UPDATED: CPS Decision in Maryland Case: Parents Responsible for “Unsubstantiated” Child Neglect

The long-awaited decision from Montgomery County Child Protective Services has arrived at the home of Danielle and Alex Meitiv, and it finds them “responsible” for “unsubstantiated child neglect” for letting their kids walk outside, unsupervised. If that decision makes no sense to you, either — how can parents be responsible for something that is unsubstantiated? — welcome to the place where common sense crashes into bureaucratic craziness.

It’s a mess.

Although the investigation is “closed,” Donna bzrbekdbnr
St. George at the Washington Post
reports that:

CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what happens if the Meitiv children — ages 10 and 6 — get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

Why keep a file on a family that was not found negligent? That just doesn’t sound closed enough for my liking. Especially since the walk was only a crime in the “Law & Order”-addled minds of the authorities.

“Shots will be fired!”

You’ll recall that on a December day in Silver Spring, MD, the Meitivs allowed their children, ages 6 and 10, to walk a mile home from the park. A busybody spied the unaccompanied kids and called 911. The cops scooped up the kids, drove them home, and threatened the dad that “shots will be fired!” if he didn’t comply with their demand to see his I.D.

Later, when a Child Protective Services rep came to the home, the dad was threatened again: Sign this safety plan for your kids or they will be taken away. (He signed.)

Guess where the kids are NOW!

The mom was out of town while this transpired but she and her husband are on the same page — even though this was the SECOND time the Meitiv kids were stopped for walking outside. (Here’s my story about the first time.) As Danielle just wrote to us in an email:

“Allowing kids to be Free-Range is critical for their development. In spite of this ruling we will continue to let our kids roam (they’re at the park right now!) Thankfully, CPS harassment like this is NOT common. The best way to make sure it doesn’t happen is to make Free-Ranging as common as it was when we were kids.”

Amen. – L



Meitivs guilty of “unsubstantiated” child neglect. Hmm.


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70 Responses to UPDATED: CPS Decision in Maryland Case: Parents Responsible for “Unsubstantiated” Child Neglect

  1. BL March 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    Franz Kafka was unavailable for comment.

  2. Eric March 2, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    So can we hold someone responsible for unsubstantiated rape? murder? theft?

    unsubstantiated – not supported or proven by evidence.

    So they have no evidence and yet in this bizzaro world, they are responsible for neglect?

  3. JKP March 2, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    At the age of 10 and 6, I’m sure that if they lived within a certain distance of the school, they wouldn’t have bus service and would be expected to walk home. Would the school be guilty of neglect for kids walking a mile home from school? Or is walking home from school some magical time where kids are safe while unsupervised, but a walk home from a park is suddenly dangerous?

  4. Marc March 2, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    Now loiterin’ and causin’ a ruckus, that I don’t cotton to!

  5. Bose in Phoenix AZ March 2, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    “The free-range movement goes back to 2008…”

    C’mon… the free-range movement takes its cues from parenting circa 1978, 1958… 1908! It’s become a necessary thing more recently, but it’s anything but new.

    Y’know, if the English language had its own helicopter parents, they could sue Montgomery County CPS for allowing the word “unsubstantiated” to be maligned and abused. No facts are being disputed here!

  6. Dirk March 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    This is a victory of sorts actually. According to CPS division involved an unsubstantiated finding is normally 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. Meaning it looks suspicious but nothing was found that was actionable. It seems to me this is the action of a CPS that in this case thinks the thing in front of them is BS, but can’t just ignore the thing.

  7. Dirk March 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    But the could have “ruled out” the entire thing too. CPS officials in Maryland typically reach one of three conclusions in neglect investigations: ruled out, unsubstantiated or indicated.

  8. Warren March 2, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    This is nothing more than BS public opinion saving. No actions against the parents, to quiet down those outraged. But still a finding with the constant threat of CPS looming over them, to quiet down the ones that think the parents are negligent.

    If I was the parents, I would keep pushing to put an end to it. This is CPS saying we didn’t find anything this time, but we are watching you, and we dare you to step out of line. CPS right now would love nothing more than to swoop in and play hero.

  9. Wendy W March 2, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    “CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years.” I believe this is standard practice in all CPS investigations, regardless of outcome, and I don’t disagree with it. It is the repeated offenses that make a “pattern of abuse” as opposed to a one-off incident. With no records, patterns can never be determined.

    I would like to know what “responsible” for “unsubstantiated child neglect” means. An unsubstantiated charge usually means it was not found to be true- or at least that there was not enough evidence to prove it. If it’s not neglect, repeated occasions should be meaningless. So, what are they “responsible” for? They ARE responsible for letting their kids walk home, and there is no denying that.

    The police need to be better educated on when they truly need to step in and call CPS and when they need to go their merry way and leave kids and families alone. THAT would make a load of difference, as so many of these cases begin with a call to the police from a “concerned citizen”.

