15 January 2015

Free range parenting punished - updated

The Port St. Lucie, Florida, mom was arrested on Saturday for letting her 7-year-old son, Dominic, walk alone — in the daytime, with a cellphone — a half-mile to a local park. “I honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” she says. “I was letting him go play.”During his approximately 10-minute walk, the boy passed by a public pool, where a patron asked him where his mother was and other questions. As he told a local news station, “I got scared and ran off to the park, and that’s when they called the cops.” Police picked up the boy at the park, brought him home and arrested his mother for felony child neglect. In their report, police noted that “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.” Gainey says the cops “just kept going over that, you know, there’s pedophiles,” which sounds to me like the kind of problem that perhaps there’s a better approach to than whisking kids off playgrounds and arresting mothers...
More at Salon, and an extended discussion thread at Reddit.

There is a Wikipedia page on slow parenting/free range parenting.  Years ago I wrote a post (which I frustratingly cannot locate this morning) which incorporated a map showing the range a man's father had wandered freely as a child compared to the range he wandered as a child compared to the neighborhood his child is allowed to wander.  The circles get smaller and smaller...

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging hat to reader Dan for finding the link I referred to above, which contained this image:

Addendum #2:  This Pearls Before Swine cartoon seems relevant -

Addendum #3It has happened again, to another family.
It was a one-mile walk home from a Silver Spring park on Georgia Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. But what the parents saw as a moment of independence for their 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, they say authorities viewed much differently.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say they are being investigated for neglect for the Dec. 20 trek — in a case they say reflects a clash of ideas about how safe the world is and whether parents are free to make their own choices about raising their children...

The Meitivs say they believe in “free-range” parenting, a movement that has been a counterpoint to the hyper-vigilance of “helicopter” parenting, with the idea that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to progressively test limits, make choices and venture out in the world...

Police picked up the children near the Discovery building, the family said, after someone reported seeing them...

Danielle is a climate-science consultant, and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health. Alexander said he had a tense time with police on Dec. 20 when officers returned his children, asked for his identification and told him about the dangers of the world. The more lasting issue has been with Montgomery County Child Protective Services, he said, which showed up a couple of hours after the police left...

The Meitivs say that on Dec. 20, a CPS worker required Alexander to sign a safety plan pledging he would not leave his children unsupervised until the following Monday, when CPS would follow up. At first he refused, saying he needed to talk to a lawyer, his wife said, but changed his mind when he was told his children would be removed if he did not comply...

The family has a meeting set for next week at CPS offices in Rockville.
“I think what CPS considered neglect, we felt was an essential part of growing up and maturing,” Alexander said. “We feel we’re being bullied into a point of view about child-rearing that we strongly disagree with.”
I don't have time to cover it now, but I would note here that the April 2014 issue of The Atlantic has an excellent article by Hanna Rosin entitled "Hey! Parents, Leave Those Kids Alone."


  1. Here's the article you remember, maybe...

    1. That's the article! Thank you, Dan.

    2. I had 1km as a 4yo, and at 9 I don't think I had a limit but probably stuck to about 3km distance (5km walk). At 12 I know I biked and even hiked in the forest about 10km alone (that was a bloody long walk back, so I didn't repeat the hiking much). This was in the 80s.

      Sweden. :p

      I hope it's still the same, at least where I grew up.

    3. Map from the link Dan found now added to the post.

  2. I tend to favor parents in these situations (no one else knows the capabilities of that child like they do) but it would seem better if he were older (12), walking with a friend or at least meeting a friend. I went everywhere for miles as a child in a small rural community (in the 60s) alone and with friends. Nothing really bad happened but there were some close calls with both familiar and unfamiliar adults (men + alcohol)... I live in a even more rural area now and restricted my kids (in the 90s) to our 13 acres without me. Happily, I was a stay at home parent for many years and together -we roamed through our dirt roads, state forests and streams.

  3. what is wrong with the law enforcement in that town, they have time to harass a child and mother but don't have time to actually protect them from danger?
    What is wrong with people a 10 minute walk to a park is not out of bounds for a small child. I used to walk several blocks to school at the same age?

  4. sorry for the double post but when I was a kid we'd eat lunch and disappear until dinner time each and every summer day. What's happened? The world is actually safer now compared to 40 years go.

  5. When my brother was 8 and I was 4 we rode a city bus on Saturday mornings to a movie theater to watch serials like Flash Gordon. When I was 12 and my sister was 10 we rode a city bus ten miles to downtown to shop on Saturdays. I didn't allow my children the same freedom. The city had changed, the crime rate was higher.

  6. I must add -- I think my mom was crazy to let an 8 year-old take a 4 year-old anywhere, especially MY brother! He was the most irresponsible person I've ever known.

  7. Let's just start with walking to and from school. The local elementary school will not allow any child 3rd grade or below to leave school without a parent or babysitter to pick them up.This is a very safe area. I think it's insane. I walked to and from school beginning in kindergarten.My kids walked from 1st grad on. And it is safer now than it was then, as JDJarvis said. What kind of adults will result from these helicopter parents? I shudder to think.

