I was very saddened to read the decision this week that the Maryland couple who let their children walk home from a park alone were found guilty of 'Unsubstantiated Child Neglect". CPS Finds “Free Range” Parents Responsible for Unsubstantiated Child Neglect.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv practice "free range parenting" and teach their children independence. After practicing, they allowed their ten and 6-year-old to walk the one-mile home from a local park. While on the walk, the kids were picked up by the police and CPS was called. After a two month investigation, the couple was notified this week that they were found guilty of child neglect.
While I understand the need to keep our children safe, I also mourn the loss of the days when we could let our children have some freedom. Of course we all remember the freedoms we had as children. We were off and running the minute school let out and didn't come home until the street lights went on. Gone are those days. And not necessarily because the world has become a more dangerous place, but because, more often than not, other people will judge us for our actions, and call the police on us.
There have been numerous times recently when my kids have asked to stay in the car while I've run into the store for a quick errand. I almost never let them. Not because I'm worried anything will happen to them but because I'm worried someone will see them and call the police.
There was an interesting chart circulating online yesterday about when it's appropriate to leave your children home alone. There is currently no minimum age in Pennsylvania to leave a child home alone. Children must be 6 years old to be left in a car alone. So legally, I have every right to leave my kids while I run in to the market for some bread and milk, but that doesn't mean I couldn't and would't get charged with child neglect.
I know we can't dial back the time machine and go back to the days of street light alarm clocks, but I sure do wish we could trust each other's parenting decisions a bit more and allow our kids to the ability to develop a stronger sense of independence with fearing a call from CPS.