The Free-Range Kids & Parents Bill of Rights

These are our rights, as parents, as kids, as humans. Please visit Let Grow’s Laws & Advocacy page for the latest on “Reasonable Childhood Independence” bills being introduced.

Here is the original, short and sweet, Free-Range Kids and Parent Bill of Rights:

Our children have the right to some unsupervised time, and we have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.

And here is the longer version. Below it is the version that passed in the Arkansas Senate, but was voted down by the House Judiciary Committee there. Still — kudos to Arkansas for being the first to try. Utah became the first state to actually pass — unanimously — a Free-Range Kids Law.

Feel free to suggest changes. These aren’t written on parchment…yet. And thanks to commenter Carolyn who wrote a lot of this.

Free-Range Kids and Parent Bill of Rights

 Statement of findings

  1. Violent crime is at a 50 year low.
  2. The risk of child abduction by strangers is very low.
  3. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among children.
  4. Lack of exercise is a contributing factor to short term and long term health risks for children.
  5. It is in the public interest for children to walk and cycle to their day-to-day destinations, and to play outside unsupervised.

Rights of Children to Freedom of Movement

  1. Therefore, this legislature decrees that children may walk, cycle, take public transportation and/or play outside by themselves, with the permission of a parent or guardian.
  2. Allowing children to exercise these rights shall not be grounds for civil or criminal charges against their parents or guardians, nor shall it be grounds for investigation by child protective services, removal of the children from their family home, or termination of parental rights.

Rights of Parents to Make Rational Decisions

  1. More children die in parking lots than die waiting in parked cars while their caregivers run an errand.
  2. The majority of children who die in parked cars were forgotten there for hours or got into the car unbeknownst to anyone and could not get out.
  3. Punishing parents who let their children wait in the car for five minutes will not bring back the children forgotten there for five hours.
  4. Therefore, parents should be allowed to make their own decisions, based on the location, temperature, and duration of their errand, as to whether or not they wish to let their child wait in the car.
  5. Laws against children waiting unsupervised for a short amount of time in a parked car shall be repealed.




Legislative findings.

The General Assembly finds that:

(1) Everyone desires the safety of all children;

(2) A child raised under constant adult supervision misses opportunities for growth and, as a result, may end up stunted developmentally 30 and physically;
(3) The alarming rise of obesity and diabetes in childhood is almost certainly linked to the insistence of parents and guardians on driving their children to school and activities instead of allowing their children to walk;
(4) As measured by incidences of mental health difficulties, today’s over-supervised youth experience more difficulties upon reaching adulthood than earlier generations;
(5) Earlier generations learned resilience by walking, bicycling, playing, helping out, and solving problems without constant adult intervention;
(6) Parents and guardians often are in the best position to weigh the risks and make decisions concerning the safety of children under their care, including where their children may go, with whom, and when; and
(7) The excessive investigation and prosecution of parents and guardians who have done nothing more than briefly and safely permit their children to remain unsupervised has introduced unnecessary governmental intrusion into the homes of families and diverted valuable public resources 12 to inconsequential and trivial matters.


Legislative intent.
It is the intent of the General Assembly that this act:
(1) Protect and promote a parent or guardian’s inherent right to raise his or her children; and
(2) Protect a parent or guardian’s decision to grant his or her children unsupervised time to engage in activities that include without limitation playing outside, walking to school, bicycling, remaining briefly in a vehicle, and remaining at home.


Arkansas Code Title 5, Chapter 27, Subchapter 1, is amended to add an additional section to read as follows:

Noncriminal acts of parents, custodians, guardians, and foster parents.

An act of a parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent described under § 12-18-103(14)(C) is not a criminal offense.

Arkansas Code § 12-18-103(14), concerning the definition of “neglect” under the Child Maltreatment Act, is amended to add an additional subdivision to read as follows:

(C) “Neglect” does not include a parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent who permits his or her child to perform the following actions unsupervised if the child is of sufficient capacity to avoid immediate danger and a significant risk of harm:

(i) Travel to and from school including without limitation traveling by walking, running, or bicycling;
(ii) Engage in outdoor play;
(iii) Remain for less than fifteen (15) minutes in a vehicle if the temperature inside the vehicle is not or will not become dangerously hot or cold; or
(iv) Remain at home before and after school if the parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent:
(a) Returns home on the same day on which the parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent gives the child permission to remain at home;
(b) Makes provisions for the child to be able to contact the parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent on the same day on which the parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent gives the child permission to remain at home; and
(c) Makes provisions for any reasonably foreseeable emergencies that may arise on the same day on which the parent, custodian, guardian, or foster parent gives the child permission to remain at home;

…And then the law states that a parent only doing any of the things outlined above shall not be investigated for negligence.


