On Saturday, Texas became the third state in America to enshrine the right of kids to a Free-Range Childhood. It follows Oklahoma and Utah in enacting a “Reasonable Childhood Independence” bill. When the Texas law goes into effect, fully one tenth of American citizens will enjoy new freedom under laws that Free-Range Kids and Let Grow helped to get passed.
That is so cool! Give a cheer! And a beer! And a new lack of fear on the part of parents who want their kids to play outside and engage in age-old “independent activities” without worrying this could lead to charges of neglect.
Amazingly, the bill became law on the 11th anniversary of “Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day,” a holiday created by Free-Range Kids and considered so wacky — so insane, so dangerous — at the time that it was splashed across the pages of The New York Daily News. The paper quoted the mother of an 8-year-old saying, “Never in a million years would I do something that stupid. When the kid turns 18 — fine. Until then you watch them.” And it spoke to an “expert” — the chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn — who said that “a 7-year-old shouldn’t be left alone in a backyard, much less a park.”
Well parents in Texas can let their kids play in the backyard or at the park or even down by the ol’ creek when they feel their kids are responsible enough to handle it. As Texas State Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat, explained to the assembly, where the law passed 143 to 5, the bill “changes our definition of neglect.” From now on, kids will be removed from their homes only when “they’re actually in danger, and not just the possibility of danger.”
“Removing a child from his or her family causes immense harm to the child and should only be done when absolutely necessary,” said Rep. James Frank, a Republican who was one of the bill’s co-authors. This new law — “the product of years of work from stakeholders of all types and legislators of both parties,” he said – gives the authorities those marching orders.
This way the new law not only protects parents who want to let their kids play outside, says Diane Redleaf, Let Grow’s legal consultant. “It also enables parents struggling to make ends meet to make child care arrangements that make life easier rather than harder.” In other words, it prevents poverty from being mistaken for neglect.
What a win for parents and kids. What a great way to celebrate “Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day.” What proof that our “crazy” ideas here about kids and independence — and parents knowing their kids better than some random passerby calling 911 — are crazily correct, sane and smart.
So go out and play, you kids in Utah and Oklahoma! (And you Texas kids in September, when the law goes into effect!) And if you live in a state that has NOT passed a law like this yet, check out Let Grow’s legislative advocacy page and toolkit and blog post detailing the Texas law. There’s work to be done! More details here!