    1. I find it frustrating, but they're doing it to curb their own liability in our current society. I happened to go visit my old high school recently. The front entrance has been remodeled so that anyone coming in the front doors *has* to go through the office to get into the school. On top of that, the other entrances to the school are typically locked from the outside even during school hours.

  8. In 1955, I walked home daily from 1st grade, about 14 blocks. My father -- this would have been ca. 1930 -- was allowed routinely to travel by himself from Newark, NJ, to New York City. Think of the apoplexy either would induce today.

  9. In the late 50s I walked about 6 blocks to school and walked home for lunch (If it wasn't raining heavily). I free ranged about the same distance. This was normal.

  10. What a sad place America has become..... In the 50's, in Brooklyn, my mom would send us out to play, I was younger than Ten..... and the only stipulation was, make sure you're home for dinner when your father gets home from work at 6:00..........

  11. And just to complete the circle here is your original post on the topic : 12 July 2009

    1. Thank you Dan. In retrospect the problem is that I posted the original as virtually a "res ipsa loquitur" without including in the text any of the key words (walk, range, bicycle, neighborhood) that I later searched.

  12. It yielded it's secret location up to the google search string:

    wander site:tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com

  13. Pearls Before Swine cartoon added to the post.

  14. Geez, Louise! We had no restrictions on where we could go, as long as we were home by dinner time!
    No cel phones, either. And we walked clear across town for school in 7th & 8th grade (mid to late '70s)

  15. In Indiana, DCS has done an absolutely horrible job of removing kids from situations where they themselves placed the children, resulting in several well-publiczed cases resulting in death of the children. I won't give all parents a free-ride -- some obviously have no business caring for kids -- but I've got damn little respect for a government agency so carelessly run.

  16. I had an idiot house guest report my children at risk once becasue they ate lunch on the floor and there were tools out all over the place... Tools were out all over the place because we were fixing the porch roof and the kids getting to take their lunches in to the living room to eat in front of the T.V. while we had company was a treat for them.
    The youth services worker that showed up tried to find problems that just weren't there (we had cats and a litterbox in a small house, some food in our refrigirator was over 3 days old, all petty meaningless issues), I complained to a social worker I knew and she contacted the youth service worker's boss who reviewd the report and found the entire thing to be error filled ad with non-relevant issues and that woman got reassigned (and eventually left the department).
    We don't have to stand-by and let selfimportant drones and overstepping laws destroys our families, towns, and nation. It takes a population that is not passive or complacent and is involved with the system. If you aren't at civic meetings and town hearings I assure you someone else is.
    Stand up for yourselves, your community, and your nation.

  17. Sounds completely crazy to me... is this another typical US thing?
    I only saw these things very rarely in Germany and mostly with kids that had some actual medical problem (extreme allergies or some form of ADHS/autism) and might need assistance by their parents at any moment. Seems a bit more common today, but still not as prevalent as it seems from this article.

    At age 8-12 I walked about 1km (15min) to school every day and from about age 12 rode my bike about 6km or used public transport in winter - never got lost nor too late for school except when the bike broke (it was rather old and a bit rusty, but it was mine ;o)
    My best friend lived in a small village around 20km from my home... he came to school by bus as well and it visited him at least twice a week. It was around one hour on various trams and buses with all kinds of people (punks and grannies, mostly). One day, me and another friend wanted to go there, but the bus for the final leg of the trip didn't come, so we went 3km (2 miles) through the forest (no real walking paths!) and over cow pastures (luckily, no cows, but a lot of fences) in a terrain we didn't really know except for the general direction and the name of the village we tried to find. Took us about 2 hours, but we got there, and according to the adults "looked like we've been in the jungle for 2 weeks"... nobody asked any questions except what took us so long, if anybody was hurt and whether we did anything illegal on the way - we didn't, except some trespassing on random empty pastures.
    Similar adventures happened all the time and we didn't even have mobile phones back then. And our parents never said a word, as long as we still did our homework and were home for dinner. If we hurt ourselves, we got bandaged up, told to be more careful next time and sent on our merry way. And they were and still are the most loving and caring parents you could find. If anything serious happened, they'd move heaven and hell to help us - they just didn't care very much for a few scratches and some dirt.
    We were also taught which fruit were poisonous, but if we found an apple or pear tree full of fruit, we ate what we could get (some dirt, too, I guess) and sometimes got the runs afterwards... but none of us has had hay fever or any serious food allergies and even today I don't get more than a light cold once a year. If you let on of those children that were raised in a perfectly clean glass bubble do what we did, they probably wouldn't know a deadly nightshade from a cherry tree or succumb to pollen allergies in minutes.

    ...and, by the way: all this didn't happen in a rural community in the 60s, but in and near a half-million people town 10-15 years ago. And none of us ever got abducted, bought any drugs, got seriously hurt or ever had any problems the police.

    And we weren't that special for that time and age. Of all the children in my general age group, maybe 5% had extremely controlling parents (never more than 100m away), 40% were brought everywhere by car and had to be home at eight, but could still mostly do as they pleased and the rest were like us - sometimes crazy, but smart enough not to get into real trouble.

    Parents can't protect their children all the time, but they can teach them how to protect themselves. Children are not stupid, they're just inexperienced and need to be taught how to live independently, because that's what everyone needs to do at some point in their life.

  18. It happened again to the same family:



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