

Yesterday, James (my husband) finally talked the 11-year-old into giving it another go, and walking to the convenience store that is two blocks from our house, with a traffic light/crosswalk across the main street (just a two-lane road, but fairly busy). He sent him with money and asked him to pick up a couple things for us and a treat for himself.

Because of our son’s anxiety, James followed at a distance, just out of sight, in case Danny got scared and decided to come back.

Danny made it approximately halfway there (one block) before being accosted by a police officer who said a “concerned citizen” had called about an unattended child. By the time James caught up, the officer had taken down Danny’s address and had just asked for his dad’s phone number. The officer in this case was kind and did not offer a lecture, but both the officer and the convenience store clerk agreed that “someone was looking out for” our son, i.e., the “concerned citizen” who called in the case.

To the credit of our tiny town, the assistant city manager has seen my Facebook posts and responded appropriately. After the first two incidents, he had the deputy chief of police call me and discuss the situation. The deputy agreed to send an email to his department instructing them how to handle these situations in the future (presumably, with less heavy-handedness).

After this last incident, the assistant city manager contacted me again and asked to have the city manager call me. We have not had that call yet.

As for us, we’re deciding whether to:

a. Move somewhere else (we’d have to wait out the lease on our house and my office, both of which we just renewed in February)

b. Make a stink (so much time and energy, and we’re still recovering from the recession — I work 60-hour weeks, James home-schools the kids and works part-time from home)

c. Lay low

In the wake of what’s happening with the Meitiv family, I’m inclined to put up a big fight. I’m a professional writer with a robust network, so I feel I could make a difference–not only for us, but on a larger scale, for other families too, maybe for the country as a whole. You’re already doing so much, and it can’t hurt to have more voices. But man, the investment. I just don’t know.

Anyway. Thank you for all you do for Free-Range and commonsense parents everywhere.

– Leslie

Dear Leslie:

Where do you live? And can I publish this? If so, it will probably go viral. You would probably be interviewed by the media is my guess. Let me know if that’s something you would want.

I’m on your side no matter what. My new push is for the “Free-Range Kids’ and Parent’s Bill of Rights,” which states that kids have the right to some unsupervised time (with their parents’ permission) and parents have the right to give it to them, without fear of government intervention. — Lenore

What happened to you is just nuts.

– Lenore

P.S. How many police officers does your town have???

Dear Lenore:

Ha! The short answer to how many police we have is: Twice as many as we need.

I’m giving thought to your earlier email. My concern is that I don’t want to irrevocably create an adversarial relationship with our town’s leaders (I know several of them personally, and one of my friends and fellow business owners was just elected to the city council) by calling negative national attention to our town.

I had another thought, that will take a little more strategizing. I’ve got a call with the city manager in the near future. What if we could transform our lovely little town into a model for an evidence-based “safe haven” for kids to grow in health and independence, by making our neighborhoods old-fashioned safe zones? We might not call it a “Free-Range” town, but that’s what it could amount to. It would at minimum involve community education, the backing of the town leadership, and perhaps a little encouragement from national publicity.

It’s clear that our town has the community involvement necessary (seriously, it’s a super-involved community — you wouldn’t believe how many community activities occur every weekend in the downtown park, and how packed it is … and then the parades … and the city vision committee meetings). People here care about kids (hence, I suppose, the calling the cops on us constantly, heh). Maybe we can align those two things with evidence, and make something wonderful.

I don’t think that can happen if I bring my unbridled frustration to national attention before having a dialogue with town leadership.

I welcome your thoughts.

– Leslie

Dear Leslie:

You’re right. There’s more progress to be made by banding together than by public embarrassment (which, aside from being cruel, can cause people to dig in their heels). I feel that if you showed your letter to your friend who is on the city council, or even to the chief of police, it would become obvious to them that this is not the kind of thing that should be happening. Also, show them this. The Times of London has just declared “Free-Range villages” to be the most desirable places to live IN ALL OF BRITAIN.

You could raise property values AND get fantastic national attention by deliberately deciding that the police and the citizens will all be looking out for kids in a way that lets them know they are SAFE outside — the community is watching out for them (not investigating their parents)!

Talk about win win win win win.

You’d get national attention, but for being progressive and brilliant. And I KNOW someone will say, “But if the predators know that kids are outside, they will come here!”

You have to remind them that crime is at a 50-year low and that kids in your town were always outside until recently, and that you are not going to keep kids cooped up and fat and depressed — and turn parents into criminals —for the sake of worrying about the boogeyman, when you are actually TELLING the boogeymen: If you come to our town, all the cops and all the “concerned citizens” will POUNCE on you because we look OUT for our kids!

Does this make sense?

