Free Range Kids — Parental Neglect Or Government Overreach?

A Maryland couple raising “free range kids” has come under fire for the second time since December for child neglect. Danielle and Alexander Meitiv simply believe that their kids, ages 6 and 10, can be trusted to have the freedom to play outdoors as they did as kids. Apparently, those at Child Protective Services do not agree. So, who is right in this situation? Is it a case of parental neglect, or is the government overstepping its bounds?

“We are shocked and outraged that we have been deemed negligent for granting our children the simple freedom to play outdoors.”

According to CNN, the Meitivs, who refer to their parenting style as raising “free range kids”, were originally charged with child neglect for allowing their kids to walk home together from a park approximately a mile away from home. The charges were found to be unsubstantiated, meaning there is not enough evidence regarding the allegation.

Refusing to bow down to the pressure of CPS, Danielle and Alexander apparently continued to allow their kids to enjoy a free range lifestyle. This time, the Meitiv kids were playing at a park about two-and-a-half blocks from home, when they were picked up by police and turned over to Child Protective Services.

Personally, I would not allow kids to go that far from home without adult supervision. But that’s the beauty of parenting, isn’t it? When we have kids, we are solely responsible for the way we choose to bring them up. We are free to instill our own values, boundaries, and beliefs into our kids as we see fit. As long as we do not set out to harm our kids or grossly neglect them, the government should have no place interfering.

When I was a child, walking home from school or being free to roam the neighborhood was not called “free range” parenting, it was simply common practice. Back then, kids didn’t have the added security of cell phones as they do these days, and yet were allowed to ride a bike, walk to a friend’s house, and have a feeling of independence.

The Meitivs are outraged that their kids were taken from the park by police, detained in the cop car for hours, and turned over to CPS. No one bothered to inform the parents that their kids were in custody, so when they didn’t return home at 6:00 p.m., Danielle and Alexander began searching for the kids.

“I can’t believe we are going through this again. I can’t believe they kept the kids for hours. It’s 10:30 at night. They’ve been missing since six o’clock.”

Ten-year-old Rafi admits to being scared. Which situation caused more harm to these kids, playing together in the park, or being detained for hours by authorities?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article by columnist Petula Dvorak regarding this issue. Petula describes a scenario where her own kids were put in potential danger while playing outside.

“My kids play basketball and lacrockey (a made-up hockey/​lacrosse thing) in our alley on Capitol Hill in Washington. It’s not a suburban cul-de-sac, believe me. The other day, a motorcycle cop rode up to them and asked if they had seen a man running past them.”

“This was the search that ended on H Street in Northeast Washington with the capture of a man suspected of killing a security guard at the U.S. Census Bureau. Did I let [the kids] play in the alley again the next day? Yes.”

“Because when I drove past the fatal accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway earlier this year, I did not decide to give up driving, either. There are risks in living.”

Well said, Petula Dvorak. There are risks in living, no matter how careful we are. The term “free range kids” may seem derogatory, but when I was a kid it was simply called childhood.

Who should determine what is safe for kids these days? Should parents be free do what is best for their kids, or should the government set guidelines? What do you think about #FreeRangeKids? Share your concerns here.

[Image via UT San Diego]