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Why I Am A Free-Range Parent {In Name Only}

The Meitiv family has made the news again You remember them — they’re the Maryland family who allowed their children to walk home from the park, and were reported to CPS.

Well, they did it again.  They let their children walk home alone, and this time the children were picked up by the police and kept in custody for 5.5 hours, without the parents being notified for much of that time.

Free-Range Parent

I love the idea behind Free Range parenting, popularized by Lenore SkenazyAfter all, it’s how most of us parents were raised. 

We had free reign of the neighbourhood (and quite often, the town), and the woods and fields if we were lucky enough to have some close by.  We spent hours outside completely unsupervised, using hammers and nails to build tree forts, or riding our bikes around town (without helmets) grabbing snacks at our friends’ houses or at the store downtown.

It was a different world.

Yet, according to studies it was more dangerous.  The possibility of violent crimes were higher.  The chances of child abduction were apparently higher as well.

Really, we’re living at a great time to allow our children the freedoms that we enjoyed.  I love the idea of my kids being out of the house for hours at a time, wandering our small town, and exploring nature.

And they do wander our little neighbourhood when we kick them outside.  But certainly not as much as they should, or as much as I would like.

Because as much as I love the idea, I also know what happens when parents allow their children too much freedom.

We saw it play out in real time with the Meitiv family, and I’ve seen it happen here too.  Here was a family willing to go against the common consensus and enable their children to learn independence and the life skills that go along with that independence.

They did it once and were investigated and charged with unsubstantiated child neglect.  They did it again and their children were picked up by police.   And now it sounds like the Meitivs have decided to assert their parenting philosophy in other ways.

Because here’s the thing: we’re gambling with our children when we go against what society deems is wise.

The CAS and the CPS have been given the power to remove children from their homes, and so they should when warranted.  It’s a necessity in matters of abuse that none of us would disagree with.  And the workers involved need to act on the information they have.  They need to follow, interpret and extend the laws as best they can and often on a moment’s notice.

But from what I’ve seen, once children are in the care of the province or state, it’s very hard to get them back.

That’s why I’m a free-range parent in name only.

While I agree with the philosophy of allowing our kids as much freedom as we had as children, I will not gamble their care on it.  It’s simply not something I’m willing to risk.

There is only one thing I would risk their care on, and that’s my faith in Jesus.  Anything else is not worth it.  How I discipline or what freedoms I allow my children are negotiable.  Because when my children are in my care, I can make up for whatever deficiencies I see in how I’m allowed to parent.

Realistically speaking, if my children leave my care, I no longer have much of a say in how they’re raised.

So while I understand the outrage and the injustice that the Meitivs and other families feel when the state or the province tells them how to parent their children, I also know this: being a free-range parent is not worth losing your kids over.

What do you think about the controversy surrounding free-range parenting? 

Do you agree with the Meitivs decision to find another way to challenge the system?

Kids Outside

Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!

16 Comments

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    When I was a kid, I was out ALL DAY without checking in once with my parents. They had no idea where I was or who I was with. Now that I am a mom, my kids are never out of my site unless they are with an adult that I trust or at school.

  2. Sherri S

    I’m with you. I give my kids as much freedom as I dare. I think they are actually safer out in the real world – it’s more dangerous for our kids to be surfing the web and seeing porn, horror stories and pictures, ways to harm themselves and others…. I wish the “authorities” who seem to care so much about our kids weren’t so oppressive. The kids who are being abused and neglected are probably at home inside away from prying eyes, not walking to and from the park.
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  3. Christina

    I agree. I was let to walk to the store with my friends, hang out in our neighborhood all day, walk from our high school to the store… It wasn’t a big deal at all. I think it’s just crazy that cps is involved in stuff like this. It’s not neglect at all.

  4. Coupon Gal (Andi)

    it’s a different time – kids today can’t have the freedoms that we did when we were their age
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  5. Maria Hass

    I have mixed emotions. Some political. I think that the government and these agencies should not have the power to remove children from the home unless the children are in danger of physical and sexual abuse! Vaccines, free-range, and medications are parental rights that even if I disagree with their platform I support a parent’s right to make that decision. So I’m upset that it happened because it was a way of saying, “We’re the government agency, we know better than YOU DO as the PARENT what is or isn’t safe for your children.” And like Sherri said, chances are the kids that are being sexually or physically abused, that NEED to be removed from their homes… are home! Secondly, I was livid with the fact that they didn’t even contact the parents immediately. That is government kidnapping right there. So you got pissed off because these parents disobeyed you and allowed their children to walk to the park and back unsupervised. You do NOT take someone’s kids for HOURS and have the parents wonder what happened!!! You go to the parents first! GRRRR! That all being said, I’m not quite the free-range parent. Personally my kids are limited to my street where I can see them. If they can’t hear me call from my front porch they are too far. If I can’t see them at the end of my drive way they are too far. So this is one of those instances that although I disagree with their method, I completely support their right to make these parental decisions.
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  6. Chelley @ AisForAdelaide

    I find the fact that this happened again and little insane. The law IS out there that says their eldest is still too young to supervise another child. We may not agree with all laws, but we have to abide by them. I let my kids play outside while I can see them from the kitchen window as I prep dinner… but walking alone, probably not.

  7. Maggie

    I see too many horror stories on the news about kids to let my kids out of my sight for too long. It’s just not worth it to me to risk their lives.
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  8. Brittany at Equipping Godly Women

    I’m the same way! I kick my oldest son out to the backyard to play, but he knows to stay in our backyard where I can see him and he better come immediately when called. He usually climbs on a big pile of sticks or digs holes in the dirt. Typical boy.
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  9. Jillian Fisher

    When I was a kid I was out a lot and I was just told to be home when the street lights came on. Now that I am a parents…and living in Chicago no less I will not let my kids do that. I also have watched way to many law and orders and I need to know where my kids are at all times.
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  10. Liz Mays

    It was definitely a different world, and as sad as it may be, we can’t go back. I would dream of letting my kids wander freely like I did.

  11. harriet

    I heard about this the other day. It is definitely something getting a lot of talk.
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  12. Beth@KCMompreneurs

    Such a hot subject. Not sure I would allow my kids to walk home alone.
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  13. Joy

    It’s so very frustrating feeling like you need to second guess good parenting decisions because of the threat of cps. I was placed in a position where I went against doctors advice to wean my ten month old of a feeding tube. I was convinced the tube was hampering her development, the doc was convinced she would starve without it. I was terrified to go against doctors advice because I was afraid they would take her away, but it had gotten to the point it had to be done. In the end I was right. I successfully got her to eat when months of therapy couldn’t. But meanwhile I had vivid nightmares throughout the whole time.

  14. Liz

    I don’t have children, but I raised my children and did grow up in an actual neglectful home. I think it’s ridiculous that CPS is doing this when they don’t act on other information they have… wandering about outside isn’t going to harm a child, except in the rare circumstances that it does.

    Kids need to be taught safety—not to fear the world.
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  15. TwoPlusCute

    I don’t like the idea of well meaning strangers jumping the gun and calling cps. Their good intentions pave a road to hell. They should use more educated discretion.
    I am sincerely concerned about how much freedom we are denying our children. They have become observed-at-all-times inmates.
    It saddens me…

    On the other hand, news have sufficiently scared me so much that, I will probably never leave my child alone. She will be forced to experience everything under my – or a very trusted relative’s – constant shadow. Keeping her safe by imprisoning her freedom.

    As things are in our societies today, I sadly have to do just that.
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