  10. lollipoplover March 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    Unsubstantiated Child Neglect??
    I need a Bureaucratic BS translator to understand this…

    Children walking outside, playing in parks, and being self-sufficient are signs you live in a GOOD neighborhood. I say we flood CPS with calls of *child neglect* for all those poor children trapped indoors by paranoid parents and developing obesity and diabetes. Walking short distances, like they allow children to do in Maryland to school, is not a crime. Will there be sting operations during school arrival and dismissal times to crack down on all of this unsubstantiated neglect?

  11. Nadine March 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    So A kid in the USA has mandetory incarceration which they might be allowed to serve in the confines of their parents home till the age of 12, 16 or 18 depending on the state that they live in. Where is the legal fund to fight this?

  12. Colin Summers March 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    “Why keep a file on a family that was not found negligent?”

    I am against government overreach and do not believe the parents were wrong in this case. In fact, I think I would prefer the police officers were written up for having nothing better to do.

    But keeping a file is important because it is part of a procedural flow for ALL cases. The general idea is that if you got a report on the same family a year from now you would see that there was some concern before, but nothing substantiated and nothing was done.

    In some cases, a pattern will emerge and the file being there is critical for those cases.

  13. Edward March 2, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Some contact info I found in the 1000+ comments on Washington Post article:

    CPS falls under the MD Department of Human Resources. Here are the points of contact for Montgomery County. Write your elected officials, write to these people and demand a review of this case. I think a further explanation on the part of CPS is required, at a minimum. I think well educated parents who know where their children are and are introducing them to the concept of responsibility constitutes good parenting. Is there something else going on with this case?

    Fariba Kassiri
    Acting Director
    (240) 777-5010 Oversees all human resources functions for the Montgomery County Government.

    Anika Herndon
    Acting Senior Executive Administrative Aide
    (240) 777-5013 Provides administrative support to the Director of OHR.
    Scheduling Requests for the Director.
    Administration of temporary clerical contracts.

    Joe Heiney-Gonzalez
    Special Assistant to the Director
    (240) 777-5070 Special Projects Liaison.
    Outreach and Recruitment to multicultural communities.
    Job Club and workforce customer services.

  14. Edward March 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    And here is my comment posted at WaPo now generating it’s own responses:

    Why hasn’t the concerned citizen who made the initial call to police about the kids come forward, identified their self and explained why the call was made?
    What is this person afraid of?

    (note: Over six hours after story was published there are still comments continuously being posted.)

  15. Edward March 2, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    Here is link to Maryland CPS website:


    Also; there are calls for a crowd fund type of defense war chest for this matter. I hope the family officially announces one as I would like to contribute to it.
    This larger issue requires a precedent setting demonstration case and everyone who has ever commented at FRK needs to decide – time to put up or…..
    I have offered Lenore money for individual causes before and I have been kindly told to wait for the right time. I’m waiting. By the way, I am not wealthy. I work a 40 Hr/Week job and live pretty much paycheck to pay check as do most Americans. I am no one special.
    Edward Hafner

  16. BL March 2, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    “Thankfully, CPS harassment like this is NOT common.”

    I’m afraid that’s unsubstantiated. 🙁

  17. pentamom March 2, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    Kafka, indeed.

  18. Verbatim March 2, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    Based on this insane standard, my parent would be convicted criminals. I spent most of my youth outside, playing with my friends (also unattended). Not once in all the years I played outside, whether with friends, or even alone, did anything untoward happen; never once were we approached by, or talked to by, or abducted by, or enticed by, any stranger.

    This is bad Orwellian nightmare, where parents cannot make their own parenting decisions. Parents are being cowed by other intrusive, helicopter, paranoid parents and neighbors.

  19. Katie March 3, 2015 at 6:33 am #

    Just at a glance and without referring to the Constitution itself, I’d say keeping a file is a form of double jeopardy- if that’s possible when no crime was committed.

  20. bsolar March 3, 2015 at 7:29 am #

    From what I understand the CPS neglect investigation could have ended in 3 specific ways:

    – ruled out: means that the CPS had enough evidence to, well, rule out that neglect never happened at all.
    – unsubstantiated: means that CPS does not have enough evidence to support the accusation, but neither enough evidence to rule it out.
    – indicated: means that CPS found enough evidence to support the child neglect accusation.

    Basically “unsubstantiated” means that you were not able to prove your innocence. I guess this means there cannot be official sanctions against them (innocent until proven guilty), but it might warrant them some sort of “suspect” status?

  21. Beth March 3, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    “a pattern will emerge and the file being there is critical for those cases.”

    A pattern of what? Teaching kids independence? Allowing them age- and temperament-appropriate freedoms? Oh yes, it’s critical that we track THAT! Can’t have patterns of THAT!

