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Parents investigated for neglect after letting kids walk home alone

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Parents investigated for neglect after letting kids walk home alone
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The Meitiv children outside the National Gallery in Washington this month. (Family photo)
By Donna St. George January 14 at 9:28 PM

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.

“We wouldn’t have let them do it if we didn’t think they were ready for it,” Danielle said.

She said her son and daughter have previously paired up for walks around the block, to a nearby 7-Eleven and to a library about three-quarters of a mile away. “They have proven they are responsible,” she said. “They’ve developed these skills.”

 

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.

“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,” she said. “I think it’s absolutely critical for their development — to learn responsibility, to experience the world, to gain confidence and competency.”

On Dec. 20, Alexander agreed to let the children, Rafi and Dvora, walk from Woodside Park to their home, a mile south, in an area the family says the children know well.

The children made it about halfway.

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

Police on Wednesday did not immediately have information on the case. But a spokeswoman said that when concerns are reported, “we have a responsibility as part of our duty to check on people’s welfare.”

 

The Meitivs say their son told police that he and his sister were not doing anything illegal and are allowed to walk. Usually, their mother said, the children carry a laminated card with parent contact information that says: “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid.” The kids didn’t have the card that day.

 

Danielle said she and her husband give parenting a lot of thought.

“Parenthood is an exercise in risk management,” she said. “Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleep­over? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We’re not saying parents should abandon all caution. We’re saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen.”

She added: “Abductions are extremely rare. Car accidents are not. The number one cause of death for children of their age is a car accident.”

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.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for CPS, said she could not comment on cases but that neglect investigations typically focus on questions of whether there has been a failure to provide proper care and supervision.

In such investigations, she said, CPS may look for guidance to a state law about leaving children unattended, which says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles.

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.

 

Following the holidays, the family said, CPS called again, saying the agency needed to inquire further and visit the family’s home. Danielle said she resisted.

“It seemed such a huge violation of privacy to examine my house because my kids were walking home,” she said.

This week, a CPS social worker showed up at her door, she said. She did not let him in. She said she was stunned to later learn from the principal that her children were interviewed at school.

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.”

 

 

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Gregory Matthews

Due to the reported ages of the children, in many of the individual States, that could be considered to be neglect.

 

E.G  a 10 YO is not considered to be old enough to care for a 6 YO and therefore there should have been an older person involved.

 

Here is the critical element in the post above:

 

In such investigations, she said, CPS may look for guidance to a state law about leaving children unattended, which says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13 years old. The law covers dwellings, enclosures and vehicles.
 

 

The actual age may slightly differ from State to State, but the critical issue is that the 6 YO was left wit someone who was no of legal age to care  of that person.

 

As I have lived in the Washington D.C. area, I do not think that I would want my young children to walk one-mile home as they are reported to have been doing.

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joeb

This would be laughable if it weren't true.  I can remember walking home, alone. from school more than a mile 5 days a week from the time I was 1st grader.  Most other kids did the same thing, or rode their bikes even farther.  

 

Big brother is on the march.

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LifeHiscost

Big brother is on the march

A quite similar experience happened in my family, on the other end of the "We know better than you how you should live your life." spectrum. It had to do with pulling my wife out of the rehab center AMA (against medical advice). I'm old enough for some others to think that it's normal for drooling and other stereotypical elderly behaviors to be "self evident". Someone turned us into the social services and we were visited by two well meaning individuals that were interested in insuring there was no elder abuse going on. This scenario was exacerbated by the fact that my spouse is under 24/7 care as a result of memory loss, and no doubt would be in a nursing home if someone competent enough were not available to care for them in the home. 

 OTOH I'm extremely grateful we're living under a government that still has individuals concerned that the most vulnerable are not going to be abandoned to the many that have lost the compassion

important for even the least of these.

 

40"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'....Matthew 25

 

God is Love!  Jesus saves!  :smiley:

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Gregory Matthews

Joeb:  Yes, there was a time when we all did things that may have been safe then, but are not safe in Washington D.C., now.

