Free-range Parenting vs. the Nanny State

 

Image source: CNN

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv want to teach their kids self-reliance and responsibility the same way parents have for millennia. By giving them a little space.

Their kids, ages 6 and 10, are regularly allowed to walk to and from a nearby park without mommy and daddy there to hand them fresh juice boxes, smother them in hand sanitizer, and re-adjust their safety helmets every five minutes. You know, the same way we were all raised.

But this won’t do in Silver Spring, Md. A “concerned citizen” witnessed the shocking sight of two children strolling through a neighborhood and called the police. The cops drove the kids home and notified Child Protective Services of what would have been called “parenting” in every generation but our own. That was four months ago but the local government upped the ante Sunday.

Once again, a neighborhood busybody called 911 because kids were caught walking without a permit. The police swung by, but instead of bringing the kids home, they turned them over to CPS. The parents weren’t able to bring their kids home until 10:30 that night and only then after they signed “a temporary safety plan saying their children would be supervised at all times until a follow-up visit.”

“This morning my daughter wanted to go play in the yard and I couldn’t let her out because I was making breakfast,” Danielle Meitiv said. “Are they prisoners? She’s 6 and she’s not allowed to play in the yard?”

“It’s beyond ridiculous,” Danielle Meitiv said Monday. “The world is safer today, and yet we imprison our children inside and wonder why they’re obese and have no focus.”

The Meitivs were notified in a February letter that they had been found responsible for “unsubstantiated neglect,” a ruling that’s made when there’s some information supporting child neglect, seemingly credible reports disagree or there isn’t enough information for a conclusion.

Capt. Paul Stark, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department, said the agency and Child Protective Services are conducting a joint investigation of the Meitivs. Once that is finished, a decision will be made about whether any charges will be filed against the couple, he said.

“Child Protective Services has succeeded in making me terrified of letting my children out,” she said. “Nothing that has happened so far has convinced me that children don’t need independence and freedom, except that they’ll be harassed by police and CPS.”

I think these parents should be given a medal, not a citation. What say you, Ricochetti?

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: I think these parents should be given a medal, not a citation. What say you, Ricochetti?

    Amen!

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I understand the kids were reportedly being eyed by a homeless man. Thus do progressive agendas collide.

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Is this the same nanny state folks that tell us we can depend on the police to respond instantly to any crime and protect us, and therefore, we don’t need guns?

    I have mixed emotions.  First of all, I don’t like the way Social Services swoops in and kidnaps the children.

    When I was little (hard to believe), around five or six, I could walk around the block at my grandfathre’s house in downtown Raleigh by myself.  I knew not to talk to strangers (but be polite if spoken to), and not to go off alone with anyone.  But we also had neighbors that would watch me, and the other kids in the neighborhood.

    Here is where I get mixed emotions:  these days, people are willing to snatch unescorted kids right of the street.  Granted, it’s not every day, and thankfully rare, but the fear of something like that happening to my kids makes me wonder if the parents in the story really know what’s going on.  Again, mixed emotions, but one thing is for sure:  the parents don’t need the weight of the government bearing down on them, passing judgment.  Given the track record of many state agencies, even somewhat negligent parents are better caregivers . . .

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    Assuming no other details come to light that make the Meitivs sound more sinister than they do, it sounds like what my kids did—they walked to and from school (four blocks away) to and from the grocery store (ditto) to pick up groceries for Mom, they wandered the neighborhood in gangs, appearing in various houses to raid the fridge or put together some project or another. This went on for years.

    Once, my son went out to walk the dog without mittens (after assuring me, of course, that he had them on) and a passing motorist noticed that his fingers had turned white. (Now, that’s an observant passing motorist, right?) She didn’t call Protective Services or the police. She got out of her car, told my son to pull his sleeves down over his hands and run home as fast as he could. I’ve been grateful to her (though I still don’t know who it was) ever since.

    Another time, my older son slipped on the ice and banged his head. He came home and threw up—concussion. Nobody at the E.R. thought it was odd that an 8 year old was walking the dog by himself.

    My daughter tells everyone, lugubriously, that she had to walk all alone to kindergarten when she was five, because everyone else except her was homeschooled that year. The cross-walk lady didn’t seem to think it was strange that she was making the trek without Mumsie.

    Then, when they were between the ages of 6 and maybe 12? I’d put all four of them on a plane to visit their Aunt Mary in Georgia. They flew as unaccompanied minors, of course, and I wrote lots of relevant phone numbers on their arms with a magic marker in case of mishap, but by the time they were fifteen or so, they were more than capable of making the whole trek without assistance, changing planes and all.

