How Come CPS Gets to Decide If Kids Can Walk Outside?

Here’s a great comment on the fddirshtki
below this one, about the Meitiv case. They Meitivs were, of course, investigated for letting their 10 and 6 year old kids walk home together from the park in suburban Maryland:

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…. Most people aren’t willing to take that risk.

It is for this very reason that we have drawn up the Free-Range Kids & Parents Bill of Rights, which basically states that children age 5 and up (and I’m willing to go lower) have the right to be outside, unsupervised, and their parents have the right to let them. Period. Take the bill to your town hall or mayor. Time to agitate. – L.

Who gets to rule on how we raise our kids?

Who gets to rule on how we raise our kids?

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35 Responses to How Come CPS Gets to Decide If Kids Can Walk Outside?

  1. Montanafreedom March 3, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Better yet, lets not make stupid laws in the first place.

  2. Michelle March 3, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Did you see this comment from Melanie, too?

    “…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.”

    WOW. Apparently “good parents” just psychically know when CPS will approve their decisions.

  3. Michelle March 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Montanafreedom, yes and no. Ideally, the law would leave parenting decisions in the hands of parents, and government agents would be reasonable people who would only interfere in cases of actual neglect, like intentionally leaving a two year old home alone all day long. I live in Texas where there is no law regarding the age at which you can leave a child home, or let a child go out to play alone. I always thought that was a good thing, until experience taught me that it’s not really at the PARENT’S discretion, but the COP’S or SOCIAL WORKER’S discretion. When a cop chewed me out about my 6yo daughter walking home from the neighborhood park, my husband called the sheriff’s office to complain. The supervisor was sympathetic and laid it out for us. Basically, because there is no law to go by, each individual cop has to decide for him or herself, in each situation, whether a particular child is “in danger.” Some of those cops are in the habit of bringing home every kid they see, even as old as TWELVE, and no one can tell them they are wrong! And the best part is, if the cop chooses to bring a child home, they are legally required to call CPS.

    I abhor the idea of the government passing a law that says I can’t let my kids play outside until they are X years old. But worse is the idea that the government can arbitrarily punish me for letting my kids out at a variety of ages, without any forewarning, all dependent on the whim of individual actors and their own personal bias.

  4. Tiny Tim March 3, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Tired of people saying that CPS had no choice because of that law. Obviously the law doesn’t apply, and almost certainly it was put in place to regulate the minimum ages of babysitters.

  5. mystic_eye March 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

    @Michelle just because that’s one police department’s interpretation that doesn’t mean it is correct. Generally speaking cops don’t have the right to arbitrarily decide what is and isn’t law breaking. Police who pull over a car, or stop an adult, have to have reasonable cause and it is the duty of their superiors to ensure that “reasonable” is actually, in fact, reasonable – failing that the courts ultimately decide what is and isn’t reasonable grounds based on what a prudent person would believe. If you have one cop that consistently pulls over black people grossly out of proportion to white people then the supervisors have a duty to review the situation and possibly intervene – age is also a protected class and we should not tolerate a police officer that is unreasonably targeting children any more than we’d tolerate a police officer unreasonably targeting seniors.

    In short, the supervisors have the legal duty to ensure that ‘in danger’ is fairly enforced.

  6. Nadya March 3, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I’m not sure if this was mentioned before, but I have a question. While I’m not going into discussing the pros and cons of immunization, why is it that its legal to allow someone’s children go to schools/day cares without having immunization shots (as long as the parents sign the waver) but not legal to let your children to walk home alone.
    How is it different?

    if we are talking about the child neglect and potential harm, at least in the case of “walking unattended” the potential risk is to your child (children) alone. they are not endangering anyone else’s child. When with the immunization, the picture is way more complicated.

    So how come I have an individual right (and be protected by the Constitution) not to give my child shots but I’m not free (or at least not without annoying consequences) to make a decision on how to give my child a bit of independence?…

  7. Reziac March 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Michelle: the solution is obvious: Teach your kids to run away from cops!!

