August 30, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
As I’ve reported before, Danielle Meitiv and her husband, Alexander, are suing Montgomery County Health and Human Services and the Silver Spring police department for multiple violations of their civil rights arising out of an incident this past April in which their children were detained by the police for four hours because they were playing alone in a public park. Neither police nor CPS offered the children food, a bathroom or a chance to call their parents. The two children, Rafi and Dvora, were 10 and six years old.
They have an experienced civil rights attorney who’s working for them pro bono. It’s a case that stands no chance of going to trial. The defendants will settle it as soon as they reasonably can. What I very much hope is that the Meitivs refuse to sign any settlement document that includes a non-disclosure clause. This is one we all need to know about.
But now Danielle is going a couple of steps further. First, she’s writing a book about her family’s experiences with CPS and the police. Second, she’s starting a non-profit organization to combat the encroachment of governmental authorities into family life in the name of protecting children.
Back in the days of protesting the War in Viet Nam, activists had a phrase for over-the-top governmental behavior. We called it “consciousness raising.” Direct contact with government efforts to curtail civil rights and liberties inevitably acquainted people with the level of governmental intolerance of their actions. Well, Danielle Meitiv has definitely had her consciousness raised.
Here’s an excellent interview with her (The Washingtonian, 8/25/15). Sure enough, she comes across as one of those countless Americans who had no idea that she and Alexander couldn’t raise their kids pretty much as they saw fit. That of course completely changed when their son and daughter were reported to CPS twice, first last December and again last April. In each case, an anonymous person complained about the children being by themselves, first walking home and second in a park. Her eyes have been opened and she’s now hard about the task of opening others’.
Unsurprisingly, Danielle grew up in a place and time in which the type of helicopter parenting that’s all but required by child welfare agencies, was unheard of.
I grew up in Queens during New York’s big crime wave of the 1970s and ’80s. When I was eight or nine, [serial killer] “Son of Sam” was running around. In New York, you start taking public buses to school in third grade. They hand you a bus or subway pass, depending on where you live. The idea of a line of cars waiting for pickup would have been ridiculous.
In other words, she knows what types of independence and responsibility kids are capable of, and she has a sense of the actual dangers children face. She knows that, if she could navigate Queens as a third-grader in a high-crime era, Silver Spring in this day and time ought to be easy for Rafi and Dvora.
She has little time for the notion that, if parents aren’t overseeing their kids’ activities 24 hours a day, “something might happen.”
The first time child protective services came to our door, they said, “You can’t have kids at the park by themselves.” When my husband asked why, they said, “She could fall and get hurt.” And my husband said, “But she could fall while I’m there.”
It’s a strange world that believes that, because indeed, something injurious could happen to a child, then parents must curtail the child’s behavior. Face it, everyone — children and adults - is at some risk every minute of every day. An asteroid, a lightning strike, snakes on a plane. So, given the fact that no one’s complete safety is guaranteed, everyone is required to assess the danger in whatever circumstance they find themselves.
That goes for parents who have responsibility for their kids. And what Danielle and Alexander Meitiv show every sign of understanding far better than the police or CPS, is that Silver Spring, MD is a very safe place for children.
People ask me, “How did your children do this astronomical feat?” You’d think I was training my kids to use a trapeze! There’s an aquarium store by the Beltway that’s two miles from the house, and [my husband and I] say that it’s too far for my daughter. Our concern is traffic — it’s not like she can’t go two miles because of a predator.
See? It’s pretty simple. There are likely dangers and unlikely ones. Traffic is a real danger and a six-year-old probably shouldn’t be asked to negotiate busy urban thoroughfares. But predators? Please. Children abducted by strangers is vanishingly rare. The Meitivs know that; too bad the police and CPS don’t.
But don’t believe that Rafi and Dvora haven’t been harmed. They have, but ironically, the people doing the harming were the ones paid by taxpayers to keep children safe.
[The children] feel less safe around police. My daughter didn’t want to walk to the school bus because she was afraid of CPS. My son says he wants to duck when he sees police. It has been extremely disillusioning. It has made me more cynical about government and who is here to help us. But [my kids] are even more convinced they can wander around...
I don’t think [the police] were evil, but I don’t understand four police officers and CPS officers holding two children in a car, not allowing them to go to the bathroom or call their parents. It didn’t occur to any of them that the kids would be terrified?
It’s a good question. After all, for children of that age the right to go to the bathroom and talk to their parents is pretty basic. Of course they were scared and confused. So someone should explain why adults who are charged with children’s safety seem not to know simple information about children’s welfare. With any luck, the lawsuit will provide the answer to Danielle’s question.
As to her book,
The working title is Fighting for the Future: A Parent’s Rebellion. It’s an examination of the ways American society harms families by underestimating children and undermining their parents. I’m weaving in the experiences of parents who got caught in the CPS morass, and it will conclude with a call to action. We need to push back — our children need these freedoms. It’s not a fringe idea. Children’s lives have never been so controlled, except in slavery and factory labor. Obviously, there are unsafe places in the world, but this is the safest time in human history and we guard our children like it’s a war zone!
From what I can gather, when they picked up the Meitiv children, the police and CPS tangled with the wrong family. They’re used to dealing with poor, uneducated parents who don’t know their rights and know well what can happen when one confronts the state. But Danielle Meitiv’s got the bit in her teeth and she’s not letting go. That’s what happens when people stop being bystanders making benign assumptions about what governmental officials do and don’t do and start being activists who know first-hand.
No doubt. Danielle Meitiv’s consciousness has been raised and there’s no going back. The movement for sane relationships between government, and parents and their kids welcomes another shoulder to the wheel.
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