    They all survived, and are independent and energetic, and don’t seem to feel particularly neglected or un-cossetted, or (Lord knows) deficient in self-esteem.

    When you think of all the poor kids in the world with genuinely dangerous, neglectful parents…but then, Montgomery County is pretty wealthy. Wealthy people are sometimes a little odd. I’ve a cousin who lives in Manhattan, and on the afternoon of 9/11, her neighbor was on the phone to the shrink, asking him to make a house call to attend to the distress of her two children, neither of whom had been anywhere near Ground Zero. The shrink told her that he was busy with children who had actually seen people jumping out of the buildings, and she was going to have to wait. She sued him. (I think she lost. Hope so).

    • #4
  5. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Well, I’d want the full story.  I work with CPS every day (as an attorney for the older Children) and my wife is a social worker…  Letting your kids walk down the street or play in the yard is not something that would get a second look in Washington State, and certainly not because of one phone call from a concerned citizen.  There is undoubtedly more to the story than what we’re being told, here, but I also tend to think that the state does interfere more than it ought to, and I am staunchly against that sort of nannyism.  That said, I recently read about an infant fatality on an open case; I would not make the argument that CPS should cease to exist, but it is very clearly a difficult line to draw.  There are a lot of cases that fall on both sides.

    • #5
  6. iDad Inactive
    iDad
    @iDad

    Re: the cops and CPS in this case:

    I’ll heat the tar if you get the feathers.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    When I was ten, I used to ride my bike from my house to Pilcher Park. That was seven miles if it was an inch. It was on the other side of town and my only parental instructions were to get home before dark.

    • #7
  8. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Kate Braestrup:I’ve a cousin who lives in Manhattan, and on the afternoon of 9/11, her neighbor was on the phone to the shrink, asking him to make a house call to attend to the distress of her two children, neither of whom had been anywhere near Ground Zero. The shrink told her that he was busy with children who had actually seen people jumping out of the buildings, and she was going to have to wait. She sued him. (I think she lost. Hope so).

    good lord.  I can’t even think of what would be the basis for that suit.

    • #8
  9. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Community standards have changed on this.

    I walked to school in kindergarten with other neighborhood kids.

    I would not let my kids do the same.

    If I were to allow them, would that be an offense worthy of state intervention?

    Let’s not be self-righteous and pretend that’s an easy answer.

    Are there sex offenders living in the area?  Is it a high crime neighborhood?

    Even without that, it doesn’t mean it’s safe.  A little girl in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in my state (Spring Lake, NJ) was kidnapped not far from her house.  Random taking.

    How much safety we owe (charged word) our children is going to be up for debate.

    If these kids get taken, who cries the most?

    • #9
  10. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    I think I makes me not want to live in/near large cities where stuff like this seems to get out of control. As for the parents, they should be teaching classes on parenting not brought up on charges.

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’m with Tommy on this one.  Norms have changed, as have our views on safety.

    • I was sent to walk a half mile to school each day at the age of 6.
    • I had a bike and routinely ranged throughout my neighborhood, up to about 1.5 miles from home, at ages 7-8.
    • By age 11 or 12, I routinely hopped the bus to ride into the city, unsupervised.

    On the other hand, the only “child seats” ever used by my parents were booster seats, without seatbelts, so that we could see out the windows (and presumably to make sure that we would be projectiles heading out the windshield in the event of a frontal crash).  We routinely biked without a helmet.  We were the generation of “lawn darts,” for crying out loud.  We used to jump off our roof into the pool — and it was the shallow end that was near the house.

    I have 2 girls, ages 5 and 10, and I would not leave them unsupervised at a public park.  Never in a million years.

    It’s a different story in our own yard, but I live in a very private, out-of-the-way neighborhood, and my 10-year-old is unusually responsible.

    • #11
  12. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    A child walking alone to a park is more likely to get eaten by a puma than kidnapped by a pervert in a van with “free candy” scrawled on the side.

    Our society is paralyzed by ridiculous fears.

    • #12
  13. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    Isn’t this nannyism and helicopter parenting a by-product of the 80’s child abduction scaremongering?

    • #13
  14. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Arizona Patriot:I’m with Tommy on this one. Norms have changed, as have our views on safety.

    And yet, we’re actually safer than ever. Crime is down. Child abductions are extremely rare (and when they happen, it’s almost always someone known to the family — or by a family member).

