There is an interesting case out of Washington that pits the “free range children” movement against child welfare authorities. Danielle and Alexander Meitiv believe in the new movement to reject “helicopter” parenting and allow child to push limit in venturing out on their own and testing self-reliance. For many parents, the specific controversy would seem much too do about nothing” a one-mile walk home for the two Meitiv kids aged 10 and 6. However, the kids were stopped halfway by police who reported the parents to child welfare, which continues to investigate them for endangering their children.
Danielle is a climate-science consultant and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health. They say that they have spent a lot of time looking at the issue and believe firmly in the free range concept.
When the police brought their children home, Alexander was given a lecture on proper parenting and then he was visited by child welfare investigators. He was told that he had to sign a pledge not to leave the children alone until the following Monday. When he balked that this was intruding upon his decisions as a father, he was told that the children would be removed from the home unless he signed.
The case turns on a standard that is often honored in the breach. The law states that children may not be left unattended and that children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. That applies to dwellings, enclosures and vehicles. Of course, many children play unattended in homes or yards or neighborhoods. However, the law effectively says that these children cannot walk home a mile alone.
For the record, I am closer to a helicopter than a free range parents. I am notoriously risk-adverse with my kids. I would not want them walking in a major city alone for a mile, particularly due to var accidents which remain the leading cause of non-illness deaths. However, this result would presumably be the same if the kids were allowed to walk a quarter of a mile or a couple blocks. I see such kids walking alone often in Virginia. Does it matter that this law appears rarely enforced? At what point does this intrude on parenting decisions?
What do you think?
Source: Washington Post