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bonnie

Or just about anywhere in this world!!

We live in a small town of ten thousand and I wouldn't let my grandchildren walk to our park three blocks away alone at that age,let alone play there unsupervised.

Many parents do. However the reaction is a little extreme from the authorities.

 

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15Jan, 2015by Katie McGuire
 

This is such a sad story. No parent should have to go through the drama that this poor family is facing. These parents let their kids walk to the park and it’s turning into their worst nightmare.

 

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The government really needs to re-evaluate their priorities here. These kids are loved, fed, and are doing well in school. These are not meth-using welfare leeches, these are good parents and productive members of society that let the kids take a darn walk to the park. Shoot, I used to walk twice that one way to school! Let the kids play. This is just ludicrous.

You may recall the story last month of a family threatened by the authorities for letting their kids walk outside. Here’s the latest from the mom, Danielle Meitiv, who is hoping the rest of the media takes note. I hope so, too.

Meitiv explains via email:

Dear Reason: On Monday, a Montgomery County child protective services worker went to my children’s school and interviewed them without my knowledge or consent. Why? Because last month we’d let them walk home from the park by themselves. It’s a mile away. They are 6 and 10. We live in suburban Maryland. Let me recap the story and then tell you where we’re at.

On a Saturday afternoon in December, my husband, Alexander, gave our kids permission to walk home from the local playground. I was out of town at the time. When they’d walked about halfway, a Montgomery County Police patrol car pulled up. A “helpful” neighbor had called 911 to report unaccompanied children walking outside. Our kids were brought home in a police cruiser.

At the door the police officer asked to see my husband’s ID, but did not explain why. When he refused, she called for backup.

A total of six patrol cars showed up.

Alexander then agreed to get his ID and went to go upstairs. The officer said—in front of the kids—that if he came down with anything else, “shots would be fired.” She proceeded to follow him upstairs, and when he said she had no right to do so without a warrant, she insisted that she did.

Our 10 yr. old called me crying and saying that the police were there and that Daddy was going to be arrested. Alexander stepped outside to continue the conversation away from the kids. When he disagreed with one of the officers about the dangers that walking alone posed to children, she asked him: “Don’t you realize how dangerous the world is? Don’t you watch TV?” They took notes and left.

Two hours later a CPS worker arrived with a “temporary safety plan,” which she told my husband to sign. It stated that he would not leave the children unsupervised at any time before Monday morning, when someone from their office could contact him. He refused to sign it. She informed him that if he didn’t, she would instruct the police to take the children away immediately. He signed.

We were then contacted by a CPS social worker named W. Don Thorne who made an appointment for us to come to his office on Friday, Jan. 9. A little while later he called back saying that he needed to come to us, so that he could see our house. We told him we would meet with him at his office, not our home. He said he would speak with his supervisor and call us back.

On Monday, Mr. Thorne showed up at our door unannounced, accompanied by a police officer. He insisted that he had the right to come into our house without a warrant. I said that I was invoking my Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search, and would not let him in, but repeated my willingness to go to his office to answer questions. Then I noticed that he had a visitor’s sticker from my children’s elementary school on his jacket. Had he been to my children’s school to interview them?!

He didn’t answer that question and they quickly left. I have since learned that he visited my children’s school and spoke to my children without my knowledge or consent.

We do not know what actions CPS will take next.

We are frightened and confused. 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.

Written by Katie McGuire. Follow Katie @GOPKatie

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Geoarrge

This kind of thing makes my blood boil. If they were my kids, I'm not sure how I'd stop myself from viewing the CPS officer's actions as attempted kidnapping and sexual assault against a minor.

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Gerr

My wife (a woman) used  to walk a mile each way to school with a neighbor girls when they were in first grade.  Things have changed for sure.

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Geoarrge

Sexual assault against a minor:  please explain.  You have totally lost me.

The usual line of questioning, when CPS officers speak to a child in private, is to probe for any possible form of child abuse; including discussion of molestation and pornography in more detail than what the child may be psychologically prepared to understand.

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Gregory Matthews

O.K.  I understand.

