Outrage is inevitable when "protecting our nation's children" turns into state-sponsored kidnapping and perversely unnecessary trauma to families who don't follow the rules.
Yesterday’s news story about the 10- and 6-year-old siblings who were picked up by police for walking alone in their Silver Spring, MD, neighborhood provides a scary glimpse into the state’s desire to impose its version of good parenting on all American families.
The two Meitiv siblings, who had already been picked up by police last December, are “free range kids,” which means that their parents have consciously chosen to let them explore and wander freely.
“This is a counterpoint to the hypervigilance of ‘helicopter parenting,’ with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices, and venture out into the world,” the Washington Post reported at the time.
This is not neglect. Free-range parents base the amount of freedom their children receive on how much responsibility they can handle. In the Meitiv case, the children had a curfew and were expected home by 6:30 p.m., a reasonable hour when it’s still fully light outside. When they didn’t come home, the parents drove around the neighborhood frantically looking for them. They did were not notified of their children’s whereabouts until 8 p.m.
What actually happened? From mother Danielle Meitiv’s Facebook page:
She also writes:
“The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours [5-8 pm], before bringing them to the Crisis Center [Child Protective Services], and holding them there without dinner for another two and a half hours. We finally got home at 11 p.m. and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”
In an interview, the kids confirmed that the officer kept them in the car for two and a half hours before saying he’d take them home, and then, rather than driving them the remaining 0.3 miles to home, drove 20 minutes away to the Child Protective Services building, where they remained in custody until the 8 p.m. phone call to parents. Police authorities defended the officer’s actions because “he saw a homeless man eyeing the children.”
This is an outrageous and sickening abuse of power that really should be hitting the news as “Police kidnap children.” This is state-sponsored kidnapping. From what, exactly, were they intending to protect those children? The claim about a homeless man nearby is hardly substantial if all he was doing was looking at them. It appears more as if the police have been looking for an opportunity to harass this family, to the profound detriment of the children, who will likely be deeply affected by such a traumatizing incident.
How dare the state think that raising independent, self-reliant, and aware children is a crime? The way in which the majority of North American children are being raised nowadays – parked in front of screens for hours on end with minimal parental interaction and almost no time spent exploring outdoors – is what should be punished. Those are the truly irresponsible parents, who are unwilling to take the natural risks associated with raising well-rounded, confident individuals and who prefer to keep their children guarded, trapped, and fearfully indoors all the time.
If the police are so worried about the dangers of that particular neighborhood, then it appears they have their work cut out for them. How about addressing those issues, rather than wasting resources and time kidnapping other people’s children under the guise of protecting them?
Lenore Skenazy, aka “the world’s worst mom” and author of Free Range Kids, wrote on her blog yesterday that we need a Free Range Kids and Parents Bill of Rights:
“Children have the right to some unsupervised time, and parents have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.”