The Meitivs are Restless

Update on Danielle and Alexander Meitiv in suburban Maryland who  are being investigated for negligence because they let their kids, 10 and 6, walk home from the park unsupervised. (I don’t write “walk home alone” because they weren’t — the had each other!) The parents had their hearing with Child Protective Services yesterday. Writes Donna zaknefhssn
St. George
in the Washington Post:

The neglect investigation that started after a Silver Spring couple allowed their children to walk home a mile from a park could continue for another couple of weeks, despite the parents’ hopes that authorities would drop the case at a meeting Monday.

“I would have liked closure,” said Danielle Meitiv, leaving the session at Montgomery County Child Protective Services offices in Derwood with her husband, Alexander. “I’ve had a knot in my stomach all morning. I just wanted this to be over.”

The Meitivs described the tone of the 15-minute exchange as cordial and said they remained hopeful that the case — which has sparked intense debate about parenting, child safety and government intrusion — would soon be closed.

But they said that CPS officials emphasized that they use the state’s laws governing unattended children in buildings and vehicles as a guide in neglect cases such as theirs, involving a walk outdoors.

Here’s the law. How can anyone possibly interpret “walking outside” as “locked or confined in a building?” And beyond that: The law itself is flawed. Not permitting a 10 and 6 year old to be indoors together for a chunk of time, unsupervised, does not make any rational sense. It should be up to the parents to decide if they think their kids will be okay.

But as I’ve said before: Ten is the new two. Kids who just a generation ago were considered old enough to be crossing guards are being treated as if they are completely helpless babies.

Today is the day I talk to some legal experts about how we can go about actually proposing new laws that restore the rights of kids to be outside, and parents to let them. David DeLugas of the National Association of Parents will be among these folks. Onward and outward! — L

Letting kids have a Free-Range childhood should NOT be a crime.

Giving kids a Free-Range childhood should NOT be a crime.

79 Responses to The Meitivs are Restless

  1. no rest for the weary January 27, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Finally, articulate, thoughtful people who are completely above reproach are in this spotlight, and the country (at least a good portion of it) is outraged.

    Keep it up, Meitivs! Be our poster children! Fight the good fight!

  2. MichaelF January 27, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Looks like CPS is trying to justify their position of overreach to me. Locked vehicles or dwellings are not the same as walking outside, there is no mention of outside with a sibling in the law either. So unless there is another law they will try to use here later on, to PROTECT THE CHILDREN, they really have no leg to stand on and once the media spotlight gets turned on they will either drop this or dig in their heels.

    Either way, it makes parenting worse, since then you have to deal with all the uncertainty of a Kafka-esque bureaucracy that only exists when it has cases to deal with.

  3. Donna January 27, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    If anything positive has come out of this situation, it is that the vast majority of comments on the various articles about this story have been positive towards them. I suspect that the fact that these people are white, highly educated and middle class plays are roll in so many accepting that it was a considered choice rather than neglect, but it is still a step in the right direction.

  4. Harrow January 27, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    “…CPS officials emphasized that they use the state’s laws governing unattended children in buildings and vehicles as a guide in neglect cases such as theirs, involving a walk outdoors.”

    This is unconscionable and possibly unconstitutional. If the legislature had intended to allow this latitude they would not have included the specific language “locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle” in the black letter of the statute.

  5. Mark Roulo January 27, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Something we should all keep in mind is that kids who walk to the park without adults and are *NOT* stopped don’t make the news. Just like the millions of kids who are not abducted by strangers don’t make the news.

    My just-turned-14-year-old has been walking (alone) to our local downtown (with bookstores and a library, amount other things) since he was about 10. We’ve never had an incident. But this isn’t news.

    So … what the Meitiv’s are going through isn’t right. But we also shouldn’t assume that it is typical. Just like we shouldn’t assume that child kidnappings are typical just because one happened 1,000 miles away and is now on the news 24/7.

    I don’t let my fear of child abduction drive my parenting decisions and I don’t let my fear of CPS drive those decisions either.

  6. Stacey January 27, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    ” How can anyone possibly interpret “walking outside” as “locked or confined in a building?”

    Welcome to 1984. Big Brother sees you. Doublespeak and Doublethink abound. The clock is striking 13….

  7. Tamara January 27, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    I saw some coverage of this story by The Young Turks – what is normally an alternative media source who normally advises against the idea of bowing to “authority” in any way. The title of the story included the term “free range kids” but it is as though they didn’t even try to get to the source of the problem here – the reporter even saying that the parents should have just let CPS in and do their job and things would have been fine, and that the fact that they did not let CPS in is in and of itself ‘suspicious’ I bet they didn’t even contact Lenore or view this website before airing the video. So this is what we get from progressive, alternative news sources. The same old, same old.

    The panel went on to say “i’m not a helicopter parent, but…” and guess what? hellicopter parent all the way. The discussion seemed to be that free range might work in a place like Maryland, but not in LA, or New York where it really just isn’t safe, people! geez it’s frustrating, I don’t know how Lenore keeps up with this sometimes.

  8. Donald January 27, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    People are addicted to ‘infotainment’ (bad news) just like people can be addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or crack. They love to be outraged.

    They are outraged about losing parents rights. However. if something bad happens, these same people will also be outraged at CPS of allowing these children to be ‘put in danger’.

    I feel sorry for CPS. They have the role of being the ‘dancing bear’ at the circus. I think the bigger problem is the audience.

    WHY DID THE SYSTEM FAIL LITTLE__________ (Fill in) CPS failed to act and a toddler got hurt. This is one of the favourite headlines for a newspaper or network. Many people are livid against the system because it is too ridged but will change sides (at the drop of a hat) if they can feel outrage because the system wasn’t ridged enough.

    Bottom line. This isn’t about child safety. It is about getting our ‘outrage fix’.

  9. Reziac January 27, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    Note that the law says “LOCKED OR CONFINED IN…”

    It doesn’t say “LEFT in”. (Let alone “Let be out” as in outdoors.)

    There is a huge difference.

  10. Donna January 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    “Bottom line. This isn’t about child safety. It is about getting our ‘outrage fix’.”

    I agree with this 100%. It is about wanting to be outraged, but also about society’s need to blame someone for every negative thing in the world and the need for retribution.

    CPS is damned if they do and damned if they don’t in most cases. If they interfere, they are blamed for infringing on parental rights. If they walk away and something bad – ANYTHING, even something completely unpredictable like a drunk driver coming up onto the sidewalk – happens to the children, they will be blamed for not protecting the children. And it won’t be just CPS that is dragged through the mud, but also the individual case workers who responded to the case.

  11. Vicky January 27, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    CPS/DCF overreach is breathtaking! It’s another case where the relevance of a government program has been greatly diminished due to corrective laws and societal awareness.
    We actually need Child Protective Agencies less now, but they refuse to relinquish power and have used falsified data to expand themselves into cancerous monsters that cause more harm than good.
    They are using their bloated and unchecked authority as a bludgeoning tool to transfer every aspect of parental control of offspring, to themselves.
    It’s all about money and power, and it’s at the expense of many innocent families.

  12. Glen January 27, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    I have worked for a local police department for 23 years. What happens to you is a direct result of the official’s life view. The only way to protect against this is non-cooperation, knowing your rights, and obtaining a lawyer at the first signal you are a target. Good people are victimized by child protective services routinely. Don’t try to explain yourself without an attorney present. I hope this family is not relying on the system’s good graces, but has a vicious, mad dog lawyer representing them.

  13. Wendy W January 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    Yes, CPS gets bad press on both ends of the spectrum, but it’s not a case of them not having middle ground to stand on. When they are criticized for what they DIDN’T do it’s extreme cases where there were REPEATED calls involving multiple situations which any sane parent would question or consider abusive, and yet CPS did nothing.

    Criticism for what they DID do comes from cases like this where one incident of questionable judgement results in parents dragged into court or kids removed. There have been many cases where it seems that the primary “crime” of the parents is to tell CPS to get a warrant.

    CPS is a needed department of our government, but they have seriously got to get a grip on the gung-ho “we know best” attitude and stick to the real problems. If they would do their own policing of their problem investigators instead of backing them up when they overreach they could fix a lot of their own bad press problems.