  22. Swain March 3, 2015 at 9:26 am #

    Oh, we’re making up charges now? I want to make up one! I call it, “Emotionally abusive meddling” and the first person charged shall be the busybody whistleblower in this particular case. No more anonymous tip-offs when you disagree with someone else’s parenting methods.

  23. Melanie March 3, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    This was the exact same finding in my cps case! When I read unsubstantiated I said “oh, so it’s okay to leave them in the car?” – no, it meant the children were fine, but the incident would remain on my record three years, it would come up if I tried to work with children during that time, and I still had to sign a document that I would never leave children in a car again ever. I’m pretty literal, so I asked if that meant my daughter couldn’t drive until she was 18. They said no. I listed hypothetical emergency situations. Like a robot, the worker repeated never leave them in a car alone. I asked if they could provide an upper age restriction. They said good parents know when they can leave kids in cars and maybe I needed classes to understand how to parent appropriately. 1). Was that a threat? 2). Does that mean you are taking back your description of my child centered, safe home? Yaargh Metivs. Good for you for fighting this nonsense!

  24. Mainerinexile March 3, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    This strikes more actual fear into my heart than anything I’ve ever seen on Dateline or anywhere else. It’s not strangers your kids should be afraid of, it’s CPS and the police. They will take your children long before a stranger will, and while eventually you may have some recourse, your children will already have been traumatized.
    How can a cop threaten to fire “shots” in such a low level, non-violent, non-emergent case? How can anyone be threatened with shooting for refusing to show ID?? Is that even legal? How would an officer justify such a shooting? Why would a reasonable human even consider shooting? Are there no steps in between refusal to show ID and shooting to resolve a “non-compliance” issue? How about a ticket or fine? Is there no recourse for that frightening bit of over-reach/over-reaction?
    At the risk of adding hyperbole to an already high tension discussion, isn’t it a classic terrorist move- using fear to get people to do things your way?
    This literally makes my stomach hurt.

  25. Roberta March 3, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Having children means that there is a substantial probability that you have neglected them.

  26. Donna March 3, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    bsolar – I have never heard of a “ruled out” status for CPS cases. Investigations are either substantiated and proceed further or are unsubstantiated and are closed. It could be that there is a “ruled out” status available but I have never heard of it being given or referenced in any way. But, yes, unsubstantiated is very much like a not guilty verdict, meaning it is not a ruling that you are innocent, but that you are not guilty which are actually two very different things.

    As for the file being “kept,” that is complete red herring. We live in a computerized world. Once something exists, it is never gone. It may be archived and require slightly more effort to retrieve after so many years, but it is still fairly readily available. I was in court yesterday where CPS had a long-closed file from 2004. They were not able to pull up notes from the 1992 case though since that predated computerization.

    However, this idea that keeping the file is negative is wrong. The grandparents in court yesterday would have loved to have the 1992 case still available. It would have shown that CPS closed the case as unsubstantiated rather than there being all the innuendo and hearsay about it throughout the entire hearing.

  27. Jen (P.) March 3, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    I think we need to start lobbying state legislatures for reasonable laws that provide some clarity and security for families in these situations. As I understand it, this is the law the Meitivs were accused of violating: “A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.” How does letting your kids walk home from the park even trigger an investigation under this statute? It is unacceptable that CPS has the authority to interpret the law so loosely in order to bring a family into the system.

    One of the problems in these cases is that the process itself is the punishment – it’s a lose-lose situation for families unlucky enough to get caught in the trap. The Meitivs were coerced into participating in what I see as a completely unlawful invasion of their privacy under threat of having their children taken away. In other words, if you try to resist the illegal investigation, you run the very real risk of having your young children removed from your care while you fight. I’d like to think a judge would have told CPS to go fly a kite if the father had refused to sign that “safety plan” and CPS sought a removal order, but I’m not confident that would have happened. It’s quite likely the judge would have rubber stamped a temporary removal order and this completely innocent family would have suffered even more harm. Most people aren’t willing to take that risk. I feel very strongly about this, and I wouldn’t do it.

  28. Jen (P.) March 3, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    @Melanie – That is another part of the problem here. Do the Meitivs have any assurance that they won’t be harassed again if their kids play in the park and walk home alone? Is that the “pattern” the authorities are looking for?

  29. bsolar March 3, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    @Donna, from this link: http://www.dhr.state.md.us/blog/?page_id=4020

    “At the end of every investigation, a determination is made as to whether the reported abuse or neglect is “indicated”, “unsubstantiated” or “ruled out.” Anyone believed responsible for “indicated” or “unsubstantiated” child abuse or neglect is entered into a confidential state database that include the names of all individuals provided a service by a local department and may be eligible for a hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings.”

  30. Laura March 3, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    What’s so frustrating about this case is that children in Montgomery County are ENCOURAGED to walk and bike to school. From the MCPS website:

    Who rides the bus?

    Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) provides bus service for:

    Elementary school students living more than 1 mile of walking distance from school.*
    Middle school students living more than 1.5 miles of walking distance from school.*
    High school students living more than 2.0 miles of walking distance from school.*
    Students who face hazardous walking conditions regardless of distance from school (multilane highways, construction areas, etc.) as determined by the MCPS Department of Transportation.
    Students in special education, magnet, gifted/talented, and some vocational/education programs that are not offered at the student’s home school.
    *A tenth of a mile may be added to establish a reasonable boundary.

  31. lollipoplover March 3, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    “Having children means that there is a substantial probability that you have neglected them.”

    Especially if independence in children is now considered neglect.
    In my parenting opinion, not fostering independence is neglect. The role of a parent is supposed to foster self-sufficiency. These kids are perfectly capable of walking to a park and have every right to do so. There is no law against it.

    If we grant vaccine exemption to students for philosophical objections, can’t we grant parenting exemptions for the same reasons?

    I don’t subscribe to this helicoptering philosophy that my children are in constant danger. Exempt me!
    I won’t destroy the environment by driving them everywhere when they are perfectly capable of walking and biking in their own neighborhoods. Children and parents should not be subjected to a parenting police state for walking!!!

  32. lollipoplover March 3, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    “What’s so frustrating about this case is that children in Montgomery County are ENCOURAGED to walk and bike to school.”

    Then maybe the Montgomery Police need to pursue the School District for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor(s). After all, if “walking without adult supervision” is a crime the police have reported to them and one they are pursuing at tax payer expense, then why not go after all guilty parties, not just the parents?

  33. Donna March 3, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    bsolar – Interesting. I could be wrong, but I would bet that you would have to look long and hard for cases being declared “ruled out.”

  34. Donna March 3, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    Being encouraged to walk and being encouraged to walk ALONE are two different things.

    My daughter’s school encourages people to walk. It also prohibits releasing children 3rd grade and under to walk home alone. The general vibe is that we encourage you to walk to and from school as a family. And that is what everyone does. Tons of kids walk or bike to school every day, but I can count on one hand the number that are not with an adult. And none of the ones I know have even the slightest interest in allowing their children to go alone (in other words, they aren’t being prevented in doing it by a rule that few of them even know about). In fact, they insist on walking their child into the school and to the classroom every day. They think that I am odd for dropping my kid at the back gate and allowing her to walk through the playground to the front of the building alone (on the days she doesn’t walk alone from home).

  35. Richard March 3, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    Donna, in my state there is unfounded, unsubstantiated, and substantiated. Unfounded is entered when there is no evidence of abuse or neglect, unsubstantiated when there is equivocal evidence, and substantiated when the investigator concludes the evidence shows a probability that there was abuse or neglect. The vast majority of reports are determined to be unfounded and do not go into a statewide index. Reports which are unsubstantiated or substantiated do go into the index.

  36. Michelle March 3, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Donna, of course there is going to be a file, you are right. If you are arrested for something, and found not guilty in court, there’s going to be a file on that. But there also seems to be an implication that “we are watching you” for a certain amount of time, looking for “patterns.” Is that true? Because while that does SOUND reasonable, so what if there’s a pattern here? What if they let their kids walk to the park every single day? They still didn’t do anything wrong!

    I think that’s the real problem here. All along this chain of, “if the police are called, we HAVE to come check it out,” and “if the police interact with a minor, we HAVE to inform CPS” (that’s what my local sheriff’s office told me after calling CPS on our family), to “if someone calls CPS, we HAVE to open an investigation,” and finally, “if there’s an investigation, we HAVE to keep an eye on the family for a while in case of a pattern,” at no point does anyone seem enabled to say, “even if the charges are 100% true, that’s not illegal!”

    It seems like I could call and report that my neighbors have apples in the house, and that would guarantee CPS tearing their lives apart looking for a problem.

  37. Jim Collins March 3, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    This ruling means that they can keep this case open for five years without having to do anything about it. Then they can state that they have to hire more investigators because they have all of these open cases.

  38. bsolar March 3, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    @Donna, I also found this interesting paper on the matter: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/focus/decisionmaking/

    Some excerpts:

    “The meaning and use of the terms “substantiated” and “unsubstantiated” vary by State. For the purposes of this synthesis, “substantiated” means an investigation by child protective services determined there is reasonable cause to believe that the child has been abused or neglected. “Unsubstantiated” means an investigation determined no maltreatment occurred, or there was insufficient evidence under State law or agency policy to conclude that the child was maltreated.”

    ““Two-tiered” States (where substantiated or unsubstantiated are the only two decision-making options) were found to have higher proportions of unsubstantiated cases than States where caseworkers have options that allow for some uncertainty, such as “unable to determine”or “insufficient evidence.” States that allow for an alternative response track that focuses more on identifying needs and providing services than on gathering evidence also have lower proportions of unsubstantiated cases. Researchers suggest this may indicate that in States with more decision-making categories, ambiguous cases are isolated in those distinct categories. In two-tiered States, on the other hand, ambiguous cases may be more likely to be unsubstantiated whether or not unsubstantiation is explicitly defined in State policy to allow for ambiguity.”