  8. Warren March 3, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    From now on, our kids need to carry their FreeRange cards, the FreeRange Bill of Rights, and their attorney’s card.

    Would love to see the look on a cops face when a ten year old asks “Am I being detained?” and then hands over the attorney’s card, “If so please call and direct all questions to …..”.

  9. Momoffour March 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    I agree with you COMPLETELY. I live in Connecticut, where there is no LAW stating when you can leave your children alone at home, but there is an age recommendation.
    Once, I left my 10 year old son and my dog in the car, locked, the ignition on but no keys in (I have a keyless start to warm up the car) windows up and doors locked, in March so no high heat or cold, and some “good citizen” called the police. (My son was alone in a shopping center parking lot for less than 5 minutes while I ran in the store to grab some beans)
    The police showed up, and he seemed very angry with me. And while he couldn’t say I had broken any laws, he claimed it could “look bad.” The funny thing is, that “good citizen” was more concerned of the dog being left alone in the car than my son.

    I don’t want a law telling me my child has to be a certain age, either, but I truly don’t like grey areas that leave it to the whim of someone else to decide how to parent my child.

    Thankfully, this police officer saw reason and knew I had only been gone a matter of minutes so let it slide, but since then i drag all four of my children, including my oldest, with me everywhere I go, for fear of someone saying something.

  10. Anna March 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

    It is NEVER a good idea to run away from cops. Depending on your age, gender, and race that could actually get you killed in this country.

  11. Andrea March 3, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Yes, it’s much better for these kids to live with people like the ones in this article:

  12. Jen (P.) March 3, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    @Nadya – There are plenty of people who think parents should not have the right to refuse to vaccinate their children and that requiring vaccinations would be constitutional as a public health measure.

    As far as constitutional rights and free range kids are concerned, the Supreme Court has broadly stated that parents have the right (and the duty) to direct and control the upbringing of their children. Many of the cases where this issue has come up involve the right to determine how and where one’s children will be educated. These free range issues seem a natural corollary to me, and cases like the Meitivs’ are examples of that right being violated. I think part of the reason we don’t see these cases litigated is, as I said before, it’s not worth the risk of fighting the unlawful investigation. Parents like the Meitivs cooperate because they (quite reasonably, in my opinion) don’t want to risk having their children taken away. Then, because they “cooperated,” nothing ever comes of it. But that doesn’t justify the intrusion.

    I love Lenore’s suggested law “that children over the age of five may walk, cycle, take public transportation and/or play outside by themselves with the permission of a parent or guardian.” It’s wrong that this seems necessary, but it does.

  13. Melanie March 3, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    I think the complicating factor is most of this stuff doesn’t happen in court, or the justice system, so most of what you think you know doesn’t apply. If you leave a child unattended in many states you are not breaking a law. Action occurs when the good Samaritan calls. At that moment, the police do not a arrest you. A ticket isn’t issued (frankly at this point I’d be all for that!). You are now suspected of endangering a child which isn’t a police issue, so CPS is sent to the home and you are suggested to comply voluntarily so they don’t have to remove your children. So there is no search warrant. CPS interviews you and your children and makes their call and moves forward. Your children might be removed, or you might be ordered to classes, or you might have the opportunity to sign an agreement, and a weakly worded one at that, promising to never do the bad thing again. If you are unwilling to sign – even if only out of protest that you want a lawyer to review it or that you slightly disagree with wording, then the threats are back on and oh they might just have to temporarily remove the kids because you are uncooperative. Please – remove children because there is evidence of abuse absolutely. I won’t complain one peep. But threatening to do so over a disagreement about the paperwork?! Because you don’t like mommy’s tone and want to take her down a notch? I feel that at its worst, CPS is a system of coercion that operates fully outside what most Americans understand to be their justice system. If you are expecting your day in court sorry, that ain’t happening. And that is what is so terrifying about the process. No Miranda rights. No access to public attorney. And no statistics to reveal whether the system is acting without bias or whether the outcomes of these interventions are even positive.

