Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv have been cleared of one of two cases of neglect with which they were charged for letting their two children walk home from nearby parks without supervision.
Following an appeal and national attention to a case that has prompted controversy over parental rights and how much control government has over children in the name of “welfare,” the decision of Montgomery County Child Protective Services (CPS) that the Meitivs had engaged in “unsubstantiated” child neglect was overturned, reports the Washington Post.
The Meitivs were first investigated last fall when their children, ages 10 and 6, were seen playing together at a park one block from their home.
In December, the children were given permission from their parents to walk home unsupervised from a local park. The Meitivs said they saw the event as a moment of independence for their children.
“We wouldn’t have let them do it if we didn’t think they were ready for it,” Mrs. Meitiv said, noting that the children had previously walked to a local 7-Eleven and to the library prior to the one-mile walk home from the park.
“They have proven they are responsible,” she added. “They’ve developed these skills.”
The Meitivs said they prefer “free-range” parenting, as opposed to “helicopter” parenting, and belong to a movement called “Free-Range Kids,” which promotes as its theme, “How to raise safe, self-reliant children (without going nuts with worry).”
Mrs. Meitiv said it is “critical” for children’s development “to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.”
“The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had – basically an old-fashioned childhood,” she said.
Mrs. Meitiv is a climate-science consultant and her husband is a physicist with the National Institutes of Health.
Based on a report from an individual who spotted the two children, police picked them up as they were about halfway home from the park. After a reported “tense” exchange with police, the children were returned to Mr. Meitiv, but CPS showed up at the family’s door once the police left their home.
According to the Post’s report, CPS required Mr. Meitiv to sign a “safety plan” in which he would pledge not to leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would visit the home again. Under threat of removal of his children from the home, Mr. Meitiv begrudgingly signed the pledge.
CPS requested another family visit after the Christmas holidays and also interviewed the two children at their school, as the parents were later informed by the principal.
In April, the Meitivs were charged with neglect again after allowing their children to walk home without supervision from another park. The police and CPS held the children for over five hours until they were released to their parents. According to the parents, however, the incident left the children fearful of police and of being taken away from their parents forever.
“The Meitivs hope the recent CPS decision suggests they soon will be cleared in the April case,” states the Post. “They expect a finding from CPS in coming weeks.”
They also say they hope the attention their case has received will bring about a change in policy and how people view children playing and walking in their own neighborhoods during the day.
“Our goal is to get to a place where this doesn’t happen to us or anybody else in the future,” Mr. Meitiv said.