  39. Donna March 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    Richard, My state doesn’t have an index. As it should be. These investigations should not be in any way accessible to anyone outside of CPS.

    But, being on an index is very different than keeping a file. This article stated that the agency will keep a file on the Meitivs, not that they would be on some index (they may be on an index, but that is not what was written). And that is a complete red herring of a statement. The die was cast on there being a file as soon as the Meitivs were reported. Being found unfounded or whatever is not going to erase the existence of the file or the likelihood that CPS will look at it if the Meitivs are reported again anymore than dismissing criminal charges for lack of probable cause results in a complete eradication of police reports, court files and DA files. Even getting your arrest expunged from your record doesn’t destroy all evidence that it ever occurred. These files continue to exist, likely in perpetuity now that everything is computerized, and are looked at if a new complaint surfaces.

    People need to really think before officially reporting things. Better safe than sorry should not be the standard when you are messing with people’s lives. Even if everything works out okay, there is still a perpetual ding to your reputation and a paper trail that will follow you.

  40. Donna March 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    “But there also seems to be an implication that “we are watching you” for a certain amount of time, looking for “patterns.” Is that true?”

    Not in my experience. In my experience, CPS workers don’t follow up on families at all once the file is closed for any reason. Even kids they’ve placed in homes cease to exist as soon as the file is closed. There is no unit for “keeping an eye on people we don’t like just in case.” Unless there is a new report, the Meitivs are done with CPS. I’ve never seen CPS spontaneously reopen a closed file without a new report.

    However, CPS absolutely will pull the Meitiv’s file if they are reported again for anything. This is true even if the report had been ruled out. And they could determine to do more the next time simply because there is now a “pattern” of reports even if the behavior in each report would not arise to a neglect level on its own.

    And, yes, the “have to investigates” are annoying. It is a backlash from the days when nothing was done about reports of child abuse. It is same with the police insistence that someone must be arrested every time they are called out for domestic violence, even if nobody was injured and the situation has cooled down by the time they get there. It appears that we are only capable of going too far to one direction or the other.

  41. Ed Vazqauez March 3, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    This really makes no sense, and the government wants to arbitrarily make its case against law abiding citizens. We as the people don’t need to make new laws we need to find a way to rid ourselves of these innate laws so that we can continue to live without fear of reprisal due to laws that are in place for actions we as citizens didn’t ask for. In the name of child welfare, parents are harrased and constitutional rights are violated. Honestly we need to get rid of child support agencies completely, they were initially to be financial child support enforcement under the guise of child welfare. This division has been overreaching and continues to do so more and more every day. The welfare of the child is no longer in the families interest nor the child’s interest. When the gov’t has the right to remove children from their homes because the government wants to experiment and take these children out of the hands of capable, responsible and willing parents to teach them a lesson, is the govt really doing things in the interest of the child or even the family? I think not.

  42. Ben March 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    If the parents are treated like criminals, criminal law should apply, including the point that the parents should be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Since the crime isn’t substantiated, this case wouldn’t and shouldn’t make it to court at all.

  43. MC501 March 3, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    This nightmare is not limited to freedom of parenting styles.

    Americans are really missing the steady erosion of privacy. We already live in a Gestapo environment. Bad press make it attractive for the media to vilify free thinkers. If the founding fathers were alive today they’d be stockpiling guns because the government is completely out of control and answers only to itself. We no longer control the government – the exact scenario our founding fathers wanted to avoid. An unaccountable government.

  44. ARM March 3, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Michelle really hit the nail on the head: “It seems like I could call and report that my neighbors have apples in the house, and that would guarantee CPS tearing their lives apart looking for a problem.”

    This is the part I don’t understand when Donna (and others from the CPS side of things) continually repeat that CPS has to investigate all reports. Why, if what is reported is not criminal, neglectful, or abusive? If my neighbor reports that I force my child to eat his vegetables before he can have dessert, or that I enforce naptime and bedtime, does CPS “have to investigate”?

    If that’s really the case, it should be changed. CPS (and the police) should be able (and obligated) to just say to a caller who reports non-abuse or another non-crime, “So your neighbor’s seven-year-old is walking down the street? Thanks for telling us, but that’s none of our business.”

  45. lollipoplover March 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    “Being encouraged to walk and being encouraged to walk ALONE are two different things.”

    No they’re really not that different. If the school district does not provide transportation for my children, they have no right to tell me how my family gets our kids to school. As long as my kids get to school safely and on time, don’t interfere with my choice of transportation. Not all families can drive or walk/bike their kids to school each day. To assume this would put an unjust financial burden on these families, which the school district cannot do.