  14. David DeLugas January 27, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Thanks, Lenore, for the mention. The National Association of Parents is working with Danielle and Alex Meitiv and will help ensure parents retain the right to evaluate and decide acceptable risks for their children so long as not harming them or subjecting them to substantial ACTUAL risk of harm. It was a pleasure to confer with them Monday in Washington, DC. Perhaps all parents will recognize this is an opportunity to push back against the efforts of CPS and others to mandate what parents can and cannot do and how parents must or must not parent! Agree about these children not walking alone as they had each other. But either walking alone would also not be sufficient grounds to detain them or investigate the Meitivs.

  15. Andrea January 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    My son started roaming the neighborhood solo at six, and walking to the store solo to ogle Legos at eight. It’s surreal to think that elsewhere in the country parents are dealing with an aggressive CPS over this. I can’t imagine what motivates CPS agents to threaten good families like this.

  16. Havva January 27, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    There is some “emergency” legislation on the docket for tomorrow in the Maryland legislature to change that law so as to require a 15 year old to watch over kids 3 and under (still using the language about confined). While still maintaining that those under 8 years old need a 13 year old.
    Be sure to check the text of the proposed law in the “Documents” tab.

    Those of you in Maryland, please write to your representative and complain, be there if you can.

  17. George January 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    It would be a valuable resource to have a list of the laws and child ages called out in all 50 states, so that parents could have a idea when they are taking a legal risk, and which laws they should work to change.

  18. Wombat94 January 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    @Wendy W

    “Criticism for what they DID do comes from cases like this where one incident of questionable judgement results in parents dragged into court or kids removed. There have been many cases where it seems that the primary “crime” of the parents is to tell CPS to get a warrant.”

    I agree with this mostly, but the problem I have with the above quote is this: “one incident of questionable judgement”… in what way was the Meitiv’s judgement questionable?

    It may be different than a choice others have made, but it is a perfectly reasonable choice to have made in my – and many other people’s – opinion.

    The issue with this type of case is the infringement on the freedom to make those judgements for ourselves as parents when it comes to our own kids.

  19. no rest for the weary January 27, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    If it were actually about laws and specific ages, then busybodies, agencies like CPS and law enforcement officers with particular world views wouldn’t be a threat to kids and parents going about their lives.

    I think any law that specifies particular ages when it comes to children and their safety are useless. The VALUES are what we need to uphold. If we value actual safety (and not “protection” against every psychotically fantastic imagined harm), then we do things like make pedestrian crossings safer. We create bike lanes that help cyclists be safer. We have lifeguards at the pool. But to say, “Children must be 8, or 12, or 15 years old before they do x, y, z” (walking alone somewhere, staying at home alone for less than 4 hours, playing at a park by themselves) has nothing to do with safety.

    And punishing parents for making decisions about what their own kids are ready to do themselves is nuts, especially when the kids have come to no harm. At all. No harm! No harm at all. Did I say that clearly enough? KIDS WHO HAVE COME TO NO HARM SHOULD NOT HAVE PARENTS WHO ARE BEING PROSECUTED FOR CHILD NEGLECT OR ENDANGERMENT.


    If it can be proven that a parent laid hands on a child so as to break their bones or damage their brain, or it can be proven that a parent has been so threatening verbally, so abusive emotionally, that a child’s well-being is threatened, well… protect the child. Absolutely. Child is being denied adequate food, even though parents are getting enough? Protect the child. Child is showing signs of poor hygiene, inadequate clothing, cowers whenever anyone raises a hand? Protect the child.

    But throwing ages around in laws is nonsense. If that’s the best we can do as a society to protect children, then we’re focusing on entirely the wrong stuff. A child’s age is not the issue. A child’s WELL BEING is the issue. Well child? Leave things be.

    IF THE CHILD IS WELL, LEAVE THINGS BE. I don’t care how old the kid is. My kid could easily have walked home a mile unsupervised at age 4. He had a better sense of direction then than I do now. He was amazingly aware of his surroundings, agile, and competent. And no more likely to be harmed by anyone than an 11-year-old walking the same route. Statistically, probably less likely to be harmed.

    I have an 8-year-old whose mother seems to have worked hard to convince her that she’s in danger if she walks anywhere alone. These kinds of parents WANT laws to be age-based, the higher the age the better, to help them justify their paranoia and impose limitations on other people’s families so they can have some company, I guess.

    If I am causing my child frank harm, come arrest me. Put me in cuffs. If my kids are fine, leave us all alone.

    Is it so hard?

  20. Wendy W January 27, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    @ Wombat:

    I poorly worded that, but I was trying to not be too wordy. *I* don’t think there was anything questionable about it. I’d be perfectly fine with that choice. I used that term because when people report such incidents, *they* obviously think it’s questionable.

    CPS should have the ability to use discretion with a one-off reports and say, “There’s nothing wrong with that. Thank your for your concern.” And just quietly file it away in case there are repeated reports. But as I understand it, they are required to follow up on every report. I understand why, but there needs to be more middle ground.

  21. Donna January 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm #


    I don’t agree with this statement at all. There are things done by caretakers every day that I think are clearly neglectful despite the fact that the kids managed to survive. The 9 year olds left in an apartment alone for 4 months for example (the uncle was neglectful, not the parents). My clients who left their severely disabled toddler home alone regularly (she couldn’t move so why bother to take her with them). No harm ultimately came in either situation, but I still think there was plenty of neglect. There simply is a threshold under which parenting is neglectful even if no harm results.

    And if injury is the linchpin to determine neglect, it also works in the reverse. Parenting which is not neglectful is determined to be because the child is unexpectedly harmed. A child sitting in a car alone is not neglect … unless the car is stolen. A child walking home from school is not neglect … unless she is hit by a car.

    I don’t like using injury as a linchpin for neglect or endangerment. It places criminal responsibility on things often outside the parent’s control. A parent who leaves a toddler home alone for hours with no bad results is no less guilty of neglect than a parent who leaves a toddler home alone for 10 minutes, but unfortunately at the exact same time that the neighbor sets his kitchen on fire burning down the entire apartment building. Likewise, a perfectly reasonable decision to leave a 10 year old home doesn’t become neglect because a burglar comes in while you are gone, panics and shoots your child.

    Neglect should be based on the reasonableness of the parents’ choices and not on whether an injury ultimately occurs or not.

  22. Librarymomma January 27, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I know I’ve seen a list by state of when children can be left alone at home. I found a website that has links to some of the state regulations. There are many other websites that report this information in different formats, but I like this one best because it is put out by a governmental agency and isn’t selling any type of service. The site is at

  23. Heather January 27, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

    I really hope some headway can be gained on this issue. I want my potential future children to be able to run and play and cycle wherever they want within reason. And by “within reason” I mean my judgement based on the knowledge I will have of my own child’s abilities.

    I would really like to see headway made on the understanding that “guidelines” are not set in stone and they are guides not necessarily laws.

  24. Jenny Islander January 27, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    What they did was completely and utterly innocuous. My kids see characters on PBS educational programs do it every single day! If what they did is so horrible, why aren’t the creators of Arthur and Curious George up on charges of abetting child endangerment?

    Look, if they’d let the kids go to the park right after an announcement had been made about a bear roaming the neighborhood, or a thunderstorm was believed to be imminent, or they were feverish, or…But they

    I’m a SAHM and a homeschool parent. If I had to accompany my 10yo and 8yo wherever they went after school and chores, I’d go nucking futs. Not being around each other all the time is a good thing! I am also among the large percentage of Americans in a one-car household in a town with lousy public transportation. Am I supposed to also be my husband’s chauffeur, so that I can follow my older children around all the time, incidentally dragging the preschooler into and out of the car multiple times per day? And when the heck am I supposed to get dinner made?

  25. ChicagoDad January 27, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    My heart goes out to the Meitivs. I hope they prevail. If “locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle” is the same as “walking outdoors from a park”, then everything is the same as anything and the Montgomery County CPS can do whatever they like to anyone.

