Parents Under Investigation for Neglect After Allowing Kids to Walk to Playground
Rafi and Dvora Meitiv. Photo by Andrea McCarren/WUSA9
A Maryland family is under investigation for child neglect this week after allowing their kids, ages 6 and 10, to walk together, but without adults, to neighborhood playgrounds.
“The world is actually even safer than when I was a child, and I just want to give them the same freedom and independence that I had — basically an old-fashioned childhood,” mom Danielle Meitiv told the Washington Post. “I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.” Danielle, who grew up in the 1970s in New York City and was allowed to roam freely along with other neighborhood kids, told WUSA9, “The only thing that’s changed between then and now is our fear.”
But officials disagree. In late December, Montgomery County Police picked up the kids, Rafi and Dvora, walking just half a block from home after being alerted by an observer. Six cop cars soon showed up at the family’s house, and the incident spurred Montgomery County Child Protective Services to investigate Danielle and her husband Alexander for child neglect. This week, CPS officials visited the parents at home and also interviewed the children at school — without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
CPS spokesperson Mary Anderson told Yahoo Parenting she could not comment on the specifics of the case, but explained that CPS is bound by law to “follow up on every complaint” it receives, using the Maryland Unattended Children Law for guidance to determine whether a parent “has provided proper care and supervision.” But the law doesn’t address the outdoors, stating that a child under 8 must not be without someone 13 or older while “confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle.”
Danielle, a climate-science consultant and fiction writer, and Alexander, a physicist at the National Institutes for Health, could not be reached by Yahoo Parenting. But Danielle recently told Reason via email that she and her husband have been left “frightened and confused” by the situation. She added, “We are good parents, educated professionals, and our children are happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and academically successful. As difficult as it is for us to believe, all of these events occurred as the result of allowing our children to walk along public streets in the middle of the afternoon without our supervision. My husband grew up in the former Soviet Union. Now he wonders if we have to just go along with whatever the authorities want us to do. I keep reminding him that we have RIGHTS in this country and that neither the police nor the bureaucrats can arbitrarily dismiss them.”
The Meitivs consider themselves “free-range parents,” basing some of their parenting philosophy on the book “Free-Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy (author of the Reason article), Danielle contacted Skenazy for advice and help with publicity in December.
“I agree that sunshine is a great thing when something is going on in the shadows,” Skenazy, whose new reality show “World’s Worst Mom” premiers on Discovery Life on Jan. 22, tells Yahoo Parenting. She has a clear take on the situation — and many others like it, including a Texas mom investigated by child protective services after allowing her 6-year-old to play alone across the street from home in September, a Florida mom arrested for allowing her 7-year-old to walk to the park alone in August, and a South Carolina mom arrested for letting her 9-year-old play alone in a park in July. “We believe our children are in constant danger,” Skenazy says. “Once you believe that, then seeing a child unsupervised for any amount of time…will look like negligence, even when it’s absolutely rational and loving, as it is [with the Meitivs].”