- - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the beginning there were good parents and bad parents. Then came “deadbeat dads,” who didn’t support their children. “Soccer moms” were (mostly suburban) mothers who spent a good part of their day getting their children to the playing fields on time. Then “helicopter parents” arrived, hovering over everything their kids did.

Now come “free-range parents,” who believe that children should be able to roam free and explore their world without oppressive supervision. That’s hardly a novel concept of child-raising, but this week Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, two self-described free-range parents in Silver Spring, Maryland, stepped into a nanny-state nightmare. Or, rather, their two children, Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 8, did, and were taken into police custody after a neighbor saw them walking on their own to a park two-and-a-half blocks from their home, and ratted them out to the cops. The cops said the kids were “taken into custody” at 5 p.m., turned over to Child Protective Services, and released to their parents at 10:30 p.m. The cops, having halted this crime wave, say the case remains “under investigation.”

“The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car and kept them trapped there for three hours,” Mrs. Meitiv says, “without notifying us, before bringing them to the Crisis Center, and holding them there without dinner for another two-and-a-half hours. We finally got home at 11 p.m. and the kids slept in our room because we were all exhausted and terrified.”

The Meitivs are hardened “criminals.” They were cited in December for being “responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect” by state Child Protective Services when they allowed the kids to walk home alone from a park about a mile from their home. The only offense here was by the authorities, an offense against good sense.

The Meitivs are unrepentant, as they should be. “We fully intend to appeal,” Danielle Meitiv told ABC’s “Nightline” and “we have no intention of changing our parenting approach. Frankly, I think that raising independent children and responsible children and giving them the freedom that I enjoyed, is a risk worth taking. In the end, it’s our decision as parents.”

The Meitivs were not charged with a crime. Most states don’t have laws setting out how old a child must be to be left alone, although a mother in Florida was arrested for allowing her 7-year-old to walk to the park. Maryland law states that children under 8 years old may not be left unattended in a house or car, but there’s nothing in the law about kids being alone outdoors.

The Meitivs have their children back only after signing a “safety plan.” They were warned that further “infraction” means another seizure of the kids, who would then be turned over to the custody of Child Protective Services. These children are not abused by anyone but the nannies of the state of Maryland. These parents only wanted to give them a chance, to go a-roaming. That’s what nature intended.

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