  1. Children have the right to be outside, unsupervised. Parents have the right to let them go.

    Children have the right to be outside, unsupervised. Parents have the right to let them go.

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62 Responses to The Free-Range Kids & Parents Bill of Rights

  1. Wendy W February 10, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    Excellent! To the “Statement of Findings” I would add something about how independent play builds self-confidence and problem-solving skills. As is, there is no statement that backs up the declaration in #5 that unsupervised play is in the public interest.

  2. Jennifer Davy February 10, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Where do I sign!!

    Next, let’s become the lawmakers, the senate and the lobbyist and show incumbents that social media campaigning does not need millions in corporate funds to win!!

    It’s time for the voice of the people to be heard again!

  3. Beth February 10, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    I’m a lawyer and, while I agree with everything in the Bill of Rights, it would never get enacted into law the way it is currently drafted. You have to remember that law enforcement must still be able to charge parents who actually neglect kids or let them roam free when doing so in a particular situation would put a child at risk (i.e. making a five-year old ride the NY subway or a city bus to school alone through a crime-ridden neighborhood, and the child gets hurt). There must be a way to punish actual bad parenting while protecting healthy, normal, free-range parenting from being caught up in the offense. The way it is currently drafted, the law is overbroad. I would make it say that a parent cannot be charged with a crime for letting a child over the age of five walk, cycle, take public transportation and/or play outside by themselves with the permission of a parent or guardian, unless specific circumstances exist which pose a real and indisputable risk of danger to the child. Or something like that.

  4. Warren February 10, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Repeal all laws named after missing or dead children. As these laws were not based on anything other than fear and emotion.

    For the gov’t to deem a child at risk or in danger, that risk/danger must be imminent, or proven to be ultimate outcome. It cannot be deemed a danger or risk on a possible outcome.

    Stopping a child for being out in public alone is not probable cause for a stop by law enforcement. This is no different than the unconstitutional stop and frisks.

    Law enforcement and CPS do not have the right to impose their personal parenting ideals on other parents, and doing so will be treated as harassment.

  5. Warren February 10, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    That is bull. Sorry, but that puts the burden on the parents to prove that what they are doing is not dangerous or risky.
    The gov’t has to be held to a standard where they have to prove the danger is imminent or the eventual outcome. They cannot deem it dangerous on possible outcomes, as the number of possible outcomes is infinitesimal.

    Innocent until proven guilty, is a concept being quickly dismissed in today’s society.

  6. pentamom February 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    Warren, the thing is, you could give your kid permission to play on the railroad tracks and under this law, not be charged, unless there was an oncoming train that narrowly missed your kid.

    Beth is right — it’s overbroad. I agree with your concern about where the burden should lie but you can do that without making the law so broad there’s no way to charge the parents of a not-yet-harmed child with neglect.

  7. Bess February 10, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    But I would imagine there is already a law against playing or walking on railroad tracks. That’s dangerous for anyone, not just children.

  8. Warren February 10, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    The broad side of any law must be in favour of the people. Not the state.

    You never played on the tracks? We all did. Again, that is why it has to be imminent danger or the outcome be the eventual outcome. Not the numerous possible outcomes.

  9. Stacey February 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    I can sum it up in 4 words:

    No harm, no foul.

    Real neglect or abuse results in harm. Imperfect parenting does not.
    I suppose folks could split “harm” into hairs and consider that pointing a gun shaped pop tart at someone is potentially traumatic. That’s where the problem is. People have lost faith in children’s resilience and presume that anything other than perfect, as they define it, is damaging.

  10. pentamom February 10, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    “You never played on the tracks? We all did. Again, that is why it has to be imminent danger or the outcome be the eventual outcome. Not the numerous possible outcomes.”

    No, not everyone did. Sure, lots of people did and it wasn’t the end of the world, but no, not everyone. And if your parents actually gave you permission to do that, that’s really odd.

  11. Angel February 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    In reference to playing on train tracks. It is illegal. Yes, many of us have probably played on them at one time or another but technically it is trespassing as it is private property. We don’t live close to tracks but I still make sure my son knows that is not a place to play. As for the above “rights” I think they are great. I have and do leave my children in the car for brief periods of time (paying for gas, grabbing a coffee, etc.) I haven’t been “caught”. When I do leave them the car is running but the keys are not it in (remote start) If by chance someone attempted to steal my car putting it in gear would kill the engine.

