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Maryland Officials: CPS Shouldn't Interfere with 'Free Range' Kids

The Short of It

Maryland issued a new policy directive that says Child Protective Services (CPS) should not get involved with kids playing or walking alone outdoors unless children are harmed or in danger.

The Lowdown

Maryland couple, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, of Silver Spring gained national attention after they allowed their young children to walk home alone from a park in December. Police picked up their children, Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, after people called to report they were walking alone along a busy avenue. The parents 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.

After clearing the Meitivs in the December case of child neglect charges, Maryland officials are clarifying the state's policy on children playing or walking alone outdoors. The new directive, part of a public statement issued last week, states that CPS should not get involved unless children have been harmed or face a substantial risk of harm. The statement says the state agency is "mindful that every family applies its members' personal upbringing, life experiences and expectations to parenting, and it is not the department's role to pick and choose among child-rearing philosophies and practices."

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. They are still awaiting a decision.

In the meantime, the Meitivs are planning to file a lawsuit against local police and CPS for violating their rights and those of their children in the April incident. Matthew Dowd, the family's attorney, said the state's updated policy "validates our position all along that there was never any neglect or potential neglect with the Meitiv children."

The Upshot

Way to go, Maryland! This makes sense and seems reasonable. We can only hope that judging whether children "face a substantial risk of harm" is done in a reasonable manner—and that nosy neighbors stop calling the police on kids who are just playing outside.

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