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
68 thoughts on “Free Range Versus Helicopter Parenting: Washington Case Could Define Limits For Parents Wanting Kids To Push Life’s Limits”
I was walking to school in the 1st grade about .6 mile. Most of the other kids did too.
I see this case as government getting involved before palpable harm has occurred. There are lots of rational preemptive laws/regulations of conduct, e.g., stop lights at intersections or failing to seek medical care for one’s child, that are reasonable, but what damage has been done or better has a probability of being done by these parents requiring government preemption of their fundamental right to parent?
My experience as a family law attorney has been that Child Welfare Services here in California at least is an overworked and understaffed agency to the point of compelled apathy. There is undoubtedly a need for CWS, but apart from giving too much power to one individual to remove a child from the home (and while I do not know whether California has this type of statute or regulation in force), a general overreaching and prematurely conclusive interpretation of child protection is a common result of unreasonable workload.
And it goes without saying that removing a child without proper contemplative time might have a more damaging long-term effect on a child than leaving the child’s parents alone.
Crap. I walked to/from school routinely from the 1st grade. By the 4th, it was probably well more than a mile, tho I could and did take the bus occasionally. My son rode public buses home from school sometimes after the age of 7- in OAKLAND. CPS can kiss my ass, and I hope these folks get a barracuda of a lawyer to sue them up the kazoo.
It’s not about “pushing limits.” It’s about being a fully human person active in the world. These people want to raise mushrooms.
Somehow I don’t think the officer in this picture is going to require the parents sign anything upon the return of their wayward son.
Awww that brought tears to my eyes. My Hubby loves Norman Rockwell.
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