  12. Mark February 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    I would really love to see us seriously push for legislation like this.

    To those who argue about whether the wording is too strong, or that it wouldn’t pass legislation as written — whatever. Consider it a first draft and a starting point for a conversation; it can be amended as necessary as the process goes along. The point is to start something concrete and meaningful to promote our movement and to take it seriously.

  13. fred schueler February 10, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    Kids have the right to be taught the scientific name of any organism they inquire about

  14. fred schueler February 10, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    …and as far as playing around railway tracks goes – I had a professor who said he’d nearly been killed by playing around tracks in a rail yard where he couldn’t specifically hear the train that was approaching him. Like everything, it’s very largely about context.

  15. Warren February 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    You are making the assumption that all train tracks are the same, as far as traffic. The ones in my immediate area are ones that are for freight only. As such they are very seldom every used, maybe one train a week, if that.

    It is assumptions like this that make for child endangerment laws so dangerous for parents. Would we allow the kids to play war around the tracks in and around Toronto? No, they are high traffic lines. Out here completely different story. Out here it is no different than playing road hockey and yelling CAR, and moving out of the way until it has passed.

    Now as for the no harm no foul issue, that is a slippery slope. You let your kid wait in the car, a driver slams your car and your kid is hurt. There is harm, but does that mean you were endangering your kid?

  16. Warren February 10, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Okay, pentamom and I have ended up in something that will make getting free range laws difficult to enact.

    Not all kids are the same. Not all parents are the same. Not all areas are the same. There are great differences for raising kids in different enviroments.
    Should the same definitions of endangerment apply to kids in rural settings as they do to kids in downtown Toronto, Dallas, New York or pick your own mess of concrete and steel?
    I say no. A lot of others, will fight to the death saying yes.

  17. Nadine February 10, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    Like article 5 and 6 of the child rights convention that the US never ratified. And lets not forget 12!! I would think that these cases would have enough civil liberties aspects in them that they would be interesting for the ACLU. If not…. Lets start a church.

  18. caiti February 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    How about we call it the child safety act, no congressman wants their record to reflect a “nay” on child safety. Precedent would be the patriot act which resulted in citizens losing their rights. Now I’m not saying the child safety act would make kids unsafe, but in the eyes of our opponents it does, but they’ll still want to vote for it.

  19. Jenn February 10, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

    I would much rather see, “Laws against children waiting unsupervised for a short amount of time in a parked car shall be repealed.” rephrased as, “Laws against children waiting unsupervised for a short amount of time shall be repealed.” I think that unsupervised children left at home or at a park or other places, for short periods of time, is a decision that rational parents can make. A rational parent knows that age, maturity, and experience of the child and considers the circumstances in which the child will be left unsupervised.

  20. John Scanlan February 10, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    I would make one change: “abduction by strangers is close to non-existant”

  21. Kenny Felder February 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Does ANYONE READING THIS BLOG have the connections, resources, know-how, etc, to try to affect actual legislation? If a realistic campaign can be started, I will personally donate money to the cause, and whatever other a high school math teacher can do to help.

  22. lollipoplover February 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    Under rights of parents, let us also define true neglect.

    I am so tired of reading these stories about criminal child neglect:

  23. Anna February 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    As someone already pointed out, “staying at home unsupervised” should be added to the list. In fact, isn’t a child’s own home much safer than either outside or the car? Also, while “over the age of five” might seem reasonable to most, that would mean that things like letting my four-year-old go to the bookstore at the corner of our block or his art class just around the corner would not “make the cut”. Still, if such laws were to go into effect, that would be much better than the status quo.

  24. Warren February 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing for the school to say that they are proceeding with a truancy claim because of the negative funding effects it causes the school.

    As part of the parental rights bill above, we need to redefine truancy and unexcused absences. Taking your kid on a trip, be it for family vacation, sport tournaments, piano tours, and the like are not being truant. And for the most part, these trips will be far more valuable to the child than what they would have done in class.

  25. BL February 10, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    “Taking your kid on a trip, be it for family vacation, sport tournaments, piano tours, and the like are not being truant.”

    I know when the Little League World Series is on television in late August there’s always mention that school is underway for many of the participants. That’s a week and a half for the tournament (for the top four teams anyway), plus travel time. I don’t know if anybody has to miss school for the preliminary qualifiers.

  26. Donna February 10, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    Giving a child permission to play on ANY railroad tracks is problematic regardless of the use of the tracks. As someone pointed out, those tracks and the area around them are private property owned by the railroad company and I have had several cases involving juveniles and adults charged with criminal trespass for playing there as well as felony theft and criminal damage to property for picking up the loose metal spikes.

