March 4, 2015

Alexander and Danielle Meitiv’s case has been closed by Montgomery County, Maryland Child Protective Services — for now. The Meitivs of course are the “Free Range” parents who allowed their two children, ages 10 and six to walk home from a park about a mile from their house. The kids were picked up by the police who alerted CPS. That was back on December 20th. Two months later, CPS issued its findings in the case.

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

How a person can be found “responsible” for “unsubstantiated” “neglect” is not reported, but the consequences are.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

For now, the Meitivs say they’ll continue to raise their kids according to their free-range principles.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.

As practiced by the Meitivs, free-range childrearing meant carefully monitoring their children’s capabilities and gradually allowing them more freedom and responsibility. They’ve been doing this for years and it’s worked well, with the children experiencing no untoward incidents.

Montgomery County CPS doesn’t comment on individual cases, but spokeswoman Paula Tolson explained some general concepts.

Tolson said as a general practice, CPS officials in Maryland reach one of three possible findings after neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated.

An unsubstantiated finding is typically made when CPS has some information supporting a conclusion of child neglect, or when seemingly credible reports are at odds with each other, or when there is insufficient information for a more definitive conclusion, she said.

So far, no one has explained what the Meitivs did or failed to do that constituted “neglect” of their children.

Read the latest here (Washington Post, 3/2/15).

Here's a link to my piece that ran on Lenore Skenazy's blog, Free Range Kids.

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