 

However, my understanding of the process is that the probing is in a manner  that the child is able to understand.  It may involve much more than questioning.  It may involve the child drawing pictures.  it may involve demonstration with objects, such as dolls and it may involve animals.

 

I doubt that any professionally conducted examination of a child would ever pass muster as sexual assault.

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Tom Wetmore

But even so, there is nothing reported in this story that even implies that type of questioning took place.

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bonnie

But even so, there is nothing reported in this story that even implies that type of questioning took place.

What right does CPS have to question the children at school without parental consent? 

Can CPS remove children from the home without a court order or imminent danger?

I seriously doubt that anything in the report would indicate much of anything concerning the full scope of the questioning

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joeb

Rather, it's called child safety or the lack there of by parent.

Big brother paranoia is laughable.

* * * These kids were in their own neighborhood walking back from the library. That the parents are threatened with the loss of their children just because they are teaching them independence and how to make good decisions, while at a young age, for the rest of their lives is ridiculous.

This idea that a parent cannot decide what is right for their own children is nothing but big brother. * * *

Edited by Tom Wetmore
Ad hominem commentary deleted...

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phkrause

And if some crazy, God forbid, would've come by and seen this little kids walking by themselves, and grabbed them!!!!!! Than what would've people have said????? Can't have it both ways!!!!! Attacking CoAspen, instead of just making a comment on the article, doesn't do anyone any good. I now that in this day and age, my grandchildren will not be left alone, walking by themselves, period.

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bonnie

And if some crazy, God forbid, would've come by and seen this little kids walking by themselves, and grabbed them!!!!!! Than what would've people have said????? Can't have it both ways!!!!! Attacking CoAspen, instead of just making a comment on the article, doesn't do anyone any good. I now that in this day and age, my grandchildren will not be left alone, walking by themselves, period.

Children are snatched out of their yards. My grandchildren wouldn't walk alone either but unless there is abuse or obvious neglect this is over the top They should not be questioning children this age without the parents presence or consent. Nor be threatened if they did not comply when there was a lack of court order or warrant

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CoAspen

...in their own neighborhood.....yep, that happened here in Denver just a while back.....girl was later found....dismembered.

 

The world has changed, predators are everywhere, keep your children safe....that applies for the countryside as well!! 

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joeb

If anyone still remembers, go back and look at the McMarten preschool case and look at the behaviors of everyone involved up to and including the "professionals." This case was to be the beginning of a wave of such cases that ultimately led to innocent people going to jail, therapists being sued, and therapists losing licenses to practice.

People make far too much out of "stranger danger" while not even being aware of what is happening with trusted people. With some exceptions, children have suffered as a result.

You're exactly right.  Ninety-five out of 100 children molested are molested by people they know, not by strangers. 

 

This case is nothing but a huge overreach on the part of the nanny state, otherwise known as big brother. 

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debbym

Personally i am more protective of my grand kids, but  i do allow them to do more than some parents do, i allow them to explore and make messes, and paint, and dig in the dirt.  when they go home they can be quite a mess to their parents dismay.

 

If these kids walking home had cell phones, and if they had a history of great responsibility, i can understand their parents growing them.  but personally with my distrust of the world i would have been following them at a bit of distance with my car.  This would be allowing them to do it but under my care.

 

I don't agree with losing their kids over this, maybe have them take some parenting classes or something.  when i was a kid no one would have thought anything of it.  little kids walked alone through town home from school every day and we thought nothing of it.  and i am not sure just how much worse the world really is.  it has been pretty bad for a long time.

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lazarus

"As I have lived in the Washington D.C. area, I do not think that I would want my young children to walk one-mile home as they are reported to have been doing."

 

I drive through that area most days of the week. There is a lot of busy traffic, thousands of people milling through daily. I have two children 10 and below. I would not let then walk unaccompanied through that area. It ia not dangerous per se but it's just a very busy area which escalates the dangers. The police and CPS did the right thing. If I saw a young child walking alone in that area. I would observe them for a while to see if there adults with them. If not I would call the police.

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