    It is, I’m sure, a trying time for this family, but also an opportunity to show their kids that families pull together in the face of adversity. And that it is important to stick to one’s principles and do what’s right, even when authority figures tell you that you’re wrong.

    Here are some comforting words from one of the founding fathers of post-apocalyptic California (at least in one bad movie):

    “Well, I know what’s right
    I got just one life
    In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
    But I’ll stand my ground
    And I won’t back down

    Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out
    Hey, I will stand my ground
    And I won’t back down”

    -Tom Petty, 1989

  26. Emily January 27, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    >>Neglect should be based on the reasonableness of the parents’ choices and not on whether an injury ultimately occurs or not.<<

    @Donna–I agree with that, for all the reasons you stated, but the problem is, our culture has lost sight of what "reasonable" is, when two school-aged children walking home from the park together, becomes "child endangerment," rather than "kids getting fresh air and exercise."

  27. snarkypop January 27, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    Since the city is so free handed with it’s ‘investigations’ and making life hell for this family, perhaps the family ought to sue for defamation as they have been branded by CPS as neglectful.

  28. ChicagoDad January 27, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    @Emily the problem is, our culture has lost sight of what “reasonable” is

    How sad is it that we can’t trust a jury of our peers to be reasonable, & that we can’t trust that the law will be enforced as it’s written.

  29. Abigail January 27, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

    This makes me wonder if that agent with CPS could undo all this without losing status, position, credibility (whatever), if they would. It feels like sometimes the ball gets rolling and things get out of hand. And yet, no one is stopping to take a deep breath and reevaluate. And some different evaluation is clearly needed!

    I hope that addition options are provided going forward. Even if we never agree, it would be nice to proceed without the lack of clarity. I don’t want to feel blindsided because I don’t have a law degree and therefore can’t interpret every by-law and guideline.

  30. Nicole January 28, 2015 at 4:10 am #

    That law strikes me as aiming at children locked in dwelling without reasonable means of exit, not even a home alone law. Like a child too young to open the door, or someone actually locking the doors so that they cannot be opened from the inside.

  31. Jen January 28, 2015 at 5:57 am #

    So. . .they can’t walk a mile home from the park (or any distance, it seems) without adult supervision. Where is the line drawn? Is it that they can’t walk as a method of “transportation” from point a to point b? What if they want to walk the dog around the block? Ride their bikes in their neighborhood? Is this banned too?

  32. Krolik January 28, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    Havva, are you planning to be there? Liz (she of the riding the city bus to school fame) has a baby sister now. So this hits close to home for us.

  33. Donna January 28, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    Guys you all are smarter than this.

    No law is being improperly or properly enforced here. CPS doesn’t enforce the law and the Meitivs were not arrested at all, let along for violating this law.

    CPS is using a law that does give specific ages as a guideline as to what is appropriate in situations where they have been given no specific law. There is nothing wrong with this. It is done constantly in the law. Courts often look to other laws to guide them in interpreting the law before them. Obviously, the Meitivs could not be charged with violating THIS law, but the Court likely would use this law in determining whether they committed reckless conduct or violated some other child neglect law if they had been so charged. That is all CPS is doing. They are looking at the ages in this law and using them as a guideline for other matters. It is up to the people to show why a house is different than outside if they want the guidelines changed.

    And, honestly, you can’t really believe that because this one law is specific to buildings that CPS can never involve itself with children outside? That because there is no age-specific statute, ANY child can walk to the park alone? Because this particular law doesn’t state it, CPS cannot interfere if you allow your toddler to wander to the park on his own?

    Personally, I hate laws that give specific age limits for the exact reason that I hate this one – the ages are always too high in my opinion and yet still fail to address situations where the child is of age but still not yet mature enough to do the act. But the law exists and is actually a good indication as to what the state legislature feels about child maturity and their ability to be unsupervised.

  34. ChicagoDad January 28, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    @Donna No law is being improperly or properly enforced here.

    I understand your point, but in the absence of this law, CPS would have to show that the children were “endangered” by being outside, that they were improperly dressed, behaving recklessly or “abandoned”. CPS can’t show those things so they are interpreting this law to suit their ends. At one point CPS threatened to have armed officers forcibly remove the children from their home if their dad didn’t sign a plan. If this isn’t enforcing the law, then it is a much more chilling scenario.

    People shouldn’t have to guess how an administrative agency might interpret an unrelated law before they decide to do something as normal as letting their kids go for a walk.

  35. Havva January 28, 2015 at 9:33 am #

    Sorry to say, I won’t be able to make it to the hearing. I don’t live in Maryland. I just have family there and visit frequently, but today I can’t.

  36. lollipoplover January 28, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    “But they said that CPS officials emphasized that they use the state’s laws governing unattended children in buildings and vehicles as a guide in neglect cases such as theirs, involving a walk outdoors.”

    Older children walking home from a playground is not the same as leaving your toddlers in a dog crate so you could go out to nightclubs. To pursue this any further is a total abuse of power and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
    By same logic, we should treat all childhood burns as neglect. So the parent who puts out cigarettes on their crying baby is equally as guilty as the parent who neglected to reapply sunscreen at the water park resulting in a sunburn. By same use of the law, in Maryland CPS agents will now be at water parks, beaches, and community pools to round up negligent parents who gave their kids burns.
    But it’s NOT the same.
    One is abuse. The other is abuse of power.

    I’ve said this before but it bears repeating:
    Children playing outdoors is a sign you live in a GOOD neighborhood. It’s called happy noise. It’s what every community should strive for. A place to give our children a good childhood. It’s all about the children.

    Walking short distances instead of driving is good for the health of our community, especially children, and the environment. In requiring school children (like the do in Maryland) to walk or bike to school in distances under 1.5 miles, they ARE encouraging children to be pedestrians. They certainly cannot require parents to drive or escort because that would create a financial hardship on pedestrian parents over bused children. The choice to walk is an admirable one- one all communities should be actively encouraging for our youth. Why create playgrounds for children in the first place to *lure* them, unsupervised, to and fro from their homes only to charge NEGLECT? Prosecute parents needlessly and waste energy on non-cases.

    What about the children?
    There HAVE to be other cases with HELP or Pick ME! Pick ME!! across them that deserve more attention than this one. Find those. Leave these good parents alone and get some tips from them because they are doing a fabulous job raising their family.

  37. Donna January 28, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    “I understand your point, but in the absence of this law, CPS would have to show that the children were “endangered” by being outside, that they were improperly dressed, behaving recklessly or “abandoned”.”

    No they don’t. The mere state of being unsupervised in a situation or at an age where it is believed that supervision is required is perfectly sufficient for child neglect without showing anything else. I have both criminal and CPS cases involving nothing more (the children involved are toddlers and not school age kids – one should have been charged and one not as the baby just escaped while dad was out of the room).

    “People shouldn’t have to guess how an administrative agency might interpret an unrelated law before they decide to do something as normal as letting their kids go for a walk.”

    CPS isn’t interpreting an unrelated law. It is using the ages contained in one law pertaining to a child’s need for supervision as a guideline for a different situation addressing a child’s need for supervision.

    I imagine that most, if not all, state CPS agencies have such guidelines. In this case, they looked to an actual statute with ages, but in most states, they just pull the ages out of thin air. My state doesn’t have a single law dictating an age where children can do anything, yet, there are still CPS guidelines as to these issues. At least Maryland has some idea where their CPS guidelines come from, and had some part in setting those guidelines through electing the officials that enacted the law on which they are based. I have no freaking idea how they came up with the ages in my state.

  38. BL January 28, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    “Walking short distances instead of driving is good for the health of our community, especially children, and the environment. In requiring school children (like the do in Maryland) to walk or bike to school in distances under 1.5 miles, they ARE encouraging children to be pedestrians.”

    Back in the Good Old Days(tm), the two small towns I lived in during different parts of my school days had no buses for students who lived within the town limits. Buses were only for the surrounding rural parts of the school districts. Yes, all the way down to kindergarten.

  39. ChicagoDad January 28, 2015 at 10:14 am #

    @Donna Again, I get your point, but I disagree. Just because you see similar things happen doesn’t mean that it is right or fair.