  14. lollipoplover March 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    Of all the causes and problems in our country, I never imagined we would have to fight for “Walking While Young”.

  15. Glen March 3, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    These good parents need to get the heck out of Maryland. This is tyranny!

  16. common sense March 3, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    melanie…you hit the nail right on the head!

  17. Momof3 March 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Dogs and cats should never be left in a locked vehicle. They cannot get out of the vehicle if it becomes too hot. They can become overheated and this can result in a life-threatening situation.

    Children have more sense than pets. They do eventually reach an age where they can open a door and exit a vehicle where pets do not. What do you do with the kid who can’t stand the smell inside the deli? I guess you let them stand outside in the parking lot. You wouldn’t want to leave them in your car where they could open the door if they got hot or be sheltered from the weather.

    And do not give your kids something like a free range card. When they reach for it, the cop might think they are reaching for a weapon and…

  18. Edward March 3, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

    Just googled “repeal a law in Maryland”. Apparantly it can be done as results listed were for a storm water control tax being replaced with a better alternative right now.
    My point: Can someone here who purports to be a legal professional please list EVERY STEP necessary to get a reckless Maryland child protection law repealed and replaced with something that does not turn innocent citizens INTO criminals. Only this will keep the Meitiv’s dilemma from being in vain.
    I’m serious, every step of the procedure – please.

  19. Puzzled March 3, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    I am not a lawyer, but I do have experience drafting legislation and lobbying for it. Here’s what we usually do:
    1. Draft exactly what you want. Make sure it doesn’t create problems with other laws, and make sure it actually accomplishes what you want it to accomplish. A straight repeal of the law above would not be sufficient, for instance, and might actually be counterproductive. You need to look carefully at the state’s enabling legislation for CPS (or whatever it’s called in the particular state.) In CT, for instance, the enabling legislation is very broad; the best approach, short of eliminating CPS (not politically feasible) is putting forward a law defining abuse and neglect. As long as they are undefined, CPS has a lot of discretion. My efforts here are on getting laws passed that narrowly define those terms, since CPS is empowered to act in the event of abuse or neglect.
    2. Draft a few more versions with different wording.
    3. Get the drafts to legislators, in both houses, willing to introduce them. Usually, there is a deadline for submission of regular order bills. In CT, it is 2 days into the session. It is highly unlikely that anything you draft will move forward under any sort of special order, so you need to get it to legislators by the deadline. This entails, obviously, finding sympathetic legislators. I’ve done that by building relationships over periods of years, and by campaigning for successful candidates. If your coalition doesn’t have those sorts of connections, you need to approach cold. This is harder, but it can be done. Look for people who campaigned on similar issues or who have introduced similar bills. Then you need access. This means you’ll probably be approaching them in their office early in the session, before the deadline. This isn’t ideal, but it’s more likely than managing to score an appointment before the session. Make sure what you have is perfect; there won’t be time for their staff to fix it (or them, if your state has small districts.) This also means freshmen are out; they’re too busy to meet with you at that time. This is a problem, since freshman are the most likely to introduce something a citizen gives them. Ideally, you’ll have contacts with multiple freshmen. You can start planning that ahead of time – get close to a candidate who has a chance of winning, and campaign with them. It’s helpful if you have enough pull that you campaigning with them is helpful. Try to get people who can be of use to a candidate into your coalition.
    4. Ideally, what you want to do is get different all your version to different legislators, from different parties, in both houses. If you can, aim to have your best version introduced by someone who is on the relevant committee. It’s likely that the public won’t know committee assignments before the bill deadline, so if you’re working on freshmen this is problematic – but the legislators will know. If you’ve built relationships with candidates, it’s a matter of luck at this point. If you don’t get to a committee member, that’s not a huge deal.
    5. The bill will be introduced, and will be referred. After the first couple days of the session, the legislature will move to committee work. What you want to do then is get the committee your bill went to to put it on their calendar. If they put it at the foot of the calendar, it will die a quiet death. Very few people chime in before committees make their calendars; it doesn’t take all that much to get a bill considered. Ideally, you’ll have 4 or 5 people who live within the district of someone on the committee, and this will be true for 2 or 3 committee members, preferably from different parties. Get them to write and call their legislator’s office. If all you have is 5 people in one committee member’s district, that may be enough – there’s very little pressure, so a few letters, preferably concentrated on one person, will be helpful.
    6. Schedule a lobby day and get a group of people to come to the capital to lobby. Get training for this. You can take training from groups like the Leadership Institute. My party has a committee offering this training. (Parties can have up to three committees, we have our board, a candidate support committee, and a state-level leadership alliance. Our candidate support committee provides this training to our affiliates.) We don’t have a lot of money, but we may be able to help you if you get to this point. You can do this before the calendar is finished, or afterwards if your bill made it to the calendar. If it failed, you can try to use a lobby day to get it moved from the foot, but it’s unlikely.
    7. If your bill made it to the calendar, the committee will likely schedule a public hearing. Coordinate with a group of people to go to the public hearing. Decide ahead of time what each of you will say so you’re hitting key points, but don’t all say the same thing. Have different witnesses who represent different stakeholders and who come from different political angles. Again, groups like the Leadership Institute can offer training on how to do this part.
    8. There may be a second public hearing if the committee reports the bill out to the floor, or there may not. Either way, if it’s reported out, have another lobby day, but meet with as many legislators as you can get access to. Have a larger call and letter writing campaign to the entire body.
    9. Hope for the best.

