‘Free-Range’ Parents Win Reprieve in Maryland

The right of parents to have their children walk by themselves received a boost in Maryland Tuesday, as two “free range” parents successfully vanquished an effort by the state’s Child Protective Services (CPS) to find them guilty of child neglect.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who live in the D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, had their lives turned upside down in December after police stopped their children, 10-year-old Rafi and 6-year-old Dvora, while they were coming back from a park about a mile from their home. Even though the children told police they knew where they were and how to get home, the police picked them up and drove them home, then notified CPS of the incident. Later, officials from CPS told the Meitivs they could no longer let their children go out unaccompanied and that if they defied this order they could lose custody.

Initially, CPS found the Meitivs responsible for “unsubstantiated neglect,” which would allow them to keep tabs on the family going forward, but Tuesday it was announced that through an appeal the Meitivs have been able to get the ruling changed to “ruled out,” effectively an acquittal.

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“What we’re hoping this means is that they recognize we never should have been on their radar,” Danielle Meitiv told the Washington Post. “Nothing we have done should have triggered an investigation.”

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The reversal may have been partly influenced by political pressure. In April, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan questioned CPS’s practices regarding the Meitivs, and said he hoped a “thorough investigation” would be made of their methods to avoid excessive meddling in families’ lives.

The Meitivs practice “free range” parenting, a strategy that gives children a great deal of personal autonomy and freedom of movement so that they have the opportunity to explore the world on their own terms.

The Meitivs aren’t out of the woods yet, however. While the initial case has been dropped, they are also under investigation for a separate incident in April, when their children were once again detained by police, this time for over five hours, for being at a park by themselves.

However, even with that case unresolved, the Meitivs are moving ahead with plans to sue Montgomery County’s police and child protection services. Even if they go free, the Meitivs say they are worried other families will face harassment from the state for the same decisions.

“We fear that our family and other Maryland families will be subject to further investigations and frightening police detentions simply because our and their children have been taught how to walk safely in their neighborhood including to and from school and local parks,” Danielle said in a statement, according to CNN.


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