A Maryland family is gaining national attention after the parents, Danielle and Sasha Meitiv, allowed their two children, 10 year-old Rafi and his 6 year-old sister, to go to the park to play sans adults. Reports state that the children were picked up by county police in the late afternoon, then taken into custody by Child Protective Services (CPS). The parents were concerned when their children didn’t come back home, and astoundingly, were not informed about where their children were until 8 pm. They were reunited with their children at around 10:30 pm, but according to MyFoxDC, the children were not released back into their parents custody until the Meitiv’s signed a “temporary safety plan,” which prohibits them from letting the kids go outside by themselves to play until CPS follows up. Rafi told news sources that the police told him they would take them home, but instead took them to CPS. This is not the first time this family has come under fire for allowing their children to play outside without adult supervision, but this is the first time CPS has gotten involved. The Meitiv’s note that Free Range Parenting is very important to them in order to build independent kids. But at this point, the Meitiv’s, having been forced to sign the “safety plan” are not likely to allow their kids to play or walk alone, even though that’s the kind of freedom they desire for their children. Danielle notes, “I’m not going to risk my kids being snatched again by CPS.” In spite of the world being safer than ever, very few kids are allowed to play outside unattended anymore, and when they are, stories like this one probably scare other Free Range advocates.

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Lenore Skenazy, Free Range Parenting pioneer and advocate has an insightful video parents can watch (shown above) that asks adults to stop criminalizing parenting methods that involve allowing kids to roam about outside on their own. Kids who are allowed to play free outside do gain benefits such as street smarts and independence, but unfortunately, it can be tough going for advocates of Free Range Parenting in this day and age. For example, under Maryland state law, a child must be at least eight years-old to be left alone, and at least 13 years old to babysit another child, which is likely why the Meitiv’s got into trouble. While their son was legally old enough to be alone, he was not old enough (legally) to care for his sister.

Laws about when kids can be left alone vary from state to state. Generally though, if you think back to your own childhood, the law VERY RARELY got involved when kids played alone outside. It was left up to parents to decide if their children were mature enough to play outside alone and also the responsibility of parents to teach their children how to safely play outside – i.e. how to cross streets, play with a buddy and so on. My peers and I, growing up in the 70s and 80s, played outside, alone ALL day, until dark. I didn’t personally know one kid whose parents were with them 24/7 when outside and all of us grew up A-OK. Yes child abuse and child neglect happen, but the simple act of letting your child outside to play or walk to school should be considered neither. Tell us what you think in the comments — and if you’re leery about allowing your kids some freedom, check out the related story link below.

RELATED | The Convincing Case for Sending Your Kids Outside to Play Alone

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