    Toddlers are different than 6 year olds and ten year olds. Leaving an infant or toddler alone (outside a crib, awake, etc) is dangerous because it can be demonstrably shown that they lack the judgement and skills to prevent danger to themselves. 6 and 10 year olds can be shown to either have the ability to care for themselves or not.

    By your logic, CPS would be justified in making these sorts of interpretations:
    “State law says that kids can’t get a license to drive car without supervision until they are 16, therefore kids need to be supervised riding their bikes until they are 16”
    “People are not allowed to purchase cigarettes until they are 18, and alchohol until they are 21, therefore it is neglectful to allow children to consume caffeine before they are 18”
    “State child labor laws say that kids can’t have a job in a workplace until they are 14, therefore it is abusive to require children to do chores in exchange for an allowance when they are 9”
    Would CPS be reasonable in establishing these guidelines because they are applying a “related” law? Of course not.

    A guiding principle of our laws is that if something is not prohibited, it is allowed. Most states prohibit a parent from endangering or abandoning child (thank goodness!). But if a child is not in danger, if they’re not abandoned, and if the parents aren’t breaking a law, they should not be threatened with removal, punishment or worse.

  40. Donna January 28, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    ChicagoDad – You are completely confusing my knocking down all the statements that CPS is somehow unconstitutionally misinterpreting laws with agreement with what CPS did here. I don’t support their actions at all, think that the Meitiv parents made a perfectly fine decision here and that CPS needs to butt out of their lives. I just get incredibly frustrated when seemingly intelligent people start spouting off completely wrong about the law and their rights.

    But as to your points, you stated that without the statute CPS HAD to show something more than lack of supervision. They do not. I may not agree with the age that they are using, but I definitely agree with the idea that there is an age when children should per se not be left to wander unsupervised to a park and the mere act of doing so is neglect.

    And, yes, CPS could actually make the guidelines that you stated for the exact reasons that you stated. It fits within accepted ideas of statutory interpretation. I wouldn’t say they are reasonable, but I never said THIS guideline was reasonable. I may not disagree with how they reached their guidelines, but I seriously disagree with the law itself. That is a matter to take up with Maryland legislators, not CPS. CPS deciding to use this law as indicative of what the people of Maryland believe as far as childhood supervision is absolutely not unreasonable, the law itself is unreasonable.

    “A guiding principle of our laws is that if something is not prohibited, it is allowed.”

    Few laws are as specific as you want to make them. All states have general child neglect and endangerment laws which catch these situations. These laws completely lack any specificity for good reason. Until you come across it, you can’t even imagine someone doing the things that have been done to children. If we had to rely on specific statutes, our statutes would fill libraries and the first few people who did things like house their kids in dog cages would go free because nobody in their right mind would ever think someone would do that to be able to make the law BEFORE it happens the first time.

    In general, child abuse and neglect has been viewed in the same fashion as indecency – an “I know it when I see it” standard. That is not a bad thing for the reason above. But society has become so crazy that it is being seen way too often in way too many innocuous situations. Society is the problem, not really the law. I don’t want more specific laws as the will be necessarily high – you have to make them at an age in which the vast majority of children are ready – and don’t allow for any individual approach. I do want society to chill out about kids so that “I know it when I see it” picks up real neglect and not differing parenting opinions.

  41. ChicagoDad January 28, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Donna, thank you for clarifying. I understand better where you are coming from. And now I am thoroughly depressed 🙁

  42. ChicagoDad January 28, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Donna, one more question, honestly and not for the sake of argument. If Maryland repealed this law entirely, then could the Montgomery County CPS write guidelines that say basically the same thing, that 7 year olds can never be left unsupervised?

  43. Puzzled January 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    I have tried to write model legislation defining abuse and neglect for the empowering laws for CPS. It is not easy. Most of us want, for instance, to allow the state to step in if a parent refuses a clearly life-saving blood transfusion for a 2 year old (children are not the property of their parents, they have rights also) but not to allow the state to intervene in the case of, say, a 17 year old who, with her parent’s agreement, decides against chemotherapy – and is then taken by CPS because this decision is classified as neglect (as is going on in my state.)

    How to write a law to capture that is unclear, if indeed it is possible at all.

    The problem is that we’re trying to reconcile two things: our intuitive understanding of right and wrong, which is generally not systematic, and law, which is based on statute and case law, and has systems for its interpretation. it’s similar to the problem of capturing the intuitive truths of mathematics in a system of formal deduction (see Godel’s Theorem.) Formal systems don’t, in general, capture what we’d like them to.

  44. Warren January 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Well given that CPS is using a law that does not apply to this specific incident as a guideline, and that no final decision has been made yet…….I can only think of one scenario.

    CPS is stalling and searching. Searching for any little reason they can find to nail this family to the wall. Thus they can turn it around in the public forum to make it look like they were heroes all along. Why else would they allow this to go on so long.

    I will say it agian. CPS and such agencies need to be torn down to their foundations and rebuilt. They need to be held to the same standards as any other law enforcement agency. This whole idea that they are not a law enforcement agency, therefore they do not need to worry about people’s rights is bullcrap.

  45. Roger the Shrubber January 28, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Donna – I would think that statutes that existed 100+ years ago would be applicable to any true form of child abuse. Locking a child in a crate = kidnapping or false imprisonment. Any form of mental or physical abuse = assault. Somehow the function of the judiciary in interpreting the law and applying where necessary has been replaced by a legislative focus on preventing anything bad happening to anyone, ever. And now it’s a crime because you don’t follow the preventative measures proscribed by law, regardless is how absurd they are or inapplicable to the actual situation at hand they may be. And you seem to support the idea that it is a legitimate authority of CFS workers of questionable credentials to interpret the statute in was in which they were not intended.

    At one time, there was a concept of mens rea in criminal matters. But now mens rea is in the mind of the CFS worker instead of the accused, as the concept was originally applied. How is any parent supposed to interpret the cited statute and know that it could be interpreted in any way other than what is expressly written?

  46. Warren January 28, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    As much as I do not like to hear of a child death because not seeking medical treatment, due to faith. I also do not believe the state has the right to tell the parents that their faith is wrong, and mandate medical treatment. As adults we have the right to refuse any medical treatment. As parents we have the right to make that call on behalf of our kids.

    You and I may not like it, but to a lot of these parents the child’s soul is more important than their body. And we do not have the right to say otherwise.

  47. lollipoplover January 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    “Ten is the new two. Kids who just a generation ago were considered old enough to be crossing guards are being treated as if they are completely helpless babies.”

    But it’s not just generations ago, it’s currently acceptable in other states for older children to walk without supervision. The Red Cross offers Babysitting courses at age 11. Years ago, 10 year-olds routinely babysat very young children. Now the 10 year-olds must be babysat. In Maryland, you actually can’t babysit until age 13. What’s wrong with the preteens in Maryland? Do the other milestones like driving, voting, drinking all get +2’s (driving at 18, voting at 20, drinking at 23) with this type of reverse ageism?

  48. Donna January 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    ChicagoDad – Absolutely. CPS guidelines are not tied to the law. CPS may look to the law when there is one in forming their guidelines -and it would be very hard to justify a different age if there is a law directly on point – but the two things are actually mutually exclusive. CPS doesn’t have to cite criminal code sections violated in order to get even a removal order (and this case is MILES before from removal at this point). The very vast majority of CPS cases do not involve criminal charges directed at the parent/child relationship. Out of approximately 40 CPS cases, I only have 2 in which the parents were criminally charged as a result of their conduct towards the child (unless you include charges of cruelty to children for beating up their partner in the presence of the child in which case there are a couple more).

    As I said, most states don’t have laws detailing specific ages for anything. I can almost guarantee you that CPS has guidelines though. In my state, despite there being no laws, CPS guidelines state that a child 8 and under cannot be left home alone for any amount of time, 9-12 can be left for short periods of time (up to 2 hours), 13 and older can be left home alone for up to 12 hours and babysit, 15 can be left overnight. I don’t know if there are any specific age guidelines about outside, but there are more variables – distance from home, time of day, neighborhood, where they are. While a kid at home is generally just a kid at home regardless of home, a 10 year old at a park down the road at noon is markedly different than a 10 year old across town at a rave at midnight despite them being the same age so specific guidelines are harder. If I remember and have a chance, I will ask one of the case workers the next time I am in family court.