    Just because all of the walking kids have parental escorts at your school does not mean this is standard procedure at all schools. Our walkers and bikers have complete independence and only a few of the youngest need parents. And our school has no grade and age restrictions on kids who walk or bike.
    It’s just something we teach our children to do at young ages. They do it well, too.

  46. Laina March 3, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I keep seeing people respond on the The Washington Post article that these kids had to cross a highway (aka Georgia Ave) to walk to and from the park. So, since I’m not familiar with D.C. area neighborhoods, I decided to do google street view on Georgia Ave. I was completely expecting something like an 8 lane road with wall to wall cars. Instead I find a 4 lane road with sidewalks that probably does have a decent amount of traffic during rush hour, but in the google street view it’s not that busy at all. Also, I see kids walking to or from school with their backpacks on and at only one intersection did I see a crossing guard. These children were standing at street corners using the crossing lights/symbols themselves. So it doesn’t seem to me like this street is that big of a deal. I know kids in the city nearest where I live who cross busier streets to walk to and from school. Looking at streetview I didn’t see anything that looked extremely dangerous for 10 or 6 year old children. So in my opinion, this entire investigation is a fiasco.

  47. Laina March 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Let me correct my last comment. There is one place where the street turns to 6 lanes but again their are crosswalks at each intersection and plenty of sidewalk space, plus plenty of people walking on the sidewalks. So again I don’t see what these parents did as even remotely neglectful.

  48. ARM March 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Actually, Laina, having lived there I can tell you that Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring is pretty alarming and D.C. area drivers are notoriously impatient and disrespectful of pedestrians. The crosswalks really are very long on the major intersections – that wasn’t just camera trickery in the news story.

    Not that I’m saying the Meitivs are in the wrong to let the kids walk; after all, a careless driver can fail to notice pedestrians big or small, and there are no magic protection rays that make kids walking next to their parents magically safe. And streets and crosswalks won’t get any safer until drivers get used to seeing pedestrians on them.

  49. Donna March 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    “If the school district does not provide transportation for my children, they have no right to tell me how my family gets our kids to school.”

    That is absolutely true. However, as we discussed ad nauseum on the bus post a couple down, the schools do have a right to determine how your children will leave its property. That your school does not means nothing more than your school does not, not that something different is illegal.

    “Just because all of the walking kids have parental escorts at your school does not mean this is standard procedure at all schools.”

    Never said it was. Just stated that not providing bus transportation doesn’t actually mean that the schools endorse walking. We’ve had several people mention that their schools don’t provide buses (to all or some students) and still actively discourage walking. My kids school actively encourages walking, but expects walking children to be accompanied by an adult under a certain age. Other schools will have different set ups. Unless your children actually attend Montgomery County schools and you know that walking is actively encouraged by the school system, saying that it is based on what was posted is nonsensical. It is certainly possible that the school district does encourage walking. It is equally possible that they don’t and expect you to get your child to school some other way if a bus isn’t provided (or more accurately home from school).

  50. Donna March 3, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    “Donna (and others from the CPS side of things)”

    I am not from the CPS side of things. In fact, I represent parents and children AGAINST CPS on a daily basis. I just get very annoyed when seemingly intelligent people start spouting off completely wrong information about things like the law and their “rights.” It annoys me.

    But to answer your question, you are setting up straw man examples. CPS is not being flooded with reports of kids not eating veggies. The vast majority, something like 87%, of CPS reports come in through mandated reporters, and the vast majority of the rest come from family members, not neighbors. This is partially because people find you far less interesting than you find yourself. Extremely few people can be bothered to harass others. Expecting that some neighbor is going to become so infatuated by you that s/he will report you to CPS for even valid reasons, let alone invalid, is as self-absorbed as thinking that someone will see your child’s picture online and have to travel across 6 states to get her. it could happen, but is not damn likely. It is also partially because it is very hard to report something to CPS unless you are one of these mandated reporters, at least in my state. Our CPS phones are not manned. You get a message that essentially tells you to call the police if you suspect abuse.

    I am sure that CPS does have some level of crazy that can be filtered out. However, THIS was not such a case. First, it was reported by a POLICE OFFICER, not a random person (not that I don’t think some cops are complete idiots, but that they do have a certain level of credence not given to average Joe’s which is often scary). Second, there are instances where a 10 year old and a 6 year old walking WOULD be indicative of neglect. This was not one, but I can think of some where it would be. I don’t know what the report said, but I bet it didn’t say “two well-cared-for siblings walking happily down the street in absolutely no danger whatsoever with the full permission of their top-notch parents who allowed them to do so only after thoughtful consideration and spending many hours teaching them how to properly cross the street.”

