For those of you who have been following the saga of the 'free range parents' and their 'free range kids' (short version: the kids were picked up by the police and sent to child protective services for walking outside alone, close to home -- more details on the backstory here, here, and here), the latest chapter is a little bit encouraging: In a new policy directive, Maryland officials are trying to clarify when Child Protective Services (CPS) should intervene. While they are not explicitly siding with the Meitivs family, it's fairly clear that they are trying to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future and broadly support their position.
The report says: “Children playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised."
“We are not getting into the business of opining on parenting practices or child-rearing philosophies,” said Katherine Morris, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Human Resources. “We don’t view that as our role. We see our role as responding when a child is harmed or at a significant risk of harm. It’s all about child safety.”
You'd think this would be obvious, but apparently it isn't for many in today's world. After all, not so long ago, pretty much all kids would be categorized today as "free range kids", and back then the danger to children was actually higher than it is today, despite the perception to the contrary, mostly because we're hyperaware of everything because of the media. But the statistics are clear...
As for the 'free range' family, hopefully the experience hasn't completely traumatized them. The Washington Post reports:
The Meitivs say they have gradually allowed their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter, Dvora, 6, more freedom to walk on their own in areas they know. But police twice picked up the siblings as they made their way home in Silver Spring, and CPS neglect investigations ensued.
My message to the Meitivs is: Keep figuring what works for your family, and don't let this crush your spirits.
I'm not saying that everybody should do the same thing, but kids shouldn't be treated like escaped convicts. They should be able to go outside when their parents judge that it's ok for them.