A reader just wrote to ask why do I keepÂ scaring Free-Rangers by publicizing the worst and rarest cases of cops and CPS overreach? Stories like what happened to the Meitivs kshkdidiyn
of Maryland, or the family of the 11-year-old in Florida, or Debra Harrell, the mom in South Carolina who spent a night in jail for letting her 9 year old play at the local park?
Okay, okay — I’ll stop. (Wait — how about this one in New Jersey?)
The answer is simple. My goal isn’t to scare — I actually wish I could avoid it. My goal is to shock. I’m trying to shock our country into realizing that at least some of those in authority now believe that any child not within an arm’s reach of his parents is in danger. That belief can turn any parents who take their eyes off their kids into criminals.
The underlying premise here is wrong. Our kids are NOT in constant danger. Pointing that out is, in fact, the mission of this blog and movement (see the statement on the right-hand side of this site)! As the Washington Post has pointed out: There’s Never Been a Safer Time to be a Kid in America. But until the authorities stop panicking, all parents who let their kids walk, play, or even wait a little while indoors or out, live under the threat of government intervention.
This must change. And the best way I know to do that is by shining Klieg lights on cases where good, loving parents are hounded by overbearing, danger-hallucinating authorities. Authorities who insist a child without her mom at the park is automatically “neglected,” or a childÂ playing a video game in the car for 3 minutesÂ is in danger of immediate abduction or dehydration. This kind of “tragical thinking” trumps the reality right there: Safe-enough kids having some free time, either by design or due to the kind of mix-up that simply happens sometimes.
And — drum roll please — this Klieg light approach is WORKING.
Last week, after all the attention it received from the Meitiv “Free-Range” case, Maryland’s Child Protective Services department clarified its marching orders, stating, “Children playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response, absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised.”
Donna St. George, the Washington Post reporter broke the story of these changes, interviewed a Maryland CPS spokeswoman who told her, ” We are not getting in the business of opining on parenting practices or child-rearing philosophies….We see our role as responding when a child is harmed or at a significant risk of harm.”
That’s what we’ve been hoping for, working for, scaring for. I don’t want parents to feel nervous about Free-Ranging their kids. I want them to be able to send their kids outside without worrying about busybodies, boogeymen, or making bail.
Lately it feels like we are getting there. Fear not. – L