  51. CT_Yankee March 3, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

    The Unsubstantiated verdict sends a clear message, “You can’t tell what will set off the next round of CPS legal attacks, so you had best cower in the corner and not provoke us!”. A clear rule means you can go right up to that point and know there is no problem, “the law” can do nothing to you. Put up a 65mph sign, and any driver knows that at that speed or below, no speeding ticket will be issued. Make some form of vague “Driving appropriately for conditions” law and no ever knows when, if ever, they are going to get a very expensive ticket. Let the people live in fear of the whim of whatever official stands in front of them, knowing full well that the next official they see will have a whole different set of interpretation of “the rules”.

    So they are not afraid of virtually non-existent bogyman attacks on children. The attacks on parents by cops or CPS are very real, and the fear of them can still be used to lock children in the house. Fake fear, real fear, the end is the same, panic. This is what we teach our children. When in doubt, fear everything. After all, you can never be too afraid of the world we live in.

  52. BL March 3, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    “This is the part I don’t understand when Donna (and others from the CPS side of things) continually repeat that CPS has to investigate all reports. Why, if what is reported is not criminal, neglectful, or abusive?”

    Here’s a question I’ve asked before and never gotten answered. What if someone were to report parents from the other side of the free-range debate:

    “The Jones never let their kids walk anywhere alone. That’s abusive. Do something about it!”

    What sort of response would that get?

  53. ARM March 3, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    Actually Donna, I’ve known a number of people who have had angry neighbors/neighbors who just don’t like noisy kids make frivolous CPS reports about them, and likewise people whose exes have reported them to CPS for giving the kids fast food on their custodial weekends. Frivolous complaints as ammunition in a feud or as revenge are not at all far-out or fantastical, and authorizing an agency to automatically pursue them, unrestrained by normal rules of due process or probable cause is a serious problem. Instead of saying we’re creating a straw man, why don’t you explain why it should be the case that every report must be investigated, regardless of whether what is alleged is illegal or harmful. Saying that a 6 and 10-year-old could be unsafe walking together doesn’t cut it: yes they could, if there was specific evidence to that effect, but the ages themselves do not constitute such evidence.

  54. Jason March 3, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    This is only tangentially relevant, but in 1970, my 14 y.o. sister went to the courthouse in our small city on her way home from school to tell Child Services that she was being abused by my parents because she had to help with the cooking and cleaning and taking care of me.

    Two investigators came to our house and spent a good hour interviewing my parents. Of course, nothing came of it, but they were very serious in explaining that they had to investigate even this kind of complaint.

    So, that’s nothing particularly new.

  55. Emily March 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    @Donna–If your daughter’s school encourages walking, and doesn’t provide bus transportation for students living inside the designated “walk zones,” BUT they say that grades K-3 have to be escorted to and from school by an adult, then families with kids that age who work a traditional 9-5 schedule are in trouble. Does it have to be an adult who walks the younger kids to and from school, or would an older sibling or older friend suffice? Is there an after-school program? Does the program cost money, or is it free? If it costs money, that bothers me–I can’t get behind the mentality of “We’re going to tell you how to raise your children, and you have to pay for it.”

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  57. lollipoplover March 3, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    “not providing bus transportation doesn’t actually mean that the schools endorse walking.”

    Students within a mile of their school are designated as “Walkers”. Not “driven to school” or “escorted to school by parents”. So the school labels them Walkers, but that’s not endorsing walking???
    Should they call them transportationally challenged instead?

  58. DC March 4, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    I have worked for a child protective agency in a large city for 16 years and have never heard of someone being “responsible” for “unsubstantiated neglect”. That’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

  59. Andrew March 4, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    This is another ridiculous case of government overstepping authority and abuse of power. What specific law was broken? If they cite some vague, nebulous guidance, IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Laws must be clear and well defined. We must stop all this abuse of power and Big Brother mentality. FIGHT IT TO THE SUPREME COURT! I will gladly contribute to your legal fund, and I don’t usually do that.

    It’s getting worse every day. Just a few months ago, I was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the police station….for having an expired military driving license – even though my actual State Driver’s license was valid. And I only work for the military as a civilian! When I asked what authority they did this under, the answer was essentially “because we said so.” I did my own research, see they had NO authority to do so, and I am fighting back now and holding them accountable. We must ALL do this.

  60. Andrew March 4, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    “Fake fear, real fear, the end is the same, panic. This is what we teach our children. When in doubt, fear everything. After all, you can never be too afraid of the world we live in.”

    Great post. Reminds me of an article I read on how certain (and probably most) federal agencies have a vested interest in constantly instilling fear in the general public. How else can you justify your substantial budget (and your job) if all is well…?

  61. Madeline Tucker March 4, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Now although I had never heard the term free range kids I am a firm supporter of it. Personally I call it just being a kid. Kids should go outside and play. My daughter just turned 19 and she had boundaries where she could go by herself but she could go by herself places and a very young age. I find it absolutely ridiculous how parents are these days. If there is anything I can do to aid in supporting them please let me know.

