‘Free Range’ Parents Found Responsible for Child Neglect After Allowing Kids to Walk Home Alone
(SILVER SPRING, Md.) — A Maryland couple who was being investigated for allowing their two children to walk home alone from a neighborhood park have been “found responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect” by the state’s Child Protective Services.
Maryland Child Protective Services began investigating Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Silver Spring, Maryland, for practicing so-called “free-range parenting,” a philosophy that encourages children to have some independence.
In the Meitivs’ case, this means they allow their two children, Rafi and Dvora, ages 10 and 6, to play outside and walk home by themselves.
The couple told ABC’s Nightline in an email Tuesday that they found out the results of the CPS investigation last week.
“We are shocked and outraged that we have been deemed negligent for granting our children the simple freedom to play outdoors. We fully intend to appeal,” Danielle Meitiv said via email. “We also have no intention of changing our parenting approach.”
The Meitivs told Nightline in an interview that aired in January that they trust their children and want to give them the freedom to make mistakes, away from the parental safety net.
“I’m just parenting the way I was parented and the way that almost every adult I know was parented,” Danielle told Nightline at the time.
But that all changed after the Montgomery County Police stopped the kids in December as they were walking home from a park without an adult and gave them a stern warning.
Maryland Child Protective Services then accused the Meitivs of neglect, saying unless they committed to a safety plan, the kids would have to go into foster homes. In Silver Spring, leaving anyone under age 18 unsupervised constitutes neglect.
Suddenly, this middle-class suburban family found themselves smack in the middle of a national parenting debate.
When asked for comment, Maryland Child Protective Services referred the case to the Maryland State Department of Human Resources.
A Maryland State Department of Human Resources spokeswoman said that confidentiality laws prohibit them from commenting on any specific case, and would only say that the ruling would serve as “a point of reference that will be used in any future decision.”
No criminal charges have been filed.
The Meitivs stand by their belief that they are the best ones to judge if their kids are ready, and if their neighborhood is safe enough, for them to be on their own, not the government.
“Frankly I think that raising independent children and responsible children and giving them the freedom that I enjoyed is a risk worth taking,” Danielle Meitiv told Nightline in a previous interview. “In the end it’s our decision as parents.”
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