I think if the rules that apply to parents today regarding how much independence they grant their child were in effect back then, either they would have been sent to jail or I would have grown up in the foster care system.
They actually have a name for it; “free range parenting” — as if kids were cattle allowed to roam the open range with no supervision. The term is pushback against “helicopter” parenting, but the fact that an entire movement had to be created to recognize the independence of children shows you just how far we’ve come as a society.
We’ve read several horror stories in recent months about mothers being arrested for letting their child walk to and from a park or leaving them alone for a few hours while they went to work. I think, as in all cases, the age of the child should be considered as well as the neighborhood in which the child lives.
But really, what is the problem with the state when they come down on parents who give their kids a little unsupervised freedom?
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.
I am an old curmudgeon and set in my views but from the time I was about 7 years old, I could walk or ride my bike anywhere in town. My parents were careful with their repeated instructions; don’t talk to strangers, don’t get into strange cars, the policemen are your friends, stay on the sidewalk, etc. If a 7 year old child can’t understand those simple rules, they are developmentally disabled and should be kept at home anyway.
In this case, the older sibling was easily capable of watching out for his 6 year old sister. Silver Spring, MD is a mixed race, middle-upper middle class unincorporated area in one of the richest counties in the country — Montgomery County, MD. The median family income is $84,000. No doubt there are neighborhoods where parents would be smart enough to forbid their children from walking a mile unsupervised. But the decision to put the parents into the meat grinder of the child protective services system was completely arbitrary.
The founder of the free range parenting movement had some interesting observations about this case:
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.’ ”
Many years ago, people rightly scoffed at Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book It Takes a Village. The major problem today appears to be that anyone in that village who wants to stick their noses into how someone else raises their kids, feels perfectly justified in doing so and is enabled by a child protective services bureaucracy that creates draconian policies to punish parents who want to teach their children to be independent.
It’s time for the pendulum to swing back and parents who are fanatics about not letting their kids out of their sights and controlling every aspect of their lives being the ones prosecuted for child abuse.