    We live in a very safe society. But we have a 24-hour news cycle that thrives on fear and sensation, and we end up feeling like things are more dangerous than ever.

    But they’re not. Not at all.

    Helicopter parenting does not create confident children. I worry that in our desire to create a risk-free existence for our children, we’ve created fragile little things who are incapable of taking care of themselves. I fear they will grow into food for the Morlocks.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Arizona Patriot:I’m with Tommy on this one. Norms have changed, as have our views on safety.

    • I was sent to walk a half mile to school each day at the age of 6.
    • I had a bike and routinely ranged throughout my neighborhood, up to about 1.5 miles from home, at ages 7-8.
    • By age 11 or 12, I routinely hopped the bus to ride into the city, unsupervised.

    On the other hand, the only “child seats” ever used by my parents were booster seats, without seatbelts, so that we could see out the windows (and presumably to make sure that we would be projectiles heading out the windshield in the event of a frontal crash). We routinely biked without a helmet. We were the generation of “lawn darts,” for crying out loud. We used to jump off our roof into the pool — and it was the shallow end that was near the house.

    I have 2 girls, ages 5 and 10, and I would not leave them unsupervised at a public park. Never in a million years.

    It’s a different story in our own yard, but I live in a very private, out-of-the-way neighborhood, and my 10-year-old is unusually responsible.

    I guess I’m with Tommy too, but I still think the state has over-reacted.  Like I said, mixed emotions . . .

    Mixed because they should be free to raise their kids the way they see fit, but also mixed because in this day and age, the risks have changed from (lemme see) . . . 50+ years ago when I could ride my bike 2 miles to and from elementary school – alone.

    • #15
  16. Roberto Member
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    So far in this story the only danger I can discern is the threat emanating the Maryland police and CPS who apparently see nothing unreasonable about kidnapping children off the street.

    • #16
  17. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    From the Maryland state website:

    CODE OF MARYLAND REGULATIONS (COMAR) defines child abuse and child neglect as:

    • Physical injury not necessarily visible of a child under circumstances that indicate that a child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed.
    • The failure to give proper care and attention to a child including the leaving a child unattended where the child’s health or welfare is harmed or a child is placed in substantial risk of harm.
    • An act or acts involving sexual molestation or exploitation whether physical injuries are sustained or not.
    • Identifiable and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function.
    • Finding credible evidence that has not been satisfactorily refuted that physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse occurred.

    I’d guess the second bullet is the ammunition (no pun intended, but it was too good to edit).

    Vague language is what empowers the bureaucrat. What counts as proper? What counts as substantial risk? If the answer is “whatever the social worker is afraid of” then we the lawmakers have simply hijacked all discretion to themselves.

    • #17
  18. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival:When I was ten, I used to ride my bike from my house to Pilcher Park.That was seven miles if it was an inch.It was on the other side of town and my only parental instructions were to get home before dark.

    Times have changed, Percival. Which bridge would you cross over? When I was a bit older than that, maybe thirteen, I would walk to the library. Not as far, but still a few miles. It was also fun to watch the barges and the bridges going up.

    • #18
  19. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    I walked everywhere in the 70’s. My parents taught me self reliance and a general distrust of unsavory characters. Now as a parent, I got yelled at by my ex because I had the audacity to ask my oldest (12 at the time) to walk to my house from religious school… a whole 1/2 block away.

    Statistics show there are far fewer child abductioGME3qpBAA42ir7jiT6vbhdnq_250ns than when we were kids.

    Question: is that because there is really less crime or because we are doing this to our children? ===================>>>

    • #19
  20. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Stad:

    Arizona Patriot:I’m with Tommy on this one. Norms have changed, as have our views on safety.

    • I was sent to walk a half mile to school each day at the age of 6.
    • I had a bike and routinely ranged throughout my neighborhood, up to about 1.5 miles from home, at ages 7-8.
    • By age 11 or 12, I routinely hopped the bus to ride into the city, unsupervised.

    On the other hand, the only “child seats” ever used by my parents were booster seats, without seatbelts, so that we could see out the windows (and presumably to make sure that we would be projectiles heading out the windshield in the event of a frontal crash). We routinely biked without a helmet. We were the generation of “lawn darts,” for crying out loud. We used to jump off our roof into the pool — and it was the shallow end that was near the house.

    I have 2 girls, ages 5 and 10, and I would not leave them unsupervised at a public park. Never in a million years.

    It’s a different story in our own yard, but I live in a very private, out-of-the-way neighborhood, and my 10-year-old is unusually responsible.