    It should go without saying, but anytime you’re bringing a group of people to meet with legislators or speak at a public hearing, insist that everyone dresses appropriately.

    The first step needs to be emphasized. Bills need to be drafted carefully. Laws like the above aren’t where most of the action is with CPS. The key is limiting their ability to act in the absence of criminal charges. You need your bill to not interfere with legitimate functions (or what legislators will think is legitimate.) The best approach is usually amending the legislation creating the agency to define the words that let them act.

  20. MoButterMoBetta March 3, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

    “It is unacceptable that CPS has the authority to interpret the law so loosely in order to bring a family into the system.”

    “the process itself is the punishment”

    ubi jus ibi remedium – “where there is a right there is a remedy”

    CPS has very little incentive to follow the law because the parents have no meaningful, timely remedy. The most common attempt at a remedy is a civil action. Even this typically very expensive and slow recourse since the individuals are rarely punished and any money awarded ultimately comes from the taxpayers.

    The ease at which CPS can invalidate the 4th and 5th amendments should be clear and convincing evidence that they are out of control.

    Even with the nationwide / worldwide attention this case received, CPS’s response of “responsible” for “unsubstantiated child neglect” demonstrates to me that even when they know everyone is watching they still will not do what is right.

  21. Edward March 4, 2015 at 12:28 am #

    Thank you, Puzzled. Curious name for someone who just put a lot of the pieces together for us.
    Now, everyone in every state must copy and save and use this information. You may have to add to and/or adjust it for your situation and state.
    Anyone who has more relevent input on these steps please post them.
    Thanks again.

  22. Edward March 4, 2015 at 1:34 am #

    This google link lists results for “Maryland referendum process”:

    Each state is different so you must substitute your state’s name for “Maryland” to search your state’s procedure.

  23. sexhysteria March 4, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    The Meitiv family definitely has a strong case for a multi-million-dollar damage suit against the police and CPS. The government will become much more cautious once its pocketbook is threatened.

  24. BL March 4, 2015 at 4:50 am #

    “The government will become much more cautious once its pocketbook is threatened.”