  49. Puzzled January 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Warren, by that logic, there are very few limits on what parents can do to children. I also have the right to starve myself to death, to lock myself in a crate – the list goes on and on. Is the argument really that it is permissible to do to your child whatever you may do to yourself? Wouldn’t that imply that children have no rights persay, and that all their rights belong to their parents, until they turn a certain age? This may be better than saying all their rights belong to the state, but a. only slightly, and b. we have intermediate options.

  50. Donna January 28, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    “And you seem to support the idea that it is a legitimate authority of CFS workers of questionable credentials to interpret the statute in was in which they were not intended.”


    Like any agency, governmental or private, CPS sets guidelines under which they, and they alone, operate. These guidelines are set at the state level and not by each individual worker. If there is a law 100% on point, they obviously have to follow that law like every citizen or entity. If there is no law on point, they certainly can look at similar laws to generate their guidelines, but they have no obligation to do so. They also can look at studies, laws in other states, CPS guidelines from other states, experts, and anything else that they feel can help them in setting what they believe to be reasonable guidelines (debate the actual reasonableness all you want).

    The purpose of having guidelines is the same as any other agency in the world having guidelines – consistency. You don’t actually want CPS to be completely capricious depending on what worker you happen to hit. Consider what happens here. We are all free range and there is still often intense debate as to what constitutes neglect. And CPS workers aren’t even going to all adhere to one general parenting philosophy. We don’t want an investigator to decide one thing, a case worker another, a supervisor another and so on. Imagine what would happen if Dolly was your investigator, who sent the case to Warren the case manager with me looking over their shoulders. You could end up with your case being opened and closed repeatedly in the same day with all three of us digging in our heels just to prove that we are right.

  51. Papilio January 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    I follow two different discussions at the moment.
    Discussion A: An intellectually disabled 20-year-old girl was beaten to death by her below averagely intelligent stepfather. The man had been beating and raping the girl for three years. Her intellectually disabled mother did nothing; she feared for her own life. Should there be a possibility to force intellectually disabled people to take anti-conception?

    Discussion B: A perfectly normal couple allows their perfectly normal children of 10 and 6 to walk a mile home from the park without adult supervision. They had no history with the justice department or CPS or whatever. Should these parents lose their kids?

    Look, that the first question is hard, okay. But the second one?????!!!

  52. Roger the Shrubber January 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Donna – We seem to be talking past each other due to our differing understanding of the meaning of words. Anyone can issue ‘guidelines’ on any topic they wish. But CPS does not just issue guidelines. They also bring legal action against those who’s actions fall outside their guidelines. When one argues that the guidelines are unenforceable because they have no statutory basis, they (and you) argue that the guidelines are supported by existing statutory law that informs us of the level of responsibility that the law deems appropriate for children of a certain age. CPS then argues in judicial or extra-judicial proceedings that action against the accused is warranted because they failed to abide by CPS guidelines. Any judge that would rule against the accused based of violation of CPS guidelines rather than a plain reading of statutory law, giving wide deference to the accused in cases like the one in this post where there is no argument of actual or imminent harm, has given the weight of law to the CPS ‘guidelines.’

    So I guess we can agree on one thing: CPS does not interpret laws. I would argue that they are writing them.

  53. Havva January 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    @ Donna,
    I could use some help making sense of what I am finding of Maryland laws on emergency removal of children.

    I’ve been looking at what the law allows in various states pertaining to immediate removal of children. Since that is the ultimate threat leveraged against the Meitivs and still hanging over them; and due to Puzzled’s question about balance.

    From what I have seen of Maryland, at best, CPS has a goal statement that “In instances where a child can be safely protected in his or her own home through the provision of services or other assistance to the child’s family, such an alternative is preferable to foster care placement.”

    Meanwhile for their neighbors West Virgina, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia; a cursory search indicates that emergency removal requires there be imminent danger of irreparable harm or death in order to make immediate removal acceptable.

    Maryland court guides about removal states that:

    “A local department of social services may remove a child from his or her home if necessary to protect the child from abuse or neglect. If a child is removed from the home, the department of social services will file a petition alleging that: the child has been abused, neglected, has a developmental disability or a mental disorder; AND the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to provide proper care for the child.”

    This would seem to indicate that anything that could be termed abuse or neglect is sufficient, even if it isn’t urgent. And further that it is standard procedure to remove first and ask questions later.

    Apparently the most stringent of Maryland’s neighbors is Virginia where to do an emergency removal of a child, an ExParte order is necessary. With an affidavit or sworn testimony (which could presumably open the social worker to charges of perjury if shown that the situation was not one where there is “imminent threat to life or health to the extent that severe or irremediable injury would be likely to result if the child were returned to or left in the custody of his parents, guardian …”)

    What do you make of this? Does Maryland really allow CPS to remove first and do Judicial review later, in all cases where they are willing to charge someone with abuse or neglect? That would seem to be ripe for abuse, if true.

  54. BL January 28, 2015 at 3:20 pm #


    And that’s the problem with “regulatory” law. They get all the power (or more) of the legal system with none of the safeguards.

    And the legislators can wash their hands of the matter.

  55. Donna January 28, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    “When one argues that the guidelines are unenforceable because they have no statutory basis,”

    That is where your reasoning fails. CPS and family court doesn’t have to have a CRIMINAL statutory basis to remove children from the home. None, nada, nyet (can I say it in a different language?). Removal is a CIVIL proceeding and criminal law has absolutely no part in it whatsoever. The laws governing CPS actions are in a completely different book than the laws governing crimes. THOSE are what CPS has to follow in the course of its investigation into cases and that is what the judge will look at to determine whether a child should be removed from a home, not criminal law.

    “CPS then argues in judicial or extra-judicial proceedings that action against the accused is warranted because they failed to abide by CPS guidelines.”

    No. Guidelines are for internal use only. They are not law that a judge has to follow. Those guidelines are NEVER mentioned in court – hence the reason that even I have no idea what they are in most situations. CPS cannot come into court and say “we removed M because she was left home alone and is only 8 and our guidelines say that she must be 9.” They have to go into court and justify why leaving M home alone at 8 was neglect under the juvenile/family law in the statutes.

  56. Stacey January 28, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    There is a great angle here that I think should be brought out.. Mr Meitiv is from the former Soviet Union/Russia (depending what year he got here.) I would like to know his thoughts as he compares and contrasts the 2 countries…

  57. Donna January 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

    Havva – I can’t really speak to Maryland even from what you have written. Unlike criminal law where each statute pertains to a specific crime and can be read alone, the family code generally all works together to form a process by which a child is removed from the home so you would need to read the entire code and not just a couple of statutes.

    The initial removal of a child is always done ex parte. The Judge hears from CPS and signs a removal order. There will then be a procedure for review fairly quick. My state requires a probable cause hearing within 72 hours, at which the parents must be present and are entitled to representation. There is then full-blown hearing within 10 days. The case is then reviewed again within 75 days of initial removal. Then at 3 and 6 month intervals thereafter.

    However, the standard policy of CPS is not to remove first and ask questions later. Country-wide, only around 60% of calls to CPS ever extend beyond the initial contact and only about 20% ever proceed to removal. Contrary to the black helicopter crowd here, CPS is not out roaming to find healthy, happy children to feed, clothe, shelter, educate, and provide medical care for any more than kidnappers are.

    I become involved in cases after removal (at the 72 hour hearing or 10 day hearing just depending on when an attorney was requested). In the vast majority of my cases, CPS has been involved with the family before the removal takes place, often for months. There are attempts at safety plans (often several of them) and attempts to place with relatives (often several of them) first. Actual physical abuse allegations almost always get a child removed immediately. Sexual abuse will if the mother is not acknowledging the abuse and/or willing to leave the abuser. Serious neglect (malnutrition) would. Otherwise, other things are tried first if other things exist to be tried.

