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Maryland Free-Range Parents Cleared of Child Neglect Charges

The Short of It

Free-range parenting supporters Danielle and Alexander Meitiv of Silver Spring, Md., have been cleared of child neglect charges for allowing their children to walk home alone from a playground a mile from their house in December.

The Lowdown

In December, police picked up the Meitivs children, Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, after people called to report they were walking alone along a busy avenue. Their parents, Danielle and Alexander, defended their decision to let their children go to local parks and stores by themselves as part of their free-range parenting style, which is designed to give kids increasing levels of independence based on their skills and maturity.

In March, Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) found the Meitivs guilty of "unsubstantiated" child neglect charges. The decision shocked supporters of free-range parenting as well as the Meitivs, who appealed the ruling. As a result, the Meitivs have now been cleared of the original charges in this new ruling.

The Meitivs are still under investigation for an incident in April in which their children were picked up by police while walking home alone from a park and held in protective custody for several hours without the parents being notified. Montgomery County CPS investigated this incident extensively because of the March ruling of unsubstantiated child neglect. The agency has 60 days to conclude its investigation and issue a written decision.

In the meantime, the Meitivs are still planning to file a lawsuit against local police and CPS for violating their rights and those of their children in the April incident.

"I think this most recent conclusion by CPS validates our position all along that the Meitivs were never responsible for any form of child neglect and there was no basis to investigate the family or detain the children," said Matthew Dowd, the couple's attorney.

The Upshot

While happy with the new ruling, Danielle Meitiv said in a statement that they are concerned that a "misguided policy" remains in place: "We fear that our family and other Maryland families will be subject to further investigations and frightening police detentions simply because our and their children have been been taught how to walk safely in their neighborhood, including to and from school and local parks."

As a mom who has been seriously considering letting her soon-to-be fourth grader walk the four blocks to and from school next year, I support the idea that parents should be able to decide when their kids are ready for different levels of independence. While I appreciate the hard work that CPS does to protect kids, I think their time and efforts would be better spent on kids who are truly being neglected, not just given some free-range.

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