    That said the discussion between Warren and Pentamom proved why such laws will never be enacted. Neglect and endangerment is very fact specific. Age, location, time of day, duration all play into whether something is neglect or endangerment or not. Something that is not neglect at one point may be with a different kid or at a different time of day or at a different place or for a longer period of time.

    As much as some here like to believe that all parents have their children’s best interest at heart (and most do) many parents are clueless or mentally challenged or caught up in their own issues or overly self absorbed or just completely uninterested in their children as anything other than a welfare check and children are put at risk as a result. Contrary to the many assertions that kids are always happier at home, many of my CPS cases involve kids with no desire whatsoever to return home for these very reasons.

  27. Warren February 10, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    I guess we are just lucky here that the railroad isn’t as anal as the one’s in your area.

    Do I recomend they play in an actual railyard? No. In and around major hubs? No. Out here in the boondocks? Go for it. Just remember to stay aware of your surroundings. Sheesh, another one with no sense of adventure. Some of our best summer days were spent jumping off a bridge into the river. And the only thing ever said was by a local man who worked on the repair crews. He would always give us the heads up about upcoming trains.

    Like I said, the trains were days if not weeks apart. Sure we were tresspassing. Sure we were possibly gonna get hurt. But as long as we didn’t mess up their property, nothing was ever said.

    Remember, back in the day when being adventurous and daring was what kids did? You know the good ole days when parents use to say you’re gonna get hurt, and you would say no way, and they came back with then don’t come crying to me.

  28. Edward H February 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Great idea, but you’re going to lose a lot of people with the parking lot thing. I would discard it all together. It’s toxic. People get up in arms about leaving pets in cars, so imagine children!

  29. Donna February 10, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    Warren, or maybe the people in your area are just more responsible and leave crap that doesn’t belong to them alone. The railroad in the town where I work simply got tired of having to repair stuff because people were messing with it and started prosecuting everyone they found down there.

  30. pentamom February 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    Well, where I live, planned family vacations are NOT considered truancy. You have to get advance permission but that permission will be granted provided the kid is not failing classes or having serious discipline or already existing truancy issues.

    Are there really places that consider it truancy if you take your kids on a vacation or they miss due to an activity like sports or performances during the school year?

    Warren, you’re making a lot out of what I said. I never suggested all laws should be the same everywhere. I was simply using an *example* of a situation where parents could give permission to do something that was definitely endangering (ASSUMING that the PARTICULAR set of train tracks actually WAS dangerous. It doesn’t apply to cases where it doesn’t apply.) If you don’t like my example, that’s beside the point.

  31. Mick February 10, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    I thought Caiti’s comment was well thought out and just the perfect way to look at it. Very good !

  32. C. S. P. Schofield February 10, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    Suggest this ammendment; “And the right of a parent to horsewhip a stooge of CPS, or any other buttinski, shall. Ot be infringed.

  33. Emily February 10, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    Okay, I agree with all of this–taking your child on a family vacation, or out of town for a musical performance, sports tournament, to a foreign country to pick up a new adoptive sibling, et cetera, isn’t truancy. Kids should also be allowed to play outside, and walk or bike age-appropriate distances alone. However, I never really understood, what’s fun about playing by the railroad tracks? When I was a kid, “playing outside” meant riding bikes, skateboards, scooters, drawing with sidewalk chalk or playing hopscotch and whatnot, running through sprinklers, climbing trees, building forts in the woods, going to the park and playing on the equipment, playing sports or made-up games, going to the beach in the summer if we were allowed, and of course playing in the snow or going ice skating during the winter. Nobody I knew ever played anywhere near the railroad tracks, because they were just there, and didn’t have any apparent fun value–they were purely utilitarian. We weren’t banned from playing on the train tracks, because it didn’t occur to us to do it, so it didn’t occur to adults to ban it.

  34. Donald February 10, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    This is well though out and is perfectly logical. However, that’s the problem.

    Daniel Goleman coined the phrase ‘Emotional Hijack’, in his book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’. This is a brilliant book. However, it’s under criticism. The actual name of the book is contradictory. That’s because most neuroscientist agree that emotion has NO intelligence. Emotion can make you do many thing ranging from less than logical behavior to bat $hit crazy.

    All throughout history people have had episodes where they are overcome with emotion and they can’t think straight. I’m concerned because this is happening more and more often. Actually it’s becoming an epidemic.