    I guess I’m with Tommy too, but I still think the state has over-reacted. Like I said, mixed emotions . . .

    Mixed because they should be free to raise their kids the way they see fit, but also mixed because in this day and age, the risks have changed from (lemme see) . . . 50+ years ago when I could ride my bike 2 miles to and from elementary school – alone.

    The thing is, I could do the same 20 years ago, but I have to admit I wasn’t living in a DC suburb.

    • #20
  21. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    DrewInWisconsin:A child walking alone to a park is more likely to get eaten by a puma than kidnapped by a pervert in a van with “free candy” scrawled on the side.

    Our society is paralyzed by ridiculous fears.

    … depends on the neighborhood, of course.

    Interestingly, I recently read “The Screwtape Letters,” not quite at the recommendation of Peter Robinson, but because of something he wrote.  The 29th chapter seems pertinent.  I agree – well, I already said this – that it is a difficult line to draw.

    (sorry, I was hoping it was public domain and I could link to an online version… I don’t doubt that many Ricochetti happen to have the book on their shelves, though)

    • #21
  22. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    DrewInWisconsin:

    Arizona Patriot:I’m with Tommy on this one. Norms have changed, as have our views on safety.

    And yet, we’re actually safer than ever. Crime is down. Child abductions are extremely rare (and when they happen, it’s almost always someone known to the family — or by a family member).

    We live in a very safe society. But we have a 24-hour news cycle that thrives on fear and sensation, and we end up feeling like things are more dangerous than ever.

    But they’re not. Not at all.

    Helicopter parenting does not create confident children. I worry that in our desire to create a risk-free existence for our children, we’ve created fragile little things who are incapable of taking care of themselves. I fear they will grow into food for the Morlocks.

    Who cries the most if these kids get taken?

    • #22
  23. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    You know, I just remembered that when I was around 4 & 5 years old my mom would sometimes lock me and my two older siblings outside the house when she was cleaning to force us to play outside.

    edit: went a little overboard on some commas.

    • #23
  24. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant:

    Percival:When I was ten, I used to ride my bike from my house to Pilcher Park.That was seven miles if it was an inch.It was on the other side of town and my only parental instructions were to get home before dark.

    Times have changed, Percival. Which bridge would you cross over? When I was a bit older than that, maybe thirteen, I would walk to the library. Not as far, but still a few miles. It was also fun to watch the barges and the bridges going up.

    Jefferson Street.  Right past the courthouse.  Sometimes I would detour to the library.

    I always loved watching the canal traffic.

    I don’t know how much things have actually changed though.  The period I was talking about was about fifteen years after the Schuessler-Peterson murders. That was up north in big, bad Chicago.  We all got told by our folks to stay away from strangers, but that was about it.

    I was about twelve the first time I took the train to the LaSalle St. station, walked over to the Red Line, and rode on up to Wrigley Field.

    • #24
  25. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    I’ve heard that in many of the jurisdictions where this happens, there are not even any specific ages specified by statute under which you’re not allowed to leave the child alone.

    • #25
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I used to run the trails, swing on grape vines, slide down the shale banks, and catch tadpoles in Rocky River in one of the Emerald Necklace parks adjacent to our neighborhood in the burbs of Cleveland. Sometimes with friends, but often alone.

    I was only ever grounded when I failed to make it home before dark.

    My parents would so be in jail today!

    We were freer then — adults and children.

    • #26
  27. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival:I was about twelve the first time I took the train to the LaSalle St. station, walked over to the Red Line, and rode on up to Wrigley Field.

    You have got to be kidding me. Your parents should have been locked up and had the key thrown away for such neglect! THEY LET YOU BECOME A Cubs FAN?!?!

    Luckily for me, my eldest brother insisted that we each had to root for a separate team, so we each had to pick one, and the eldest got to pick first, of course. Being the youngest, I had my choices limited.

    • #27
  28. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    “Who cries the most if these kids get taken?”

    Who cries the most if these kids never have the confidence to walk home alone?

    • #28
  29. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    In Silver Springs, for children under 12, the womb is the most dangerous place.

    • #29
  30. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Tommy De Seno:

    Who cries the most if these kids get taken?

    Immaterial to my point. We are paralyzed by imagined fears. If we had any evidence that these fears were justified, I might side with CPS. But we have evidence of the opposite.

    The result of living by imagined fears is that our children grow up without confidence and without self-reliance. This makes them beg for Mommy Government to take care of their every need.

    • #30
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