Let’s hope that 2021 is the year several states pass Reasonable Childhood Independence / Free-Range Parenting bills, as Utah did in 2018. Right now, it’s looking good in Idaho, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and possibly Nebraska.
This year in Colorado a Democrat and a Republican co-sponsored a Reasonable Childhood Independence bill. The two women were friends and had wanted to sponsor a bill together for years —this was the first one they agreed on! It sailed through the house unanimously and was a week away from probable passage in the Senate when the pandemic shut the legislature down. We are hopeful that it will be resurrected this coming year.
In the meantime, here’s the first-of-its-kind map of all 50 states’ child neglect laws that Let Grow commissioned. As you can see, many of the laws are so open-ended and vague that parents are left unsure of whether they can trust their kids with some independence or not.
That’s not fair. It leaves the discretion to the authorities — not the parents who know and love their kids. Parents end up second-guessing themselves. I’ve heard from so many who say, “I’d LIKE to send my kids to the park” — or even let them wait in the car a couple of minutes — “but I’m afraid of child protective services.”
And then, as I wrote in this month’s Reason Magazine, there are the laws that aren’t open-ended, they’re just plain awful:
Connecticut criminal law says parents who leave kids under age 12 alone, even at home, can be found guilty of neglect. Twelve! “Obviously,” says a pamphlet from the Tennessee court system, “young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time.” That’s not so obvious to me, but Michigan has the same policy. Louisiana says it’s illegal to leave a child in a car if the adult is more than 10 feet away. Good luck returning that shopping cart!
If you’d like to get involved in giving parents back the right to raise independent kids, here is Let Grow’s legislative toolkit. There’s a form at the bottom where you can indicate your interest.
This year, let freedom ring! Or at least walk around the neighborhood.