We first heard of the Meitivs on Dec. 20, 2014, when police picked up their children, 10-year-old Rafi and 6-year-old Dzora, walking home alone from a park in Maryland. The Meitivs had given this act of independence much thought. They believed their kids were responsible enough to walk a mile home by themselves.
The parents were found guilty of neglect by CPS in March for letting their kids walk home alone from school. This non-criminal charge means that CPS will keep a file on the family for a minimum of five years, which the Meitivs planned to appeal.
Just a month after child neglect charges were filed, the Meitivs were busted again. The children were seized by CPS when found unattended in a park at 5 p.m. on Sunday. The kids were taken to Child Protective Services, though their parents were not contacted until hours later. The children were finally released to their parents at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday night.
Before they could take their kids home, the Meitivs were required to sign a safety plan that forbade them from leaving their kids alone again. If the Meitivs are able to stay on their best behavior and keep their free-range parenting under wraps (i.e., no more incidents), the CPS charges of "unsubstantiated child neglect" will be expunged after five years.
This may be one of the first times that CPS has come head-to-head with parents over a parenting style. First pioneered by Lenore Skenazy in 2008, the original free-range mom who let her 9-year-old ride the New York subway alone, free-range parenting has since become a parenting movement.
Skenazy has been following the Meitivs closely on her Free Range Kids blog, where she pointed out the most egregious part of the story: These kids were held for hours by CPS without informing their parents. Skenazy says, "I think we all are beginning to understand just how insane, cruel, vindictive and evil the state can be when it comes to respecting human rights, in this case the right of parents who love their kids to raise them the way they see fit."
As a parent, I lean free range (and I also happen to be a Lenore Skenazy superfan). This CPS intervention in a free-range family brings up an important debate: At what point does free-range parenting border on neglect?
Danielle Meitiv emphasized in a January Today interview that their parenting style is hardly new. She said, "We're just doing what our parents did. It was considered perfectly normal just one generation ago."
CPS is a valuable organization designed to protect the welfare of children, but in this case, they have gone too far. Instead of targeting what appears to be a loving family with two involved parents making conscious "free range" choices, time could be better spent on children experiencing real neglect and abuse.
This is another perfect example of our culture rewarding paranoia and discouraging common sense.
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