– Lenore

Dear Lenore:

Yes yes yes!! All of that!! This makes my day. Yes, this is what I want. Thank you.

And that is where we leave “Leslie” now. I will update you when she updates me. Meantime, I hope that this kind of frustration-turning-to-connection can take place all across America. It just may. I imagine a day when towns will compete to prove which one is more Free-Range, with more neighbors looking out for each other and more kids playing outside.

The revolution begins.
 
A 10 year old is in fourth grade or so. Plenty old to walk home from school, so what's the problem of walking elsewhere?
The kid riding his bike on the sidewalk should have been instructed that sidewalks are for foot traffic and vehicles go on the street.

The state is just trying to program limited mobility and dependance and supervision into the populace.
 
Surveillance of adults is perfected but since kids don't have iPhones or iWatches yet the state needs parents to proxy surveil them. Fox guarding henhouse.
 
This is one of the points I side with the Randroid Narcissistic Nutcases and cry "Nanny State".

After all the ugly truth is - all around the world - you are in many many times more danger of being murdered and/or sexually assaulted within your own family or the church than by some random stranger.

But just as the anti vaxers reject rational logic, the facts and the scientific method in favour of astrology, burning candles, homeopathy, organic food, reiki and positive thinking/wishing things were so, so does the media and most idiot parents when it comes to protecting children.
 
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The US is such a weird country. You guys have created a culture based on fear for yourselves. An 11 year old can't walk two blocks to the store by himself?!

When I was 11 I went to a school in another town 10 miles away, and I biked there myself every day. I also biked to the beach, about 3 miles, with friends and stayed there the whole day. All of my friends were allowed to go anywhere they wanted, as long as we'd be back before dinner time or notify our parents on time if we'd be staying over at a friend's house.

Europe has its problems, but at least we aren't as messed up as you guys.
 
As I have gotten older, I have noticed how the overprotectiveness of children becomes increasingly demented with the passing of years. Heavens, when I was about 10 years old, I would walk a half mile to the streetcar stop, ride the streetcar three or four miles to the county museum, hang out there for several hours, and then ride and walk home. I think my family thought it was a bit adventuresome of me, but it was no big deal. I will mention that the museum was located in a predominantly black district, but black people weren't deemed nearly so scary back in the early '50s.
 
As I have gotten older, I have noticed how the overprotectiveness of children becomes increasingly demented with the passing of years. Heavens, when I was about 10 years old, I would walk a half mile to the streetcar stop, ride the streetcar three or four miles to the county museum, hang out there for several hours, and then ride and walk home. I think my family thought it was a bit adventuresome of me, but it was no big deal. I will mention that the museum was located in a predominantly black district, but black people weren't deemed nearly so scary back in the early '50s.

It all jumped the shark for me when kids started riding their bikes with helmets.
 
Some towns it's illegal for anyone to ride a bike without a helmet and can get fined by police. I guess a kid doing so could get the parent charged with neglect.
 
Three strikes and the state takes the kids huh. Looks like the cops may be out on the prowl to catch them for the third strike.
 
6 year old aboriginal boy in foster care (aboriginal child care agency on reserve not the government). Foster mom gets a jones for some bingo and heads to the hall with the kid in tow. Tells the kid to play outside with the other kids. She comes out and can't find him. A search of the reserve turns up his dead body. Beaten to death by a 10 year old in foster care. Birth parents are outraged. Outrage should be against them because no one is calling them on why was the kid in foster care in the first place. Outrage should be directed to the aboriginal agency for doing a worse job than the Governemnt which i thought was impossible.

The little murderer is too young to be charged.

The perfect crime. All victims no guilty parties.
 
It all jumped the shark for me when kids started riding their bikes with helmets.
As an adult that voluntarily wears a helmet when cycling, I'd say that being aware of the cranial damage one can get from falling a few feet is not to be taken lightly. I'm pretty sure it's state law for kids up to some age but kids seem to not wear them correctly (way back on head, chin strap floppy loose) so they are pointless.
I could argue both ways on the car safety seats. I cringe when I see kids (underclass immigrants, usually) jumping around in back seats, but then there is the issue that I can't give relatives rides anywhere because stupid law and I ain't buying expensive rarely-used equipment to tote a kid a couple miles every few months.
 
When I was in elementary Catholic school(1st to 8th grade), my older sis(by 2 years) and I would walk to school appr 11 blocks away. I also have a younger brother(by 5 years) and sister(by 7.) When they started, they would either walk with me or solo.

No one complained. Everyone did it. We either walked alone or met up with other kids on the way.

My mom would have laughed if anyone expected her to walk us to and from school every day. I believe she did it on the first day of school and then she just left us on her own and she went to work.

Pretty basic back in the days(without cell phones, etc.)
 
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