  35. Abigail February 10, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    At first, I was excited about this – it feels constructive. After reading the comments, I started to think of deBecker’s “The Gift of Fear.” Our brains are hardwired to respond to fear, in many ways that’s how we’ve survived. Determining how to respond to fear signals (media coverage of everything sensationalized about kids & danger) is a tricky thing. Can people collectively put aside that created fear without more actual dangers presented? Can you draft resolutions or develop legislation to put the toothpaste back in the tube?? We might need a successful public education campaign to model efforts after. Healthy eating campaigns often borrow from cigarette cessation successes…Maybe the pediatrician’s office is the first place to start. It seems to be working for reducing antibiotic use. Just a thought.

  36. Andrea February 10, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Please tell me someone is watching the parenting discussions happening on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmlore. Yes, it’s on Comedy Central…but it has been very thought-provoking. They even used the phrase “free-range”. Very supportive of allowing parents to make decisions about what their kids can and cannot do.

  37. sexhysteria February 11, 2015 at 2:18 am #

    Great post and comments! I would reblog this but I don’t see a link for that.

  38. MOBK February 11, 2015 at 2:26 am #

    I’m with Warren on the playing on railroad tracks. I have fond memories of putting pennies on the tracks to be squashed by trains. Nowadays maybe i’d be thrown in jail for triple offenses (1) trespassing, (2) defacing currency and (3)attempting to derail a train.

    Seriously though – no sane parent is going to let a toddler play on active railway tracks, but if a kid is old enough to have good traffic sense they are old enough to figure out that actually getting hit by a train is not a good idea. And it’s not hard to get out of the way of a slow moving freight train. If you live beside the TGV or the Shinkansen perhaps additional caution is warranted..

  39. Wendy W February 11, 2015 at 3:50 am #

    “what’s fun about playing by the railroad tracks?”

    To start, there’s the penny-smashing mentioned above. There’s also using the rail as a balance beam, trying to jump or step from one tie to the next, a multitude of potential follow-the-leader type games using the rails or ties, putting an ear to the track to try and hear a train, and the simple thrill of doing something that every else says is dangerous.

  40. Sarah J February 11, 2015 at 4:28 am #

    I do agree with some of the other commenters that this list is just a bit too broad. Should have a little flexibility. Like, in my parent’s neighborhood, there used to be a rather nasty problem of children with NO street smarts. Some of these were very young children, but others were older. These kids would wander blindly into the street, in front of moving cars, or behind cars backing out of the driveway. Driving around there was scary. I don’t really care if the kids walk around without supervision, but I do take issue when the kids apparently don’t know basic street safety. (and this isn’t some stereotypical poor neighborhood with stereotypical neglectful parents, it’s a fairly wealthy suburb) It’s become less of a problem since somebody started calling cops/CPS. Nobody got their kids taken away or anything extreme, a cop would talk to the parents and I guess tell them to be more careful. Maybe I do sound a bit crazy for being happy about that, but again, if these kids are gonna walk right in front of cruising cars…

    Hm… I’m wondering if over-shelter culture has contributed to that. Like, maybe kids today are less likely to be taught street safety, or at least are taught it less frequency, because it’s assumed that they’ll never be outside unsupervised. I mean, back when “free range children” were the norm, kids often got all sorts of safety messages from TV, books, and school programs. The kids don’t just pick up the message, they have it reinforced in them several times. I don’t pay attention to children’s media outside of fantasy cartoons (sidenote: I kind of wonder what modern kids think when they watch these shows where kids wander around unsupervised) so I don’t know what messages kids are getting, but I kind of doubt there’s much in the way of everyday unsupervised outdoor tips.

  41. Warren February 11, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    MOBK and Wendy,
    Thanks. For awhile I was looking far more insane than I actually am.

    On the odd occassin we did have a train come by, we would get the engineer to lay on the horns, which none ever declined. They would wave and blast those big air horns. Then we would count the cars, then try to guess where it was going, where it came from, what it was carrying, and drool over the new cars it was transporting.

    If you have never been to the tracks in the winter, to see a freight train blast thru a huge snowdrift and be caught up in the resulting white out, you haven’t lived. That happened once for us and it is still one of the most amazing childhood memories.

  42. Warren February 11, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    Back to the actual topic.

    We need to have something in place that governs the building of new schools.

    They need to be walker friendly.
    They need to be built to make it so that driving your kid to school is all but impossible. And before some scream, yes allowances made for special needs students.
    Which is not hard to do.