    This is not to say that I am “rah, rah, CPS.” I have a lot of issues with the mentality of CPS. In every single case I have, the children would be far better off in a warm and loving home of a close relative, but that also doesn’t exist in any of my cases (obviously or the children wouldn’t be in foster care) and foster care, no matter how loving the family, is not always less detrimental than what they come from. Drug issues, mental health issues and domestic violence (the 3 most common cases for CPS) aside, the kids may be better off at home than living with strangers, changing schools, and moving from place to place on other people’s whims.

    But I don’t see a mad rush to pull children out of homes for kicks and giggles. I’ve only had one or two cases where home didn’t completely suck. It is really only that the alternative sucks worse in many cases.

  58. Sarah J January 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    The issue isn’t just the law, it’s also local culture. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe CPS is required to look into any call they get. Even if the law says it’s okay for kids of a certain age to be out on their own, if people still call CPS over it, you’ll still see these issues. I probably don’t need to tell you guys that people like to blow things out of proportion. A person who sees a 10-year old walking alone, nothing going on, might exaggerate what s/he’s seeing, describe the situation to make it sound more dangerous than it really is.

  59. SonjaK January 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    Regarding the “emergency” bill here in Maryland, which would prevent anyone younger than 15 from looking after a child under the age of 3, I wrote to my state legislators about it last week, explaining what a detrimental impact it would have on families.

    I’m happy to report that one of them got back to me today to tell me that it had been withdrawn. So that’s one bit of good news out of Maryland.

  60. Warren January 28, 2015 at 9:41 pm #


    Wrap it up anyway you want, I really don’t give a rat’s behind.

    The gov’t, you, I nor the rest of the population do not have the right to tell a family that their child’s immortal soul is not worth saving and protecting. And that is what it comes down to in a lot of these cases.

    I don’t care what you think about religion, faith or beliefs. You can like em, love em or hate em, but you do not have the right to impose yours on others. Sucks don’t it.

  61. MOBK January 29, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    “but you do not have the right to impose yours on others”

    Warren – what you seem to be arguing is that parents have an absolute right to impose their beliefs on their children even if it means harm to the children. I disagree, and thankfully so do most modern societies.

    At some point the state has a right and duty to intervene. Figuring out where that point lies is very difficult as parents should have the widest possible discretion. However just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to do that thing to your children.

  62. Warren January 29, 2015 at 12:21 am #


    So you believe you have the right to tell parents that their child’s soul does not matter? That you have the right to violate their beliefs, and condemn their child to damnation/hell? Because for some that is what it is all about.

    So you believe that you should be able to mandate and force me to vaccinate my kids against the flu and chicken pox as well?

    You and puzzled are real arrogant SOB’s to think you have the right to tell other parents these things.

  63. MOBK January 29, 2015 at 1:03 am #


    Of course “I” don’t have the right to “tell” other parents to do anything.

    I believe in some extreme cases the government has a right (and duty) to intervene to stop parents from doing crazy-ass things to hurt their kids.

    As far as your specific examples. I don’t believe parents should be forced to vaccinate their kids. In this case there is no imminent harm, so the parent’s right to make stupid choices overrules the governments duty to protect the kids from a potential (but perhaps not even very likely) harm.

    On the other I don’t believe parents have an absolute untouchable right to commit their children to a death sentence by refusing life-saving treatments for the children. The courts (in Canada agree

  64. Puzzled January 29, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    >I don’t care what you think about religion, faith or beliefs. >You can like em, love em or hate em, but you do not have the >right to impose yours on others. Sucks don’t it.

    Nope, doesn’t suck at all. It’s a good thing. But you don’t seem to be applying it consistently. I agree entirely that you have no right to impose your religion, faith, or beliefs on others – but you are arguing that a parent has a right to not only impose their religion, faith, and beliefs on a child, but in fact to kill that child based on said religion, facts, and beliefs. That doesn’t seem inconsistent to you?

    So yes, I’m an arrogant sob who thinks I can tell other parents they do not have the right to kill their children because their religion, or interpretation thereof, calls for it. How about the arrogant sob who thinks they can tell their child – who is an actual, breathing, human being, not their property – that they must die because of the parent’s beliefs?

    This is what comes from a focus only on parental rights, to the exclusion of the rights of children. I don’t care to argue for a right of governments, but rather for the rights of children themselves. You haven’t answered my questions about the right to starve your children, since you can can starve yourself, or the right to lock your children in a crate, since you can lock yourself in a crate. Do parents have an absolute right to do those things also? If not, how are they different from refusing a blood transfusion in the case of trauma?

    Regarding immunizations – no, I do not think requiring immunizations qualifies. There is a difference, not of degree but of kind, between immunization and life-saving treatment for an immediate condition, such as trauma.

  65. JKP January 29, 2015 at 2:22 am #

    Puzzled – In your hypothetical situation, you think it’s wrong for the parents to impose their beliefs on the child, and yet you argue that the answer is for the government to impose its beliefs on the child. The parents have more right to decide for the child than the government because in 99.9% of cases, the parents care more for the well being of their own child than the state does. Say in your hypothetical situation the state does step in and force the life-saving treatment counter to the parents’ religious beliefs. What if the child later grows up to have the same beliefs as their parents (which is commonly the case) and now believes that they’re damned to hell because of the treatment the government forced on them? What if in hindsight, that adult wishes their parents would have been allowed to save their soul even at the cost of their life?

    Children have rights, but they are not old enough to decide things for themselves, and so the parents have the responsibility to advocate for them. And yes, the decisions parents make are based on their individual beliefs, whether those are religious beliefs or beliefs about free-range parenting. And other than cases of true neglect or abuse, parents should have the ultimate right to make decisions for their children without interference from the state.

    I’m by no means a religious person myself, but I can respect that others have the right to practice their religion and pass down their religion to their children.

  66. Roger the Shrubber January 29, 2015 at 8:17 am #

    Donna – as usual, the law is an ass. And those that seek to condone their unjustifiable infringement of the liberty of others based on poorly thought out or interpreted law are assholes.

    You are arguing that there is a process, poorly understood by even those who regularly participate in it, that justifies the actions of CPS, even in the cited case of the Meitiv’s.

    I am arguing that the process has obvious fundamental flaws that are apparent to anyone who cares to look at it in a reasoned manner.

    I am reminded of something said by someone much smarter than me: Due process is not just a process that you do. But you are arguing that this is a civil matter, not criminal, and because there is a process by which the issue is adjudicated, that makes everything OK. Bogus proceedings can be initiated by CPS. Someone else down the line will recognize the illegitimacy of their actions and correct this wrong. The process works! Never mind what havoc the process has brought upon the family in question.

    You appear to be a lawyer, and I’ve dealt with some before. In my experience, they don’t concern themselves with the issue of whether or not the process that they work in can be justified in any rational basis. They love the rules. They make their living playing by them and representing those who run afoul of them. To question the necessity of the rules or whether or not the application of the rules in a particular case has a positive effect on the problem at hand would call into question the necessity of their very existence.

    To understand my thoughts on the matter, read Kafka’s The Trial. And read it from the prospective of the antagonist rather that of the lawyers that represent the process rather than him.

  67. Warren January 29, 2015 at 8:34 am #


    I did not respond to your starving or crate scenarios, because I do not know of any faith that calls for that kind of action.

    There are faiths that do restrict or forbid certain medical treatments, because it will damn the soul. You and I may not believe it, like it or agree with it. But we do not have the right to tell anyone that their faith is wrong, nor can we tell them that their soul is not important.

    Personally I believe that once you die, that’s all there is. That does not mean I have the right to tell those that believe in a soul, heaven or whatever that they must do as I do.

    As JBK says, when that child grows up, is following the parents faith, as a lot do, no has to live their entire fact knowing that they are damned. Why? Because people like you let and lobbied for the gov’t to do it to them. That in itself is a form of assault.

