When you were a kid, would anyone have thought that your parents were neglecting you by “letting” you walk home from school? My guess is, that that’s just the way it was. Everyone walked. You felt safe and didn’t even think so much about the risks, because fear wasn’t something that was constantly being shoved down your throat by the media.
These days, statistically speaking, things are safer today than they were fifty years ago. Yes, terrible things happen, but the difference is that the media fixate on these terrible crimes, and it has the effect of making their viewers scared to death to even walk down their own driveway to get their mail.
One family in Maryland, the Meitivs, wanted their kids, 10 and 6, to be able to walk home by themselves one day. It was only a mile away. Their dad Alexander dropped them off at the park so that they could play a little, and then they said that they would walk home when they were done. They had walked by themselves to places before, so this wasn’t the first time. According to the parents, they wouldn’t have let them walk home from the park if they thought they weren’t ready yet.
They practice a form a parenting called “free-range” parenting. They want their kids to have the childhood that they had, one where they learned to be independent and get around on their own. Basically, if you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, you were a “free-range” kid.
So, on their way home from the park, the two kids got about half-way before a police officer stopped them and asked them if their house was nearby. They responded that it was just down the road, but the police officer insisted on taking them the rest of the way and having a little chat with the parents.
The police officer decided to open a case with Child Protective Services, because allowing your kids to walk a mile home from the park constituted “neglect.” The Washington Post reported:
Alexander said he had a tense time with police on Dec. 20 when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world.
The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services, he said, which showed up a couple of hours after the police left.
Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she could not comment on cases but that neglect investigations typically focus on questions of whether there has been a failure to provide proper care and supervision.
The Meitivs say that on Dec. 20, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. At first he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer, his wife said, but changed his mind when he was told his children would be removed if he did not comply.
Following the holidays, the family said, CPS called again, saying the agency needed to inquire further and visit the family’s home. Danielle [Mrs. Meitiv] said she resisted.
“It seemed such a huge violation of privacy to examine my house because my kids were walking home,” she said.
“I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing,” Alexander said. “We feel we’re being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with.”
Danielle Meitiv wrote Reason.com and relayed to them the whole story. At the end of her letter, she wrote:
“My husband grew up in the former Soviet Union. Now he wonders if we have to just go along with whatever the authorities want us to do. I keep reminding him that we have RIGHTS in this country and that neither the police nor the bureaucrats can arbitrarily dismiss them.”