    Staff parking and bus loading areas can be gated, with the staff and bus drivers have remotes to open them. It is not nearly as expensive as it sounds. And the gates could be opened for special events.

    I have heard your complaints about driving around kids for the last 30 years. It has not got worse, it has not changed. What has changed is driver’s attitudes. We use to understand and accept that in certain areas at certain times of the day we had to slow down, take extra care because the streets would be full of walking and playing kids. Now driver’s have this sense of entitlement that they should not have to deal with that. And calling the cops and CPS about it is bull. Take the time to get out of the car, roll your window down and tell the kid what they did.

  43. John February 11, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Just a few years ago when my 3 grand nephew’s were 11, 8 and 5, my niece (their mother) had a professional photographer take a few photos of them walking down a railroad track. They were classic black and white photos and nobody was run over by a train or even arrested as a result of those Kodak moments.

  44. pentamom February 11, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    Oh for crying out loud. I came up with an example. Maybe it wasn’t a good one. I never suggested that being on or near a railroad track was instant death for a child. I’ve walked railroad tracks myself.

    Pick your own example to make my point — it’s possible to give your kids permission to do something while being genuinely neglectful, so a law that cannot take action against parents for endangerment or neglect as long as they have given permission is too broad. It needs to be tweaked just a little.

  45. lollipoplover February 11, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    “It’s become less of a problem since somebody started calling cops/CPS.”

    It is probably less of a problem because now the kids don’t play outside as much because someone called the police! Yes, kids playing requires extra driver attention. Sorry for the inconvenience. If you find a gross infraction that could have caused a serious accident, please, please make every attempt, for the sake of the children, to address it or contact the parents to address it. This is not a criminal matter so why would someone call the police???

    At school dismissal a few years ago, I witnessed a young boy almost get hit by 2 cars. He was biking home from school (my kids were walking and I met up with them) and came down the bike trail and drove directly into traffic. He was new and not aware that he was supposed to turn and go to the crosswalk at the stop sign. My heart almost stopped, it was that close. I asked my kids what his name was and tried looking up his family in the school directory but they weren’t in there. So I called my friend who lives on his street to tell her the story to pass on to the mom. She told her boys who bike with him each day the story as well. Positive peer pressure from these kids (and a lecture from his mom) corrected the problem.

    I hope my neighbors come to me directly if they ever have a problem with any of my children or see them doing something dangerous. Good neighborhoods should be able to police themselves to raise our children to be good citizens. That means actually getting out of your car and actually having a conversation with each other vs. whipping out a cellphone and anonymously calling the police/CPS. Calling the police on kids playing tells me (wealthy or not) that you do not live in a very nice neighborhood.

  46. Beth February 11, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    When I first said the law was overbroad, I was responding to the request to “Think with me on how we can get them enacted into law, locally or beyond.” I agree with those who said that whether a parent is neglectful is based on the specific facts of each case. That’s why it’s so hard to come up with a standard that everyone on the spectrum can accept.

    Most if not all of the commenters here are in agreement that we need SOMETHING that will prevent parents from being charged with a crime for raising their kids to be “free-range”.

    Let’s not argue about what is or isn’t good parenting. Let’s stay focused on how to change the current situation with law enforcement and the public perception of danger that prevents parents from giving their kids the freedom and independence they need to become healthy adolescents and adults.

  47. Ann McCarthy February 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    It is time for a voice of reason! Let’s raise confident, independent, self reliant kids who have faith in their own abilities!!

  48. Buffy February 11, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    “These kids would wander blindly into the street, in front of moving cars, or behind cars backing out of the driveway.”

    But…this behavior isn’t free range. Free range is teaching your child appropriate skills, letting them practice those skills, and then allowing them to use those skills. I’m betting that no free range parent would let or want their child to routinely wander blindly into the street. I won’t say that’s neglect, but it certainly isn’t the free range philosophy.

  49. Omer Golan-Joel February 11, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Add three simple paragraphs to this:

    1) Accidents happen and in most cases are not caused by neglect. (i.e. if you want to sue someone for an accident, the burden of proof is on YOU, not the defendant, and you must prove deliberate and unreasonable neglect). [this will remove a large chuck of the “compensation culture” and “worst-first” thinking fueled by the excessive ease of blaming people and establishments for accidents and suing them).

    2) If there is no measurable and significant harm – there is no crime. If there is no crime, the police have no right to intervene (e.g. leaving a kid in a car for 30 minutes would not be a crime if nothing bad happened to him; no damage = no crime). “Endangering” someone is not a crime unless real damage was done.