  68. Puzzled January 29, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    Actually, as a libertarian, I’d prefer for there to be non-governmental mechanisms for resolving these issues, but the government is what we’ve got. Sure, 99% of the time, the parents interests align with the rights of the children. It seems to make sense to appeal to some form of common law concept here. As a medical provider, I have implied consent to treat patients who cannot express their wishes – they still have rights, but we can only act on our best understanding of how they’d exercise those rights, were they physically able to.

    Can I therefore do whatever I want and justify it by implied consent? For instance, can I do plastic surgery on an unconscious patient based on a goodwill belief that they would have consented? Of course not – my implied consent applies only to reasonable actions.

    Now, what about a patient who is unconscious following a suicide attempt? Do I still have implied consent to treat, given the mountain of evidence that, actually, this person wouldn’t want treatment? The legal answer is yes. I’m not entirely sure if that aligns with my views on morality or not. I’d prefer to substitute another common law concept – that when a person is unable to exercise their rights, courts may appoint a qualified guardian to decide for them. This same common law principle has, through long tradition, applied to parents – because they are assumed to have the good of the child in mind, they, as JBK described, exercise the child’s right on the child’s behalf.

    But just as my implied consent has to pass a reasonableness test, it simply doesn’t make sense to continue to allow someone to exercise someone else’s rights, on their behalf, when they’ve shown an indifference to that person’s good. We appoint a different guardian when that happens. This is, of course, exceedingly rare – and, in my view, entirely unnecessary once a child can actually express their wishes about this sort of thing (if the parents teach their children about the evil of blood transfusions, and the child then verbalizes a refusal of transfusion, it makes sense to respect that) but prior to that point, no, I don’t think it passes the common law test to have a legal guardian continue to function once they’ve stated that they will let their charge die where it can be painlessly prevented. Chemo – not so much.

    Sure, a child may grow up to think that their fairy tales damn them for being alive. The child you’re willing to watch die because of their parents’ fairy tales could just as easily have grown up to become an atheist – as many children of religious people do – so I don’t see the value in your hypothetical.

    As for locking them in a crate or starving them, the fact that no religion demands it is irrelevant, for two reasons. First, the principle being appealed to by what seems to be the majority here is broad enough to include it should a religion demand it. More importantly, though, there’s no actual reason to privilege religion – if parents can force their religion on their children, they should be able to force all their beliefs on their children (in fact, Warren initially said beliefs, not just religion.) Suppose a parent does, in fact, believe in the value of crating and starving children, despite it not being a part of some organized religion. Why is that any different from refusing a blood transfusion?

    I think this goes to an idea I’ve mentioned many times on this site – that the ‘free range’ idea can refer to parental rights, to children’s rights, or to some combination. The former sees it as “I can parent any way I want, and if that means letting my kid walk to the park, I have that right.” The latter sees it as “Children have a right to walk to the park, and parents who do not permit it (given the right maturity level) are just wrong.” I incline towards the latter view, but of course I think we all believe in some mixture.

    The helicopter parents’ issue is that they view their children as a sort of property or toy. I see the view that parents can let their children die if they so choose as an “around the circle and back again” version of the same concept.

  69. Steve January 29, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    Puzzled –

    Eventhough the majority of our population accepts the traditional medical community’s beliefs as the “highest authority” on what is best for an individual’s health does not mean that community is always right. Google the “Starfield Report,” and “medically caused death in America.”

    Here’s one good source:

    So, what we have is a publically sanctioned system that is literally killing thousands of people every year, and if a person is forced to be “treated” by this system, the patient can easily die and the family must accept this insanity.

    Another evil perpetrated by our system is that the same government that claims it’s doing something to protect innocent children by forcing medical treatment or removing children from their parents also allows adults to murder the most innocent, an unborn child. What kind of State protection is that?

    Puzzled said: “I don’t care to argue for a right of governments, but rather for the rights of children themselves.” If you really mean this, I’m sure you must be against abortion?

  70. JKP January 29, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    Puzzled – You are a medical provider making the common mistake of playing God. This time not with lives but with souls. You refer to people’s religion as “fairytales” so obviously you do not believe, which is your right. But one of the reasons we have religious freedom is that no one can say with 100% certainty what religious beliefs – if any – are correct when it comes to the afterlife and the soul. You have no right to impose your non-religious beliefs on anyone, nor does anyone have the right to impose their religious beliefs on you.

    You say that because they would refuse lifesaving treatment, that “it simply doesn’t make sense to continue to allow someone to exercise someone else’s rights, on their behalf, when they’ve shown an indifference to that person’s good.”

    But they haven’t shown an indifference to that person’s good. By their beliefs, it is in their child’s best interest to save their soul by refusing the blood transfusion. You and I may not agree with their decision, but neither of us can know with 100% certainty that they are wrong, nor can we know what the child would choose if able.

  71. I don't even January 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Thought you might like this:'t%20make%20me%20agree%22&f=false

    The book reckons that FEAR is short for fantasied experiences appearing real. And it also goes ‘Never mind what the neighbours think’.

  72. David DeLugas January 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Thanks, Lenore, for the mention. Here is the update. More disturbing is that the school board for the SAME COUNTY publishes that it does not provide bus service for elementary children within 1.1 miles WALKING distance! Yet, these children are detained by law enforcement and the parents investigated for “Walking Outside Without Parent” – a horrible infringement of the right of parents to decide acceptable levels of risks for their own children (except where imminent danger of actual and significant harm). Hope parents everywhere will get behind the Meitivs, sign the petition, and contribute to the legal fund to put a stop to these intrusions for all parents!

  73. Puzzled January 29, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    I believe I said children, not fetuses.

    On the more substantive points, I agree that the healthcare community gets lots of things wrong. That’s why I specifically wanted to limit myself to things that are clearly life-saving. I’m not talking about chemo, or questionable treatments. Hell, even surgery for trauma is questionable – but blood transfusions are about as questionable as a useful tool as defibrillators are – that is to say, not.

    But really, if you’re going to continue saying you don’t have a right to push religious beliefs on people – which I completely agree with – I’m going to continue saying that you are arguing for allowing parents to do exactly that. I agree with your principle; I see no good reason for you to make the exception you make.

    Well, one reason to make that exception is that part of your religious practice is, in fact, raising your children in that religion. Fine. Part of Judaism is killing Amalek. The principle of religious freedom can’t extend to religious commands to impose your religion on others without becoming nonsensical.

    So I’m not disagreeing with your principle – I’m asking why you assume it is acceptable to violate it in one particular case.

  74. JP Merzetti January 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    A lot of interesting points here.
    Starting with the public perception of what a negligent parent is.
    A thousand flavors of neglect, abuse, and unwholesome attitudes and environments.

    A child or children are somewhere in the public realm and percieved as ‘at risk.’
    In a rather weird and warped way, this can evolve into ‘parents at risk’ in extremely short order.

    Which is what we have. And if the child or children were never really in any actual risk at all – then it is the parents’ risk that becomes the issue.

    But then….the children only have what’s in their piggie bank. The parents have lines of credit, property equity and lord knows what else – to finance the state-sanctioned need to feed that machine.
    Pardon me if I sound a little cranky here.

    If the nation’s parents ever really did abscond in any real and substantial way from the duties and responsibilities of child-rearing (in any real and substantial numbers) Nanny state couldn’t possibily pick up the slack.

    Yes, we live in strange times – all of our own creation.
    Ten down to two might be a bit of a stretch…..but halving that number performs the same function.
    When a seventeen year-old a week from their eighteenth birthday is still referred to as a ‘child’…..that is abuse magnified, of language and all the common sense it is supposed to express. (This ‘child’ – might attain college enrolement in the autumn….depending on the happy circumstance of a birthday’s date.)
    Perspective……where have you gone?

    Lack of it is what swallows independence.
    A famous little war was fought over that….the one referred to in fond memory every July. It is not called “America” day…or any other thing. It makes perfect sense for it to proudly wear the given name it possesses.
    It might even serve to remind us what that word means.

    And what does this all have to do with kids?
    When they’re walking home from school, unsupervised, they’re being independent. (learning about it with every single step.)
    The Declaration never excluded them, to my knowledge.
    To any adult, I would simply ask: What would you trade your freedom for?
    I think the Meitivs know the answer to that one, well enough.