    Why? Agents of the state never have to pay out of their own pockets.

  25. Beth March 4, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    “They cannot get out of the vehicle if it becomes too hot.”

    And here we go again. It is NOT hot 365 days of the year everywhere in the world. In fact, I’d venture to guess that many areas of the world, even the US, has something called “winter”. Please stop making rules that affect your climate only, and allow the rest of us to live within our climates.

  26. C. S. P. Schofield March 4, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    Proposal; “In cases where CPS has beenshown to have overreached its authority or threatened a family for substantially normal behavior, the parents in question shall be given horsewhips and the CPS agents a five secod head start.”

  27. ARM March 4, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    I’m not sure the solution is more laws. After all, whether a kid is safe is a judgment call that we all believe parents are supposed to make. A parent who let a 10-year-old with a serious mental handicap or terrible impulse control go to the park alone might in fact be negligent, while somebody else’s 7-year-old was just fine. Creating more age cut-offs seems like a step in the wrong direction.

    It seems to me what’s really needed is policies/statutes that rein in CPS’s apparently infinite discretion: e.g., something like, “A parent cannot be accused of negligence merely on account of a child’s age if the child is at least 6…”

    Also, CPS agents should be held strictly to account for overreach. E.g., the individual CPS worker who threatened to take away the Meitiv kids if the dad wouldn’t sign a paper should be firmly reprimanded if not fired. After all, that’s a serious threat, and in the context – where the kids are not in imminent danger, especially compared to the danger of being in the foster care system – that’s a grave misuse of his/her power. It’s every bit as bad as a cop pulling his gun without cause. The CPS worker should be called on to give a justification for that threat, just as a cop would be (or at least I hope a cop would be…)

  28. Paul N March 4, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    “I have been kidnapped by the police. The state stole me. My real parents are…” is THAT what people need to start hearing, over and over?

  29. lollipoplover March 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Perhaps Lenore can update the current crime statistics to include CPS abduction attempts.

  30. Heidi Kahlke March 4, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

    Thank you so much for standing up and being a voice for sanity. As much as we protect our right to have free reporting, free speech, people are taking what is written and talked about on television as fact and I believe it has become toxic and it is affecting our society in so many negative ways. I think we don’t even know the full impact.

    No children in the streets or on the playground, this is one of them, the completely hideous exaggeration of danger in society, people, food, playground, living. You name it, it’s dangerous. My favorite tagline is, its dangerous to be Alive !!! Even staying in bed isn’t safe, you know, inactivity( heart disease)…..where are we to run to!!!!! Wait running that’s not really safe either, our ankles, well they are weak. I think i’ll get in the shower, oh gosh… I don’t even have a non slip surface in there, nor a handicap bar, better not take a shower…I could slip and fall. Perhaps i’ll take a drive, no no no, do you know the fatality/crash statistics in that car of yours? puhleese.

    Keep fighting the good fight, I am in Utah, if there is anything I can do to push this movement I believe in it whole heartedly and would be glad to stand behind it.

    thank you, thank you , thank you!!!!!!

    Did I say thank you? if only people would take a moment to really understand what you are promoting I think they would get on board.

    I love your spirit!!!


  31. Donna March 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    “As I understand it, this is the law the Meitivs were accused of violating:”

    The Meitivs were not accused of violating any law. Only the police can accuse you of violating the law and the police didn’t. CPS can’t accuse you of violating any laws or charge you with violating any laws. CPS is CIVIL, not criminal law. CPS took the stance, that in the absence of a law stating when children can be outside alone, this law gives them some guidelines. That’s it. Continuing to insist somehow CPS believes they violated THIS law is ridiculous.

    “The key is limiting their ability to act in the absence of criminal charges.”

    And how exactly does that help kids or parents? Do you really think CPS is just going to walk away or are they going to press for charges so that they can act? And what are the repercussions? A meth addict gets arrested for neglect because her kids are regularly left to fend for themselves while she is getting high, her probation gets violated, she is sent to prison for 5 years, leaving her children in foster care. Definitely sounds better than helping mom get into rehab.