    3) Children belong in their natural families and may NOT be removed from them unless there is concrete proof for severe physical abuse (i.e. – not just “neglect” or “endangerment). [then you can abolish CPS and hand the authority to deal with the very few cases of ACTUAL abuse to the police].

  50. Sarah J February 12, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

    @Buffy: I know it’s not free range, I just bring it up as a potential issue. I like the free range parenting philosophy because it’s about teaching kids to handle things on their own.

    @lollipoplover: If the parents aren’t going to bother to teach their kids basic street safety, I’d rather they not play outside unsupervised. Even careful, slow driving was difficult. Yes, drivers have to be careful and responsible, but kids need to know safety too. I rather doubt confronting the parents would’ve solved things, considering the people in the neighborhood. (I had a recurring issue with one neighbor and her dog. She didn’t do anything about it; I certainly wouldn’t want to confront her about her kids) The neighborhood does have kids who don’t run in front of moving cars, I’m fine with that.

  51. lollipoplover February 13, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    @Sarah J-
    I do agree with you that many kids are deficient in developing street smarts because of lack of practice. This is not a skill they magically acquire with age but one developed with practice and guidance.
    Darting in traffic and not respecting basic pedestrian safety (and not acting like little sh@ts in the neighborhood)sounds like really bad parenting. Since cars are a leading cause of death among children, please go to the families first and report your concerns. It takes a village not to call the police and let parents handle parenting issues. I’ve called parents on dangerous behaviors I’ve seen (one kid was biking at night dressed in all black and I almost hit him!)and tend to put myself in that parent’s shoes- I would want to know and correct it.

    “I rather doubt confronting the parents would’ve solved things, considering the people in the neighborhood.”

    Why not give them the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of the children? If you never even attempt to resolve small problems among your neighbors (especially small parenting issues), then I do doubt you will solve anything.

  52. JP Merzetti February 13, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    It would be interesting to see a 60-year graph showing trends in traffic-related injuries and fatalities.
    My guess is that it would show that our brave new world has produced a risk that has steadily climbed over the past six decades.

    And I’m looking at a big shrug, when it comes to societal public will to address it.
    Far too many children move around in no other way, now.
    That’s just how it is, and how it’s got to be…when we’re hammered into no other choices.

    How much of their lives do kids now spend in a car?
    It has become a ubiquitous everyday thing.
    A given. A norm.
    Why do legislators not look at this head-on?
    Instead we dream of cars that drive themselves, park themselves….do all sorts of things and never slow down, and keep increasing bee-swarms of gridlock.

    2 blocks north of my downtown campus, an inner-city school produces a sidestreet bottleneck every day at 3:30pm.
    The great pickup. At a downtown school. In a walkable neighborhood. Ridiculous.
    In a community that has to be one of the safest in my nation.
    The danger? The cars.

    So kids become the casualties of a war we conduct without looking at it as such. But that’s what it is.

    As to a bill of rights:
    This has to come back to the basics.
    That parents are adults. That by definition an adult has evolved through certain rites of passage that are given to be known and understood as having the best interests of their children at heart – until proven otherwise.
    (Innocent, until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.)

    That children will also move through their own set of rites of passage toward a natural independence…that this is good for kids, what they are naturally inclined toward, and good for society in general.
    That in a free society, it is a given that the environs we create for children are by design and intent – safe and secure enough…produced by a public act of will to in fact, do so, as a requirement for the greater public good for all….including our young citizens.

    That risk assessment and management become the result of mature adult planning – and not some hysterical miasma of immature and reactionary hand-wringing and over the top lockdown mentality.
    That we as a society, demand that we not live our lives inside a Hollywood sensationalized thriller.
    In short, that we want our lives back. They belong to us, and not to a corporatized value-added industry of exploitation of human fears.

    That if we (as we like to view ourselves)are the home of the brave and the land of the free…we be allowed to start acting as such – as citizens who uphold these values.
    That we are indeed, capable of such….and need no nanny state or great benevolent father government to provide it, that we can do it for ourselves.

    As a child, I never had to fight a war of independence.
    It had already been fought, and won.
    I trusted the authorities in my world to know and understand this.
    It helped immeasurably, my personal growth and well-being.
    In all ways.

  53. Warren February 13, 2015 at 10:28 am #


    Sorry, you sound like so many others that blame kids for everything.

    Like I said before. Since the day I began driving, and decades before that, people knew that at certain times in certain areas there was going to be kids running around.


    If your nerves, or sense of entitlement not to be bothered are that severe, maybe you need to move to an adult only community.