  62. Josette March 4, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    When I was a child, we sometimes walked several miles to a friend’s house. We played in the woods. We often were outside unsupervised all day except to eat or help with chores and all our parents knew was that we were somewhere not too far off. This was the same for all the kids I knew. We even rode in the back of pick-up trucks – imagine that!!! We all loved our parents and they loved us. They took care of us, and taught us what we should do in different situations. They were good parents. And, believe it or not, none of us were kidnapped or hurt. Now, some got broken arms by falling off the jungle gym at school, even with teachers looking on. Bad things sometimes happen, no matter how careful we are, unless you live in a bubble – and then we would probably find out that the bubble contained toxic chemicals! Our government has become WAY TOO BIG. They have no business trying to tell parents how to raise their children, unless the child is actually in danger. We need to tell the government to get out of our homes. I agree with “ARM” that the CPS worker (that threatened to take away these children if the parents didn’t sign the paper) SHOULD BE FIRED. Our government talks so much about not bullying, and yet, they often are the biggest bullies around. This CPS worker must have really been feeling their ‘power’.
    I’d like to show support for the Meitiv family but do not know how or where to email. If anyone knows, please post it.

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  64. Rebecca March 4, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Typical bureaucratic ‘cma’ letter. I am glad the family is appealing and exposing the dark side of CPS.

    @ Josette https://www.facebook.com/author.danielle.meitiv is how to get in touch/help the family.

  65. SOA March 4, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Wow. Just wow. So they can find or prove any neglect but what to convict them of something and have something over this family so they come up with this unsubstantiated neglect?

    No way any other charge would work this way. You are either convicted of murder or not. You are either convicted of rape or not. You are either convicted of check fraud or not. There is no well we could not prove it but we think you did it, so we are saying you are guilty of unsubstantiated check fraud/murder/rape. So why did they not slap OJ with unsubstantiated murder then?

  66. Peggy Gacke March 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    This is insane! Unsubstantiated child neglect for letting your kids walk down the street! I grew up in the 50’s and we had so much freedom. I rode my bike EVERYWHERE and sometimes alone as I have no siblings. I walked to school, to friends houses, i played in the park, I took public transportation to my grandmothers house, etc. etc. And I’m from Chicago. I can honestly say no stranger ever approached me.
    The kids in my development here in FL are driven to the bus stop by their parents. Its no more than 3 blocks from any house to the bus stop. It’s ridiculous. We let our son, who was born in 1978 walk to school from K on with a friend. I let him ride his bike in the neighborhood and play with friends. He’s very responsible and independent adult now
    I don’t think these parents realize what harm they are doing to their kids. They will either be afraid to do anything on their own, or run wild when I they finally get some freedom.
    I applaud free range kids for trying to get the message out that teaching your kids to be responsible and careful is the best way to raise a well adjusted adult.

  67. Uncle Sam March 4, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Can you provide a reference/link to the officers threat?

  68. Dark Space March 5, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    Let me know when the legal defense fund hat is going around, because the police need to be checked here. The police department didn’t violate some nanny-state law, or local ordinance – they kidnapped two children who were walking home from the park, then they violated the 4th Amendment of the constitution when they walked in the guys house with no probably cause or warrant, and then they threatened to shoot a man in front of his kids … all because they were walking home from a park. I mean seriously, throw the book at them.

    Personally, I would be in jail if this happened to me. You don’t miss with my kid.

  69. Papilio March 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

    Stories like this make me wonder what it’s like for immigrants from other first world countries (so they would be middle/upperclass) to go and live in the US with their kids and suddenly have to deal with all this cr*p. I’ve seen articles/blog posts/books about the reverse situation (American living abroad), and we all know the story about the Danish woman who left her baby outside the restaurant, but there must be many more of such culture clashes…

  70. Chuck March 10, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    I understand that we live in much more dangerous times than when I grew up in Chicago during the late 50’s and 60’s. My parents both worked so I often either took care of or played outdoors with my younger brothers. I remember walking from the north side (inner city) Century Theater at Diversey and Clark Street to our apartment at Clark and Arlington when 10 or 11 with my younger brother who was 4 and half years younger at roughly 10PM to midnight. That was just under a half mile. I walked to evening cub scout meetings alone also about a half mile away held at a Presbyterian church a few blocks west down Fullerton Ave. It was and could be a little dangerous usually because of pedophiles who would occasionally accost children openly. But, it was a way to grow up fast. I wonder how often children are abducted now, especially in Montgomery County, that motivates such strong laws about unattended children. Are there far more abductions now? Are there special problems in Montgomery County, such as child abduction criminals feeding into human trafficking gangs? I assume that might be the case in many places around the country more so now than in the past. If so, are Montgomery law and family enforcement officials tracking down and exposing human trafficking criminals in their area or allowing them to have free reign over innocent children and their families? We see their accomplishments in citing parents. What is their track record of arresting human trafficking criminals?