    Or maybe we should arrest a mentally ill mother for child molestation for masturbating in her doctor’s waiting room with her children present where she will be declared incompetent, spend months in a mental hospital regaining competence, if that ever happens, so that she can now go to prison and spend the rest of her life on the sex offender registry.

    The first describes 90% of my CPS cases and the second is an actual case (one of the more memorable). You all want to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are a large number of kids in serious crisis in this country and putting mom and/or dad in jail doesn’t help them, but CPS is not just going to walk away either. Ultimately, they will get the parents arrested for something just to get the kids to safety if that is the only way to do it.

    What CPS did HERE was wrong. THIS is NOT 99.9999% of CPS cases. If you can figure out legislation that will stop these kinds of cases, but leave CPS free to help kids who need help without requiring an arrest, I’ll look it over as a lawyer.

  32. Edward March 4, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Thank you for your offer Donna.
    To clarify; I am not advocating the removal of all child protection laws.
    Over the years the law enforcement/child protection industry has turned people’s good intentions into profits and power. This is the legislation that must be Repealed And Replaced. Maybe that will mean a certain group will no longer have ultimate authority over these matters. Maybe it will mean the creation of a totally new entity to oversee them.
    The reckless madness of it all that ends up harming kids and families is what must stop.

  33. Edward March 4, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

    Just used this link:

    to donate $100.00 to Meitiv legal fund at the website in conjunction with the National Association of Parents who are providing the legal help. I will probably donate more. I would like to see others donate some.
    The site can be a bit off-putting as you must sign up to access and make your donation and sign the petition. It’s not any more difficult than any other internet site.
    NOTE: One person commented elsewhere that he was wary of giving them his “e-mail account password” – this was a misunderstanding. uses your e-mail as a user name and then what they want you to do is create a NEW password (8 characters) for your Causes account. I must say I’ve seen better designed websites but my credit card donation was made (choose set amounts or input your own) and I’m happy I could help.
    Perhaps the Meitivs will have other ways to donate later if you feel sqeemish about all this.
    Please – find a way to help.

  34. Puzzled March 4, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Edward – I didn’t think of the initiative angle because we don’t have it here. That could work also.

    Donna – fair point. I typed too quickly in giving that precise guideline. I do think, though, that the standard of proof for removal of children should be as high as that for criminal cases, not that for civil cases. Regarding what I expect CPS to do when faced with things that laws have placed outside their purview – it depends, I guess, on what you mean by expect. I expect government employees (aka my employees) to obey the law and walk away from cases that don’t fit the jurisdiction given them by law, in the same way that I might say “I expect this room to be clean when I get back.” I know the room won’t be clean, and I know government employees won’t obey the law, but it’s worth demanding, I think.

    As I mentioned, my focus when drafting bills on this issue has been to define the terms used to empower CPS. In CT, CPS is simply empowered by law to deal with ‘abuse and neglect.’ In a high-profile case, CPS took neglect to include the parents of a 17 year old who decided to honor their daughter’s wishes not to continue with chemotherapy – she was taken from her parents, placed into a foster home, and forcibly treated. I would like to amend the law to define abuse and neglect, rather than leaving their definition up to CPS (yes, a judge can overrule their definition, but it doesn’t happen very often.) I will concede, though, that defining these words is not easy. To be specific, defining it in a way that excludes cases like that, but includes cases where intervention is legitimately needed, is not easy.

  35. Emily March 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I know this is Lenore’s choice of wording, and not CPS’ choice, but I can’t get over the word “if.” CPS gets to decide IF children can walk outside? Does that mean keeping them indoors, under constant supervision by adults, from birth until age 18, or move-in day at college or university? That sounds like a recipe for obesity, ADHD, rickets, and a whole mess of psychological problems.