  54. Donna February 13, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    While I disagree with Warren that the clueless pedestrians are not worse today – I think pedestrians have as much of an entitled attitude as drivers – calling the police/cps for kids not paying enough attention while playing is NEVER the answer. This is absolutely not a criminal or child abuse problem and is an abuse of those services. If you can’t solve it by talking to the parents and kids, you need to accept that you, as the alleged adult in this situation, need to be very careful driving in this area.

  55. Puzzled February 14, 2015 at 1:02 am #

    I’ve only very rarely encountered kids who were darting into streets, and there’s lots of kids in my neighborhood. However, I encounter college students who don’t seem to have a clue how to cross a street all the time. I see this any time I’m on or near any college campus, and 20 minutes of my 2 hour commute to work is taken up by this nonsense on my way to the parking garage. The campus makes rules giving pedestrians the absolute right of way, which in turn leads to behaviors like simply stepping into the road without looking, including when I have a green and they’re facing a red. In nice weather, this is just irritating because you just have to go really slow. Right now, though, it’s terrifying – you can be going as slow as you please, but if you happen to be on a patch of ice when you need to brake…

  56. Papilio February 14, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    People, please don’t forget cycling as a mode of transport, certainly in the context of children’s independence. It deserves more attention 🙂

    @Warren: “You are making the assumption that all train tracks are the same, as far as traffic.”
    “You never played on the tracks? We all did.”

    Unless ‘we’ is just the people in your and similar area(s), it seems you’re contradicting yourself here.
    And while I’m the first to say that drivers have a big responsibility and absolutely need to be aware of their surroundings (such as the possibility of small kids or pets running into the street in neighborhood streets or young/old cyclists wobbling when they just ride off after a stop), I also agree that children need to learn NOT to run into the street, be careful when crossing, etc. It’s not an either/or.

  57. Warren February 16, 2015 at 2:06 am #

    I have gone over all the comments a few times, and have yet to find where I ever said that kids don’t need to learn, know and practise street smarts.

    What I did say, as a driver, you know being the person in control of over 2000 lbs of metal, plastic, glass and rubber, as well as being the adult………………………..
    You should know that in certain areas, at certain times there are kids out and about, and to take that into consideration when driving in those areas. And as adults stop freaking whining about it. That is like whining about being held up by streetcars, should you choose to take a road that they service, or city buses, or snow ploughs.

    This whole sense of entitlement that you shouldn’t be startled, held up, inconvenienced or whatever is arrogant. You are not the only ones in the area, that’s life. Deal with it, but stop whining. If it is like a scene out of Lord of the Flies, find a different route, or walk.

  58. Josie February 16, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    Support funding for Safe Routes to School, a federal program that supports walking and biking to school.

    In Japan, all elementary school students walk to school alone. They are supervised by 12-year-olds who serve as block captains and make sure everyone is accounted for. My brother who lives there says he just lets his kids out the front door each morning and off they go. His kids are 8 and 5.

  59. Russell Nelson February 16, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Railroad trespass (“playing on the tracks”) is illegal and dangerous. Parents don’t, won’t, and can’t be protected from allowing their child to break the law.

  60. Warren February 17, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    And playing road hockey is technically illegal.
    Playing hide and seek, and not getting the old man down the roads permission to hide behind the bushes on his yard is illegal.
    Apparently building tree houses is illegal.
    Front yard ice rinks are illegal.
    Snow forts are illegal.
    Walking to and from the park is illegal.
    Sneezing into your arm, instead of a state approved tissue is illegal.
    Telling your kid that they are growing up and you trust them is illegal.
    So I am not sure exactly what your point is?

  61. GrannyDeb February 17, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    As a mother, grandmother, wife daughter and sister, I have been appalled and now overjoyed at the re-installation of reason to the agonies and ecstasies of care taking.

    All of Lenore’s reasonings could and should also be applied to the attitudes and actions taken toward elders, too. Age segregation is the only stigma missing from Lenore’s logical heartfelt observations of the interactions of human beings. Age segregation is one of the villainous results of power mad, fear driven, money mad instigators of institutionalized men, women and children. Society, after all, is the act of institutionalization.

    This Information Age is the instigator. Fortunately for us, Lenore has set herself up as a positive mistress of this state of affairs. She has ‘mastered’ the art of society, of real interaction. Thank you, my dear. With love from a friend, even though I have not met you. Yet.

  62. Kate Berger February 18, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    We have developed an ignorant group of future adults who don’t know how handle themselves in the real world. It’s time to get back to trusting our kids. They really are smarter than we give them credit for.