    Kids are citizens, too.

    But it’s too dangerous! Maybe, maybe not. If not, get over it already.
    If so – then fix it.

    I just find the irony a little dark. In a home of the brave and land of the free….that brave kids aren’t bequeathed the freedom that their citizenship and birthright is alleged to provide.
    The constitution after all, was a plan for good governance.
    Not corporate hypocrisy.

    For finally, as always, we come down to law: a bad law abused by sloppy thinkers can be a dangerous thing.
    (back to parents at risk.)
    So when a brave and bright boy and his kid sister equally so become abused of their natural rights and abilities to come out and participate within the public realm…how do we not examine the conditions of restriction that prevent them from so doing?
    And who decides?
    For generations immemorial – it was their decreed caregivers, guardians and law-abiding custodians: their parents, of course.
    Talk about infanilization.
    Said parents are not silly teens. They are by definition, adult.
    Adult enough to properly conduct the rearing of their children to their own adulthood?
    I’d say there are probably upwards of 200 millions of the species now alive and living in this lusty land. They survived nicely the business of growing up…however they managed to perform that function.
    The proof of it stares us in the face – yet some don’t see it.
    They provide the very foundation that holds up what it is that all the kids now aspire to, and will one day take their rightful place within, and prosper.
    As free people?
    As Martin Luther King (bless him!) once mused……
    They have a dream.

  75. Warren January 29, 2015 at 4:32 pm #


    You just showed your true colours. Fairy tales? Well I am glad to know you look down on those with faith and beliefs. That does make you an arrogant SOB.

    Like I said I may not agree with them but I respect their right to believe.

    And like most medical providers I know, you have an inbred hatred for anyone that mentions an immortal soul. I have noticed that you refuse to directly address that question.

    For some the soul is more important than the body. Therefore with in their faith parents actually do have the child’s best interest at heart.

  76. Ryan January 29, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    While I don’t have children, I came across your website from a link in a news story on another website and found this article interesting. I live in China and while China in general is much more safe than the U.S. when it comes to crime, I am still amazed at the amount of children I see who are YOUNGER than 10 that are taking the public bus home from school (there are no school buses here). They are also walking outside with their friends for untold distances and I routinely see students coming home from school well after dark with no parent or adult chaperone. It does make you realize that if children here in China can do this with no fear and their parents and loved ones, school officials and law enforcers don’t see a problem with it, what is the U.S.’ problem? What is it about our child rearing, society and own insecurities that make us freak out when we see a child “left alone?” Why do we always assume neglect or bad parenting? I think we could learn a few things from our Chinese brothers and sisters…

  77. Julie January 30, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    I grew up in the 70’s in suburbs of Southern California, we walked everywhere with out our parents! I guess I was lucky because the town we lived in the circle K guy knew our parents, The fruit stand gal knew our parents and even had our phone numbers (Parents wrote LOTS of checks i those days before ATMs). The ONLY reason ya had to be watched or lost your free range privileges is if ya screwed up and causes mayhem somewhere or ditched your little brother in the Orange Groves! (My hiney still smarts). Would I have let my kids free range? Not in the 90s and not in our town where we have gangs, graffiti and drugs! It is a personal choice and your MUST know your child. I used to let my 10 yr old come home from school alone until 5 pm when we got home from work. I would have NOT done that with my now 22 yr old daughter. My youngest now 18 has been a self sufficient kid and knows the bus routes by heart! since 13! It is a matter of choice but in my opinion should NOT be the choice of CPS or the government!

  78. Puzzled January 31, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    You’re not talking about respecting someone’s right to believe in whatever they believe – you’re talking about respecting someone’s right to impose that belief on others and let them die as a result. No, I have no hatred for anyone mentioned “immortal souls,” my anger stops squarely at the point of forcing someone else to die because of that belief. Hazard mitigation decisions, and laws, are made on the basis of what is verifiable. You need to put on the scale two things – a certainty of death, and an unverifiable claim about an immortal soul, which in most cases finds its basis in writings made by people living in the agricultural revolution.

    Lest the irony be forgotten, I mentioned this in the first place because it was a difficulty I encountered while working on the task of coming up with a bill to introduce to constrain CPS. I was doing this because it was an opportune time to introduce such a bill because there is outrage in my state about a clear overreach. Presently, CPS has taken a 17 year old girl from her parents and placed her with a foster family – because the girl didn’t want chemo anymore, and her parents agreed to respect her decision. That is the current law. The state SC ruled that their actions were legal – and within the law as written, it’s hard to disagree, because the empowering legislation simply allows them to do whatever they want whenever there is ‘abuse or neglect.’ The terms are never defined.

    The point – you’ve made two accusations against me. The first is that I wish to impose my beliefs on others – when in actuality, that is precisely what I am railing against. It doesn’t matter that I regard their beliefs as fairy tales. The way tolerance works is precisely that we need not agree that something is the least bit reasonable to respect someone’s right to believe it. Their right to believe it ends at the point where they attempt to impose it on others. Yet your argument is that, somehow, not allowing people to impose their religion on others, who cannot speak in their defense (well, we don’t know if it’s limited to that, so I’ll ask – what is your belief if a parent is refusing a blood transfusion for their 15 year old child who is unconscious, but has written multiple times in journals, statements witnessed by notaries, etc. that they prefer living over their parents ‘ religion? Still no transfusion because that would trample on the parents’ natural right to let their religion kill their child?) is an imposition. Your second implicit accusation is that I am some sort of child-snatching lover of CPS – a department I’d prefer to eliminate entirely, to be honest. I’m pretty sure Canada doesn’t allow parents to kill their children in the name of religion, a law you’re on the record opposing here. What are you doing to change the law? Don’t you find it disquieting that the child-snatcher happens to be actively working to change the laws in favor of parental rights, while you are not?

    Contrast the two situations. Here we have a 17 year old making their own decision, which the parents are respecting (I don’t make exceptions for science, by the way – if the child wanted to refuse chemo, I would also say the parents should not be able to force their belief in chemo on their children.) For this, the parents are accused of neglect, the child is taken and forcibly medicated against her own will. I want to stop that. That is not remotely similar to a child who is too young to express a preference (again, though, I’m not sure your position on one who can express a preference) being allowed to die in the name of their ‘immortal soul.’

    But now that you’ve brought it up, you started out saying we had to respect parent’s rights to force any beliefs they want on their children, but now your argument revolves around a belief in an immortal soul. Do you differentiate if the parents refuse a transfusion because, for instance, they just feel like it? Or because they believe something that isn’t heavenly and is known to be wrong – like that blood supplies are mostly contaminated with HIV? Any beliefs must be respected, right? Or maybe they want a blood transfusion for their child, but believe that AB+ is the universal donor, and insist on having their child given AB+ blood. It’s a belief, and we can’t impose our beliefs – although for some reason, some people get to impose their beliefs on others, but only in the cases where you feel like letting them. Or is the only time a parent may kill their child for their beliefs when the belief centers on an ‘immortal soul?’

    You can’t rule things out definitively – one can believe in this immortal soul thing – although the existing evidence is quite poor, really. That’s why balance exists. You balance severity and probability in making policy decisions.

    In any case, please report back when you’ve drafted a bill restricting CPS and gotten it debated in your legislature, then feel free to call me a child-snatcher if your bill is more ambitious than mine. For the time being, I’ll continue referring to myself as someone actively working to prevent child-snatching.

  79. Warren February 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    Then you are a hypocrite. You don’t belief in imposing your beliefs on others, yet you will impose your disbelief on others.

    Are you going to be the one that travels the country to counsel those that want to follow in their parent’s beliefs, after learning that the state has damned their immortal soul?

    You base it on the fact that an immortal soul cannot be verified at this time. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago that the earth being round instead of flat could not be verified. And considering the number of different faiths that do belief in a soul, afterlife or whatever, and considering they have been doing this since before orgnaized religion, who are you to say there is no such thing as a soul?

    Neither you, I nor the state has the right to impose our beliefs on them. If you are completely comfortable with totally disregarding other’s beliefs based on your own, you are really no different than the so called missionaries that went and still go places to save the savages.