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'Free-range' supporters ask parents to let kids walk home alone May 9

The Short of It

So-called "free-range" parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Montgomery County, Md., have inspired an event that asks moms and dads to allow their kids to play at the park and walk home alone on May 9. Would you let your children participate?

The Lowdown

By now, you're probably well-acquainted with the Meitiv family, who made national headlines when in December of last year, they allowed their kids, Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to walk home by themselves from a park about a mile from their home. The children were picked up by police, and subsequently, the Meitivs were investigated by Child Protective Services.

CPS found the parents guilty of unsubstantiated child neglect, a ruling that shocked the Meitivs, who say their kids play outside unsupervised often, and they don't see anything wrong with that.

In April, the same events played out again, this time with young Rafi and Dvora being detained for five hours by CPS.

The family's lawyer describes the incident this way, according to a statement on Danielle's Facebook page:

"The Meitiv children were confined to the back of a police car for almost three hours without any explanation of why they were being detained. The Meitiv children were then transported to the Montgomery County Crisis Center for further detention. During this entire time, the children had no access to food and only limited access to the restroom. After a series of delays and decisions by CPS and the police, CPS did not release the children to Danielle and Alexander until 10:30 P.M., and the children did not return home until about 11 P.M. on a school night."

The Metivs say they plan to sue.

Now, a group of "free-range" parenting supporters in Maryland are calling for parents to allow their kids to walk home alone on May 9 from the same park the Meitiv kids did. According to The Washington Post, Russell Max Simon, founder of Empower Kids Maryland, says children playing and walking unsupervised outdoors "should be the norm, not the exception."

Simon hopes the timing of the event, which is the day before Mother's Day, will translate into a kinder reception on the part of authorities.

The group, and others who support "free-range" parenting, believe letting children play unsupervised is a practice that harkens back to simpler times, fostering independence and friendship among kids. "Free-range" parents also object to the idea that police should monitor the activities of their children if they're simply having fun or walking home.

It is unknown if the Meitiv children will participate in the event. After the April detainment, CPS is closely monitoring the parents' supervision of their kids, although some restrictions may have been lifted since that time. The Meitivs may still be under investigation.

The Upshot

I have an almost 7-year-old, and under no circumstances would she be allowed to play at a local park alone or walk home by herself. While I can't presume to know what is best for other families, it's hard to imagine a child my daughter's age being ready for this kind of responsibility.

Will you participate May 9 in your area?

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